Practically Speaking: Marriage and the RCIA Process

Authored by Patty Norris in Issue #35.4 of The Sower

Practically speaking, within Canon Law, the many canons that deal with the Sacrament of Matrimony are more numerous than any other sacrament, including Holy Orders and the Eucharist. That is a staggering and sobering fact. The Church highly regulates the Sacrament of Matrimony because she knows that marriage and family life are the building blocks of the human family as well as the Church. The rights and responsibilities that are codified in the canons reflect the revealed truth and dignity of this sacrament.

I would like to address one ministry within the parish that frequently runs head on into these requirements. This ministry is charged with passing on the truth about the dignity of the sacrament, while pastorally supporting individuals, couples and families as they come to know the Bridegroom and his love for his Church. That ministry is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

RCIA team members, leaders or catechists do not need degrees in Canon Law; but every member of the team needs to understand the pastoral vision and plan for serving individuals whose current marriage or previous marriage does not conform to the requirements of Canon Law. These marriages are not rare. Although every marriage and its circumstances are unique, discussion and planning by the RCIA team and good pastoral leadership will help everyone involved. I am going to offer a few simple but practical suggestions that may serve as a review and reminder for some and may help others who are struggling with how these situations can be best approached. Once a set of procedures is agreed on, all RCIA team members must be on board.

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