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Same-sex marriage is the logical conclusion to decades of divorce and infidelity

We have taken this institution for granted for too long. Now the Coalition is showing how vital and precious it is

By on Thursday, 1 March 2012

It cannot have escaped readers’ attention that the Coalition plans to start a consultation process in March with a view to bringing in legislation by 2015 that will redefine marriage to enable those in same-sex partnerships to marry. Lynne Featherstone MP, the Lib Dem Equalities Minister, has announced this in a speech last month in which she stated that “marriage is a rite of passage for couples who want to show they are in a committed relationship” and that the intended legislation is about “the underlying principles of family, society and personal freedoms”. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has made it clear that he regards this proposed legislation as a key part of his future legacy as premier.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has responded to Ms Featherstone’s announcement with a call for the public to support a “Coalition for Marriage” (C4M). As I write this it has so far attracted 60,862 signatures. Since there are 24 million married people in the UK, it is to be hoped that many more will do so. The Archbishops of Westminster and Southwark, Vincent Nichols and Peter Smith, are encouraging Catholics to also support C4M’s campaign, while Rowan Williams, current Archbishop of Canterbury, has also come out in support of the status quo.

Mercatornet, an on-line magazine, has begun a new blog called “Conjugality” in order to defend traditional marriage. Edited by Michael Kirke, an Irish journalist writing from Dublin, the blog plans to be constructive in its criticism and to highlight “the dignity and joy of genuine marriage between one man and one woman”. Kirke comments: “There are many reasons why same-sex marriage has captured the imagination…but one is that respect for the traditional variety has been eroded by decades of divorce, infidelity and contraception.” There is much truth in this: if marriage can so easily be ended by divorce it ceases to be a seen as a permanent relationship; and if contraception is habitually practised, openness to new life ceases to be seen as an intrinsic part of the relationship.

On my desk is the current edition of The Flock; this is the newsletter of “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” in support of the teachings of the Church, edited by that doughty and courageous Catholic and former head teacher, Daphne Mcleod. On the subject of the proposed consultation document she writes: “This is due to be debated in March and we need to let our representatives understand why [same-sex marriage] is a contradiction in terms. Marriage is defined in every dictionary I have seen as the lasting union of a man and a woman. Anyway, the Church also adds the stipulation that marriage must be open to new life. A couple who decide from the start never to have children are not married in the eyes of the Church even when they are male and female. “

Daphne adds: “Every society from time immemorial has reserved the term ‘marriage’ for the union of a man and a woman – even the ancient Greeks and Romans who had no problem with homosexuality… Once we start altering the meaning of such important words we are entering dangerous waters.”

One thing is clear: Ms Featherstone’s announcement means that supporters of marriage will never again be able to take this most ancient and fundamental of institutions for granted. Perhaps it takes this attack on marriage to show how vital and precious the institution is?

  • Anonymous

    Tell me about valuing women when your list of rules gives them equal status and control of their own bodies. A female pope would be a good start, but only a start.

    The STD rates don’t seem to be related to religion, South America, one of your strongholds has the second highest rate in the world. Presumably a left over from the catholic Conquistadores.

    Abortions are no-no in society according to you. But your views are not the only one and again you can claim no superiority that can be proved.

    Divorces, again, are only a down-check according to you. Fortunately, increases in wealth and ridding ourselves of the quaint belief systems now allow people to make decisions about their own happiness and not have to live in misery. The children suffer do they? I would like to see the evidence for this and not an obviously biased opinion.

    But divorce and the catholic church always amuses doesn’t it. It is absolutely forbidden to be divorced and remarry in church, except of course if you pay the church to carry out an investigation and get given an annulment. Sheer hypocrisy.

    So no, your non-absolute list of rules derived in part from the bronze age are not much use in modern society. But as must be plain to you, you’ll eventually change, unfortunately society will have moved on again. 

  • theroadmaster

    Well, Acleron your responses to my points have not undermined them in any sense, but only have serve to strengthen the force of my arguments. It is this emphasis on personal choice without taking stock of the social consequences which flow from them, is precisely the attitude which has led to the social disintegration of communities as the moral glue which held them together has dissolved. 
     Abortion is a terrible indictment of any society which calls itself civilized as it should be against the natural instincts of any woman or man for that matter.  One must question how this abominable act can be seen as a “normative” part of health care.You ask about evidence of the negative consequences of divorce.  Recent studies show that children caught in the middle of family break-ups on average fare worse in terms of physical/mental health, education and career than their counterparts who experience the love and security of a father and mother who stay together.Your dismissive view of religion is rather a tired one and has rather had it’s day as the positive insights which Religion provides is becoming more pertinent to the solutions that people are looking for.  One can see this in the increasing interest shown in Catholic Social doctrine which promotes the dignity of men and women in relation to such systems as socialism or capitalism.

  • guest

    Acleron, I totally agree with and share your outrage at the conditions in Africa and even in some parts of the developed world. However I don’t believe it is caused by overpopulation there nor here. There are enough resources. Also the UN statistics assume the world population will peak at 9 billion about 2050. 

    People are starving and dying because the available resources are are not directed towards the poor and to those in Africa. The free market system does not yet have an incentive to direct resources there.

    Lots of women in Africa have AIDS because of rape. Sending them contraceptives has not helped and is not going to help. Some of the organisations on the ground are trying to educate people and change attitudes in this regard. A recent Harvard report suggests the Church’s approach of addressing attitudes will work.

    ‘Breeding’ is not only a Western parochial doctrine. Recent African leaders in Nigeria and Kenya have refused Western aid from the UK and US which was contingent on them introducing contaception and abortion legislation stating these policies violate their culture and values.

    I think we need to be sensitive to their leaders’ remarks and work with their cultural beliefs instead of just imposing our solutions on them.

    Kenya and Nigeria have also argued that population control policies will hurt these countries economies when they do emerge. Other economies have needed the ‘demographic dividend’ i.e. a large number of 19-25 year olds to help demand and fuel growth. If they introduce these policies they will not emerge and overcome poverty.

    Seeing their growing populations as a resource i.e. future market instead of just a current burden might be an incentive for the capitalist system to direct and allocate some of the abundant available resources to the people there. Wallmart and Tesco are already entering Africa and now India.

    I haven’t been told what to believe and I don’t follow rules. I am reflecting on the Church’s teachings, I am still trying to understand them and am making them my own because they are consistent and rational.  What reinforces my conviction they are true is that people from other cultures share the basic tennets of the teachings -without being Catholic.

  • guest

    As you write yourself the sun is not the center of the universe so Galileo’s claim to truth was in fact a fallacy and the Church was right.

  • Anonymous

    The similarities between Catholic and Protestant belief do not negate the fact that you cannot simultaneously be both a Catholic and a Protestant. Adam Thomson claimed that for homosexual couples to call themselves married is as contradictory as for Catholics to call themselves Protestants. I disagreed, since I believe that his exclusively heterosexual definition of “married” is not the only feasible one.

    I do not claim that the discrimination faced by homosexuals who want to marry is comparable in degree with the suffering of slaves or the discontent of voteless women. The point of my comparison was that centuries of discrimination do not always set an unbeatable precedent. 

    The absence of a womb in men is a fact of nature, but marriage is a social convention which can be altered, like the legality of slavery or the exclusion of women from the electorate. I therefore reject this analogy.

  • David B McGinnity

    When I heard about Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s comments about same sex marriage on the early morning news, I was a bit angry particularly because the church is rapidly devaluing it’s position in society. The case of the injudicious midwives in Glasgow has not helped. However, when I read what he wrote, I just burst out laughing and thought that it is time that he hung up his bishops regalia and his “hang-ups”. The sad part is that the Catholic Church is taking a retrograde step into the past. Society and people have moved on and the Catholic has stood still which means that it is going backwards. I think that Cardinal Keith O’Brien has about one year to go before he retires, the sooner the better.

  • Anonymous

    In a previous post you wrote this: “Marriage, as properly understood, is the sanctification of the complementariness of one man and one woman in terms of their love, sexual attraction and potential for procreation”. Same-sex couples resemble elderly and infertile couples in that they can satisfy the first two criteria but not the third. You point out that in each of the three cases the reason for the inability to have children together is different, but this does not alter the sameness of the end result. If the ability to mate is a central purpose of marriage, I do not see how a difference of reason allows a concession to the elderly and infertile but not the homosexual. A lack of compatible genitalia within a couple who want to marry is also a circumstance beyond control, though lack of control does not seem a relevant factor to me.
    Appealing to what you define as “Nature” no more endorses your view in my eyes than appealing to tradition. Marriage is a social convention, not a fact of nature. Animals mate, and sometimes pair for life, but they do not marry.
    “The accepted order of life” is a relative term, since what is not accepted by you might be accepted by me. Same-sex couples who wish to marry are not asking you to do any accepting.

  • Guy Pircardie

    What the Cardinal Keith O’Brien has written is a gift for comedians. There is not enough levity in life and we must take notice of the more zany side of living. It is so funny to think that people need to ask permission from a deity to engage in coitus, although as a student I used to make an act of contrition afterwards just in case I died and went to hell,  Marriage is a load of old hat, regardless of who does it, but one should never lose the opportunity to get dressed up and have a rave up, who cares. I have been told that there are animal registry offices in America where by animals can get married. This is good stuff.As for the three men and a dog that Cardinal Keith O’Brien mentions, well if one had such proclivities it might me very exciting, however if it was a Rotweiller dog I think would be very careful about my anatomy. Thank goodness I have no such proclivities, and I prefer girls in bed.

  • Dave Corrigan

    While you are thinking up an answer to Jane Brady and Mark Castilano’s conundrum then please elucidate whether it is Catholic Church doctrine that all people (other than Roman Catholics) were not lawfully married in the eyes of God and over the millennia millions of people have lived in sin and have gone to hell. Even today those married people who are not Catholics and are living in sin and will go to hell. Is this the case? Answer clearly and do not prevaricate or obfuscate. I will patiently await your coherent and well answered response.

  • Nik

    How was the churchright? According to them the Earth was the center of the universe and all other celestial bodies orbited around it. Galileoshowed that this could not possibly be true since he has directly observed moons orbiting jupiter

  • James

    I am at a loss as to why you are posting this message onto a Catholic website when there are plenty of news websites you could have vented your feelings onto (BBC, Guardian etc).  To put the record straight, the Church cannot and will not ever bless “same-sex marriages” because marriage in the Church’s eyes is between a man and a woman.  Ever since Adam and Eve, in every single culture and civilisation, marriage has been a social custom between a man and a woman.  There has never been any exceptions to this rule.  While it is true that the Catholic Church did not institute marriage per se, (marriage predates the Church), it is also true that marriage in the eyes of every single society in the history of mankind has been between a man and a woman.  The Church is only proclaiming faithfully the unchanging message of the faith of the Apostles as it has been doing over the last 2000 years.  It is childish of you to make personal attacks on the Cardinal.  I think you will find that Catholics have stood up for truth, while secular society is the once that has “advanced” if you call prosmicuity, social breakdown and widespread killing of babies (abortion) advancement…  I do not see what is injudicious about the Glasgow midwives standing up for what they believe in.. this is only the same as the bleeding-heart liberals “standing up for what they believe in ” (i.e. catholic bashing and “tolerance” but only when being tolerant suits them”.  What is injudicious about standing up to protect the human right to life of the most vulnerable in our society (the unborn babies)?  The moral and intellectual dishonesty of anti-Catholics is breathtaking.

  • theroadmaster

    Marriage was instituted by God in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 but Jesus raised it to the level of a sacrament during the Wedding Feast at Cana.  This reality does not invalidate  the marriages that had gone before as their unions wee still blessed in God’s eyes  Marriages up to Christ’s time were conducted as civil contracts but were still viewed by society in a sacred light.

  • theroadmaster

    There is a demarcation line between Catholicism and protestant groupings which is becoming less rigid as the doctrinal differences are being surmounted. This process cannotbe applied to the differences between the marriage as understood over 2 Millennia and modernist attempts to redefine it.
    Marriage is firmly based on the complementary physical and bio-chemical and procreative endowments of both  sexes.Thus it is entirely naturaland not synthetic.

  • David B McGinnity

    I agree that that Cardinal has the right to express whatever he wants, and indeed so do others who do not agree with him. It seems that you want the Cardinal to be free to express his views in a serious Sunday newspaper within the public domain. But you do not want others to be free to disagree with him. That sounds like double standards, which is very catholic indeed. What is it that you suggest? Am I to be excommunicated forthwith?What the Cardinal expressed is no longer valid regardless of what the Roman Catholic Church teaches, and it only “gets the people’s backs up”. Already, employers may choose to be very cautious and hesitant about employing Roman Catholics in the future because of this unnecessary court case. Catholics may be deemed to be unreliable, untrustworthy, and unfit to be managers because of their propensity to narrow extremism, poor judgement and their inability to reason objectively. You have asked “What is injudicious about standing up to protect the human right to life”? I have read the court judgement in full and it is quite clear that these two cunning and greedy women wanted to keep their enhanced salary and conditions of service, but choose to renege on the contract that they had signed. They thought that they had a get out clause, but they were wrong. They have proved their untrustworthiness in a court of law.

  • theroadmaster

    The important different between a married couple who are infertile by conditions beyond their control and same-sex couples is that the former still retain the complimentariness but the latter do not.  This is the design plan of our Creator and we have to respect the realities revealed in Nature
    Animals of course pair but it is only the members of the human species who possess  the mental faculties to discern and understand the full implications of the “naturalness” of the union between one man and one woman.

  • Anonymous

    So the right of heterosexual couples to marry is based not on procreative ability but on complimentariness, ie. they have different genitals. It’s all based on genitals then: not attraction or love or faithfulness, which can even be found in homosexual couples. This is your profound definition of marital eligibility and no-one is allowed a church ceremony based on any other, even if you and your own church remain unaffected.

    Homosexual people pair with each other because it is in their nature to do so, and they can understand the implications of their natural attraction to each other just as fully as heterosexual couples. You will of course deny that homosexual attraction is natural, but I can assure you that we are not manufacturing our urges just to annoy Catholics. 

    In your last post on the other thread, which seems to be no longer allowing replies, you claim that “Marriage is firmly based on the complementary physical and bio-chemical and procreative endowments of both sexes.” If this basis is as firm as you say, you should have nothing to worry about. 

    This will be my last contribution to the debate on this page, as I suspect we have reached an impasse. Your assertion that we must respect “the design plan of our Creator” is addressed on this occasion to an atheist.

  • James

    Jane, Jesus did not institute marriage at Cana.  If some nuns told you that, that they were misleading you.  Marriage predates the Church and goes all the way back to Adam and Eve.  Mary and Joseph were definitely married…!  You are wrong on this.  “the Catholic Church’s once powerful authority to dictate dogma is now redundant”  this is patently false.  What evidence do you have for this?  The Pope still has the authority to define Church dogma.  I don’t think you know what you are talking about.  The temporal and spiritual power of the Pope is unchanged.  The internet has not changed that one iota.  You obviously didn’t enjoy your time at a Catholic school.  I suppose you should be grateful for the church providing you a good education.  If there were shortcomings among the teachers/religious at the school, then that is a shame and it is sad that they fell short of the mark.  But, you should not judge the entire church leadership and the faithful by the wrongdoings of a few.  They are only human beings, after all.  The church is for saints and sinners alike.

  • scary goat

    The Catholic Church recognises “natural marriage”.  For example if you are a convert from the Islam which allows divorce, as a divorcee you would still need a declaration of nullity in order to remarry.  Mary and Joseph were Jews, not Catholics.  Jesus returned marriage to it’s original state as God intended (ie Adam and Eve = 1 man +1 woman).  Jesus instituted Christian marriage as a sacrament which conforms to God’s original intention. The Church also teaches that God’s sacraments are binding but God is not bound by His sacraments. This means that sacramental marriage is binding on Catholics but non-catholics are expected to follow natural law and their own conscience and God will decide.  It is nonsense to suggest that pre-Christian people are all going to hell for living in sin.

  • Erwin Zundl

    And in what exactly would that “self-delusion” consist, if not in the deluded belief that the decision of a parliamentary majority can turn the relationship of two homosexual into a “marriage”?

    Parliament might as well decide the weather for tomorrow. Or that, as of next week, the sun shall rise in the West.

  • Adam Thomson

     1. ‘Catholic’ and ‘Protestant’ are mutually exclusive terms only because they have been used that way for centuries. I suppose some government could legislate that in future each term should mean something entirely different from its historic meaning, but it would be a pretty stupid thing to do. ‘Marriage’ has historically meant the union of a man and a woman. But our government now wants to decree is that in future it shall mean something different.
    2. You say that “Gay couples do not at present have complete freedom to do their own thing if their own thing includes having a ceremony in a gay-friendly church.” Of course they do. They can have any ceremony they like in any kind of church that will perform it. But they are not entitled to demand that the rest of society should recognise that as marriage, which it simply isn’t.
    3. This is an issue on which we are never going to agree, because if is simply a symptom of a much deeper difference. You are an atheist; I am a Christian. You believe that man can define marriage however he wishes (even it involves three men); I believe that marriage (the union of a man and a woman) was ordained by the God who made us. If I am right, your biggest problem is not that you disagree with tradition, but that you are in rebellion against your Maker.

  • Love is better than hate

    I’m sorry but have you actually spoken to god? Has he actually conversed with you about his feelings? Nope, thought not. You are merely iterating your own nasty bigoted, homophobic, right wing, goose stepping viewpoints and not god’s. I’d have more faith in catholicism if it put its own house in order first before commenting on anything else. What a nasty religion.

  • Paula Mendez

    wow, I have just written these lasts points in the telegraph blog!

  • Trockfield

    And there we have it: you can’t reasonably win this argument because you realize that badjumbly has successfully (and brilliantly) argued his case. So you invoke the invisible man in the sky and close down all further discussion.  This is precisely why it is such a good thing that laws are no longer made on religious grounds.  The fact is that this law will, in all likelihood, be passed, because it is the right thing to do; you will just have to put up with it.

  • Trockfield

    “Ever since Adam and Eve, in every single culture and civilisation, marriage has been a social custom between a man and a woman”.  Ever since Adam and Eve? When was that then, precisely?  Also, you are simply wrong to state that “in every single culture and civilisation, marriage has been a social custom between a man and a woman. There has never been any exceptions to this rule”: in fact there are many cultural variants of marriage that have existed (and persist), including polygyny, polyandry, and – yes – same-sex marriage (for example in the early Roman Empire and during the Chinese Ming Dynasty). So please get your facts straight (and perhaps do some research) before making such uninformed assertions.

  • Trockfield

    It’s ‘complementariness’

  • Adam Thomson

     I can’t reasonably win an argument against someone who refuses to recognise the obvious fact that the male body and the female body were designed for a kind of relationship that neither two men nor two women were made for.

  • Anonymous

    “1. The intact, biological, married family remains the gold standard for family life in the United States, insofar as children are most likely to thrive — economically, socially, and psychologically — in this family form.” Conclusion of 100 experts from various fields in the 3rd Edition of their report on Why Marriage Matters. Read yourself at . I guess those Catholics have been right all-along — eh Acleron? And please: Where are those independent surveys of children-of-divorce proving they are happier than otherwise?

  • Trockfield

    They weren’t ‘designed’, they evolved. In any case what you say doesn’t alter the fact that marriage is a social and cultural institution. The ‘kind of relationship’ you claim is only available to a man and a woman can just as easily take place outside of marriage.

  • Tridentinus

     The point you raised was not philosophical but intentionally facetious and if you did geta ‘public thrashing’ for trying to be clever, you obviously have learned nothing from it. Our Lord raised the status of matrimony to that of a Sacrament at Cana. Marriage, however, existed from the time of Adam and Eve with God’s invitation to them to increase and multiply. It is hardly likely that the Creator would encourage people to live in sin when sin is primarly an offense against Him.

    If you were  educated in a convent then you would have learned that there is a difference between dogma, which is concerned with Faith and morals and precepts the Church feels it necessary from time to time to impose to safeguard the practice of the Catholic Faith. Examples of these are, clerical celibacy, the obligation of hearing Mass on every Sunday and Holy Day, fasting and abstinence and the like. Catholics are obliged to obey these disciplinary precepts.

    The Pope or a Council do not have the power to make up ‘dogmas’ like the one you suggest. They can tell Catholics it is sinful to go on non-catholic websites if it is deemed spiritually dangerous. This and the other precepts can be introduced, changed or abolished whenever the Church feels it is in the interests of the faithful. Individual dispensations can be granted, e.g. allowing former Anglican priests who are married to be ordained. The Church cannot dispense people from Divine Law, in other words it can never declare that homosexual acts are no longer be sinful.

    As for control, the Church lays before its members the path to Salvation, if they choose not to follow it then their is no way of making them or controlling them, we all possess the gift of free will, so no faux pas, no illogical errors of dogma.

  • FootballDad

    Nicely said Charles. Same sex marriage has all the wisdom and maturity of children playing at mommy and daddy.

  • Tridentinus

     So if the Holy Ghost is putting right all these so-called ‘mistakes’ which the Church under His guidance has been continually making over the centuries why did He allow them to be made in the first place?
    Looking at it another way, if the Church under the guidance of the Holy Ghost can make mistakes, how can we ever know whether whatever the Church teaches is right or wrong, for example, perhaps it still is gravely sinful to join in interdenominational prayer and the Church is wrong to permit it.
    Will the Church teach more error in the future? How will we know?
    Who are these people whose prayers are prompting the Holy Ghost to turn things around? Are they an exclusive group who consider themselves intellectually superior to their fellow Catholics, a kind of Catholic Illuminati?
    Please, ‘enlighten’ us.

  • Anonymous

    We all have to follow our consciences. Read the scriptures, pray, and listen also the arguments of the wisest philosophers and teachers of our age. We also should listen to the Church’s teaching, but recognise that it has often been totally wrong in the past. 

    Once you accept that the Church has totally changed its moral teaching on many issues, then it follows that it would be foolish to listen only to its teaching because it will certainly change again in future. If you deny that the Church has totally changed its teaching on many moral issues in the past then you are very badly informed. 

  • Matt

    Of course, you are accusing the Church of living in the “Dark Ages”, when it is really you that are advocating a return to those days, like back in the Roman and Chinese empires, when they tossed baby girls out on the trash, or in Sparta, when they got rid of weak or sickly babies, but then, you approve same sex marriages, so it is all of the same cloth – the Dark Ages, returning once again…

  • Anonymous

    If I were to accept that the Church had changed its absolute, moral teaching one
    even one single issue then why would or should I believe it on any moral
    issue, ever?
    What is the point of reading the Scriptures as the only guarantee as to their veracity is that furnished by the Church which you contend is worthless?
    If I pray and hopefully the outcome will be a personal revelation how do I know whether it is genuine or simply what I wanted to hear? How will I discern the Spirit? What if someone else discerns the Spirit differently? Is it my mistake or theirs?
    Who are the wisest philosophers and teachers of the age, where are they to be found? I’m sure you and I would be bound to differ on this.