Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 9, 1961


That Ante-Nuptial Agreement

Some months ago we printed the ante-nuptial agreement that non-Catholics are required to sign before the Catholic Church will agree to one of its members entering into a marriage contract with a non-Catholic. In view of that, we find the following comment in United Evangelical Action (February, 1961) of interest:

The Ante-Nuptial Agreement

A judge of the New York Supreme Court has ruled in a divorce case that the ante-nuptial agreement by a non-Roman Catholic that any children born of a mixed marriage will be reared in the Roman Catholic faith is legally binding. Justice Charles J. Beckinella issued his decision in a rather sordid divorce case in which he granted a separation, but gave the father custody of the two young children solely on the ground of the agreement the Protestant wife had signed before marriage promising to bring the children up as Roman Catholics — the religion of the father.

The judge's decision was made on the basis of religion, almost entirely disregarding the considerable evidence that the husband was an unfit parent. Evidence was given (in the 1500 pages of trial record) that the children were baptized in the Roman Catholic faith without the mother's knowledge, presence or consent and that they were likewise "dedicated" by her in a ceremony in a Baptist church. The mother claimed she signed the ante-nuptial agreement under "duress of pregnancy" in order to make it possible for the father to marry her, but with no intention of fulfilling her pledge. She also refused, if granted custody on condition of honoring the pledge, to bring them up as Roman Catholics — even if "her life depended on it."

Though the Roman Catholic ante-nuptial agreement is considered unenforceable at law in most states, the judge said in part: "Here, in addition to the ante-nuptial agreement, the infants by baptism have been initiated into the Catholic faith. They should be permitted to continue in that faith without interference until such time as they are old enough to make a choice of their own."

The case, by the way, is on appeal.

We think the American people need not look for Catholic influence and pressure to make itself felt on the presidential or national level nearly so much (at the beginning) as on the lower levels of government. You may expect Catholic judges on the benches of the lower courts, Catholic police officials, city, county, and state functionaries to be much more inclined to be lenient and tolerant toward Catholic citizens than heretofore.

Some (a very few, perhaps) will adopt this attitude deliberately and with calculation. The vast majority, however, will probably be unconscious of any religious bias at all in their administration of the law; but human nature being what it is, will nevertheless be more disposed than previously to favor and show kindness to a religion which has demonstrated its power to elect one of its sons to the Presidency! If Catholicism had not been such a burning issue, and if the Catholic citizens had not voted as a "Catholic bloc," this new atmosphere might not have developed. Certainly in the past we have had no reason to suspect that Baptist judges would favor Baptists because Harry Truman was in the White House, or Quaker judges would favor Quakers because Herbert Hoover occupied the presidency. For neither Baptistism or Quakerism was a major issue in the election.

But this time it is different. And all patriotic Americans (both non-Catholic and Catholic) will do well to watch with considerable interest (and for some of us, we confess, with a degree of apprehension) to see what may happen to our traditional American concept of the separation of church and state. Some historians are freely predicting that Catholicism is on the rise, while Protestantism is on the wane, and that America is destined to become what the Pope and his cardinals desire it to be — a "Catholic Nation." We shall see.