Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Marriage Under Pressure

Some good friends of ours got married under circumstances that a lot of people would consider unpropitious. They were pregnant, they are and interracial couple, the husband is ten years older than the wife, and the wife was 19. That was about seven years ago, and (allowing for the extent that one never truly knows what's going on in someone else's life) they seem to have really got it together. They've grown in their faith, have three kids, and generally seem like a very happy and stable couple. Certainly, I never would have guessed that things had started with such difficulty for them if they hadn't told us about it later.

Thus, I was surprised when one of them was telling me a while back about how difficult it was for them to find a priest who would marry them. Apparently they'd tried to get married a year or two earlier, but no one wanted to marry then: the wife was under 18, and between the age and race difference, all the priests they talked to thought they should wait a while. When pregnancy made them search much more urgently for someone willing to marry them, they were slightly older, but had the pregnancy against them.

"Don't you know that getting married under these circumstances is perfect annulment material?" one priest asked.

"But we don't want to get an annulment, we want to get married," they said.

Now I should stop here and say that I see the priest's point. There is certainly a divorce and annulment crisis in the Church today, especially in America, and one doesn't want to make that worse. When a couple in their situation, who weren't even from his parish, walked in some priests door seven years ago, I can see why he'd be hesitant.

However, it also seems like there are certain points in life when reality gives you a good hard kick, and some people respond by getting their lives in order, coming back to the Church, etc. Sometimes getting pregnant is one of those times. Realizing that you're about to have a family has a way of making your life stretching out ahead of you come into a bit more long term focus.

So while I certainly understand not wanting to set up yet another divorce and/or annulment, it also seems like putting down the door entirely on people who want to get married because they have got pregnant is not necessarily a good idea. Call me old fashioned, but although I don't think a woman should marry someone she doesn't think would be a good husband just because she's pregnant, if a couple get pregnant to who want to be married, it strikes me as better to get it done before the baby is born than after.

Fortunately, our friends eventually found an older priest who, after spending some time talking to them, decided to take a risk on them. The risk paid off. With God's grace, things work out sometimes.

4 comments:

Rick Lugari said...

Fortunately, our friends eventually found an older priest who, after spending some time talking to them, decided to take a risk on them. The risk paid off. With God's grace, things work out sometimes.

Yeah, doesn't seem too difficult to make an honest discernment. Either enter them in pre-Cana classes contingently, or spend an hour a week for a few weeks feeling them out. Seems like common sense to me.

Literacy-chic said...

Getting married after can work, too, if the relationship is a solid one. ;) Actually, waiting until after the baby excitement winds down might give the couple more "discernment time" themselves to avoid a bad situation later. Clearly, though, the priest was wrong (lazy? over-cautious?) in this case.

Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

It is interesting what you learn when you do some family genealogy. My very fervent Irish Catholic grandmother was eight and a half months pregnant when she had a very quiet wedding to my grandfather. He had 'moved' to another area, no doubt after 'hanky panky' was discovered... but too late! My father was then number 6 of their marriage.

Foxfier said...

Happy 12 years to them!

Fortunately, our friends eventually found an older priest who, after spending some time talking to them, decided to take a risk on them.

My folks tried to get married in my dad's home town, and the same priest who drove my mom out of teaching CCD for telling the kids they shouldn't sleep around before marriage wanted them to take something like a year of classes, because dad's folks were protestants.
Mom got... mom... and went to her home town, to the priest that she'd grown up with. Who she went to when she was back from college the first time and who talked her into keeping going. I think he was even "retired" at the time... he talked to them, and married them.

Thirty years and three kids (most of any of her siblings) later, I'd say it was a good choice. God bless him.