To continue our consideration of marriage, let’s look at what has become of it in the last 500 years.
The Protestant Reformation began with three distinct branches: King Henry VIII with his Church of England; John Calvin with his Reformed Church (now called Presbyterianism); and Martin Luther with his Evangelical Church (now called Lutheranism). The Church of England was formed precisely because the Catholic Church would not allow Henry VIII to divorce his legitimate wife and marry his pregnant mistress, Anne Boleyn—whom he beheaded a couple of years later on charges of adultery. So right from the beginning, marriage has been threatened in that church, and now divorce and remarriage is acceptable within it. I don’t know the history of Calvinist or Lutheran theology on the subject of marriage, but both of those bodies now allow divorce and remarriage. In fact, I don’t know of a single Christian body outside the Catholic Church which really believes marriage to be permanent and indissoluble.
As for sexual activity, the Church insists that it always be unitive and procreative. That is, sexual activity always betokens the sacramental union of husband and wife, and must always be open to the transmission of life. It can never be simply a means of self- gratification. God attached pleasure to sex in order to create families and lead to the procreation of the human race. To enjoy the pleasure without accepting the responsibility that flows from it is a violation of the very concept of sex. And of course, it is a very short step from contraception within marriage to fornication or committing adultery outside of marriage. And then, by the same faulty logic, if it’s okay to have contraceptive sex with one’s spouse and to fornicate or commit adultery outside marriage, then why not open the door to homosexuality between two men or two women so inclined? Today, we find the Episcopal Church in our country ordaining an active homosexual male to the state of being a bishop. If it has done it once, presumably it will do it again.
So, given this situation regarding marriage, why bother to marry at all? A few years ago, my travel group and I were in Jamaica. We got to talking to our tour guide there about social life among his people, and the subject of marriage came up. “We don’t get married,” he stated very flatly. When some of our group expressed amazement, he said, “No. It’s expensive, and doesn’t mean anything. So we just live together. If it works out, we stay together. If it doesn’t, we find someone else to live with.” There wasn’t time to get into the subject of the children: their care, rearing, education, and whose responsibility they were. But you can imagine how they are reared.
If marriage is reduced to insignificance, then those who accept that view will soon fall away from any meaningful relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ, who insists in the gospel upon the permanence of marriage. Years ago, one of my Jesuit professors in college said in class that the mating urge is the greatest cause of “leakage” from the Church. Given the strength of the urge to mate and the attractiveness of sex, most human beings will go that way. And if they can’t do it according to the laws of Christ and His Church, then they will leave Christ and the Church. When God has to compete with a man or a woman in the mating game, God often loses. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.