Until Death Do Us Part? African Marriage Practices and the Catholic Church, 1890–1979

Nicholas M. Creary

in Domesticating a Religious Import

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780823233342
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823241774 | DOI:
Until Death Do Us Part? African Marriage Practices and the Catholic Church, 1890–1979

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For most of the colonial period, the Catholic Church's hierarchy in Southern Rhodesia presumed the superiority of Western Christian marriage and made no efforts to integrate African and Western Christian marriage practices, showing more concern with regularizing canonically invalid unions of African Catholics by various means available within canon law. Although the commission eventually recommended recognizing African customary unions as the basis for marriage within the church, a significant departure from the hierarchy's previous stance, and five years later the bishops went even further to request that select African laypersons be allowed to preside at wedding ceremonies, the situation did not improve appreciably. The commission's deliberations can be likened to the process of the formation of African “customary” law decades earlier by the Southern Rhodesian colonial administrations: of taking selected elements of once-fluid social practices and enshrining them into relatively inflexible legislation.

Keywords: colonial period; Catholic Church's hierarchy; Western Christian marriage; African Catholics; canon law

Chapter.  12221 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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