25 April 2015

Third Sunday After Easter 1863

26 SUNDAY. Third after Easter. The Patronage of St JOSEPH, Spouse of the BVM, double of the second class. Commemoration of Sunday only. Last Gospel of Sunday. White. Second Vespers of the Feast with commemoration of the Sunday and of SS Cletus and Marcellinus, Popes, Martyrs.  [In Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle Plenary Indulgence.]

27 Monday. SS Cletus and Marcellinus, Popes, Martyrs (transferred from 26 April). Third prayers Concede. Red.

28 Tuesday. Of the Octave of St George, semidouble. Second prayers of St Vitalis, Martyr.  Third prayers Concede. Red.

29 Wednesday. St Peter, Martyr, double. Red.

30 Thursday. The Octave of St George, double. Red.
1 Friday. (Feast of Devotion) SS PHILIP and JAMES, Apostles, double of the second class. Creed. Preface of the Apostles. Red. Abstention.

2 Saturday. St Athanasius, Bishop Confessor Doctor, double. White.

For those who are joining us late (in the liturgical year, that is): before the changes introduced by Pius X, Sundays did not take precedence over other feasts: indeed some Sundays were marked out for other feasts, as we find this week.  Pope Pius X changed this. It would probably be a bit much to accuse him of Sabbatarianism, but the dreary procession of green Sundays he introduced in the time after Pentecost will be contrasted vividly here in a few weeks' time.  As it is, St Joseph's feast is today, Sunday, the third after Easter: not last week, as it would become early in the 20th Century; not on 1 May as it would become later in the 20th Century; but on the third Sunday after Easter, and the third Sunday's Gospel becomes the second Gospel of the Mass.  

This means that 1 May is the feast of SS Philip and James, as it always used to be.  Note that it is a Feast of Devotion: the Church marks this out as a day which should be a Holyday of Obligation, and should be marked as such by those who can, while recognising that in non-Catholic countries this is a big ask.

I have little doubt that many readers of this blog will join me in celebrating the feast of St Athanasius on Saturday: maybe we should start a tradition of our own, of punching ... no, this is becoming a liturgiological version of Fantasy Football.

The parish of St Ann and St Mary Magdalene on the Island of Alderney is served by the Revs P H Van de Voorde and l'Abbé Jean Dénis.  Mass on Sunday is at 8.30 and 10.00.  catechism is at 2.00, followed by Vespers, Instruction, and Benediction at 3.00.  At 6.00 there is a special service of Rosary, Instruction and Benediction for the troops of the garrison. Every evening at 6.00  the Devotions of the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular are held.  Stations of the Cross are every Friday at 7.00 pm. In Advent and Lent there is a special session of Instruction on Thursday, In May, there is Rosary, Instruction and Benediction every evening at 7.00 pm. There are two further Confraternities: of the Immaculate Heart of the BVM for the Conversion of Sinners, and of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Even in the period before Catholic Emancipation, English Catholics had enjoyed music at Mass. Around the turn of the nineteenth century, some High Masses in London were more like concerts, attracting non-Catholics to listen to fashionable singers.  But music was available even for modest choirs and later in the nineteenth century, Mass settings were available to suit all available resources, no matter how modest.  Sometimes, it only took three men ...

(Apologies that this week's offering is a bit truncated: I type these words 4000 miles away from the Muniment Room and will rely on Blogger's scheduler to get it out at the usual time.)

20 April 2015

Liverpool: No, Something Different This Time

What a wonderful resource The Tablet's on-line archive is proving to be. There is no better guide to what educated, middle class, Catholics in England were interested in, what they thought, and what they believed.

It is interesting at all periods, but is particularly useful to those like me who want to measure the way the mood changed from the 1950s on.

I have been absolutely thrown, though, by a manifesto in the 18 April 1970 edition signed by 18 parish priests in the Liverpool Archdiocese.  I copy it below, along with the Tablet's introduction. There were three follow-up letters (that I have found) criticising the bizarre collection of points.

A note from The Tablet some weeks afterwards explains that the manifesto was prepared by a layman (as though, as you will see, that makes any difference).

I was surprised that priests ordained before the 1960s in what is described as a conservative diocese, could have put their names to something so foreign to the way they had been formed. It suggests that the changes already had deeper roots in England and Wales than I would have guessed.

(It isn't all ridiculous, just mainly so.)

Despite some official public statements to the contrary, there is unrest amongst the English priesthood and a growing demand for some radical changes in disciplinary matters. Many of these will be discussed at a national meeting of secular priests to be held at Wood Hall, Wetherby, Yorkshire, from 1 to 6 June. (For the agenda see The Tablet, 28 March.) Priests in every diocese were invited to send in suggestions for discussion and to elect delegates in four age groups. The conference is an original, courageous and constructive enterprise which should be allowed to follow its course and set its own precedents without interference from pressure groups at this stage.
Fears that it may not come to grips with real problems are suggested, however, by the publication this week of a manifesto ,signed by 18 parish, priests from the Liverpool archdiocese who wish to remain anonymous until the conference opens. A shortened version of this manifesto was published on the front page. of the Guardian on 13 April. The full text is given below. We understand that many of the demands were not in fact included in the majority of submissions made to the conference secretariat. There are 465 priests working in the Liverpool archdiocese, so the 18 signatories represent about 4 per cent of the whole, a not insignificant minority in a reputedly "conservative" diocese. It is reported that most of the Liverpool priests have more than twelve years' experience in the ministry, and many are aged over forty.
CONSCIOUS of the urgent need for more open communication between all sections of the Catholic community in this country, we propose that the conference recommend that the hierarchy of England and Wales, this year, establish :
1. A national Council of Clergy.
2. A Pastoral Council of clergy and laity. We further propose :
3. That a national referendum based on the propositions submitted to the Wood Hall Conference be sent to all priests in the form of a questionnaire.
4. That celibacy be optional for all secular clergy.
5. That those who have left the priesthood and married should, in special circumstances and under certain conditions, be allowed to resume the full priestly ministry.
6. That religious priests, who wish to marry, be given the opportunity of joining the secular clergy.
7. That a man need not commit himself to the priesthood "for ever according to the order of Melchisedech ": that is, that the priesthood need not be a lifelong commitment-e.g., a man may offer five or ten years' service to the missions.
8. That the early Christian ideal of priesthood was one of service to people rather than sacrifice at the altar-and that we rediscover this emphasis.
9. That the traditional disqualification of women from the priesthood be removed as having no theological basis.
10. That every clerical student receive a fully-recognised vocational training e.g., as teacher, social worker, etc.
11. That the divinity training of the priest follow a course recognised by the education authorities (at training college or university level).
12. That all junior seminaries be closed. The buildings to be sold or used as training colleges, schools, hospitals, old people's homes, etc.
13. That all appointments to positions of pastoral care be subject to renewal every five years-e.g., parochial priests and bishops.
14. That when a parish becomes vacant the clergy be notified. Any priest to be able to apply for the position of parish priest.
15. That the above should apply in the case of any diocesan or national clerical post.
16. That parish priests be urged to set up parish councils according to Vatican II.
17. That a consultative body or board of clergy and laity (at parochial, diocesan or national level) should consider the application and make recommendations to an appointments board.
18. That an appointments board, representative of clergy and laity, make the actual appointments.
19. That those priests should not be left in pastoral care who are no longer able adequately to discharge their functions by reason of age, infirmity, or a record of unhappy personal relationships.
20. That assistant priests be appointed to a parish under a proper contract of service dealing with salary structure, rights of accomodation, co-responsibility and function.
21. That experimentation regarding clerical dress be recognised as personal and permissible.
22. That in the planning of new areas the traditional presbytery be no longer built.
23. That existing large .presbyteries be fully utilised-e.g., as rooms for students, homes for the old-aged, etc.
24. That all diocesan priests, working within the diocese, should have a fixed and equal salary as long as present structures exist.
25. That Mass-stipends and stole-fees be abolished eventually.
26. To ensure equality of incomes within a diocese, all other revenues from hospitals, convents, cemeteries, etc., be paid (into a central fund.
27. That a priest should never be forced to appear to condone what he conscientiously condemns, e.g., excessive fund-raising by bingo and beer.
28. That all sanctions attached to the Sunday Mass obligation be removed.
29. That the parochial priest be no longer obliged to provide a daily Mass unless numbers and pastoral need so dictate.
30. That all pact Masses from clergy benefit funds--e.g., of the Lancashire Infirm Secular Clergy Fund-be discontinued with as untheological.
31. That priests, recognise that it is possible to administer the sacraments even to those legally disqualified (cf. Clergy Review, February 1970).
32. That all sanctions attached to the saying of the Office be removed.
33. That a method be devised now for consulting all the clergy of the diocese for the choosing of diocesan bishops.
34. That a method be 'devised now for consulting all the laity of the diocese for the choosing of diocesan bishops.
35. That more thought be given to the planning of multi-purpose buildings.
36. That more thought be given to the sharing of existing churches and the building of multi-denominational churches in new areas.
37. That priests should begin to give more lip service to the priority of the parental role in the education of children.
38. That individual dioceses permit initiative in those matters where agreement is lacking at national or international level.

18 April 2015

Second Sunday After Easter 1863

19 SUNDAY. Second after Easter, semidouble. Second prayers of the BVM Concede. Third prayers for the Church or the Pope. White. In Vespers of the Sunday commemoration of the Cross only.

20 Monday. Feria. White.

21 Tuesday. St Anselm, Bishop Confessor Doctor, double. Creed. White.

22 Wednesday. SS Soter and Caius, Popes Martyrs, semidouble. Second prayers of the BVM Concede. Third prayers for the Church or the Pope. Red.

23 Thursday. (Feast of Devotion) St GEORGE, Martyr, Patron of England, double of the first class with an Octave, during which commemoration of the Octave (as prefixed to the Calendar), and Creed. Red. Plenary Indulgence through the Octave for the Benefit of the Poor School Committee. [In Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle Plenary Indulgence.]

24 Friday. St Fidelis a Sigmaringa, Martyr, double. Red. Abstention.

25 Saturday. St Mark, Evangelist, double of the second class. Preface of the Apostles. Red. LITANIES. Violet.

Wednesday will see something really odd: pre-Pius X agreeing with post-Pius XII.  In the 1863 Missal, as in the 1962 Missal, Wednesday is the feast of Popes Saints Soter and Caius, whereas in Pius X's Missal, it is the feast of St Joseph.  That's because next Sunday will be St Joseph's feast in the 1863 Calendar, and in 1962 his feast is moved to May Day, deplacing SS Philip and James as part of a weird Pian plan to defeat communism or something.

As I hinted recently when talking about the Suffrages at Vespers, the feast of St George on Thursday used to be a big deal, and as he is our national patron, why not?  A double of the first class with its own Octave and, at High Masses, as befit such Holydays, prayers for the monarch.  As I said, not something I ever have experienced, or ever expect to experience.  It's interesting to note in the Tablet Archive that even in 1939 there were people writing letters to say that there wasn't a cultus of St George in England when it was a Catholic country. (The link is here. Actually, if you google cultus george site:archive.thetablet.co.uk you see that this is a subject of perennial interest to Catholics in England.)

And on Saturday, coincident with but separate from the feast of St Mark the Evangelist, comes the first of the Rogation Days - indeed the Major Rogation Day - during which parishioners would beat the bounds of the parish, blessing every landmark, while chanting the Litany of the Saints.  Bugnini's account of the Reform is a bit shifty when he covers this, referring to the revision of the Litany itself as used on the Rogation Days, but not actually spelling out that in practice they were abolished, as were the Ember Days in order to allow Bishops' Conferences to mandate a Family Fast Day instead to the greater glory of CAFOD.  The sad thing is that they won't even do that on Saturday.

 At the parish of St Anthony of Padua in Walker, the Rev James Foran is in charge. Masses on Sunday are at 8.00 and 10.30, and on weekdays at 8.30.  On Sundays, there is Catechism at 2.00, followed at 4.00 by Baptisms and Churchings.  The Sunday evening service is at 6.30. On Thursdays there is Benediction at 7.30 pm, and on Friday evenings at 7.30 there are Stations of the Cross. Confessions are on Fridays at 6.00 pm, and on Saturdays at 1.00 and at 5.00 pm. There are Confraternities of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the Conversion of Sinners, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, of the Living Rosary, and of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Want a high class funeral?

11 April 2015

Low Sunday 1863

12 LOW SUNDAY. Double. White. Vespers of the Sunday with commemoration of St Hermenegildus. [In Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle Plenary Indulgence.]

The time for fulfilling the obligation of PASCHAL COMMUNION ends.

The indulgence ends.

13 Monday. St Hermenegildus, Martyr, semidouble. Second prayers Concede. Third Prayers for the Church or the Pope. Red.

14 Tuesday. St Francis of Paula, Confessor, double (transferred from 2 April). Second prayers of SS Tiburtius, Valerian and Maximus. White.

15 Wednesday. St Richard, Bishop Confessor, double (transferred from 3 April)White.

16 Thursday. St Isidore, Bishop Confessor Doctor, double (transferred from 4 April).  Creed. White.

17 Friday. St Vincent Ferrer, Confessor, double (transferred from 5 April). Second prayers of St Anicetus, Pope Martyr. White. Abstention.

18 Saturday. St Leo the Great, Pope Confessor Doctor, double (transferred from 11 April). Creed. White. [In Dioceses of Clifton, St David's and Newport, and Plymouth, principal Mass of the BVM, with Gloria, Creed and one prayer. White.]

Easter has come to a close and now is the time to start catching up on the feast days which were missed during Holy Week and Easter Week: in fact we will catch up quite easily.  If you were expecting to find St Justin Martyr's feast on 14 April, bear in mind that the feast was instituted as late as 1882, and was moved to 1 June in 1969.

The "Prayers of the Time" have changed too: Second prayers of the BVM are Concede, and will be so until after Whit.

What will eventually become Our Lady's Saturday is beginning to become noticeable: in three dioceses the main Mass will be of Our Lady rather than of the transferred feast of Pope St Leo.

At Wootton Hall in Henley-in-Arden, the Carington family maintains a priest, the Rev Peter Jos. Hewitt, for the district.  Mass on Sunday is at 10.30. Catechism, Devotions and Benediction are at 3.00 pm. On Holydays, Mass is at 9.00, and a Lecture is followed by Devotions and Benediction at 3,00. Weekday Mass is at 8.30. There is Benediction after Mass on the first Friday each month.

You can send your five year old sons to a boarding school.

10 April 2015

Fasting And Abstinence In England In The 1780s


Quite a feature in the lives of English Catholics of those days was the strictness with which they kept the laws of fasting and abstinence. In this respect Dr. Talbot's sympathies were in accordance with his family traditions. Yet curiously enough, it was during the years when he was vicar apostolic that important relaxations had to be made in the ecclesiastical laws.

Up to this time a custom had existed of keeping every Friday of the year (except during Paschal time) a fast day as an act of intercession for the conversion of England. This was beginning to be felt as a serious hardship' and one of Dr Talbot’s first acts on becoming vicar apostolic was to petition for the abrogation of the law. His petition was successful, and from 1781 Friday became a day of abstinence only, as in other countries.  (At that date Saturday was also a day of abstinence, in England and in other countries.) With respect to Lent, however, he made a great effort to preserve the strict discipline. The law still held good prohibiting meat from Ash Wednesday until Easter. A dispensation had been granted for several years, allowing it three times a week except in Passiontide; but in 1782 Bishop Talbot made an effort to prevent this from becoming a fixed and regular arrangement, by withholding the dispensation. He explained his reasons in his Lenten Pastoral in a few words:

“As after mature deliberation " (he wrote) " we can see no special reason this year for a general dispensation, for eating flesh meat on certain days, and lest the too frequent repetition of such dispensations should enervate the discipline of the Church in this regard, we think ourselves obliged to confine them to the following articles'"

He proceeded to give a dispensation for eggs and cheese, except on Ash Wednesday and the last four days of Holy Week.

UPDATE: This was done in a hurry yesterday and was unattributed, as Martin pointed out in the comments. 

It is taken from Bernard Ward's The Dawn of the Catholic Revival in England  (Longmans, Green and Co, First Edition,1909), Vol1, page 32.

06 April 2015

Towards Deeper Waters ...

Rita started this off, here. She made a point I can't remember having seen made anywhere else: that Pope Benedict, in liberalising access to the 1962 Rite in Summorum Pontificum, called for mutual enrichment between the Extraordinary and Ordinary forms of the Mass.  Everything I have heard or read since SP has been about the tridentinisation of Pope Paul's Mass, rather than any movement the other way round.  Rita mentions three or four ways in which the EF could be changed to cater more for people formed in the OF, and there are more it is easy to think of: more dialogue; the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar in English; the people saying at Low Mass what they might sing at High Mass; the Mass of the Catachumens versus populum; the response "Amen" at Holy Communion. Hold on to these thoughts for a moment, though, because they lead me on to something else.

If you have been following my 1863 series, you will have realised that the 1962 Missal is very, very, different from what had gone before.  In fact Bugnini and the reformers who would go on to change the Liturgy utterly after Vatican II had set to work during the Pontificate of Pius XII.  If you read Rubricarius's posts on what Holy Week was like before the 1950s, or John R on the way in which the Holy Week changes and the introduction of evening Mass destroyed a balance in the whole of the Liturgy (the Mass and the other offices), you may, if you are like me, get a sense of the desertification of the liturgical landscape, and the impoverishment of our worship.  Imagine anybody setting out to rob the Exsultet of symbolism and meaning by making it a simple recitation instead of something wrapped around some of the activities of Holy Saturday!

Now, and this is where I come over all tentative, can we really imagine that somebody with the liturgical sensitivity of Pope Benedict could believe that the product of the reform of the 1962 Missal was banal, but that the product of the reform of the pre-1950 Missal wasn't? If we can't, and that's the direction in which I think I'm heading, what was Summorum Pontificum about, and what did the call for mutual enrichment mean? Come to that, what is all this business about two "forms" of the Roman Rite, instead of talking about "Uses"?

Going back to another of Rita's themes, it is clear that the liberalisation of the use of the 1962 Mass hasn't made a significant difference, in this country at least: the faithful aren't flocking to it in great numbers. My guess is that the reason is that it is totally alien to what most Catholics think Mass should be like: Mass should be noisy and participative with everybody joining in; it should celebrate community; it should make those present think of Holy Thursday rather than Good Friday; the priest "only" presides, and lay men and women should do everything possible except for the liturgical action.

Might the 1962 EF Mass and mutual enrichment have been a way to try to slow down (and eventually halt) the decay in the form of worship in the Roman Rite? The EF might help re-situate the way mass-goers experience the Mass and reverse some of the effects of the disastrously poor liturgical formation of the faithful in the last 50 years but it only will if the faithful start attending it, and they only will if it at least begins to approximate to the thing they normally experience when they go to Mass.  The idea of any (never mind all) of the changes I have listed above fill me with horror, but maybe I'm not the target audience.

If I'm right, the 1962 EF rite becomes the first station on the return journey or perhaps something which will necessarily have to be changed out of all existence if a future Summorum Pontificum is to restore to a receptive audience a form of the Liturgy which is worthy of what it was established to convey.

Or maybe it's just the effects of alcohol after a six and a half week break.

04 April 2015

Easter Sunday 1863

5 EASTER SUNDAY. Double of the first class. with an Octave during which Creed. White. Vespers of the feast. Plenary Indulgence.

6 EASTER Monday. (Feast of Devotion) Double of the first class. White.

7 EASTER Tuesday. (Feast of Devotion) Double of the first class. White.

8 Wednesday. Of the Octave, semidouble. Feria. Second Prayers for the Church or the Pope. White.

9 Thursday. Of the Octave, semidouble. Feria. Second Prayers for the Church or the Pope. White.

10 Friday. Of the Octave, semidouble. Feria. Second Prayers for the Church or the Pope. White. Abstention.

11 Saturday. Of the Octave, semidouble. Feria. Second Prayers for the Church or the Pope. White.

Of all Octaves. Easter's is the simplest, but it is the simplicity of pure white light, not of starkness.  The readings all recall the days when the neophytes who had been baptised at Easter would be at Mass each day in their white garments. They are focused as follows:

Sunday: Jesus is risen: He is truly God.
Monday: Emmaus: the Resurrection of Our Lord is the pledge of all graces.
Tuesday: Our moral gratitude of soul, fruit of the Resurrection.
Wednesday: The Resurrection is the pledge of our eternal happiness.
Thursday: The victory of Jesus over sin and death.
Friday: The victory of Jesus over death and hell.
Saturday: The Resurrection has brought true happiness into the world.

All week the Easter Sequence (Victimae paschali) is sung before the Gospel, as though it were still Easter Sunday and throughout the week there are no commemorations: St Vincent Ferrer and Pope St Leo I will simply be transferred to later in the month. Easter glory fills the sky and continues to do so all week, even if the intensity is slightly relaxed from Wednesday onwards, when in ordinary parish churches, low Masses replace the High Masses said on Monday and Tuesday.

There are six Catholic Churches in Preston. All bar St Mary's are licensed for marriages. St Augustine Apostle of England is a Missionary Rectory, and has at least one Holy Guild attached to it. Four of the churches are served by Jesuits.

I mentioned the Society of St Anselm on mid-Lent Sunday, and said that its aim seemed to be the publication of reputable books.  In fact, it is a lot more thorough than that. (For those interested, the London Joint Stock Bank became part of the Midland Bank in 1917.)


01 April 2015

Liverpool 1980: Clericalised Laity And Marriage Preparation

Idly perusing, as one might, some of the feedback reports from the Working Groups at the 1980 Liverpool Pastoral Congress (LPC), I was astonished by the depths to which delegates believed lay people should be allowed to get involved with and regulate the preparation for the Sacrament of Matrimony.  I was perhaps less surprised by the insistence that those being prepared should be informed about all forms of birth control, though compulsory instruction on Natural Family Planning was a surprise (and, I believe, though some of you might disagree, this betrays the contraceptive mentality that wants everybody told about unnatural family planning as well).

This shows the LPC at its worst.  It might be unkind to portray them as a bunch of middle class Catholics with a middle class agenda and lots of time on their hands to implement it, but there we are: unkind, but true.

This was the group chaired by (as he was then) Fr Vin Nichols. It reported upwards to another committee which incorporated this report into its own report about Marriage and the Family.

When thinking about the Synod on the Family this autumn, I think Cardinal Nichols has got it wrong: it is a battle between contesting sides, and there will be collateral damage, as there already has been, to the Church, to the Magisterium and to authority. But this isn't all the fault of a few German Cardinals in 2014/15: the rot has spread widely and deeply over a long period. This is an illustration.


Chairman: Fr Vin Nichols


In order to develop care and respect within the Church, and to present marriage as a vocation equal in importance to the religious life we propose that:

1. the local Church celebrate the goodness and beauty of married life as the human expression of God's love in prayer, sermons, anniversary Masses and a cycle of Mass themes drawn from married life;

2. the local Church develop the life of its families through adult groups for discussion and learning, reflecting in faith on life-experience and providing broad education, e.g. health education and parent skills;

3. the local Church call on married couples to be the main source of practical care to those in need and for preparation of the approaching marriage;

4. the local Church pay particular attention to involving non-Catholic partners in prayer, worship and activity. They are part of the witness to God's love in marriage, and part of the richness of each parish.

The particular problems facing mixed marriages must be studied by the Church.

The parish is the seed bed of family life and the main support of parents as the first educators of their children;

5. the Church must discover ways of listening to the experience of married people, especially their understanding of the meaning and implications of a permanent sexual relationship. This experience is vital for a coherent and developed teaching on marriage which will speak to people of our day, and must be shared in an atmosphere of care and non-judgemental acceptance.

The Church must constantly educate society, including its own members, to respect the fundamental value of life, permanent marriage and parenthood. We propose that the bishops and the body of the Church speak out for those conditions within which family life can flourish:

(i)            Housing
adequate family housing, including the extended family, with appropriate mortgage facilities and development of housing associations.

(ii)          Finance

that tax and allowance systems give most support to the family especially for young mothers and young families.

(iii)         Employment

by encouraging flexi-time and other policies regarding job transfer to minimise damage to family life and to attend to the effect of unemployment on the family.

A national working party must study these issues (Note 1) and make recommendations to the bishops so that these questions become an accepted part of the church's teaching on marriage. The Church must cooperate here with other groups of similar convictions.


The church must call for as much public finance for service research and education in natural family planning as that given to artificial methods of birth-control. The Church must call for respect for pregnancy and parenthood in the Health Service so that people are not pressurised towards abortion and sterilization.


The Church must support and develop the use of the media to promote the positive aspect of married life through joint Christian ventures commissioning and sponsoring plays and productions in TV and radio. The experience of happy marriage and the holiness it brings must be explored with people of other faiths and presented powerfully to the public.


Educating a person for marriage begins.at birth and is continuous throughout life. It is primarily the responsibility of parents; their influence, and that of the local community, cannot be overstated.

A. Schools play an important part. We propose:

1.         that all Catholic schools, by their administration, timetable, staffing and discipline endeavour to create a caring Christian atmosphere;
2.         that schools develop open and respectful relationships with parents, involving them fully in the life of the school;
3.         that, with the help of married people and outside bodies, they positively prepare pupils for life and marriage (Note 2);
4.         that training for life-relationships should be based on the principle that the educator starts from whatever stage of development young people are at, and the relationships they are at present engaged in. These experiences must be reflected on together, in the light of faith, bearing in mind especially the child with unsettled family background;
5.         that Colleges of Education explicitly prepare teachers to explore with pupils their experience of relationships, to help them acquire necessary skills, and to find Christ in their daily lives;
6.         that this training for marriage and life be encouraged in non-Catholic school by our word and example (Note 3);
7.         that the parish supplement the work of schools, especially with weekends, days etc. designed to help young people in their understanding of relationships. The diocesan youth service should play an important role in this.

B. Preparing the engaged couple.

(1) Diocesan organisation.

(i) A diocesan co-ordinator (male or female) must be appointed to develop all aspects of the ministry to marriage and family.

(ii) Each deanery must establish a team for marriage and family life, and from these teams a diocesan committee should be formed to assist the diocesan co-ordinator and be part of a diocesan pastoral council.

(iii) The deanery team should be responsible for ensuring adequate preparation of all couples approaching marriage, calling on the many agencies at work in this field, and seeking to include married people and people of other religious groups.

(iv) The deanery team should include married people and wherever possible a person who has experienced marital breakdown  (Note 4).

 (v) The deanery team will organise training and support for those people willing to help prepare couples for marriage.

(vi) A national commission for marriage and family life should be established.

(2) Diocesan Policy
We propose that every diocese establish a policy which makes it clear that the firm expectation of the Church is that each couple approaching marriage shall:

(a) give four months' notice of their marriage (Note 5);
(b) agree to take part in preparation for marriage in a manner that is fitting to their needs (Note 6).

We propose that in certain exceptional cases, the local bishop will defer an intended marriage, and the local Catholic community will offer the couple the support or counselling they need, and continue that support for as long as necessary.

(3) The work of preparation.

It is not possible to create a single pack or course for engaged couples, as differences of class and culture are so important. Certain basic points can be made.

We propose that courses to prepare engaged couples should:
(i) be carried on, as far as possible, at local level, according to local conditions;
(ii) centre on developing the relationship between the couple, helping them to reflect on it in faith;
(iii) aim at putting the engaged couple in touch with married couples so that
(a) they can be encouraged by their example;
(b) they can receive continued support after marriage(Note7);
(iv) present to the engaged couple a clear and full understanding of the church’s developing teaching on responsible parenthood and family planning, and how it is to be applied in particular circumstances. Also the couple must be offered clear instructions on the various methods of family planning and their implications, so that they can eventually make a clear and informed choice (Notes 8 + 9).

The overall aim of preparation for marriage must be to inspire a young couple with a vision of the beauty of their calling and how by the quality of their lives they can bear witness in their local community to the love of God for all men.

With the exceptions noted all these proposals were fully supported by the topic group.

At the sector meeting, the recommendations were voted upon in blocks. Each block of recommendations was accepted unanimously with only one exception. (See Note 5.)

Note 1: At sector level a call was made for careful study of the role of women in family life and society today, as an important part of general education for marriage.
This received widespread approval.

Note 2: At sector level it was stated that education for personal relationships, and sex education should not be left to the discretion of the head-teacher, but should be known as part of the bishops' policy for all Catholic schools. This received full approval.

Note 3: At sector level a call was made that the bishops speak clearly to Education Authorities and the Department of Education and Science about the quality of education in personal relationships and sex education in state schools, especially as many values contrary to Christian principles are promoted, often in a hidden manner.

Note 4: At topic level another version of this was put forward viz.: the deanery team must include married people and may co-opt a person who has experienced marital breakdown.

At first there was an almost equal vote for this and the presented proposal but after further discussion, a substantial majority supported the proposal, i.e., 'the deanery team must include married people and wherever possible a person who has experienced marital breakdown'.

At sector level, in confusion over procedure, opinion seemed to be almost equally divided.

Note 5: At topic level, a small minority wished for these policy proposals to be compulsory.

At sector level there was a minority (about one third) in favour of a compulsory policy.

Note 6: At topic level there was a suggestion, supported by a small minority, that betrothal be explored as a setting for marriage preparation and for its celebration in the Church community.

Note 7: A comment has been received from four delegates about the need to give special attention to preparing couples where both partners are not believing Christians.

Note 8: At topic level a small minority opposed the call to give information on the various methods of birth control.  A stronger sentence was requested by six people as follows: ‘the couple should be made aware of the hazards of artificial methods of birth control, and how those artificial methods, by acting directly or by implication as possible abortifacients, destroy the sanctity of human life and are not acceptable to Catholic teaching’.

Note 9: A submission at topic level: ‘The Church must emphasise again that doctors, nurses and health visitors within its ranks give a clear lead in the field of natural family planning in the context of training for marriage and marriage itself’.  Dr Nicholson. Supported by approximately 12 people but with the assent of others in the topic group.