Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’

We are invited….

March 9th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris

On Friday morning, March 28, 2014, from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM, a Natural Law Symposium will be held at St. John Fisher (Coleman Chapel-Murphy Hall) on “The Natural Law and Marriage betwen a Man and a Woman.”  The Forum is co-sponsored by the St. Thomas Lawyers Guild and the Knights of Columbus, Finger Lakes.

Natural Law Symposium 3-29-14 sjfWith so much discussion leading up to the Extraordinay Synod called for all the Bishops in the world later this year, it is indeed a timely and preparative opportunity regarding the subject: “Marriage and the Natural Law and its evangelization in the Public Square.”  

Our souls cannot afford to have our consciences formed by popular media.

The speakers are two noted and prominent scholars, Dr. Peter J. Colosi, Professor of Moral Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, and Dr. John C. Eastman, Esq., Former Dean of Chapman University School of Law.  Both are noted and respected authors.

I look forward to some information and help in answering the popular secular questions:  “But how is this (so-called “Same-Sex Marriage”) hurting anybody?  Isn’t LOVE a “good” thing? 

You don’t HAVE a menu.

January 26th, 2011, Promulgated by Ink

I am utterly sick and tired of the complete and blatant lack of respect for marriage or for the family in today’s society.  How many times have I heard, from people I respect, the phrase, “Well, just because you’re on a diet doesn’t mean you can’t look at the menu.”  You don’t HAVE a menu.  You’re married–be it to your husband or wife or to God or the Church.  Even if you’re not married but just dating someone, think about it first.  Wouldn’t you want to be respected and loved, just as you are?  As my art teacher told me, “Criticism is the result of comparison.”  If your spouse or significant other begins to compare you to someone–maybe someone who is thinner, or who has blonde hair instead of brown, or is taller, or is shorter, or has a smaller nose, or maybe bigger eyes, or different-coloured eyes… do you see where I’m going with this?  Because someone else is different, and probably more attractive because of that, it makes you lesser.  Not as good.  Not good enough.

Now go back and look at that sentence. “Just because I’m on a diet doesn’t mean I can’t look at the menu.”  So you’re telling me, in short, that you are dissatisfied with what you have.  As a result of that, you’re “shopping around” and just ogling everything else, everything which seems “better.”

If you, dear reader, are guilty of doing this, I’m afraid I have to tell you that this is not a very good mentality.  It’s actually a sin.  “…He designates as an adulterer not only the man who violates the marriage of another by intercourse, but that man, also, who contaminates it by a lustful look.  Accordingly, it is quite dangerous for the mind to represent to itself something which is prohibited, just as it is rash, through an act of the will, to effect it in deed” (Tertullian, On Penitence).

To ogle someone else while you are committed in a relationship is what is commonly referred to as “cheating,” just not as blatantly obvious as actual physical “cheating.”  It objectifies the opposite sex, turning them into simple toys, of sorts, for the one doing the ogling.  Ogling someone outside of your relationship, like kissing someone else’s girlfriend or boyfriend while you’re both drunk out of your minds, is unfaithful and irresponsible.

I’d like to conclude by saying that you’re not just on a diet, you don’t even have an a menu.  Besides, what more do you need?  Married men and women are married forever (one would hope, but we’ve covered that in other posts), and priests and religious are promised to the Church and to God.  So who could ask for anything more?

More thoughts on marriage

January 3rd, 2011, Promulgated by Nerina

photo credit: TIME 11/18/2010

WARNING: a long, but information-filled post.

Piggybacking on Ben’s earlier post about defending conjugal marriage, I thought I’d add my own thoughts about the current state of the marriage as an institution in society and as a Sacrament of the Church.  Unfortunately, the landscape is changing rapidly and I believe the Church, especially at the local level, is not prepared to defend marriage either as a societal  institution or as a Sacrament.  I’m not saying that the official teaching of the Church is somehow deficient, but, rather, that no one seems willing to proclaim the teaching in full.   I am also, at this time, personally affected by a divorce in my immediate family, so I find myself particularly concerned about the state of marriage.

Marriage is “Obsolete”

About a month back, TIME Magazine offered a hit piece on marriage entitled: “Who Needs Marriage? A Changing Institution.”  In it, the author informs the reader:

The Pew survey reveals that nearly 40% of us think marriage is obsolete. This doesn’t mean, though, that we’re pessimistic about the future of the American family; we have more faith in the family than we do in the nation’s education system or its economy. We’re just more flexible about how family gets defined. (emphasis mine)

I’d say that’s just about right given the simultaneous attacks on marriage and the traditional family carried out by a persistent and aggressive homosexual lobby and entertainment industry.  Consider this story applauding the new birth of a child to Elton John and his partner in which a surrogate was used to produce a baby boy for the couple.  Popular television shows, too,  portray almost every family situation imaginable from traditional to two-daddy to polygamous as do movies (see here and here – please note, my references here are not necessarily recommendations.  The movie, “American Beauty,” is especially offensive on many levels).  Simply put, more and more people are willing to define “family” very loosely with the traditional family becoming almost anathema.

In a similar vein, People Magazine abounds with celebratory stories of couples newly engaged over the Christmas holiday even though many of them recently left marriages.  Now,  I understand that we are talking about Hollywood here, and that the moral rules are different, but Hollywood elites are not the only people leaving marriages only to enter into new ones.

An article in the New York Times highlighting the new marriage of a middle age couple where both people left former spouses and their families because “they were deeply in love”  caused quite a stir.   It didn’t matter that their spouses and children were “devastated,”  they had found their “soulmates” and the consequences be damned.

Enter the “Soul Mate”

In the report, “When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America” issued by the University of Virginia National Marriage Project and the Institute of American Values, the authors describe an emerging marriage model called “the Soul Mate” model.  They describe the model as such:

Over the last four decades, many Americans have moved away from identifying with an “institutional” model of marriage, which seeks to integrate sex, parenthood, economic cooperation, and emotional intimacy in a permanent union. This model has been overwritten by the “soul mate” model, which sees marriage as primarily a couple-centered vehicle for personal growth, emotional intimacy, and shared consumption that depends for its survival on the happiness of both spouses.

Setting aside whether one believes in “soul mates,” I have heard this concept invoked to justify divorce.  In fact, my sister is claiming the “soul mate” defense for separating from her husband.  Now, my sister is hardly cognizant of Christian theology or the Church’s view of marriage, but even those who should know better fall in this trap.  Popular culture does little to dissuade the idea that 1) soul mates exist and 2)a person should settle for nothing less.  My 40 year old sister, married for 12 years with two small children is breaking up her marriage because she feels that “maybe my soul mate is still out there.”

The Rejection of Marriage by Middle America

Marriage is not only suffering among the barely educated (no high school degree) and poor, but also among the formerly socially conservative “working class” of  middle America.  The above mentioned report from the UVA National Marriage Project offers a sobering prediction about the future of America if marriage is further eroded in Middle America (defined as moderately educated, working middle-class):

The retreat from marriage in Middle America cuts deeply into the nation’s hopes and dreams as well. For if marriage is increasingly unachievable for our moderately educated citizens—a group that represents 58 percent of the adult population (age 25–60)[4]—then it is likely that we will witness the emergence of a new society. For a substantial share of the United States, economic mobility will be out of reach, their children’s life chances will diminish, and large numbers of young men will live apart from the civilizing power of married life.

Interestingly, like the TIME article referenced above, this report notes that a large percentage of the population values marriage and believes it is a desirable thing.  Unfortunately, cultural factors are powerfully changing the reality of marriage especially among the less educated and working class.  The authors argue:

In their attitudes as well as in their behavior, Middle Americans are shifting toward a culture that still honors the ideal of marriage but increasingly accepts departures from that ideal.

Enter the Church

And it seems even within the Church we are willing to accept “departures” from the ideal.  People in positions of leadership and authority publicly suggest that the Church is “out of step” with the times and that there is a need for recognizing long-term, committed homosexual relationships.  These same people suggest that divorce and remarriage should not be a hindrance to full participation in the Church and Her Sacraments (I am thinking specifically of Sr. Patricia Schoelles, Fr. Charles Curran and Fr. Richard McBride among others.  Our own Bishop is very sympathetic to homosexuals and is a something of a hero in the gay community).  In 1997 at a New Ways Ministry celebration, Bishop Clark remarked:

I do think with growing conviction, based on my own pastoral experience that the Church really needs to engage in an intentional, corporate and systemic reflection on human sexuality.

He responded to a question about public blessings for homosexuals in this way:

My concern with the practice is not so much a concern with the practice, but the practice as it communicates to the wider community, that that issue is settled, that it is in exactly the same place as the Sacrament of Marriage is in the faith and understanding of the people at large.  And I simply ask that any practice of blessing or validation, whatever it is called – and I know it’s called different things in different places -my concern is that it’s carried out in such a fashion that there is visible equation made to the Sacrament of Marriage in the sense that I just described, as that is understood and commonly held by the Christian assembly. (see the book AmChurch Comes Out, p. 55-66 by Paul Likoudis)

His statement is a bit convoluted, but if I’m understanding it correctly, it appears that Bishop Clark is hoping for homosexual unions to be on par with traditional marriage.  I find it unsettling, to say the least.

I must admit to a certain sympathy when I hear the argument that gay marriage won’t erode marriage because heterosexuals have done a fantastic job already.  No-fault divorce laws and even the annulment process in the Church sends the message that marriage is temporary.  Last year, in fact, Pope Benedict cautioned church tribunals against allowing the growing civil divorce rate to dictate the number of annulments they grant (Did you know that while US Catholics comprise 6% of the total global Catholic population, 60% of annulments are granted to Americans?).  Recognizing that many divorced Catholics seek annulments so as to pursue a second marriage within the Church, our Holy Father argued that the desire to be married and receive the Eucharist should not come at the expense of marriage, adding:

Both justice and charity require love for truth, and essentially involve the search for what is true.  Without truth, charity slides into sentimentalism. Love becomes an empty shell to be filled arbitrarily. This is the fatal risk of love in a culture without truth. (As Fr. Z would say, can I get an “AMEN”?!)

Of course the fact that straight couples are unable to keep vows doesn’t change the reality of marriage nor take away from its basic purpose as so well stated by the authors Ben mentions in his recent post.  They define marriage as thus:

marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together, and renewed by acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction.

I think it really is that simple.

Shallow Catechesis in the Courier

August 5th, 2010, Promulgated by Nerina

Rarely have I read a more shallow or spiritually bereft column than “Keeping marriages strong while raising kids,”  by Therese J. Borchard in the August print edition of the Catholic Courier.  In it, Borchard attempts to explain why marriages undergo a change following the arrival of a child.   She quotes Tara Parker-Pope of The New York Times who says:

“One of the more uncomfortable findings of the scientific study of marriage is the negative effect children can have on previously happy relationships.  Despite the popular notion that children bring couples closer, several studies have shown that marital satisfaction and happiness typically plummet with the arrival of the first baby.”

Ms. Borchard goes on to speculate why this shift takes place.  She chalks it up to: stress, financial burdens, time constraints and “too much to do in too little time (and very little of it dedicated to pleasurable activities as a couple)”- i.e. the arrival of children forces adults to be…adults. Parenthetically,  I would add to her list that new parents today, being too often denied heroic witness to the vocation of marriage and family, are unwilling to accept the changes that come with parenthood.  When a couple welcomes a baby, it becomes evident, sometimes painfully,  that their needs are no longer paramount.  Even parents with a secular view know that life with a child is significantly different.

What is lacking in this article is a discussion about marriage and family as a distinct vocation – or a means of strengthening our relationship with each other and with God.  Instead, the author focuses on secular studies, gloomy predictions about life with children (stressful, unhappy, damaging to marriages) and shallow suggestions for surviving the intervening years between being childless and facing the “empty nest.”  It is a shame that so many opportunities for true catechesis go to waste in our diocesan newspaper.  Imagine if she had focused, instead, on John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio:

At a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family [7], the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family, ensuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the people of God (#3).


When they become parents, spouses receive from God the gift of a new responsibility. Their parental love is called to become for the children the visible sign of the very love of God, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” [36].(#14).

Parents are to become “the visible sign of the very love of God.”  And we know how God loves – unto death.  Without measure.  Without concern for self, but concern for other.  We keep our marriages strong by looking to the crucifix, opening our arms wide in imitation of Christ, and loving our spouses and children until we no longer live, but only Christ lives in us.

But, no.  The reader is treated to shallow advice heard daily on Oprah or seen in Good Housekeeping:” keep a date night”, “pick the bigger battles”, and “be nice to each other.”  Certainly there is nothing wrong with any of these suggestions, but they lack the depth of our rich Catholic teaching that continues to be mined and presented in new ways (e.g. Theology of the Body).  All I can say is that having children has fundamentally changed both my husband and me.  I’d like to think that we are both less selfish, more patient and more giving.  We have been forced to rely on each other – and more importantly,on God –  in ways that a childless life would not afford.  (Note well, I am making no comment on those without children.  I learned long ago that there are many stories and many reasons for childless couples and I make no judgment.)  What I am saying  is that God granted us the gift of children for a reason.  And it wasn’t just to “survive” parenting, but to flourish and grow and to place our trust in God and His plans for our life.

Pray for my husband and me that we serve Him well.

In His Peace,