Final Report on the Theology of Marriage and its Application to Mixed Marriages

Status of agreed statements:
Agreed statements have been agreed by the dialogue members and submitted to the sponsoring churches for study. These texts express the careful considerations of the members of the dialogue but are not official statements of either of the churches.

Author(s): ARCCM
Dated: 27 June 1975
Event: ARCCM: Final meeting, Venice, 23-27 June 1975
Protocol: ARCCM-33B
Persistent link:
This permanent link may be used to link to this document.
Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on the Theology of Marriage. "Final Report on the Theology of Marriage and its Application to Mixed Marriages", ARCCM-33B (Venice, 27 June 1975).

Archival formats and locations:


Final Report on the Theology of Marriage and its Application to Mixed Marriages


The Report which we here present begins with an account of the origin and progress of the joint work which led to its compilation. Hence there is little need for us to do more than express our satisfaction at the spirit of candor and friendliness with which from beginning to end the members of the Commission tackled their work, and our gratitude for the promptness and generosity with which our consultants (see below) gave time and trouble either in writing papers or in attending particular meetings.

Experience however has already suggested that, in commending the Report to the careful and sympathetic study of both our communions, and perhaps to others as well, we may forestall misunderstandings by emphasizing certain features of its structure and purposes.

Section A (paras. 1-14) is narrative in character. It describes the problems of our subject as these presented themselves to us at various stages of our work. Thus the problems may seem here and there (e.g., in the earlier part of para. 9) to be stated rather more sharply than we would have wished at a Mature stage of our discussions. It is, obviously, in sections B, C and D that the mature results of our deliberations are formally set out.

Even in these, brevity may at times have been the enemy of precision or balance. This was less likely to happen in those parts of the Report (and there are happily many) in which we have striven to find mutually acceptable statements where previously divergence was too easily taken for granted; it is more likely to have occurred where, for the sake of completeness and proper perspective, present or recent positions of either side have been summarily described. Thus for example the insistence, in connection with the proposals about canonical form, on the ministerial role of the partners reflects classical western theology of marriage. The total context of the Report amply shows that it was not our intention here to minimize the role of the Church in Christian marriage (the Report would hardly have any raison d’être if this were not assumed) nor yet the role of the Church’s ordained minister as its authorized witness.

Again, in para. 16, in describing briefly a general contrast and development, the sole intention of the Report is (as recalled in para. 19) to point a contrast of emphasis which has its practical importance.

A consultant whose valuable help is not acknowledged in the text is Msgr. R. Brown of Westminster, England, whose comments at the draft stage unfortunately reached us too late to affect the final text. His observations on para. 33 suggest that our intention here could be clarified further. The intention is certainly not to undervalue the specific pastoral purpose of tribunal procedures (which is in fact strongly underlined elsewhere, para. 53 — a paragraph which should, as the text says, be read in conjunction with para. 33); our intention is simply to repudiate the suggestion that such pastoral purposes are allowed to justify distortion of the law.

Msgr. Brown’s observations on para. 39 prompt two further clarifications: the literature here cited in a footnote is of course given purely by way of example, and its citation is not intended to suggest that there is in process any factitious extension of the grounds for annulment, unrelated to a growing and deepening understanding of the meaning of marriage. Moreover any full discussion of the practice of marriage courts which varies a good deal from country to country would involve a close study of recent decisions (cf para. 43) for which full documentation is available but which would have carried us beyond the scope of the present Report. In this connection too the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law embodied so far in its schema De Sacramentis is of primary importance.

The Commission regrets that in drafting its Report it did not have access to the booklet The Church’s Matrimonial Jurisprudence: A Statement of the Current Position, published by the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Readers of paras. 33-55 of the Report will find in this booklet a valuable aid.

But when all is said, the sections of this Report are not so many treatises. The whole Report is an attempt, by people of many concerns which are all merged in the pastoral, to explore, in the spirit of the Common Declaration of Pope Paul VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, what we have in common both of doctrine and of disciplinary purpose in a matter which comes home most closely to the lives of men and women and to the health of society. In explaining ourselves to each other, we have made no attempt to obscure differences; but rather, seeing that in the discords which persist over mixed marriages, the differences can themselves too easily obscure the common grounds, we have sought to exhibit and, it may be, to reconcile differences without discord.

If we have seen the ecclesiological differences lying behind the problems of mixed marriages as beyond our power to solve, we have set out practical proposals which the majority of us believe would allow integrity to our traditions, whether shared or distinctive, to co-exist with a better spirit than has marked our relations in this field in the past. They would thus allow also for the development of that joint pastoral concern which is the main hope for the future (paras. 73-77).

It is in this spirit that we offer this Report to our respective Churches for their study and for such action as we hope will soon follow.

The Most Reverend George O. Simms
Archbishop of Armagh

The Most Reverend Ernest L. Unterkoefler
Bishop of Charleston, S.C.