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The Ninth Colloquium of Anglican and Roman Catholic Canon Lawyers: Malta, 3–6 April 2008

  • Michael Hilbert (a1)


The Ninth Colloquium of Anglican and Roman Catholic Canon Lawyers took place from 3 to 6 April 2008, at Bishop's House, Sliema, Malta, and the meeting was graciously hosted by the Anglican contingent. The ten participants (five Anglican and five Roman Catholic) were: on the Anglican side, Norman Doe (Chair), Bishop Paul Colton, Mark Hill, Anthony Jeremy (all from the Centre for Law and Religion at Cardiff Law School) and Stephen Slack (Director of Legal Services at the Archbishops' Council, Church of England); and, on the Roman Catholic side, James Conn, Michael Hilbert, Aidan McGrath (all from the Faculty of Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University), Robert Ombres (Procurator General of the Dominicans) and Fintan Gavin.



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1 The sixteen points were: 1. Marriage is basic to humanity as made and intended by God in creation. When Christians marry, a particular grace is given through Christ; 2. The essential elements of marriage are: that it is between a man and a woman, lifelong in intention, and exclusive of all others. Marriage is best suited both for the procreation and nurture of children and the mutual support of the spouses; 3. Marriage can even be considered as a natural right and should not therefore be restricted or impeded unduly by any authority; 4. The indissolubility of marriage is an ideal and an expectation. The dissolution of marriage must always remain exceptional; 5. Care must be taken not to equate any form of ‘civil partnership’ with marriage; 6. Both communions place a responsibility on clergy together with their community to provide instruction for couples preparing for marriage; 7. Clergy must ensure that couples are free to marry; 8. Clergy together with their community should provide post-marriage care for couples who have been married and for married and family life; 9. The doctrinal views of marriage underpinning the legal provisions of each communion contain fundamental similarities. Each communion, however, employs radically different views of the role of civil law on marriage, and this is evidenced particularly in the attitudes taken to dissolution; 10. A marriage of civilly divorced persons in church is possible. However, in each case, within very clearly distinct sets of circumstances; provided that, for Anglicans, any conditions stipulated provincially, have been fulfilled, and provided that, for Roman Catholics, a declaration of freedom to marry has been obtained from the competent ecclesiastical authority; 11. Prior to any re-marriage, for Anglicans and Roman Catholics, careful preparation, investigation, consultation or adjudication of the circumstances of the breakdown of the previous marriage takes place as is judged necessary by competent ecclesiastical authority; 12. The theology of marriage and the family as the ‘domestic church’ is not evident in the laws of either communion; 13. In both communions, norms on the conduct of family life are dispersed amongst canon laws, liturgical texts and catechetical texts; 14. Whereas the Latin church has extensive norms on mixed marriages, few Anglican churches have provincial norms operative on this subject; 15. Prior to marriage between a baptised and an unbaptised person, in both communions special procedures exist to enable the intervention of ecclesiastical authority. This is not the position in the Church of England in relation to marriage by banns; 16. Further collaborative exploration should be carried out of Articles 2 and 4 of Dignitas Conubii.

2 The three recommendations were: 1. The juridical dimensions of the theology of marriage and the family as the ‘domestic church’ deserve greater exploration in the ecumenical context of mixed or interchurch marriage; 2. We commend for study by the churches of the Anglican Communion and Anglophone Catholic Episcopal Conferences, the Pastoral Guidelines for Interchurch Marriages Between Anglicans and Roman Catholics in Canada, authorised in 1986 by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada; 3. We commend in both communions the development of particular norms on mixed marriages, including a full implementation of Canon 1126 of the Latin Code.

The Ninth Colloquium of Anglican and Roman Catholic Canon Lawyers: Malta, 3–6 April 2008

  • Michael Hilbert (a1)


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