Being asked by a friend to see whether her niece who is not a local parishioner could none the less be married in our local catholic parish church, resulted in some interesting research.
In SW London if not England generally, the normal practice as regards marriage in a catholic church, seems to be that one of the parties should have some connection with if not actually reside within the parish of the church in question.
My friend who is from Baghdad tells me that in her country a catholic marriage may be arranged to take place in any parish even if neither party has any direct connection with the local church. Whether that custom has resulted from the tragic fighting there over the years is not clear but I think not.
I heard that last week two bishops had been kidnapped in Iraq but thankfully released relatively unscathed. I am not sure whether the bishops were orthodox or catholic but assume that that kind of sadly dreadful conduct, causes arrangements for religious ceremonies like weddings to be conducted with much more flexibility than is applicable to stabler societies such as the UK.
Whether our slightly more rigid approach is any better is in my view debatable. However given the practical difficulties particularly those of faith and morals facing married couples in C21 the local requirement that prospective couples should undergo some sessions of preparation and learning with other people planning marriages before their 'big days', seems a good one.
As an aside, discussions about marriage and divorce also took place over coffee at the office earlier this week in view of the legal aid cuts being applied to divorce. A female colleague took the view that financial support should not be withdrawn from say a woman who was being heavily bullied by her husband. I speculated whether the concentration of increasingly limited national resources should be in the area of marriage preparation rather than on divorce. Of course children need to be supported whatever happens though the position of children is very sad in divorce situations. However if two adults freely decide to marry then if major difficulties occur in the years ahead, logically the cost of tackling those is surely more a matter for them and/or their families and friends to deal with than for society at large? The key may be the preparation for marriage where perhaps the state should concentrate its financial support rather than on the breakdown aspects.
Interestingly reverting to the Iraqi family, the proposed religious wedding ceremony in England seems likely to be conducted by two of the friend's cousins who are I gather the archbishops of Baghdad and I think Mosul. In any event our local Jesuit pp had no difficulty about agreeing to this unusual request.
On referring this good news back to the friend we discussed the possibility of a meal with the two archbishops when they next visit the UK in a few weeks time, the Jesuit PP, the intended couple and maybe even mr and mrs maytrees.