When you weren’t allowed to marry your cousin.

Remember when cousins were not allowed to get married?

It wasn’t many years ago that cousins weren’t allowed to get married. In some places in America this is still the case.

Legally cousins are now allowed to get married. Most people don’t have a problem with it.

But the church can act really oddly. When the legalisation of cousins marrying became law, the church claimed that it’s canons didn’t permit it, and until they were changed, no priest could preside at the marriage of cousins.

You would have thought that the church could change the canons, but apparently it wasn’t that simple. Some people had genuine moral problems with cousins marrying. Fair enough. No-one would want a priest’s conscience to be compromised by forcing them to marry people they felt morally unable to marry. But equally, surely, no-one would want to prevent people who felt called by God to marry – when it was legal to do so – if it was genuinely a matter of conscience.

But rather than letting this become a matter of conscience for the individual priest (as is the case with almost everything in the church when people disagree with interpretation of scripture) the church did a really bizarre thing.

It put out a paper saying that not only were priests not permitted to preside at the marriage of cousins, but that no priest was allowed to marry their cousin – for the reason of “canonical obedience” – not because it was morally wrong, but because the canons hadn’t been changed – yet.

Worse, it said that no-one in training to be a priest could marry their cousin, even if they had planned it for some time, and no-one who was considering a vocation would be accepted if they had married their cousin.

Of course the canons were changed eventually, but the bad feeling caused by the pronouncement meant that the debate was far less kind than it would otherwise have been, and the church in the eyes of the public slipped evermore into irrelevance.

I say cousins…


About frpip

Priest, Dad, A long way away. You can call me Father Father Father.
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One Response to When you weren’t allowed to marry your cousin.

  1. Damian says:

    What a weird piece of writing! Left me totally stunned!

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