2b) Is the idea of the natural law in the union between a man and a woman commonly accepted as such by the baptized in general?
Birthrate statistics show that this clearly is not the case. Spain has more Catholic priests per capita than any country and the lowest of any birthrate: 1.2 children per couple. The higher the literacy rate in a Catholic country, the lower the birthrate.
Natural law may be commonly accepted by poorly educated people in african countries, but there could be other factors, rather than poor contraception that gives the increased birthrate figures there.
2c) How is the theory and practice of natural law in the union between man and woman challenged in light of the formation of a family? How is it proposed and developed in civil and Church institutions?
It is presented as an impractical and ineffective alternative to medical, mechanical or surgical contraception. Civil institutions, such as schools and medical clinics present it as an eccentric choice forced upon a minority of people. Church institutions, other than Catholic, present it in the same way as civil institutions.
Catholic institutions present it as the preferred option for those with no children and that although it might be considered by those who are already parents, it is up to the conscience of the individual to make the final choice.
2d) In cases where non-practicing Catholics or declared non-believers request the celebration of marriage, describe how this pastoral challenge is dealt with?
It took my grandfather 14 years of arguing with the soon to be Archbishop Downey — whose declared aim was the conversion of non–Catholic partners — that he could be a Catholic and a Freemason simultaneously.
I think Dr Downey was pleased to agree to the marriage in the interim, to relive the pressure he had to endure from my grandfather’s insistence on being a Freemason, which was far greater than the relentless pressure Downey brought to bear upon non-Catholic partners in mixed marriages. My grand–father’s argument: I made an oath under God when I became a Freemason, do you wish me to break it? If so, what value the oath you want me to make under God in my marriage?
By the time of my own marriage in 1961, the Church was still to recognise the validity of a protestant baptism. We had a bizarre situation, similar to the one that still existed in 1970, when this impediment was removed.
The Catholic Church regarded a marriage with an unbaptised person as invalid in principle. It would not become a marriage unless the impediment to marriage has been removed by an ecclesiastical dispensation and even then it is still dissoluble.
So we are saying that the local Bishop or maybe the Vatican’s Apostolic Delegate could say whether the marriage could take place, and even then, the couple could at some stage divorce. In effect what it always came down to was the Catholic had to sign a form to say there were compelling reasons that meant he/she had to marry a non–Catholic partner: pregnancy was an acceptable reason, otherwise the Catholic was told to tick the box that said ‘financial dependency’.
Even the most devout of Catholics amongst my relatives refused to perjure herself in this way and wrote on the form, “My fiancé and I earn exactly the same amount as we do exactly the same job. I am a virgin. If you won’t let me marry in my own church, the Anglican vicar is happy to do so in my partner’s church.” The dispensation was routinely granted.