Recognising Marriage

Blogged by James on 8th February 2013

I haven't quite finished thinking this one through but think Joseph Shaw is talking a lot of sense.

At first glance one might expect that the logical thing for orthodox/traditional/absoluist/nasty Catholics to do when the state does Marriage wrong - to the point of calling things Marriage when they are not - is to reject state Marriage altogether. One might expect that scaredy-cat, elitist, latin chant, only no-sinners-allowed types would want to retreat ever further in to a Catholic ghetto?

Yet the opposite turns out to be true. My thoughts on Marriage are alarmingly scientific. I consider it to be a thing that exists outside of my ideas about it. A thing I can look at and study and talk about but a thing none the less and a thing that, like Planets and apples falling out of trees, will go on being exactly what it is no matter what I or the government might choose to say about it.

A scientist can look at 16th Century ideas about gravity and say "those guys were wrong about gravity" but he knows that both he and the 16th Century fellow are talking about the same thing. I can look at 21st Century ideas about Marriage and say "those guys are wrong about Marriage" but I know that both myself and the 21st century peeps are talking about the same thing.

To quote Dr Shaw..

There is only marriage: natural marriage, and the sacramental marriage which, when the parties are baptised, supervenes upon it. Marriage is an institution of natural law, and it is recognised by both Church and state.


Today's government is very, very wrong about what Marriage is and how Marriage works. They are as wrong as alchemists having a guess at the invisible spirit thingies who pull the planets around the sky. Yet, I think the Marriage they are wrong about is still Marriage.

Dr Shaw continues..

The state also allows people to get married who are not, under Natural or Divine Law, free to marry: people who have a validly married spouse still living, for example. We say of such people that they are not 'really' married, and at this point what is recognised socially becomes less clear. But if the law of the land wants to do this, while it confuses and weakens the social recognition of the institution, it doesn't change the fact that if a couple want to marry, they want to be recognised as being married, by the law.

What is being proposed is that this confusion be increased vastly, and whole new categories of partnerships will be legally recognised as marriages, when under Natural Law they are no such thing. Ultimately, we may say that the state has ceased to deal with marriage at all, but will be doling out certificates of 'vaguely committed relationships'.


Ultimately, we may say (and I do) that the state did this in 1969 with the Divorce Reform Act. Since then, state Marriages have been certificates of 'vaguely committed relationships' which are routinely handed out to people who are not, under Natural or Divine Law, free to marry.

So in this respect, while "gay marriage" legislation is very wrong in that it denies the link between marriage and heterosexual fertility, I don't think the "gay marriage" legislation does very much to change the situation with regards to "what should the Church do when the state calls something marriage that isn't?"

The state might force us out of registering valid marriages with the state - but I don't think we should want to stop doing it.

At least... I think that's what I think... so far.

Far more important to me is the question of the priests in every city who already routinely bless "re-married" non-marriages and invite people in that situation to be extraordinary ministers. Talk about sowing social confusion... Will our Bishops be turning a similarly blind eye when the same is done with same-sex "marriages"?