Phony Marriage or Holy Matrimony?

The Daily Telegraph announces here that “gay marriage” is now legal in the United Kingdom after the Queen signed legislation into law. The surge for people of the same gender to be married now seems unstoppable in many parts of the world, and I have no doubt that the homosexual activists will not rest until they achieve this same victory wherever possible.

Just as “wearing a ten gallon hat don’t make you a Texan” and “saying you’re the King of England don’t make you the King of England.” So saying you’re married don’t make you married, or at least you may be married in the eyes of the state, but you’re not married in the eyes of God…not that most people will care about that.

What if you said you were a zombie and you were going to marry another zombie? You even went through the ceremony, but that doesn’t mean that zombies were married. It was all pretend.

You could say the pretend stuff is just fun, and why not let people have their fun? Okay, let them have their fun, but when it’s all over forgive me if I remind folks that zombies aren’t real, and neither is such a thing as a two men or two women marrying each other.

It is now time for the Catholic Church to distance itself from civil marriage. The best thing we can do is withdraw from every aspect of civil marriage. I would be in favor of the situation which exists in France and other countries–where two people who want to be married go to the local registrar to be married civilly and then go on to the church for the Christian ceremony. This will give us a clarity. It will also allow us as pastors, to restrict church weddings to those who really intend to enter into a Catholic marriage. To do this we need to clarify what Holy Matrimony is. Here is a discussion.

I would also advocate a change in terminology. From now on I will refer to a Catholic marriage as “Holy Matrimony”. If “marriage” can be between two men or two women or multiple people or whatever other definitions people wish to put on it, then that term is no good to us. Terminology matters and I suggest that those who wish to maintain the truth of marriage now use the term “Holy Matrimony”. It may be somewhat cumbersome at first, but we will know where we stand.

This issue is not only one concerning same-sex couples. How marriage is defined is going through radical change in many other ways. How many people do you know who are on their second, third or fourth “marriage”? How many do you know who co habit before they are “married”? This is not only widespread in society, but amongst Catholics. How many do you know who want to be married at the beach or in a mountaintop retreat or in somebody’s backyard? How many do you know who trample all over marriage by committing adultery, run off with another person, divorce their spouse and “re-marry”?

What we don’t stop to consider is that Christian marriage is already degraded to such an extent that it is virtually unrecognizable. In this respect, I for one, intend to tighten things up. I will only accept for a service of solemnization of Holy Matrimony those who understand what Catholic marriage is and intend to enter into this contract with full knowledge and full consent.

The rest can go get “married” in a hot air balloon if they want. It will be just about as true and real as a Star Wars Wedding.

  • Vincent


  • Brian Niemeier

    I applaud your decision to only bless and witness marriages between those who know and are serious about living the Church’s understanding of matrimony.

    However, dropping the term “marriage” in favor of “holy matrimony” seems problematic to me for several reasons.

    First, I can easily foresee the same activists for whom same-sex civil unions weren’t enough successfully petitioning the courts/legislature to redefine holy matrimony as well. I think recent history suggests that such tactics could lead to an endless game of semantic one-upmanship.

    Second, replacing “marriage” with “holy matrimony” concedes that a redefinition of marriage has indeed taken place, to the point that an alternate term is needed. It is because words do have meaning that Catholics should continue to use the word “marriage” according to its proper definition, which no act of law can change.

    Finally, encouraging Catholics to use “holy matrimony” instead of “marriage”, though well-intentioned, resembles the kind of self-censorship fostered by political correctness. I contend that, faced with revisionists intent on changing the meaning of a fundamental human institution, one should continue using the word “marriage” correctly (i.e. in reference to the lifelong, fruitful, and faithful union of one man and one woman) and to ignore others’ improper (and regardless of what any government officials say, impossible) use of the term to mean anything and therefore nothing.

    I understand (and share) the urge to answer the Church’s opponents with a powerful symbol of resistance. I suggest redoubling our efforts to live marriage as Christ intended instead of playing our enemy’s futile game.

  • John Brungardt

    I wonder if the term “Holy Matrimony” more accurately denotes marriage as a sacrament? In which case, since marriage is rooted in nature, and nature is distinct from grace, it is still good to defend the existence of the natural basis of the sacrament of matrimony, and thus there is still a need to name and defend it with its own term?

  • Matthew

    Please read the canon lawyer Ed Peters’ blog on why this is a REALLY, REALLY bad idea. Among the points he raises is that the Church already has infallible teaching about natural, non-sacramental marriage and that there are many Catholics who, with the Church’s permission are, in fact, in non-sacramental marriages.l

  • Michael Petek

    I would start by distinguishing between “consummatory marriage” which is true marriage in that it must be consummated by the marital act; and “statutory marriage” which is not a true marriage in that it need not be consummated at all.
    Statutory marriage is now regulated by English law. Consummatory marriage is not. Or, rather, it is no longer.
    English law no longer binds the consciences of those who would marry in England. A person who contracts a consummatory marriage after today can honestly believe himself to be married, no matter that he has not complied with civil formalities that used to be in force before today.
    Now is the time for a national boycott of the civil marriage system. Let people marry either in a religious ceremony or in a private one, with private registration.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Are you willing to take a public stand with your parish to not sign state marriage licenses? If so, I applaud your choice! It has been needed for a very very long time.

  • Unanimous Consent

    The Church also allows the celebration of natural marriage, not just Holy Matrimony, such as when the Church allows a Muslim and a Catholic or a Jew and a Catholic to get married. It’s natural, not sacramental. You can’t call that Holy Matrimony.

  • TomD

    This recent debate about marriage has left me pondering a question:

    Are those who are most likely to support same-sex marriage least likely to value marriage itself?

    I have four acquaintances, all single in their twenties and early thirties, who support same-sex marriage. When asked, they seem to have little respect for marriage. Their attitude about same-sex marriage is, “if they want to get married, so what?”

    Are those who value marriage less likely to support same-sex marriage, while those who do not value marriage are more likely to support same-sex marriage? Has a general decline in respect for marriage gotten us to this state of affairs? Any insights?

    • mortimer007

      You are absolutely correct, Tom. Proponents of SSM are seeking to destroy it as an institution – as a gay “rights” activist recently admitted.

      • TomD

        All four of the acquaintances that I referred to are heterosexual, but they seem to have little respect for marriage . . . come to think of it, as Brian alluded to above, all four are from divorced families. They are all in co-habitating relationships and swear that they will never marry. And while I agree that many activists do seek to destroy marriage as an institution, they couldn’t succeed without the support of many, many heterosexuals. How has this radical transformation happened, literally, in the span of a couple decades?

        By eroding the value of marriage, in effect replacing sacramental marriage with civil marriage as the primary public expression of marriage, and then, by act of law, making civil marriage into a non-binding legal contract that primarily defines what is necessary when the contract is dissolved, the stage was set for where we are today. Marriage is no longer respected by many in our culture, so who cares what happens now, seems to be the attitude of many heterosexuals, who themselves have experienced marriage only as a failure. This is tragic.

        As Catholics, we need to re-focus very distinctly on the sacramental nature of marriage, relegating civil marriage to what it has become . . . a mere legal “contract,” and a non-binding one at that.

    • Brian Niemeier

      Your insight serves you well, Tom. Marriage has been so eroded by no fault divorce, rampant artificial contraceptive use, and unquestioned consumerism that many (if not most) members of generations X and Y consider the institution meaningless.
      The only reason that legislation and lawsuits aimed at redefining marriage have succeeded is that, as one of my contemporaries put it, “Marriage is meaningless, except as a financial decision.”
      I’m convinced that these travesties of law would’ve been laughed out of court had the US Catholic hierarchy and laity taken Humanae Vitae seriously.

  • TheInformer

    Father! Persevere! I too could see a compromise with “civil marriage” but of course the agitators don’t want mere political equality, they want full and “luvving” acceptance of their ways. Is it their guilt which craves the false affirmation of others? There would be conflict when they fabricate some situation to entrap priests who refuse to acknowledge their “marriage”.

    Also, I applaud your intention to solemnize only those couples who truly understand Church teaching and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. I often wonder how much time priests would save if they devoted themselves more completely to their primary service: Did St. John Vianney have time for various bishop’s “meet and greet” events/conferences or sitting around in various parish “ministries” when he was saving souls spending 18 hours a day in the confessional?

    Bp Fulton Sheen did a survey in the 1970′s and found that most priests spent 6 minutes a day in prayer………yikes!


    Queen Liz isn’t even the rightful monarch. As Catholics, we know the true heir to the throne is Franz II of Bavaria.

    • AndrewWS

      Only in the fairyland of alternative history. Or are you suggesting that the many Catholics who fought for her father and grandfather, and whose names are on war memorials up and down the land, not least on the very fine one in Westminster Cathedral, were deluded?

      • Jim

        Bloodlines do not lie. If Franz II is the rightful according to the rules of the game then he is the rightful. It as nothing to do with a fairyland or delusion.

        History is filled with grave injustice. So, we move on. A theological point here can be made. Obedience and order is pleasing to God. Revolution is displeasing to God. It is pleasing to God to obey a less rightful monarch and this helps expiate personal sin. It is more pleasing to God to obey a rightful monarch. This expiates national sin.

        A side-story shows us some irony. In the foodworld we go crazy for the imperial herds of swine raised under Blessed Carl and Zita, but politically we allow the young Archduke to languish in New York city as a banker.

        • Donalbain

          What rules of the game? The relevant rules are those of Parliament.

      • sammy5358

        AndrewWS….what you are doing is called a ‘red herring’. The people you are talking about have nothing to do with the argument that RPTMS is trying to make. You are just diverting attention away from the meat of an argument. That’s the sort of thing pro-choice people do.

      • Romulus

        In abandoning the ancient laws and customs of her country, and most especially in abandoning her duty to defend the Christian faith, she can no longer be considered a legitimate monarch.

      • ponerology

        We’ve had centuries of delusion at the hands of the elite. History is what they tell you it is. I read recently that Napoleon stole information from the Church regarding the Galileo trial and it wasn’t available to the Vatican for certain decisions that were made regarding the Index of forbidden book, post Galileo. FDR was strangling oil imports into Japan prior to WWII so the Pearl Harbor attacks were not unexpected but encourage….there are many examples of false ‘history’ being written for the masses. When you own the ‘money’ and own the publishing houses, the media and the dream factory (HolyWood) the fix is in and time is on their side.

  • vox borealis

    Canonist Prof. Ed Peters wrote on this subject taking the opposite view: I’m still on the fence myself.

  • american87654

    Pittiful. This author is without a spine. Never give up the truth. Yikes!!!

  • Woody

    And you think that they’ll stop because you concede the word “marriage” to them?

  • AndrewWS

    Surge? What surge? Governments may be keen to play to the organised gay gallery, but there will be no stampede of gays to the register offices to get spliced. There wasn’t after the introduction of civil partnerships, and there won’t be now.
    That having been said, those of us who think the government redefining marriage and thereby claiming a power not claimed even by Stalin or Pol Pot are living on borrowed time.

  • anilwang

    There are a few issues with conceding the term marriage. (1) We still need a term for “natural marriage”, (2) Holy Matrimony is not a verb. (3) It will cause historical confusion for Catholics reading Catholic history since all references to marriage will imply they were not engaged in Holy Matrimony. (4) Remember Anglicans also borrow Catholic terms, so if marriage is allowed to be redefined, Holy Matrimony will soon be. (5) It complicate marriages. It’s already bad that civil divorces are required for Catholic annulments. It’s created a generation of divorced Catholics that might have been encouraged to reconcile if the two processes were united and we wouldn’t have “divorced but not annulled” Catholics and if an annulment was impossible we would not have a married couple that was legally divorced (undoing this is difficult). The issue with “remarriages” would also be non existent. Separating civil marriage from Holy Matrimony causes similar problems.

  • spudnik

    Given that some people have expressed more or less outright that support for gay “marriage” is a reflection of their animus for Christianity, we can’t expect the animus to end once gay “marriage” is universal. There will be a new pretext for the hate and for the erosion of rights. IMHO the most important battle in the West at the moment –even more than the definition of marriage– is whether democratic pluralism will continue or whether people want the police power of the state to crush those they disagree with. The fools don’t understand that a fascist government that crushes the Christians today might crush them tomorrow.

  • swisswiss

    The response to the homosexual push for marriage two decades ago was DOMA. Their counter response was to accelerate the “long march” through the institutions, getting in the face of politicians and anyone else standing in their way. It’s a strategy that worked earlier for the abortion movement. For many reasons, our culture will not say “NO” to this long march. Prayerful, prudent responses at multiple levels is now the only option — Fr. Longnecker’s response seems good at the parish level AND Ed Peters’ response at the social/political level.

  • Paul H

    How do you suggest referring to valid non-sacramental marriages? Would you call these unions “Holy Matrimony” even though they are non-sacramental? Will you call them “marriage”?

  • Mike Romeu

    Thanks for adding to the discussion Father. I for one have been thinking that we have to reclaim the word “marriage”. I’d rather insist on other “unions” using a different term or adding an adjective to describe their “marriage”. It wasn’t long ago when people would refer to non-sacramental marriages as “civil marriages”… “so and so are in a civil marriage”… At this point it may not matter what the state says these unions are. Our stand should be that the only true marriage is between a man and a woman.

  • ponerology

    It IS HOLY MATRIMONY because it is a sacrament and has always been a sacrament; natural law (marriage) and supernatural faith (holy matrimony) are not the same.

  • Rationalist1

    “I will only accept for a service of solemnization of Holy Matrimony those who understand what Catholic marriage is and intend to enter into this contract with full knowledge and full consent.”

    You mean you didn’t previously?

  • Donalbain

    Yes, take your toys and go sulk.

  • paizlea

    As an atheist, I’ve been making a version of this argument for years now. There should be an absolute difference between the civil contract that grants two people rights and privileges under the law, and a religious marriage. Conversely, getting a union blessed and sanctified by the clergy of your choice should not grant a couple any legal status. A couple can choose to do both, but holy marriage and civil union should never be confused.