MIXED MARRIAGES: TAOISEACH GARRET FitzGerald made a written appeal to Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich in October 1981 over the Catholic Church’s “mixed marriage” law, for the sake of peace in Northern Ireland.
FitzGerald wrote to the cardinal ahead of a meeting where Catholic bishops would discuss updating the inter-church marriage code in line with a decree issued by the Vatican in 1970.
At the time, church policy required the children of inter-church marriages to be brought up as Catholics, but FitzGerald acknowledged there had in recent years been “a mild and gentle application of the rules”, in a letter dated October 12th, 1981, in the taoiseach’s papers
FitzGerald expressed concern on behalf of the government “lest any reformulation of the regulations . . . might have an adverse effect on community relations, especially in Northern Ireland”.
Progress in Northern Ireland would depend on actions and attitudes over a much wider area, he said.
The government wanted to “indicate concern” and “raise the possibility” that the Vatican “might not perhaps be disposed to take special account of the Irish situation if invited to do so”, he wrote.
“I trust that your eminence will appreciate and understand the motives that have led me to write to you at this time in these terms, in full recognition of the separation of church and State,” he added.
At the October meeting, the bishops decided to postpone the publication of a revised directory on mixed marriages.
They noted that there could be changes from the Vatican to allow improvement of relationship of the Catholic Church and Protestant churches on mixed marriages, according to a 1981 report in The Irish Times.
After a meeting with British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in November, FitzGerald described the bishops’ decision at that meeting to postpone action on mixed marriages as “significant”.
The new directory issued in November 1983 retained the promise by the Catholic partner, but stressed that parents had joint responsibility for the religious upbringing of their children.