December 18, 1982: Bliss Begins

Friday, December 18, AD 2015


My bride and I were married 33 years ago today at Saint Mary’s in Paris, Illinois, the parish church of my youth.  It was an unusual spring like day, the temperature reaching seventy.  Our priest was “Fighting Father O’Hara” as I privately nick-named him.  A crusty old man, he also had considerable Irish charm when he wished to use it, and he was kindness incarnate in the instruction he gave my Methodist bride prior to our marriage.  She had attended Mass with me since our engagement in May of 1982 and Father O’Hara helped set the stage for her joining the Church with his passion for the Faith, for which he would have gladly died any number of deaths.

My Mom supervised the reception and was in her glory.  Little did I know that the cancer that would take her life on Easter Sunday 1984 had reappeared, she and my Dad not wanting to mar the day with bad news.  My Dad died in 1991, a week prior to my bride and I learning she was pregnant with our twins.  My father-in-law, who joined the Navy at 17 after Pearl Harbor, died in 1997.  My mother-in-law survives and we hope to see her at Christmas.  Both couples gave great examples of loving life long marriages, and the success of my marriage I attribute to the grace of God, my ever patient bride and them.

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Cardinal Kasper Debates John the Baptist

Saturday, August 29, AD 2015


John the Baptist:  For Herod himself had sent and apprehended John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias the wife of Philip his brother, because he had married her.

Cardinal Kasper:  Often pastors want to control human life. It’s clericalism.  They don’t trust people and therefore don’t respect the conscience of people.

John the Baptist:  For John said to Herod: It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’ s wife.

Cardinal Kasper:  Of course, we have to give guidelines from the Gospel and remind people of the commandments of the Lord, but then we should trust that the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts and in the conscience of our people.

 John the Baptist:  But Herod the tetrarch, when he was reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done;  he added this also above all, and shut up John in prison.

Cardinal Kasper:  Therefore divorced and remarried people should find a good priest confessor who accompanies them for some time and if this second, civil marriage, is solid then the path of new orientation can end with a confession and absolution.  Absolution means admission to Holy Communion.  

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16 Responses to Cardinal Kasper Debates John the Baptist

  • There ain’t a dance out there by any girl that would make me promise half of anything let alone a kingdom.
    Herod must have been stoned and the Bible leaves us to discern it after many years. He was on his fifth goblet of Jack Daniels.
    On a more serious note, the Old Testament repeatedly promise long years of life for righteousness to old testament man as in:

    ” My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.” Proverbs 3:1-2

    They were also promised no miscarriages in the Sinai Covenant. We are not so promised but are promised a cross. John the Baptist and others under the old law were exceptions and forerunners of the new promise…the cross in matters physical. Moses had full strength of body til he was 120 years old. I doubt any Christian ever had that.

  • ps
    Great contrapunctal contrast. John the Baptist was so non dialogic….so 29 AD….so locust and wild honey.

  • Brilliant. Thanks be to God.

  • I wonder if John the Baptist was being judgmental, the anathema of today’s culture?
    What will Cardinal Kasper say when he finds himself standing beside King Herod in the next life?

  • +Kasper is clearly after money. I think everyone is aware of how the Church is funded in Germany and how big the Church bureaucracy is in Germany and how Germans are rapidly deserting the Church.

    +Marx and +Kasper’s scheme is to take Martin Luther’s approach. Hey, Lutherans and Catholics signed the Joint Declaration, and Lutherans remarry after divorce (this permitted by an ecclesiastical community founded by someone who invented Sola Scriptura and then ignored it when it came to divorce), so why not Catholics? +Kasper and +Marx likely remind the Vatican of how much of their funds come from Germany. So, the FFI gets slapped around, the likes of +Cupich get named to archdioceses and the Roman Pontiff badmouths free market economies – the same economies that enable Catholics of those countries to fund the Vatican (while downplaying the violence committed against Catholics by Muslims).

    Is it any wonder people leave the Church for evangelical pep rallies or for sleeping in on Sundays?

  • I told my 18 yrs of 9th grade CCD students, “you will never be able to say that no one ever taught the truths of the faith.” 1, 2, 5,6,7,8,9 commandments taught in depth, with a fun but serious view of the why’s. Which picked up the other 3 quite well. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

  • “Penguins Fan … Kasper is clearly after money…”

    Yep, 30 pieces of silver to be exact.

  • “bill bannon ….There ain’t a dance out there by any girl that would make me promise half of anything let alone a kingdom.”

    But, you ain’t never seen my grandma do the minuet?

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  • Is Kasper’s end-game merely divorce? I don’t think so.

    It strikes me that, if he can get the Church to declare Christ’s own words subject to interpretation, how much more so Paul’s?

    I suggest to you that the real target isn’t any particular rule but the concept of interpretation of scripture itself. He wants to say “ALL of scripture is subject to the evolution of social norms and must be interpreted in light of Man’s collective wisdom.” How else can one set aside the specific prohibitions against homosexual conduct that have been with the Church since her founding?

    No, I don’t think this is about divorce, it is about something far more important.

  • If Herod was indeed a king, he would have the sovereignty and knowledge of himself to rule instead of cowtowing to political correctness. And as far as his wife of sorts, Herod would have saved St. John for the sake of his sovereign personhood, and not have the man murdered because Herodious did not agree with John’s opinion. Neither one of them, herod and herodius, had any sense of Justice or Sovereignty. Some king, I might add, rotted to death in his tent.

  • Again:James 1: 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
    “to keep oneself unstained from the world” This is the crux of the environmental issues and the save the whales agenda. The only saving of creation that counts in the eyes of God are the orphans and widows. Sitting at Mass Sunday was St. James addressing Pope Francis’ visit to America, admonishing us all “to keep oneself unstained from the world” Relinquish Gaia, the whales, the fracking, the redistribution of wealth already addressed as that issue of religion and our relationship with God: “to visit the orphans and widows in their affliction.”

  • An oath to commit evil is not a valid oath. Oaths are promises to God.

  • David Spaulding,
    Precisely. Kasper wants to destroy the Faith, and he’s been pushing this stuff since the 60s, long before the Kirchensteuer was an issue. It’s comforting for many Catholics to think that this is merely about money for the German bishops, but that doesn’t explain why so many of Kasper’s allies come from countries where they have no such monetary incentives. The true explanation is more frightening: like many heretics in history, these men loath the Church and wish to see her destroyed.

Cause and Effect

Tuesday, October 7, AD 2014

Pat Archbold has highlighted this post from a professor at the “Catholic” Villanova University by the name of Katie Grimes. Grimes exhorts the Bishops at the upcoming Synod on the family to recognize some of the “injustices” of Christian marriage.

Bishops participating in the synod ought to consider issues of sexual morality in accordance with the preferential option for the poor.  In this way, rather than blaming the decline of marriage on sexual immorality, the bishops ought to recognize the way in which, at least in the United States, marriage has increasingly become a privilege of the privileged. For example, today, the college-educated are both more likely to be married by the age of 30 and less likely to divorce than those who lack a college degree.  Marriage seems the consequence not so much of moral righteousness but of socioeconomic privilege.

Bishops ought to also listen to those critics who point out that marriage also accords disproportionate benefits to the well to do.   Marriage, they claim, is not just about sex and love and children and stability, it is also about acquiring andtransmitting wealth.  Put another way, heterosexually married white and upper-middle class Catholics who follow all facets of magisterial sexual morality perpetuate social injustice not just in the political or economic spheres but also through their sex lives.*

In addition to insisting that all sex must be good sex, may the bishops also accord more attention to the relation between social justice and sexual goodness.

One can spend a day and a half unpacking all of this, not to mention the long-winded preamble where Grimes goes off on whitey putting African Americans in jail because, I guess, that’s what whites like to do. There’s certainly something to be said about the clunky academic jargon that Grimes not so masterfully uses as subterfuge to mask her dissent.

Instead of looking at all that, we should instead ponder that Grimes is actually kind of right about marriage. Just about every study shows a direct correlation between marriage and economic stability (for lack of a better term). Married men earn more than unmarried men. Married people are more financially secure. And yes, marriage rates for lower income individuals is lower than for upper and middle class people. Unfortunately Grimes comes to the wrong conclusion. Instead of looking at marriage as an institution for the privileged elite, Grimes fails to consider that the correlation between financial stability and marriage is a reason to promote marriage rather than to take swipes at it. In other words, she doesn’t seem to consider the possibility that the reason most married people are financially secure is due, at least in part, to being married. In other, other words, she may be mistaking cause and effect.

Now I’m not suggesting that marriage automatically makes the poor richer, nor that economic advancement should be anything close to a motivating factor in considering matrimony. And yes, people are delaying marriage until they are more “set.” But perhaps it is this latter attitude that needs adjusting. Too many people may be putting off marriage further and further into an ideal future that may never arrive. They may, in fact, be unintentionally putting off doing something that will ameliorate their financial situation. Perhaps Grimes ought to exhort herself to consider how the continued assault on marriage is one of the contributing causes of the social injustice she so decries. Perhaps she ought to recognize the way in which, at least in the United States, marriage has become a saving grace for the underprivileged.

Then again, this is a woman who thinks white married people perpetuate social injustice through our sex lives. We probably should not anticipate too much deep thought from such a mind.


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28 Responses to Cause and Effect

  • The Church’s concern at the synod must be the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, first and foremost.
    The next, must be the determination of valid consent of the couple. Valid consent of the couple is one thing “same sex marriage” does not have, therefore, ssm cannot be redefined as marriage.
    Emphasis on the soul’s relationship with God in marriage would bring the synod to realign with Humanae Vitae. Prayers.

  • “Perhaps Grimes ought to exhort herself to consider how the continued assault on marriage is one of the contributing causes of the social injustice she do(sic) decries.”
    My thoughts exactly. How much better, you, Paul Zummo, express what I sometimes find difficult.

  • Thanks you Mary. And also thanks for the typo correction.

  • This woman is loony tunes:

    “Some may see a resemblance between the “innocents” massacred by Herod and the “innocents” ended by abortion. But as Sonja has brilliantly shown in an earlier post, we err both when we identify fetuses as “innocent” and when we identify innocence as the reason they should not be aborted. Like Sonja, I remain wary of moral schemas that use innocence to distinguish those who deserve not to be killed from those that do. Too often, we define innocence ideologically in ways that support the status quo. For example, in a white supremacist society like the United States, a “black” fetus is innocent, but a black man (i.e., Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Sean Bell) is not.”

  • This woman is loony tunes:

    Indeed. And yet she teaches at a Catholic university. Kind of says it all.

  • i guess the each and all of the seven sacraments accord “disproportionate benefits” to those who receive them and enjoy the benefits. Get in line sister, if you want to be “well to do”!

  • Grimes get’s it all backwards. What the stats prove is that the poor oppress the rich through lack of marriage. Obviously, as income goes up, marriage stability increases. Why? Because as married couples have higher incomes and more assets, divorce puts much more at stake. Poor people have less (or nothing) to lose in a divorce, so they can divorce freely. Seriously. It’s obvious. Divorce equality NOW!!!

  • I bet she sports a Barack Hussein Ebola sticker on her Subaru Forester.

    Correlation (poverty/divorce rates) is not causation.

    Note to Professor Grimes: Bless your heart. The poverty that drives wrath, violence and hatred is moral/spiritual poverty not material poverty.

  • In France, it is not often that a commission of the National Assembly cites a bishop with approval, but, on the subject of marriage and the family, the Pécresse Mission did just that: “Archbishop of Paris André Vingt-Trois feels that the role of the family justifies its being enshrined in the law: “Even though it has not taken the modern form familiar in our civil legislation, there has always been a means of handing things down from generation to generation, which is the very basis of continuity and stability in a society. This transmission between generations is primarily effected by the family.”
    It added, “in this country, the model has long been the peasant family, structured around a patriarch and expanding from hearth to hearth.” One imagines that, until very recently, this would have been true of the American family also.

  • I do not like how the truth is being turned around. Financial stability and success do not cause marriage, nor does financial instability and failure cause hedonistic libertinism. Rather, marital stability results in conditions that predispose one to financial stability and success, and living like a hedonistic libertine results in conditions that predispose one to financial instability and failure.
    Put another way as St. Paul does, one will sow what one reaps. If one sows promiscuity and un-chastity, then one will eventually reap the concomitant consequences. That does not mean that all poor people are poor because of promiscuity. Rather, it means that if one lives like a wild baboon mindlessly succumbing to the concupiscence of the flesh, then one can and should expect to receive exactly and precisely what one deserves. After all, one is behaving like the very animal from a common ancestor of which one likely claims one has evolved (or is that devolved?).

  • End Federal tuition loans now. Let universities sell their product on the open market just like anybody else, using private credit that has to have a competitive tack and a better-then-good chance of being paid back by employed graduates. Then we’ll see how long intellectual dustbunnies like K. Grimes stick around.

  • Katie Grimes is practicing a particularly virulent form of ‘liberation theology’ [perhaps in a radical feminist guise] applying marxist socialist critique to “Catholic Marriage”. What most people do not realize is that before Marx ever attacked Capitalism in his Communist Manifesto he had attacked “Marriage and the Family” attacking male patriarchism [does this all sound familiar?]

  • Paul Primavera.

    Your very last statement; “After all, one is behaving like the very animal from a common ancestor of which one likely claims one evolved (or is that devolved?).

    Spot on! Archbishop Fulton Sheen said; “Why is it that those who propagate evolution live like animals yet those who strive for holiness in Gods created universe live lives just short of the angels?”

    As for so-called same sex marriage…if monkeys want to redefine this sacrament let them do so only in the confines of their zoo!…(bedrooms).

    Otherwise Do Not call an apple a screwdriver to feel better about yourselves. You can call it a screwdriver all day long but in the end it’s still an apple. Marriage is not in need of redefinition!

  • Philip,

    In the end, and it might take decades or even centuries for ‘man’ to realize this-marriage not only does not need redefinition but in fact cannot be redefined!

  • T Shaw. You are correct. Poverty isn’t the cause, it is the lack of values.

  • I think this has more to do with the perpetuation of the welfare system and the systematic removal of personal responsibility for rearing children you have created.
    The welfare system celebrates and encourages single parenthood and removes the father’s responsibility for his children. I know, an unpopular thought but I saw this in practice as a social worker.

  • c matt, I bet Ms. Grimes would be delighted to take that family nest egg off your hands, and free you to divorce and pursue your bliss without further concern for distribution of assets. Ms. Grimes speaks, writes, teaches, and probably votes towards that end.
    Why do any of us suffer under the false consciousness of a duty to feed our own children? As sure as night follows day, when people think they ought to work to feed their own children, they will soon be tempted to set aside a little something for a rainy day, foregoing consumption and accumulating a surplus: capitalism. 🙁

  • 🙂 My how you make your point funny and clear Wry Tamsin!

  • St. Paul says people are free to marry, but such people will have trials in this life. He recommends that people live as he does, i.e. unmarried. Seems like the marrieds are always saying the opposite — for ex. it “pays” financially to get married they say. It makes life easier, and better somehow. Is that really a good reason to marry ? Or should it be because one has discerned a call to that state ? Jesus said “let him accept this teaching who can” with regard to celibacy. Note he said “Who Can,” not “Who Can But Also Who Want To.” I do agree that singles are marginalized and persecuted by non-singles — called selfish, immature, and told “you get what you deserve” if they encounter suffering in financial, health, or other areas. I don’t buy it. Are non-singles just trying to justify their choice for some reason ? Because they know they could have “done better” by responding to a different call ? I believe more “Who Can” exist than those “Who Will.” Society is geared toward marriage and thus perhaps makes marriage easier – or at least makes it seem that way – because the married have been allowed to dictate society and its norms, not because matrimony is morally superior to single lay life. Singleness is the normal state in heaven (etymology “celibacy”) as Jesus pointed out when asked whose wife a hypothetical many-time widowed woman would be. He said people live like angels and neither marry nor are given in marriage. Want a little heaven on earth ? Celebrate celibacy.

  • “Celebrate celibacy.”

    Too much of a good thing and there would be no people to celebrate it for long. The idea that singles are persecution by non-singles is ludicrous.

  • My son is is 34 and single. He was not invited to his best friend’s wedding. We think it is because he is single. His cousins go on cruises and he is never invited. He is a very outgoing person with a great personality and a very good sense of humor.

  • Celibacy for the single, unmarried is a vocation. All people must follow their vocations to get to heaven.
    T Shaw: Ouch. My son gave me a Subaru Forrester. But you are right on the money with: “Note to Professor Grimes: Bless your heart. The poverty that drives wrath, violence and hatred is moral/spiritual poverty not material poverty.”
    Grimes has more than her share of moral/spiritual poverty.
    Donald McClarey: This woman is loony tunes:
    “Some may see a resemblance between the “innocents” massacred by Herod and the “innocents” ended by abortion. But as Sonja has brilliantly shown in an earlier post, we err both when we identify fetuses as “innocent” and when we identify innocence as the reason they should not be aborted. Like Sonja, I remain wary of moral schemas that use innocence to distinguish those who deserve not to be killed from those that do. Too often, we define innocence ideologically in ways that support the status quo. For example, in a white supremacist society like the United States, a “black” fetus is innocent, but a black man (i.e., Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Sean Bell) is not.”
    Worse than Loony tunes. Grimes is a raging atheist with absolutely no idea of who she is. Concupiscence comes from Adam. God creates the immortal, human soul in perfect legal and moral innocence, infused in immediacy, then burdened with concupiscence. Endowed with sovereign personhood, free will and freedom, the newly begotten is an innocent individual. (Unless Grimes can prove otherwise in a court of law)
    Grimes refuses to acknowledge the innocent soul of our constitutional posterity, as more than bad ideology. Her non-belief in “their Creator” and the unalienable human rights immediately endowed by God violates the First Amendment for every person.
    As an individual, Grimes cannot dictate to people. If Grimes wishes to impose her non-belief on any person, she must secure a change in the Bill of Rights, with three quarters of the states ratifying the change.

  • Single Lay Catholic at 52 wrote, ”Singleness is the normal state in heaven (etymology “celibacy”)”
    Cælebs or Cœlebs derives from two Indo-European roots meaning “living alone.” It is quite unconnected with Cælum (the sky, heaven)
    It is worth noting that near-universal marriage rates (90%+) are a late 19th & early 20th century phenomenon. In earlier periods, it hovered between 75%-80%. Those least likely to marry were domestic servants and the younger children of the landed gentry and the clergy. One recalls that Jane Austen, her sister Cassandra, Anne and Emily Bronte were all spinsters.

  • Being single, at least for some of us, has everything to do with heaven. The dictionary and the linguists will have difficult time convincing me that “cael” has nothing to do with “cael” especially when indo and european languages do have the same ancient roots, do they not ? And celibacy certainly does not match the definition of “living alone” as many people in religious life live in community. Perhaps we need a new term for abstaining from sexual activity, one that is not so “lingustically” and “definitionally” challenged.

    As for the argument “If everyone were celibate there wouldn’t be any kids.” Really ? That’s just an argument so people can justify having sex. Didn’t you ever see Jurassic Park ? God would find a way to reproduce people however he wished. He is not limited to a human’s understanding of reproduction.

    I did not say, nor did I mean to imply that celibacy was a call for everyone. Just that it is underrated and undertried. And underestimated by too many non-celibates. And yes, persecuted and insulted. Let’s see. For example the word “spinster.” A statement of fact, or a put down ? How about “old maid” ? Or better yet “dried up bitter old maid” ? Or “latent homosexual” ? Pervert ?….

    Sounds like I hit a raw nerve with many of you. Good.

  • I’m really trying to decide if Single Lay Catholic is a parody account, especially after reading this:

    Didn’t you ever see Jurassic Park ? God would find a way to reproduce people however he wished.

    While Jurassic Park may have been decent entertainment (but the book is better), it is not a source of theological teaching. Clearly God did have a design for human reproduction, and I’m sorry to say for you, SLC, it was sexual reproduction.

  • “As for the argument “If everyone were celibate there wouldn’t be any kids.” Really ? That’s just an argument so people can justify having sex.”

    A bloody fortunate argument for you, or you would not be. It does not make me weep that God decided that a physical union of man and wife was necessary to bring about their kids. What truly daffy times we live in, when the obvious has to be defended from fools and/or fanatics. Since Single Lay Catholic has decided not to give us a real e-mail address, I am placing him or her on moderation.

  • Single Lay Catholic at 52

    Cælum is from the proto Indo-European root *kaə-id- also found in Scutum=a shield. The bowl shape of the sky resembles the underside of a shield.
    Cælebs is from the PIE root *kaiwelo-“alone” + lib(h)s- “living.”

    A good working rule is that all popular etymologies are false, usually based on accidental homophones and ignoring known patterns of sound-shifts.

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What Are We So Afraid Of?

Wednesday, August 6, AD 2014

In my last post I brought up helicopter parenting and small families, and I postulated that there was a connection between the two phenomenon, and that  fear prevented people from wanting large families, and further tended to make these same parents afraid to let their children be children.

Subsequently my wife sent me this article in Time Magazine, and I can’t help but think that fear is behind this cultural shift as well. As my wife said this is meant to be a cute and cheeky look at modern dating and marriage, but like her I just found it incredibly sad. Here’s a bit:

You could say I beta-tested my relationship.

It began with a platform migration ​(a cross-country move) and a bandwidth challenge (cohabitation in a 450-sq.-ft. apartment). There was a false start (botched marriage proposal). Then, an emergency deglitching (couples therapy). We tried to take the product public before we were ready (I wrote about our relationship in Newsweek). And then, finally, we abandoned launch. There were simply too many bugs.

It’s a joke, kind of — except that when it comes to millennials and marriage, the beta test may be par for the course. And really, why wouldn’t it be? For a generation reared on technology, overwhelmed by choice, feedback and constantFOMO, isn’t testing a marriage, like we test a username, simply … well, logical?

You can see where this is going.

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9 Responses to What Are We So Afraid Of?

  • Say what you will about the blogger Dalrock (who writes often on Marriage and Christianity), but he got it spot on in this post:

    And there is something to be said to finding someone who’s flaws you can actually stand.

  • that feeling of unease, that feeling of fear is because people know something is wrong but they don’t know what.
    This is what it is. They don’t understand the power of sex. And the whole society is burned. The general milieu of sex outside marriage, hook-ups etc makes us sick. Really.
    We don’t tie the effects to the cause, but you just can’t have intimacy with a person without bonding. Then, trying to keep up with the Joneses, being free and cool and all; move on and try to establish that same natural bond that happened to you and your mate, with someone else. Pretty soon people get dysfunctional. And the whole society gets sick and fearful
    Not understanding, they are leary of marriage and commitment. When actually marriage and the reality of that bond, becoming one, is the real help for us. Marriage is not to be afraid of, it is the help if we could do it.

  • Yeah. About that Bennett quoting Cohen quote, the one about how Millennials believe in easy divorce. Millennials also believe in gay marriage. Both of which tell me Millennials don’t really believe in marriage.

  • When civil unions (PACS) were introduced in France in 1999, there were about 350,000 marriages a year. In 2010, there were 250,000 marriages and 200,000 PACSs. In other words, there seems to have been a decline in the popularity both of marriage and of unregulated cohabitation. Is there a similar pattern in the US?

    A rather cynical Frenchman of my acquaintance (is there any other kind?) remarked that, eventually, the only people getting married would be the rich, Musselmans and gays.

  • “They don’t understand the power of sex. And the whole society is burned. The general milieu of sex outside marriage, hook-ups etc makes us sick. Really.”
    “We don’t tie the effects to the cause, but you just can’t have intimacy with a person without bonding. Then, trying to keep up with the Joneses, being free and cool and all; move on and try to establish that same natural bond that happened to you and your mate, with someone else. Pretty soon people get dysfunctional. And the whole society gets sick and fearful”

    The whole of modern society doesn’t understand the power of sex. Not just the millenials

  • “They [Millennials] don’t understand the power of sex. The whole of modern society doesn’t understand the power of sex.”

    Rather the opposite, I’m inclined to believe. What they don’t understand, what modern society has forgotten is the power of chastity, fidelity and continence. Add to that the willfullly foolish post-modern notion that sex is social construct we call gender, and you get the misunderstanding of the power of sex (sexuality?) we see in both the hook-up culture and the normalizing of sex outside of marriage.
    Use it or lose it is what they understand. What they don’t understand is how that dissipates power.

  • Yeah. What Ernest said, too. 😀

  • I agree – there is power in virtue. It doesn’t have the immediate gratification of sin, but in the long run, virtue will win. Sin is destructive and has no future.

Pope Francis, Marriage, and the “End” of Infallibility

Thursday, May 22, AD 2014


What will it mean if Pope Francis follows the counsel offered by some of his closest advisors, including Cardinal Walter Kasper, and permits divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion?  This prospect has only come to seem more likely given the Holy Father’s much discussed phone call to the Argentine divorcee.  This subject has been much on my mind for the past few months, and now that the worthy Ross Douthat has raised its implications in a highly public forum—and a number of important  Catholic  commentators are writing about it in depth—I think it is time to lay out a few of the scenarios that come to mind. 

Because the options are all rather unsettling, and opinions are deeply divided, it seems most useful to me to present the argument in the form of a three person dialogue, with each character representing a different perspective within the Church.  In the past, some readers have objected to this genre, making assertions such as “fictional dialogues belong in fiction.”  Tell that to Plato, St. Anselm, St. Thomas More, Erasmus, and Peter Kreeft.

To make things a little easier, I will label the characters’ viewpoints right up front:

John Paul: A faithful, orthodox Catholic who attends the most reverent Mass offered at his geographical parish. 

Marcel: A self-identified “traditional Catholic” who attends the Latin Mass exclusively. 

Josip: Raised a Byzantine Catholic, he attends that liturgy. He is politically and doctrinally conservative, but somewhat skeptical of Western conceptions of the papal Magisterium.


Marcel:  Hey John Paul! If Pope Francis blows up the sacrament of marriage, will you still insist that Vatican II was a “renewal” of the Church sent by the Holy Spirit?  Or will you finally start giving some thought to the alternative?

John Paul:  This issue is completely separate from the texts of the Second Vatican Council. They are the only aspect of the Council that binds us—and none of them says anything implying that divorced, remarried Catholics are eligible for Communion.  So your question is kind of incoherent.  But go on—what’s the alternative?

Marcel: That we have been witnessing since 1960 the Great Apostasy predicted by a number of apparitions of Our Lady.  That the orthodoxy, and hence the authority, of the popes who supported Vatican II is pretty dubious.

John Paul:  You know what’s dubious?  Private revelations.  You know what’s binding?  General councils of the Church and official statements of validly elected popes.

Josip: What happens if the official statement of a validly elected pope contradicts a fundamental Church teaching?  Such as the indissolubility of marriage, based on the clear words of Our Lord, and infallibly taught by the Council of Trent.

John Paul: That could never happen.

Josip: Yeah, but what if it does?

John Paul: It’s sacrilegious even to play with such hypotheticals. It shows your lack of faith in the Church.

Josip: St. Paul was willing to consider what it would mean if Christ hadn’t risen from the dead.  Divorce seems considerably less earth-shattering than that. What will it mean if Pope Francis does what he seems to hint he will do, which his closest advisors are saying in public he should do?  According to Cardinal Kasper, the Church should give divorced Catholics a “pass” on the Ten Commandments and the words of Christ, and treat their sexual relationships with their new “spouses” as something other than adultery. That’s the only possible implication of allowing them to receive Holy Communion without vowing to refrain from sex.

Marcel:  Which is exactly what the schismatics in the East have been doing for centuries. I’ll tell you what it would mean if “Pope Francis” does this: It will mean that he has lost the Catholic faith—and therefore the office of pope.  The throne will be empty, as some say it was when Paul VI endorsed the heresy of religious liberty, and when John Paul II and Benedict went on to teach it as well.

John Paul: At Vatican I, the Council closed off the idea that a pope could lose the throne through personal “heresy.” Saint Robert Bellarmine had made that argument, but Vatican I rebuked it.

Marcel: What use is infallibility if it doesn’t prevent a pope from endorsing a Council that teaches heresy, then reiterating it in countless public statements and in a Catechism?

John Paul: What use is papal infallibility if a pope can go ahead and teach heresy—God won’t stop him—but then we get to say that he’s no longer pope?  That makes infallibility an empty tautology: The pope is infallible, until he isn’t—at which point he isn’t pope anymore.  The Pharisees would have winced at that kind of legalism.  I certainly can’t imagine Christ winking at it.

Josip: If a pope ever taught heresy ex cathedra—which of course, I don’t expect will happen—it would prove something all right—that the Eastern Orthodox have been right all along. That Vatican I was not an infallible council, and neither were any of the other councils we have held without the Orthodox since 1054.

Marcel: Do you think Our Lord will be winking if the pope contradicts His plain words about divorce and remarriage?

Josip: No, I don’t.  We’ll get back to the implications of that in a minute.  First, I want to deny that religious liberty is a heresy.  Yes, there are many, many papal statements endorsing the persecution of “heretics.” Obviously, the Council Fathers and the pope knew about those statements, which their opponents such as Abp. Lefebvre were constantly quoting in the debates.  Clearly, the Magisterium concluded that those previous statements were not infallible—that in fact, they were wrong, because they endorsed violations of natural law and divine revelation, according to Dignitatis Humanae.  Papal assertions that it is right to imprison Protestants would have been false—like papal statements condemning all lending at interest as sinful “usury,” and statements permitting the enslavement of Muslims defeated in “just wars.” Of course, admitting all this should make us a lot more careful about how much weight we attach to papal statements.  Even when they reiterate “venerable” teachings like the condemnation of all lending at interest, and the embrace of religious persecution, most such statements are not infallible—and quite a number of them, in retrospect, were wrong.

John Paul: It’s unhealthy and impious for faithful Catholics to be sifting papal statements and determining which ones are “wrong.” If the Church decides, at a later date, to override what a previous pope has said, then and only then may we draw such a conclusion.

Marcel: Like good little Communists, we should wait to hear what Moscow decides is the new “party line,” then pretend that we have believed it all along?  I don’t buy it.

Josip: So John Courtney Murray should not have written in defense of religious liberty, since it wasn’t yet Church teaching?  And Catholic bankers shouldn’t have loaned money at reasonable rates of interest, but waited for the centuries to pass until the Church realized that the previous teaching hadn’t been infallible—and in fact, was wrong?

John Paul: That would seem like the safe, obedient course of action.

Josip: And if Pope Francis approves Holy Communion for sexually active divorced Catholics, will it be safe and obedient to accept that as well?

Marcel: It will be proof that he has lost the Catholic faith, and the right to call himself pope.  I bet that the bishops of the SSPX hold an election to find a real pope.

John Paul: I renew my objection to talking about such a development as if it were really possible. But for the sake of argument: If Pope Francis permits this kind of pastoral policy, it will be gravely mistaken—on the order of popes in past centuries allowing choir boys to be castrated to sing in the Vatican.

Josip: Surely this issue has greater implications than that.  How will we explain to homosexuals that they cannot be sexually active outside of marriage, and still receive Communion—when we permit that to heterosexuals?  Even I’m kind of offended by that.  Will anyone, anyone at all, still take the Church’s ban on birth control seriously, when it’s giving people a pass for adultery?  Which one is a more obvious violation of natural law?

John Paul: The pope would not be teaching error, but merely tolerating it.  As in previous centuries, when popes were lax about enforcing clerical celibacy, or allowed the sale of indulgences.

Marcel: No, you’re wrong.  If the German bishops started allowing this evil practice—which they probably already are, because they don’t want people to stop checking the “Catholic” box on their tax forms, and depriving the Church of money—that would be one thing.  But if the pope permits it for the universal Church, that’s something else entirely.  It’s right up there with him personally ordaining a woman as a priest, or adding an eighth sacrament.  It would be heresy, plain and simple.

John Paul: But he wouldn’t be teaching ex cathedra….

Josip: So if this happens, it won’t necessarily prove that Vatican I was wrong and the Eastern Orthodox are right about the structure of the Church. (Though of course, they will still be wrong about marriage—but then they don’t claim to be infallible.)

John Paul: No.

Josip: Or that Marcel is right and that the pope will have lost the throne?

John Paul: Absolutely not.

Josip: But it will prove that papal authority, and the divine protections we attribute to it, are a heck of a lot narrower than we used to think.  It will completely demoralize faithful Catholics who have been relying on papal statements to decide what they believe about critical issues—from war and peace to economics, from birth control to gay “marriage.” In effect, it will say that every papal statement in history is subject to future revision—except for the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption.  Those, at least, will be set in stone.  Apart from that, everyone will be reduced to a kind of cafeteria Catholicism—unless, as Marcel said, they decide to stuff previous Church teachings into the Memory Hole and simply follow the Party Line.  That would make things simpler.  Oceania has ALWAYS been at war with Eurasia.

John Paul: I miss Pope Benedict XVI.

Marcel: I miss Pope Pius XII.

Josip: What do you think really motivates Pope Francis? I don’t think he’s just another post-Conciliar progressive.

Marcel: If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

Josip: It might in fact be a decoy.

John Paul: It seems to me that the pope is reaching out to the kind of people with whom John Paul II and Benedict XVI somehow couldn’t connect.

Marcel: People who want to claim that they’re “Catholic,” in the same sense that they’re “Irish” or “Italian”?

John Paul: No! I think he’s trying to convert the liberal’s false compassion for the “marginalized” into a genuine Christian concern for the needy.

Marcel: The “needy,” in this case, being prosperous divorced couples in Germany and the U.S.? Weakening marriage, in any way, really hurts the poor.

John Paul:  But I wish that Pope Francis would keep his outreach within the bounds of Catholic orthodoxy.

Marcel: Yeah, that would be nice.  It seems like the least we can ask… of a POPE.

Josip: What if there’s something else going on?  What if Pope Francis thinks that papal claims have been exaggerated, to the point where they needlessly block ecumenism—especially with the Eastern Orthodox?

Marcel: For all his talk of collegiality, he seems to have no problem using his power—against us Traditionalists.

Josip: But if he uses his power this time, to dismantle the traditional teaching on marriage, what would that mean for the authority of the papacy?

John Paul: Assuming the Holy Spirit allows it to happen…

Marcel: …And we don’t see a sudden resignation, “health crisis,” or falling meteorite…

Josip: The doctrinal contradiction would dismantle the papacy too—at least as we have known the papacy since… 1054. Which would remove the main barrier to unity with the East.

Marcel: So you think Pope Francis is practicing ecumenism by “auto-destruction”?

Josip: I don’t know.  Maybe he thinks of it as Perestroika.

John Paul: That’s impossible.  It’s apostasy.  God will never permit it.

Josip: Unless He does. In which case… well then, we’ll know who was right all along, won’t we?


John Zmirak is author, most recently, of The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Catechism. His columns are archived here.

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39 Responses to Pope Francis, Marriage, and the “End” of Infallibility

  • We should be in a pretty pickle if we treated the logical implications of past papal laws, judgments, policies and so on as infallible teachings.
    As Bl John Henry Newman asks, “Was St. Peter infallible on that occasion at Antioch when St. Paul withstood him? was St. Victor infallible when he separated from his communion the Asiatic Churches? or Liberius when in like manner he excommunicated Athanasius? And, to come to later times, was Gregory XIII., when he had a medal struck in honour of the Bartholomew massacre? or Paul IV. in his conduct towards Elizabeth? or Sextus V. when he blessed the Armada? or Urban VIII. when he persecuted Galileo? No Catholic ever pretends that these Popes were infallible in these acts.”


    Bishop Athanasius Schneider answers to Catholics of the above blog.

  • Whatever the pope decides it is adultery: a mortal sin.
    My conscience will rule me.
    I would not do it. But, If I were to leave the warden to live (in sin) with, or to marry, a rich, nymphomaniac that owns a liquor store (or a bass boat and knows how to cut bait), I would have self-eliminated from receiving Holy Communion and likely go to Hell.
    You never can tell. You may go to Heaven or you may go to . . .
    If your value system places the here-and-now ahead of the hereafter you may go to Hell.

    The historical effects of Paul IV’s and Sixtus V’s bulls were to make much harsher English Catholics’ lives and deaths.

  • Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven!

  • PP: Is that something akin to “General Absolution”? Or, amnesty for illegal aliens?

    Hocus Pocus! Poof! All is right with God and man.

  • Perhaps this is shaping up like Humanae Vitae: everyone THINKS he will allow Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, but then he comes out with a beautiful but short encyclical on marriage that talks about how society’s acceptance of contraception (and denial of the truth of HV) is what got us into this mess of divorce and other messy marriage issues.

    He will affirm marriage. He will affirm the True Presence. He will affirm Catholic teaching on faith and morals, much to the chagrin of his advisors.

    Then we will have 40 years of “Well, that was not infallible.”

    All his advisors will be so upset that he didn’t listen to their magisterial fidelity to the god of Modernity.

  • Oneros
    1 wk, 6 days ago
    I would agree, first of all, that any reform will not touch the three principles: 1) that those who are conscious of mortal sin should not approach communion without confession, 2) that adultery is objectively a mortal sin/grave matter, 3) that sex with a new partner when your spouse from a validly ratified and consummated sacramental marriage is still living…is adultery by definition with no way out of it.

    However, I think that the reform might come more in the area of “pastoral approach.” And yet “pastoral approach” can also mean a development of doctrine (albeit not a reversal of dogmas, such as the above) inasmuch as pastoral approach always “teaches” or has some theoretical foundation.

    I think specifically a few “double standards” need to be addressed:

    First, the distinction between “public” or manifest sinners, and private sinners. This idea causes no end of Phariseeism and hypocrisy in the Church and needs to be phased out of Catholic thought. Unless someone is a vocal heretic or is explicitly publicly excommunicated (no more automatic excommunications either; even Ed Peters supports getting rid of THAT vague and slippery category)…we shouldn’t be presuming anything about their soul.

    Yes marriage is a public act. But that’s not exactly a dogmatic reality: Trent put a stop to clandestine marriages, but it didn’t say that previous clandestine marriages were invalid. So there IS room in theology for “broomstick marriages” because ultimately it is the consent of the man and woman that make a natural marriage. How much we want sacramental marriage/canon law to require beyond that is another question. But ultimately the bare minimum theologically (changeable canon law aside) is the consent of a man and a woman, even in private.

    But either way, remarried couples aren’t having sex in public! Therefore, they should get the benefit of the doubt that they are, in fact, living “as brother and sister” and should not be actively denied communion (refraining oneself, and active denial or withholding by the priest, being of course two different things in the Church’s pastoral policies). “Scandal” is an odd thing to claim: I’ve never known how someone else’s sin is scandalizing me, given that scandal means “to cause someone else to sin.” Mere knowledge of someone else’s sin doesn’t cause me to sin, and it is especially true if I am merely presuming they are sinning. Further, the theology of scandal puts the blame on the original scandalous ACT, not on the knowledge of it. Emphasis on the latter (such as asking couples to receive in another parish where they are unknown)…well, that’s what led to priest abuse cover-ups and such: thinking that even though the scandal had already taken place (the act of molestation itself), that things were somehow made “less scandalous” by containing the spread of the knowledge OF it. That’s just bad moral theology, that’s not how scandal works (see Catholic Encyclopedia), it’s never about “keeping up appearances” (though that’s an unfortunate recent misconception).

    Lots of Catholic couples contracept, etc…the idea that a civilly remarried couple is somehow “manifesting” private acts isn’t applied equally across the board either, as “boyfriends and girlfriends” (though often probably having premarital sex) are given the benefit of the doubt even though their premarital couplehood is manifest (that is, unless, oddly, they move in together/”cohabitate”; another odd distinction from a previous age: I know plenty of couples who live together/share a domicile for economic reasons but are waiting until marriage for sex, and certainly plenty who fornicate who don’t live together! Sharing an apartment isn’t a declaration of sexual activity or even “aping marriage.” Some people are just room-mates, some are room-mates who happen to be “dating.” Modern life is not made up of easy clear-cut social scripts.)

    This leads into the second double standard which I think is the real “meat” of the current problem and the contradictions many people perceive: the distinction between “living in sin” and plain old sinning (which is certainly no dogma!) Many people have noticed the spiritual/moral contradiction that a man who cheats on his wife, repents, confesses and receives communion time after time is just “struggling” and “a sinner like all of us”…but that if people actually have the realism and maturity to formally separate from the relationship that isn’t working, and institutionalize the new one as something stable and responsible…then they’re “living in sin” and unable not just to receive communion, but even unable to be absolved!

    This is one area where I think there is room in Church teaching for some “development of doctrine” with pastoral effects: in the question of what exactly the “resolve to amend” necessary for a valid confession is. What practically does that have to look like, how must it be formulated? The Eastern Christian view sees sanctification as an ongoing “medicinal” process, not a toggle-switch of sanctifying grace; there is a gradualism to it. At the same time, they see confession as very much a prerequisite for communion in general, so there is no sense of letting people receive in a state of sin.

    Most people with any spiritual sense would say that, for example, a loving cohabiting couple are in a better place spiritually than the guy who goes out and hires prostitutes each weekend, feels guilty, swears it off, tries to abstain, only to “slip up” again and again in the guilt-repentance cycle that simply compartmentalizes rather than trying to move towards integration. And yet under current widespread thought in the Church, he can receive communion each week after he confesses, whereas the loving couple is “living in sin” and don’t even have valid intention to be absolved unless they totally rearrange their life and make firm positive acts of “resolve” to do things different with lasting consequences (whereas the habitual sinner’s “resolve” on the other hand, can be merely theoretical and disappear days or even hours later as long as it was “sincere” AT the moment of confession).

    And yet the Apostolic Penitentiary released a vademecum saying, “Sacramental absolution is not to be denied to those who, repentant after having gravely sinned against conjugal chastity, demonstrate the desire to strive to abstain from sinning again, notwithstanding relapses. In accordance with the approved doctrine and practice followed by the holy Doctors and confessors with regard to habitual penitents, the confessor is to avoid demonstrating lack of trust either in the grace of God or in the dispositions of the penitent by exacting humanly impossible absolute guarantees of an irreproachable future conduct.”

    Perhaps, then, remarried couples need merely to uphold the idea that abstinence and living as brother and sister is the ideal, but then as often as they “slip up” just come to confession and mention it like every other sinner, without needing to provide “humanly impossible absolute guarantees.” I’ve seen too many people in a delusional cycle of “this is the last time!” (confess, commune, sin-again, repeat). Maybe the standard for intent to amend in confession need not be so strict or based on unrealistic (and often bad faith) expectations on the part of habitual sinners. A couple who has sex after remarriage can’t be absolved time after time unless they separate or rearrange their whole lives, but no such burdens are really put on the habitual porn user. This double standard needs to be addressed.

    And there could perhaps also be a greater emphasis on the spiritual life as, often, a series of “lesser of two evil” negotiations (also a very Eastern Christian view).

    Finally, there is also the question of internal versus external forum. The interesting thing about the Church’s teaching on annulments is…they are supposed to merely determine, in the external forum, that a marriage was ALREADY invalid. Which means that when a couple remarries and then seeks an annulment…in hindsight, they weren’t actually committing objective adultery ALL ALONG. So there are very real questions as to why a couple who, in conscience, believes they have personal moral certitude (in the internal forum) that their first marriage was invalid…should have to “wait” for the annulment in the external forum. It takes three years only to declare “Oh, well, you weren’t married all along, so you really WERE free to remarry this whole time!” Perhaps the Church could pastorally tolerate couples “anticipating” annulments like this. And even if the annulment comes back negative, annulments are not infallible. There is a tension between internal and external forum here, but one that gives individual souls and pastors room to negotiate, though there would be no public recognition (internal has to remain internal).

    Perhaps the Church could even enshrine in canon law a sort of “automatic conditional radical sanation” of remarriages after an invalid first marriage (even if annulment has not yet been determined in the external forum). In other words, declare that IF a first marriage was in fact invalid in the eyes of God (whether annulled or not), then a second marriage is automatically sanated even if it lacks canonical form (though this would not be established as a public fact unless a public determination was made). That way a couple anticipating annulment won’t be fornicating in the meantime (only to find out, “Oh, guess what, you really were free to marry all along. Sorry for making you wait”) and won’t have to time the sacramental status of their marriage from a later convalidation.

    As a final point, I think the Church could also restore something like “fraternatio” or “adelphepoeisis” to recognizes partnerships that are not marriage. This would apply to remarried couples after divorce, but the logic would seemingly extend seamlessly to same-sex pairs. The idea would be that even if the Church can’t recognize a relationship AS marriage, ie even if it can’t sanction it as sexually active, it nevertheless can recognize and celebrate the relationship/partnership/friendship itself (apart from the sex question) and therefore not leave these people feeling like they are second-class citizens or “merely tolerated.” The official teaching would be that such relationships are supposed to be celibate “like siblings,” but then there is always confession if people “slip up,” and in the case of remarriages, always the possibility (discussed above) that the first marriage really was invalid and so (if the conditional automatic sanation is in place) is a sacramental marriage even if not recognized as such in the external forum, even if in the external forum it is only recognized as this brother/sister non-marital partnership.

    I’ve spoken with Orthodox folk, and it turns out that their biggest guff over us re: marriage isn’t solvable merely some idea that their divorces could be interpreted as annulments. They actually are most concerned over the idea that we think the first marriage simply didn’t exist. I would therefore also add the following as an ecumenical gesture to the Orthodox: the current Catholic thought is that a marriage between two Christians is always the Sacrament, or else “nothing at all” (except a “putative” marriage). The Orthodox, on the other hand, have a view that seems more holistic which says that sacramental marriage starts as a natural marriage (such as exists between two pagans, etc) in the porch of the church, and then is “sacramentalized” by being brought into the Church.

    Perhaps then there is some room here to investigate the possibility (for the sake of reaching out to the East) that even if a marriage is found to not reach the level of an indissoluble sacrament (ie, an annulment), it might still have been a natural marriage (if there was no natural impediment) rather than “nothing at all” and so a subsequent remarriage would be under the Petrine privilege and have a “penitential” tone, recognizing the first relationship that tragically failed as something more than a mere non-entity. It would have to be explored how changeable the “either a sacrament or nothing at all” principle is; Eastern theology certainly doesn’t seem to see it that way, it sees natural marriage as the “matter” of the sacramental version.

    Perhaps the system would look like this: actual annulments in the external forum allowing for a second full-on wedding would be rare (for very basic reasons like first spouse still alive, consanguinity/incest, etc). The existence of invalidity on account of more nebulous psychological reasons wouldn’t be denied, but in such possible cases, it would be more of a private negotiation: remarried couples would only celebrate a “fraternatio” penitential in tone with a caveat something like “IF your first marriage was valid, you’re supposed to live as brother and sister…but of course confession is available. On the other hand, if it was invalid, sacramentally at least if not naturally, then the new marriage is automatically radically sanated, but unless there were an external-forum annulment that determination has to remain a private matter of conscience for you and you can’t act as if the Church is publicly sanctioning your sex life.”

    Anyway, those are my thoughts.

  • Perhaps this is shaping up like Humanae Vitae: everyone THINKS he will allow Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, but then he comes out with a beautiful but short encyclical on marriage that talks about how society’s acceptance of contraception (and denial of the truth of HV) is what got us into this mess of divorce and other messy marriage issues.

    He will affirm marriage. He will affirm the True Presence. He will affirm Catholic teaching on faith and morals, much to the chagrin of his advisors.

    Then we will have 40 years of “Well, that was not infallible.”

    All his advisors will be so upset that he didn’t listen to their magisterial fidelity to the god of Modernity.


    Wow. You make the comparison to HV like it was a *good* thing. It was a complete, unutterable disaster. Yes, it preserved the Church’s teaching on paper–and that was it. The reality was that it was only paper. Pope Paul then proceeded to allow a culture of open dissent and the flouting of Church teaching on a level that swallowed the Catholic university system and entire national episcopal conferences (see, e.g., the Winnipeg Statement). The bottom line? Maybe–maybe–10 percent of Catholics observe the teaching. You want to know why Catholics–even mass attending ones–favor gay marriage and abortion? Because with HV they saw there was no cost to shelving Church teaching. NONE. The culture of dissent is so ingrained it can’t be eradicated at this point.


    And, frankly, your vision is the very best case scenario–Church teaching is defended on paper, but raised expectations cause a HV-style blowback in the Church which lead to it being cast aside. Hurray?

    [br] But the best case scenario is not going to happen–you haven’t been paying close enough attention to the Pope’s statements and actions.

  • I don’t think Jesus would approve of all this legalistic foolishness. This conversation also reminds me of the Little Flower, who had headaches reading anything other than the Gospels.

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  • In response to “P. Plante on Thursday, May 22, A.D. 2014 at 10:39am: Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven!”
    cf. Jn 15:5: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing.”

  • What on earth is going on? This is madness. I was brought up in what appears today be a very “traditional Roman Catholic family”. The parish grammar school. The local Augustinian High School, and a a few years at a Jesuit University.

    From my understanding of the Deposit of Faith (de fide definta/ infallibly defined) which I am to believe is the fullness of revelation found in the Scripture, the Church Fathers teachings, doctrinal counsels, Synods of Bishops called by the Holy Father and “statements” made by the Holy Father Ex cathedra (Papal Bulls), not general statements or personal opinions made in conversation with others. That being said, one would assume that the Holy Father’s “statements” would be much more carefully stated. Dare I say “guarded”? To do so otherwise would be an invitation for scandal, would it not?

    If the “Popes, any Pope” were to teach or promulagate that which is contrary to the Faith He would ipso facto ex communicate Himself from the One, Holy, Apostolic, Roman and Catholic Church founded by our Lord Himself. There have been Anti-Popes in the past why not in the present or the future?
    In light of the Feast of Ascension andthe Feast of Pentecost upcoming, all our Lord promised His little flock was: “…fear not and, know that I am with you until the consumation of the world”. and “…for I must leave you for a short while and return to the Father to prepare a place for you for, if I do not the Paraclete will not come…”. and in His prayer for unity “..that all may be one as the Father and I are one”. And, His instructions to Peter and the Apostles, Peter being first in primacy, “…if you hold bound upon the earth it shall be bound in Heaven and, that which you loose upon the earth shall be loosed in Heaven..” All in compliance with the Divine law. I believe when and if Sacramental Matrimony is conferred our Lord’s teaching on the indisollubility of Marriage/Sacrament of Matrimony would thusly apply. Atleast, that’s who I’m go’in with. There does not appear to be much “wiggle room” for those who like to “dance”. Pope or otherwise.
    No statute can make any unlawful act lawful, it only confers license for a FICTION to comit an act that remains UNLAWFUL. (see legal abortion)


  • The two upcoming Synods are on “the Family”, not “divorce and remarriage”. The Christian Family founded on the marriage between one man and woman for life, on the conjugal charity of that couple in human, total, exclusive, love which is open to new life. Divorce and remarriage is only one ‘shadow’ that partially prevents the Good News of Marriage and the Family to shine in the splendor of truth. Other ‘shadows’ are cohabitation, polygamy [in Africa] and so called ‘gay marriage’. The Synods, I believe, will tackle the anthropological [vision of the human] issues underlying marriage and the family and I would bet, actually ‘receive’ Saint John Paul’s teaching on sexuality.

    WHat I am about to say concerns elements within the Church, not the wider society or the media. There are those who do not really believe we have received any revelation (read: Gospel) concerning sexuality, marriage and the family. They do not see why the Church doesn’t get with the program and accept what the wider society has come to accept in the midst of this vast cultural revolution which we are immersed in. Many of these members of the Church believe that the culture sets the agenda for the Church. They will be deeply distressed that the Church will be upholding her teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the nature and elements of conjugal charity [Humanae Vitae]. Within the Second Vatican Council the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation [Dei Verbum] is the fundamental document and ultimate interpretative key among the four fundamental documents [On Liturgy, Church and Church in the Modern World]

    On the other hand there are those members of the Church who frankly seem to fail to recognize that the Church has been dealing with the pastoral issues of marriage and family from the very beginning of the Church. It is the Sacrament of Reconciliation and with the canons that the Church has addressed this fundamental aspect of her ministry and life. Whatever sins she looses, they are loosed in heaven; whatever sins are held bound, they are held bound. Here is where the so called ‘changes’ MAY occur. However these are not doctrines but disciplines within the Church [of course the Sacrament of Reconciliation-Penance itself is an actual sacrament/doctrine etc]

    As the Church moves forward, there are two things to keep in mind. First, the two synods are expressions of the ‘synodality’ of the Church. At Synods as at Councils of the Church, all sorts of things are stated, positions and even sides taken. However, it is the ‘consensus’ coming out of the Synod which will be the key-the content and direction it takes. Just because some bishop from some place says ‘something’ in terms of the approaching synod, (especially with twenty-first communications) just take it in and don’t get into a panic etc

    The other real issue which the Church needs to address in some manner-better sooner than later-is what the Church and world witnessed back in the 60’s during the Ecumenical Council. The media feeding popular opinion and being fed by media smart but rather shadowy (and sometimes sinister) personages in the Church (i.e some theologians) were already forming their own ‘Council of media-popular opinion’. No one can deny this existed and you can see the handwriting on the wall already on this. The Church in some way will have to address this distinct but related issue before the “synod of the media’ overwhelms the actual ‘Synod of Bishops’

  • You have shown the difficulty of writing this fictional dialogue! It is hard not to put your own interp into the mouths of the characters, or at least color the characters according to you own understanding of them.
    I wouldn’t think John Paul would have said: “the texts of the Second Vatican Council. They are the only aspect of the Council that binds us”.
    I hadn’t read very much further when I came to this speed bump:
    John Paul: You know what’s dubious? Private revelations. You know what’s binding? General councils of the Church and official statements of validly elected popes.”
    That just sounded out of character to me if the argument is to show JPII’s “side” of the story.
    Anyway, my thought is that John Paul would not have responded in that way… so then the dialogue takes a certain fork in the road after that… and that road as you have laid it out, leads to the broken authority, disappearing Church scenario that is part of understanding Vat 2 as a rupture.
    It seems that the teaching Authority of the Church has already disappeared – the foundation, the rock, the authority of Peter – is cracked and crumbling and Vatican II is implicit as the crack in the rock, by your story line, because of J.C. Murray and Dignitatus Humanae?

  • A very good article. I don’t think I could contribute an analysis any better than the many that have already been written.
    So I will do what I do best, focus on the trivial and inconsequential.
    So here goes….
    Isn’t that picture a weeping angel from Doctor Who? 🙂

  • As an abandoned husband and father, I have seen, starkly, where Francis is heading. Marriage already means nothing. His “pastoral”
    approach has long been mainstream.

    The Catholic Church is imploding and deserves it. His methods have simply hastened what it already a “messy divorce”.

    If Francis had any good will, he would jettison his plan for a synod of bishops unless they were only the audience, in a gathering of contentious annulment respondents, especially those with some children, so these men could actually hear some truth and some harsh realities. He should also have our adult children speak as well.

    But I do not believe the horrors they would hear would move them to
    actually begin to defend marriages.

    I cannot imagine any course of action that will “save” the Catholic Church. Not really.

  • But the best case scenario is not going to happen–you haven’t been paying close enough attention to the Pope’s statements and actions.

    Dunno. The man is erratic. The conclave made a wretched error, ’tis true.

  • John Paul is right it won’t be ex cathedra. That means infallibilty is intact no matter what he says.
    I’ve heard that in the hierarchy of truths ecumenical councils are on the top, then papal encyclicals, then everything else. This isn’t the end of the world either way.

  • That’s a low quality dialogue. I look forward to the days when no one in charge has a personal investment and attachment to Vatican II. Then we can cut it up and move on with actual tradition instead of the manufactured ones from recent decades.

  • Naughty! you have Marcel referring to “Pope Francis” i.e. in quotes. The SSPX are not sedevacantist.

  • Perhaps, we should take comfort in the words of Cardinal Manning: “The enunciation of the faith by the living Church of this hour, is the maximum of evidence, both natural and supernatural, as to the fact and the contents of the original revelation. I know what are revealed there not by retrospect, but by listening” “Do you or do you not believe,” he asks, “that there is a Divine Person teaching now, as in the beginning, with a divine, and therefore infallible voice ; and that the Church of this hour is the organ through which He speaks to the world ? If so, the history, and antiquity, and facts, as they are called, of the past vanish before the presence of an order of facts which are divine namely, the unity, perpetuity, infallibility of the Church of God: the body and visible witness of the Incarnate Word, the dwelling and organ of the Holy Ghost now as in the beginning.”
    Bl John Henry Newman was of the same mind, “There is, I repeat, an essential difference between the act of submitting to a living oracle, and to his written words; in the former case there is no appeal from the speaker, in the latter the final decision remains with the reader… I can fancy a man magisterially expounding St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians or to the Ephesians, who would be better content with the writer’s absence than his sudden reappearance among us; lest the Apostle should take his own meaning out of his commentator’s hands and explain it for himself.”

  • I think there is a distinction to be made. It is possible for the Pope to decide that in our current society most marriages are entered into with a presumption that divorce is an option and if the couples “fall out of love” the appropriate course is to divorce. Obviously if either person enters into a marriage with this belief they lack the intent to a lifelong commitment and were never married. ( Their marriage is invalid) , for this reason a prenuptial agreement is almost prima faciae evidence for an annulment. and thus many Catholics might be able to get an annulment via an internal forum. Now I am not asserting I agree with this line of reasoning entirely, as it leaves itself open to great abuse and may effectively undermine marriage ( which in many ways is on life support already), but the Pope could reason this way and not contradict any doctrine or teaching of the Church. I think if we go down the divorce and remarriage route this is what we will see. The practical consequences of this however will likely play themselves out as a further Protestantization of the Catholic Church. It is a lot easier to believe that God would expect marriage to be permanent, then that he becomes substantially present in the Eucharist. We should all be saying the Rosary for the Church, since we are headed for a cliff at present.

  • I, and I’m sure at least a few others, who would dearly love to see the “extraordinary rite” become more accessible and available, find the characterization of “Marcel” a painful stereotype that somehow tars us by implication.

  • Dan Allman,

    I appreciate your statement. The problem of characterization by stereotype may be a useful rhetorical flourish but it actually creates more ‘smoke’ than ‘heat’ or ‘light’. Many on this list would characterize me as the John Paul character-but that is not me either.

    The Extraordinary Rite is a beautiful form of the much larger Latin Rite [there are several forms of it]. There is a problem however when people in any ‘rite’ [and here I speak of my own “Ordinary Form” as well as any others] either want to make ‘our’ rite ‘the only rite’ or even worse, into an ideological camp which in fact impairs and often harms the catholicity and unity of the Church.

  • All of the doctrines and statements re marriage are based on interpretation of what Jesus said via the lens of western cultural thought. Divorce was allowed by God in the Old Testament and the process was prescribed in detail in the law. God in his grace and mercy allowed divorce and remarriage. Jesus was talking to the Jewish religious leaders and the upholders of Jewish religious law. He was saying that they weren’t following the law and men separating from their wives weren’t following the proper procedures and granting them bills of divorcement – thereby causing them to commit adultery in their new relationships. Putting away or separating was not the same as divorcement and a certificate of divorce is required by God to properly end a marriage otherwise people who remarry are in a state of adultery.
    The teachings of the churches both Catholic and Protestant have created a mess regarding divorce and remarriage and bound people in ways that God in his grace and mercy never ordained.

  • That sounds plausible Jane, if I hadn’t read the text for myself.
    Just so we are talking about the same thing:
    Matthew 19.1-15

    19 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2Large crowds followed him, and he cured them there.

    3 Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked,
    ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?’
    4 He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”,
    5 and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”?
    6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’
    7 They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?’
    8 He said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but at the beginning it was not so.
    9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.’*

    10 His disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’
    11 But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given.
    12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’

    not based on western interpretation, look at the Church Fathers.
    sample: Athenagoras (about 177 AD) “Plea for the Christian”

    A person should either remain as he was born, or be content with one marriage; for a second marriage is only a specious adultery. “For whosoever puts away his wife,” says He, “and marries another, commits adultery”; not permitting a man to send her away whose virginity he has brought to an end, nor to many again. For he who deprives himself of his first wife, even though she be dead, is a cloaked adulterer, resisting the hand of God, because in the beginning God made one man and one woman, and dissolving the strictest union of flesh with flesh, formed for the intercourse of the race.598

  • What is infuriating about this piece is not that the argument it fictionalizes is implausible, but that it it does nothing to resolve them. I agree with Ross Douthat—we need to take seriously the possibility that the Synod will do something earth-shatteringly stupid and start thinking through the implications. Not just satirizing (albeit well) the ensuing conversation. As others have said before, the best-case scenario is “Humanæ vitæ II,” which is catastrophe. And it’s all downhill from there. Unless Francis resigns or is recalled to the head office before the Synod, and his replacement stops it, we are in for the roughest ride in generations.

  • Anzlyne

    The issue of second marriages, even after the death of a spouse was a vexed one in the early Church and Anthenagoras’s remark that “he who deprives himself of his first wife, even though she be dead, is a cloaked adulterer” had many supporters.

    St Jerome famously took a middle path, saying that, whilst he did not commend second marriages, he did not condemn them.
    In the East, the rite for second marriages has a penitential character and is seen as a concession (economia) to human frailty and, in the West, the rule that a woman might receive the Nuptial Benediction (the blessing at the end of the Pater Noster in the Nuptial Mass) is a relic of the severer view.
    Again the rule that men who had married twice (or who had married a widow) are irregular and cannot receive Holy Orders is universal in the East and applied in the West too, but subject to the dispensing power, until the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

  • “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” I am not speaking of marriage between a man and a woman, I am speaking of the Sacrament of Matrimony instituted by Jesus Christ. If Divine Wisdom chooses that Matrimony is to be between a man and a woman exclusively, leaving out the Creator, procreation cannot happen. The begetting of children cannot happen without the Creator.
    Since Adam and Eve, in the garden, when God brought Eve to Adam, the first marriage, God created marriage as surely as God created Adam and Eve. God is a part of every marriage. Jesus raised marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament.

  • Mr.Price is right about H.V. The Pope drew an authoritative line in the sand and then watched passively as Priests created a storm that obliterated it.

    And now he too will be canonised

  • The Pope drew an authoritative line in the sand and then watched passively as Priests created a storm that obliterated it.

    The Pope is not in a position to discipline priest bar in spot circumstances. Bishops have to do that. The trouble with Paul VI is that the Holy See interfered with Cdl. O’Boyle’s attempt to do that and this set a bad example.

    That having been said, the disciplinary breakdown in the Church was pretty comprehensive at the time and it’s doubtful other bishops were inclined to do much (and were preoccupied with other disasters as well). Some years ago, Louis Tarsitano and Patrick Henry Reardon offered some reminiscences about life in minor and major seminaries prior to 1970 and in the period succeeding. Leon Podles has also offered his memory of seminary life ca. 1966. Recall the Rudy Kos case? The salient decision on his admission to seminary was made in 1974. Here, there, and the next place there was a mad insistence on keeping the sacramental assembly line rolling. That had to have severely vitiated the inclination of bishops to discipline errant clergy (over and above losses from departures from the priesthood).

  • Pope Paul VI had Universal Jurisdiction and he should have dropped the excommunication bomb on the Curran 600 the day they went public confessing their heresy

  • The dissent from within, from the clergy down, is what will destroy the Church – but not completely…. there will be a remnant.

  • Amateur Brain Surgeon wrote, “Pope Paul VI had Universal Jurisdiction and he should have dropped the excommunication bomb on the Curran 600 the day they went public confessing their heresy.”

    As Art Deco points out, we know that Rome pursued exactly the opposite course. The Congregation for the Clergy decreed that Cardinal O’Boyle of Washington should lift canonical penalties against those priests whom he had disciplined for their public dissent from Humanae Vitæ. George Weigal has called this the “Truce of 1968.”

    We had been here before. I have always seen a quite remarkable similarity between the “Truce of 1968” and the “Peace of Clement IX” during the Jansenist controversy.

    In both cases, after the Church had been riven by a decade-long dispute, a papal document had been issued that was intended to be definitive and in both cases, the original quarrel was immediately forgotten, whilst argument raged over the scope of papal authority to decide the question at all.

    In the Jansenist case, in 1664, Alexander VII decided to require the subscription of the clergy to Innocent X’s bull of 1653, condemning the Five Propositions. There was enormous resistance, particularly in France and the Low Countries, with widespread and vocal opposition from bishops, theologians and the lower clergy.

    Peace, of a sort, was achieved, when Pope Clement IX brokered an agreement that neither side would argue the question, at least, from the pulpit. The “Peace of Clement IX” lasted for about 35 years and ended in 1705 when Clement XI, in Vineam Domini Sabaoth declared the clergy could no longer hide behind “respectful silence.” Eventually, in 1713, he issued Unigenitus and demanded the subscription of the clergy to it. There was even more resistance, with a cardinal, 18 bishops and 3,000 priests appealing to a future Council (and being excommunicated for their pains, in 1718). As late as 1756, dissenters were still being denied the Last Rites.

    Will the “Truce of 1968” end in a similar fashion?

  • Francis is not a seething modernist. He is not some wily really smart politician trying to reach out to more people while retaining crypto-orthodoxy. He is not trying to connect with the East. All three interlocutors are wrong. He is just not the most dazzling PR guy, savvy politician, or theologically minded person to sit on the throne for the past century or two. A vague set of opinions, rather than a clear ideology or theology; friendly chatting and speculation, espousing a lack of clear presentation; and a belief that to be taken seriously he has to impress the cool liberal kids, characterize the learn-as-you-go papacy. He just says stuff. He just does stuff. He was raised Catholic, gets asked questions about religion, rather like your friend down the street. Except he can quote more authors – I mean, he could if he wanted to, but he probably thinks that would bore people more than analogies about Martians and stories about how he rode the bus to work; so, he doesn’t.

  • George Weigel opined:
    “the Truce of 1968 “decreed that Cardinal O’Boyle should lift canonical penalties against those priests who informed the cardinal privately that they agreed that the Church’s teaching (in Humanae Vitae) on “the objective evil of contraception” was “an authentic expression of [the] magisterium.” The Congregation explicitly avoided requiring that the priests, who had dissented publicly, retract their dissent publicly”.
    Some 46 years later:
    “…The Truce of 1968 taught theologians, priests, and other Church professionals that dissent from authoritative teaching was, essentially, cost-free…(ii) taught bishops inclined to defend authoritative Catholic teaching vigorously that they should think twice about doing so, if controversy were likely to follow; Rome, fearing schism, was nervous about public action against dissent…and (iii) Catholic lay people learned…“that virtually everything in the Church was questionable: doctrine, morals, the priesthood, the episcopate, the lot.” Thus the impulse toward Cafeteria Catholicism got a decisive boost from the Truce of 1968…”
    Should any Catholic really be concerned about the fate of nineteen rebel priests whose public dissent from Pope Paul VI’s teaching yielded so much tainted fruit.
    It is written that “By their fruits, ye shall know them.” Matthew 7:16.

  • Slainté asks, “Should any Catholic really be concerned about the fate of nineteen rebel priests whose public dissent from Pope Paul VI’s teaching yielded so much tainted fruit?”
    Insofar as that fate was the result of the decision of a Roman dicastery (probably with Papal approval), yes. Like Clement IX’s failure to discipline the four French bishops that dissented from Regiminis Apostolici, it produced precisely the results that George Weigal describes; it weakened the supporters of papal authority and strengthened its opponents.
    The “Peace of Clement IX” produced a whole generation of the “duped Jansenists” and the “Truce of 1968” has produced a similar effect.
    Suppose the subscription of the clergy had been required to the central dogmatic teaching of Humanae Vitae, namely, “No member of the faithful could possibly deny that the Church is competent in her magisterium to interpret the natural moral law. It is in fact indisputable, as Our predecessors have many times declared, that Jesus Christ, when He communicated His divine power to Peter and the other Apostles and sent them to teach all nations His commandments, constituted them as the authentic guardians and interpreters of the whole moral law, not only, that is, of the law of the Gospel but also of the natural law. For the natural law, too, declares the will of God, and its faithful observance is necessary for men’s eternal salvation,” I believe the overwhelming majority would have subscribed.
    It would not, of itself, have resolved the question of pastoral prudence in its teaching and application: “we know,” says Lord Macaulay, “through what strange loopholes the human mind contrives to escape, when it wishes to avoid a disagreeable inference from an admitted proposition. We know how long the Jansenists contrived to believe the Pope infallible in matters of doctrine, and at the same time to believe doctrines which he pronounced to be heretical,” but the principle of the authority of the Magisterium would have been put beyond question.

  • MPS, if the rebellious 19’s dissent was limited solely to the teachings contained in Humanae Vitae, might they not have just claimed “conscience” as a basis for their dissent?
    Instead, they attacked magisterial infallibility. In effect, they sought to cast doubt on the entirety of infallible teachings held by the Church…possibly a way to renegotiate dogma in line with a “living and evolving faith”?
    How then does the Church discipline would be reformers without turning them into martyrs (especially in the chaotic 1960s)?

Till Death Do Us Part

Saturday, May 10, AD 2014



One thing I hate about leftists is that they are quite expert at changing the meaning of words and phrases to suit their political goals.  Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, at Midwest Conservative Journal gives us a prime example of this  and also provides us a stirring tribute by a son to his father:

Susan Russell on Robbie’s split:

[Our marriages] are equally blessed and equally challenging. They are equally full of joy and equally full of disappointment. We equally love and cherish each other and we equally hurt and misunderstand each other. And, when a marriage fails, we are equally sad, scared and heartbroken. Just as the values that make up a marriage transcend the gender of the couple in the marriage, so do the challenges. And because all of our marriages are — for better or for worse — equal, they deserve equal protection under the law.

Do go on.

What I believe is that the vow “until death do us part” is absolutely binding on absolutely every marriage. And what I know is that sometimes the death that ends a marriage isn’t the death of one of the partners but the death of the marriage itself. And when that happens, the faithful thing — the honest thing, the healthy thing — is to grieve the death of the marriage. And then, from a Christian perspective, to trust the Easter promise that love is stronger than death — even the death of a marriage.

“The death of the marriage.”  The.  Death.  Of.  The.  Marriage.  Seriously, Susie?!!  Do you REALLY want to play that card?  Because if you do, you’ve just granted “spiritual” permission for every single bimbo in the entire world to sleep around on her husband and every single a-hole in the entire world to sleep around on his wife.

Good Lord.  So all that incessant Episcopalian yammering about blessing “life-long, committed relationships” actually was complete crap?

[Robbie’s divorce] teaches us that even good people of deep faith with the best intentions can fail at making the marriage they hoped would be forever last forever. It teaches us that telling the truth about our lives and our challenges is not only healthy for us but can be in inspiration for others. And, most of all, it teaches us, in Gene Robinson’s own words: “Love can endure, even if a marriage cannot.”

Particularly when they can just declare the marriage “dead” and move on.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Episcopalians have retired the rationalization trophy.  Nobody else was ever in the ballgame.

Are you all interested in a little Johnson family history?  While doing genealogical research into my father’s side of the family, I sent to Ness County, Kansas for a copy of the marriage record of my paternal grandparents and discovered something that nobody in the family previously knew.

Let’s just say that the time between when my grandparents got married and when my father’s older brother was born was a good deal less than nine months.  Dad thought it had to have been a mistake but my aunt heard stories of Kansas girls who suddenly ran off to Kansas City because of wink, wink.

If anybody out in Ness City, Kansas knew, they didn’t say anything because my dad told me once that when he was a kid, his family used to go out there all the time and he actually seemed to have an affection for the place, insisting that we go out there on the car trip he and I took a year or so before his final illness.

And I was delighted to go.

Anyway, my grandparents married in 1917 and they made a life together in Kansas City.  Grandma had two other children, my dad and my uncle.  But my grandfather abruptly ended the marriage in 1957.

By dropping dead from an aortic aneurysm at the barber shop one day.

Then there was my old man.  I think I’ve mentioned here before that he and I didn’t get along all that well when I was a kid.  He was ex-military, I was a sensitive kid and he didn’t always much patience with kids who didn’t pick things up right away.

When I was a little kid, Pop had this tendency to snap at me whenever I tried to make what I thought was a contribution to the conversation (I’m pushing 60 and the words, “Don’t get smart!!” hurt as much now as they did then).  While it didn’t happen much, he wasn’t above humiliating me in front of the entire family if he was angry enough.

But do you want to know the really funny part?

Continue reading...

25 Responses to Till Death Do Us Part

  • True true true.
    As my brother often says when we are all sitting around the table pontificating after dinner: “I want to say this about that.”
    When Jesus makes a statement about no marriage in heaven he talks about us living there like the angels. Angels don”t procreate. Jesus indicates the importance of the possibility of procreation in marriage.

  • The Anglican problems with marriage go back to 1533.

  • My wife left me for a family friend 5 years ago, a sociopath who was looking for revenge after his on wife had left him for a physician.

    My wife knows that I still love her and that I still want her back, and that makes her furious. I do still love her, and I made a firm resolution to get through this horribly painful time, without becoming hateful, and without turning to the comfort of a new relationship with another woman. My wife has been horribly hateful toward me now for almost 6 years. I have learned the hard way, that there is probably no pain greater than that of being hated by the one you love with all your heart more than any other in the world. The one possible exception would be the pain of knowing that she is telling all 8 of our children what a horrible man I am, in order to justify herself and her actions in their eyes. she has also stops them from going to church, calling all Churchgoers, “hypocrites.”

    A few weeks ago, after having then more or less at peace with the situation for 5 years, I was undergoing a strong temptation to begin a relationship with another woman. I was feeling tempted to think that it was okay, and that I should go ahead and finish the divorce that we had put on hold 4 years ago, in order that my wife could still use my health insurance to pay for her medications for the chronic leukemia with what she has been diagnosed. I also began to think that surely God would understand, and that the church would grant me an annulment, so that I could pursue a new relationship.

    Well, I was lying in my bed praying about it, one night, God spoke to me. He said, “Whom would you rather be with?” I began to weep, because I immediately knew that the answer was with my wife. I also immediately knew that God had known all along. I don’t know what God’s reasons are for allowing the suffering that my children and I are in enduring, but I have learned to embrace his will and to trust Him, for that is where my happiness lies. I do believe that he will use my suffering to help heal other marriages, as He has confirmed this with me. In a very mysterious way, I feel a powerful joy at the thought of being my wife’s husband, even after all we have been through.
    we are married until death, precisely because that is what our vows said. Now, after all this, those vows give me tremendous peace and joy. Praise be to God!

  • Robert J. Butler.

    Thank you.
    Your trust in the Lord isn’t new. You have been trusting Him most of your life is my guess. I am moved by your humility and faith.
    You dear soul are a disciple and close friend of Jesus.
    God bless you.
    In Him we find our Peace.

  • According to St Augustine, “Let these nuptial blessings be the objects of our love: offspring, fidelity, the unbreakable bond [sacrametum]… Let these nuptial blessings be praised in marriage by him who wishes to extol the nuptial institution” (De nupt. et conc. I, c. 17, n. 19 (PL 44, 424-425).)
    Likewise, he says, “”This is the goodness of marriage, from which it takes its glory: offspring, chaste fidelity, unbreakable bond [sacramentum]” (De pecc. orig., c. 37, n. 42 (PL 44, 406).

    Speaking of the marriage of our first parents, he says, “The sacramentum means that the marriage is not severed nor the spouse abandoned.” (De Genesi ad litteram, ix, 7, 12)

    I translate “sacramentum” as “unbreakable bond,” because St Augustine is discussing the origins of marriage, rather than the Christian dispensation and he is obviously using the word in its ordinary Latin sense. Now, the commonest meaning of “sacramentum” is the military oath, the Roman soldier’s pledge of obedience to his general and fidelity to his comrades. The Romans could conceive of no more sacred and binding obligation.

  • Robert J Butler MD: Yours is a beautiful witness to true love.

  • “One thing I hate about leftists is that they are quite expert at changing the meaning of words and phrases to suit their political goals.”

    They are quite expert at it because our side lets them do it with impunity. So, of course they are going to do it.

  • Didn’t “Bishop Robbie” divorce his real wife to “marry” his partner? Or am I getting my stories mixed up.

  • Examples Greg of how our side “lets them get away with it”, considering they largely control academia, entertainment and news. Those are powerful megaphones that we do not control. That is the “secret” of their success. Repeat a phrase endlessly, or give an old phrase a new twist, and most people will pick it up eventually, and that is what the left is very good at indeed since they control the output of most of the chattering classes.

  • This is the sort of thing that happens when a culture adopts utilitarianism. Anything becomes permissible as long as you make reference to pleasure. Marriage is a good. Good is based on pleasure. If one is no longer pleased it’s no longer good. If it’s no longer good, it’s no longer a marriage, no matter what the outward appearance. Because pleasure is internal, what it looks like from the outside no longer matters.

  • Doc Butler,

    Good for you. You are a better man than I, which is pleasing to read.


  • Well, let’s see, the left redefines being pro-abortion with the misnomer pro-choice and they have had our side calling them that for over forty years. That’s one big one.
    Then, when the Obama administration comes out with the HHS mandate, one of the conservatives leading lights (in the view of many, not me, I’ve never trusted him) Marco Rubio comes out touting with some kind of religious liberty protection act. In addition to the fact that it had no chance to survive Harry Reid’s senate and getting Obama’s signature, it was unwittingly saying the First Amendment doesn’t mean what it says
    Those are two examples and there are others. As far as the left control the entertainment and media, what efforts have conservatives made to buy out these entities. And conservatives have far more influence in these entities than we realize with the advent of talk radio. You also have conservatives in Hollywood coming out as such in ways you didn’t see years ago. But our side still hasn’t made a real effort to take back control of the terms of the debate. We can’t stop them from using these misnomers to describe themselves, but we can stop ourselves from using them to describe them. An uphill battle to be sure, but a necessary one.

  • “Well, let’s see, the left redefines being pro-abortion with the misnomer pro-choice and they have had our side calling them that for over forty years. That’s one big one.”

    Most pro-lifers I read refer to pro-aborts as pro-abortion or pro-abortion rights.

    “Marco Rubio comes out touting with some kind of religious liberty protection act.”

    Which almost assuredly will pass in some form if the Republicans gain control of Congress this fall, and it will be amusing to see Obama veto it. Legislation in this area can have a very broad impact, as demonstrated by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, on what the Federal government can and can’t do.

    “As far as the left control the entertainment and media, what efforts have conservatives made to buy out these entities.”

    I don’t see how conservatives can buy out enough of any of these entities to make a difference. Better to start new ones like Fox in news, Franciscan University in Steubenville, and in entertainment support projects like the proposed Gosnell film.

    The left gained a key victory in taking control of academia, and changing that is going to be difficult, although their victory may come with a short future shelf life as I suspect the years of the traditional brick and mortar colleges and universities, at least as they are presently configured are numbered, because of cost and poor quality if for no better reasons.

    I agree with your underlying premise that conservatives should never allow liberals to state the terms of the debate and that when conservatives do allow this disaster beckons.

  • “I agree with your underlying premise that conservatives should never allow liberals to state the terms of the debate and that when conservatives do allow this disaster beckons.”
    By calling leftists liberals, you have just fallen into the trap of what I am talking about. These people who are taking away liberty wholesale. There’s nothing “liberal” about that. Don’t feel too bad, even Rush Limbaugh, the most influential conservative since Reagan, constantly falls into that trap. In fact, the only radio personality that I know of who never calls leftist liberals is Dennis Prager. He always calls leftism leftism. I’ve never heard him call it liberalism or call leftists liberals.

    Yeah, Obama would veto any religious liberty legislation that hits his desk. He could very easily spin it into coded racism or some other bullshit. As far as the 1993 act goes, that hasn’t stopped Obama from imposing the HHS Mandate. Now, it looks like the Supreme Court will strike it down, but that’s not even a sure thing. But the underlying effect of these things unwittingly saying the First Amendment doesn’t mean what it says is still the most effectual.

  • “Most pro-lifers I read refer to pro-aborts as pro-abortion or pro-abortion rights.”

    Often times, you will see prominent orthodox Catholic publications saying things like “You can’t be Catholic and pro-choice.” I see that turn of phrase a lot more than I see the opposite.

  • “By calling leftists liberals, you have just fallen into the trap of what I am talking about.”

    I don’t think so. “Liberal” has become such a dirty word that most on the left call themselves progressives. Most people have no idea of the 19th century use of the term (under that usage I would be a liberal) and associate it with the left.

    “But the underlying effect of these things unwittingly saying the First Amendment doesn’t mean what it says is still the most effectual.”

    I can see your point but I don’t agree with it. Congress cannot restrict a liberty guaranteed under the Constitution but it can expand that liberty which in effect is what the 1993 act did. Considering that most liberal Supreme Court Justices treat the Constitution like Play-Doh it is helpful to also have a federal act on point.

  • May 13th is the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima and also the day a three judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments in a case challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. Prayers are needed to preserve the ban!

  • Why has liberalism become a dirty word? I would say stop calling them liberals and just call them leftists. If the Supreme Court treats the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, like “play-doh” then what’s to stop them from striking down lesser laws under that very rubric. Something they do regularly.

  • I am blessed to have folks who have been married for 47 years and much of what I know about sticking to it and finding joy, over and over, I learned from them. The best example of marriage that I’ve personally experienced was from my father’s friend, Ray Rose.

    As a child, his marriage to Edith was a mystery. She was home for a few weeks, laughing and happy, then sullen and short, then gone for months. The cycle repeated itself year after year.

    When Edith Rose died, I was around 14. Driving to the funeral, my folks told me that Mrs. Rose suffered from bouts of depression and violence and was repeatedly hospitalized. When she was in the hospital, Mr. Rose visited her every day and, when she was stable enough to be out he took her home.

    I said that I understood but I didn’t “get” it until I married. Only then did I come to grasp, at a surface level to be sure, the devotion Ray Rose showed and the burden he shouldered.

    I talked to my Papa about it a few years ago and he told me that Ray hadn’t had a vacation, not a single day, in nearly fifty years. He was an insurance adjuster and visited his wife between calla, passing up promotions so that he wouldn’t have to move her.

    She hd only been healthy for a couple of years but, after losing a baby late in a pregnancy, had gone in for her first hospital stay. They never had children. And, yet, he was there for her, truly “in sickness and in health” until she died. He only lived a few years after that.

    Papa told me that, anytime he and my mother were fighting or unhappy, he would look up the hill at the Rose house to see if the lights were on and it would bring things back into perspective.

  • David Spaulding.

    Thanks for the memory of Mr. and Mrs. Rose. Truly inspiring!

  • “then what’s to stop them from striking down lesser laws under that very rubric.”

    It is harder for a Court to strike down a Federal statute with specific language than it is for them to “interpret” the usually broad language of the Constitution. Plus, Congress is in charge of making statutes so they can always pass a new statute meeting the deficiency pointed out in the court decision striking down the old statute. That happens all the time. When it comes to the Constitution, absent a constitutional amendment, the Supreme Court is the final word. When it comes to Federal statutes they usually are not, especially in regard to a statute that expands a liberty guaranteed under the Constitution.

  • Doc Butler and Karl,
    Typed you on to my permanent prayer list. I Cor. 13:7… ” Love….. bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
    You guys are whole burnt offerings for the souls of these women if you offer it up with perseverance in Christ in the Mass for them. You have become Christ to and for them in that respect…the perfect spouse.
    ” He who loses his life for my sake, will save it.”. But….hope in their repentance….” hopes all things”.

  • I will be attending our son’s wedding at the Cathedral in Raleigh at the end of the month. I still have no news regarding round two of our annulment case, which I had hoped would put an end to the “unsettled” issue for both of us. I presume she will be in attendance with her long time civil spouse. It will be a very emotional time for me. My youngest daughter and I are planning(we have yet to practice together as she lives near Raleigh) to sing an acapella version of the Everly Brothers’, Let It Be Me, for the newlyweds at the reception. I have asked my daughter to be my “rock”. I do not know how I will be able to hold it together singing such a beautiful love song in the presence of my wife…..

    I sure could use the prayers.

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DOMA Overturned, Prop 8 Case Dismissed for Lack of Standing

Wednesday, June 26, AD 2013

Unsurprising results. Here is the DOMA decision, and here is the Prop 8 decision.

Both were 5-4 decisions. Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court on DOMA, Roberts on Prop 8.  The lineups were slightly different. The dissenters on DOMA were Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas, and on Prop 8 Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and  . . . Sotomayor. Prop 8 fell because of standing and not on the merits of the legal issue, so the Court lineup actually doesn’t say much on that one. Of course the end result is that California will now recognize same-sex marriage.

I’ll be back much later with a full analysis. What the Windsor (DOMA) case means is that the federal government cannot prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriage, and those married in states allowing SSM must receive federal benefits. States are still free to not recognize same-sex marriage, but Kennedy’ s use of the Equal Protection Clause to underpin his argument means that the handwriting is on the wall. Scalia’s dissent is a must-read, but Alito’s is perhaps more significant – particularly footnote 7.

In the meantime, here’s some happy reading for you to ponder for the rest of the day.

Update: I think my explanation of the DOMA decision’s results is a little shaky. This was never about what the states could do, but it simply relates to granting federal benefits to same sex couples who claim to be married.



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23 Responses to DOMA Overturned, Prop 8 Case Dismissed for Lack of Standing

  • Busy day in the law mines so I do not have time to comment except to say that under the full faith and credit clause DOMA was always of dubious constitutionality. It was a successful tactic in the nineties by the left to derail the strong push to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and that chicken has come home to roost. The Court sidestepped proposition 8 because Kennedy is not willing, yet, to impose gay marriage on the entire nation by judicial fiat. (There are very weird lineups in that case in the majority and the dissent, so my last statement may be completely wrong.) More from me after I have had a chance to read the decisions this evening.

  • All:
    God save your majesty!

    I thank you, good people—there shall be no money; all shall eat
    and drink on my score, and I will apparel them all in one livery,
    that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.

    The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

    Nay, that I mean to do.

    Henry The Sixth, Part 2, Act 4, scene 2, 71–78

  • I actually WAS hoping there was a silver lining in the link. Turns out it is more depressing an idea than the post itself.

    Satan has been having a field day in the West since the early 1900s and it feels like many bad roads are converging.

  • Twitter: @GPollowitz:

    “Future Bill Clinton quote: ‘I always thought DOMA would be overturned, that’s why I signed it into law'”

  • Well I haven’t read the Prop 8 case yet, but perhaps your silver lining is that it is good that it wasn’t decided on the merits, because if it had been decided on the merits the decision could have been very Roe-esque.

  • Matthew 10:15

    Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.

    Luke 10:13-15

    Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!

  • “We shall go before a higher tribunal – a tribunal where a Judge of infinite goodness, as well as infinite justice, will preside, and where many of the judgments of this world will be reversed.” Thomas Meagher

    “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” Abraham Lincoln

  • I don’t know if it’s accurate, but I’ve read a couple of things indicating that the Full Faith and Credit clause has never been applied to states recognizing marriages in other states. If that’s true, it would mitigate the impact of this decision (for now).

  • DOMA was always constitutionally problematic. No one should be shocked by it being overturned.

    The silver lining, if any exists, is that we live to fight another day at the state level on the defense of marriage. By punting on the Prop 8 case, the Court did not do what many same-sex “marriage” advocates had hoped it would do, which is to constitutionally enshrine SSM as a secular-left sacrament the way it did with abortion in Roe v. Wade.

  • “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” Abraham Lincoln

    That is a great quote, one I’ve never heard before. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Spot on, T. Shaw! SCOTUS could issue a ruling declaring that a tail is a leg, but that wouldn’t make it so.

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  • Jay,

    Excellent analysis, I agree completely.

  • The bishops have issued a statement ( declaring today to be “a tragic day for marriage and our nation.” Well and good, but it means next to nothing unless they put some teeth in it. It’s time for them to draw a line in the sand. It’s also time for a pastoral letter on the subject.

  • The failure of our Bishops to speak is utterly demoralizing.

    Casey’s website displays his unfettered support for gay marriage. Pelosi and Biden seem to oppose every social position the Church has taken. Yet nothing happens. We have Dolan’s diocese paying for abortions through healthcare while the USCCB proclaims the same policy at a national level to be unconscionable. Our schools knowingly hire homosexual teachers, only to have the bishop of those diocese act surprised and dismayed when they lose in court due to inconsistent application of policy.

    For God’s sake… Well, for ours, actually… Can our hierarchy get their act together!?

  • One of the probably-a-trolls over at Ricochet (the COC keeps ’em from being obvious) decided to throw an utter fit over the “how many legs does a dog have” thing, accusing the editors of ignoring slanderous comparisons of homosexuals to dogs….

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  • I have been on vacation with my family this week. It is the first one in five years and I really needed it. I am amazed at all of the HIV billboards I see in Miami Dade. It is nauseating.

    I hope Texas does secede. If not, I may move my family to Poland. This abortion and homosexual garbage has to end.

  • Trolls need to shut off debate because all they have are ad hominems, distortions, fabrications, and “SHUT THE EFF UP!”

  • The goblins gay undoubtedly will “heart” this from “Never Yet Melted” blog, “Life in a Nation Governed by 15-year-old Girls.”


    “We obviously live in a society led around by the nose by an elite which is too stupid to live. Any appeal to emotion and sentimentality will reduce even the learned Supreme Court Justice, nominated by a Republican and entrusted by Fate with the deciding vote, to the intellectual condition of a pubescent female in early high school who has been reading “Black Beauty.”

  • Proposition 8 is peaceable assembly to petition the government for redress. Any and every citizen has the standing to appeal it, pro se, and not be denied our First Amendment civil rights. Denying a citizen access to Justice because of technicalities is denying Justice to all. Justice delayed is Justice denied.

  • DOMA overturned. Let the gay agenda prove that they have the ability of two becoming one and claiming the definition of marriage of two becoming one. I say that I am wealthy but that does not raise my bank account not one red or rainbow cent.

  • The consummation of two human beings, body and soul in the presence of God is the sacred state of Matrimony. In the fact that same-sex individuals cannot ever consummate their love for each other, leaves the disparaging fact of their commitment being undone, only half accomplished. No amount of constitutional investigation or encouragement will change the fact that same-sex couples cannot couple or consummate their relationship in the presence of God. Therefore, there is no marriage for gays to be constitutionally protected. Since gays have consistently rejected same-sex unions, it appears that gays are willingly complicit in rewriting our constitution without ratification by the people.

Out of the Closet and Married

Thursday, June 14, AD 2012

Humor writer Josh Weed has written a remarkable personal piece. Weed is an out of the closet gay Mormon – who also happens to be married with three children. Josh, as well as his wife Molly, detail how Josh struggled to live up to the tenets of his faith. He didn’t hide his homosexuality from his parents, who by the way were understanding right from the outset. His wife Molly had been a close friend and confidant, so she was aware of Josh’s same sex attraction before they even began dating.

It’s a truly remarkable story that should be read in its entirety. Clearly it is applicable in Catholic circles, though as my wife suggests, celibacy is a more viable option for gay Catholics than for Mormons.

Josh gives every indication that he is perfectly happy, but he does not come off as preachy, nor does he suggest that all individuals who struggle with same sex attraction can or ought to make the same choice he did.

Even more heartening is that this post has over 3,000 comments, and the overwhelming are supportive or at least understanding. Now I stopped skimming after about a thousand comments, so it’s possible that things got nastier once the post went viral on Facebook. But the relatively generous feedback that he received is almost a story unto itself.

That’s all. Please go read. Now.

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6 Responses to Out of the Closet and Married

  • When I first started to grasp Catholic teachings on sexuality I tried to build a story around a character that had a disordered attraction to children of the same sex; he recognized it as wrong, dangerous and evil, and made dang sure to distance himself. Sadly, I have zilch skill at story telling, so it fell to the wayside.

    That said, I’d be highly interested in a story about a character who lusts after the same sex and resists it. I know that if I hadn’t had the grounding that I did, if I’d had a ‘normal’ upbringing, I’d probably have become a lesbian. (and been much sadder for it, looking back)

  • Thanks for posting this, Paul. Great read.

  • “I’d be highly interested in a story about a character who lusts after the same sex and resists it.” Temptations too, are road signs that tell us not to go there. Lust destroys true love and the friendship that grows from real affection and human bonding. Lust is destructive. Love creates all that man needs or wants.

  • Well even if a boy gets good vibrations around a girl he likes that can be used to do good and end up marrying her.

  • “Passions and emotions in themselves have no moral Good and no moral Evil.” this statement is in the Catechism.

  • Passions and Emotions can only do Moral Good or Moral Evil if they are applied otherwise they are not morally Evil or morally Good.

Why The Government Can’t Get Out of the Marriage Business

Wednesday, May 16, AD 2012

As the US continues it’s “national conversation” on same sex marriage, it’s fairly standard for someone to suggest that it’s time for the state to get out of the marriage business and have marriage be a strictly religious/personal arrangement. This seems like a fairly neat way to sidestep the issue of having to reach a state consensus on what marriage is, with the inevitable one-side-tramples-the-other problem that suggests. However, I’d like to suggest that it’s an impractical and illusory solution.

To start with, I think we need to look at why the state is involved in marriage in the first place. I’d suggest that the reason has little to do with managing morals or family values, it has to do with the essential function of government: being an arbiter in disputes, primarily about property. In this regard the state ends up needing to define marriage and know who is married in order to answer two questions: who owns what and whose kids are whose.

Say two people have been spending a lot of time together for the last five years. Now they’ve had an argument and want to not see each other again, but one of them claims that some things in the possession of the other are actually his. Are they? The state gets pulled into these questions because its job is to arbitrate disputes rather than leaving people to solve them the old fashioned way (which was by raising themselves up on their hind legs and bashing each over the head with flint axes.)

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33 Responses to Why The Government Can’t Get Out of the Marriage Business

  • You have made a good argument for bourgeois gay marriage. This seems to be the argument for keeping marriage and allowing homosexuals to partake in it.

    I’m not sure I buy your Judge Judy argument. It seems child support has obviated the necessity of marriage. The poor typically don’t have any real financial burdens or assets after that. Most assistance programs have accounted for the absence of marriage. They account for household income and define the household as anyone living under a common roof. The only tangible thing a marriage gets a poor couple is the opportunity to spend money on a divorce attorney at dissolution.

    I’m not really sure of the historical argument for marriage. From all appearances, most cultures made marriage a private arrangement for the poor. The Church doesn’t crack down on the practice itself until Trent, and the reasons behind that crackdown have little to do with the poor.

  • I don’t think it’s an argument in favor of bourgeois gay marriage — just that the issue can’t be side-stepped.

    On the Judge Judge argument: I’d say that the extent to which courts end up settling child support and property issues of people who aren’t married pretty much underscores that the state invariably gets involved in issues of who does and does not have a relationship, regardless of whether we change the definition of marriage or not. The fights exist, and the state ends up intervening in fights as a preferable alternative to letting people hash them out themselves.

    From another viewpoint, this might point the way towards how things will work out if we don’t legally recognize gay marriage: the world won’t end for people in same sex relationships, they’ll just fight out their disputes in courts exactly the same way other people who have relationships but not marriages do. Arguably, this is probably what would happen most of the time anyway, since even in European states in which same sex marriage does exist, most people in same sex relationships don’t choose to get married.

  • Mandatory civil marriage was first introduced on 9 November 1791, in France, by the same National Assembly that had just converted 10 million landless peasants into heritable proprietors. This was not a coincidence. No wonder that, in France, the Pécresse Report on the Family & the Rights of Children (2006) noted that “in this country, the model has long been the peasant family, structured around a patriarch and expanding from hearth to hearth. Children were raised within an expanded
    group and not by two parents.” I fancy the same was true in the United States, at least until 1914.

    In his evidence to the Pécresse Commission, André Burguière observed that “as the officialisation of an alliance between a man and a woman, but more than that between two families … marriage exists
    in practically all societies.” The Archbishop of Paris, André Vingt-Trois, gave a summary of the Christian understanding, “Even though it has not taken the modern form familiar in our civil legislation, there has always been a means of handing things down from generation to generation, which is the very basis of continuity and stability in a society. This transmission between generations is primarily effected by the family. It is the legal framework of family life that structures the transmission of life and shapes the future of society.”

    Interestingly, Martine Segalen told the Mission, “Studies show that when a member of a family lives with a partner outside marriage, that person is considered to belong to the family only from the birth of a child on.”

    Witness after witness stressed the vertical dimension of the family.

  • It seems child support has obviated the necessity of marriage. The poor typically don’t have any real financial burdens or assets after that.

    Most people are not poor at any given point in time. The abidingly poor are a small minority.

    Most assistance programs have accounted for the absence of marriage. They account for household income and define the household as anyone living under a common roof. The only tangible thing a marriage gets a poor couple is the opportunity to spend money on a divorce attorney at dissolution.

    Your argument is that we repair poorly structured programs by larding on another layer of ill-wisdom?

  • Darwin– another wrinkle occurs to me, which is unique to marriage: children. That makes inheritance and financial responsibilities a lot more complicated!

  • “From another viewpoint, this might point the way towards how things will work out if we don’t legally recognize gay marriage: the world won’t end for people in same sex relationships, they’ll just fight out their disputes in courts exactly the same way other people who have relationships but not marriages do.”

    Bingo. Heterosexuals don’t get married but do have kids: paternity cases explode over the past four decades and are precisely as hard fought and contentious as divorce cases. Heterosexuals don’t have kids but are shacked up and acquire property in common: legal fights over property. About 23 states recognize palimony arrangements for unmarried couples based upon a contractual agreement of the parties either oral or written, and either express or implied. The idea that people can simply walk away from a living arrangement without legal consequences if they are not married is a charming fiction for those who have little to do with courts.

  • Donald– isn’t that why the concept of “common law marriage” exists? I know not everywhere has it, but it is out there.

    The idea that people can simply walk away from a living arrangement without legal consequences if they are not married

    As I understood it, that isn’t the idea– as much as something so big can be “an” idea. The idea was that there’s not the assumption that everything they have is co-mingled, no matter whose name is on what; just because people can go to court about something isn’t the same as it being part of the basic splitting up.

    The palimony thing is interesting, but I must wonder if it’s tied in to common law marriage, or the depressingly common long engagements that are closer to decades than months, or the bed-and-business partnerships, etc….

  • Your argument is that we repair poorly structured programs by larding on another layer of ill-wisdom?
    No argument was offered. That is how benefit programs operate in my area.

    Most people are not poor at any given point in time.
    I qualified poor previously as having “[almost no] financial burdens or assets [except children.]” That would be more inclusive than grinding poverty and hit a number of people we consider middle class. A couple making $60,000 combined gross with under $5,000 in liquid assets and two vehicles worth a combined $25,000 is not considered poor by other measures, but they don’t have a financial situation that screams court intermediation required.

    While courts are brought forth in property disputes, I would speculate that the preponderance of private relationship dissolutions are handled outside of the courts. As for courts and children, I have my own views of remedies in this area that aren’t germane to your post. But I will say I do think it is a problem that the courts helping mediate the lives of so many children.

  • I qualified poor previously as having “[almost no] financial burdens or assets [except children.]”

    No, you described them that way, you did not qualify anything. (And the description is not accurate, either).

    That would be more inclusive than grinding poverty and hit a number of people we consider middle class.

    Who is the ‘we’ doing the considering? There are salaried employees and small proprietors who are net debtors, but they generally do have assets as well as liabilities (and bar a modest minority generally do not have haphazard domestic arrangements).

    Wage-earners are commonly net debtors, those with lower income streams more than higher income streams.

    they don’t have a financial situation that screams court intermediation required.

    People can fight over bloody anything and there are still custody issues and the distribution of earnings to consider.

  • The obvious point has been missed by the entire debate. Anything having to do with property or wealth – Mammon – is the province of Caesar. This can be shelved under “equal protection,” i.e., it is of no consequence with whom one shares a home or a bed – the law says that all citizens have an equal right to self-determination and equal contractual obligation.

    Taxes? Everybody ought to be taxed individually anyway – is there a “married rate” sales tax? A “married rate” capital gains tax? A “married rate” excise tax? No – therefore a “married rate” income tax is hypocritical. The state has no need whatsoever to know “who forms a household” unless it has designs on that household’s wealth. All it needs to know is whose signature is on the deed, lease or other contract.

    Arbitrating disputes entails a much larger set of circumstances than those which could ever be considered “marriage” so to say that such a responsibility gives sanction to The State to dictate that arrangement is illogical. If that were so, The State could also dictate who were neighbors, landlords, salesmen and business partners.

    There is nothing at all in a State-defined marriage regarding property or familial obligations that a State-defined civil union could also not entail, Thus, none of that provides any cause to regard State intrusion into marriage as legitimate. When one considers the equally glaring fact that people of the same sex cannot be natural parents of the same child, such contrivances become even more flimsy. There MUST be some kind of legal manipulation to construct a scenario wher two people of the same sex are “parents.” The argument destroys itself recursively.

    Per se, the responsibilities of The State are exactly as you describe them; on that count, you are perfectly correct. But none of that existed before Cana, so it is irrelevant to the estate of marriage; the only exceptions would like those in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, but in these cases it was God’s law and not a government of men calling the shots.

    Saying that the government has no business getting into defining marriage is sidestepping nothing. It is stating the most obvious fact available: Marriage is an estate ordained by God. It is a Holy estate, created to conjoin Man and Woman in order that Life be brought forth under His design. It existed before any kind of “state,” and therefore no “state” has any business trying to impose its paltry will upon the Estate of Marriage.

  • “Per se, the responsibilities of The State are exactly as you describe them; on that count, you are perfectly correct. But none of that existed before Cana, so it is irrelevant to the estate of marriage; the only exceptions would like those in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, but in these cases it was God’s law and not a government of men calling the shots.”

    Actually it did exist long before Cana. Almost all human societies have heavily regulated marriage. Roman marriage law was very intricate for example. The idea that the State can ever be gotten out of this area is amply refuted by history.

  • Alright *sheepish grin* – point given, and mea culpa on exuberance.

    But by that same token, because we include traditions of Roman law, should we also include traditions of Roman morality?

    The question at hand is: What, essentially, defines our Western Christian concept of marriage? What is its raison d’etre? If it is, at its core, a purely civil construct, made only for the ease of The State in its efforts to govern and control, then we cannot discriminate against anybody, for all are equal under law. All are equally able to appoint hiers, spokespeople, representatives and executors. They are free to give to whom they wish, what they wish. They cannot be prohibited from moving into a house together and calling themselves anything they want, except by what amounts to either legal fiat or tyranny of the majority.

    On the other hand, if, at its core, marriage is a sanctified estate, made by God at the same time that He made Man and Woman, then it does predate any “Imperial” formula. If so, then certain applications cannot be made regardless of whatever any assemply, cuncil, Congress, Duma, or Parliament may decree, popularly or otherwise.

    If I tape cardboard wings to my back, wear a white robe and put a ring of aluminum foil around my head, it does not make me an angel. Angels and Men are created by God, and no law, saying either that I can be one if I want, or I can’t no matter what, will change that.

    Quite simply: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s.” To whom does Marriage belong, Caesar or God?

  • ” My wife can claim title to a portion of the car or the house even if it is my name that appears on the deeds. My friend cannot.”

    Well, if you and your friend had bought the car together and had signed some sort of agreement stipulating joint ownership of the car, wouldn’t that suffice?

    I don’t understand why these things can’t be worked out privately. Properly married men and women have the privilege of presumption, of course – they share all things, unless otherwise stipulated by some sort of agreement like a pre-nup.

    Unmarried men and women, and gay couples, are not entitled to such a privilege – but they are not denied the right to enter into contracts stipulating joint ownership of property, if they so desire.

    Given the extremely high rate of “divorce” among gay couples, if they ever get their wish and force the rest of us to regard them with the same honor and prestige as actually married couples, they may find that to be a significant drawback. All of the sudden they can’t just take off and start over with someone else – they have to worry about the kind of things that really ought to only concern dedicated families, and not adults throwing temper tantrums because not everyone approves of their lifestyles.

  • It is important to keep in mind that the government is for the people not the people for the government.

  • M.Z. Where did you get the idea that the Church didn’t care about marriage for poor people until after Trent? That’s simply not true.

    I don’t understand this discussion at all. Western societies have always regulated marriage, long before Christianity came on the scene. Regulating marriage is one of the basic functions of government. Any government. Getting government “out of the marriage business” will not work.

  • I recently heard someone say that families with children should not be able to have a tax deduction for their dependants.. said that the family is none of the State’s business, why should the State subsidize kids, if parents want to have kids, that is their personal choice and responsibility.
    Reading this post makes me think of that– like there is someway the State can disavow the family…or another way, like a State could disavow it’s future. Marriage and families are what the State is made up of,

  • state getting out of the marriage business pleases who?
    it would be a capitulation.

  • Bonchamps

    Civil marriage is obviously something more than a contract, for it creates rights and imposes obligations on third parties.

    As le doyen Carbonnier, rather amusingly explained, “No doubt, marriage can be viewed as an agreement between the spouses, but there is nothing contractual about the obligation of a (solvent) mother-in-law to aliment her unemployed son-in-law It is an obligation imposed by Article 206 of the Civil Code, based on the mere fact of marriage and nothing else. She may detest the man and she may have opposed the marriage, but her duty arises from the mere fact of his status, as her son-in-law, a member of her family. Now this obligation ceases, if her daughter is dead and there is no issue of the marriage alive. Why? Because he is no longer a part of her family, extending through time. The same, of course, holds true of the reciprocal obligation of the son-in-law to aliment his mother-in-law.”

    Why the obligation should exist in the case of an intrinsically sterile union is not easy to justify.

  • I recently heard someone say that families with children should not be able to have a tax deduction for their dependants.. said that the family is none of the State’s business, why should the State subsidize kids, if parents want to have kids, that is their personal choice and responsibility.

    Aficionados of libertarianism are often adepts at a sort of reductionism that triggers a saving gag reflex.

  • “Why the obligation should exist in the case of an intrinsically sterile union is not easy to justify.”

    The nature of the being exists even if its actualization is frustrated. A severely mental retarded person remains a person, even if he has no rational abilities. Just as a fetus is a rational before there is the neurologic framework for rationality.

  • “Marriage and families are what the State is made up of”

    In all decorum, I must respectfully disagree. The State is made up of bureaucrats, politicians and, most importantly, sanctioned force. The State is the reservoir wherein we keep those aspects of our society that are too uncontrollable to be allowed access by all; prior comments amply describe the “dispute resolution” aspect, to which would be added criminal law enforcement and defense. Roads, education energy policy, etc. can be argued elsewhere, as can health care.

    “Marriage and families” are an integral part of what constitutes The People. We live our lives and go about our daily tasks, informed, ideally, by a moral structure that guides us in our interactions and pursuits. We are guided by laws not written by human hands, but rather by the internal guidance that has long been inculcated by tradition and participation in civil society. Until quite recently, and with, church and community sufficed to bring about the necessary behavioral mores that precluded State intervention in daily affairs. We have seen, with much consternation on our parts, this structure weaken and list.

    So to be clear, the People and The State are NOT the same. The statement “We are the government” is a false, empty, baseless and indefensible notion whose origins are in Marxist philosophy. It runs completely counter to the idea of the American Republic, wherein Government – The State – is removed, enumerated, limited and quarantined from the lives of The People but for that small list of circumstances wherein it must be employed.

    To reiterate: the strength and breadth of a society’s moral structure determines the extent to which a State must impose order. A moral and just society needs little State imposition. An amoral, selfish and imbalanced society will require the imposition of harsh rules. It is the strength of a society’s morals that keeps The State at bay. A nation of citizens who can govern themselves as individuals does not need a State to govern them as a mass.

    The Progressive Left has long sought to supplant traditional American morality with a State-centered, humanist order. Thus, over generations, it has infiltrated education, entertainment and government so that we, as a people, no longer perpetually reinforce our moral standpoints through familial and community inculcation. Thus eroded, they give way to the imbalance that yields to the Progressives’ goal of a fascist, top-down, humanist State. Since it is the nature of The State to perpetuate itself, to gain power and to become Leviathan if left unchecked, by yielding more and more moral questions to legal answers, Leviathan grows, ounce by ounce. So to say that “marriage and families are what The State is made up of” is to fly the Progressive flag and proclaim that Caesar is the center of our lives. It has abrogated what should be the business of The People, and placed it under the dictates of The State.

    I very much doubt that was the intent of the statement, so I am not making that accusation at all. I would simply point out that even innocent confusion of State and People represents just how far the lines that were once so clearly known among even the dustiest of workingmen in this country have blurred.

    If we are to regain our heritage, we must return to the rule set that generated it in the first place. “Who can marry whom?” or perhaps more accurately, “Who can be considered married?” is a question for The People to answer, and not The State. All of what I said previously about God and Caesar applies right here, so I won’t repeat it all, but to believe that The State has the power to assume control over what God has made for The People is to lose the very foundation of our rights, our responsibilities and our souls as Americans.

    PS: “Aficionados of libertarianism are often adepts at a sort of reductionism that triggers a saving gag reflex.”

    Such aficionados are called “Libertarians” and if one believes that reductionism involves defining the boundaries between Fascism and Liberty, then so be it. The State can only subsidize kids by either giving back what it has already taken from the parents, or by giving to the kids what it took from somebody else’s parents, or from kids not yet born who survive State-sponsored eugenics. If The State didn’t confiscate wealth to such an enormous degree by taxing, deficit spending and over-regulation, there would be no need for either deduction or subsidy, as there would be no income tax to begin with. Shall we defend the candy given to us by the tyrant who with his other hand takes the bread from the tables of others? “As long as I get mine” is a morally indefensible strategem for citizenship.

    The time has come to declare – there is no more room for obfuscation or waffling – one is either with Caesar or with God, and to defend defend Caesar’s toe is to defend Caesar’s right to stomp you with it.

  • Foxfier,

    another wrinkle occurs to me, which is unique to marriage: children. That makes inheritance and financial responsibilities a lot more complicated!

    Yeah, I’d originally hoped to tackle that as well, as determining who is responsible for children and who inherits is also one of the major historical purposes of marriage, but the post was getting too long and wandering so I cut that.

    WK Aiken,

    I don’t think the radical distinction you’re seeking to make between “the People” and “the State” works. Certainly, it would be inaccurate to reduce the people in a state to the state, suggesting that they are nothing more than a part of the state. (This was one of the many evils of national socialism, to hold that the folk were the state and the state the folk.) That said, “the state” is simply the exercise of a certain set of powers and functions over the people in the state. In a representative or democratic state, it is fairly accurate to describe “the people” as being the ones who, at least by proxy, wield this power, and thus the state is something owned and run by “the people”, not some outside force imposed upon them. From a more traditional point of view, this would be applied even in non-representative forms of government. Thus, Aquinas does not see the monarch’s power as being an outside or parasitic force imposed upon society, but rather the necessary governing function of society executed by those members of society suited to do so.

    On taxation and dependents: I think it’s entirely reasonable and just to base a household’s tax liability on some balance of that household’s income and its reasonable expenses. One of the key elements of this is obviously the number of people in the household. A family of seven with a total income of $60k/yr is obviously in a very different financial situation than a single person making $60k or a couple with no children living off a shared income of $60k. Even if one thinks (as I do) that the government as a whole should be smaller and taxes should be lower, I think it’s far more just to tax people in a way based on their ability to pay (some formula of income divided by size of family) rather than taxing each person equally. (And the old fashioned approach of trying to make all the state’s money of tariffs is an even worse idea, since it hurts everyone by slowing down trade.) In this regard, while the whole system of deductions and per child credits is complicated, it’s honestly a pretty good system.

  • The time has come to declare – there is no more room for obfuscation or waffling – one is either with Caesar or with God, and to defend defend Caesar’s toe is to defend Caesar’s right to stomp you with it.

    I think this falsely suggests that one can (per the progressive Catholic dream) create the City of God here on earth. Again, the proper way to understand Caesar is as a legitimate exercise of authority within society for the good of society.

    As you rightly point out, there are other ways that society organizes and and polices itself: subsidiary organizations which guide behavior in a more human way. When families, churches, neighborhoods and other subsidiary levels of society break down or abandon their responsibilities, the state starts to step in to try to tamp down the chaos that forms in that void — and when the state moves in it tends to squeeze out those subsidiary actors.

    But while the over-growth of the state is a problem, and also a symptom of problems, the state is not an enemy in and of itself.

  • In this regard, while the whole system of deductions and per child credits is complicated, it’s honestly a pretty good system.

    I think it could be simplified greatly by removing the value of what someone has from the figuring, and only taxing when things are bought or sold, based on the actual amount bought or sold. Also, simplifying deductions.
    “Married families with children” is about the least controversial deduction I can think of!

  • Hegel points out that
    “If the state is confused with civil society, and if its specific end is laid down as the security and protection of property and personal freedom, then the interest of the individuals as such becomes the ultimate end of their association, and it follows that membership of the state is something optional. But the state’s relation to the individual is quite different from this. Since the state is mind objectified, it is only as one of its members that the individual himself has objectivity, genuine individuality, and an ethical life. Unification pure and simple is the true content and aim of the individual, and the individual’s destiny is the living of a universal life. His further particular satisfaction, activity and mode of conduct have this substantive and universally valid life as their starting point and their result.”

    This is what Aritotle meant, when he defined man as a political animal; the polis is to man what the hive is to the bee.

  • “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force; like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” George Washington, Farewell Address

    And, politics essentially is coercion, force, and fraud.

    Foxfier: I’m putting on my Obama-worshipping idiot tin-foil hat: “If you think you pay enough taxes, you hate jesus! Why do you think the governments money should subsidize you and your children?”

  • THAT’S why it sounded familiar! Hegel is the guy Marx ripped off, right? (Well, “the” guy might be a bit too generous to Marx….)

    From that quote, Hegel could be right, or he could be horrifically wrong, depending on the definitions used and the assumptions brought to the table. Sometimes both… the idea of the state as a separate thing from those in it can be a useful fiction, but it’s still just collective action. (here and now, anyways; European gov’ts these days give me a headache, let alone way back when)

    From the boots-on-the-ground view, the idea that a person is only truly free, good and right when he’s subsumed into the gov’t is freaky, wrong and a perversion of religious impulse to the state. I’m sure Hegel intended something different from that, though– I’m just over sensitive to loopholes that big for fascism. (speaking of words that depend on how you define them)

    I forgot to share my purpose-of-civil-marriage reasoning! I know you’re heart broken, so let me fix that:
    Marriage is the best way to make high quality citizens, so the gov’t has an interest in promoting it.

  • T. Shaw-
    I’ve been practicing for when we eventually have more than just the two girls:
    Be nice! My kids will be paying for your retirement!

    (Which has the grain of truth that, even without SS and Medicare, they are the future, and I hope my girls are good enough to help even those who were horrible.)

  • yes WH A marriage and families are the basic ” building block cells” of the community that forms the state

    and i also think of Pogo again with a little adaptation “We have met the State and it is us.”
    I know this is horrifying for some of you– may make your gag reflexes go, but I find it difficult to reconcile being truly libertarian and being Catholic… you can help me out with that

  • Not all jurisdictions link income tax, either to marriage or children.

    In the UK, married person’s allowance was abolished, except for couples where at least one of them was born before 6 April 1935. Where the couple were married before 6 April 2005, the husband qualifies; if they were married after that date, the higher earner qualifies.

    Their reintroduction was part of the Conservative party manifesto. The legislation would have had to address the question of polygamous marriages of citizens or former citizens of countries where such marriages were lawful, at the time they were contracted.

    Parents or other carers do not receive a tax allowance for a child, but all carers do receive Child Benefit, a universal cash benefit paid regardless of income. The amounts are trivial, about $32 a week for the first child and $21 a week for each subsequent child.

    Children with their own income (under a will or settlement) are taxed in the same way as adults, except where the income is deemed to be a parent’s income, under some very complicated anti-avoidance provisions.

    This is before we get on to means-tested benefits, such as working tax credit.

    The French system, by contrast, reflects Republican Natalism. Income tax is steeply graduated in five bands from 0% to 41%. Total household income is divided into a number of parts ( parts familiales.) or shares, one share each for the spouses or civil partners, half-a-share for the first and second child and a full share for each subsequent child. The graduated rates of tax are applied to a single share and the tax payable is that amount, multiplied by the number of shares.

  • Hi again WH A! Thank you.
    L’etat c’est moi! just kidding…

    I have made this mistake before! a bit of a slow learner… the other related mistake I made was to use my kitchen table terms when talking with people who are more careful with their words than I. In the other instance I mistakenly said that Mary acquiesced in her fiat– I had no IDEA!
    I hesitate to speak of a small part of a body as a cell because of the Marxist implications 🙂 a word like “progress” can be misunderstood; but we can use the word phrase that B16 uses: “organic growth”

    I want also to say how much I enjoy the opportunity to discuss these important matters with you all! Hard to find thinkers like this just anywhere!

    “So to be clear, the People and The State are NOT the same” prob right – not the same, but still, made up of many of the same people. The “government” is not a group of people somehow sequestered from the rest.
    Our idea of hierarchy sometimes upside down– the state gets its life from the people. We can take the reins; not withdraw, not capitulate, not give up what Christianity has wrought in the western world and, in fact, in politics.
    I agree that our State in this time and place has assumed WAY too much… and we need to take back our position of authority over it. In our historic American Republic the participation of the people is necessary and is protected from what may (prob) go awry since government is run by concupiscent people.
    The state is not our enemy, but can be our useful tool. I don’t think of Caesar the way you do because is Caesar was a foreign occupying force, not self governance.

    I am not flying a progressivist flag on purpose–my thinking about life and human societies is conservative… that is because I am Catholic. When I think of good governance, I look to what we can learn from our Faith.
    I do recognize progress in the sequence of history, and also in the growth in our understanding of our relationship to God and with each other. God first covenanted with Adam, (an individual), then Noah (family) Abraham (tribe), Moses (the people of Israel), David, (the nation).
    These various levels of human relationships have varying levels of organization, and there seems to always be a necessary hierarchy. The Bible shows us order and the necessity of authority, at the same time it teaches personal love and responsibility. Of course also the primacy of a good conscience. All the way through we are called to grow individually, socially, morally. You and I agree: society can’t be moral if the individuals aren’t.
    The obedience of faith that St Paul talks about is obedience to Truth… which always works out for our good. like obedience to gravity. That obedience to truth would, as you say, make an extraneous government unnecessary.
    Government bureaucrats too are an integral part of what constitutes The People. That part of our body politic that we entrust with sanctioned force- the bureaucrats, politicians, judges, police etc– probably need to be the BEST among us. wise, prudent, good.

    here’s a quick interesting essay.


  • Such aficionados are called “Libertarians” and if one believes that reductionism involves defining the boundaries between Fascism and Liberty, then so be it. The State can only subsidize kids by either giving back what it has already taken from the parents, or by giving to the kids what it took from somebody else’s parents, or from kids not yet born who survive State-sponsored eugenics. If The State didn’t confiscate wealth to such an enormous degree by taxing, deficit spending and over-regulation, there would be no need for either deduction or subsidy, as there would be no income tax to begin with. Shall we defend the candy given to us by the tyrant who with his other hand takes the bread from the tables of others? “As long as I get mine” is a morally indefensible strategem for citizenship.

    1. The reductionism I refer to was seeing children as consumer goods.

    2. ‘Liberty’ is a characteristic of a political order that exists in degrees. ‘Fascism’ is a descriptor of a particular type of political economy (albeit a fuzzy descriptor). There is no ‘boundary’ between them. Nor is ‘fascism’ a threat to you and yours that you need to have an interest in apart from a general interest in history or political theory. There are only a short list of countries which ever had that sort of political economy, mostly during the interwar period.

    3. As for the rest, I cannot figure your hostility to a tax exemption or general credit computed as a function of family size, given that an undifferentiated exemption is as old as the income tax itself.

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Arthur C. Clarke on How To Destroy Marriage

Tuesday, April 3, AD 2012

In Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 novel Childhood’s End the aliens invade, and they mean us nothing but good. A space race between the US and USSR is about to lead to war in space when giant alien space ships settle over all of Earth’s principle cities, and an alien race, who refuse to show themselves and communicate only through the head of the UN, announce that they are taking over responsibility for enforcing peace on the planet. These aliens (called the Overlords) generally take a hands-off approach to humanity, saying they will reveal themselves in 50 years when humans are ready to see them, but in the mean time they provide two inventions: a 100% effective oral contraceptive, and a 100% accurate paternity test.

The result is that over the next 50 years, while peace and prosperity reigns due to the guiding hand of the Overlords, marriage, traditional morality and organized religion all vanish.

Of course, Clarke actually thought this was a good thing, and the rest of the novel is about humanity moving onto the next stage of evolutionary development: as a non-material group mind. But in a sense, that’s the really interesting thing, that as someone who saw traditional marriage, morality and religion as a problem back in 1953, Clarke say the two inventions most likely to get rid of all three as being completely reliable contraception and paternity testing.

Coming at things from a Catholic point of view, G.E.M. Anscombe saw the same trends, now well advanced, in relation to contraception, morality and marriage in her 1972 essay “Contraception and Chastity”. Some key bits:

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12 Responses to Arthur C. Clarke on How To Destroy Marriage

  • “Today, we can see pretty clearly that both Clarke and Anscombe were right.”

    Short term for part of the population. I rather think long term that demographics will hold ultimate victory for those who believe in marriage and cherish kids.

  • “I rather think long term that demographics will hold ultimate victory for those who believe in marriage and cherish kids.”

    Contraceptive, abortive liberals won’t breed. I am not saying that that is a good thing, but perversion brings with it its own inevitable consequences of decay and death – and perhaps it is a perverse justice that those who believe in Darwin’s selection and survival of the fittest will have selected themselves to not survive. God’s justice works in even perverse circumstances, as the Israelites deported by the Assyrians and the Judahites deported by the Babylonians found out to their dismay.

  • DC,
    Thanks for posting this. I am embarrasssed to say that I have been unfamiliar with Anscombe. I am now eager to read more of her work — at least the stuff I can get through.

  • If anyone says that the Catholic faith holds women back, all you need to do is point out Anscombe.

    Contraceptive, abortive liberals won’t breed.

    They don’t necessarily have to. As long as they control the culture, they can continue to spread their errors through the offspring of others. Simply outproducing them is not necessarily going to change things. It helps, certainly, but it is not a foregone conclusion that those who simply breed more, in this context, will ultimately win.

  • I read “Childhood’s End” when I was a teenager and I was horrified by the ending then. I hated that book. Who wants to be part of the “collective unconscious”? Even as a 15 year old, I thought the idea that we would lose the distinctive parts of ourselves and of our individuality gave me the creeps.

  • “but it is not a foregone conclusion that those who simply breed more, in this context, will ultimately win.”

    Their control of the culture is tenuous c matt. Public schools are visibly failing, few people listen to the news on television, college education is priced out of existence. As the old Soviet Union demonstrated, ideology can only triumph over reality so long.
    Walter Russell Mead at Via Meadia has been writing some prescient columns on the failing blue state social model:

    Times are changing the way they usually change: from necessity.

  • Clarke’s own marriage was failing following the publication of Childhood’s End.

    “Arthur’s views on marriage at that time were, I think, very vague,” says Mayfield. “It was almost like a hobby that he really didn’t want to get into. He wanted it to be a pastime, but it mustn’t in any way interfere with his work. I wanted a marriage. It was very difficult for me to try and adjust. Finally 1 could not cope with it.”

    The split between Arthur and Marilyn came as the Christmas season approached in 1953. A discussion about religion provoked the rift.

    “I was brought up in the Presbyterian Church” says Mayfield.

    “God, country, all that was important in my upbringing. We were talking, and he told me he didn’t believe in God and he didn’t believe in Christmas. Now, that shakes your basic structure, especially if you believe and you think that everybody else does. And at that age you tend to know it all. Now that I think of it, he may have been as profoundly shocked as I was. He may have considered my belief as much a taboo as I considered his not believing. But I couldn’t accept it then, and I kept waiting for God to strike him dead. I was just shocked. I couldn’t come to terms with it, so I left him.” …”The marriage was incompatible from the beginning,” says Clarke. “It was sufficient proof that I wasn’t the marrying type, although I think everybody should marry once. We just each married the wrong person, you see.”

    The experience, he admits, was enough to scare him away from every marrying again. “While we were together for only a few months before separating, we were legally married for some ten years.” The marriage, in fact, was not legally dissolved until December 1964.’

    Clarke moved to Ceylon and became a homosexual, although he downplayed that aspect of his life, as such liasons were frowned upon, to say the least, in Ceylon. Like most authors who attack traditional morality, Clarke practiced what he preached.

  • I am a relatively new Catholic. Most of the Catholics I know had pre-marital sex.
    They used, as they do now within their marriages, the natural approach to contraception; abstenance during cerrtain times of the womans cycle. However, just about everyone I know has sex, makes love for enjoyment and to share love. I presume, like most Catholics, there are people in the world that plan their families and have children when they are ready, again using the natural method. The problem is that too many don’t plan, don’t use ANY form of contraception and as a result either have abortions or unwanted children…both a travesty. So as we fight for Catholic rights (HHS, no abortions, etc.) we MUST also fight for improving the way we raise our children as a society and to ensure that we are caring for the unwanted children that are born into this world…they, btw perpetuate the same problem that worsens with generation.

  • So as we fight for Catholic rights (HHS, no abortions, etc.) we MUST also fight for improving the way we raise our children as a society and to ensure that we are caring for the unwanted children that are born into this world…they, btw perpetuate the same problem that worsens with generation.

    Which, very unfairly, assumes that this isn’t already the case.

    Heaven knows there’s a lot more “help those in need” (especially children) type works in every Parish I’ve ever been in than there are “fight abortion” drives, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard opposing contraception mentioned in a church.

  • “Clarke moved to Ceylon and became a homosexual…”

    I never knew that.

    “I read ‘Childhood’s End’ when I was a teenager and I was horrified by the ending then. I hated that book. Who wants to be part of the ‘collective unconscious’? Even as a 15 year old, I thought the idea that we would lose the distinctive parts of ourselves and of our individuality gave me the creeps.”

    I read most of Clarke’s works when I was younger. At the time I loved his writings. What horrifies me more now than what horrifies Maggie McT is how deluded I was about his cosmic consciousness idea – one that I thought he had borrowed from Olaf Stapledon. And yes, in my younger years I liked Olaf Stapledon as well: Last and First Men, Last Men in London, Odd John, Star Maker and Sirius I had read and re-read over and over by the time I was twelve. Neither of my parents had the educational background to understand these novels; they had no idea the philosophy behind Stapledon or the influence he had on Clarke, or what Rendezvous with Rama, Childhood’s End, etc., were all about. This is in part how the sickening philosophy of liberalism wormed its way in – as popular reading for youngsters.

  • Marriage saved Clarke from the degradation of homosexual behavior for a decade. How man’s separation from God has caused man to lose sight of his destiny. Children, in Israel, were a blessing and childlessness was seen as a curse. Children, our constitutional posterity, are we, the people, living out our lives on earth while being joined into the communion of saints in heaven. Can you read “collective unconscious” as subconscious, one of Freud’s discoveries?
    “You see, what can’t be otherwise we accept; and so we accept death and its unhappiness.” We accept death and have fallen in love with death through despair. Judas who betrayed Christ, fell into death through despair, but Judas had a choice, to freely embrace hope, or reject all hope. So, the heresy of predestination is a heresy. Children are our hope and our future.
    Love is the only virtue missing from Clarke’s definition of marriage. Marriage is, in the words of Patrick Archbold at Creative Minority Report, to cherish one another. When you would die and go to hell for the one you love and he would die and go to hell for you, you know that you are loved. Chastity happens, children happen, the joy of heaven happens when love happens. (Friendship and love are gifts from God) All the mechanics of contraception and paternity tests are not part of love. If someone does not love you enough to want more of you, it is not love. The Overlords did not want more of us and are aptly named.

  • I think I may have read one of his books, but I can’t remember which one. I was a fan of Azimov (sp?) and I liked Heinlien but felt uncomfotable about Stranger in a Strange Land – I didn’t know why (now I know)… I am glad I never read this book now that I know the concept. But what I am truely thinking of is that I grew up in the 70’s is that I grew up with the watered down version of Catacism. I had no depth in my religious education. I embraced the culture of sex, drugs and rock n roll. In Sci-fi books – I became a geek and saw how science was greater than any religion. I searched for meaning in everything but where the Truth actually was… In my devout mother I saw a righteous woman in a Church that only wanted her minimal money and didn’t care about her. She died young and God died to me with her… I wish someone would have given me C.S. Lewis to read back then but alas I accept my path and thank you Lord for bringing me home!

Not Everyone Has To Get Married (Or Go Into The Religious Life)

Wednesday, February 15, AD 2012

Mary at the blog Young and Catholic has a good post up responding to a reader question about Church teaching on contraception versus NFP. Her handling of the NFP issue is great, but I was struck by the framing of her reader’s question, because it struck me as getting at a common impression one can get from being around conservative Catholic circles. Her reader writes:

I’m an 18 year old female college student, and I have just gotten back in touch with Catholicism…

…I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting back into my faith, but there is something that REALLY continues to rub me wrong. I’ve prayed and prayed about it, but I am not getting any answer. I’ve researched it, but just hear the same things over and over and it just doesn’t sit right with me, and that is the issue of contraception. I’ve read humanae vitae, I’ve researched “natural family planning”, and it all still leaves me completely unsatisfied still. I see where the Church is coming from on this issue, however, I feel that God has called me to do something else with my future besides staying at home with my “loving” husband and having a billion children…And then I went to the church and asked my female minister about it. The gist was this: If you have the financial capability, happiness, and wealth, your job is basically to be popping out children.

This just honestly does not sit right with me…Some women love being mothers, and being a mother is certainly an honorable duty, but I don’t think I’m cut out for it. I’m very ambitious and have goals of working for the Department of Defense, not sacrificing all my happiness because the Church says I should.

She goes on to ask about why the Church teaches against artificial birth control, and as I say, Mary’s answer is great. However, I think the other thing worth touching on is the impression people sometimes get that from a Catholic point of view you should either be in the religious life or else you should be married and having lots of kids.

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22 Responses to Not Everyone Has To Get Married (Or Go Into The Religious Life)

  • DC, I could be wrong on this, do think it’s a default assumption that the married life and the religious life are the two dominant vocations. They are the two which are reinforced through sacrament or consecration, and they both provide communal life which is a natural human desire.

    Some may be called to the single life, hermitage, or an early martyrdom. Some may be called to live as if single following a divorce, and some may have same-sex attraction to such an extent that it prevents them from living the married or religious life. Some – actually, everyone – will struggle to find the right fit for themselves. But the working assumption for the average person should be that their earthly mission is best pursued as a married person or religious.

    If I’m wrong on this, I welcome the correction.

  • I realize this young lady won’t like hearing it- and that the gentle response was absolutely correct in not over stating this- but I noticed that her question was a lot about how *she* feels and what *she* wants and *her* happiness and not really about God. God wants us to be happy, but that doesn’t always work out the way we think it should. There are a lot of times where our happiness has to be in the Lord alone and we just have to persevere and endure the rest of life. I know that’s counter cultural, but even if we’re eventually called to do or be something that isn’t what we wanted for ourselves- like being a parent or a celibate single, etc- then we should still be joyful in that life because God loves us and we should be living our lives for Him and not ourselves.

    This is such a common problem and it’s something I wish it were addressed more often when this stuff comes up. There comes a time when we all must choose God and often times that means giving up some or all of our own desires.

  • Well said, Mandy.

  • To me, the takeaway is this young woman’s impression that her greatest responsibility is reproduction. I think this is indicative of the fertility cult mentality that grabs many evangelical Catholics. Father Angelo Geiger has written about this in the context of the Christopher West phenomena.

    We’ve turned from teaching authentic Church teachings about the proper order of values, including placing sexual activity within marriage and the complete unity of procreativity and unity in sexual relations, to a mentality where sexual relations (and even reproduction) are the epicenter of one’s spiritual existence.

  • Pinky,

    DC, I could be wrong on this, do think it’s a default assumption that the married life and the religious life are the two dominant vocations. They are the two which are reinforced through sacrament or consecration, and they both provide communal life which is a natural human desire.

    Certainly, if you either take religious vows or marriage vows, you’re in for the duration, whereas if you’ve decided to remain a single lay person for personal or career reasons, you could always change your mind later. So I suppose one could see those as the most settled vocations.

    And given the choice, most people who aren’t vowed to do otherwise would rather have the companionship of marriage than not — so I don’t think it’s a big surprise that as our society has grown more affluent few people who abide by the Church’s teaching that sexuality belongs only in marriage are going to choose to remain single laity permanently.

    But I don’t think that means that people must choose to follow one of the two.

  • jvc,

    I do not think that there is a “fertility cult mentality” among “evangelical Catholics” — though for the reasons that I pointed out people do end up spending a lot of effort on defending the decisions to get married young and/or to have many children, so I can certainly see how one might get that impression.

  • Pope Pius XI in Casti connubii (December 31, 1930) and Pope Paul VI in Humanae vitae (July 25, 1968) both address the sanctity of marriage and the family, with special emphasis on the principal threat against them in modern times: artificial birth control.

    “Be fruitful and multiply” appears six times in Genesis. In the first case, God blesses living creatures allowing and requiring them to procreate His creation.

    The second time (Genesis 1: 28), the Lord issues the order to mankind. After the flood, God repeats His blessing on animals (8: 17) and twice upon mankind (9: 1 and 9: 7).

    God chooses Jacob for His last such blessing: “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins” (Genesis 35: 11).

  • @jvc,

    I think it’s more a clash of a traditional mentality and the more common cultural mindset where children and family are seen as a burden instead of a blessing. For someone steeped in the popular culture, I’m sure the idea that marriage isn’t just about love and sex is intended for both pleasure AND procreation is quite a bit of culture shock. I can’t honestly tell you the last time I saw a positive image of family life portrayed in the popular culture. Marriages are all about the elaborate weddings- what happens afterwards is almost universally portrayed in the most negative light possible- and children are treated as if they were accessories- like a meat handbag- or, if they’re inconvenient at the moment they’re portrayed as a punishment. When we do see people in a family seeing, the focus is almost always on how hard it is and how people are tied down (“the old ball and chain” mentality). There’s never any attention given to how, despite the hardships- which are a part of ANY lifestyle, not just the family kind- marriage and family can be extremely fulfilling and, if you’re doing it right, it should make you into a much better, less selfish, more self-giving person.

  • I remember a line from my pre-cana that I think applies. “Your vocation should help you live for others and God and not only for yourself.” Having children and being married make living only for yourself very very difficult. The same is true of religious life. Living as a lay single person, there are many temptations to selfishness, especially if you are financially successful. However, it’s not impossible, and it may very well be the best life for many people. I know someone who isn’t even Christian who lives this life beautifully without even knowing it.

    I also seem to know many married couples now in their mid to late thirties who are deciding not to have children. I really find it very hard to be charitable to these people and their reasons. I think these couples assume they will be young and healthy forever. Even if they are financially stable into their elder years, it’s got to be a lonely life to be elderly and childless. Many of these people don’t have siblings with children. So no nieces and nephews no grandkids. I keep picturing my children as the only young adults living on a street with block after block of elderly people who can’t shovel their snowy drives. Or who need a ride to the grocery store. Or who are just plane lonely because they’ve lost a spouce. We need the next generation, and you can’t just opt out of contributing to it without expecting some consequences.

  • I cannot understand people who profess to have found God or found a new religion or returned to Catholicism be stuck in the mire of ” I want sex-when i want it how I want it and that is it”. Going just to the basic commandments-the sixth commandment
    You shall not commit adultery-speaks to the fact that sex is a union between husband and wife.
    Truth be told the majority want to be ” Buffet line” Christians-only putting on their plates that which appeals to the pleasures of the body, yet disregarding that which strengthens the soul.
    If you call yourself Christian, ask yourself “where is Christ in your action”?????

  • “I feel that God has called me to do something else with my future besides staying at home with my “loving” husband and having a billion children…And then I went to the church and asked my female minister about it. The gist was this: If you have the financial capability, happiness, and wealth, your job is basically to be popping out children>” There are three clues to this dilemma: 1) The word “loving” husband. 2) having a billion children and 3)female minister. There are truly loving men who become husbands in the truest sense of the word. “Having a billion children” is the giveaway. God promised Abraham that for his faithfulness, his descendants would be as numerous as the stars, literally in the billions. God’s promise to Abraham is as true today as it was in the time of Abraham. Faithfulness to God will bring billions of children, spiritual children, for spiritual motherhood, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Spiritual fatherhood, as St. Jose Maria Escriva in Opus Dei, Pope Benedict XVI. There are so many saints who are spiritual fathers and mothers, Saint Nicholas as Santa Claus, the children’s saint. St.Joan of Arc, patroness of France, and Jesus Christ’s mother Mary, to whom Jesus gives all of us. It would be advisable to seek more, not less, spiritual guidance than that of the female minister, who thinks “popping out children” without appreciation for WHO they are and their dignity, leaves much to be desired. ASK and ask and ask. Someone once said to me that if I was old enough (to marry) I would not be asking. Ask anyway. Seek out the saints in heaven for their advice and do not forget your guardian angel. You’ll be just fine. You are one of God’s billions upon billions of children.

  • Christ did not come among us from suffering or to give us Heaven on Earth.

    Jesus Christ came to save us from sin and by His Life, Death and Resurrection to purchase for us the rewards of eternal life.

  • This 18 yr. old, who has just returned as a practicing Catholic and says she ‘enjoys’ it, seems to be putting life into separate areas that look mutually exclusive to her. Fortunately, she may get over her anxiety if she does follow her work plan, only thing she seems sure of, and leaves the rest of her life open to God’s plan.

    Kind of worrying that she seems to be demanding an answer to her praying. She’s not the Boss and needs to learn patience. Maybe ‘vocations’ are a subject of urgency around her. If she has no ‘possible’ husband yet, then proceed with career plan until …

    Husband and family is the ideal for a young woman and that doesn’t preclude education or career. We just don’t know the end of the story. I dreamed the ideal and God’s plan was different – but I still got to care and homemake(not nurse) for family elders and friends through the years as a kind of love fulfillment as i look back. And also do some interesting work. No ideal led on to other strengths (like overcoming weakness). Not my plan, got to be His. I would tell the girl to go work at the D of D, practice her faith and give God thanks for what she has and can do for others.

  • Mandy P. and PM: Please remember that the young lady in question is 18. An 18 year old is a bit self-absorbed and lacks patience – stop the presses!! The very fact that she has returned to the Church and wants to be a good Catholic impresses me very much. At 18, I was running away from the Church as fast as I could.

    I would caution her that not feeling maternal at age 18 does not mean that will always be the case (sorry for the double negative there). I was not at all interested in motherhood at 18 or at 30, for that matter. Nor was I really that interested in marrying, although I thought I was. If I had been, I would have made an effort to date men who would have made good husbands and fathers. Instead, my common sense (what little I have) completely deserted me when it came to men. I blamed “bad luck” with men for many years, but I’ve stopped kidding myself. It was my own rotten taste for Mr. Hard to Get Alpha Male, soap opera, tears, dramatic breakups and makeups that did me in – yuck, I cringe to think of it. I laughed (ruefully) when I read “Bridget Jones’ Diary” because that silly character reminded me very much of myself, and I also had no trouble recognizing her caddish boyfriend.

    Now that I am middle-aged (and childless), well, I would like to time-travel back and kick my younger self in the rear, but I can’t undo a thing. Well, what should I do? Drown myself in Scotch and regrets? Slit my wrists? No, I can try to be a good aunt and friend and sister to the loved ones in my life and I am working on being a good Catholic, which is very difficult. I’m not sure if I would call that a “vocation” – it’s just doing the best you can with the deck of cards you have in front of you right now. Yes, sometimes, it’s lonely – but on the other hand, I am so set in my ways that I think that marrying and living with someone at this point would be very difficult to get used to. I like having people over for dinner and I like going to parties, but the second they leave or I come back to my empty place – I breathe a sigh of relief!

    That said, I think Mrs. Zummo makes a good point: I know a woman (an only child) who married her high school sweetheart (another only child) back in 1962. They did not have children. He died 2 years ago. She continues to work fulltime, despite being financially able to retire – because what else does she have to occupy her? At least I have siblings and an extended family. She does not. I felt awful for her when she said she ate a Lean Cuisine turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.

  • This young woman, like many others assumes that without contraception, a normal marriage or ongoing sexual relationship will automatically equal having “a billion children.” What she does not realize is that not everyone is the Duggar family, not every woman gets pregnant at the drop of a hat, and oftentimes you do not know how fertile (or infertile) you are until you “get there.”

    The large families of the Baby Boom era were probably as much or more a result of couples marrying very young (in the 1950s, the median age of first-time brides was 20, and lots of women were getting married in their teens; I think the average first time bride is now about 27) as it was due to the unreliability of the “rhythm method” or any other birth control methods available at the time. Women have a limited number of fertile years and if you wait until age 30 or later to marry you are not likely to have “a billion children.” You may be lucky to have even one or two children if you wait that long.

  • “What she does not realize is that not everyone is the Duggar family, not every woman gets pregnant at the drop of a hat, and oftentimes you do not know how fertile (or infertile) you are until you “get there.””

    Precisely! My wife and I were married for nine years before we were blessed with our twin boys. Three years later the miracle happened again and we had our baby girl. We never used contraceptives, so assumptions based on family size can be completely off base.

    Past generations understood that fertility is a gift from God, and not a punishment.

    “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

  • “Thus, trusting in divine Providence and refining the spirit of sacrifice, married Christians glorify the Creator and strive toward fulfillment in Christ when with a generous human and Christian sense of responsibility they acquit themselves of the DUTY to procreate. Among the couples who fulfil their God-given task in this way, those merit special mention who with a gallant heart and with wise and common deliberation, undertake to bring up suitably even a relatively large family.” GAUDIUM ET SPES, Vatican II. Note how the council said that married couples have a DUTY to procreate. A woman who wants to forego having children (but also be married) to pursue a career sounds about as selfish as a man wanting to forego additional children because he is tired of changing diapers and waking up in the middle of the night. Good comments here.

  • Oh, and one last thing: this 18 year old undoubtably has glamourous notions of the workaday work, just as I did at that age. She is banking on the idea that her main satisfactions in life will come to her via your job. Well, I (unfortunately) bought into many of the bad ideas of 70’s feminism, including the media portrayals of career women. I thought I was going to be Mary Tyler Moore. I actually landed what I thought was a glamourous job as a paralegal in a DC law firm. Although it certainly had its’ interesting moments, I can promise you it was not “Ally McBeal” or “Boston Legal” or whatever the popular law firm show is at the moment. Those shows (inaccurately) portray the dramatics of the courtroom, but not the painstaking drudgery that goes into producing those motions and briefs. (For good reason: who would want to watch someone cite checking or coding documents?) An iron law of DC law firms: if you have any exciting plans for the weekend, there will certainly be a 5 p.m. Friday phone call which will ruin those plans.

    I have had jobs and bosses I liked very much and other ones I couldn’t stand. While it is a good thing to take pride in your work, I think most people get their main emotional satisfaction and meaning not out of what they do to put food on the table (unless they’re artists of some sort, or in a helping profession) but from the lasting attachments and relationships they form with other people outside of work, whether they are married or not.

    As a wise man I once knew said to me “Donna, I never heard of anybody on their deathbed saying ‘I’m really sorry I spent so much time with my family instead of at the office.”

  • “Those shows (inaccurately) portray the dramatics of the courtroom, but not the painstaking drudgery that goes into producing those motions and briefs. (For good reason: who would want to watch someone cite checking or coding documents?)”

    Tell me about it Donna! For every hour of court time I have five hours chained to my desk fighting piles of paper work that never seem to diminish! Note that in the old Perry Mason show we see a stack of Corpus Juris Secundum in the closing credits, and that is as close as Mason ever comes to doing any legal research on the show!

  • I apologize in advance. But, my wife laughed.

    First Guy (proudly): ‘My wife’s a saint!’

    Second Guy: ‘You’re lucky, mine’s still alive.’

  • To elaborate some more on my previous remarks, the birth rate among women over 40 has indeed risen considerably in recent years, and much publicity has attended celebrities and others who have had children at advanced ages (45 or even past 50). This often leads young women to assume they can or will be fertile practically forever (25-30 years does seem like a long time when you’re 18).

    However, it is my understanding that the majority of successful pregnancies in women over 40 are the result of medical interventions such as IVF or other fertility treatments, and do NOT happen “naturally.” And success is by no means guaranteed even with these interventions (some of which, of course, are also contrary to Catholic teaching just as contraception is).

  • Donald, heh, here I grew up with the impression that Perry strolled into the courtroom and just winged it, coming up with his always deadly cross-examination off the top of his head!

    Just like the ER doctors on “ER” were able to handle everything from delvering babies to calming down raving psychotics to doing brain surgery, why, it made me question why there was any need for the rest of the hospital or any other physicians;-)

Ephesians 5 Round Up: Does “Wives Be Submissive” Have Any Content?

Tuesday, December 14, AD 2010

As I wrote a bit over a week ago, my attention was caught by a post in which Brett Salkeld asked the question, Does the Injunction that Wives Submit to Their Husbands Have any Content? He said:

I am not so progressive that I am opposed in principle to the idea that there might be something of value in this claim. In other words, I do not presume that Paul’s teaching on this matter can be dismissed simply as a function of his era. Of course, investigation may determine that his teaching is not central to the Christian understanding of marriage and is simply the result of his writing at a particular time and place, but that is not my presumption. Such claims, for me, must be demonstrated, not presumed. I am conservative enough to insist that they are are not self-evident.

I have found myself frustrated, however, by those authors and commentators within the church who insist that wives must in fact submit to their husbands—that men are, necessarily, the “head of the household.” Such an insistence is typically followed by numerous qualifications and caveats indicating precisely what such a claim does not mean in the concrete. Men are not to be tyrants. They are not to make every decision independently. They are to provide space for the development and self-expression of their wives. All well and good, of course. Who would disagree with any of these? But as easy as it is to highlight what not to do in the concrete, it seems to me that this teaching will have no purchase on the reality of contemporary marriage if no one can articulate what it actually does mean in the concrete.

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28 Responses to Ephesians 5 Round Up: Does “Wives Be Submissive” Have Any Content?

  • One problem is that both Vatican II and the catechism are totally silent on this topic while Casti Connubbi of 1930 trenchantly insisted that undermining wifely obedience is the work of false prophets….section 74….as one reads on, there is more nuance in subsequent sections but the initial insistence of section 74 seems to have….?….gone where by the time Vatican II arrives. Darwin and Brett have done more work on this than the Magisterium post Pius XI and that is not ideal because in a marriage crisis, a husband telling his wife to talk to their pastor about this topic is rolling the dice. It’s not hard to imagine the pastor being as non committal in this area as John Paul II was since he used Ephesians’ “mutual submission” to be everything and only mentioned the 5 other NT passages in passing and negatively as being the old way of the OT… both “Dignity of Women” and in “Theology of the Body”. Fortunately someone had the sense to at least not put his view in the catechism. I used to debate a Catholic woman on the net who argued against wifely submission based on the above two texts of John Paul II.

  • A wise Husband and Father will always attempt to lead his family, especially by example, but he will understand that authority and respect are by products of wisdom and successful leadership. If a husband is making hare-brained and/or selfish decisions, he is misusing his role in the family. There is a great deal of difference between leadership and tyranny. Husbands and Wives in my experience tend to get along best when big decisions are made by consensus, and when they talk things over rather than one party attempting to do a fait accompli on the other.

  • a husband telling his wife to talk to their pastor about this topic is rolling the dice.

    I hope I’m not going to massively offend someone here, but it seems to me that a husband who is sending his wife off to talk to their pastor about whether or not she needs to be submissive towards him is dealing with a near total breakdown situation in the first place.

    I imagine it would be great for a marriage in which the wife is constantly feeling the need to assert her independance on Every Single Point if she, on her own, came to some sense of how none of us get our way all the time and there’s a Christian virtue to submission of the will at times. But at a relationship level, I can’t imagine that a guy telling his wife, “Hey, you gotta submit. Just go ask the pastor.” will work. In a situation like that, if he’s going to succeed as a leader he’s going to have to successfully win respect and credibility, not demand it by fiat.

    Just my 0.02.

  • I apologize in advance: I haven’t read every comment and link in this series, and someone may have already hurled this into the discussion.

    St. Paul did not write to the Ephesians: “Wives should be submissive to their husbands.” He wrote: “Wives should be submissive to their husbands AS TO THE LORD.” That “as to the Lord” is the operative phrase. How do we submit to the Lord? In some sort of grinding, dehumanizing slavery? Of course not. On the night before He died for us He said “I call you no longer slaves, but friends.” And that is the submission we owe to Him: we say our “yes” to Him, we submit to Him, as to our closest and dearest friend. We are happy to say “yes” to Him (even if it means saying “no” to ourselves) because He is that Friend closest to our hearts; He is our “other self”. And that is the submission that wives owe to their husbands: they say “yes” to their husbands as to their closest, dearest friend.

    Oh…and, by the way, if husbands will love their wives in that astonishingly demanding and self-sacrificing way that St. Paul outlines in the verses following his brief exhortation to wives, it will be ever so much easier for those wives to “submit” to their husbands.

    fr. j.

  • Darwin
    The Catholic net is about active Catholics….the Church’s flock is multiples larger than that.
    The Church is not just dealing with great marriages or great people….or elegant people who would never say your above…” Hey, you gotta submit…etc.”. The Church rather is dealing with people of such a wide spectrum that probably half are mixing the Faith with everything from spiritism in Africa…to Santeria in the Domican Republic…to Euro derived whites in the US mixing it with illegal speeding down streets that might have children playing.
    That is why the New Testament has exactly fiats on this topic…fiats…but it has
    those fiats within a culture wherein it was presumed that males studied the Bible
    more than the NFL season schedule. So what to do when in the modren world, by the time he dies, most Catholic men have not read a quarter of the Bible on their own? Hence the confusion. The fiats are about studying families who live out the read faith in the workplace in conscience. Take away that context and you have many Catholic families as Benedict has just opined in the recent interview book.
    Read Pius XI, CC, section 74… oriented but a much different world.

  • If I recall correctly, there was an article in First Things in 1993 on just this topic that would be worth a second read. I think the title might have been something like, “Marriage in Counterpoint and Harmony”.

  • I frankly don’t believe that wives should be so bloody submissive. Period.
    To clarify, I believe that marriage should be an equal, loving relationship–with neither partner being lord and master over the other. I see repeated references here to being different than pagans. . . but, judging by the ‘differences’ being cited, I’m wondering if anyone here has actually studied pagan cultures. In many pagan societies, women were (and are) completely submissive to all men, husband included. It seems that if we, as Christians, really want to be different, we should respect women.
    Furthermore, it doesn’t sound like anyone has taken into account the fact that PEOPLE VARY. Surely, a larger number of men may possess certain character traits, and a larger number of women may possess certain other character traits, but you can’t lump people together by any rule, gender included. There are men that are very quiet, loving, bookish types, and there are women who can’t get enough of hunting, fishing, and football.
    Also, the entire system of being ‘submissive’ is just unequal and unfair. Those in favour of wifely submission always stress that the husband and wife are equals, neither better than the other, but these are really just empty words; because, in actual practise, the husband is obviously in charge. Sort of like a master’s relationship with a slave, eh?
    And, when wives try to be submissive, this often puts a strain on the relationship. Aside from the fact that some wives may feel resentment, there are other problems that can arise. A brief anecdote about a couple I am acquainted with: Husband and Wife are a good, Christian couple, loving towards each other. Wife tries to be submissive, and always lets her husband make the final decision. Their lives go along, seemingly happily, until one day, they have a huge argument–Husband says, “I feel like I’m married to a dog! You never want to make any decisions, and you just follow me around like a retriever! What happened? You used to be so adventurous and fun!” Wife, nearly in tears, says, “But I was just trying to be submissive!”
    See? Any normal man will get rather tired of a wife who is more like his servant than his partner. And, in the case of huge, majour arguments, in which neither partner is willing to budge, there’s a better way to solve the problem than always letting the husband have his way–take turns. Isn’t this what we all learn as children, that sometimes we have to let the other person have a turn? So, in one argument the wife can give in, then in the next one the husband has to give in. Fair, square, and absolutely Christian.

  • Harper,

    I’m not clear to what extent you intend your comment to respond to the post versus just the theme or title, but I certainly do not (nor did any of the posts linked) advocate wives behaving in the manner described. Indeed, that would seem directly opposite to what Paul says when he writes:

    Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord…. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

    NO relationship should consist of dog-like submission — but that doesn’t mean that every relationship should consist of “we take turns having our way” equality. Indeed, that seems to me a particularly bad way to run any relationship, marital, parental or managerial.

  • Any time you start feeling all “leaderly”, remember the purpose for which you are the leader: to serve others not to boss them around and aggrandize yourself.

    Wow. Being a leader is evil if you are a husband? Why don’t you just say Ephesians 5 is wrong? This is nice advice but you have completely lost the moorings of the original text. It is no longer an exegesis but rather a gab session. Not that gab sessions are bad. Just that the summary conclusions don’t come from the text. If anything the emphasis is the opposite of what the text says.

    We have lost the concept of submission in Catholicism. You could replace that with what does it mean to submit to your priest or bishop. To most Catholics it means very little. We used to submit to a fault. We had male chauvinism and we had clericalism. Now we have flipped to the other extreme. Authority means nothing. It is worse than nothing. It is seen as a vice rather than a gift.

  • Darwin, (I’m assuming that isn’t your real name?)

    Thanks for the reply. Perhaps I didn’t say what I meant very clearly–I don’t think that couples should just take turns doing what they want. I think that they should try to come to a satisfactory conclusion for both of them. But, as mentioned in some of the posts this article links to, there sometimes are things that a husband and wife just cannot agree on. And, the answer to that according to many people, is that the husband should automatically make the final decision. THAT is what I object to–I’m not one of those rabid feminist types, but I am an advocate for equality and human rights. And relationships that are fair to both partners.

  • Randy,

    No, I neither think that it’s evil if a husband is a leader nor that Ephesians 5 is wrong. My point, which was perhaps lost in an attempt at rhetorical cuteness, is that from a Christian perspective leadership is not a matter of “I’m the leader, which means I’m special and better than you and can boss you around” but rather a matter of service. Again, in the text Paul says wives should be subject to their husbands “as you are to the Lord” and that husbands should love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”.

    How did Christ love the Church? Well, shortly before he suffered and died for us (which is certainly the biggest example) he provided the apostles with an example of Christian leadership by serving them at the Last Supper. Does that mean that he was not in fact in authority over them? Of course not. If anyone has ever been in authority over anyone, Christ was in authority over His followers.

    Not being like Christ, we all have a tendency when we feel ourselves to be in authority to think that this means we’re better, or that this is a great opportunity to make others do things we don’t want to do while we kick back a bit. It was refuting this and substituting a reminder that Christian leadership is for service, not for self, that I was trying to get at with the “feeling all leaderly” comment. This is most certainly in keeping with Catholic history. After all, one of the titles of the pope is “servant of the servants of Christ”.

  • Harper,

    No, Darwin is not my real name, but I’ve been going by it in the blogsphere for a number of years so I tend to stick with it. (My real name is on the contributors page if you’re seriously curious.)

    Understood on the “who gets to decide”, though at the same time I’d disagree that a relationship in which there is one person who is the head of the other is necessarily unequal in the human sense, or contrary to human rights. (Or that such a relationship means one person makes all the decisions.)

    For instance, in my professional relationship with my director at work, there are certain types of decisions which I am authorized to make. My director gave me those responsibility on the basis of his authority, and he holds responsibility if I make a decision in that area of responsibility which ends up working out badly for the company. But they remain my decisions, and he allows me to make them even in cases where he disagrees with me, because he has assigned those areas of responsibility to me and he respects that assignment.

    On the other hand, there are areas in which he has final say, and although I may advocate one choice all the way up to the line, if he chooses to go the other way I need to fall in line and support and implement his decision.

    There are lots of different ways that responsibilities could legitimately be assigned between us, but the only way that it works as a decision-making structure is if there is in fact one person who actually holds authority. It is, to my mind, not possible to work entirely by consensus. Nor does it seem to me that married couples fall naturally into totally equal relationships, but rather complimentary relationships. It sounds like that may be our main point of difference here — that I’m assuming that even with the incredible variation between people and couples, and the many different ways that one can live out a successful marriage, there that is a basic reality which Paul correctly recognizes here that husbands naturally tend to be the heads of households. And it’s within the context of that natural reality that Paul is advising Christians on how to live within that structure as Christians.

  • Darwin,

    Interesting points you bring up. And I agree that husbands and wives can have separate responsibilities (e.g. wife is completely responsible for groceries, husband has complete authourity over lawn manicure, etc.).
    However, I think it is possible to have an equal relationship between two people. For example, two people who decide to start a business together COULD have one of them hold more authourity, but there are also many business partners who are precisely that–equal partners.
    Also, when you speak of ‘assigning’ responsibilities–who does the assigning? The husband, right? Unfortunately, that is something that just strikes me as so completely unfair, I can’t emphasise it enough. It seems very much like a parent-child relationship, with the husband handing out whatever privileges he deems appropriate. And, though I hate to quibble with Paul, deciding who gets the authourity based solely on gender has always seemed to me to just be (sorry, Paul) rather silly. As I said above, people vary. Gender is not the only factor at work.

  • Since joining a traditional (Latin Mass) parish, I’ve met many families who subscribe to this heartily. Interestingly, it’s the wives who insist on it more than the husbands. As in one discussion some of us were having about it, and a woman said, “My husband is the head of our household, and he’d better be, or I’ll kick his —-!” These are no shrinking violets, but strong women with opinions, and one of those is that they expect their husbands to step up and take charge of things.

    When I was dating, one thing I learned was how deadly is the answer, “I don’t know; what do you want to do?” Not that you shouldn’t ever let the woman make a decision, but when a man routinely tries to leave decisions up to a woman, it doesn’t convince her he cares about her opinion; it convinces her he’s a schmuck who can’t lead.

  • Of course wives should submit to their husbands. It’s in the Bible, end of discussion. I’m not married yet, but when I am, I will expect my wife to submit to my decisions and not argue.

  • Actually the title of your post indicated to me you wanted to allow this text to teach something counter-cultural. Sure leadership should be done charitably. But should it exist at all? I was looking for something in the conclusions that Oprah would object to. I guess I didn’t find anything. Just declarations that it is nice to be nice. Using the term “leaderly” as something obviously equivalent with self-aggrandizement seems to be defeating the point you try and make in your reply. Christian leadership is not like that. I think you agree with that in principle but don’t allow for it in practice.

    One real question with authority is when the leader is bad. Or at least in your opinion the leader is bad. We give ourselves huge loopholes that practically reduce submission to only when you basically agree. Then we leave ourselves as the sole judge of whether we have abused these loopholes or not. I don’t want to single out wives because I see this pattern every time obedience is called for. Not just by liberal Catholics. Orthodox Catholics can be worse. The more we want the community to do God’s will the harder it is to give in on what we have discerned to be God’s will.

    It is hard. Sometimes the dad is a real jerk and the mom seems to have it together. Should she submit to him for the rest of her life? I would advise talking to your priest. That still sounds like an easy out because most priests won’t insist on submission. But at least it is better than leaving the boundaries of submission to the judgment of the submitter.

  • You know what I find interesting? And I may be wrong here, but – it seems like all the guys are over here talking about the topic, and the comment-box discussions on the women’s posts consist of women talking about it. So we’ve retreated to the virtual kitchen, while y’all are standing around the grill.

    (This all falls apart if Harper is “as in Lee” and not, you know, a dude. I can say that, because I have a man’s name).

  • Randy,

    Sure leadership should be done charitably. But should it exist at all?

    Yes, of course. I’m not sure if we’re missing each other here or something, because I’m under the impression that I’ve made the case a couple times here for leadership (and in the context of marriage and family, specifically that the husband is the ultimate leader) while you seem to think that I’m wiggling out of it.

    I was looking for something in the conclusions that Oprah would object to. I guess I didn’t find anything.

    I’m not familiar with the Oprah oeuvre, so I can’t say for sure, but I would assume that she would disagree with my stated foundation for all this that marriage is a complementary rather than an equal relationship in terms of command structure, and that the husband is the ultimate leader within that structure.

    One real question with authority is when the leader is bad. Or at least in your opinion the leader is bad.

    FWIW, my thought on that was in one of the bullets in the “for wives” section near the end of my post: “Hard as it may be, you may need to do this [obey a decision you think is bad] sometimes with the thin comfort that cheerful obedience can be a means to holiness even when the decision is not good.”

  • Dorian,

    Yep, I’m a woman. But I’m usually hanging about with the men at social gatherings anyway. *grin*.

  • Randy – ” I was looking for something in the conclusions that Oprah would object to. I guess I didn’t find anything. Just declarations that it is nice to be nice.” Ouch!

    I do think that the Oprahfied outlook on marriage would differ from some of the conclusions, particularly – as Darwin pointed out – the idea of obedience as a path to holiness, submitting to a decision even when you think it is bad. I think Oprah would say, “and husbands, you need to make sure you’re doing the same,” but possibly add something about how the inner holistic wisdom of women means we don’t make boneheaded decisions, so husbands should probably just let the woman do what she knows is right. I’m probably being unfair to Oprah here, since I don’t watch her show.

    But I also think that there is the greater issue of how this all plays out within the context of a Catholic marriage. So, the question of submission would come into play with a question like, “I want to have another baby, but my husband feels like our financial situation is so messed up that we have grave reasons to avoid pregnancy. Should we abstain during the fertile part of my cycle?” And the Moralistic Therapeutic Deist response would be something like, “what the hell are you talking about? He can just go get himself fixed and then you don’t have to worry about it.”

  • Oh, sorry, Harper! I’m the same – I hate it when social gatherings are segregated by gender. I think I owe you a sisterhood fist-bump or something.

  • Dorian,

    I dunno, but for whatever reason TAC tends to have a pretty heavily male audience (with honorable exceptions!) while DarwinCatholic seems to have a pretty even mix — perhaps because of our moderately unique format as a co-written husband and wife blog.

    Though when MrsD and I have had big gatherings, it seems like everyone ends up in the kitchen except the children who wander the house and yard like a pack of wild something-or-others.

  • Ok, here’s my distaff take on this. Men have a particularly strong need to feel respected for both their brains (decision making ability) and brawn (physical/emotional strength). They need their wives to trust and respect them. Hence the injunction to wives to “submit” to husbands — not in a groveling or “I don’t want you to get mad at me” sense, but in an “I trust you to do the right thing” sense.

    In fact I would extend this beyond marriage — in the workplace and in social relationships, men need to be respected; they especially hate it when a woman in a position of authority treats them like bumbling or rebellious children. That doesn’t mean you can’t tell a guy he’s wrong — but you have to do so in a way that conveys basic respect — “You need to know that isn’t right,” not “You idiot, don’t you know any better?”

    The greatest need women have is a bit different — they need to be appreciated, to be told that what they are doing is helpful and valuable, even if it’s not completely perfect. Now we all know (some) men who have trouble with this — they assume that as long as they are keeping a roof over the family’s head and food on the table, that is sufficient proof of their love. For most women, it isn’t. They need to be told “You’re beautiful and I want you to be happy” in words and actions. Hence the injunction to husbands to love their wives.

    Now here is yet another subject on which I like to quote C.S. Lewis. In “The Four Loves” he says (I’m paraphrasing here) that the headship conferred upon the husband in the Christian faith means that he wears a crown of thorns just like Christ did.

    The most “perfect” kind of husbandly headship, he says, exists not necessarily in a good and harmonious marriage, but in a marriage where the husband heroically bears “the sickness and sufferings of a good wife, or the faults of a bad one; in his unwearying (never paraded) care or inexhaustible forgiveness; forgiveness, not acquiescence.”

    Lewis goes on to say that, of course, this does not excuse deliberately or carelessly entering a bad marriage, any more than Christians are supposed to deliberately go looking for unneccesary persecution or martyrdom. Still, it is in the “martyred” husband giving his all for a wife who may not always appreciate it, that the figure of Christ giving Himself for his (not always spotless) Bride can be seen.

    Finally he says: “The sternest feminist need not grudge my sex the crown offered to it in either the Pagan or Christian mystery.” (The “Pagan mystery” to which he refers is the natural dominance of the man in sexual pursuits.) “For the one is of paper, and the other of thorns. The real danger is not that men will grasp it too eagerly, but that they will allow or compel their wives to usurp it.”

  • A very insightful comment Elaine. I have always been surrounded by strong women: my mother, my wife, my secretary of 25 years and now my teen-age daughter. I think one of the things that drives a lot of women crazy is if they perceive a man as not listening to them. If a man does listen to the women in his life, it is amazing how much smoother everything goes for everyone. The man may not do what the women suggests, but the give and take of listening and responding can often lead to improved situations. It sounds simple, but it is amazing how many men never seem to grasp this fact in my opinion. The converse of course are women who will never let the men in their lives get a word in edgewise!

  • Mr. McClarey,

    Well said! That’s precisely it—as a woman, it does absolutely drive me nuts when I feel as though men don’t listen to me, or that I’m not respected (just because I am female). Marriage should be a give and take relationship, with each partner listening to the other, and giving due respect to the other’s thoughts.

  • Aaron B makes some good points.

    With modern feminism, and man rarely knows where he stands.

    Are we to “lead”, to be bold and assertive, and run the risk of being labeled a sexist, a patriarchal scumbag who loves to oppress and dominate women?

    Or are we to cower, to defer, to beg and to plead for the dubious benefit of being accepted by politically correct opinion?

    Unfortunately we may not have a choice. I know at least one person who was denied a promotion – a man – by a corporation because he spoken openly of this very topic of wifely submission in his place of work, in response to a question about his faith. Undoubtedly if the man were a Muslim, he would have been given a promotion and a bonus, but since he was a white Christian male, he was read the riot act and told that he couldn’t be trusted because he held these view. A black Christian male just might have gotten a more condescending talking to without sanctions.

    Feminism and hysterical anti-racism are about punishing those seen as the historically “dominant” group for their past sins. Many within the group openly accept this and submit to politically correct thought tyranny.

    What feminism really leads to is repression, as surely as Puritanism does. Men learn to suppress and destroy their natural instincts out of fear of being socially ostracized. So they get channeled into unhealthy fantasies and ideas that are kept private until they explode. This is why we have an epidemic of pornography addiction. This is why the pornography becomes increasingly violent.

    This also happens when men have no social restraints in the opposite direction – when instead of being raised to be competent leaders, they are raised to become absolute tyrants over the lives of their wives and treat them as chattel. That isn’t proper leadership; we know it in politics and it is evident in the household as well. All feminism did was swing to the opposite extreme and make the man a total coward instead of a total tyrant.

    But on the whole, men and women do have real differences that a healthy society must respect. There are always exception to the general trend, with some women more than capable of leadership and some men who are probably better off submitting. Someone has to lead, and someone has to follow. I can’t rationally say that it must ALWAYS be the husband, but I can rationally say that it usually ought to be. Whoever is more rational ought to lead. If a husband makes consistently bad decisions, a wife cannot be expected to silently submit to them. But a husband ought to be given the benefit of the doubt until such time.

  • “Are we to “lead”, to be bold and assertive, and run the risk of being labeled a sexist, a patriarchal scumbag who loves to oppress and dominate women?
    Or are we to cower, to defer, to beg and to plead for the dubious benefit of being accepted by politically correct opinion?”

    Of course men should find a happy medium between being macho jerks and being wimps. In my personal opinion, the BIGGEST reason many men can’t, is because they grew up without fathers or other stable male role models who could show them what it means to be a “real” man. Even in the animal kingdom, young males need older males around to guide them or else they literally run wild.

    If the radical feminists were right, one would think that removing the “oppressive” and “patriarchal” influence of fathers from the home would make young men less prone to crime and violence. Actually, it has done just the opposite.

Class and Marriage: A Reverse

Wednesday, December 8, AD 2010

It’s long been a trope of the “culture war” that the rich as social and religious libertines while the stolid middle class cling to traditional values. Or, as another portion of America sees it, that the educated elite have moved beyond the primative and prejudices social mores of the past while the uneducated cling to their guns and their religion. I would venture to say that for many of us reading here this may also to a stereotype which fits with our lived experience.

However, a report out from the Institute for American Values stands this set of stereotypes somewhat on its head, showing a educated elite which is going to church more and sleeping around less, while the broad middle class is going to church less, having more children out of wedlock and getting divorced more often.

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8 Responses to Class and Marriage: A Reverse

  • It’s still comparing those went graduated college in the 70’s (low 20%) to those who graduated in the 2000’s (30%). In other words, the “highly educated” now includes some in the middle class.

  • Awesome find DC!

  • I suspect that one reason marriage is less frequent and divorce and unwed motherhood are more frequent among the lower/middle classes is simply the fact that single parenthood in and of itself perpetuates poverty, limits educational opportunities, deprives children of stable adult role models with intact marriages, and to some extent, limits one’s ability to be an active churchgoer.

    A child who grows up in a single parent home in which the parent (for the sake of simplicity I’ll assume it’s the mother) works long and sometimes unpredictable hours, doesn’t make much money, doesn’t have time or energy to help the child with homework, and doesn’t attend church on Sunday for various reasons (from lack of transportation to just plain being worn out on weekends) probably won’t grow up to attend church or graduate from college.

    If he or she doesn’t have a father and most of his or her peers don’t have two-parent families, then the child grows up assuming that two-parent families are outside of the norm, or that only rich people can attain them (this is particularly true when society and the media places great emphasis on financial and career stability as a prerequisite for marriage).

    If a lot of the people the child knows have kids out of wedlock, then he or she assumes that to be normal and more likely than not, does the same thing. Then the downward cycle continues into the next generation.

    Meanwhile, children who grow up in two-parent, married, churchgoing families are less likely to be poor, do better in school and are more likely to complete college. They pass on the same expectations to their children. With each generation, the percentage of religiously observant, married persons with traditional sexual mores grows. This is because the traditional family structure (surprise, surprise!) tends to produce disciplined, stable and productive citizens.

  • I wonder how applicable the comments of Ross Douthat earlier this year might be applicable to these findings:

    “Liberals sometimes argue that their preferred approach to family life reduces the need for abortion. In reality, it may depend on abortion to succeed. The teen pregnancy rate in blue Connecticut, for instance, is roughly identical to the teen pregnancy rate in red Montana. But in Connecticut, those pregnancies are half as likely to be carried to term. Over all, the abortion rate is twice as high in New York as in Texas and three times as high in Massachusetts as in Utah.

    So it isn’t just contraception that delays childbearing in liberal states, and it isn’t just a foolish devotion to abstinence education that leads to teen births and hasty marriages in conservative America. It’s also a matter of how plausible an option abortion seems, both morally and practically, depending on who and where you are.

    Whether it’s attainable for most Americans or not, the “blue family” model clearly works: it leads to marital success and material prosperity, and it’s well suited to our mobile, globalized society.

    By comparison, the “red family” model can look dysfunctional — an uneasy mix of rigor and permissiveness, whose ideals don’t always match up with the facts of contemporary life.

    But it reflects something else as well: an attempt, however compromised, to navigate post-sexual revolution America without relying on abortion. ”

  • Overall this is just a reflection of the devastation of our society by liberal moral concepts. That it is spreading to the middle and lower classes while fading a bit in the upper class doesn’t really alter the fact that no one so much as blinks when they hear of an unmarried girl getting pregnant; and when was the last time that anyone felt that divorce was a shame? In the end, relentless propaganda in favor of pre-marital sex and divorce has led to more pre-marital sex and divorce.

    We’ve, at best, about half the population living lives of sobriety, hard work and thrift. We can’t sustain very much more social disintegration. The line must be drawn and we must start to battle back to the old moral values.

  • It’s almost as if some of these educated people woke up one morning, looked at the society they had created, and perhaps after seeing an episode of Jerry Springer or Maury Povich and said in bewildered tones, “wow, ideas have consequences.”

    They made a desert – a moral and spiritual desert – and called it peace. But now the party is over and the corpses are starting to stink.

  • A couple of hypotheses to consider:

    1. Fr. Paul Mankowski’s observation that the clergy have been losing their rapport with the wage-earning population, making congregations a bourgeois preserve. If I understand him correctly, he is referring to an intramural process derived from how clergy are recruited, trained, and formed. We might consider that the process is at work in the protestant congregations as well as the Church.

    2. Getting married in today’s world requires one lay aside some of one’s normal risk aversion. Husbands and fathers are treated as redundant and disposable to a far greater degree than was the case sixty years ago and their willingness to invest in family life has corresponding diminished. This problem one might speculate is simply more acute among wage-earners, who are less valued by women.

Big Government and Small Society

Wednesday, November 17, AD 2010

The Democratic Party suffered a historic drubbing a couple weeks ago. However, one of the things with which several left leaning commentators publically consoled themselves was that demographics are in their favor. The parts of the electorate which tend to vote for Democrats are growing, while those who tends to vote for Republicans are shrinking. Progressives like to focus on the examples of this they feel proud of: the non-white percentage of the US population is growing, and non-whites tend to vote Democratic. Young people also lean more heavily progressive on a variety of issues than previous generations did at the same age.

From a progressive point of view this sounds pretty good: progressivism will succeed in the end because it is supported by young and diverse people, while conservatism will die out because it is supported by old white people — and no one like them anyway, did they?

I’d like to propose an alternate reading of the data:

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4 Responses to Big Government and Small Society

  • Excellent post, Darwin. Hopefully it won’t deter from what you really want to talk about, but I have one question about the demographic trends. While some of these trends favor Democrats, on the other hand the big growth areas in our country are in states favorable to Republicans: Texas, Utah, Florida, etc. So what I wonder is: will the influx of these Democratic constituencies in these states make them more Democratic-leaning, or will the cultural milieu of these environments change these young voters and cause them to be more sympathetic to conservatism?

  • “… will the influx of these Democratic constituencies in these states make them more Democratic-leaning, or will the cultural milieu of these environments change these young voters and cause them to be more sympathetic to conservatism?”

    Paul, my guess is both, but more of the former, resulting in those states shifting to a more purple hue. Examples: Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia.

  • “Do people come to support an all-consuming relationship between individual and state because other social institutions have already broken down for them, for some unrelated reason, and they have nowhere else to turn for support, or is it the growth of a state which leads to the breakdown of other social relationships”

    Well, here are my thoughts on that issue:

  • Thanks for sharing your analysis here, DC, and it seems to be logical and solidly in line with the empirical evidence (sorry, that’s the philosophy courses I’m currently enrolled in talking through my fingers!)

    As a college instructor for the past 9 years (in three different and diverse states: VA, HI, and TX), my hypothesis is that young adults of college age (even, perhaps especially, those not enrolled in tertiary education) are generally tuned out to politics. They seem to be more susceptible to cynical news sources like Stewart, Colbert and Conan, all of whom skew very “progressive”, and they also lack the life experiences to see through a lot of the idealistic manipulation behind slogans like “hope” and “change”, so they are more likely to pull that lever in the voting booth for candidates who seem “edgy” or “cool”, whilst these young adults have little or no real understanding of any of the issues. Indeed it’s highly likely that they’ve had any meaningful exposure to many conservative ideas proudly and cogently explained.

    All of this adds up to what we saw in 2008–millions of young adults who really don’t “get” politics pulling a lever once for “hope” and “change” rhetoric. Now the ones who are paying any attention at all to the results of their vote in 2008 can see how little good it’s produced, and they are completely dissuaded from voting in the mid-terms, and perhaps even in the 2012 presidential elections. If I were in a cynical mood, I would say that this is ultimately a net positive for political conservatives. However, from a Catholic anthropological angle, I think it’s incumbent upon us as Catholic Christians to educate the youth better in the moral principles upon which the Church grounds its moral teachings. If young people can be taught to understand these principles and apply them as voters, I think there is great potential for a conservative cultural and political renaissance in the US.

Culture War

Thursday, August 5, AD 2010

People justly tire of the term “culture war” and find themselves asking, like the philosopher Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”

And yet watching the disparate reactions to yesterday’s Federal Court ruling overturning California’s Proposition 8 (for now) it struck me that the culture war terminology is quite apt. What is termed the culture was is essentially a zero sum game over which of two roughly equally numerous groups will be allowed to define the dominant understandings of culture and society in our country. by taking this to the federal level, same sex marriage advocates have made it clear that no degree of regional acceptance is satisfactory — their understanding of the nature of marriage must be the single dominant understanding enforced throughout the country, and those with a traditional understanding of marriage must be the ones who find themselves aliens within their country. And, presumably, is same sex marriage advocates lose, they will in turn consider themselves aliens within the country. Given that it is the most basic units and purposes of society which are in dispute, it seems hard to see how it can be any other way. And while the dispute is to an extent regional, it is much more so philosophical and ideological, making the culture war more resemble the Spanish Civil War than the American. Every city and region has representatives of both sides.

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19 Responses to Culture War

  • To your point about it being impossible to make the traditionalist case: I thought Frank Beckwith’s following comment over at What’s Wrong With the World was spot on:

    Political liberalism was invented in the mid-1980s in order to provide a theoretical foundation that can exclude religiously-informed policy proposals while seeming to defend religious liberty and citizen participation. There had, of course, always been many liberalisms, including the Lockean, Kantian, Millean, Hobbsean, and Roussean varieties. But each suffered from the same problem: each presupposed a particular philosophical anthropology as the correct account of humanity. This was a problem because popular liberalism suggested neutrality on matters of worldview. So, you could not very well say that the state should be neutral on such matters while requiring it to embrace a particular one. Social conservatives understood this since the mid-1950s, as seen in what Bill Buckley called “the great liberal dilemma.” But with the ascendancy of the religious right and its insistence that “liberalism” is not as neutral as its proponents claim–that it too tries to answer the same questions that traditional religions answer–folks like Rawls needed a new way to defend liberalism in a pluralistic society that was both morally required but did not depend on a particular metaphysics. Presto, we get “political liberalism,” and with its numerous defenders including Rawls, Gaus (who is more of a libertarian), Nagel, and to a certain extent Dworkin.

    So, instead of explicitly defending metaphysical liberalism, we get political liberalism with allegedly none of the metaphysical commitments. But, strangely, on every issue about which metaphysical liberalism would take a stand–e.g., abortion, affirmative action, same-sex marriage, etc.–political liberalism gets the exact same results. Wow, what a coincidence! But the benefit of political liberalism is you can rule your opponents’ views as a priori violations of political liberalism while saying that their views are still “rational.” This means you get to sound like you respect pluralism, diversity, and the rationality of your opponents’ point of view while shutting them out of the debate on “principled grounds.”

    This is why on the issue of homosexual conduct, those that are critical of it for moral reasons cannot be considered reasonable actors who simply disagree with others on the issue. They must be irrational. For if they are rational–that is, if there views are not unreasonable to hold–then the state cannot, according to the canons of liberalism, force these citizens to acquiesce in their public and private lives. But this means that same-sex unions would not be treated equally, since political liberalism would grant the legitimacy of those who think homosexual acts are immoral. Consequently, the bigot charge is so fierce and not well-argued. It is meant to intimidate and silence, not persuade or convince. For, again, to suggest the position is arguable is to grant it legitimacy, and that simply cannot be allowed.

    So, despite Rawls’ wonderful intention to provide a theoretical grounding on which people with differing points of view on worldview matters can dialogue in a climate of mutual respect and understanding, he failed miserably. For what he in fact did was give to either side in the culture war, the ultimate weapon: declare the other side “unreasonable,” for once that sticks the game is over and there is no need to treat the other with respect or equal regard.

  • Well, apparently the history standards used in CA are even worse than I thought if Judge Walker can say with a straight face that historically there were no restrictions on marriage based on gender and that marriage was traditionally a matter of mutual consent. Heck in many parts of the world today, mutual consent STILL has nothing to do with marriage. I bet he would die before giving the Catholic Church credit with introducing consent as a feature of marriage.

    And since when does marriage have nothing to do with procreation? Many states require blood tests for Ruebella, which has everything to do with preventing birth defects in the future children of the marriage. (They don’t excuse you from the blood test just because you say you don’t plan on having children.)

    Also, inheritance law is very much intertwined with marriage both now and historically. But hey, with after death conceptions now due to IVF technology, maybe our culture should just declare children chattel and stop trying to pretend everything that the adults want magically is good for the children. We can just declare it so and move on with clear consciences!

  • Why should they (gays) be happy? They may as well be miserable like the rest fo us. Farce/OFF

    Did the judge rule YOU cannot have religious morailty in LAW? I like that part. Get the welfare (Catholic Social Justice) state off our backs.

    To your point: J. M. Barrie, “God gave us memory so that we could have roses in December.”

  • The following comment of mine was censored by the Huffington Post and taken off the site. It stated, “This comment was removed in accordance with HuffPost’s moderation guidelines.” I was totally taken aback. My words were neither offensive or in bad taste in anyway. Here is what I wrote:

    When anyone is vocal against gay marriage and homosexuality, supporters of gay rights like to label them as intolerant, prejudice and ignorant. I don’t consider myself any of the three. I was taught that we are all part of the human race and, therefore, no one is better than anyone else, regardless of race, class or religion. I feel I have always been on the right side, fighting for the poor, the minority, etc. But being gay is a desire and not a right.
    Whatever people do in the privacy of their homes is their business. It is not anyone’s place on this earth to judge others’ actions and desires. I know people who are gay, and I treat them no differently, than I do anybody else. Everyone should be free from ridicule and attack, but to go so far as to give rights to an abnormal desire that contradicts nature since the beginning of time is wrong and can only lead to an untested and precarious road. You don’t have to be religious or a moralist to know that what isn’t natural shouldn’t be. Gay people should neither be attacked nor encouraged, but helped and prayed for. This ruling is misguided because the law has no place in sanctioning unnatural and defective desires and acts.

  • Well now you’ve said several offensive things. Calling homosexuality a “desire” and not a “right”. Calling it an “abnormal desire that contradicts nature” and labelling it “wrong.” Finally you call for us to “pray” for them. You are engaging in hate speech you know.

  • by taking this to the federal level, same sex marriage advocates have made it clear that no degree of regional acceptance is satisfactory — their understanding of the nature of marriage must be the single dominant understanding enforced throughout the country, and those with a traditional understanding of marriage must be the ones who find themselves aliens within their country

    well, obviously that was the goal all along. But they would not have gone the federal route if they could have won state by state. when the people are asked, they emphatically say no.

    Today, gender is not
    relevant to the state in determining spouses’ obligations to each other and to their dependents. Relative gender composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of marriage under California law.

    where the hell does he come up with this?

    It is not anyone’s place on this earth to judge others’ actions and desires.

    I would have to quibble with this. It is precisely our place to judge actions and desires. We do that all the time – it’s called enforcing the law. The judge himself did it in this case by judging that those whose actions/desires are that same sex couples should not be recognized as married are wrong.

    It is not our place to judge the eternal destination of someone’s soul because of those actions and desires.

  • The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household

    Great. So when does polygamy kick in? I chose a spouse in 2010, then I chose another spouse in 2011, then I chose another in 2012….

    Someone owes the Mormons a BIG time apology!

  • If those words were offensive, then most comments would be pulled, since I have seen a lot worse on the web. We have something in this country called freedom of speech. You may not agree with me, but I kept it clean. I guess they just thought my simple words would sway others.

  • I was being sarcastic. I actually agree with you.

  • But I suspect others would not be sarcastic if they said such to you. That’s why your post was pulled. Soon you may not be able to say it publicly.

  • Ruth,

    It’s pure and simple censorship.

    You are evil if you disagree with them. At least they are not planning to destroy you, yet.

  • Jess,

    …maybe our culture should just declare children chattel…

    Welcome to the Roman Republic circa 150 BC.

    Where children were actually described as property of the father (they were a strictly paternally driven society back then).

    So with that, progressives are advocating for a regression towards olde tyme Roman Law.

  • Dear Judge: repeat after me: The state did not create marriage. The state does not own marriage. The state receives marriage as a cultural institution. The state is not the culture, it serves the culture. The state is a servant obligated to respect and foster the culture’s pre-existing and more fundamental institutions. Marriage is a cultural institution constituting relations between a man and a woman, period.

  • Tony-
    Judge Walker would take your framework of thinking about marriage and say that homosexual unions are apart of the contemporary culture and that Prop 8 was the state trying to own marriage.

    But of course, I get what you are saying and you are correct: marriage is a pre-political, natural institution; the state has no competency to alter it.

    There is no chance for common ground on this issue: as Elizabeth Anscombe noted decades ago, this battle was lost when artificial contraception became normal.

    Time to get out your MacIntyre, reread it and weep.

  • Also, Frank Beckwith noted a key logical flaw in Walker’s opinion:

    “Oddly, the judge claims that the belief that heterosexual monogamy is better than homosexual unions cannot be one of the reasons. But in that case, the judge begs the question, since that is precisely why we should privilege male-female marriage. So, it turns out male-female marriage is unconstitutional become it is male-female marriage. That’s called begging the question.”

  • For the sake of a view from the other side, here’s a post by a Christian who voted against Prop 8 & now regrets it…good illustration of how constant media exposure can muddle thinking:

  • Fellow Catholics, we must beat on our own chests. Judge Walker’s reasoning is largely unassailable and may well be upheld by the Supreme Court, perhaps even with the votes of some Catholic justices. The case in favor of Prop 8 was prepared weakly, and the defendant (Gov. Schwarzenegger) didn’t really want to fight it. Both Schwarzenegger and the Attorney General of CA have since come out in support of same-sex marriage. Nobody saw that the issue shouldn’t be presented as about the nature of marriage but as about the nature of sex. It should have been built on “Male and female He created them” (Gen 1:26), by arguing that individuals (or, for Catholics, persons) by nature belong to one of two sexes and that there is no artificially chosen “gender”. Catholics appear to be about the only ones left who have an interest in pursuing the case. Will we even be strong enough to grasp the last and minute chance before the Supreme Court? Now or never. Unified and strong leadership by our bishops is necessary, as is support by our universities, media, and best legal minds.

  • Do any of you know anyone who is gay? Do any of you know any gay couples? There are many, many, gay couples in committed relationships who simply want the same benefits under the law. Spousal inheritance, survivor benefits, next of kin rights at the hospital, visitation rights. Have any of you read the science on homosexuality? It is not a choice, and it is natural. Homosexuality is present in nature in many different animal species. Homosexual people are physiologically different than straight people. 10% of all populations are historically gay, and not something people can control and not something you should discriminate against in civil law. It is the American Law we are talking about here. Now you can decide.. do you want to live in a Free country, where we are all able to pursue life, liberty and happiness, or would you rather your homosexual brothers and sisters just continue to commit suicide for fear of rejection by their families, be forced from their homes when their partners of sixty years pass away and their relatives come and take everything, or lose rights to children they raised in a break-up? Jesus Christ never spoke of homosexuality, and by the majority of theologians he was the radical liberal of his day. Learn to live and let live. The agreement two people have to each other under the law affects none but those two people. In a pluralistic, free society we have to learn that the law applies to EVERYONE, not just the majority. A man and a woman can still get married as they always could have so tell me how does this impact them? This is about equal protection under U.S. law for all families in this country. If you want the rule of religion to to be the basis of civil law in the country you live in, please go look at Muslim countries that run on Sharia law as an example of how backwards it could become. Separation of Church and state, as well as Freedom of Religion are a beautiful thing. Now, if you want to really focus on ridding the world of sexual deviance, take a look at your own “celibate”, child molesting priests and the Popes who shelter them.

  • David,

    There is an unselfconscious irony in someone showing up to demand tolerance, while loudly displaying his own intolerance of anyone with a view different from his own. A great deal of what you say is ignorant, or untrue, but what comes through very clearly is that you absolutely and unconditionally despise anyone who thinks different from you. How you expect this to be persuasive from those who differ from you because they have thought long and deeply about their beliefs is beyond me.

WJBA? In 2010 Would Jesus (Along With His Apostles & Saints) Be Arrested For Hate Speech?

Wednesday, August 4, AD 2010

A few short years ago the mere suggestion that the Son of God, His Apostles and Saints would face arrest for hate speech would have seemed absolutely ludicrous. However, events have spiraled out of control across the western world. In his opinion that strikes down California’s recently voter approved marriage law, Judge Vaughn Walker wrote that those who speak in the name of religion to put across their views that same sex marriage is wrong are “harmful to gays and lesbians.”

Across Europe and Canada, faithful Christians speaking out for traditional marriage face the threat of being hauled off to court for citing the teachings of the Catholic Church and various Evangelical Churches. Where will this all end? Some see a great persecution coming against the Christian faithful. Though possible, one need remember that the Christian faith always grew when persecuted.

The Catholic Church has long taught that some individuals have an inclination toward same sex attraction; they are to be loved as all people are to be loved. The Church teaches that these feelings are not to be acted upon. The Church goes on to teach that all individuals are given a cross to carry in this world and for those who are same sex attracted; this is their cross. An organization exists for those who are same sex attracted called COURAGE. It has many chapters and members.

Recently a profile was done in The New York Times on same sex attracted Eve Tushnet, the Ivy League educated Catholic daughter of Harvard Law professors. She has chronicled her growth in Catholicism and the logic of the Church’s teachings on sexuality. For years the Catholic Church took some heat from some quarters of Christianity for not stating that anyone who is same sex attracted would be going to hell. The Church now is facing a maelstrom of vitriol from those who claim the Church hates homosexuals.

For the Church to change her teachings would be to deny not only what Christ said (Matthew 11:20-24,) but his Apostles, not to mention Saint Paul’s lengthy discourse on the subject (Romans 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.)  In addition to the Apostles and saints, there is a rich history of saints writing on the subject, particularly the Early Church Fathers like Saint Augustine, St Justin Martyr, St. Basil and St John Chrysostom as well as Church intellectuals like St Thomas Aquinas, Saint Albert the Great (the greatest scientist of his time,) along with mystics like St Catherine of Sienna to name but a few. To say that the greatest minds of their respective eras were all wrong is simply breathtaking.

Many who disagree with the Church tend to forget that homosexuality was much more common and approved of by the Roman government in the early Christian era than it is even in 2010. Many in the upper echelons of Greek and Roman culture experimented with all sorts of sexual practices. It would have been far easier for Jesus, the apostles, saints and popes to approve of this conduct than it would to disapprove of it. Christianity might have grown at a faster pace. However, there was a reason for this swimming against the tide, and the faithful accepted it.

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4 Responses to WJBA? In 2010 Would Jesus (Along With His Apostles & Saints) Be Arrested For Hate Speech?

  • Great column as usual, Dave. It just blows my mind that our nation is no longer a republic of, for and by the people but an elite and arrogant oligarchy that is unleashing one perverted social experiment after another on us.

    The far left have the nerve to needle the conservatives for wanting to have less government yet have government restrict marriage. Quite the contrary, we want to be able to decide how our society should function, not have the government do so.

    It’s a shame that the voters in my state of California were robbed once again, but we can still hope for the Supreme Court to save the day. In the meantime, this should serve as a wakeup call for the voters, especially those in the 45 states who have kept marriage to one man and one woman, to vote the radicals out in the fall and make sure the Democrats never control government again as long as the militant secularists who are ruining this nation continue to call the shots for the party.

  • This is almost a grand slam!

    This is government hate speech against, and injurious to, Christians, Jews and Muslims.

    Oh, that’s okay!?

    Never mind.

    Thanks for voting for them dems.

  • Prepare for the worst. There is little doubt that in the near future Christians will be arrested and imprisoned by the American Socialist State if they continue to preach the gospel and traditional morality. The American politicians have created their long desired Atheistic State which will have no tolerance for believers. Prepare for the dark days of persecution but the good news is that it will separate the wheat from the shaff and the sheep from the goats.

  • But Jesus and the Apostles were arrested and even put to death for their speech.

    When DeGaulle was reproached for not taking more care against assassination, he replied: “It comes with the job”.

It's About the Children. Seriously.

Wednesday, August 4, AD 2010

I must confess that today’s judicial ruling out of California which overturned Proposition 8 has riled me up, suprisingly so. I heard about the ruling while listening to the livestream of a tech podcast in which one of the three podcasters is a lesbian (previously “married” in CA) and the other two (middle-aged married men) evidently supported the decision. The ease with which they threw out bromides (“finally, equality!”) bothered me, primarily because it revealed two things: 1. a group of intelligent people couldn’t grasp that there might be real objections to same sex “marriage”, and 2. as I’ve noted previously, too many (probably most) Americans simply don’t understand the essential nature of marriage. Simply put, the state’s interest isn’t strong feelings or commitment… it’s children. And — to state the obvious — a homosexual relationship isn’t structured towards procreation the way marriage is.

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29 Responses to It's About the Children. Seriously.

  • Well said.

  • Exactly. Americans, even conservative Protestants, have removed children from marriage. Without a procreative intent, admittedly, there is little reason to ban gay marriage. Or incest for that matter.

  • Americans?

    Westerners. America still has the highest birth rate in the Western world, and Utah has the highest birth rate out of all the states.

    Supposedly “family friendly” Europe cut children out of the picture a long time ago. All of the welfare provisions, reduced work weeks, paid maternity/paternity leave didn’t do a damned thing to reinforce families or birth rates.

    This is because Europe not only removed children from the marriage, but God from their lives and culture. Mormon Utah thrives for exactly the opposite reason. When will Catholics get it?

  • Actually, welfare did help increase the birth rate in Europe. The Scandinavian countries have the highest birth rates in Western Europe.

  • How would things look if marriage were dead? Out-of-wedlock births, acceptance of any cohabitation arrangement, the presumption that any relationship in non-binding…exactly what we have today. Marriage is dead as a norm in the West. There are only pockets and subcultures that preserve it.

    We talk about the “war on Christmas”. Christmas has been stripped of its old meaning and given a new purpose; a few of its traditions are unthinkingly continued. By the time the courts started enforcing “holiday pageants” in public schools, the war was long lost. That’s exactly what’s happened to marriage.

    Maybe my blood sugar is low or something, because even I am not usually this pessimistic. I’m just not seeing any reason to be encouraged.

  • Marriage is dead as a norm in the West.

    Yes, this is what I’ve been saying about the SSM debate all along. To those who ask, “How is SSM going to harm your (traditional) marriage?” I say, “It’s not — the damage has already been done. I just don’t see the reason to codify the death of marriage in law.”

  • Marriage is certainly in disrepair in the west. Many forces contributed to that, but the disentanglement of sex, children and marriage via modern birth control options is certainly a key part of it, resulting in the normalization of premarital sex, cohabitation, divorce, serial monogamy, etc. That said infidelity (i.e., extramarital sex) is still largely unaccepted in the US. Marriage may be in the ICU, but it is not dead yet.

  • Pingback: Supporting Gay Marriage: It’s Not About the Children. Seriously. « Agree to Disagree
  • The trolls are out.

  • restrainedradical wrote Thursday, August 5, 2010 A.D. at 8:29 am
    “Actually, welfare did help increase the birth rate in Europe. The Scandinavian countries have the highest birth rates in Western Europe”.

    The birth rate in Sweden is 1.67 children born/woman (2010 est.), i.e., less than replacement. Much of this is probably due to immigrant populations.

  • It seems to me that there is an assumption that the U.S. is a fine moral country.
    The opposite seems to be true. The number of child murders continues to increase.
    Poverty is widespread despite “Wars on Poverty” [because of?].
    The immigration question continues to fester. {On what moral basis can immigrants be denied entry?].
    The continued base treatment of Indians reeks to heaven.
    Justice Ginsberg speaks of “undesirable populations”.
    Multi-skillionaires give much money to killing babies in this country and abroad.
    Pornography becomes more and more widespread like a plague.
    Actors are treated as moral gurus, because their faces are familiar, not because they know how to behave.
    To put it succinctly: what is it in the U.S. which gives it any claim to be a light unto the nations?

  • I’m not sure I understand the argument. People who don’t procreate shouldn’t get married? Then where are the rallies against childless marriages? Why aren’t we banning people whose disabilities prevent them from having children from marrying? Or the elderly? Why aren’t we protecting the procreative institution of marriage from these barren impostors? And what about adoption? Since adoption by same-sex couples would challenge your argument, you must be against that, too. In which case, shouldn’t we stop straight couples from adopting, too? Those children may be in need of care, but of course the bigger need is for people to have their own babies. Please help me understand how we can include the disabled, the elderly, adoptive parents and those who are childless by choice into the Prop 8 campaign, because clearly we’re leaving a lot of people out.

  • Thanks for the comment, Maisha. You raise a common but good question with regard to our position, and it’s one that certainly seems to follow from my post. I somewhat oversimplified the argument last night, but in so doing left the door open for your objection. Let me see if I can offer at least a beginning of a response.

    Our position is that marriage is an institution in which a man and a woman come together with a desire to grow more deeply in love and with an openness to children, *even if children are for some reason impossible for them*. For us, the act of marital love — sexual union — is itself ordered towards procreation, even if in at any particular time procreation is impossible (perhaps due to infertility, because the woman is not in the fertile stage of her cycle, or whatever). So in the case of an elderly couple beyond childbearing years, the sexual union remains structurally oriented towards procreation.

    Such is obviously not the case for the same sex couple, however: same sexual acts of their nature cannot be procreative, while — all things being equal — heterosexual acts are always structurally procreative.

    That’s the beginning of a response… let me know where I’m unclear, and I’ll try to clarify.

  • When I comment on subjects like this my post is in danger of being deleted, which is ok, I have to answer to God for me, not whomever does the deleting.

    That being said:

    With the Catholic Church, the children are really just pawns. The real battle is keeping the pews full, I think for the power that gives the Church. I would like to think otherwise but I really do not, based upon personal experience.

    When divorce happens, the Church does and says nothing, to heal a marriage, when it is clear to the Church, as they have all the evidence they need in nullity cases, that a marriage has simply been abandoned and the abandoner has taken the spoils, including the children.

    Rather, should not individual priests and bishops in authority, address the situations, especially when these are presented to the Church for nullity investigations and work, tirelessly, pastorally and with canonical strictures, to restore marital union? Especially so when nullity is shown NOT to exist?

    No such thing happens, at all!

    No, Chris. I do not agree it is about the children. It is about power and control, although it should not be that way.

    If you must delete this, go ahead. I did not mean any disrespect by it. I just commented on my personal experience and from what I have heard from others, who have been through it.

    Regarding marriage, I believe, the chemical inability to make the sperm/egg do not invalidate, the inability to “perform the act” necessary for procreation, either physiologically or psychologically, is what validity and hence, real marriage, hinges on, provided the people are free of all other impediments.

  • If I’m following you correctly, Karl, two comments come to mind.

    First, there are programs present in the Church which try to heal broken/dying/weak marriages… Retrouvaille comes to mind.

    Second, I’m not sure what you think clerics can do to get two people back together who refuse to do so.

    Can you elaborate or clarify?

  • Going there would hijack the topic. I simply wanted to infuse my personal experience into my comment.

    I have never, once, seen the slightest concern for the scandal and abuse our five children have experienced by any of the priests or bishops who were supposed to pastor them. To this day the scandal is encouraged.

    Our acceptance of divorce has prepared the groundwork for this “dumbingdown” of marriage.

    It is about the children and their souls, that is clear, but I do not see the Catholic Church as having the moral high ground. Not over divorce, Chris.

    God is teaching his Church, if it will listen to spouses like myself and others who have seen its evil deeds, to repent and to LISTEN. Bur for twenty years, the ears of the Church have been sealed, in my personal experience.

    I hope, whatever it takes to break the back of the dead consciences of the Catholic intelligencia, lay and clerical, is done. They do not listen. They listen to “experts” they DONOT

  • LISTEN to their victims.

  • The Church must defend marriage, period, not selectively in the face of a homosexual challenge.

    It must cease allowing its teachers to stress the “benign” nature of divorce. It must do so with strong canonical sanctions. It must hold to account, with formal canonical sanctions those who abandon marriages, particularly when they do not seek counsel from the bishop or when they abuse those few specified canonically allowed circumstances when separation is allowed.
    Wrongful divorce must not be unaddressed, in public and those who refuse, without substantive, serious reasons, to work, endlessly if necessary, at reconciliation, especially if there are children involved, should be formally and very much in public, be admonished and in short order, formally excommunicated, if the refusal to work toward healing the marriage continues. All those who cooperate, formally, with the support of the unrepentant, should similarly be held to account, with more vigor if they are a religious or in any position of authority/importance in the Church.

    The Church has lost all credibiliy due to its generations of laxity regarding marriage. This is constantly used against the Church and justifiably so.

    Unless this is addressed and addressed, last year, the Church is the hypocrite it is so often accused of being.

    May God have mercy on His, very unfaithful Bride. It is those of us who are struggling to be faithful to both our spouses and our faith, who God requires
    His Bride to listen to. The Pope and the rest of the Catholic clergy need to understand how much harm they do each day our cries are left unanswered with almost anything but disdain, from those who should know better.

  • Karl,
    When you write that “the Church” has been moving in the direction of accepting divorce, I believe you should modify that by saying many [most?] priests and bishops have been moving in this direction. And it is, as you rightly note, part and parcel of the sexual scandals. Once start hedging – even in the smallest manner – on matters of Church teaching, the hedging simply grows.
    The hierarchy is mealy mouthed when it comes to the use of the pill. Most of the pills are abortifacient. All of them sterilize. How often do priests and bishops note this? How often do they remind the faithful that they are committing a mortal sin by the use of the pill?
    But I believe there is a mistaken notion that our bishops, as such, are a saintly lot. They are not. You have but to read a bit of the history of the episcopacy to realize that bishops do not contribute much to the list of saints, to those we are enjoined to emulate. They are for some reason a timid lot.

  • Unfortunately too true. We must remember that the priesthood and episcopacy are charisms, gifts for the good of the Church, and not holiness. A mother at home raising her children may have a far greater place in heaven than many a bishop.

  • How is SSM going to harm your (traditional) marriage?

    That is really the incorrect question – it should be “How is SSM going to strengthen marriage as an institution?”

    And the answer is, it is not. It will only further hide the now barely recognized fact that the proper end of intercourse is procreation.

  • I think there’s a real serious question whether ANY church in the USA takes marriage seriously–with (ironically) the possible exception of the Mormons. Among Catholics, even those who cannot remember the number of the commandments, let alone the content of the list, can tell you that when we want to divorce and remarry in church, we just get an annulment on some (frequently bogus) “psychological” ground. This happens no matter how long the supposedly invalid marriage has lasted or how many children it produced. This last point is especially important; the annulment regime now in force is saying that it is NOT important to stay married “for the children’s sake.”

  • ron chandonia, I agree that there have been serious abuses in Catholic Church annulments. But the idea of an annulment does not hinge on whether the apparent marriage lasted many years, nor on how many kids there are, nor on whether it is better for the kids’ sake to stay together. If a couple never did get married to begin with, despite appearances, then it means that they have been living an error for however long the apparent marriage has been going on, whether short or long. I accept that a long-lasting arrangement suggests that there must have been a real commitment to permanence, but there are other commitments needed for the marriage to have taken place to begin with.

    I know a couple who got married 20 years ago, and got an annulment 2 years ago: the guy had been a pornography addict and sexual deviant the entire period. He was incapable of a real commitment to marital fidelity at the time of the wedding, because he was addicted to porn.

    The Church usually states that if a couple has kids, they both have a deep, serious obligation to see to their welfare even if a divorce or annulment occurs. How can it be better for the kids for the Church and society to pretend that a marriage took place when it didn’t. I should think, generally, that a couple with young kids, who discover that they never did truly marry, ought to ask themselves whether they might have a moral obligation to actually make real the apparent marriage that they had been living in action, for the sake of the kids. But of course, nobody discovers this without a marital breakdown, and at that point it is often difficult to establish that it really would be better for the kids if their mom and dad got married even when they hate each other.

    Given that at least 30% of heterosexuals don’t seem to have a grave problem with the very idea of homosexual marriage, it is probable that many, many people don’t understand marriage enough to actually form a marriage bond with another person. Given that, it should not be surprising that many annulments are granted correctly.

  • May one not also ask what is the difference between gay “marriages” [sodomy] and marriages in which the female uses the pill to sterilize herself? Marriage is not even chiefly for procreation. Procreation is an added blessing. To reject that blessing is to reject the Almighty.

    Consider also the vow “until death”. As Harry Truman remarked “if a man will not keep his word to his wife, to whom will he keep it”? The Church does not prohibit divorce when it is but separation. It prohibits divorce – it points out the breaking of the vow – for “remarriage”.

  • Gabriel,
    It is my understanding that the Church does not so much prohibit divorce as simply not recognize it. Indeed, while legal separations may be favored over divorce as such, I believe that the Church understands that divorce under civil law is often necessary in order to ensure protection of the weak — usually but not always the wife or children. Consequently, what is not permitted is remarriage (absent an annulment of course), since the first (without an annulment) the marital sacrament remains in place and remarriage constitutes adultary.

    Thanks for the Truman quote. I was unaware of it.

  • How mislead and scandalous these comments are.

    How easily you have swallowed the Kool Aid of divorce to think that it is anything but condemned.

    Do you reacall it says…..God Hates Divorce. How easily man has rejected the expressed Will of God and searches for rationalizations for his sins.

    Watch and learn as society and the Catholic Church decay for their self-serving attitudes, especially towards marriage. The reconing will come.

  • Karl,
    Emoting about Kool Aid is not productive. While I’m hardly an advocate of divorce, and it is certainly true that the rate of broken marriages is scandalous, the fact is that obtaining a divorce in and of itself is not understood by the Church to be a sin. Indeed, the Church views a civil separation and a civil divorce indentically. Neither has any effect whatsoever on the marital Sacrament. The Church recognizes that the parties are not morally enjoined from selecting whichever legal route leads to greater justice under our civil law system. This is especially important in the case of serious abuse. Neither legal approach, however, permits “re-marriage” in the Christian sense, even if civil divorce does so under civil law. The sin occurs if a person bound by the marital sacrament to his spouse remarries or otherwise has relations with another regardless whether the married couple are separated, divorced, or neither. Note the important fact that the Church does not view civil divorce as disturbing the status of a Christian marriage.
    Of course, as I noted the rate of divorce is evidence of deep and disturbing problems within our society. The wounds, especially to children, are incalculable. But divorce is a symptom of sin, not the sin itself. This is pretty straightforward Church teaching.

  • Karl,
    Catechism 2383:
    “The Church teaches that the separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases. The Catechism states: “If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.”

    Which is to say “divorce” is a civil separation, not a breaking of the marriage vow.