The Tablet Blog
The Catholic Church and gay marriageFr Timothy Radcliffe OP
2 March 2012, 9:00
The Catholic Church does not oppose gay marriage. It considers it to be impossible. If it were possible, then we would have to support it since the Church tells that we must oppose all discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The issue is not gay rights but a wonderful truth of our humanity which is that we are animals: rational animals according to the Medievals, spiritual animals open to sharing the life of God. In the sacraments, the fundamental dramas of our bodily life are blessed and become open to God's grace: birth and death, eating and drinking, sex and illness. St Thomas Aquinas says that grace perfects nature and does not destroy it.
Marriage is founded on the glorious fact of sexual difference and its potential fertility. Without this there would be no life on this planet, no evolution, no human beings, no future. Marriage is a plastic institution and takes all sorts of forms, from the alliance of clans through bride exchange to modern romantic love. We have come to see that it implies the equal love and dignity of man and woman. But everywhere and always it remains founded on the union in difference of male and female. Through ceremonies and sacrament, this is given a deeper meaning which for Christians includes the union of God and humanity in Christ.
This is not to denigrate committed love of people of the same sex. This too should be cherished and supported, which is why church leaders are slowly coming to support same sex civil unions. The God of love can be present in every true love. But 'gay marriage' is impossible because it attempts to cut loose marriage from its grounding in our biological life. If we do that, we deny our humanity. It would be like trying to make a cheese soufflé without the cheese, or wine without grapes.
From the beginning, Christianity has stood up for the beauty and dignity of our bodily life, blessed by our God who became flesh and blood like us. This has always seemed a little scandalous to 'spiritual' people, who think that we should escape the messy realities of bodies. And so the Church had to oppose Gnosticism in the second century, Manichaeism in the fourth, Catharism in the thirteenth. These all either had contempt for the body or regarded it as unimportant.
We, too, influenced as we are by Cartesianism, tend to think of ourselves as minds trapped in bodies, ghosts in machines. A friend said to me the other day, 'I am a soul, but I have a body.' But the Catholic tradition has always insisted on the fundamental unity of the human person. Aquinas famously said 'I am not my soul.'
Lynne Featherstone, the Equalities Minister, is right to say the Churches do not have an exclusive right to determine who can marry - but nor does the State, because we cannot simply decide by some mental or legal act what it means to be a human being. Our civilisation will flourish only if it recognises the gift of our bodily existence, which includes the amazing creativity of sexual difference, lifted up into love. Giving formal recognition to this through the institution of marriage in no way disparages the blessings brought to us by gay people.
Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP is the former head of the Dominicans.
14 May 2012 21:04 (34 of 34)
The central message of Christ's ministry was inclusion of the disenfranchised and abused. Over millenia, this has included women and gays. Women ministered and evangelized right next to men for a long time before our religion became enmeshed in the power plays of empires. One tour of the Vatican tells you who the real emperors were--the popes. For many priests and members of the hierarchy, religion (at least historically) had little to do with vocation and alot to do with power. This petition says everything on the subject: http://www.change.org/petitions/pope-benedict-xvi-vatican-city-italy-give-women-gays-equal-rights-in-the-catholic-church
26 April 2012 18:43 (33 of 34)
All of the rhetoric I have read here, and by Fr. Timothy fails to realize that the Majesterium of the Catholic Church is not interested in opinions and so called 'free thinkers'; It has the mandate of the Holy Spirit to guide and prepare us all for our eternal salvation. I suggest a return to the simplicity of Jesus Christ----'I am the Way, The Truth, and the Life', and quit the editorializing. The spirit of the law as well as the letter of the law, are the same in this matter, and must be followed without exception or compromise. God is the same--yesterday, today, and tomorrow....Wise up, all of you dissenters, doubters, and those wishing to manipulate for convenience and a false sense of 'charity to others'. Pray for true charity in the love of Truth to and for all. TM
25 April 2012 21:06 (32 of 34)
As a convert to the Catholic faith I feel a certain betrayal by liberal bishops and priests that want to have it both ways. On the one hand they want the acceptance of the world and on the other they want the approval of God. As a former Protestant minister I know that this is outside the realm of possibility. (Tong in cheek here.) You either stand for Christ and His teachings or you fall with the world. You either have His agenda or you have your own. Orthodoxy means holding the right opinion, an opinion that was bathed in the blood of Christ and the early church martyrs. Our bishops and priests are the custodians and defenders of truth not the definers thereof. In our day of moral relativism truth has become whatever any individual wants it to be. Truth is and always will be objective because God does not have truth, He is Truth. This is the main difference between a liberal and a conservative. For the conservative the church is there to transform us and lead us into the holiness of the Blessed Trinity so that one day we will share union with Him. For the liberal the church needs to be changed so that all we will be forced to keep up with the times and accept their sins thereby cleansing there conscious. The premise of this whole argument begins with the lie that we are animals that become spiritual animals thru the Eucharist. Not so, the scripture teaches that we share a common life with the animals in that we were all made from dirt. However mankind was made in the image of God according to the council within the Divine Trinity. We are not talking monkeys. The scripture also teaches that we were created male and female and that God wrote marriage into the fabric of creation. This is why the Church can only elevate a marriage to the order of a sacrament and say that marriage is not necessarily a 'Christian' concept. This argument also shows how little of the gospel is understood in our modern times and how little we hold to our baptismal vows. How can one support mortal sin and still claim to be a Catholic? How can one turn his or her back on the traditions that have been handed down for 2000 years and accept intrinsic evil? I keep hearing the argument of love being thrown like a trump card. The tragic mistake that is being made here is that erotic or even brotherly love is being substituted for agape` or God's love. God's kind of love never rejoices with evil because of the damage and hurt it causes not only his friends but his enemies as well. As faithful Catholics we are going to have to say enough to the predators that have invaded our pulpits and enough to those faithless Catholics that refuse to live consistent with church teaching and the scripture in order to corrupt our way of living. Every faithful catholic needs to know the one true faith and the traditions that have been handed down as well as the scripture that was sealed and approved by the church. As a Protestant all I had was the scripture and it lead me to the Catholic faith. How much more will it do for those faithful Catholics in training their minds with the thoughts of God? It will open itself to those who come to listen and obey. Truth comes to those who are willing to accept it regardless the cost. DRH, Fort Worth, TX
17 March 2012 19:52 (31 of 34)
On a purely impartial basis, it is objectively true that the Church engages in a double standard between gays and straights when it comes to upholding teachings on marriage. To deny this is to don blinders. For example, Church teaching is opposed to divorce - and it differs from teaching on homosexuality in that we have this teaching directly from Jesus Christ. And yet, when one applies for an annulment, Church law REQUIRES that one first obtain a civil divorce. Oh, that's just a civil requirement, we don't really believe the civil divorce is actually a divorce. Yet when it comes to civil marriage of same-sex couples, it is suddenly the end of civilization: that civil marriage is a dire threat, while civil divorces are a mere technicality. This is a double standard no matter how you slice it. Church teaching also provides two entirely separate theologies of sexuality for gay and straight people. For straight people, sexuality is a gift from a good God rooted in the goodness of Creation. For gays and lesbians, sexuality is a burden from an indifferent God to test us, rooted in the experience of the Cross. There is no other instance of two contradictory theologies set up for separate groups on such a fundamental aspect of life. How long can such a house of cards stand? This contradiction is not just a hole in the seamless garment, it is two entirely different garments. I will believe the hierarchy is not prejudiced when I see them giving the exact same amount of time, effort and financial resources to laws outlawing civil divorce. Until then their claims of tolerance and merely upholding Church teaching do not ring true. In the meantime, these ad-hoc theologies that are patched together by self-loathing closeted homosexuals in the Curia need to be re-evaluated so that we do not look ridiculous, eclipsing the saving power of the Gospel to attract all people by it clear, plain truth.
10 March 2012 1:05 (30 of 34)
To date the Vatican is the only country in the western world that has refused to sign the U.N. declaration that decriminalizes homosexuality. Remember there remain many countries today that jail or execute homosexuals. At the same time the Vatican claims that same-sex unions as a marriage devalues the unique identity and social contributions of the union of a man and a woman. How any loving couple's sexual behaviour is affected the marriage of a heterosexual or homosexual is yet to be explained by anyone from the Vatican. At the same time it is obvious that the Vatican has a very limited or poor understanding of what constitutes a `traditional marriage`. Here are just a few biblical examples that were obviously overlooked by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi. For example Abraham, Jacob all had concubines. Solomon it is said had more than 300. Genesis 16 tells us that a married man could acquire his wife`s property including her slaves. Nor were many biblical heroes exempt from polygamy. Esau and Jacob shared several wives, while Solomon enjoyed more than 700. Genesis 38:6-10 reveals that a widow who had not borne a son was required to marry her brother in law, and must submit sexually to her new husband. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 shares that a virgin who is raped must marry her rapist. However the rapist must pay victim`s father 50 shekels of silver for property loss. Numbers 31:1-18 and Deuteronomy 21:11-14 announce that under Moses` command Israelites were to kill every 'Midianite man, woman and child, save for the virgin girls who are taken as spoil of war. Again, wives must submit sexually to their new owners. Exodus21:4 explains that a slave owner could assign female slaves to his male slaves. Female slaves must submit sexually to their new husbands. Does that mean that anything goes? For me the traditional form, man and women continues provide and exist within a very loving, wonderful and fulfilling family. However, the recent message from Benedict XVI on same- sex marriage appears obsessively focussed on that of St. Augustine and his tormented attitude toward sexuality. Finally, is a heterosexual marriage any more or any less fragile than that of a homosexual couple? Are the children of a heterosexual couple more loved and cared for than by a homosexual couple?
9 March 2012 16:29 (29 of 34)
The temptation to use pious language to justify and maintain the social structures and customs of another age does damage to the Church in every age. We can all appreciate why primitive cultures saw the only purpose of sex in pro-creation, but we are way beyond that now. Our challenge is to live in the present, with the insight that sexual orientation is not an individual's choice or the result of nurture, so it must be part of God's creation. Just because God's action doesn't fit our perceptions, so matter how old they may be, doesn't make it wrong.
9 March 2012 15:54 (28 of 34)
Two people of the same gender wanting to spend their lives together in a Loving Blessed Relationship threatens not my marriage. This discrimination by church hierarchy is SINFUL.
9 March 2012 9:07 (27 of 34)
The Church didn't just reject the Cathars' point of view, of course, it legitimated killing those gentle folk all off.
7 March 2012 16:03 (26 of 34)
The State cannot marry any baptised male or female. Secular marriage is a fiction reserved for atheists. I am of the opinion that state unions between and man and woman are civil unions and that is all. The government got involved in marriage in the middle of last century and its doing so has led to this mess. Isn't there any other way property rights and entitlements can be left to whoever without calling anything a civil union? The State should get out of marriage altogether!
7 March 2012 15:12 (25 of 34)
I cannot agree with the totality of the argumentation. Marriage is a social construct that pre-dates Christianity. It now takes a secular form and a sacramental form. The forthcoming consultation on 'how' (there is no 'if') refers to the former and definitively not to the latter. Foundational to the author's argument is what he refers to as the 'glorious' difference between males and females and, as always, refers to the biological function of procreation. He also refers to same-sex civil partnersips and notes that these are becoming 'possible' for the Church, whereas gay marriage is 'impossible' due to the biological sameness between the individuals concerned. These arguments are not ultimately, but are rather immediately unsupportable. Firstly, the biological difference between males and females is predicated on internal and external genitalia. Human beings are individual persons first and sexual functionaries second. The Church does not prohibit marriage between young couples where one or both is infertile and neither does She prohibit marriage between older couples, where one or both is beyond the reproductive age. Ipso facto, marriage is therefore about more than just sexual reproduction - it is about the solemnisation of love between two persons, not two sexualities which may be biologically active or may be twenty years beyond that where the ability to procreate ceases and where external and internal sexual appartus atrophies. The argument about physical enactments of love in sexual intercourse cannot be restricted to male-female relationships. They are equally mechanically possible between two males, for example. I assert, then, that marriage is an action and then a state which brings together two people in a state of love and commitment which may or may not have ever been open to procreation. As for the growing recognition of same sex civil partnerships, contrary to the author's assertion, these are, in fact, 'impossible' for the Church. If She continues to maintain that 'homosexuality is an intrinsic moral evil and a grave offence against the natural order (language which I consider hysterical) then an affirmation of civil partnerships sees the Church endorsing a state of permanent sin from which, technically, absolution is not possible due to intentional reasons. We could add in this context the contention that homosexuality IS part of the natural order and that if it were not to exist, our currently over-populated Earth would be even more over-populated. Homosexuality may well be a natural mechanism in Nature to act as one limit on uncontrolled population growth. If God did not countenance homosexuality then why does he make so many homosexuals? And why are so many called to the sacred priesthood and function extremely pastorally (and liturgically!)well within it? The retort that St. Paul condens homosexuality is not possible - contextual analysis of his comments reveal no uinderstanding of homosexuality as an entity, but rather as an indulgence (men turn from their wives and burn with lust for one another.... - implying adultery and sexual recreation, not full homosexuality and love and commitment). It has also been suggested that Paul was himself homosexual and that this was, in fact, his 'thorn in the flesh'. It is a well known psychopathology that people who cannot cope with or hate something in themselves often project that hate onto others and punish it in proxy fashion. Might such a phenomenon, indeed possibility, explain the visceral and disproportionate reaction to homosexuality from the Vatican? Priests in confession in parishes rarely act similarly, but are entirely more pastorally sensitive. Well, there is much mileage in such arguments but Archbishop Nicholas may be very surprised to learn that most practising Catholics do not have anywhere like the same 'problems' with this way of living - and he will be disappointed if he esxpects thousands to take to the street in visceral protest. We shall, as they say, see soon.
7 March 2012 6:28 (24 of 34)
This is wisdom, and as things are it is difficult to disagree with. Where a wedge come in to the argument, though, is with the assertion that 'gay marriage' is impossible because it attempts to cut loose marriage from its grounding in our biological life.' Work is being done on this. Stem cells from one woman may in time be able to be used to impregnate another. Two men may be able to use a surrogate. What will happen to this argument when good Christian couples show that same-sex marriage need not loose marriage from its biological grounding?
6 March 2012 23:03 (23 of 34)
we are having difficulty defining gay marriage because we do not know what heterosexual marriage is other than intuitively from our actions. Gay actions look different and hence intuitively must be different. A sacrament is God's presence to the eyes of faith. Sacraments are not limited by the vehicle of presence. God determines where He is present. Is he absent from a loving gay relationship?
6 March 2012 20:47 (22 of 34)
If we believe in God or accept that He is highly probable (1 or 2 on Dawkin's scale), we automatically start to wonder about what God's will is and how we can follow it. Observing nature as He has created it and following His example would seem to fit the bill. So I cannot think that homosexuality is the norm. Given that, I do hope homosexual couples have happy and stable lives, because they have a hard task. I wonder whether demanding and perverting the traditional meaning of marriage, when they already have a civil partnership defending their temporal rights, adds anything to this. What is the difference? If, as I see in many comments elswhere, the (democratic) majority of people don't believe in God, freedom of religion will always be made to give way to freedom of speech or freedom from discrimination. The problem seems to be that, once having their gay marriage, they could demand churches to give them a wedding under pain of law for discriminating. Is that not where our fear (and gay lobbyist insistence) comes from? This ratcheting proces has happened in the past. In the Netherlands, the trend is that a Registrar cannot refuse to marry same-sex couples on the basis of religious beliefs. What words are we to be allowed for church blessed man-woman unions? Holy Matrimony, wedding, wedlock? Will we be locked into a verbal religious ghetto? In my opinion, the bishops are right in ringing the warning bell. He that has ears to hear, let him hear!
6 March 2012 17:05 (21 of 34)
Thank you Fr. Timothy for an articulate defense of marriage. However, I'm not certain that church leaders could ever licitly support civil unions as they're a construct of the state intended to support a counterfeit of marriage that at the level of nature, simply is, as you say, impossible. Despite the civil legitimacy such unions bestow upon, no doubt, deep and loving friendships, they ultimately harm society at a fundamental level. That gay marriage is even a seriously held discussion in Western societies is at least one of the many tragic results that stem from the Anglican church's capitulation to contraception at the 1930 Lambeth conference.
6 March 2012 16:13 (20 of 34)
I am afraid this article is intellectually soggy and not the sort of thing one expects from a Dominican. He says, for instance, 'We have come to see that it implies the equal love and dignity of man and woman.' No, we haven't come to see that. Some people think that, but that is a different matter. And Fr Radcliffe offers no argument for the conclusion that marriage implies the equal love of a man and a woman, only a kind of cosy reiteration of aspects of that claim. As for his claim that to assert the possibility of gay marriage is to 'deny our humanity', that, again, is just the re-articulation of a traditional position, without anything in the article worthy of the name of argument.
6 March 2012 7:43 (19 of 34)
Fr Timothy Radcliffe expresses a particular theological viewpoint, and a very interesting one at that. It is probably well worth remembering, though, that there are other theological viewpoints. I have been particularly struck by the one expressed by the theologian Eugene F. Rogers Jr, who gives what I personally consider to be a rather convincing theological argument in favour of gay marriage. Rogers considers 'gay marriage by first reflecting on the theology of marriage,' and reflects 'on the theology of marriage under the rubric of sanctification. This approach is consistent with the tradition of the Orthodox Church, which regards marriage as a way of participating in the divine life not by way of sexual satisfaction but by way of ascetic self-denial for the sake of more desirable goods. Theologically understood, marriage is not primarily for the control of lust or for procreation. It is a discipline whereby we give ourselves to another for the sake of growing in holiness -- for, more precisely, the sake of God.' His theological viewpoint is a lovely counterbalance to the one proffered here by Fr Radcliffe, and is one that gives immense home to gay Catholics like myself. Here is the URL to Eugene Rogers' article: http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=3069
6 March 2012 5:41 (18 of 34)
The concept of Marriage Value for property is essentially the same as how we view Marriage in society. Marriage between a male and female has the POTENTIAL to create something extra (children) from within the union of couple. A union of two people of the same sex have zero potential to create from within their union. In property, some properties will only be worth maximum the sum total of the two properties. However, the judges have confirmed (English Court of Appeal in Trocette Property Co Pty v Greater London Council 1974) that marriage value occurs where two properties when amalgamated have the potential that an owner can realise extra value over and above the sum total of the two properties. It just so happens we see the word Marriage used in the same context yet again when we sit at a restaurant when we marry food and wine. (different but complimentary and results in something greater than the sum of the parts).
6 March 2012 3:29 (17 of 34)
Fr Radcliffe I believe is correct in making a distinction between support for civil unions and marriage. Part of the confusion stems from the fact that not all christian church's consider marriage to be a sacrament, which is something quite distinct from a civil and social contract. It also needs to be recalled that the sacraments do not have a monopoly on sacramentality. God's grace abounds everywhere, and God's love will always be witnessed to in the most unlikely places.
5 March 2012 23:58 (16 of 34)
I try to be a good Catholic. I am not sure whether there is a teaching in the Church that categorically states marriage is only for man and woman. The arguments put forward in the article suggest it is ok to have same sex union but not marry. The basis of any union is love which is blessed by God not by man. Why isn't the church moving with the times? I know this is hard but not impossible. peace Joe
5 March 2012 23:49 (15 of 34)
As a gay Catholic I agree with Father's Timothy's compassionate comments. Keeping the traditional basis of marriage is not inherently discriminatory nor does it imply a lack of compassion for gay people. I think there are people (both gay rights activists and some from the homophobic end of the spectrum) who confuse the two things.
5 March 2012 22:05 (14 of 34)
Imagine if the state had never previously allowed divorced people to 'marry'. Perhaps if it had never been possible for people to attempt second marriages this is what Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP would have written: 'The Catholic Church does not oppose the marriage of divorced people whose first spouses are still alive. It considers it to be impossible. If it were possible then we would have to support it since the Church tells us that we must not discriminate against those whose previous marriages have failed, but be forgiving and desire them to have a second chance. ' 'Marriage is founded on the glorious fact of indissolubility, it makes a permanent bond which can never be broken as long as the couple live. ' 'This is not to denigrate the committed love of people in second relationships, this too should be cherished and supported, but 'second marriage' is impossible because it attempts to cut loose marriage from its very nature as a permanent bond. If we do that we deny our humanity. It would be like trying to make a Cheeseburger without any cheese, or Coca Cola without carbon dioxide. ' 'Lynne Featherstone, the Equalities Minister, is right to say that the Churches do not have an exclusive right to determine who can marry - but nor does the State, because we cannot simply decide by some mental or legal act what it means to be a human being. Our civilisation will only flourish if we recognise that re-marriage after divorce is not a marriage at all. Giving formal recognition through the institution of marriage to divorced people in no way disparages the blessings brought to us by divorced people.' Or would he?
5 March 2012 21:11 (13 of 34)
Homosexual acts predate the Catholic Church/Christianity, we can say at the very, very least (if we require historical evidence) by 8-13 centuries (Kenneth Dover) and indeed so does the concept of marriage. Homosexual marriage ceremonies have not only elicited shock and derision (as with Nero and Elagobalus.) Do we not see a committed homosexual relationship in Plato's 'Symposium'? Philosophical fiction perhaps, but homosexual relationships have been accepted as both real and loving for as long as history has recorded relationship. Harmodius and Aristogeiton? Hadrian and Antinous? If we accept homosexuality and the concept of marriage both predate Catholicism, why do we assume that the Catholic Church when decreeing Gay Marriage (and yes I do use capitals) to be against history have any legitimacy? Loving homosexual couples who benefit from the acceptance and recognition of their commitment have always existed. The Catholic Church can not defend marriage for heterosexuals without being seen as increasingly intolerant and outdated.Perhaps the Church has reached a point were it should either continue with its views as they are and diminish from influence and importance or realise it can talk of 'the ideal.' Plato does nit attack the tables of reality for not living up to the perfect table.
5 March 2012 14:12 (12 of 34)
I don't agree with most of the comments above. I accept that the state should be the default authority on marriage. Allowing same-sex marriage requires the institution to be redefined. According to YouGov a significantly larger amount of people, religious or not, strongly believe that it should not be redefined than those who who believe it should. It's incredibly unfair on those who are against to redefine their institution when the current status quo gives same sex couple all the rights that the religious enjoy. All that would need changing is for the civil union to be broadened to include mixed sex couples. The argument by the gay lobby for marriage to be redefined to include same-sex couples is disingenuous when argued on the grounds of rights. It is really about a broader agenda of silencing those who believe same-sex relationships to be morally wrong.
5 March 2012 8:04 (11 of 34)
Perhaps a solution is to take the State out of marriage by giving straight couples the right to civil partnerships and leaving groups like churches to hold non-legally binding marriage ceremonies? In a multi-faith society this would also usefully equalise rights of all religions and denominations as none would have a monopoly regarding the creation of unions which would be recognised by the State.
5 March 2012 3:51 (10 of 34)
Several years ago, while my wife and I were still actively involved in a Catholic prayer group, we were confronted by the story of a tragic death involving the son of one of our oldest members. Emotionally torn and upset, Fred (not his real name) shared how this death had deeply affected him on several conflicting levels. Tearfully our eighty plus year old friend and father, revealed how his son's grief had shown him for the first time how much his son had loved his partner who had now suddenly passed away. Wiping away his tears, Fred admitted to us how guilt and church teachings had taught him that love between two members of the same-sex was wrong. He even expressed how these negative feelings had strained the relationship between him and his son for many years. Perhaps, it was his fault that he had raised a child with homosexual tendencies. Or, maybe God was punishing him for his past sins. He had led quite a rugged life, indifferent to others, and so on. But his son's grief was so real, so honest and so revealing of a relationship that consisted of a love between two caring and giving individuals. For the first time Fred was able to equate the recent loss of his wife with the loss experienced by his son. I don`t think of myself as a modern activist or whatever that label is supposed to mean. But as a disappointed and disenfranchised Catholic convert (1986) I do feel the need to ask questions about matters of faith, and particularly as it affects the homosexual. Faith for me is a dynamic which requires a deep and often a challenging sense of justice and compassion. As Christians we need to question our beliefs and not arbitrarily accept what is presented to us. Questions are more important than answers if we are to grow in faith and remain open to change and miracles. The belief that we or the Church possess all the answers is the only true heresy! One last important question: If a two dedicated gay individuals want to have their marriage blessed by God then who is that above Him to say no? Finally, it may surprise some Catholics that the Church once embraced Saints Sergius and Bacchus, two fourth-century male saints, whose marriage to one another is depicted in a seventh-century icon housed in the Kiev Museum of Eastern and Western Art. http://whenreligionfails.blogspot.com/2011/06/same-sex-attraction.html
4 March 2012 23:04 (9 of 34)
My response is posted here: http://abubbleoffsquare.blogspot.com/2012/03/real-issue-married-versus-family.html
4 March 2012 21:26 (8 of 34)
Nice one, Timothy, and in the best tradition of body Dominicans. What about this one? The ministers of the sacrament of marriage are, so I was taught as a child, the people getting married. This is why they repeat the words after the minister/registrar. In the Christian setting, the minister blesses the union but does not 'marry' the couple; they marry each other. All this talk about 'a man and a woman' is not, in my view, central to the concept of marriage. What is central is the public statement of the couple's intention to stay together 'in sickness and in health...' etc I favour the state taking over marriage with the couple going to the Register Office as in France. Those people of faith could then go on to make their own arrangements e.g. Masses etc in their own faith buildings.
4 March 2012 17:26 (7 of 34)
Juliet: 'What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.'
4 March 2012 15:27 (6 of 34)
As an explanation it sounds quite paradoxical in its naturalistic grounding, which the church in all other circumstances admit the incompleteness thereof. I hardly think marriage is contingent on reproduction or sex differences. In fact, the very acknowledgment of homosexuality recognises that sex differences are not as clearly well defined as we once supposed. The state has a more respectable authority on legislating marriage than the church or anyone else and so it should be. At least it's democratically accountable. But it must remain firm. This is a divisive issue and there is no room for a diplomatic middle way approach that won't isolate someone or other. We've all set boundaries on what we think marriage ought to be. For the religious it's between a man and a woman. For liberals it's between a man and a woman or a man and a man. For the surrealists it's between man and woman, man and man, or man and pig. Expanding the definition of marriage is disconcerting but it hardly demands us to shy away from the issue, retreating onto safer ground where marriage was once solidified. That would be disproportionate and reactionary; some might say extremist. Cultural delineation of marriage is always arbitrarily drawn precisely because they are cultural as opposed to biological or spiritual. This does not mean that once we open up the gates to different minority appeals for state recognised marriages, that we must keep them open to all. It means that the boundary can always be drawn firmly but that it can always be moved around in the event of adequate persuasiveness and justification presented to the receiving culture and recognising state. So allowing gay marriage on the basis of the acceptance of gay people and their love recognised by the church doesn't necessarily precede the acceptance of polygamy, underage or absurdist matrimony of man and beast.
4 March 2012 14:10 (5 of 34)
This article is characteristically compassionate but when Fr. Timothy writes 'everywhere and always [marriage] remains founded on the union in difference of male and female' one could say the same about many other historically-bound attitudes to marriage: everywhere and always (until about 1930) it was about a woman serving a man, it was about having children, it was about staying inside your social class. The problem with calling on history as a witness is that it may support one of your arguments but then it will go on and prove all sorts of other things you now despise. If the Church supported civil partnerships then I think the call for 'marriage' would be less strong. But Fr. Timothy is a lone voice (he may actually be the ONLY senior churchman) speaking like this on this issue.
3 March 2012 22:31 (4 of 34)
Fr. Radcliffe conflates marriage with matrimony. The church, or any religious organization, can determine any rules it wants for the performance of matrimony or a religious comparable. Marriage, which imparts secular, legal rights, benefits, responsibilities and accountabilities - all of which are applicable to any citizen of the realm - needs not concern itself with religious proscriptions. That which imparts tax-funded rights shuld be available to all citizens.
3 March 2012 21:38 (3 of 34)
We're increasing our perception of 'the amazing creativity of sexual difference' all the time. As I understand it, the partners in a marriage convey the sacrament upon each other. Presumably, a gay person wishing to convey this sacrament sees sufficient, lovable 'otherness' in his/her partner. Is it right, then, for anyone else to draw a line beyond which a person may not make such a commitment? As marriage has always been a 'plastic institution' and 'takes all sorts of forms' surely this desire between two people to make solemn public vows is honourable, more so than forms of 'marriage' which have existed over the centuries, for instance those which were (and are) purely alliances of power and/or money. To offer 'same sex civil unions' to those who desire the sacrament of marriage looks very much like giving a stone when bread is asked for. As Timothy Radcliffe says, 'Christianity has stood up for the beauty and dignity of our bodily life, blessed by our God who became flesh and blood like us'. Like all of us, not some of us.
3 March 2012 11:38 (2 of 34)
Does the church allow marriage between a couple who have vowed celibacy?
2 March 2012 18:48 (1 of 34)
The God of love can be present in every true love. If they want to call it marriage, sobeit. At least let's find a suitable expression for something beautiful and binding. It's time for poets not lawyers
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Why do Catholic schools need to turn to Stonewall?
Banishing O'Brien answers some questions, raises others
Does Cardinal O’Brien deserve banishment or pardon? He at least owes us an explanation
Elena Curti, Deputy Editor
Don’t stop there, Justine Greening, the current model of aid is problematic
Bishop Kevin Dowling, guest contributor
Welby's right - St Benedict has much to offer banking reform efforts
Laurence Freeman OSB
Pope attacks the tyranny of the markets
Cult of money is today's golden calf, warns Francis
Hospitals must ensure the LCP is not misapplied
Professor David Albert Jones, Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre
Same-sex marriage bill must not discriminate against the Church
Archbishop Vincent Nichols calls for amendments to the legislation ahead of next week's debate
Patients aren't objects on which interventions are made
Westminster Archbishop Vincent Nichols defends chaplaincies as integral to healthcare
Asylum seekers, migrant workers and 'those who do not welcome foreigners' prayed for at migrants' Mass
Prayers of Intercession for Migrants Mass on May 6th 2013 at Westminster Cathedral