Saturday, December 18, 2004

And what then?

In my first post I mentioned my run in with the Catholic Church (CC) bureaucracy. The last thing I mentioned was that the priest told my wife and me that we wouldn’t be allowed to have a church wedding unless we, in effect, signed over our child’s up-bringing to the church. I hope that I am not revealing too much if I say that I am now married and bringing up a baby girl just as I (and my wife – the woman with whom I was sitting in that parish office) please. So, obviously something happened.

Well, when I was told that I’d have to sign a devil’s bargain to get married I appealed all the way to the top. That’s right, to the Catholic Church Curia (CCC). Don’t know what a Curia is? Curious to find out? Well, from what I gather, it is something between an embassy of a sovereign state, the headquarters of a major corporation and a monastery. At least that was the impression I got when I went there. You can be sure that I felt quite ill at ease, walking into the centre of catholic operations to declare that I was a notorious apostate. After having been sent to and fro by various nun secretaries I was finally directed to see the relevant priest.

I waited at his door with trepidation. He wasn’t in yet. I spent the time looking at the paintings on the wall. There were great charts that looked like maps of the sub-infeudation of a kingdom – they even had personal coats of arms (or so they looked like to me) next to each name. Looking closer I realised that they were names of bishops and that charts showed the various bishoprics and their current holders. So, I guess my initial guess wasn’t that far off.

Finally, the priest arrived. A tall, athletic, relatively young man who bounded up to me, shook my hand vigorously and swept me into his office. Before I knew it I was sitting across the desk from him and he was asking, “Right, so what’s the problem?” His voice was matter of fact but not unfriendly. The way he saw it, there was a reason why I was in his office and it was his job to make sure the problem, whatever it was, was solved.

I began to tell him at length about the difficulties that we had met at the parish office. I spoke about respecting views and differing values, and so forth. I had been talking for about three minutes when he reached for one of the folders that was standing on his shelf. He flipped it open, flipped through the pages and, swinging the it about, presented it to me, “Is this the document they asked you to sign?” I read – We, the undersigned... to bring up our children... “Yes, that’s it,” I told him. “Right,” he flipped the page over, “What about this one, are you willing to sign this one.” I read the document, carefully – I, the undersigned, am aware of the fact that my spouse-to-be is a Catholic. I read it again - ...aware... spouse... Catholic. “Sure, I can sign that.” “Good. Sign this document then, the other one isn’t really in use anymore, anyway.”

And that was it. I was out of his office within five minutes of coming in and all that I’d have to do is acknowledge the obvious. Where the parish priests had ummed and ohed, where they threatened and flustered, where they looked askance, he simply showed me a different document and bid me a good day on the way out. Efficient and to the point, I guess the church must have people like that to run what is a massive bureaucracy. I won’t be too surprised to find out that his name has been added to the charts in the Curia.

Mind you, that wasn’t the end of our troubles...


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