Print This Post
Product: Miscellaneous (Pre-Marriage Courses)
Medium: Internet (Company Website)
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 3.3, 3.4, 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10
Advertising for pre-marriage courses by Together.ie referred to the following:
“Online courses don’t satisfy Irish diocesan guidelines.
To marry in the Catholic Church, couples must attend a preparation course. No Irish diocese accepts online courses (Ask your parish or diocese).”
The website then posed the following question:
“Would an online pre-marriage course satisfy the requirement, in your diocese?”
The response to the question in all of the 26 dioceses in Ireland appeared to be that an online pre-marriage course would not be accepted for marriage preparation.
Avalon Relationship Consultants who offer online pre-marriage courses objected to the statement that online courses did not satisfy Irish diocesan guidelines. They said that this statement was misleading to their customers and damaging to their brand. They said that it was the priest who decided on the form of marriage preparation required and that their on-line pre-marriage course had been accepted by priests in Ireland.
The complainants provided documentary evidence  from a sample of couples who had taken their pre-marriage course with them online. The couples outlined that the online course had been accepted by the priest who had officiated at their marriage ceremony.
 In keeping with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) the complainants did not provide the surnames of the couples who had provided the substantiation.
The advertisers said that none of the evidence provided by the complainants had been adduced from a diocesan office to indicate that at diocesan level, online courses were accepted as sufficient, without actual attendance at a pre-marriage course. They said that while the evidence had suggested that individual priests may have derogated from regulations, this had not contradicted the facts that had been stated on their website.
They said that of the 20 sample statements provided by the complainants, it was their opinion that none of them gave the requisite details, i.e. the full names of the couples, parishes where wedding took place, date of wedding and contact details of the priests who accepted the course. They said that they would require such details to enable them to contact the priests in question to see if diocesan policy had changed about the insufficiency of online pre-marriage courses. If it was the case that any Irish diocese had changed policy in the matter, they would reflect such changes on their website.
The advertisers said that for greater clarity, however, they had now included the following statement in the first paragraph on their website:
“To marry in the Catholic Church, couples are expected to attend a preparation course. Upon enquiry, we found no Irish diocese accepting an online course as fulfilling their diocesan requirement for a sacramental marriage. You can ask your parish (or diocese) to see if this ruling has changed, or if it may be over-ruled by your local priest.”
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. They noted that the substantiation provided by the complainants had included the name of the parish where the couples had married and they considered this to be adequate substantiation under the requirements of the Code. They also noted that the advertisement had been amended to include information in relation to checking with the priest to see if they accepted online courses, and that the information in relation to all 26 dioceses not accepting online courses remained the same. The Committee noted the conflicting information between the Diocesan guidelines and the practice at parish level and in light of this concluded that the advertising had the potential to mislead and breached Sections 3.3, 3.4, 4.1, 4.4, 4.9 and 4.10 of the Code.
The advertising should not appear in the same format again.