Marriage is a Mess and Homosexuals Didn’t Do It Redux

Marriage is a Mess and Homosexuals Didn’t Do It Redux June 28, 2013

I think we need to look to ourselves first when we consider the post Christian society we are entering.

The move to create a system of discrimination against Christians in this country is well under way in the Western world, including America. Christian business owners are being penalized and forced out of the public square by laws that do not allow any exemptions for their faith. Universities and colleges increasingly demand that Christian groups leave campus. Public figures are scolded and harassed if they mention the name Jesus.

We are going to have to chose who we will serve, and we’re going to have to do more than talk about it or make it into a political issue. If we want to follow Christ, we are going to have to follow Christ in the way we live and what we do in our own lives and families.

Before we begin to deal with the mess we are facing in the larger culture, we need to consider our own contributions to how we got here. One of those contributions is the way we have treated our own marriages and our own families. I am going to write a post soon talking about the way we have abandoned our children to the public schools and the larger culture and allowed that culture to shape their values, thinking and beliefs.

But for this day of fasting and prayer for marriage and religious freedom, I will just use a old post of mine to revisit the question of why marriage is such a mess and who is responsible. Hint: It isn’t homosexuals.

I support traditional marriage. I have a public track record and the scars to prove it.

I voted to put an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution on the ballot that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. I also authored and passed a resolution memorializing Congress to begin hearings on an amendment to the United StatesConstitution doing the same thing. That is as much as I can do to support traditional marriage from my elected position.

It’s not a complicated issue to me, and it has almost nothing to do with what marriage is not. It’s about what marriage is. What marriage is begins with the law. Marriage under the law is and should continue to be a union freely entered into by one man and one woman. But legal definitions are just the scaffolding we use to support the social structures of how we order our lives. The actual edifice, the reality of marriage as it is lived, is something much more complex and important than that legal definition can impart.

We focus our national attention on the definition of marriage under the law. We wear out our keyboards writing about it and revile one another over our positions on it. But despite the accusations and counter-accusations that season our debate, we ignore the home truths of marriage in this country today. The truth is, marriage has been a mess for quite some time. And homosexuals weren’t the ones who messed it up.

Homosexuals didn’t set off the epidemic of divorce in this country. Homosexuals didn’t create the millions of feral children who spend most of their time alone, raising themselves on video games, drugs and interactions with their peers. Homosexuals don’t cheat on our spouses. Homosexuals don’t break into our homes and yell and curse at our families. They aren’t the cause of the rising number of unwed births and the global pandemic of abortion. We did these things. Marriage is a mess and it was heterosexuals who messed it up.

We insist that the legal definition of marriage should be a union between one man and one woman. But we behave as if it says that marriage is a union between one man and one woman at a time.

I know that is tender for many people. I know that divorce cuts people in half and leaves them with broken hearts and shattered lives. I know that some marriages are so bitter, destructive and even violent that they have to end. I know that even if you want to hold the marriage together, sometimes your spouse won’t. I know all this, and it gives me pause writing about these things. I don’t want to pick at half-healed wounds and start them bleeding again.

But the truth is that serial monogamy is NOT monogamy. Serial marriage is not marriage between one man and one woman. And heterosexuals, especially Christian heterosexuals, have a responsibility before God to care for and raise their children, cherish their spouses and build enduring stable homes which can nurture a true family. Heterosexuals who have failed to do this are the root cause of most of the social problems we face today. They, not homosexuals, are the ones who have brought marriage to the sorry state it is in now.

I have a public track record of supporting traditional marriage. I’ve got the scars to prove it. But I think that supporting traditional marriage, especially traditional marriage in the Christian sense, means more than being against same-sex marriage. I think that as Christians we are required to look past what we’re against and find what we are for. It isn’t enough for Christians to be against same-sex marriage. It certainly isn’t enough to do as some have done and whip people up into a rage and then cash in on that rage to advance your political career. That is just cheap demagoguery.

Leadership, especially true Christian leadership, mandates that we don’t just get people worked up against something. We have to lead them forward to something. In the case of marriage, we should be for true Christian marriage and we should live that kind of marriage in our own lives. Christians must be FOR marriage as a loving, giving, living institution that cocoons young children in a world of stability, positive discipline and love so that they can grow up and create loving homes of their own.

The bond between husband and wife, as the Bible says, makes them “one flesh.” This doesn’t refer just, or even primarily, to the physical union of marriage. Sex, apart from this bond of love, is a physical act. But true marriage is a spiritual bond. The deep, life bond of trust and mutual dependence that is marriage nurtures everyone within its reach. Marriage creates not just family, but home. I  do not mean a building where you sleep. Christian marriage creates home that is a refuge from the coldness of modern life.

This isn’t a hypothetical for me. My home and my husband are the living sanctuaries of my life. I could not endure the pressures of being a Public Catholic and all the controversy and criticism that engenders if I wasn’t able to go to my house, shut the door, and be Home.

Marriage is the progenitor of life, family, emotional safety and abiding peace in this life. It is a sacrament, given by Our Lord, to enable us to walk through life together and not alone.

If we are going to “save marriage” in this country, we certainly do need to resist efforts to alter its legal definition. But we also need to begin living the sacramental love and fidelity of marriage with our spouses and within our homes. We need to do this because it is what God intended for us. Marriage is His blessing on our lives and through it we can become blessings to our whole society.

Frank Weathers has another take on this question here.

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23 responses to “Marriage is a Mess and Homosexuals Didn’t Do It Redux”

  1. I still say we need to start being more extreme in our separation of Church and State than the secularists are. The only reasonable answer to the redefinition of marriage at this point is for the Church to stop recognizing state marriages. At all.

  2. Ted, so far as I know the Church doesn’t and never has recognized “state” marriages, if by state marriages you mean secular affairs performed by judges or court clerks or ship’s captains or whatever, I believe the Church only recognizes marriages that are performed by Christians pastors. I may be entirely mistaken about this, but I think it has something to do with whether or not the Christian denomination in question believes in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but I may be wrong. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable will explain this better than I have.

    The main point is that the Church doesn’t recognize marriages performed by secuakr institutions as sacramental marriages.

  3. Well, I think he means that priests and bishops need to start preaching that “civil marriage” now has nothing to do with true marriage. Also, to your point, Rebecca, they could start preaching that many/most heterosexual marriages don’t have a lot in common with true marriage either.

    The state has gone insane and will probably take away tax exemptions anyway. We may as well preach the truth at this late hour.

  4. The drift away from normative lifelong monogamous marriage seems to be as old as the human race. That seems to me to be what Our Lord meant when He said: “Moses told you so [allowing divorce] because of the hardness of your hearts, but from the beginning it was not so.” Jesus had asked “What did Moses teach you [about marriage]?” And he had been answered that Moses – the biblical character Moses – had allowed a man to repudiate his wife. But Jesus answered that Moses – the traditional author of the first five books of the Bible – had, before that, taught that God Himself had made men male and female, and had ordered that they shall leave their respective families and become “one flesh”. This is what God ordered, “and what God has put together let no man tear asunder.”

    In other words, the drift from monogamy had taken place even in the history of the Chosen People. Indeed, this was one thing in which Jews, Greeks and Romans were very like each other. It was not that the ideal of lifelong monogamy was not known; in the area I know best, Rome, it was implicit in numerous features of religious and ritual ideas, for instance the prescription that the priest of Jupiter (Flamen Dialis), highest ranking of all priests in Rome, should be married with a single wife who shared his duties, or the fact that the children who assisted in certain important sacrifices should be “patrimi matrimi”, that is, having both parents living. This indicates that the condition of being married to the same wife, in an unbroken partnership, and having had children with her, was regarded as a religiously pure and desirable condition. But what was more likely was the life story of Caesar – who had actually briefly been Flamen Dialis at seventeen – who was married four times, and eventually had his much-desired male heir not from his wife but from Cleopatra, who was never married to him – but was the highest-ranking and most powerful monarch at the time. Caesar’s enemy Cato the Younger “lent” his second wife Marcia to his friend and ally Hortensius, divorcing her so that Hortensius could marry her, and remarried her, with no problem at all, when Hortensius died! In the Greek world there are several accounts of brothers marrying their own sisters to keep the family patrimony intact, something, indeed, that seems to have become a system among the Ptolemies and the Seleucids, the Greek dynasties that ruled Egypt and Syria after Alexander the Great. Cleopatra herself (Cleopatra VII), Caesar’s lover, was the product of more than a dozen generations of married incest. How she felt about that charming family tradition is shown by the fact that her first act as a ruling queen was to have her brother murdered.

    All this has one clear, visible and easily identifiable common feature: power. Violations of the natural rule of monogamy always come from displays of power or consideration of political and economic convenience. Poor and middling folks did not take more than one wife, and did not divorce, things that would have cost money.they did not have; at most, they may have wasted a little money on a girlfriend, or a favoured slave, or a prostitute. (And their culture, from King Lemuel to Plautus, always warned them that such women were financially ruinous.) It was the sovereign kings of Egypt or Iran or China who kept harems, as a display of their personal power. It was the importance of holding large inheritances, or even royal power, in a single line, that led that very practical nation, the Greeks, to allow married incest. When Cato “lent” his wife to his friend Hortensius, it was because Hortensius, an older man and the greatest orator in Rome, was an important part of the alliance he was establishing against Caesar. (He would not give him his daughter, as would have been more natural, because she was already married to Caesar’s worst single enemy, Bibulus.) Wealth, kingship, political power, and the display that go with them, were the levers that had broken monogamous marriage across the civilized world from Rome to China.

    Even in the Christian West, and in spite of Our Lord’s clear and revered teaching, the way of political power to get around His prescription was visible, often to the point of hilarity. In Ireland, indeed, polygamy was accepted by the local Church until at least 1200 in theory, and until 1500 and more in practise; in other words, it could not be uprooted until the English had set out to destroy the whole class of Irish lords in earnest. In the Germanic countries and in Italy, they took advantage of the fiction that the kind has two selves – his public and his private one – to invent the “morganatic marriage”, a marriage that involved only the king as a private person. So many kings (such as the founder of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II) had two wives, one official and married as a matter of policy, but also meant to give him the heir, and one private, whose children were usually ennobled. In France we reach the height of farce: girlfriend of the King becomes, by the seventeen hundreds, an official post, and great balls are held to find the lucky candidate. As a result, the languid and undersexed King Louis XV chose the beautiful and accomplished Madame Pompadour as he had been expected to, but did little more, all her short life, than have friendly and enjoyable talks with her. It had taken enough out of him to have a son – the future guillotine victim, Louis XVI – with his official wife.

    Obviously, nothing is clearer than that divorce, outlawed by the Catholic Church for more than ten centuries, re-entered the Western world thanks to the most brutal exercise of naked political power, that of Henry VIII. The results, for him, were absolutely disastrous; the first symptoms of that mental and physical illness that destroyed his life and ruined his kingdom were when he had Anne Boleyn, the very woman he had “married” after forcing his first wife away from him, murdered under form of law after less than a year of “marriage”, out of a mere and monstrous suspicion that she had been having incestuous relationships with her own brother! Nobody ever saw any evidence of this beyond the King’s suspicions, and I for one have no doubt whatever that this is nothing more than the paranoid fears of an aging and already very guilty man (he had already murdered his friend Thomas More and dozens of others, and unleashed the monster Thomas Cromwell upon the Church) when he saw his beautiful young “bride” chatting and enjoying herself with her brother – a young lord as handsome and charming as Henry himself had once been, and would never now be again. Mind you, Anne Boleyn was a home-wrecker and a slut, and while I don’t say she deserved to be humiliated and murdered under form of law by the man she had seduced, she took her chances when she set her cap at an aging and already married tyrant. Kings are dangerous. But the principle of divorce, born in such elevated and admirable circumstances, remained on the English statute book, migrated to America with the first English settlers just as slavery did, was slowly broadened, and eventually spread across the West. And we are still lucky: if the Lutheran Philip of Hesse had successfully managed what he had plotted in secret together with Luther and seven of Luther’s chief followers, Europe might have been saddled not only with divorce but with polygamy. But that proved a bridge too far, even for them.

    Feminists ought to oppose divorce, polygamy and all other marriage “variations”, because they are historically always born as displays of male power and that is what they are nine times out of ten in reality. However, I do not agree with what seems to be the implication here, that the degeneration of ordinary marriage has anything to do with the invention of “gay marriage”. I think the issue there is quite different. Caesar may have married four wives, but did not consider marrying four husbands. Even in the most degenerate environments, men saw a fundamental difference between attachments between or within the sexes,and never thought of granting the status of marriage to the others. Juvenal makes a savage joke out of the very notion that a man might marry another.

    No, the fact is that a new, and bad, doctrine has been introduced. It had, originally, nothing to do with sexuality at all. You may find it in a famous play, “Henry IV” by Pirandello, in which the protagonist manages to force the people around him to act as though he were the emperor Henry IV (a historical figure from the Middle Ages). Its basic doctrine is the omnipotence of the will, the notion that will forms the identity of a man independently of his/her birth, characteristics, connections. or anything else. This, it may surprise you, was the central doctrine of Fascism, I mean the real thing, the doctrine formulated by Benito Mussolini after he abandoned Socialism in the wake of World War One. Not surprisingly (although his admirers tend not to discuss the matter) Pirandello himself was a black-as-coal Fascist, a favourite of Mussolini’s, and the head of Mussolini’s Academy of Italy. The political relevance was that Italian Fascism promised Italy, a middling power in the shade of mightier neighbours, the ability to change itself into the Roman Empire, merely by concentrated will. Willpower was the god of the Fascists.

    Having failed politically in the most extreme manner (and having shown for all the world to see that Willpower was exactly the quality which Mussolini most lacked), the doctrine of the omnipotence of the will and the malleability of the self migrated, of course, to the universities, especially in the USA. That is where you got people like the horrible Professor John Money applying them to real human beings in the context of sex. The rest you know. But the point is that, whatever evil we may have done or accepted in the context of normal marriage, “gay marriage” and the associated evils of gender ideology are something new. The drift away from the norm of one man, one woman, for life, is ancient, universal, and – taking the word to refer to fallen human nature – natural. The doctrine of the subservience of self and gender to will, on the other hand, is a wholly modern evil. It would be disastrous whether or not the situation of marriage were bad, just as it was disastrous – look at what it did to my country – when it had not yet been associated with gender and sex at all.


    An English translation of Luigi Pirandello’s three most famous plays, including “Henry IV”;

  5. I feel sick. I had spent two hours writing a long comment here on the history of marriage and Our Lord’s teaching, and the damned blog ate it.
    EDITED IN: apparently not. But I could not find my way back to it till now, and I have to write in a couple of paragraphs to conclude it.

  6. Great points. I’ve been saying this for a while now, ie, if anyone “ruined” marriage, it was heterosexuals. Homosexuals as a group seem to be more left leaning and most probably have no problem with some of the things that have degraded marriage, like cohabitation and divorce, but it seems like heterosexuals would be the ones with the actual capability of ruining heterosexual marriage.

  7. Not just that- priests and bishops need to *stop* being agents for the state when it comes to civil marriage. As in, refuse to sign civil marriage licenses at all.

    The Sacrament is different.

  8. As far as the Church recognizing secular marriage, as far as I understand, it depends on the circumstances. The state obviously cannot perform a sacramental marriage, but then again, a Christian pastor doesn’t technically perform a sacramental marriage either. The proper ministers of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony are the spouses themselves; they administer the sacrament to/with each other. The Christian pastor, be it a Catholic priest or other Christian denomination, is the official and proper witness of the exchange of vows, since marriage is very much a public affair that requires witnesses. This is why marriage among the non-Catholic Christians is still a sacrament: because marriage, like baptism, doesn’t require a priest or bishop to administer the sacrament. The main requirement is that both the husband and wife have to be baptized Christians for the marriage to be a sacrament.

    But marriage existed as a natural institution before our Lord elevated it to the level of a sacrament, and so the Church has always recognized the validity of a “natural marriage”. A natural marriage exists between a couple when either one or both of the spouses is not a baptized Christian. The marriage is still valid, and according to Scripture was always intended by God to be lifelong and monogamous, but it’s just not a sacrament. In fact, if I understand correctly, if a non-baptized couple in a natural marriage both decide to become baptized Christians, the marriage automatically becomes a sacrament immediately upon the reception of baptism, with no additional ceremony necessary.

    So the Church recognizes that marriages between one man and one woman performed by the state are at the very least valid natural marriages; and if the couple are baptized non-Catholic Christians, then I believe the Church would recognize it as a valid sacrament as well. It just doesn’t recognize civil marriages between two baptized Catholics as valid sacramental marriages (and I think not even as valid natural marriages) because Catholics are under obligation of obedience to conform to Church requirements to be married in a church by a priest or deacon.

    If I am in error on any of this, anyone can please feel free to correct me.

  9. There’s no mention of Marriage being defined as a “spiritual union”. Without the guidance of spiritual love in a committed relationship there will only be a secular union that lasts as long as one falls in and out of “Love”. What follows is the loss of the “sanctity of life” understanding that a spiritual union brings about in a loving family. And the slippery slope we find ourselves in with allowing abortions as a means of contraception and euthanasia as a means of ending life. How long can humanity continue with such a poor understanding of living a life to its intended purpose?

  10. Excellent article and very much truth contained within it. I simply fail to see why the akowledgement of same sex couples making a lifelong committment to each other under cuts the legitimacy of marriage. Why is this not an opportunity for renewal and recommitment. Lesbian couples can create families through insemination (an option many heterosexuals use) and through adoption. Gays can create families through surrogacy and adoption as well. Families created through adoption are just as capable of being loving Godly environments where children can thrive. It may be different, but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. As a teacher and a cradle Catholic, the ability to produce children is not nearly as important as the ability to love them and raise them well.

  11. As they say in France, children have the right to a mother and a father. Primordially, marriage came about when people had sex, and then noticed the bad effects if the man did not take care of the woman and the resulting child or children. Presumably, God (or evolution, if you prefer) had reasons for this arrangement. It is not arbitrary.

    It is soooooo wrong to think it does no harm to a child if they are not raised by their natural parents. My wife died young, and a couple of my kids (who were very young at the time) have never recovered, even though my second wife was a good mother to them. I have seen it time and time again with adopted children as well.

    This is very simply why arrangements such as insemination and surrogacy are evil in themselves. Any arrangement which PURPOSELY makes it so a child cannot be raised by their natural parents is an enormous evil.

    Adoption, however, is necessary and sometimes preferable to situations where one or both of the natural parents is incompetent. Even then, though, to give children two mothers or two fathers, or maybe, coming down the pike, three mothers and four fathers, is a horrible fate which I wouldn’t wish on any child. Gender is not interchangeable.

  12. Abort the orphans. God has abandoned them. They’ll just end up like Jeffrey Dahmer, right?

  13. If they want civil benefits, yes. Of course, we would be wise to reduce the “civil wedding” to filling out an online form as well. I see no reason to have witnesses or bureaucrats involved in what is an almost purely private affair.

  14. I think this may be my favorite post of yours. I like so many that it’s hard to decide on a favorite!

    In Mass yesterday our priest spoke about how we can defend marriage. He didn’t mention homosexuals or same sex marriage. It was all about how heterosexuals messed up marriage long ago and how we can fix it ourselves without the government.

  15. Many culture have children raised primarily by the mother and her family, with her brothers serving as male figures. “mother and father” isn’t the absolute you think it is, anthropologically.

    “two mothers or two fathers, or maybe, coming down the pike, three
    mothers and four fathers, is a horrible fate which I wouldn’t wish on
    any child.”

    What’s so terrible about three mothers and four fathers? The child has at least one parent of each sex — in fact, multiple ones. Your objecting that a child needs “a mother and a father” doesn’t apply here, as they *do*, with backup.

  16. A child can have many mentors, but only one mother and one father. From the many adopted people I have known, and my own children, it is always a process to search out their origins, to try to find and/or get to know the parent or parents that they lost. Some adjust better, and some have a harder time, but I haven’t met one yet that didn’t really care.

    The best arrangement by far is the natural parents. The second best is an arrangement that mirrors a natural set of parents.

    One thing is for sure – the psychological research shows that children need both a mother and a father. I concede that there are many arrangements which are better than letting a child live on the streets if those are the only two options, but they are decidedly sub-optimal and ought not to be encouraged.

  17. WOW! Relapsed Catholic—you have stated better than I ever could my feelings about same gender couples being able to marry.

  18. FW Ken: Do you really think that all couples want 10 to 12 children to feed, clothe and shelter in this day and age? No birth control except NFP? Also, marriage isn’t just for procreation—and all couples do not want 1 child, never mind multiple ones. Ideally, all children should be wanted. What is better, in your opinion, ABC or a possible abortion?

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