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 Post subject: Converts With Baggage
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 12:08 pm 
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Master
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Last night I heard a missionary of another denomination talk about his mission work in a predominantly Muslim African country.

Many men had several wives, and children with each of the wives.

When asked how his church could convert people with several wives who weren't following God's law, he said that the church had made modifications in this country. All the wives were dependent on their husbands for support, and the men had economic responsibilities to all the wives and children (who would be homeless and destitute without him. Even wives with grown children would be helpless with no one to care for them.)

I wondered what Catholic missionaries would do in this situation? What I imagine they would do is tell the converts that their first wife is their only wife, but that they are responsible to care for the other women and children they have through invalid subsequent marriages.

But if the man divorced his subsequent wives, might they not lose status in their communities and be ostracized through no fault of their own?

This talk made me realize how complicated the issues are in missionary work. How do Catholic missionaries deal with these problems, does anyone know?


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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 1:44 pm 
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The man should continue to care for his other 'wives' but should treat them as he would a sister.

He could only continue marital relations with the woman he wed first. Anything else is the sin of Adultery.

The question I have, is why do those 'Christian' missionaries think that a man must sleep with a woman to offer her support. :?

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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 2:07 pm 
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Where do you get that they think they have to sleep with them?

This is a good question. What we may be preaching, will go against years and years of tradition, and could lead to the destruction of the communities in which these people live. It is importatn, I think, to not try to instantly convert these people, but rather, teach them and help them to change their ways, if possible.

I think too often we try to convert someone as if they were a cup of instant coffee - just add God and *poof* they're good Christians. You have to cultivate the ground, and harvest the beans before you can drink the coffee.

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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 3:27 pm 
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Master
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The compromise that this particular church made was to allow the men to convert with their wives but not to allow them into any leadership positions (e.g. deacon or elder.)

Of course this would never be allowed in America.

I was at this meeting because I played at their evening service. The missionary's story was fascinating but it led me to wonder exactly what do Catholic missionaries do in situations like this.


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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 5:52 pm 
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Handmaids of the Lord
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What an interesting question. I never thought about this problem before, but I think Brendan's answer is the only one that is possible for Catholics. (or any Christian, for that matter)

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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2005 6:46 pm 
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The way the heretical Worldwide Church of God, in which I was born and raised, dealt with this problem was to basically just allow them to practice polygamy, and hope that the church members in America, Europe, and elsewhere wouldn't find out what the African WCG members were allowed. When it was finally discovered, it was rationalised much as it is described above -- the culture just wouldn't tolerate non-polygamists, blah blah blah -- as if Christianity isn't supposed to destroy pagan culture and replace it with a culture founded on Jesus. . . .

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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2005 8:05 am 
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Brendan wrote:
The man should continue to care for his other 'wives' but should treat them as he would a sister.

He could only continue marital relations with the woman he wed first. Anything else is the sin of Adultery.

The question I have, is why do those 'Christian' missionaries think that a man must sleep with a woman to offer her support. :?


While the question of a polygamous potential convert to Catholicism (either male or female) is not a major pastoral problem in the USA, the Catholic CODE OF CANON LAW has a canon specifically for the case. In the case of a man with multiple wives the suggested preference is for him to remain with his first wife, but it is not required. He can choose which one of his wives to keep.
The 1983 CODE OF CANON LAW wrote:
Can. 1148 §1 When an unbaptised man who simultaneously has a number of unbaptised wives, has received baptism in the catholic Church, if it would be a hardship for him to remain with the first of the wives, he may retain one of them, having dismissed the others. The same applies to an unbaptised woman who simultaneously has a number of unbaptised husbands.

§2 In the cases mentioned in §1, when baptism has been received, the marriage is to be contracted in the legal form, with due observance, if need be, of the provisions concerning mixed marriages and of other provisions of law.

§3 In the light of the moral, social and economic circumstances of place and person, the local Ordinary is to ensure that adequate provision is made, in accordance with the norms of justice, christian charity and natural equity, for the needs of the first wife and of the others who have been dismissed.



Edward Pothier


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2005 9:24 am 
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Master
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That sounds very fair, as long as the wife and dependents from the additional marriages are left cared for.

In an area with many converts, it probably would not make much of a difference.

My other concern would be that, in an area with few converts, the discarded wives and children could be ostracized and shunned because of a country's cultural norms.


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