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This is not a food recipe, but it could be a recipe for disaster for those who oppose it. I am referring to inter-faith marriages, sometimes referred to as Mixed Marriages (MMs). For some, they bear much fruit, like a hybrid that is greater than the sum total of its parts. Take the Eurasian or Anglo-Indian community in India. They produced some of the bravest fighter pilots and talented hockey players. The women were among the first choice of JRD Tata for his airhostesses.

Yet there are those who oppose hybrid or MMs. Take Sadhu Yadav, the brother of Rabri Devi and the maternal uncle of Tejasvi Yadav, who just married his schoolmate and childhood sweetheart, Rachel Godinho. Sadhu felt that his community was insulted because Tejaswi married a Madhu from outside the community, a Christian! Why do relations poke their noses in other people’s private relationships?

About the same time, Katrina Kaif married Vicky Kaushal. From the names, I would presume that Katrina is of mixed Christian-Muslim parentage, while her husband is probably Hindu. Nobody felt insulted or cried Love-Jihad. Does society have different yardsticks for celebrities and lesser mortals? Shah Rukh Khan (Muslim) is married to Gauri (Hindu). Similarly, Amir Khan, till recently, was married to Kiran Rao, and Saif Ali Khan to Kareena Kapoor. Real Khandani. Ritesh Deshmukh (Hindu) is married to Genelia D’Souza (Christian). The list is endless.

Third parties like Sadhu Yadav have no locus standi to pass judgment on such mixed marriages, especially if they are happy relationships (fruitful). The jam is the sticky part for those like Sadhu, who object; or worse still, indulge in gruesome dishonour killings. Yet the jam is sweet and tasty for those who share their love relationship. Perhaps this is nature’s way of breaking walls and building bridges in a fractured society.

Since we are on the cusp of Christmas, I think that it is the best kind of hybrid or mixed fruit jam; when the human and the divine integrate into a love relationship. It is called Incarnation, the Spirit taking human flesh, the avatar. At Jesus’ birth, the heavenly hosts proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest and peace to people on earth”. May this divine proclamation of peace be the true fruit of Christmas and not some red-nosed paunchy
Santa Claus.

At Jesus’ birth the Judean King Herod found himself in a jam, or possibly a soup; because he felt threatened by the advent of another “king”, a countervailing force. Egged on by his own deep insecurity he ordered the killing of all the innocent babes in Bethlehem. People like Sadhu Yadav are so similar to King Herod. Their ethnic chauvinism and religious posturing are but a cover-up for their own deep-rooted insecurity.

As a small aside let us see how the Catholic Church views MMs. Before Vatican II it looked suspiciously at them, deeming them as a danger to the faith. It was also incumbent on both parties to give a written declaration that the children would be brought up in the Catholic faith. It was only after the new Code of Canon Law was published by Pope John Paul II on 25/1/1983 that a more nuanced approach to such relationships was considered.

Let us study some of the canonical provisions. It considers MMs as a diriment impediment that invalidates such a marriage (cf Can 1073 & 1086:1). Removal of such an impediment is provided for in Canons 1125/26. MMs are addressed in Title VII, Part I, Chapter VI of Canon Law. It begins by stating that such marriages are prohibited (a very strong term) in Canon 1124. However, the bishop may grant “dispensation” if certain conditions are fulfilled. “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 in order that all the children are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church” (Can 1125:1). It goes on to say that the non-Catholic party is to be informed about the obligation of the Catholic party (cf Can 1125:2).

Besides “It is forbidden to have either before or after the canonical celebration, another religious celebration of the same marriage for the purpose of giving or renewing matrimonial consent” (Can 1127:3). While the above refers to MMs between a Catholic and a non-Catholic Christian, it also applies to a marriage with a non-Christian. This was earlier described as “disparity of cult but now called “disparity of worship” (Can 1129).

While this is no doubt an improvement over the past, it still has a prejudiced view of MMs, that should have no place in a multi-religious country like India where there is a very high percentage of MMs caused by multiple variables in modern society, like career and residence options.

Asking the Catholic party to try its best to live the faith and share it with the children is reasonable. However, seeking “dispensation” from the bishop is obnoxious. What if the parish priest or bishop is for some reason prejudiced against the applicant? Will such a person be denied a sacramental marriage? On the one hand we object to anti-conversion bills that provide for seeking permission / or informing the District Magistrate before entering into an inter-faith marriage, we apply a different yardstick to our own people. I see this as an infringement of personal liberty and privacy. This provision in Canon Law should be “dispensed with” forthwith. I hope and pray that the present Synod will address this sensitive pastoral issue.

MMs apart, this Christmas let me wish all my readers a Happy Mixed Fruit Jam; filled with the divine and human, with peace, love and brotherhood.

Note : The writer is the Convenor of the Indian Catholic Forum

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  1. Is there a reason behind the verse “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness” (2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV) ?

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