Saturday, June 25, 2016

I Agree with Pope Francis

Pope Francis recently said the following, “a great majority of our sacramental marriages are null” (or “some of our sacramental marriages are null” according to later Vatican editing of the text) 1, and I agreein a certain sense.

Technically, for a marriage to be both valid and sacramental all the following criteria must be satisfied:

  • Both parties are baptized
  • The spouses are free to marry
  • They have the intention to marry for life
  • They have the intention to be faithful to one another
  • They are open to having biological children together
  • Consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister.
But is it possible to have a valid marriage without a valid understanding of marriage? I think it is.

In the U.S. we become legal adults at age eighteen and are treated as such under the law (with some exceptions like purchasing alcohol). This is good since we need clear definitions to avoid endless debates about what being an adult really means. But do all “valid” eighteen year olds act in an adult manner? Does something instantly change about our mind, body or soul on our eighteenth birthday? Could we not find some seventeen year olds that understand what it means to be an adult more than any number of people over the age of eighteen?

Whether defining marriage or adulthood, I think it’s very common to meet a quantitative definition without a qualitative understanding, and I think this gap in understanding for marriage can be best expressed in terms of covenant vs. contract.

The story of God and man can be spoken of in terms of covenants. This is what many of the stories in the Bible are all about. In the Catholic view, the Bible is not a science book or a history book; it’s more of a story about a relationship between God and man. Simply put, covenants are about God reaching out to bond with man over and over again. For example, Moses was a covenant mediator for the nation of Israel that didn’t turn out as planned; King David was a covenant mediator for the Kingdom of Israel that also had its difficulties. In fact, every covenant of the Old Testament ended up less than stellar, but the convents were valid nonetheless.

For clarity, it should be emphasized that a covenant and a contract are two different things that are worlds apart. A contract is a promise you make binding your name, often via a signature. It involves the exchange of goods or services, like building a house for example. A covenant is swearing an oath invoking God’s name, and it involves an exchange of persons, like marriage. So a covenant carries much more weight in terms of blessings and curses. Hence the reason why people use terms like, “I swear to God”, or “I’ll be damned”, when they are very serious about something. 2

How many understand the bullet points above, and at the same time think of marriage as something that can be brought to an end and forgotten with some time, money and lawyers? So one could be in a valid marriage, but hold an invalid view of marriage as a social contract, and regrettably, I think this wrongheaded approach is indeed the case for “a great majority of our sacramental marriages”.

We are validly married!

  1. Benedict Nguyen, National Catholic Register [Website], “Are Many Marriages Today Invalid?” (20 June 2016), Site address:
  2. Scott Hahn, A Father Who Keeps His Promises (Beacon Publishing, 1998) p. 24.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Same Sex Anniversary Cards Now Available!

I’m actually not sure this is new, but it’s new to me. I was looking for a wedding anniversary card at a popular card shop and I saw this:

I was surprised, but then again, not so surprised. Once passed my not-so-surprised-ness, I thought, “Why have a special section dedicated just for this?” There is no special “opposite sex” card section. Many of the anniversary cards are not specific about any kind of sexual preference. They say things like, “To the one I love”, “For my husband/wife” or “For my spouse”. The one I purchased in the “non-same sex” section said, “You’re the one for me!”

Why did I see this for the first time this June? Is it because of the SCOTUS ruling last June? Maybe so, but suppose it suddenly became legal in all 50 states for people over age 18 to marry people under age 18 without parental consent. Would we need a special under 18 anniversary card section with cards that say things like, “For the special minor in my life…”?

A same sex anniversary card section is not needed for someone to find an appropriate card, but it is certainly helpful in the ongoing effort to normalize homosexual behavior. It’s the same with marriage rights. A legally recognized civil union that grants the exact same rights as marriage laws is not good enough. It must be called marriage just like heterosexual marriage. The same word must be used, even though it is not the same thing. Using the term civil union in place of marriage is seen as “back of the bus” stuff. Don’t forget about our public schools in the normalization process. They need to teach our young and impressionable children about what is normal and what is not, right?

Is homosexual behavior really normal? Is heterosexual behavior really normal? What would make it normal? What’s the trigger or the mechanism that says it’s normal? What can we use to judge fairly and accurately? Consider “design”. If we observe the physical design of the human body in terms of sexuality and then we note the facts about certain sexual acts (without going into too much detail), we can say that some physical acts are deviant to the design. It really does not matter if one believes we were designed by almighty God or by almighty evolution. The same goes for things like infertility or impotency. They too can be called abnormalities without any discussion about morality or the intrinsic value of the person involved. To call these kinds of things normal is not only unreasonable, but also irresponsible. Remember that the first step in dealing with any problem is to admit there actually is a problem.

So what will be next—a same sex section in the family planning aisle of your local drug store? Probably not.