Mixed marriages and ‘ne temere’


Sir, – The assertion in Patsy McGarry’s article on Dean Victor Griffin (Home News, December 14th) that “the Catholic Church’s Ne temere decree meant that a couple in a mixed marriage had to undertake in writing to raise all their children Catholic” is incorrect.

While Ne temere has endured as a lightning rod for Protestant anger over the past century, that anger has been largely misdirected. Allow me to set the record straight.

The Catholic Ne temere decree of 1908 was about the validity of all marriages involving Catholics and there was no reference in it to the religious upbringing of children. The demand that children of mixed marriages should be raised as Catholics was a separate issue. It was a requirement under the terms of a dispensation granted by the Catholic Church to overcome the impediments to a valid marriage of either disparitatis cultus (where the non-Catholic is not a Christian) or mixtae religionis (where the non-Catholic is a baptised Christian). Further, the demand to raise children as Catholics significantly predated Ne temere. For instance, Pope Benedict XIV in his encyclical Magnae Nobis promulgated in 1748 stated clearly that “children of both sexes born of the union [the mixed marriage] should be educated in the sanctity of the Catholic religion”. Moreover, Pope Pius VI in his encyclical Exsequendo Nunc of 1782 stipulated that children of mixed marriages should be raised as Catholics.

All that said, Ne temere was something of a blunt instrument in that it insisted that all marriages involving Catholics (which would obviously include a marriage between a Catholic and a Protestant) should be before a Catholic priest and two witnesses. If historically, Protestant anger at the decree has been directed towards the issue of the religious upbringing of children, it was this edict that should have caused most concern as it could be interpreted as the Catholic Church, inadvertently or otherwise, legislating for Protestants. – Yours, etc,


York Road,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.