Memo to Cardinal George: “Redefining” Marriage.

re: Your statement on “redefining” marriage :

Everyone has a right to marry, but no one has the right to change the nature of marriage. Marriage is what it is and always has been, no matter what a Legislature decides to do; however, the public understanding of marriage will be negatively affected by passage of a bill that ignores the natural fact that sexual complementarity is at the core of marriage.

A truly "traditional" Biblical family?

Please check some Church history. This is not the first time that the nature of marriage is being “redefined” – the church itself has done so frequently.
  • In Biblical Israel, marriage was polygamous, arranged exclusively between men (the groom, and the fathers of his wives). The Hebrew patriarch, if he could afford it, would also keep concubines as well as wives.
  • In classical and medieval times, marriage was not a contract between two people based on love to raise children, but a financial and legal arrangement to protect property and inheritance.
  • In the early Christian church, there was no obligation for couples to marry in church – unless the groom was a priest.
  • There was, on the other hand, provision for same sex unions to be blessed, in church, by formal liturgical rites.
  • The idea of marriage as a “Christian Sacrament” came relatively late in Church history. The popular Western understanding of “traditional marriage” is a very modern invention, dating mostly from the nineteenth century.

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2 comments for “Memo to Cardinal George: “Redefining” Marriage.

  1. John
    November 25, 2010 at 1:24 am

    It is getting embarrassing. Surely, someone in the hierarchy must have once taken a history course, or a cultural anthropology course. But then again, most of these men studied in-house from the time they were 13. They never had the benefit of real discussions with professors and students who were not in total agreement and members of the club.

    Accepting arguendem the Church’s position that marriage is a unity of persons with two “goods” or “ends” (mutual love and support of the persons and openness to children), it would seem that gay marriages fulfill these purposes at least as well as marriages between infertile opposite sex couples. And if the Church believes that it is all in the anatomy, many gay men and women will tell you that the parts fit just fine.

    • November 25, 2010 at 2:00 pm

      The trouble with formal history courses, John, is that the historians who lead them can be so selective. I am sure it would be possible to do several years seminary study of Church history and never once hear anything to unsettle the popular idea of traditional marriage.

      I think you have correctly identified the real problem – the closed shop of the priesthood and its formation, so that the approved Catholic “scholars” are not required to pay too much attention to the important work that is done by other denominations – let alone that of Catholics (like Salzmann and Lawlor) who can ground their work in sexual ethics in some insights based on personal experience.

      But then, orthodox Catholic theology has never been too concerned with any connection to reality.

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