I’m down with an illness that has rocked me with some high fevers, so posting hasn’t happened, and won’t for another day or so, but my radio is on and I’m hearing reports that Justices Kennedy and Breyer are asking questions that suggest they’re wondering whether marriage ought to be considered a “right”.
That reminded me of my own wonderings on that question, which I shared at First Things in 2012: Is Marriage a “Right” or an “Office”?
I think it comes down to offices, and the equality to be found therein. We talk about vocations and “one’s state in life,” but I wonder if we would not better serve both clarity and charity by considering that beyond baptism we are called to an Office. Since all Offices are callings, then all servants are equal within them and each office is lived within the fundamental calling of all baptized people, which is to chastity, first and foremost.
This brings home the barely-recognized fact that, except for those called to the Office of Marriage — who are themselves meant to be chaste within that Office –the rest of the world, the majority of humanity walking about, gay or straight, are meant to resist sexual concupiscence, whether within the Office of Singleness or Religious Consecration.
Why does this Office [of Marriage] get all the fun? Because, while all offices are equal, the Office of Marriage — far from being “for everyone” or a simple expression of a mood subject to change — is one of especial humility and sacrifice. The essentials of procreation residing within us are so powerful that unless one ardently works to prevent it, new life will come (a recent study found that 54% of abortions stem from contraception “failure”). The little bang of sperm and ova are the microcosmic reflection of the macrocosmic big bang of Creation; co-operating with God in the continuance of that creation means humbly accepting — for the rest of one’s life — involvement and responsibility for specific human beings of varied gifts and challenges. There are no days off; if you don’t like your job, you can’t just move away; you can’t re-staff. Parenthood contains moments of surreal bliss countered by a lifetime of work, self-abnegation, stress, and anxiety. Besides procreation, sexual tenderness in marriage brings a depth of consolation meant to balance out the fullness of that burden or”for a childless couple”the pain of longings unfulfilled.
For the rest of the world — the majority who are called to chastity — what are they meant to do within their Offices?
Because I am unable to moderate comments while nursing a fever, I will allow them to post unmoderated. But if I check back later and people are being obnoxious, I will close them. So, say your piece but be a grown-up about it.