Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Defining marriage

I have been wanting for some time to produce a post on the 'gay marriage' thing, and today I see that James Preece has written (in his characteristically more direct language) more or less what I wanted to say, and with great thoroughness.

In brief, the problem is not that gay people want to get married; it is that they don't want to get married. What they want is an opportunity to celebrate their relationship in a public and enjoyable way, and have it recognized as equally valuable to a similar heterosexual relationship.

In one sense, they have a point, because most heterosexual relationships are not, except in a rather general sense, marriages. Marriage involves all sorts of things, fidelity, chastity (in the strict sense of the word), sacrificial love, openness to children, permanence: it is a lot more than a public celebration of an affectionate and possibly (increasingly, probably) temporary sexual relationship.

The troubles suffered by Blondpidge (here and here) at the moment for a short while shook my resolve on the subject of artificial contraception. But the gay marriage thing has strengthened it again, and much more powerfully.

The difficulty is that the battle for marriage was all-but lost for society not with civil partnerships or the forthcoming (and pretty well sure to happen) resolution on gay marriage. Rather, it was when purely recreational sex became first possible and then socially acceptable. And for the vast majority of people (including so many Catholics) anything else would be unthinkable.

And what do we do about it? Find another name for what we believe marriage to be? 'The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony', perhaps? And what if, as seems to be happening in certain of the United States, we come to be required to officiate at these ceremonies in our churches? And don't say it won't happen, because there are people who are very determined that it will.

I guess all we could do is to suspend the requirement for Catholics to marry in church (it isn't required by Divine law); let them go to the registry office, and then come to the church for a nuptial Mass and blessing. Then we simply say to all comers, of whatever sexuality 'we don't do marriages here'.

What a sad state of affairs.

But please don't simply let it happen without at least making a token resistance; it is really important to sign this petition arranged by the Coalition for Marriage.


Martha said...

Does this definition of a real, genuine marriage, mean that when a modern, incomplete, so called marriage breaks down, the couple can receive a Church annulment? There could be cases where this would be important, at least to one party.

pelerin said...

A sad state of affairs indeed. I am pleased to say that I have already signed that petition.

I have noticed more and more that the press are gradually making 'gay marriage' seem like the norm. Only a short while ago the word 'marriage' was always enclosed in inverted commas when referring to same sex 'marriage.' However today for the first time I see in the Daily Mail that one columnist refers to someone's forthcoming nuptials and states that 'he is to marry his boyfriend' and 'They'll marry in New York' - no inverted commas round the word 'marry' at all this time. A subtle way to make gay 'marriage' acceptable perhaps?

Martha said...

Does this definition of a true marriage, with which I agree, mean that other marriages, supposedly Catholic, would qualify for a Church annulment? This could be important to at least one party.

Fr William R Young said...

You have a big and important point about Register Office marriages. If civil law is changed to equate these with non-matrimonial liaisons, then the Church will have to reconsider her acceptance of their validity (for non-Catholics - she already holds them invalid for Catholics). As elsewhere, Catholics wanting to marry will then have to undergo two ceremonies. The benefit of having our church ceremonies recognised by the state would be lost, but how can the Church even seem to recognise as matrimony liaisons which cannot by any stretch of the imagination be so deemed. The blanket refusal to recognise any civil ceremony as of itself establishing a truly matrimonial bond ought also to simplify tribunal procedures. A canonist would need to comment on that. Clarity will be needed, so the Church would need to choose a date when the presumptions change.

Supertradmum said...

Check out Dr. Sanity, a doctor, on a link on my blog today. She has a great insight into the failure of the liberals on the point of marriage.

Anonymous said...

Did someone die and appoint James Preece a Bishop? If the best we can do is to look to a heretic like Preece for qords of guidance we really are in trouble!

Anonymous said...

Since what the state registers as 'marriage' is already far removed from what the Church understands, and is likely to be more so in the future, and further, that it is often financially beneficial for a couple NOT to be registered as 'married' by the state, I suggest that the link should be broken completely. The Church should offer Sacramental Marriage to couples, who can decide whether or not to be registered by the state. Of course, the Church would then have to issue its own marriage certificates for ecclesiastical purposes. Clare U