Friday, 25 May 2012

Defending marriage

There has been a lot of attention in the media lately on the issue of gay marriage with many pushing (and pushing hard) for it to be legalised. The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales have been very active and very vocal on this subject, trying to show the world its true meaning, its true dignity and why gay 'marriage' isn't, in fact, marriage at all. Christians as well as many people from other religions have receive fierce criticism, even abuse, when expressing their views that marriage is between one man and one woman and therefore the legal definition should not be altered. In his letter a few months ago Archbishop Vincent Nichols said,

"The roots of the institution of marriage lie in our nature. Male and female we have been created, and written
into our nature is this pattern of complementarity and fertility. This pattern is, of course, affirmed by many other religious traditions. Christian teaching fills out this pattern and reveals its deepest meaning, but neither the Church nor the State has the power to change this fundamental understanding of marriage itself. Nor is this simply a matter of public opinion."

This is further affirmed by the Catechism which says;

""The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws. . . . God himself is the author of marriage." The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics. Although the dignity of this institution is not transparent everywhere with the same clarity, some sense of the greatness of the matrimonial union exists in all cultures. "The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life." (CCC 1603)

Man has no authority to alter the definition of marriage since he himself is not the author of it. It is a gift lovingly given to us by God to bring man and woman into a more profoundly intimate union. They are no longer 'man' and 'woman' but one flesh, the two come together, giving all of themselves to their spouse with nothing held back; not emotionally, physically, psychologically, materially, the two literally do aspire - with God's help and by his grace - to become one. This is a reflection of the love shared within the Trinity (I'm not clever enough to explain that...but Blessed John Paul II did exceptionally in Theology of the Body. If marriage is redefined by the State then, even though they insist that religious institutions will not be required to perform these services, it will fundamentally undermine marriage as a whole. It will utterly distort the roots and source of what this amazing and holy sacrament is, it will uproot even further people's conception of what marriage is all about and why two people enter into it, it will totally devalue it too. (Anneli has written a superb article on the St. John's Pro Life blog as part of the Back to Basics series. You can read it here, you certainly won't regret it!)

All this having been said there has been a lot of misunderstanding and, sadly, venom from both sides which means we both
become deaf to one another. The vocation of the Christian is to proclaim the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ and to do so with love and understanding. We can't do this properly if we just shout our view at other people, preaching the Gospel at them and not to them. We cannot hope to help people see and understand the innate dignity and wonderful truth of marriage if we don't listen, if we don't engage with others adequately. The Bishops have called us to action, they have asked us to sign the petition started by the Coalition for Marriage. You can sign it here or add your name to it in paper form in the porch at St. John's. Action is most definitely necessary but there is no need to be rude or unkind in this situation. Christ's message was love, Christ's gift of marriage is to help man and woman truly express their love, to bring it to fulfillment, if we act without it then we will accomplish nothing.


  1. Thanks Katherine, wonderful stuff as always... Unfortunately marriage, like so much else in life these days, has come to be viewed as something private and personal, a private matter which only pertains to the two individuals involved. It is not, of course; it is a public legal commitment, and the reason it is such is because it has ramifications for society as a whole. Indeed, it existed in some form before any human society and has formed the basic building block upon which every human culture since time immemorial has been built. If we try to redefine it, we are redefining not just a personal relationship but our human society itself and indeed our nature and identity as human beings.

    So whilst it is vitally important to protect nd witness to the meaning of Christian marriage - which we as Catholics know to be God-given - as you so beautifully point out, we should not let anyone tell us it is purely a "private" matter or that we are attempting to force a religious definition of marriage upon everyone. In actual fact, the current definition of marriage has been universally accepted for centuries and it is those who are trying to legalise gay "marriage" who are attempting to make a change and foist it upon the rest of us.

    As with all Catholic moral teachings, those on marriage reflect what is truly good for the human being and what will therefore enable him to attain happiness!

  2. nice posting.. thanks for sharing..


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