Disparité de culte/disparity of worship/disparitus cultus

When Rose Ann Muriel St. Jean married Max Glatt at a Catholic church in Ottawa,1  the couple had to obtain “une dispense de disparité de culte” (a dispensation for [the impediment of] disparity of worship):

Marriage record of Max Glatt and Rose Ann Muriel St. Jean, 11 February 1939

The reason for this dispensation is given in the marriage record above: Max Glatt, son of Myer Glatt and Esther Pack, was “de la religion juive” (of the Jewish religion).

Note that the impediment of disparity of worship (in Latin, disparitus cultus; in French, disparité de culte) is different from that of mixed religion (in Latin, mixtae religionis; in French, religion mixte). In terms of Catholic canon law, it was/is considered a much more serious marital impediment.

Mixed religion: the marriage of a Catholic to a non-Catholic Christian who has been baptized in another (Christian but not Catholic) denomination

Disparity of worship: the marriage of a Catholic to a non-Catholic who has not been baptized as a Christian

Or, in another words, and to cut to the chase: mixed religion = a Catholic marrying a Protestant; disparity of worship = a Catholic marrying a non-Christian. So: Catholic plus Anglican = “mixed religion;” whereas Catholic plus Jewish = “disparity of worship.”

Er, the above sounds so RC-centred, doesn’t it? ‘A Catholic to which type of non-Catholic’ seems to make “Catholic” the default setting … but Catholic really was (and still is) the default setting in Catholic marriage records, after all, and how else to explain Catholic marital dispensations (which can be extremely valuable sources of genealogical information, of course)?

You probably will not find too many examples of disparitus cultus (disparity of worship/disparité de culte) in the nineteenth-century RC parish registers of the Ottawa Valley. Quite apart from the rigours of the canon law as promulgated by the Vatican, the social world of the mid- to late-nineteenth-century Ontario or Québec town or township was profoundly inhospitable to the prospect of a Catholic [or anyone from any Christian denomination whatsoever]-Jewish marriage. It was only well into the 20th century (and post-World War I, certainly, I would say) that Catholics began to request the relevant dispensation, and that the Catholic Church began to loosen up on its marital restrictions.

  1. Ottawa (Paroisse St. Jean Baptiste, Carleton Co., Ontario), Register of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1909-1968, M. 6 (1939), Max Glatt and Rose Ann Muriel St. Jean, image 2257 of 2995, Ancestry.ca (http://ancestry.ca/: accessed 16 November 2012), Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967.