IRISH EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE
This document was approved at the June 2010 meeting of the Irish piscopal Conference in order to assist Bishops in their duty to ensure suitable preparation for the celebration of the sacrament of marriage.
Criteria for Courses of Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage
At the October 2009 General Meeting of the Irish Episcopal Conference, the Bishops decided that any programme of preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage should reflect, both in its content and process, the Christian nderstanding of marriage and promote a positive attitude towards marriage at all times.
In accordance with the Church’s pastoral practice and discipline, the pastoral care and the prerequisites for the celebration of marriage require dedication on the part of all involved in the preparation for sacramental marriage. The following is a list of criteria outlining marriage preparation course content and process of delivery which will offer couples the best possible programme of preparation.
1. Course content:
1.1. The sacramental nature of marriage should form the basis on which all other elements are discussed. All topics covered should reflect a covenantal
understanding of marriage within the Catholic tradition, which means a
lifelong and exclusive commitment of the husband and wife to each other.
1.2. This means that the Catholic understanding and vision of marriage will
permeate and be integrated into all elements of marriage preparation.
1.3. The spirituality of marriage will be a central part of the marriage preparation.
1.4. As well as drawing from human experience, the vision of marriage will be informed by sacred scripture, Gaudium et Spes, Familiaris Consortio, Love is for Life (issued by the Irish Episcopal Conference),
Catechism of the CatholicChurch, and Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage (issued by the Pontifical Council for the Family).
1.5. The core elements of a marriage relationship should form the basis of any programme. These include: choosing the sacrament, family of origin, communication, conflict management, commitment, couples as parents,
owning your sexuality and fertility awareness and well-being.
2. Course process:
2.1. The emphasis at all times should be on the couple and their needs. This
should be reflected in the methods used to engage the couples throughout the programme. Time and space should be allotted for couples to discuss topics and issues that are personal. Where appropriate group discussion should be part of the process and couples should feel free to engage in any discussion as they desire.
2.2. The marriage preparation course should offer a safe space for couples, in conditions that offer the best possible opportunity for reflection and learning. If suitable parish facilities are available for marriage preparation programmes these could be used.
2.3. Programmes of preparation should be co-facilitated by a team comprising laypersons and clergy reflecting the collaboration between the laity and the clergy in promoting sacramental marriage.
2.4. Facilitators should be selected from within parish communities and have a clear understanding that they are acting as witnesses for marriage in their local communities.
2.5. All programme facilitators should receive the highest standard of training and this training should, ideally, be accredited by a Catholic educational institution.
2.6. Facilitators should engage in ongoing supervision and annual professional development training to maintain the highest possible standards.
2.7. The programmes should involve a minimum of nine facilitated hours of client contact and be multi-sessional. The multi-sessional aspect allows couples a period of reflection between sessions and the course to be delivered at a leisurely pace, which reflects current best practice in adult education.
2.8. The programme of preparation should comprise a maximum of twenty
couples, to ensure best practice in group work.
2.9. Programmes of preparation should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that their content and process of delivery are of the highest standards and that the courses reflect the changing circumstances of couples coming for marriage preparation.
Full text directly quoted from
“Irish Episcopal Conference Criteria for Courses of Preparation for the sacrament of Marriage June 2010”
The ‘Advertisings Standards Authority’ of Ireland has investigated a number of Catholic Church websites for misleading consumers about the official status of Online Pre-marriage Courses.
They have concluded that online pre-marriage courses are fully acceptable in every parish in Ireland, once permission has been given by the priest who is marrying the couple.
No other priest has the right to tell you what type of course you can do; no parish secretary either has the authority to tell you what type of pre-marriage course you can do.
Every parish secretary in Ireland will tell you that you have to do an Accord ‘approved’ pre-marriage course. This is simply not true. Other Church owned websites that say that online pre-marriage courses are not accepted there; this is also incorrect and these websites are being asked to remove their misleading online advertisements.
Vatican guidelines also state that Bishops have no influence over the type of course couples take. If you would like to do this online marriage course, simply ask your priest for permission to do so.