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Is it time the Catholic Church got out of the marriage business?

It’s time we considered adopting the French system

By on Wednesday, 24 July 2013

An American university has carried out research into the cost of weddings and the success of marriages (AP Photo)

An American university has carried out research into the cost of weddings and the success of marriages (AP Photo)

An item in the Telegraph for 21 July has caught my attention. It concerns advice given to Sikh temples as a consequence of the new law on same-sex marriage. It seems that these temples have been advised by their own advisory body “to halt all civil marriage ceremonies on their premises to protect them from possible legal challenges for refusing to conduct same-sex weddings.” It is the first religious group to consider this course of action.

I can understand why the Church of England would not be keen to surrender its licence to conduct the civil formalities of a marriage, because it is the national Church and cannot easily separate itself from the state. But I am surprised that the Catholic Church, which has stood out against this new legislation alongside the Sikhs and the United Jewish Synagogue, has not (yet) thought of doing the same thing. The Sikh advisory body, which sent the letter of advice to all Sikh temples or gurdwaras, sounds clear-sighted and realistic. They are not persuaded that the so-called “quadruple lock”, designed to protect certain groups from being compelled to carry out same-sex weddings, would offer any protection under the European Court of Human Rights if a challenge were brought to its notice.

Harmander Singh, principal adviser to the Sikhs in England commented that “we are concerned that he quadruple lock isn’t going to be worth the paper it is written on.” I agree with him. If gurdwaras were to “deregister” as venues for civil weddings, couples would have to go through a separate ceremony in a register office as well as their own religious wedding rites. This is what happens in France, where couples have a civil wedding at the town hall with a separate church service if they choose. What’s wrong with that? Of course, it is a neat arrangement to combine these two aspects, civil and religious, under one roof but it isn’t necessary. Indeed, to separate them would emphasise for Christians the religious nature of marriage. It would also remove Christian marriage from the possibility of state interference.

Fr Dwight Longenecker, an American priest and popular blogger, made the same point in a recent blog. He has decided not to register weddings any longer when he conducts marriages in his parish church. He will advise Catholic couples who come to him to have a civil marriage and then follow it with a nuptial Mass in church. He intends to call this “Holy Matrimony”, to distinguish it from the word “marriage” which no longer means what it has always been understood to mean: the union of a man and a woman. Perhaps this should be the way forward for the Church in this country too? Harmander Singh says it straight: “We have no authority, neither has the Government, to change our scriptures. We are bound by our religious teachings and we have been put in a difficult position.”

  • aaglaas

    I recommend that you read Leviticus 18:19, and ‘progress’ to equally condemning as you do me, all men who have seen their wife naked when she is on her period, and then to outcast them from their community and family as ‘God’ demands, and to equally condemn everyone who eats lobsters, clams, or shrimp as the ‘abominations’ that God calls such people. (Leviticus 11:9-12).. you seem to have a major problem with selective blindness when it comes to Levitical laws.

  • AdEleison

    Am I confused about the use of the word pederasty – is it only something that relates to ancient times and ancient practices. The history you refer to admired the practice and you reference the material in support of the historic acceptability for the practice of homosexuality. You concede that pederasty should not be reinstated, but without clarification only because we do not live like the ancients – segregated into homes for men and homes for women. This leaves open the interpretation that you would see pederasty as acceptable if groups of people (cults?) chose to readopt the custom of men and women living in separate homes with males from about age 13. [Personally I do not think this is true of you, but other readers may be left questioning].
    So I do not want to appear disrespectful (or dense – maybe I am), and reiterate to avoid the risk of very severe flaming – please clarify ‘an age that you would agree with, and the modern day selection process (environment/meeting place) that would be acceptable”.

  • aaglaas

    Hi Adrian…. the history I referred to about pederasty was neither admiring, nor condemning… it simply is a historical fact.

    However, certain religious groups have seized upon the word itself and given it a stigma, in that they think that it only means sex between a youth and an older male, because of a tiny group of gays in 1978, widely discredited now, who advocated the return of it. Those religious groups however usually have no concept that it wasn’t for ‘sex’, but to train a youth to become a man, with all the accompanying skills of a warrior, athlete, and citizen.

    It is anachronistic and no longer exists… the world and civilization in which it was necessary, no longer exists.. neither do the Feudal Ages with knights and their squires.

    It’s only a hypothetical question… and has no bearing on the reality of today… but, if you require an answer, then I would say that if the exact conditions in which the ancient Greek city-states came into being, with agriculture, writing, architecture, and science being born in their infancy, with large and dangerous wild animals all around, and less-developed warlike tribes surrounding them in the entire world, and with no other civilizations being more advanced on that world, and with an average life expectancy of around 30 years old being the reality as it was in ancient Greece, and the need to train all young men to be warriors to defend the women, children, and their nascent cities… I would have no problem with it. But… that situation exists no place upon the planet, and so there is no reason to go back to that.

    That said, I already told you how I feel about what age would be ‘acceptable’ for a young male to experience his sexuality. It usually for most males around the world is between the ages of 13 to 16 when they first go through puberty, and later have sex, and that if they do have sex, it should be with someone very close to their age.. and that the potential results, dangers, and responsibilities of having sex should be moderated and explained to him before or at that time by his parents and school. That is my belief.

  • Tridentinus

    Please do, it needs it unlike yours but if you would like me to pray for yours I will do so willingly, not without your permission, of course.

  • aaglaas

    Thank you. Prayer is always good if it asks for the enlightenment of another… My prayer is for the scales to fall from your eyes regarding the fact that you pick a few verses to condemn gay people with, while you ignore all the other verses that condemn how you treat gay people… just as so many other Christian churches and Christians have learned they were doing in ignorant evil to gays, until recently.

  • Tridentinus

    Look at your own posts and see how selective you are after your 3 year intensive course. If you are so well versed in the Bible, publish it on here from Genesis to the Machabees, with your commentary. I promise you I will read it.

  • Tridentinus

    No, no, you are the one with the axe to grind. I have nothing to prove.

  • aaglaas

    Um… yeah!! I and all others like me are the ones who have had people like you attempting to deny us marriage, equality in life, and who has had a lifetime of people like you telling us that how we were born is an abomination. You have never been beaten, or arrested over how you were born, and you have never had strangers using their holy book to deny you the right to marry the person you love.

    Your ‘axe’ has ground down upon us for centuries… you have ‘everything’ to prove, as you tell the world of how ‘benevolent’ and ‘loving’ you are as a ‘Christian’, while you daily condemn and brutalize with your words and actions, a naturally reoccurring segment of your fellow souls… merely over how they were born, and who they love… Again, what utter evil hypocrisy you practice.

  • Tridentinus

    Methinks, I have heard this rant before on this thread along with a lot of other wearying accusations of hypocrisy.

  • aaglaas

    Methinks that when people point out how you use your personal religious beliefs to demonize, brutalize, and condemn others with over how they are born and who they love.. you are ‘needled’ to the point of saying: “I’m not going to agree to disagree!” (as mature adults do when it’s obvious that no agreement can be reached) and: “I’m going to ‘argue’ with you because I ‘want’ to just for the sake of the pleasure I get engaging in unpleasant and useless argument itself!”

    I feel sorry if this is how you are raising your children to behave.

  • Tridentinus

    Oh, my children have long been raised and agree with me absolutely,

    Why should I agree with someone against whom I am diametricallly opposed.

  • Tridentinus

    Tough, isnt it?

  • aaglaas

    Seems to be for you, yeah.

  • Tridentinus

    Not for me. Tough for the agenda you are unsucessfully trying to peddle.

  • aaglaas


  • Tridentinus

    Do I hear violins?

  • aaglaas

    Tridentinus 2 minutes ago −
    “Do I hear violins?”

    Most likely.. I wouldn’t be surprised..

  • AdEleison

    I note with some anxiety:

    -your efforts to steer the question away from homosexual behaviour to pubescent heterosexual behaviour and

    – the introduction of “Christian” accusatory pointers to some so called 2nd/3rd world practices which are

    not part of this specific point we are seeking to clarify.

    It is a well recognised lobby strategy to present your opponent’s constituents as intrinsically evil, whilst presenting your own as reasonable and good. I thought we had built enough trust to dispense with such misdirections.

    With your leave – your disposition is dangerous and disregards the effect of excess oxytocin, dopamine and vasopressin on the development of the pubescent/adolescent brain. Sex by design releases hormones and endorphins into the body. For the adolescent their body changes are enormous resulting in significantly increased vulnerability to excess hormone and endorphins exposure, and you will be well aware of the relative endorphins levels for different sex activities. There is an increasing body of literature on this, a helpful introduction can be found by searching for:

    “The Teenage Brain: Under Construction” Anderson acpeds

    But you will probably want to counter and will probably disagree with the morality “starting point” of the author/s.

    Your sugegstion that pederasty was practiced not “for ‘sex’, but to train a youth to become a man, with all the accompanying skills of a warrior, athlete, and citizen”, may have more truth to it than intended. The activity increases dopamine and rewires the frontal cortex to increasingly risky behaviour (battlefield exploits) in the pursuit of elation. You will probably be able to confirm very high risk behaviours among many youth among your constituency – relatively riskier than corresponding heterosexual youths.

    I was hoping that you were going to suggest the right age to be about 23 to 25. I of course would suggest there is no appropriate age for pederasty, but then I’m Catholic :-).

  • aaglaas

    You are free to pick up a Bible and read it yourself… however cherry-picking verses to condemn gay people while ignoring preceding and following verses that equally condemn shell-fish eaters and people who wear clothing with 2 different types of fabric is the height of hypocrisy.

  • aaglaas

    I’m sorry they have been raised to condemn others over how they were born and who they love.

  • aaglaas

    I replied to this quite extensively and politely with statistics, and scientific facts, but apparently the moderator(s) are afraid of you seeing it.. If you care to e-mail me at the address I gave you, I saved it and can reply again to you. Other than that, I will repost it here every day, since it contains nothing offensive.

  • ednaciurleo

    Dear Aaron–I did receive both your responses and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing that! Yes, I have gotten in trouble at times with the conservatives, both politically and in the Church, but I have learned to speak my mind while trying to keep a civil tone–something that some of your responders have forgotten or never learned! Again, God bless you, and keep the faith!!

  • aaglaas

    ednaciurleo… thank you so much again… I know in my heart of hearts this is just how Jesus wanted us to treat each other… and you do too. I hope you and your family are having an awesome summer so far!!

  • aaglaas

    It it were scathing, you can be sure I was just turning a mirror towards them..

  • aaglaas

    You mean everyone has to agree with you like a mindless drone, and no difference of opinion or fact is tolerated???… How very convenient and self-satisfying… a pat on the back to you!! :-)

  • aaglaas

    I agree with much of what you say regarding the hormonal chemicals and their effect upon developing brains and bodies, but I also feel that you possibly were obliquely trying to get me to say that I was a champion of pederasty, which is a common misconception amongst certain religious groups who do not generally get to know their gay brethren very well. I do not condone a modern return to an ancient practice that no longer exists, nor condone older people attempting to have a sexual relationship with much younger. And it is completely pertinent to compare the fact that most conservative religious people will always bring up the subject of pederasty when talking about gay people, or try to suggest that that is our ‘secret’ motive, but ignore the fact that they do not ever bring up the corresponding statistics of heterosexual older men marrying pubescent females in many parts of the world, or seem upset by that at all. If they’re so concerned about pubescent males, then they should be equally as concerned about pubescent females if they’re going to bring up the subject of older males having intercourse with younger people.

    To expect males not to have sex until they are 23 to 25 is simply unrealistic. That doesn’t mean I’m promoting the idea that 13 or 15 year-olds should start engaging in sex at the age of puberty. It simply is a reality of life all across the world that parents and schools can only attempt to moderate with sex education.

  • aaglaas

    To expect males not to have intercourse until they are 23 to 25 is simply unrealistic. That doesn’t mean I’m promoting the idea that 13 or 15 year-olds should start engaging in that at the age of puberty. It simply is a reality of life all across the world that parents and schools can only attempt to moderate with education. As to the rates of risky behavior, that happens when a homosexual youth is not allowed to grow up openly and express their attraction and find love with their homosexual peers in their own schools and small towns as their heterosexual peers can do openly… and thus not have to engage in risky acts with strangers in secret.

    As we become more and more integrated with our fellow heterosexual souls, they can grow up with marriage and monogamy as the ideal, with the support of their family and community, instead of having to engage in desperate measures, to alleviate their loneliness and isolation.

  • AdEleison


    Nope, perhaps because you do a lot of posts, you forgot that you raised the issue indirectly by referencing historical practices of homosexuality. In addition you stated as follows:

    “For the majority of Human history… there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed about… but instead, so much to be proud of what we have contributed to Civilization itself…and what we now call ‘homosexuality’ has been honored and respected throughout the majority of the Ages prior to Christianity for the sacred and unique beauty that it is.”

    Pederasty was practised and affirmed even admired. So I think that this is something to be ashamed of and whilst you are equivocal you seem to agree it was not a practice to be honored and respected, so therefore not sacred and unique beauty.

    All I was trying to do was to give you an opportunity to assert what I though would be your position on pederasty (at some persistence, which I hope was not interpreted as rude – I did try hard to express such).

    Unfortunately as things have been left you don’t recognise the word pederasty to signify relationship between an older man and a younger boy (which surely is the modern day meaning) – you seem to want to use it to mean the grooming of a boy to become a manly, athletic, warrior, citizen by a mature older mail (perhaps grooming is not the word you want me to use, but it is historical right Prince William is being groomed to become King one day).

    Hesitation on your part has left the implication 13 + 13 should not be considered a problem, 13 + 17 maybe.

    My point as you will identify is that exposure to “excess oxytocin, dopamine and vasopressin on the development of the pubescent/adolescent brain” and probably other endorphins can adversely affect the young person for the rest of their life. As Catholics we try our best to make it very clear to our youth that abstinence is best and promiscuity is wrong. Relatively speaking though the exposure to the above mentioned endorphins and hormones is going to be small for a few experimental youth encounters. However, for homosexual encounters the exposure to the endorphins and hormones can be many times more – as you know (so much so it is not comparable). Few people know about, talk about or discuss this point – anxious for how it may be experimented with and mostly because of the “yuck factor” it is not part of polite conversation. You seem to recognise this yourself and seem to recognise we have to protect the youth. True love is not just about Eros, it is also about Phileo, Storge and Agape. Our focus with youth should be to ensure that they have full knowledge and skill with the later 3 so that the first can find its true and fullest expression at the appropriate time.

  • aaglaas

    Hi Adrian, no, I don’t think you’ve been rude at all. As to pederasty, as I pointed out before, the ancient practice of it was not for the purpose of sex… but to train a youth into becoming a man. I see absolutely no shame in how the ancient Greeks lived their culture with that at the time.. after all, their civilization gave us the start of some of the most advanced and beautiful art in the world… the beginnings of true science and medicine, advanced mathematics, Western architecture we still use today, advanced philosophy, and a healthy and athletic lifestyle, plus the Olympics. Their civilization flourished for over a thousand years, so if pederasty as it was practiced at the time were so evil or damaging, I don’t see how they could have accomplished so much, created so much beauty, or have lasted so much longer than our own modern civilization.

    I’ve also said that in the ‘modern’ meaning you keep referring to, I have no desire for it to be reborn, nor any interest in it because the circumstances in which it came into being no longer exist. I also personally don’t know of any other gay people who ever talk about it or advocate it returning as well.

    As to excess oxytocin, dopamine, and vasopressin… in all the thousands of males I know who had lots of sex during their teenage years, either with other males, or with women, most are healthy, well-rounded adults now, so I don’t think having sex during teenage years adversely affects most males. For the pioneers here in the U.S., it was common for a 15 year old woman to be married and start having children, and it didn’t negatively affect them, since we have millions of their descendants all over.

    As to being 13 years old, I personally believe that’s too early to be having sex unless it’s with the same-gender and age, and thus no baby would come of it… Regardless.. unless a parent chains their child to a bedpost and keeps a 24/7 spy-cam on them.. there’s really no way to stop it if they are determined, thus the important need to educate them about sex. I know you will not, nor do I expect you to.. agree with me. I’m just sharing my personal perspective and beliefs with you.

  • AdEleison

    Our starting point of liberal morality vs judgemental morality, as well as our relative constituents underlies the radical difference in conclusion of the ancient Greeks and this practice. Personally I am abhorred by the insistence of admiration of the Greek culture on this point.

    Your disposition sees this only from the point of view of the adult, and you blithely disregard the dissenting voices from such as Plato, especially in his discourse with Socrates. You also fail to recognise it was the elite and wealthy who took such boys for their carnal self indulgence. To focus selectively on some historic self-justifications of the beneficial consequences of a boy’s relationship with a wealthy benefactor is in my opinion delusional. Many such relationships failed with the young boy cast aside like so much filth (as recorded). The psychosomatic trauma experienced by these young boys would have left many incapable of forming natural wholesome relationships in the future. The physiological consequences would also have been dreadful – bruising, haemorrhage, tears, fissures, lacerations and transections would have occurred – as they do today (the drunken Greek erastes would hardly have been gentle). Such reality was recorded in humour not missed by the audience in Aristophanes’plays :”From a #### that’s been stretched. And politicians old or young? All from bums that have been sprung”. Hippocrates refer’s also to treatment of Gonorrhea with Alum (a salve that would provide no cure at all, but just temporary reduction in discomfort) – with this condition untreated, a significant proportion are asymptomatic, whilst others progress to a painfully miserable existence and mental deterioration. For the child to resist and object would have had consequences of forgone material benefits for his family, which he would have been aware of and thus all the more pressurised to submit – which disposition is also well recorded.

    Whilst you personally site no interest in a return to this practice, the espoused admiration thereof plants the seed of emulation in the minds of some. Barbra Hewson suggests lowering of age of consent to 13, Peter Tatchell in critical response replies – no, no, but 14 would be OK! Such is the start of pressure to sexualise ever younger youth.

    I detect that you sense a problem with excess exposure to oxytocin, dopamine, and vasopressin and identify that of the thousands of males you know many came through it to become healthy, well-rounded adults (so far, and as far as you can tell currently). But some didn’t, for some their lives are in ruin. SO I ask you would you fly if say 1 in 10 000 flights crashed injuring or killing all passngers on board. (1 in 100 000 then? – P.S. that would be about 1 a day for the US). The point as I’ve mentioned before being the separation of cause and effect – apparent to the judgemental moralist, un-connectable for the liberal moralist.

    I’m afraid you do touch a raw point of differentiation here which prompts my stronger words – knowing people so affected crystallises one’s attitude.

  • aaglaas

    Adrian… we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I wish you a good day and God bless you.

  • scary goat

    No, that’s not what I mean.

  • RCYouthWorker

    Excellent article. I’ve been saying for a long while that this de-registration is utterly inevitable. I don’t understand why we don’t just cut out the middle-man and do it now. It will save a lot of money in court costs.

  • spudbynight

    There is a monopoly on the interpretation of the Bible. The only source of interpretation is the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

    The Bible was compiled by the Catholic Church.

  • jane

    With all due respect, there is not a lot of mating going on in a gay marriage.

  • aaglaas

    With all due respect, whatever goes on within their marriage is absolutely no business of yours.