Why Marriage is Controversial

I first posted this on my old blog, a couple of years ago. I’m reviving it for this week’s Summer Symposium on the Family, in preparation for the Bishop’s Synod on the Family this October.

The following chart shows why discussing marriage with others who do not share your presuppositions is fraught with peril.

Thoughts about Marriage

I suspect that most people’s notions of marriage form a subset of the items on the chart. Trouble is, for two different people the overlap can exclude what one or the other finds to be most important.

I won’t belabor the point.

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  • captcrisis

    Your chart does not include the only absolute prerequisite of Catholic marriage. But I see your point and this is a constructive chart. Just because someone you disagree with includes (or excludes) one thing does not mean necessarily that any one other thing is being included or excluded.

    • Will Duquette

      I presume you’re speaking of the sacramental nature of marriage. When I first wrote up the chart, I was writing for a broader audience; and anyway the whole point is that we aren’t all talking about the same thing even when we use the same word. It’s a remarkably complex thing to speak clearly about.

      • captcrisis

        No, the absolute prerequisite as far as the Church is concerned is to have a functioning penis that can ejaculate live sperm into a vagina. You can’t deny that. That’s why incurable quadriplegics, or men who have lost their testicles, can’t get married. This requirement strikes a lot of people (including most Catholics) as degrading, animalistic, and it separates sex from love in a way that is alien to the modern mind, which considers marriage to be about love, not rutting.

        • Will Duquette

          I’m not sure this is true. At least, all I can find in the CCC is that marriage requires a man and a woman, both baptized and free to marry, who freely give consent to the union (CCC 1625). And though I’m not a canon lawyer, I don’t see this requirement in canon law as well. Do you have a reference?

          • captcrisis

            Sorry for the delay in responding but I’ve been very busy.

            Canon law s. 1084 states that the permanently impotent can’t marry. This excludes men who have lost their testicles, and quadriplegic men who cannot have an erection. It doesn’t exclude quadriplegic women — even if they can’t feel anything below their neck. A man can put his erect penis into his wife’s (nonfunctional) vagina and ejaculate, even if she has no sensation there. That’s the “marital embrace”; Catholic marriage. But if the man is quadriplegic, no matter how much they love each other, they can’t marry.

            It’s a loveless morality. As someone put it in the Catholic Answers forum, “I find it shocking that human beings due to no fault or choice of their own would be denied the ability to marry–to have a life partner to love and grow with. It seems like a punishment for something that, again, they did not choose nor was any fault of their own. It just seems totally lacking in compassion–which was one of the Lord’s primary qualities as God/Man.”

          • Will Duquette

            Actually, that isn’t what it says. What it says is that it nullifies a marriage if the marriage cannot be consummated due to a prior and perpetual impotence. It doesn’t say that the couple cannot love each other; it doesn’t say they can’t live together; it says that there cannot be a sacramental marriage. A couple in this case could still choose to be life partners without engaging in any kind of sin.

            However, thank you for bringing that canon to my attention; I’d looked for something like that and not found it.

          • captcrisis

            It says that there cannot be a sacramental marriage, unless the couple is willing to forego sex entirely. That’s because the Church considers only penis-in-vagina sex to be a form of making love. A proposition that was developed by celibate males, inexperienced and ill-informed, and which seems increasingly bizarre now that Catholics have disregarded Pius XI’s and Pius XII’s prohibition against sex education and are becoming more knowledgeable.

          • Will Duquette

            No, it says that if there is no possibility of normal intercourse, then there cannot be a sacramental marriage, period, because only sex that can in principle be fruitful fulfills the proper end of marriage.

          • captcrisis

            Well that means that a quadriplegic can’t get married. Or a man who through an accident has lost his testicles.


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