What About Pre-Cana?


This issue has been on my mind for quite some time, and I feel that it is one of those mountains that I need to move on my journey to where my theology and my reality meet. When my husband and I were married (he is Catholic, I was Lutheran at the time), we had a good six months of Pre-Cana classes, questionnaires, and homework. My brother in law and his wife were married in the Catholic Church three years ago (he is Catholic, she is Buddhist) and had an afternoon INTERVIEW!!! She does not understand the sacraments–in fact we had to “pull teeth” to convince her to have their son (my husband and I are godparents) baptized as an infant (she has a daughter by a previous relationship who chose baptism at age 8; I think the girl’s father is Baptist). No baptism classes were required (!). I would hate for their marriage to fail…but I also wonder about the lack of preparation they did. There are so many issues they face daily that could have been addressed through pre-Cana classes (parenting, money, in-laws, and so forth)…the priest at their wedding didn’t even mention Christ or God in the final blessing of the couple as he felt that it would embarrass the bride. What is up with that?? Why is it so different across the country…and why would a priest marry them without adequate preparation?


Unless there are clear diocesan policies the priest is free to decide what is adequate preparation – I had none.

We have nothing like Pre-Cana in our diocese. In our parish the couple is given a work book which they do at their own pace and then meet with father after each section. Believe me you don’t want my pastor to counsel anyone on finances so I don’t know what he’s able to offer on that front. The rest? I have no idea but one thing I do know is that if ABC is even mentioned it’s only in passing (“What’s the point, nobody is going to stop using it because of anything we say” is the reason I’ve heard) and NFP is not even mentioned. There is nobody to teach it in our town. When I’ve brought up NFP with the pastor after one couple asked me about it, I saw his eyes glaze over and his “humor Phemie” look.

I’m trying to convince members of our local ministerial association to start an interdenominational Pre-cana. In our small town that would be ideal. Couples could do everything but the religious part together and then the pastor of each church could meet with the couples from his own flock to do that part. That would make good use of the facilitators in a town where hockey will always take priority over Mass & sacramental preparation.


not sure I understand your issue
is it that pre-cana and sacramental classes for parents are required at all?
or is it that requirements differ from diocese to diocese or parish to parish?
or is it that the requirements are the same, but ignored in some places?

can’t speak for your relative’s parish, but I bet dollars to donuts the diocese has very good programs for prep mandated but the priest preparing that couple for marriage ignored them because he wanted to be “pastoral” and not offend the non-Catholic partner. results predictable

we have several ongoing threads lamenting the ease with which annulments seem to be granted. the reason is exactly this, priests do not even take the time to determine if couples are entering Catholic marriage with the disposition and conditions for valid marriage in place.
results predictable


Yes, they should have received some marriage preparation.

BUT, I would like to point out that your BIL chose to marry a Buddhist, a non-Christian. That was 100% his decision and therefore he is 100% responsible for children in the household receiving the Catholic Sacraments and religious instruction.

SHE is not responsible for, nor did she make any promises pertaining to, the Catholic religion. Marriage prep does not teach non-Catholics all of Catholic theology. SHE is not responsible for baptizing the children Catholic, HE is responsible for that.

Put the blame squarely where it belongs-- your BIL the Catholic.


I have to agree with the above poster. We as Catholics believe that the family forms the mini-Church at home. It is not the responsibility of the priest to go around hounding parishoners to baptize their children. Yes, he should indeed talk to the Catholic parent about the necessity of baptizing the little soul God entrusted to his care, but in the end of the day, it is the father who goes home with the child to catechize him NOT the parish priest. Same goes for when the child begins CCD classes or attends Catholic schools. If he does not see his Catholic parent living the Faith at home, he will be less likely to do so himself for parents are who children usually look up to.

As for pre-Cana courses, my husband and I have a very negative opinion of those since the one we attended in Chicago was purely secular. I mean, seriously, we had to ask each other, “Um, we ARE at a CATHOLIC wedding talk, are we not? Why no mention of “vocation” or the fact that we are preparing to enter a Sacrament?!” Well, it was run by someone who seemed to be a heretical deacon (cafeteria Catholic, I would call him).

However, our several discussions with the priest who officiated at our Nuptial Mass, though, were much more beneficial. We talked about our views on finances, children, raising them, our prayer life and what the Faith means to us, etc. My husband I actually talked about these important issues before ever meeting with a priest (hey, that is how we knew we were called to marry each other since we agree on all of the important big stuff) but I do agree that such discussions would be beneficial for some couples who may not have sorted all of this out between themselves.


I guess my issue is why do parishes/diocese differ across the country. I have life experiences with these kids and it just breaks my heart that in another parish/diocese they may have had better instruction and be better able to face all the difficulties they are having. It’s probably misplaced frustration, as you all are correct in placing the on my BIL, the Catholic. I just don’t think either of them were well informed abou marriage as sacrament. It was all about the wedding, not the marriage. I don’t expect my SIL to understand all the theology, but neither do I expect her to be an impediment; husband and I had a whole class on how to manage differing religious backgrounds and beliefs, so I KNEW what I was getting into when we were planning to be married.

And what’s this about promises? I certainly did have to promise to raise my kids Catholic…hence my RCIA. I just have a gut feeling that no matter how often we ask about Mass and sacramental preparation, our nephew will be one of those kids who is in adult RCIA. Of course, I also need to see that as a blessing (that adult RCIA will be available to him)


Because the Bishop is the legitimate authority in his diocese and can implement as he sees fit pastorally.

Their marriage is not a Sacrament, she is not baptized. They have a natural marriage.

Whatever is lacking in your BILs faith formation reflects on his parents who are the primary educators of children in the faith.

The priest should have discussed with them the puproses and essential properties of marriage-- permanency, exclusivity, and fecundy-- as required in canon law to ensure neither of them were intending to exclude an essential property from their consent:

Can. 1125 3/ both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude.

Perhaps I am just being surly, but does it really take a class to anticipate that a Catholic marrying a Buddhist is going to have issues stemming from a difference in religious background? And, does it really take a rocket scientist to know they should have discussed it all before getting married?

Where is personal accountability in all this?

It is only the Catholic who makes a promise. The non-Catholic is informed of the promise. If you were married before 1983, the process may have been different under the old code of canon law. The current code states:

Can. 1125 The local ordinary can grant a permission of this kind if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions have been fulfilled:

1/ the Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;

2/ the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party;


Exactly! It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist…but I guess he was left out of the equation. Wow, now I feel like they need prayers more than ever!


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