Friday, June 17, 2011

A prayer for New York

Regular readers know that over the years I've posted lots of objections to gay "marriage" on secular grounds. Some of these posts can be read here, here, here, here and here; there are more, but that's a good start.

I make these arguments because I do think that the secular, human reasons to preserve marriage are important, and because I'm aware that I live in a culture too diseased to do anything but dismiss religious notions when these notions are raised in the public square. That said, I've been heartened to see, in the latest gay "marriage" debate out of New York, religious speakers and thinkers taking their place in the debate and pointing out that saying an argument has religious underpinnings does not automatically exclude the argument from the public square--unless we're going to admit that secularism is synonymous with atheistic nihilism, which is something secularists dislike admitting.

Rather than rehash my various secular reasons to oppose gay "marriage" today, then, I'd like to take a look at the religious side of this debate, to share my own religious reasons which, joined with and in concert with my understanding of the civil and secular reasons, are why I will always oppose the travesty of gay "marriage" and fight against it. I give fair warning to those of my readers who support gay "marriage," though: first, that there are religious aspects to my opposition does not negate my secular reasons; and second, since you already reject fundamental Christian teachings about morality, particularly sexual morality, and virtue, you will probably lack the basis even to understand what I'm talking about here. In a word, I write this for the benefit of my Catholic and orthodox (or Orthodox) Christian readers who possess the framework in Scripture and understanding of Church teaching to get this. It is my personal understanding of what the Church teaches, and is, as always, subject to fraternal correction by anyone who knows better than I do (and there are many who do).

From the beginning God intended man and woman to live in a covenanted union with three distinct aspects: life-long permanence, exclusivity, and fruitfulness--this last finding its fullest expression in the gift of children who are the natural and expected result of the union. The creation accounts in Genesis show our first parents, Adam and Eve, in this type of union; even after the Fall their union continues and produces the first of our ancestors. Marriage, then, in the order of creation, pre-dates even the Fall of Man.

Why? I think it is because human marriage, in its blurred and imperfect way, first points to and then echoes, however distantly, the mystical union of Christ with His Church. The Bridegroom lays down His life for His spotless Bride; the Bride submits in all things perfectly to Her divine Spouse; the outpouring of His divine life through her calls into being, through the waters of Baptism, the spiritual children of God, who then share in the living nourishment of grace, most perfectly in the Blessed Sacrament in which the Bridegroom becomes present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity for the feeding and strengthening of His family. The union of Christ and His Church is to be of at least earthly permanence (since He promised she would endure until the end of time); it is exclusive (He does not have many Brides, but one); and its fruitfulness can be seen stretching back to the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when the Church came into being.

In order to reflect the union of Christ and His Church, then, human marriage must be ordered toward those three things: permanence, exclusivity, and fruitfulness. (It should be noted, as concerns the last, that "ordered toward fruitfulness" means simply that a man and a woman must be physically capable of the reproductive act; those who are not may not marry, according to the Church, but those who are must not necessarily be capable of fertility, which is always a gift, and may not be commanded.) There have been many human attacks upon this image of marriage: polygamy, adultery, divorce, contraception, the use of sex outside of marriage, and so on have all attacked the reflection of the mystical union of Christ with His Church. Gay "marriage" is just a newer variation on the old theme.

Each of these attacks on marriage is a twisting and corrupting of the human experience in order to shatter any possibility of the likeness of God and His Will in them. We have many similar twisting corruptions in our culture--abortion is one, as it is a twisting of a child's mother into his bitterest enemy, the one who orders his destruction and pays for his killing--and gay "marriage" is another. The gender-difference and complementarity of the couple which reflects the union of Christ and His Church; the couple's biological ability to participate in an act of love which in its highest expression calls forth into being a new person, created in God's image and likeness, which is both a reflection of and an entering into God's creative power; the appreciation of sexual morality and the call for chastity both outside and inside of marriage which is a reflection of the holiness and purity of God; all of these are tossed aside as unnecessary and unimportant to the new definition of gay "marriage." Instead, there is a coinciding--not a joining or a union in any real sense--of, to continue the metaphor, two false gods and no church, or two faithless churches and no God--with no power to participate in the act of procreation, no possibility of fruitfulness, no purification of the sexual desire, no mutual growth in holiness of the couple--nothing of what Christian marriage is about at all. Gay "marriage" is, in fact, ordered toward sinful acts and ordered against God; it is ordered toward the eternal damnation of those who enter it, not their mutual growth in holiness and working toward salvation. It is powerless to draw a couple immersed in it closer to Christ (except by their eventual rejection of its evil, which is always devoutly to be prayed for). It is, in a Christian sense, nothing like marriage at all, except as a demonic inversion of it.

And no power in Heaven or on earth can ever make it anything else.

New York hovers at the edge of the abyss on the question of redefining marriage to include this demonic inversion called gay "marriage." I ask my fellow Christians to pray for New York and for the defense of marriage; I further ask my fellow Catholics and any fellow Christians who wish to do so, to join me specifically in this prayer (Latin or English, your choice):

Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio.
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae coelestis,
Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute, in infernum detrude.

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.


freddy said...

Beautifully said! God bless you!

Anonymous said...

Even the initail words of your reasoning are greatly flawed: "From the beginning God intended man and woman to live in a covenanted union with three distinct aspects: life-long permanence, exclusivity, and fruitfulness."

1. God is, unfortunately, irrelevant in a discussion of civil marriage. God is not the author of civil marriage any more than God is the author of the tax code. The State determines both. Not God.

2. Life-long permanence is not an element of civil marriage.

3. Fruitfulness is also not an element of civil marriage.

Your argument would make perfect sense if the issue at hand was "what constitues a Roman Catholic marriage."

But the Great State of New York is not discussing Catholicism. It is trying to determine if the State will be better or worse if some of its citizens should be allowed to form a legal relationship.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

First, I must note that Erin explicitly said she was speaking today about the religious viewpoint, not about the civil viewpoint. She provided links to her past comments on the civil viewpoint.

I would add that, even if civil marriage is open to same-sex combinations, or any number of other combinations, it remains perfectly legitimate for any religious body to teach that, whatever the law allows, God commands _________. The latter is not legally binding, but a church may teach it, and those who adhere to that church may obey it. It is even constitutionally protected, both as free speech, and free exercise of religion.

On the whole, I agree, except that I favor the orthodox Jewish explanation that marriage reunites the Adam. Genesis is quite clear that the creation of humanity was a single act "male and female created he them." The original Adam, made in the image of God, was androgynous. It had to be separated, taking away one SIDE (not rib) of the Adam, to create woman, and what was left over was man. Two individuals of the same sex do not bring together the complete image of God.

That said, I recognize that in every generation, a minority of statistical outliers, for whatever reason, have found more emotional satisfaction in their own sex rather than the opposite sex. I am rather indifferent to the notion that this must be morally condemned. It is a biological dead-end, perhaps even a spiritual dead-end, but I have doubts that it is a grave offense to God. I am rather indifferent if a state legislature chooses to grant it some sort of recognition.

There is currently some effort in New York to explicitly recognize protection for religious objections. That is good, and will save some pointless litigation, but not essential. The litigation will end up with the same reasoning as the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, which necessarily observed that its decision mandating marriage licenses for same-sex couples applied only to civil marriage.

Nobody will succeed at suing the Baptist, Catholic, or any other church over refusal to host their "wedding."

Hector said...

That's fine, but I'm not sure why Erin's view is binding upon gay Americans, or upon Siarlys, or me, or any other Christians who don't accept the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Any more then a Muslim's view that eating pork is immoral, should be imposed upon Erin.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Well, Erin MAY want her view to be binding as a matter of civil or criminal law on the rest of us. I know that a character named MadCatholic does. But I don't believe Erin has said that in THIS post.

Even if she did, I am not offering an unqualified endorsement of Erin's position. I am critiquing the anonymous response, because we CURRENTLY have a legal and constitutional framework in which Erin can speak her mind and live according to the canons of her church, AND the rest of us don't have to. I want to keep that.

Anonymous is conflating the argument in a dangerous manner, insinuating that if Erin's religious view is contrary to civil law criteria, then it is ipso facto invalid. There is a reason Thomas Jefferson concluded that nonestablishment and free exercise required a "wall of separation" between church and state. As James Madison wrote, part of the purpose was to protect the church from "the profane hand of the civil magistrate."

Geoff G. said...

I will only observe that it is a very sorry Church indeed that is so uncertain of its own definition of marriage (or any other sacrament) that it requires the imprimatur of the State.

Hector said...

FTR, Siarlys, you should read my post on the Trinity up at Alexandria right now...:)

Turmarion said...

Siarlys, I've come across the idea of Adam as originally an androgyne in at least one Orthodox Christian writer, so the notion may exist or have existed in some Christian philosophy as well. If so, both that and the Jewish version you speak of probably both go back to the Symposium or some earlier Greek source. Certainly the Jewish sources far post-date Plato, to say nothing of the Old Testament, and the primal androgyne sounds more Hellenic than Semitic. In any case, such a view is obviously impossible from a biological and evolutionary standpoint, but it's interesting from a philosophical, theological, and symbolic standpoint.

Erin, I really wouldn't disagree with the Christian theology of marriage you present here (the distinction between “physically capable of the reproductive act” vs. “capable of fertility” I'd quibble with, since I think it's spurious, but that's for another day). However, I would raise a question:

Do you think divorce is “evil”? “Demonic”?

To your credit, you list divorce along with polygamy, adultery, etc. as an “attack upon [the Christian] image of marriage” and as “twisting and corrupting”. But let's think a bit. Many states formerly had laws making adultery illegal. Would you support the reinstituion of such laws? That's maybe flip, as even back in the day such laws were rarely enforced or enforceable. More to the point, what about divorce?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but when no-fault divorce laws were first widely instituted, I'm not aware of priests thundering from the pulpits against them; of bishops threatening to refuse Communion to Catholic politicians who supported such laws, or admonishing those who might vote for them; of organized rallies against such laws. Now, thirty-odd years on, it's the status quo. However, if gay marriage did get legalized, you, I assume, would uphold the vital necessity of working towards its repeal, correct? Where are such actions against easy divorce laws? I mean, one could certainly make a civil, secular case against divorce, as well as against gay marriage, right? And from the perspective of Church teaching, remarriage after divorce is a mortal sin—it, like homosexual relationships is a perversion, an evil, a corruption, right?

In fact, is it not worse? Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, but he specifically forbade divorce. Full disclosure—I am, in fact, vehemently opposed to divorce. In fact, if we're going to admit gradations, I think divorce is much worse than gay relationships. The latter, in however confused and misguided a way, is trying to build something, is seeking a good, even if it can't find it. What did Chesteron say about the man who goes into a brothel really seeking God? Whereas divorce seeks to destroy something, to un-build it, to “put asunder” what Got has “joined together”. So, to reiterate—ought the Church pursue the abolition of no-fault divorce (or perhaps even divorce tout court) with the same vigor with which it opposes gay marriage? Don't think it's gonna happen.

I apologize for the upcoming second post, but I'm in danger of hitting the word limit!

Turmarion said...

To continue: as you're surely aware, annulment has become de facto “Catholic divorce”, at least in the US. Theologically, annulment is only for very rare cases such as a bigamist marrying an innocent, unknowing second wife (or husband), or a mentally incompetent person who can't give consent, etc. If the theoretical norms were really applied, you wouldn't have one annulment out of ten thousand marriages. In practice, though, annulments in this country, at least, very rarely fail to be granted. The attitude of the Church, while unspoken, has effectively become, “Oh, well, that ship has sailed. Too bad, but it's civil law, it's in place, no reason to bother. Might as well make it as easy on Catholics as possible.” As I've pointed out before, I've seen even very conservative priests promote diocesan tribunals for divorced Catholics as a way they can return to the Church in good standing. I certainly don't recall many (if any) sermons against divorce, even at nuptial masses. Does this bother you?

I guess it seems to me a matter of the Church worrying itself to death about the speck in the eye of the gay community while totally ignoring the beam in its own eye regarding divorce. Unfettered access to easy divorce was destroying families and eroding society long before anyone dreamed of gay marriage. Though the divorce rate is actually declining, things are still dreary. That wouldn't be affected even if gay marriage is forever banned. It seems to me that the behavior of straight people has damaged marriage way more than anything gays have ever done, and the Church doesn't seem to give a good rodent's posterior. Look, with the Church thundering about the evils of gay marriage in one breath, while plugging annulments with the other (to say nothing of ordaining divorced men as deacons and priests on a fairly regular basis if they've got the magic annulment), why on earth are the laity supposed to even give the Church the time of day? Why should they listen, with such rank hypocrisy dripping from the hierarchy? If you get divorced, that's OK, we'll get you an annulment, honey; and if you're an abusive priest, well, we'll keep it under our hat and move you somewhere else; but if you're HOMOSEXUAL—well, then, get thee hence, doer of iniquity! And the laity is supposed to actually listen to the hierarchy why?

I probably sound a bit exercised on this. I have seen what divorce has done to family members and to close friends. Given abusive marriages and some other cases, I wouldn't ban civil divorce altogether (the fact that we're a pluralistic society factors in, as well); but I think it's way too easy to obtain. In any case, it strikes me that the Church, at least in this country, is perfectly willing to lie back and say nothing (or if anything, mealy-mouthed platitudes) as our country pursues torture, empire, war after unjustified war, leaves the poor to hang out to dry, etc. etc., and even is a-OK with divorce and pretty any other sexual sins; but when it comes to gays, it gets all loud, Technicolor hellfire and brimstone apocalyptic end of society on us. Can anyone say, “arranging deck chairs on the Titanic?

I'm pushing the word limit again, so one more post—that's all, I promise! Mea maxima culpa!

Turmarion said...

OK, last post, promise! I guess the “hellfire and brimstone” thing also exercises me. As I said, Erin, I don't really disagree with your theology of marriage, and I'm not particularly in favor of gay marriage. However, with all the slinging around of “evil” this and “demonic” that and “losing souls” the other, you are really coming across in a rather unpleasant way. I imagine you'd reply that society itself is in an unpleasant state and that sugarcoating things never helps; and there's truth in that.

Still, the tone I've heard over the last few posts (especially the one a”What if we shut it all down?”) comes off like this: “All these horrible, awful, eeeevil Hollywood libruls, abortion-promoting gummit types, and HOMOSEXUALS—they're ruining our society and taking us all to HELL in a handbasket! Well, we're gonna pull back and get ourselves right and then watch the show. Let 'em plunge to perdition as fast as they want—just as long as they don't take us with 'em! If we're lucky, they'll destroy themselves and we can come back out of our Benedict-option seclusion and put the world right at last!”

Now I realize that this is a bit over-the-top, and not quite fair, to say the least. Also, believe it or not, I do share many of your concerns about our society. Still, I can't help reading what you're saying on this topic without hearing more than a little shrillness and--almost--hatred. Obviously interpreting what is on a blog as opposed to talking face to face is hazardous; and I do give you all benefit of the doubt, especially one fighting a fight with which I agree in part. Still, I recall back on Rod's blog where you let loose a couple of times on how you hoped those who used contraception would just contracept themselves out of existence. I called you on that, and you admitted to the intemperance of the rhetoric. Do you think, just maybe, we're in similar territory now?

Look, if you want to be consistent, from the perspective of Catholic teaching, divorce and adultery are as bad as homosexuality, if not worse. We don't have any record of Jesus speaking to or about gays; but we do have the record of his conversation with the woman caught in adultery, and with the woman at the well, who seems to have been married and divorced numerous times, as well as cohabiting. While Jesus did not deny the sin, he is gentle and compassionate with the sinners in both cases. Apparently he did not feel the need to lecture them on the effects of their behavior on society or on the peril to their souls.

I realize the dis-analogy; you're speaking of social policy whereas Jesus spoke to individuals. Still, when such discussions are framed in ways that essentially do end up telling individuals that they're “evil”, “demonic”, etc., don't you think it's doing more harm than good? Personally, I think that our rampant greed and consumerism is more “demonic” than homosexuality—St. Paul said it's love of money, not of the same sex, that's the “root of all evil”--but I don't think striving for economic justice would be best served by calling Wall Street “demonic”!

Anyway, I realize this has been a very long series of posts, and I do apologize; but I did want to develop what I wanted to say in a full manner, and I really do want to try to see where you're coming from and to express what I think the issues are. I don't want to seem to have hijacked the thread; but I do want to raise issues that I think we haven't really addressed at necessary length. Hopefully we can all do so in charity and humility.

John E. said...

However, with all the slinging around of “evil” this and “demonic” that and “losing souls” the other, you are really coming across in a rather unpleasant way. I imagine you'd reply that society itself is in an unpleasant state and that sugarcoating things never helps; and there's truth in that.

I'm reminded of the lawyer's maxim - when you have the law on your side, pound the law, when you have the facts on your side, pound the law, when you have neither, pound the table.

The law no longer supports the re-creation of civil society in the image of traditional Christianity.

The facts suggest that society will continue to stumble along, imperfectly, but not catastrophically despite that.

So what is left to do besides rail about Evil and Demons, and Hellfire?

Hector said...


Just a quick correction: I don't see any reason to believe the Samaritan woman at the well had been divorced. It's equally likely that was an exceptionally unlucky five-time widow (like that lady in the Book of Tobit). Other then that, I agree with a lot of what you have to say (though I don't think homosexuality is a sin).

Turmarion said...

Good point, John, and expressed with much more concision than I did!

The irritating thing is that the Church is essentially afraid to "pound the table" for social and economic justice, being content to cozy up to the GOP and neoconservatives (here and on bullet 2 over here are some interesting discussions of this phenomenon); and it's afraid to "pound the table" on divorce since it knows there'd be an immediate exodus of members and drop in contributions; but since one can still get away with gay-bashing in our society, the Church pounds the table with delight on any gay-related issue. Taking aim at only those whom you don't fear may retaliate is the usual definition of bullying, and the Church in this country is indeed acting like a hectoring bully. Hectoring bullies are not someone you want on your side--they just damage the cause even if it's a good one--and I think most Catholics realize that. So why should they have any patience with a hectoring bully of a Church? Remember, Jesus didn't take issue with the Pharisees because they upheld the Law, but because they did it as hypocrites and hectoring bullies.

Hector, you're right regarding the Woman at the Well--we don't know the details of her marital history. She is certainly portrayed as somehow questionable, but whether this is because of divorce or her current cohabitation, we don't know. The point that it models the way a Christian should respond to a sinner still stands, as I think we'd both agree.

I think homosexuality is a sin, but no worse than any other sexual sin; and I think sexual sin is relatively low on the totem pole of contemporary issues. I certainly don't see it as a demonic force about to destroy our society. If you look at the economy over the last few years and really dig into what's going on, there are forces out there far more likely to bring down society as we know it than any marriage between Bob and Ted. Of course, C. S. Lewis astutely pointed out that most cultures are distracted from their real besetting sins by other sins that are not the real problem. Gays are a small minority of the population and are also at the current time very visible; also, straight people aren't going to "turn" gay. Thus, it's very easy to use gays as whipping boys and feel good about oneself to boot ("I'm not gay!"). It's much harder to attack the consumerism and Mammon-worship so integral to our whole society and to realize that we are implicit, sinfully so, and to make really tough career and monetary decisions to try to disentangle ourselves, if only a little, from the whole system. Much easier and much more fun just to keep bashing gays!

Red Cardigan said...

Turmarion, it's a busy Saturday for me and I don't have time to respond to your comments at length. Let me just put up a few brief points for now, and perhaps by Monday (tomorrow being Father's Day and all) I'll be able to get back to this.

Whenever I write about divorce (which I do, and have, and will continue to do) I do use words like "evil." I'll specifically direct your attention to this post:

which is typical of what I write on the issue. And I use the word "evil" (and, further, "grave sin" and "the idol of divorce") to make it clear that this is what I, informed by the Church, think of divorce (especially the sin of divorce and remarriage).

If *any* sensitivity is ever called for in discussions of divorce it is only that there is usually an innocent party who does not want the divorce and is hurt by it. This, of course, doesn't apply to gay marriage.

And I've used "demonic" quite a bit in my discussions of abortion, which to me is the gravest evil our society participates in. I use it because I see the hand of the devil--who most certainly does exist--in the ultimate iconoclastic act, the shattering of the image of God in an innocent human being.

I don't use these words to "pound the table" or inflict pain on anybody or be a meanie. I use these words because they accurately describe the truth. Were I to write about the evil of gluttony (and I think I have already) I would also speak of gluttony as evil and as a perversion of how we are supposed to approach food and nutrition. Am I being mean to people who struggle with food issues? Considering that I'm one of those people--no.

Moreover, I'd be mad at someone telling me *my* temptations to gravely evil sin that might cut me off from God were no big deal--because only someone who hated me and wanted me to suffer eternal death would do so.

Finally: the Church has a history of opposing liberal divorce laws, but most of her most vocal opposition happened at the time when these laws were being contemplated. She still speaks against them. There are copious discussions of divorce in Church documents, including the prohibition of divorced and remarried Catholics from receiving Communion while in this state of grave sin. The Church won't take the lead in secular society, but if like-minded people agitated in any state for a tightening of divorce laws, I'm sure that Church pastors and leaders would file supporting briefs and speak in favor of the measure.

But sadly, as I wrote at that link above, even Christian America likes its divorce and remarriage. The Church fights on the battlefronts that exist, while there's still time to do so.

For the record: I would support legislation ending no-fault divorce, requiring at least two years of mandatory counseling before the divorce of people who have children together (obviously, except in cases of documented spousal or child abuse) and one year for those who don't have children (and this would be before divorce proceedings could even begin, by the way), and similar laws to strengthen marriage and weaken divorce. The situation is wicked as it exists.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Turmarion: I received the explanation of the androgynous nature of The Adam from a Talmudic scholar, still living, who bases it as much the original meaning of the Hebrew text as on later expoundment. It is not from Greek sources, unlike, e.g., the infatuation with threes that produced "The Trinity."

I asked the rabbi because I found standard Christian teaching of Genesis self-contradictory, confusing, and nonsensible. For the most part, the rabbi's explanations make sense of the text better than any I have heard.

E.g., how can "male and female created he them" in Ch. 1 be reconciled with woman as an afterthough in Ch. 2. It is painfully obvious that a transcendent, omniscient, noncapricious, deity, not bound by time, intended two sexes all along. The first clue is that the Hebrew word tzela has been mistranlated "rib" when it means "side."

Further, take every reference to "Adam" to mean "the male" is incongruous. Some of them refer to "humanity, made in the image of God," and others to "the man," often rendered in Hebrew as "ish" while the woman was "isha" before she acquired the name "Eve."

Actually, James Watkins came to a similar analysis trying to figure out why God would be bent out of shape by homosexuality. He came to the conclusion, maybe two of the same sex don't fit together to reflect the image of God.

As to the Samaritan woman, since Jewish law and custom NEVER banned polygamy, the possibility that she had five husbands at once would have been neither here nor there. Jewish family life was much more like traditional Muslim practice. Remember how many wives David and Solomon had? How about Jacob? Nobody saw a problem with him marrying the younger sister while the elder was still alive.

I think Erin is on the right track regarding divorce, but getting it right would be a tangled mess. Where will we find all the counsellors necessary -- I mean competent ones, not anyone willing to make a quick buck? Who will judge whether there is "sufficient evidence of abuse" to allow a woman to leave the husband's home, with or without the children? Quies custodiet ipses custodes?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

If Erin will indulge this brief response to Hector, I have read his post, De Trinitate, at Alexandria. My response is so lengthy it would be trespass to take up space with it here. I do not have access to post there, although Stuart used to urge me to invite Erin to join his menagerie. I have posted it at my own site -- click on my name to read it. Hector is welcome to carry on the conversation there. Also, please let Saratoday know she can find me there, although if she looked a little further, she would have found me here, and Stuart is correct that I valiantly challenge Gary Fouse at every turn.

John E. said...

Moreover, I'd be mad at someone telling me *my* temptations to gravely evil sin that might cut me off from God were no big deal--because only someone who hated me and wanted me to suffer eternal death would do so.


Someone who believed God was indifferent to gluttony or someone who believed that this life is all that there is might well tell you that gluttony was no big deal without hating you or wishing eternal damnation upon you...

Hector said...

For the record, if you make divorce (in a modern society) illegal or difficult to get, people will tend to respond by not getting married. In Chile, which was one of the last countries (until 2005, I believe) to have a total ban on divorce, the out-of-wedlock birth rate in the mid-2000s was 54%, higher than ours.

Needless to say, that's not a reason to legalise, or not to legalize divorce. It's also not necessarily a bad thing: most 'unmarried' childbearing in Latin America, like in Scandinavia, is done by a mother and a father in very long term relationships, not by single parents or transient couples. (This isn't the case in the United States, which is why unmarried childbearing is a bigger issue here).

If I had my ideal society, second and third 'marriages' would receive some sort of state recognition and protection, analogous to the 'civil union' deal, but they wouldn't be called marriages or considered equivalent to marriages. Which would be, in a sense, the same thing as banning remarriage. I think people who choose to get divorced and live with someone else need to be allowed to do that, but they don't need to be given state recognition and approval.

Of course, this is far from where we are today, and my point about Chile was just to stress that if you do ban divorce, society may respond to that law in ways that don't quite conform with strict Catholic teaching.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

It is worth remembering that when looser divorce laws were first advocated, the law was chock full of terms like "conjugal right" and "convivial obligation," and wives had a legal duty to live with their husbands (and even vice versa to an extent). A husband was responsible for debts incurred by his wife, in part because if they didn't have the money, he should have exercised his authority more effectively to curb her excesses -- even beating her perhaps.

That can provide grist for the mill for both sides of the argument today. Since spousal rape is actionable, and wives may freely leave their husband, divorce is not necessary to protest her safety or even her liberty. But, if she is free to walk away, why not to make it formal with a divorce?

Tony said...

My take on this "gay marriage" issue is: "Why in the hell do I need permission from the state to receive a sacrament from my Church?"

Do I need a "communion license" to receive Holy Communion? Do I need a "baptism license" to be baptized?

We are free (or at least used to be) and we own our bodies, and that ownership allows us to do what we want with them as long as we don't infringe on the inalienable rights of anyone else.

Let's get government out of our weddings and marriages. When we get a marriage license, we not only marry our spouse, but we marry the state, too.

Once that's done, if the First Church of Sodom wants to marry homosexuals, let them go ahead. If the Catholic Church refuses to, they have that right also. If a photographer doesn't want to photograph (or exclusively photograph) gay marriages then that's fine.

If the state wants to provide a "civil union" that you can voluntarily enter into if you want to entangle yourself with the state, then that's okay too.

Anonymous said...

Serious question: can (and will) anyone here defend Dolans' statement yesterday to the news cameras(made in opposition to the NY gay marriage bill) that "marriage is already defined as the "lifelong union between one man and one woman in love, bringing about children . . . "?

Firstly: can we all agree that this is a material misstatement of NY law, since the words "lifelong" "love" and "children" are not in any way elements of NY civil marriage?

Second, how can we call his words anything other than a bald-faced lie, meant to confuse the public about NY law? Help me out here. I think his actions are reprehensible. How are we supposed to trust an archbishop who would lie like this?

Turmarion said...

Erin, I appreciate the consistency of your response, and the linked post on divorce was a good one. I think, though, that you let the institutional Church off the hook far too easily. Regardless of the culture and mores, the tribunal system is ultimately under the control of the bishops (in terms of appointments, oversight, etc.), and without their de facto permissiveness we would not have the majority of annulments on Earth in our country. This is total hypocrisy, pure and simple.

Moreover, I'd be mad at someone telling me *my* temptations to gravely evil sin that might cut me off from God were no big deal--because only someone who hated me and wanted me to suffer eternal death would do so.

Well, as I pointed out re the woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well, Jesus seems remarkably mild in his approach--the worst he says is "sin no more". He always reserves his invective for hypocritical religious leaders. Given the rank hypocrisy of the bishops regarding tribunals, which enables the divorce culture, who is more worthy of condemnation?

[M]ost of [the Church's] most vocal opposition [to lenient divorce laws] happened at the time when these laws were being contemplated.The Church won't take the lead in secular society, but if like-minded people agitated in any state for a tightening of divorce laws....

But isn't "taking the lead" just what the Church has done with abortion? And abortion has been in place for about forty years, and the Church fights against it still, right? How is divorce different? Why is the Church silent?

I agree with several of the posters here that changing divorce law now would be trickier than we'd like in practice and in terms of unintended consequences, so while I oppose the laws as they stand, I'm not sure what the best approach is. My point, though, stands, in my view. That is, the Church is selective in which issues regarding social/sexual/family policies it chooses to get involved in, and this selectivity is driven by political considerations and is abominably hypocritical; and moreover that it because of such hypocrisy that the Church no longer gets a hearing by the laity on such matters.

Siarlys: As to the Samaritan woman, since Jewish law and custom NEVER banned polygamy....

Two small quibbles: the argument I'm making (that Jesus used an approach towards dealing with sinning individuals different from that which Erin seems to endorse) doesn't depend on the exact status of the Samaritan woman. Thus whether she'd been divorced or not isn't germane in this context. Second, just in the interest of accuracy, Judaism allowed only polygyny (multiple wives), not polygamy in general. The implicit prohibition of multiple husbands is the basis of the Sadducees' famous challenge to Jesus regarding the resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:23-33).

Anonymous said...

Bueller......? (crickets)

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Anony Mouse, I will agree that you and Dolan are both confused. There is a difference between civil marriage and church-sanctified marriage. Dolan has no jurisdiction over what the state chooses to license, and the state has no jurisdiction over what Dolan or the church he represents recognize as a marriage.

Which leads to Tony's point, on the whole a good one, but a tangle mess in terms of legal precedent. In colonial New England, marriage was entirely a civil matter. (Protestants only recognize two sacraments, remember?) But adultery, fornication, and bearing a child out of wedlock WERE criminal offenses. As time went on, ministers obtained the local license before performing the ceremony, which created a harmless tie between church and state. Harmless until recently anyway.

Today, given that cohabitation is legal, sure, you can marry in your church as a sacrament and ignore getting a license from the state. If you later have some legal quibbles over child custody, marital property, etc., you might be at a disadvantage -- those are the real STATE issues in the matter.

Turmarion, you are correct that polyandry was never sanctioned by Torah law, so true, multiple husbands would have been a no-no.

Anonymous said...

With respect, I neither either Dolan nor I are confused. I think both he and I know what the civil law states. However, he chooses to misstate it. And, for broadcast on TV!! Why are Roman Catholics not denouncing him? In my view, to go TV and misstate the law on an important legal issue affects his credibility on the whole.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Dolan does not mis-state civil law. He states canon law AS IF it precludes civil law adopting any other course. And you stated civil law as if that INVALIDATES canon law.

Both exist, and in its own sphere, each is perfectly legitimate. There are constitutional limits as to the encroachment of civil law on the free exercise of religion, and, there are constitutional limits as to the encroachment of religious canons on the civil law.

I would, however, agree with Dolan to the extent that, quite irrespective of the canons of his church, from the earliest known period of human history, in all cultures, "marriage" has referred to the specific relationship between a male and female, not to any other human relationship.

To change the definition of marriage IS a change in the definition of marriage. As a matter of civil law, a legislature can do that. If the legislators who do so can win re-election, then the people are, more than not, willing to accept it. We shouldn't make any more of that than what it is.

Anonymous said...

@SJ, you are being overly generous to Dolan. Only the civil law is in question here. Not canon law. When he speaks to the news cameras about the definition of marriage in the context of this debate without expressly clarifying taht he means only "marriage" as defined by his church, then he's talking about civil law -- or worse he's conflating the 2.

You may be corrrect in your second point, though. Civil law does invalidate canon law --- for civil legal purposes. That is evidenced, for example, every time a married Roman Catholic obtains a divorce. That's not my view - that's a fact.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I'm not being the least generous to Dolan. I said, as you did, that he states canon law AS IF it trumps or determines civil law. That is his error. You made the same error, in reverse, in your first two posts.

It is true that a married Roman Catholic who obtains a civil divorce has every legal right and physical opportunity to take their share of the property division, whatever child custody is awarded by the court, and also to remarry, and thumb their nose at the church.

That does not INVALIDATE canon law at all. The church lacks the power to throw the offender in the bishop's prison, as it could have done in 1360 AD in most of Europe. What it retains is the option to excommunicate the offender, meaning to set the individual outside of, no longer a part of, the communion and fellowship of a church which does not recognize that divorce. As long as that is all s/he loses, civil courts have no jurisdiction to intervene.

Mennonites who are divorced, against their will, WILL NOT remarry as long as the spouse who divorced them is alive. The spouse who remains true to the faith recognizes no divorce, and can neither compel the spouse who initiated the divorce to remain within the marriage, NOR marry another while that spouse lives, even on grounds of abandonment.

In the eyes of the church, there has been no divorce, only desertion and adultery. In the eyes of the civil law, which is the only agency with earthly coercive powers, there has been a divorce. If we keep those things distinct, we have no conflict this side of eternity. A devout, obedient, Roman Catholic would never have sought a divorce in the first place, and if both spouses meet that standard, there would be no civil case. Since at least one spouse obviously did seek a divorce, maybe they should become Episcopalian.

On the other hand, if Erin thinks civil law would be better off not providing such easy access to divorce, as a citizen, she can advocate that. She can even speak to why her church opposes divorce -- as do many Protestant denominations, and orthodox Judaism. If a majority don't agree with her, what she advocates will not become law.

Alan said...
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