Arranged Marriages...


What does the church think about arranged marriages?



Dear Myriam,

Thank you for your question regarding arranged marriages. I've done some limited research on the subject and have not turned up much. It is not a common topic. However, I will give you some thoughts on the subject.

Arranged marriages have been the cultural norm for various societies and at different points in history. It does not happen to be the norm of our western culture. While the practice had a purpose -- the assurance of social security for children through marriage -- it also has its limitations.

The strength of arranged marriages lay in the cultural milieu where this was practiced. There was often an appreciation of the value of marriage, its obligations and contributions to the culture in the procreation and education of children. These marriages generally lasted.

The limitations of arranged marriages lay in the fact that a couple was often not free to choose. What we must understand is that free consent is an essential element in the Church's recognition of a valid marriage.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states:

"The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that "makes the marriage." If consent is lacking there is no marriage." (CCC #1626)

"The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear. No human power can substitute for this consent. If this freedom is lacking the marriage is invalid." (CCC #1628)

So, in the case of an arranged marriage, I do not see that the Church explicitly states it is wrong, nor does it seem to openly discourage the practice . . . in some cultures and during certain eras of history it was perfectly acceptable. (As a parent I have often joked that it would be "so much easier" to just arrange our children's marriages so as to know that they'll get good spouses! However, all joking aside, we will leave the process of selecting a good spouse to our children -- with our sound direction and guidance offered through a courtship process. We pray daily for our children's future spouses. I encourage all young people to take up this practice . . . even if you don't know who your future spouse will be, God does!)

Truly, I do believe the move in our culture away from the practice of arranged marriages is a good thing. The process of finding a spouse is a special time in life. Prayerfully discerning God's will for your future and growing through a courtship relationship is an exciting stage -- filled with blessings and many opportunities to grow in virtues that help prepare a couple for the challenges of married life. Having prepared well for marriage, a couple can enter into this holy and sacred covenant freely, without reservation and give their full consent.

Again, the Catechism states:

"It is imperative to give suitable and timely instruction to young people above all in the heart of their own families, about the dignity of married love, its role and its exercise, so that, having learned the value of chastity, they will be able at a suitable age to engage in honourable courtship and enter upon a marriage of their own." (CCC#1632)

Parents and family are called to play an essential role in the preparation of their children for marriage. But, ultimately, the choice must always be (even in the case of arranged marriages) "a free and responsible act . . . so that the marriage covenant may have solid and lasting human and Christian foundations." (CCC#1632)

I hope these thoughts address your question, Myriam. We pray for all who use my website and we ask that you would remember our family and this apostolate work of promoting purity in your prayers.

In His Most Holy Name,