Of all the thorny subjects in the world, this one really should not be thorny at all. We have come to a pretty pass when we can look at this title and instead of thinking “Now, what is that silly Father Bede up to now? Of course we believe in marriage!”, rather our minds veer towards “Gosh, Fr Bede, this is pretty contentious stuff, you could be struck off the Pope’s/Cardinal’s/Bishop’s Christmas card list for this!”
So, we still believe in marriage? Good question.
Do we believe in marriage? If by ‘we’, you mean Catholics, then ask those around you next time you’re in Mass what they think about it. Do they think Frank and Bob are married? Should they be able to adopt? Should a 16 year old be able to align themselves to a different gender? And if you get the answers you expect, then turn from that person and ask someone under 20. You see, the social experiment has been at work on them for quite a while now. We may believe it, but you have to ask who ‘we’ are.
So, what about our hierarchy? Well, we got the concession that we Priests won’t be prosecuted for refusing to marry two men or two women in church; we are exempt from this so-called equality legislation. I think our forefathers might have died for less, but never mind. However I do not remember us marching in the streets to defend marriage as the French did. Our adoption agencies were closed down for refusing to place children with same sex couples (though some shamelessly continue to do so while claiming links to the Catholic Church, even with Bishops’ approval and parishes’ fundraising), and our schools are too tainted by government ideology to be able to present the truth of Catholicism without watering it down with relativism. So, do we really believe in marriage, when our defence of it was a few raised voices at the time of its redefinition (but not too much, we are English after all and it wouldn’t do to make a fuss), a waved piece of paper saying we won’t have to do it in our Churches, and an almost complete capitulation in every other sphere of social life?
Actually, I’m not sure we do believe in marriage that much after all. If I say that I love you more than life itself, but then cannot be bothered to help you when the chips are down, then my words and my actions are at odds. I am a hypocrite. You should not believe what I say. What can you tell about what the Catholic Church believes about marriage by her actions in the social realm? What is our defence of marriage? Of family life? Of the raising of children?
To be frank, I think that we have conceded the fight, and have retreated into a little Catholic box where we can define what we believe and what we do, and we do not have to engage with the nasty world.
It will be the death of us.
This article appears in the Latin Mass Society Magazine