Marriage Wars

I have been intending to post on the same sex marriage as it relates to heterosexual Christian marriage in order to respond to a readers comment on this post . But getting ready for RCIA, and a bit of writers block delayed my response.

“My reader writes, in part, This is a very tough subject in that we cannot accept as marriages, such unions, yet we must treat all with dignity, respect, and the love of Jesus. I suppose we need to reevaluate how we treat heterosexual marriages that are not sacramental. They are virtually identical to a gay marriage, aren’t they? Not self-giving, not fruitful, not faithful?”

She makes an excellent point. Marriage has been harmed, greatly. It has been a long and slow process which began with the Anglican Church.  As I wrote in this post

‘Same sex marriage fundamentally changes the traditional definition of family. It is the final death blow to marriage that began in the 1930’s with the permitting of contraception in some circumstances, at the Lambeth Conference (Anglican),  the sexual revolution and the loosening of divorce laws.”

I stand by the above statement with one exception. After the recent ruling on Proposition 8, I am concerned that same sex marriage is not the final blow. What comes next? Polygamous marriages? Marriage between siblings?  Adult children and parents?

Yes I know it sounds far fetched that so called the right to equal protection or privacy can go so far as to allow such extreme cases. But there are few taboos left. It is all about diversity! Tolerance! Luv! Doncha know. Truth?  We now speak like Pontius Pilate, “What is Truth?”

But I digress. G-e-t-t-i-n-g off soap box now. Back to my readers concern. She is an Orthodox Christian, and I can’t speak from an Orthodox position. In her comment, she says that she has a good marriage, but she seems to think that is rare.  Frankly, I don’t think that it is that rare. I know, personally, a great number of couples who have holy and joyful marriages. There are many couples, in our parish, who receive blessings at Sunday Mass for their long term marriages.

But there are a lot of marriages that do not live up to their Sacramental promise. There is a lot of pain and suffering out there. The idea of self giving and self sacrificing love is often not lived out even in Christian marriage. Most contracept. Some even decide not to have children.

So she asks how should we treat such marriages.

Well in the Catholic Church, if one of the spouses (or both) marries with the intent to not have children, it is grounds for an annulment. It would be ruled that it was never a Sacramental marriage. If this becomes known to the Priest or Deacon before the wedding, they would not be allowed to marry in the Church.

Apart from that we have to proclaim the Gospel. We need to do a better job of presenting the Church’s teaching. Bishops, Priests, and Deacons should preach it with great love from the ambo (pulpit).

But most of all those of us in joyful and solid marriages need be good witnesses. Sometimes teaching by example is the best way.

About Susan Kehoe

I am the wife of a Catholic deacon living in Des Moines Iowa. My husband Larry was ordained in 2006. We have two children and five grandchildren.. Our daughter and her family live in Ireland, and our son and his family live in Franklin Massachusetts.
This entry was posted in Marriage, Sacraments and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Marriage Wars

  1. LeAnn says:

    I have been married twenty years to my husband. There has been romance and love and sorrow and pain. We support each other through it all. It is easy to be married when you are young and healthy and sultry. It is a challenge to be married when you are aging with aches and pains and surgeries. Nothing tests a marriage like a physical malady. This is when love is a verb and not a noun. We are one of the few couples from our graduating class who are still in their first marriage. We feel like a dying breed.


  2. Susan Kehoe says:

    Dear LeAnn,
    Love is a verb. Ha! I love that. It is so true. Some times, in in great marriages, love is an act of the will. Real love is not just a feeling.

    Every marriage is different. But I thought the first seven years of married life was the roughest. Probably because I am so stubborn.


  3. Sue says:

    Thank you for taking my comment so much to heart. I’m very honored by the care you took to answer me.

    I just now looked up this post to find out what you said. I have a couple of questions still.

    1. The Orthodox tradition allows for up to three marriages in a lifetime. They don’t have a formal annulment process. Divorce was traditionally very very rare. Now, like the Catholics, Orthodox Christians have the same divorce rate as everyone else if they do not attend services, contracept, and don’t pray together. If they actually practice their faith, they just don’t get divorced! Our deacon said that the current Orthodox treatment of failed marriages (abuse, addiction, etc.) was the Roman position until recently. Can you comment on that?

    2. I am about to look up your other posts, but I’d like to know how to treat non-sacramental marriages. If a woman is on the pill on her wedding day, is she getting into a sacramental marriage? After all, the consummation of the union will not be free and complete and possibly fruitful.


    • Susan Kehoe says:

      “Our deacon said that the current Orthodox treatment of failed marriages (abuse, addiction, etc.) was the Roman position until recently. Can you comment on that?”

      Sue, I am not sure that I understand what you are asking. In the Catholic Church divorce is never permitted. Annulments are permitted if a marriage is not sacramental. But in most of the Catholic world outside of the US, annulments are very rare. The US Church has granted far more annulments than the rest of the Catholic world. There are two possible reasons for this. US cannon lawyers are experts in presenting a successful case, and we have a large number of converts. Many people who enter the Church from protestant churches are divorced. Since their former church does not consider marriage a sacrament they often do not enter marriage with the idea that it is permanent.

      It is my understanding that if a couple is contracepting on their wedding day that it would be grounds for an annulment.

      Thank you for commenting!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s