The Challenge Of Mixed Marriage In American Life Is Major Topic Of U.S. Catholic-Jewish Consultation Committee
WASHINGTON (November 29, 2004) — The challenge of mixed marriage in American life—and how the communities are responding to its problems and possibilities both for the couples and for the raising of children—was the major topic of discussion at the semi-annual meeting of the U.S. Catholic-Jewish Consultation Committee.
With the mixed marriage rate rising to around 50 percent in the Jewish community and close to that in the Catholic community, the challenges have become more acute for both communities, participants agreed. Presenters at the meeting discussed both the understanding of marriage in their respective communities and the pastoral and programmatic responses of each.
This is the text of the joint communiqué issued following the meeting:
Joint Communique, Ongoing Consultation of the National Council of Synagogues and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Baltimore, MD, November 16, 2004.
The semi-annual meeting of the U.S. Catholic-Jewish Consultation Committee was held at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Maryland, on November 3, 2004. The major topic of discussion was the challenge of mixed marriage in American life and how our communities are responding to its problems and possibilities both for the couples involved and for the raising of their children. With the mixed marriage rate rising to around 50 percent in the Jewish community and close to that in the Catholic community, the challenges have become more acute for both communities. The four presenters discussed both the understanding of marriage in their respective communities and the pastoral and programmatic responses of each. They were Dru Greenwood of the Union for Reform Judaism and Rabbi Alan Silverstein of the Rabbinical Assembly (RA) of Conservative Judaism, on the one hand, and Rev. John Crossin, OSFS, of the Washington Theological Consortium and Lori Pryzbysz of the Archdiocese of Baltimore on the other.
The Reform Movement in Judaism took note some 25 years ago of the words of Rabbi Alex Schindler that “mixed marriage is the sting that accompanies the honey of freedom in an open society,” and in an attempt to save or even increase the Jewish element in such marriages launched an ambitious program of outreach, inviting the non-Jewish partner to learn about and perhaps accept Judaism, as well as acknowledging as Jews children whose father is Jewish, where Judaism traditionally has accepted as Jews only those born of Jewish mothers. The Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform) discourages Reform rabbis from participating in interreligious marriages, but allows its members to follow their own interpretations of Jewish law (halachah). If the children of the marriage are being raised as Jews, and only as Jews, the non-Jewish spouse may be involved in certain activities within synagogue life. The Conservative Jewish approach actively promotes endogamy, the marriage of Jews with Jews, through youth and young adult programs, outreach to the non-Jewish partner, and concerted efforts to integrate the newly converted into the mainstream of synagogue life. The RA prohibits its members from any participation in an interreligious wedding ceremony. Conservative Judaism sees only the marriage of two Jews as kiddushin (a sacred event).
Fr. Crossin discussed the sacramental meaning of marriage in which God is a spiritual partner. As marriage is for Judaism a symbol and image of God’s covenantal love for God’s People, Israel, so is the marriage of two baptized persons for Christianity a sign and symbol of the unbreakable bond of love between Christ and His Church. Lori Pryzbysz described the need to counsel couples both before and after the wedding ceremony in strengthening and growing in their religious commitment without sacrificing religious principles. All four presenters concurred that a marriage is a holy union sanctified by a religious ceremony, a “sacrament,” a spiritually transforming event that demands of the couple an attitude and life of sanctity. All four also agreed that it is vastly preferable for the offspring of mixed marriages to be raised exclusively in one tradition or the other, while maintaining an attitude of respect for the religious traditions of the “other” side of the family. Attempting to raise a child simultaneously as both “Jewish” and “Catholic,” all agreed, can only lead to violation of the integrity of both religious traditions, at best, and, at worst, to syncretism.