MARCH 25, 1830

In your letter, addressed two years since to Leo XII . . . you carefully set forth the difficult and critical position in which you were placed by an enactment of the civil law, issued in your countries a few years since, which requires that, in mixed marriages, the children of both sexes be brought up in the religion of the father, or at least according to his wish; at the same time forbidding priests to require of persons about to contract such marriages any promise in regard to the religious education of the children to spring from such union. . . . We therefore justly hope that not only you will conform entirely to our reply . . . but also that his Majesty [the king of Prussia] will not be offended if, cheerfully obeying him in temporal affairs, you nevertheless reserve the right to follow the holy rules of the Catholic religion in matters which concern not the civil effects but the very sanctity of marriage and the religious duties of the wedded.

To come more directly to the question, we need not tell you . . . that the Church has horror of these unions, which present so many deformities and spiritual dangers. . . .

It is acknowledged, in fact, that Catholics, whether men or women, who marry with non-Catholics so as rashly to expose themselves and their children to the danger of being perverted, not only violate the holy canons, but, moreover, sin directly and grievously against the paternal and divine law.

. . . According to these principles, then, whenever a Catholic, especially a woman, would marry a non-Catholic, the bishop or parish priest must carefully instruct such Catholic on the canonical provisions concerning marriage; and seriously warn such person of the grave crime of which he (or she) is about to render himself guilty before God, should he have the temerity to violate them.

It will be especially fitting to urge him to remember this firm dogma of our religion, that out of the true Catholic faith no one can be saved, and to acknowledge, consequently, that the Catholic woman would act in advance most cruelly towards the children whom she expects from God, if she contracted a marriage where she knows that their education will depend entirely on the will of their non-Catholic father. . . . If, in some cases, the paternal care of the pastor is unavailing . . . he will refrain not only from honoring with any religious ceremony whatever the ensuing marriage, but also from any act by which he may seem to give it his approbation. All that has been tolerated in this respect in certain places is that pastors who . . . find it necessary to attend such marriages, suffer them to take place in their presence (provided there was no other canonical impediment) in order that, having heard the consent of the two parties, they might then, by virtue of their ministry, enter in the marriage register the act validly accomplished. . . . We now will and ordain that mixed marriages celebrated after this day in your dioceses without the formalities prescribed by the Council of Trent be regarded, provided that no other canonical impediment directly intervene, as valid and true marriages.


Source: ζ
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