Wednesday 6 February 2013

Same sex 'marriage': the morning after the night before

It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. Nonetheless certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task  of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead -often not recognizing fully what they were doing- was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another -doubtless very different- St Benedict.

The closing paragraph from Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue.

Oh, that's all a bit portentous, isn't it? Let's brighten things up with a tribute to marriage from another great reformer of the institution:


  1. You've probably read this before but I have to keep asking until I get a real answer from someone...

    As Marriage will no longer be legally defined as having anything to do with love, a relationship of mutual reciprocity, sexual consummation, sexual fidelity, cohabitation etc – let alone the rearing of children.

    marriage is being abolished.
    Replaced with an eidolon which contains neither the intention nor the form of any heretofore understanding of marriage.

    To the extent that what were once recognised as valid marriages among non-Catholic baptised baptised couples – will not be validated by this ‘new marriage’ ‘non-contract’

    So is this disastrous new legislation merely an unust law – or an intrinsically unjust law?

    If it is intrinsically unjust [and I have yet to hear or see any informed Catholic argue it isn't] – we have major problems.

    Because we may be forbidden from engaging in the civil marriage process in any way.
    It might get to the farcical situation where Catholics marrying in a Church are forbidden from going through a civil marriage ceremony as it scandalises and conspires against the very vows they’d made in the Nuptial Mass

    Catholics being deprived of/proscribed from civil marriage with all its legal/socio-economic benefits/safeguards…

  2. You're raising good questions and I don't have an answer to them.

    The general worry about whether the Church should withdraw from 'state marriage' is being voiced in the US (and I suspect elsewhere). I've seen this ( on Father Z (which links pieces by George Weigel and Ed Peters). But those points are being made a) within the US legal context rather than in the UK contexts; and b) don't seem directly to address your point about whether partaking in 'state marriage' might not just be confusing, but scandalous or even co-operation with evil, not just for the Church as registrar (which could be dealt with by the Church withdrawing from 'state marriage') but for the actual participants (who would then, as you say, be forbidden from taking part even in a separate civil ceremony).

    In short, I don't know but I agree you're right to raise these issues.

  3. There seems to be nothing we can do - except withdraw into our communities and prepare for barbarism.

  4. That's very much the mood in which I wrote this! But on reflection I don't think we should let ourselves be too defeatist about this. I do think we need to make sure our own communities are in good order -just like St Benedict and the monasteries. But we also need to view them as treasuries which are destined -at some time and in some ways- to be spent for the benefit of the the whole of humanity.