George Weigel is right

The American Catholic Church should completely decouple itself from all entanglements with civil weddings in the US.

Here’s why: It’s just a matter of time before Caesar comes after Catholics for “discrimination” if they refuse to perform same sex “marriage”. And you know that the Gay Legion of Menacing Visigoths for Tolerance is itching to use this as a legal pretence to systematically smash the Church.

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  • Andy

    I would extend it further – the Catholic Church should decouple itself from taking money from any government organization – this includes Catholic Charities, Schools and so on. The real assault on the Catholic Church is its willingness to accept money, and in some cases be very disturbed when it is not forthcoming, from government grants, and then expect to not have to follow government rules. He who pays the piper calls the tune sort of thing.
    If the Catholic Church want to be free of the government then it must not be part of the government. A lawyer friend of mine, who does think that the HHS rule is fine, said, as he understands the law and rule that if the Catholic Church became self-insuring and also sold insurance only to Catholic Agencies the HHS would not apply. I don’t know if it is true, but it seems logical. However, the point he continued with is that when you take money or act as an agent of the government you are bound contractually to follow government rules.
    I know it is costly, but, nothing in life is free and if the Church wants to be free of interference then it might have to put its money where its mouth is.

    • fmanion

      Andy: as someone who is involved in the current HHS mandate litigation, I have to say that your lawyer friend is completely wrong. The mandate applies to employers who self-insure and its “religious employer” exemption covers only employers (1) whose purpose is the inculcation of religious values, (2) who meet the Internal Revenue Code’s definition of a “church,” (3) who employ primarily members of that “church,” and (4)who serve primarily members of that “church.” Neither Catholic Charities nor a host of other Catholic organizations meet that definition. The application of the mandate to them has nothing to do with whether or not they accept money from the government in some form. It has to do with the fact that they exist as employers who provide health insurance to their employees.

      • Andy

        Thank you for sharing this with me – as I said he is a lawyer and I was taking his word for it. THat is why I posted, not to spread a falsehood, but to see what others might say.

    • midwestlady

      Absolutely right. We have to get out of the business of doing civil marriages and running these big institutions full of non-Catholic employees. A lot of Catholics have forgotten the reason we do charitable apostolates. It’s NOT to make money!

    • midwestlady

      It depends on how he defines Catholic agencies. There are 4 requirements for getting an exemption to the fines and the depend on the classification of the employer as a “religious employer”:
      A religious employer is one who:
      “(1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose;
      (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets;
      (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and
      (4) is a nonprofit organization” under specific sections of the Internal Revenue Code.
      All 4 conditions must be met to get the exemption.

      • midwestlady

        Obviously there are a lot of things that are labeled Catholic right now that won’t qualify, using all 4 of those conditions!

  • I said the same thing about Canada back when the courts shoved gay marriage down our throats. We should start having two weddings, like I am told happen in some EUropean countries: One civil ceremony, then sacramental marriage.

  • I don’t know. It seems this is simply the first step in a long, and ultimately doomed, retreat. Retreat is typically not the beginning of victory, as much as it’s delaying the inevitable. After all, few things are less intimidating to an opponent than retreating. Pull away due to this, and expect more HHS-style legislation down the road. Just a thought.

    • kenneth

      It’s not a retreat so much as two neighbors putting up a fence along a property line which has always existed but which was largely ignored in day to day life. Once that boundary becomes a source of intractable problems, defining and protecting that boundary solves a lot of problems for both parties.

      • And if there was evidence that once the fence was up, one neighbor would leave the other alone, that’s probably a wise move. But that assumes the fence would end the problem, rather than encourage the other neighbor to see it as a sign of weakness and concession in other parts of the property dispute.

        • kenneth

          The analogy may or may not be a perfect fit, but in real-life property fence scenarios, I’ve never seen one homeowner take the fence as a sign that he can presume even further on his neighbor’s property. The one who “gained” a foot of property in fact got nothing that was not properly his anyway. I’ve never heard of such a man feeling entitled to let himself into the living room of his “defeated enemy.” Good fences truly make good neighbors, and that is true in church-state separation as well. Civil marriage is not a sacrament, and it never was and never will be. Clergy, despite the carryover of their ancient privileges in this area, should not be acting as quasi-official agents of the state. The state has no legitimate interest in defining ecclesiastical/sacramental marriage.

          • Tim in Cleveland

            This is a good analogy if you are arguing for segregation.

            • kenneth

              No, if I were arguing segregation, I’d say neighbors who aren’t like me should live somewhere else with “their own kind.” All I’m arguing is that their space is theirs and mine is mine and they don’t have any right encroaching on my property, as it were, no matter how much they’ve gotten used to doing it in the past. It’s an argument for plural democracy and the live and let live principle which was at the very heart of our nation’s founding.

              • Tim in Cleveland

                One of the “bundle of sticks” of property rights is the right to exclude. In fact, one of the main functions of putting up a fence is to inform others that they are excluded from your property. So under your analogy, religious people (the state’s neighbor, I presume) are excluded from the state’s “property” (I don’t know why you consider it “your property” when public spaces belong to the public).

                So it seems to me, based on your analogy, that you are arguing that those who aren’t like you should live somewhere else (i.e. not on “your property”). Though, presumably under your analogy, religious people can live with whomever they like, just not in public… I mean on “your property.”

                • kenneth

                  They can certainly live within the State, and participate in it as fully as any of us. They don’t, however, get to participate at any greater level than their vote (like the rest of us). They aren’t entitled to act as an unofficial fourth branch of government or to hold some sort of special veto over law and culture in this country.

                • rjolly

                  Thats the point. The sacramental nature of marriage makes it a matter for the Church, not for the government. To push the analogy imagine Church property butting up against a federeal state park. The Church has the right to put up a fence to keep the federal employees from crossing onto their property and planting crabgrass in their vegetable garden.

                  If the government wants to grow crabgrass and call it carrots- let them do so on their own property/jurisdiction.

                  • kenneth

                    I agree, I think. That church-state fence works both ways. Just as religion should not be allowed to force its doctrine on civil marriage, the state should vigorously be restrained from telling any church who it should marry as a sacrament.

          • Probably the best thing to do would be look at those European countries I’ve heard so much about where the Church apparently exists in it own little yard, and see if that has kept the States from imposing upon the religious in those countries.

      • midwestlady

        It won’t be a retreat if we get our head out of our backsides and pay attention to what’s going on. If we get hysterical, or maintain the kind of hypocrisy we now have going, or refuse to be pro-active, it will be a retreat.
        If we want the general population to listen to us then we have to clean up our act. It does no good to yell about virtue when people see that we behave just like them. If you want to claim the high ground, you have to live on the high ground. Start climbing.

  • Kirt Higdon

    I’ve been advocating this for the last five or ten years or so. Separation of church and state marriages is the norm in most of Europe and Latin America.

  • Tim in Cleveland

    A somewhat different take from Ed Peters:

    “Second and more important, it is not strictly speaking for the Church to ‘withdraw’ from ‘civil marriage’, for the decision to accord civil recognition to ecclesiastical ceremonies like weddings is the State’s to make, not the Church’s.”

    • While much of what Ed Peters is saying is true, but I think he’s looking at the problem through a particular lens (as a canon lawyer) that doesn’t see the whole picture. Yes, “Our clergy act fundamentally as ecclesiastical officers at our weddings”, but they ALSO act as agents of the state. At least in California (and I think this is generally true) they have to sign and submit paperwork to certify the civil marriage took place.

      It is fully within the Church’s rights to refuse to do those civil/legal activities. If the state chooses to recognize those marriages without the paperwork (which they won’t), then yes, there’s nothing we could do to stop the state from recognizing the marriage. But, as I said, they won’t, so the Church does have the ability to refuse to participate in the civil aspect of our marriages.

      • I did not overlook those points. The reason, e.g., ministers have to “sign paperwork” is because the State is willing to recognize certain religious acts, provided they know about them with certainty. The State does not wish to recognize formal engagements, even though the Church has a rite to celebrate them, so there is no need to sign paperwork. There are, in fact, a number of holes in KC’s analysis, but, this is just a combox, after all. Best, edp.

  • Clare Krishan

    Indeed Tim in Cleveland, my compatriot chanson-diva Adele is being fined $1600 for not according the state the data it needs to make rhe civil recognition of her new baby!

  • Yes, it is time for this conversation. However, there are A LOT of questions to be answered:

    -How will this affect the annulment process? Will those who are only civilly married still be required to get an annulment as they do right now? Would there be some cutoff date for the change or would it be retroactive?
    -How would this affect adult converts who are only civilly married?
    -What about people who were married in some other church that continues to participate in the civil aspect of marriage?
    -Would the Church require that couples get separately civilly married? I could be wrong about this, but it’s my understanding that the Church won’t perform a marriage if the couple doesn’t have a state marriage license? Would the Church continue to require that piece?
    -If they wouldn’t require a civil marriage, would they have some other legal document to sign, something like the “covenantal prenups” that exist, that form a contract that is far more binding than our current marriage laws?

    I’m sure there are lots of other questions… point being, it’s not a simple discussion.

    • Deacon Nathan Allen

      As a judge on the Tribunal in my archdiocese, and having practiced law for a number of years before my ordination, I will attempt to answer (my own opinions, informed, but not to be taken for the official position of my bishop or the Church):
      – It is the consent of the parties that makes marriage from a canonical point of view. That consent must be legitimately expressed, which means for a Catholic, it must be made in the presence of a priest or deacon and according to the rite of the Catholic Church (unless the bishop should dispense from that obligation). A purely civil wedding involving a Catholic party is therefore a non-event as far as the Catholic Church is concerned. A non-Catholic, however, is not bound by this requirement, so if neither party is Catholic (or Orthodox: the eastern Churches have their own canon law which we respect), a civil wedding is presumably valid, and so would require a declaration of nullity.
      -Adult converts who are already civilly married would obviously not have been bound by the requirement of a Catholic wedding when they married. Assuming there are no prior bonds that need to be looked at, there would be no effect on adult converts.
      -Same answer regarding people who were married in other Christian ecclesial communities that continue to participate as agents of the state in civil marriage: if a Catholic attempts marriage in a Lutheran ceremony without a dispensation from the bishop, it is a non-event canonically. If two Lutherans marry in a Lutheran ceremony, no problem.
      -The Church recognizes that the state has its proper interests in the civil effects of marriage. Accordingly, I would expect that the Church would continue to encourage its people to be married civilly as well.

      On the main question, the position here in the United States is a little different than in Canada or the United Kingdom because we do have the First Amendment. Any attempt to force a church to perform a religious wedding ceremony that is contrary to its tenets would be clearly unconstitutional. Canada and Britain, however, do not have such a protection, so it might be a very real fear there.

  • Jane

    With respect, I think Weigel is wrong. I think there are some major theological and practical reasons for not withdrawing the Church from the function of civilly sanctioning marriage (if that is even possible, as has been noted).
    Theologically, I think that this would confirm people’s already erroneous idea that the Sacrament of marriage is but an optional “icing on the cake” embellishment for those extra-religious people who prefer the “smells and bells.” But that’s not the case. The Sacrament takes up the natural institution of marriage and fulfills it – and this is true for everyone. All marriages are ordered toward the love between Christ and His Church. And at the same time, all sacramental marriages – marriages in the Church – really, all marriages – are rooted in the nature of man and woman “as they come from the hand of their Creator” (CCC 1603). The fact that a Catholic priest, in witnessing a couple’s wedding vows, also has the authority to civilly sanction their marriage sends the needed message that marriage is not just a concern for the couple but also for the common good of all of society. I think it would be much harder to teach this point if the Church voluntarily withdrew her services from the civil effects of marriage.
    And practially, I’m not optimistic at all that removing the Church from engagement with civil marriage would somehow protect the Church from the reach and force of the State. If the government persists in declaring all distinctions between man/woman, same-sex/opposite-sex “discriminatory,” I really don’t see how it would matter if the Church was “excluding” same-sex couples from a religious ceremony + civil validation or just a religious ceremony. Maybe that’s too pessimistic. But a corrolary would be that wedding vendors, who I imagine receive no state money nor perform any state function, are already feeling the pressure to be “non-discriminatory.” (Maybe the distinction would be that businesses are required to be open to all comers? I still have grave reservations that Ceasar would halt his grasp for power at the Church doors.)
    I agree that the situation looks grave, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the lawsuits start coming against the Church. But I agree with Dave G. that abdicating the Church’s rightful role in society would be a retreat, and an untimely one at that. Alternatively, making Ceasar do his own dirty work of imposing an androgynous orthodoxy on everyone would at the very least expose his power-grab, take-no-prisoners tactics for what they are.

    • JoFro

      I agree! I would rather the Church face the lawsuits like a man and fight rather than flee like a chicken, with the full knowledge that the Butcher a.k.a The State will still pursue it to finish the job

  • The time has come to radically reorient the Church towards her primary mission of Evangelization. This includes severing the ties to the government in any corporal works of mercy. An evangelizing Church focusing on the spiritual works of mercy first will have a superabundant overflow into all areas of the corporal works of mercy, including health care and feeding the poor. THE spiritual work of mercy is Evangelization, as this takes a soul destined for hell and turns it back to God. The Church thrived and grew for centuries without government help and the case could be made that accepting the help from government sources has devastated the growth of the Church in America by focusing on the things of secondary importance. “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” What corporal work of mercy will gain for a man his soul? Only the spiritual works can accomplish this.

  • Jane

    Another thought: I do get what Weigel is saying about the “witness-value” of separating ourselves from a blatantly wrong and unjust psuedo-definition of marriage, such as the state is proposing (imposing?). But I worry that what will really be communicated is a sense that fine, the State can have its marriage and the Church can have its too – as if the State has any defining power over marriage! Or as if there can be one definition held by the state and another contradictory one by the Church. I think staying in the game, staying confident that we do have the true meaning of marriage, in the face of ever more bold affronts by the state, would also have a witness-value, and in addition would say that marriage is too important to the common good for the Church to back out.

    • ChrisKABA


      IMO, the “game” is already over as far as marriage definitions go. The state’s definition is that marriage is a simple legal contract.

      The question now is over when & if the church will go along with the program, and whether it will quit complaining about it immediately or will the court need to make it shut up and deal with it.

      I see nothing wrong with refusing to participate in legal games like “civil marriage” as is done in so many other countries. If you want a legal contract so you can “play house”, see a lawyer. If you want the sacrament of Marriage, see a priest.

      I see nothing wrong with refusing to participate in legal contracts that co-sign sinful behavior for the sake of “trying to win an argument.” Stick to the truth and keep preaching it, but don’t join in wrong actions for the sake of trying to practicing “friendly negotiation.”

      • kenneth

        There is no need or proper reason for clergy to play an official role in state-administered marriage, which really should be called “civil union” for everyone. Try putting this same ill-fitting shoe on the other foot for a moment. Would the Church acquiesce to having a government official sign off on priestly ordinations or first communions?

    • kenneth

      The state has no defining power over “marriage” because it has never performed a single one in the sense of marriage as a sacrament. The government, with power derived from its citizens and constitution, absolutely has the power to define the terms of civil unions. The Church in this case is claiming to suffer an attack on a power they never held and never will hold in a democracy. You would have us believe that civil marriage is really just some Catholic/Christian uber-sacrament which binds people to your religions whether they know it or not. Saying it does not make it so. It is as delusional as the Chinese government officials who believe they have legitimate power to elevate bishops or to name the incarnation of Tibetan lamas.

      Moreover, the Church and state already maintain radically different versions of marriage having nothing to do with SSM. Millions of Catholics who have divorced without annulment are married in the eyes of the state. They are just unrepentant adulterers in the eyes of the Church.

    • midwestlady

      Excuse me, but 75% of the population of the US is NOT Catholic, and the state DOES have defining power over their marriages.

  • I think Weigel is completely wrong. I would explain why but I don’t have to, because Lydia McGrew as done it for me.

  • Naomi

    Actually, I think it should be the other way around. The government should get out of the marriage business completely. The government has no business with who people choose to spend their lives with. Instead, marriage should be a strictly religious affair. If people want the tax and insurance bennies, then the government should be in the business of enforcing domestic partnership contracts — without getting into the business of sexual politics at all. Then, my mother in law who lives with her sister could get the same tax benefits as my husband and I do. A household is a household, and I don’t see any real reason to discriminate about who’s having sex with whom. Then the whole issue of same-sex marriage would be moot, and nobody’s stepping on everyone else’s toes. Marriage is a sacrament. Domestic partnership can be one designated tax/insurance beneficiary person, without regard to any kind of sexual politics. Problem solved. Voila!

    • kenneth

      So you’d be totally cool with polygamy and with having your tax rates go up considerably to underwrite the tax breaks for all of the frivolous partnership agreements you mentioned? Your scheme also would create perfect legal cover for that greatest of scarecrows invoked by the anti-SSM crowd, incest. And if for some reason you and your husband don’t have a well drafted contract, or can’t produce it in an emergency, you have no spousal claims to inheritance or survivor benefits or visitation in a hospital etc. You’re just a stranger who happens to be living there. If your in-laws or other household members have a sharper lawyer than you, they could dump you on the street at any time for any reason.

      • Naomi

        I guess you missed the part where I said ONE designated tax/insurance beneficiary person as a domestic partner. Also, domestic partnerships would have most of the same exact rights/responsibilities as a civil union/marriage simply as a result of BEING domestic partners, just the same as just BEING a spouse grants those self-same rights and responsibilities. It really isn’t rocket science. Grandfather current marriages into legal domestic partnerships via the Department of Vital records, and re-write the marriage laws to include non-sexual relationships, take out the word “marriage” or “civil union” and insert “domestic partnership”. Frankly, the incest thing? Is a red herring. First of all, people inclined toward incest are not going to be stopped by not being married, and second of all, allowing someone to designate a sibling as a domestic partner is not going to make them have sex with that sibling regardless of partnership status. Especially since in the secular world, marriage does not by default have much to do with procreation, I don’t really see how incest really comes into play here. As for domestic partnerships being “frivolous”, …. Well, with the current state of marriage in the secular world, including no-fault divorces and the push for “civil unions” and “same sex marriage” and all the dross that goes with it… I honestly don’t think it will have an effect either way, provided that the domestic partnership laws are as hard to get out of as marriage, i.e. they need to break the contract and there are penalties involved and hoops to jump through. Tax rates will change as tax rates will change. Frankly, I am not opposed to a higher tax rate if the tax rate is justified. Give unto Caesar and all that.

        • kenneth

          I get where your proposal comes from. It’s the equivalent of an army burning the crops and poisoning the wells as it retreats. “If we can’t have this territory, no one can.” It’s a clever rhetorical instrument, but bizarre in the extreme if you look into the implications even superficially. Large parts of civil and even criminal law recognize a fundamental difference between marital (or marriage-like) partnerships versus ordinary familial relations or casual relationships.

          This is based on much more than sex, or even procreation. It’s based on the fact that romantic life partnership has a much deeper and much different sort of intimacy than the others. It creates special vulnerabilities and challenges and situations that are just not shared by close friendships, children or siblings and certainly not by drinking buddies who would just like a tax break. The entire basis of inheritance and other domestic law would be turned on its ear if any two people could create a spousal privilege with a person they don’t share any particular intimacy with. It would be a wonderful tool for securities fraud and organized crime figures. Form a domestic partnership with your main co-conspirator and neither one can be compelled to testify against the other.

          There would be a boom in elder abuse and grifting in general. You could lure anyone into a domestic partnership, gain instant access to their finances and inheritance rights and then wait for the old codger to pass on (or help them along), all with the presumption of credibility that an actual spouse would have. Incest? Well, you’re right in that nobody new will join that odd sport, but enforcement will become completely impossible. Right now, a brother and sister playing house draws unwanted attention. In your world of “all partnerships are domestic”, no one could raise an eyebrow if they wanted to live as a married couple. And part of your taxes would subsidize that.

          Other financial implications of your plan would be staggering in scope. There are at present 96 million single people in the U.S. By signing a piece of paper with a sibling or buddy or co-worker, 48 million new “unions” can be formed from thin air. Tens of millions of Social Security payouts that would have ended with the death of a single person now go on, perhaps decades afterward, as do other pensions. Potentially hundreds of millions of children can be claimed as tax deductions for the first time. Private employers will have to staff at a level to prepare for countless new family leaves. Their health insurance premiums for all of their single employees just doubled. If you think the current “fiscal cliff” is bad, you ain’t seen nuthin. The deficits from your plan will be like falling down the face of K2.

          That seems a high price to pay for denying your enemy territory, but like they say, culture war is hell.

          • Naomi

            Almost children can already be claimed as tax deductions by someone, so I’m not sure where the “hundreds of millions” of children would be coming from to become tax deductions for the “first time”. But regardless, I think your visions of unions being formed from “thin air” is a bit unrealistic. Firstly, take the military community, for example. There are many benefits to be garnered by being a military spouse, and since half the time, military members are deployed anyhow, the spouse can live as if single, in the military member’s house, essentially for free. The amount of benefits to be gained by both parties is substantial for both parties, to the point where you would expect that EVERYONE would be married just due to the extra pay and benefits. Except, that is not the case. The majority of the military’s members are single, because most of them don’t know anyone they trust enough to hand their finances over to, or to live with, or to give rights to make medical decisions for them. There are quite a number of “paper” marriages, it’s true… but by no means are those marriages the majority, nor is the majority married. The same will hold true in domestic partnerships if available to the rest of the nation. You have to have a level of trust which is extremely high in order to allow someone into your finances, your house, and your medical decisions. Most people would not risk it because we are not a very trusting society. The number of benefits gained would not outweigh the risks for most people. A clause that stipulates tax benefits are only available if the parties are BOTH living together AND filing joint taxes is enough of a deterrent to keep “drinking buddies” from signing up for one because finances are perceived as so private, that even married couples don’t share financial information as a given anymore!
            People can already leave anything they want to anybody just by drafting a will, so I really doubt that it would change the end results of inheritance laws. If you’re living with someone and are close enough/trusting enough to grant them the right to make medical decisions for you, you probably don’t really much care who’s getting your stuff. If you do, you make a will.
            In the end, the fact remains that marriage is and should be primarily in the realm of the religious rather than the secular. Currently, secular marriage is in such a state that it really cannot maintain its previous importance because it is not primarily about lifelong commitment, nor children or procreation. That’s why gay rights groups are fighting for it so hard– it’s about the legal rights.

    • This is a tempting solution in many ways. I, for one, see no reason to restrict domestic partnerships to two persons, or to make them lifelong commitments. A household is a household, as you say.

      The big problem comes with children, specifically how to determine the custody, paternity, and legal status of children. I don’t have a solution for this problem if the state were to divest itself of marriage altogether.

      • carlamariee

        Catholics in Boston have asked their diocese to handle child custody issues for divorcing Catholics to avoid the nightmare of family court to no avail. Going after the kids is an abusers ultimate weapon, and no fault divorce enables it. I know mothers living in dangerous home situations out of fear of losing the kids to an abuser. The Tribunals are much more thorough in discerning the causes of a marriage disolution. There are few things more devastating than abuse to a child’s wellbeing and faith. I fully believe the Church would do better on it’s own.

        • kenneth

          The Church has no legal authority to determine child custody or other related matters. IF all parties involved were devout enough to consider their church’s word as definitive, it is possible that it could serve as a kind of mediation that might lead to a more just custody agreement which would be done up legally. Honestly, I don’t think any pastor or bishop wants to take on family custody disputes. It’s a container ship full of crazy.

          • carlamariee

            If the condition of getting a Catholic marriage included that provision, it would be like a civil prenup. It may be a container full of crazy, but also a work of mercy for those involved.

      • Naomi

        Parental rights, custody, and paternity would remain largely the same, I should think, as the way it’s established for those who never married: If there’s agreement, you sign a form declaring yourself to be the father when the baby is born, you’re on the birth certificate. If a disagreement, it goes to paternity testing, and if necessary, court. Custody would be the same way. Millions of single women go through the process every day. It’s not hard.

  • “And you know that the Gay Legion of Menacing Visigoths for Tolerance is itching to use this as a legal pretence to systematically smash the Church.”

    Let them.

    While the desire to protect the Church is a good intent, there is much evil that would come from a the Church’s retreat in this sphere. It’s like Catholic Charities getting out of the adoption business preemptively. It’s better to be forced out, either by the state claiming that Catholic priests cannot officiate a civil marriage, or the SCOTUS declaring that the Catholic Church is discriminating and is not protected by 1st Amendment rights.

    It’s not really a matter of the inevitability of history. You do the good you can do, to that last possible moment. Even still, you still keep on fighting. And if the barbarians wish to make martyrs, then let them. The Church can always use new witnesses. This not boasting. I still wonder if I personally will pass the martyr’s test. It’s rather that the Church should always be the Church. The world will always hate her.

  • Marion


    I’d be curious to know whether those marrying civilly have the right to marry anywhere they like, and whether they have the right to write their own vows.

    Scenario: Catholic couple, marry on the lawn of the courthouse before a JP, exchange the following vows: “I,N1, take you, N2, to my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, to love, honor, and obey, and forsaking all others from this day forward, for better or for worse, for as long as we both shall live. So help me God.”

    Scenario 2: Catholic couple, marry in the courthouse before a JP, exchange the following vows, “I, N1, take you N2, as my lawfully wedded wife, in a form of marriage which is lifelong, exclusive, and fruitful before the entire community of God, as will be witnessed later today at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.”

    Scenario 3: Catholic couple, etc.: “I, N1, hereby acknowledge that I enter, of my own free will, with N2, into a marital agreement and relationship as defined by all applicable laws and statutes of the State of Wisconsin (or whichever state.)”

    • Naomi

      Civil marriages in most states can be performed anywhere and with any vows, or none. Doesn’t even have to be a justice of the peace– just someone designated to sign the papers.

  • Marion

    I think Catholic couples should show up at the courthouse dressed in Oxford shirts, sweaters or tweed jackets, dockers, and carrying briefcases – zero flowers or jewelry or veils – and when it comes time to exchange the vows, they should each read from their device: “I, Gregory Hastings Wilson, hereby acknowledge entrance the legal contract known as marriage, with you, Honoria Marie Driscoll, whereunto I enter of my own free will, and promise to observe according to the applicable laws and statutes of the Commonwealth of Virginia (or whichever state.)”

    Then the next day, they go to Church in their wedding finery, and make their proper vows.

    • One of the ugly things about libertarian proposals to get the government out of the marriage business is the reduction of marriage to a mere contract between two persons. Marion, you’ve done a pretty good job of highlighting that ugliness.

      Marriage predates both Church and government. Marriage is a positive good even though it has been wrecked by no-fault divorce and contraception. Both church and state should promote that good to the best of their abilities.

      • kenneth

        Marriage has always, always had a huge contractual, even transactional, component to it. From tribal times onward, wealth and/or standing, has always been a primary consideration, and very often the only one in marriages. Every last match among nobility has been contracted as a form of political and financial advantage. Even today, almost no one marries far below their own social or fianancial caste if they can help it.

      • carlamariee

        The horse has left the barn as far as state marriage is concerned. It’s done. The Church has an opportunity to bear witness to the alternative.