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A Dialogue on Marriage: Part One

Dialogue-Part-One-no-rainbowWhat is Marriage?

All of the talk about marriage hinges on this question; often, when we ask it simply and directly, the answer is halting, hesitant, and surprising.  When we ask a question like this, we should try to approach it with genuine curiosity and a willingness to try to figure out the truth.  Socrates, for one, was always asking questions in order to help others come to understanding. So let’s try approaching marriage with this form of philosophical questioning in mind.

Socrates: What is marriage?
Bob: It’s when you love someone and commit to live together and have a family.
Socrates: A man loves his mother, lives with her and is family with her: is that a marriage?Bob: No, no—marriage is when you love someone you’re not related to, and then you choose to become related.
Socrates:  Like adopting a child?
Bob: No, not like adoption.  The person you love is another adult.
Socrates:  What do you mean by love?
Bob: A close, intimate relationship whereby you desire to unite with the other person completely; you share a home with that person; you want to have a family together.
Socrates:  Oh, then you must mean a man and a woman.
Bob: No, I didn’t say that. A man and a man could do the same thing.
Socrates:  How?
Bob: Two men or two women could love each other just like a man and a woman can.  They can care for the other person before themselves, share deep communication, and adopt children together.
Socrates: Oh I thought you said that they unite “completely” and that they have a family “together.”
Bob: I did.
Socrates: But two men or two women cannot physically unite completely; it is impossible.  Likewise, they cannot have children because they do not have the capacity.
Bob: Don’t be so crass.  The two people can express their love sexually, that’s all I meant.
Socrates:  But that’s not what you said. You said that married people unite completely. Now you’re saying that they only unite mostly—financially, socially. In which case, I’m not sure why that relationship should be considered special compared to other relationships. You can unite that way with many people; there’s no reason for friendship to be exclusive. Also, what about two sisters living together and taking care of a younger sibling with special needs? Are they married?
Bob: No, the point is that there are two adults in a sexual relationship who commit to live together and have a family together.
Socrates: Oh, so what’s crucial for marriage, you say, is that the two people are in a sexual relationship of some committed kind, though not a kind that necessarily brings about a union of their bodies. How do they have a family, by the way?
Bob: Often, one of the two people has children from another relationship.
Socrates:  From a relationship with someone from the other sex…
Bob: Yes. Or the couple can adopt. Or they can go through the process of third-party reproduction.
Socrates:  In which case, the child would not have a parent of one sex or the other.
Bob: All a child needs is two people who love them.  It doesn’t matter what sex they are.
Socrates:  But you would agree that every child has a biological mother and father, correct?Bob: Yes, I agree with that. That’s a simple fact.
Socrates: Are a father and a mother exactly the same? Are they interchangeable?Bob: Well…no, not exactly.  They do seem to interact with children differently and there is more research out there now (http://www.paulraeburn.com/books/do-fathers-matter/) showing how important fathers are to the development of children.
Socrates: (Silence)
Bob: Okay, I will think about this more. But I don’t think parenting qualities or skills is the issue. Let’s talk about that next time.

7 responses to “A Dialogue on Marriage: Part One”

  1. Carlos Poblet says:

    Love is often reduced to a “feeling” that comes and goes. The reason for true love is not considered. The world needs to be converted by true love to true love. This is the reason that we have Church. And The Church has to lead the world on the Path. There is only One Path!!! The world cannot lead The Church on this Quest!!!!! In a world blinded by secular materialism that claims to have been “evolved” Obama is voted in to be the first president the concept of homosexual marriage, a clear deformity of our true humanity. Even science has been corrupted to allow a false interpretation of the facts of our sexuality. The word “gender” is not the same as “sex”. We are either male or female. That’s the sex of a person. But now we have “identities” based on “feelings” and not reason. Sad world in need of Redemption!!!

  2. Garson Ames says:

    Hey Socrates…if marriages rely on the ability to “unite completely” and the ability to create a family naturally. Are marriages where the man is completely impotent, truly considered marriages?

    • DOM says:

      Thanks for the great question! You will find that the Church is remarkably consistent.

      Canon law 1084 reads: §1. Antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse, whether on the part of the man or the woman, whether absolute or relative, nullifies marriage by its very nature.

      That should answer your question, and shows that the capacity to engage in the conjugal act is constitutive of marriage. As such, the Church does not have the power to dispense from it. It is the nature of marriage to join a man and a woman together in every way, such that being unable to unite physically is, indeed, an impediment.

  3. Garson Ames says:

    So, if these marriages are nullified by impotence, does that mean that couples who were married before the onset of the impotence occurred are no longer actually married? And are only pretending to be?

    Does the church, have some sort of monitoring system setup to ensure that only those capable of penetrative sex are allowed to call the relationship they are in a marriage?

    Or do they simply not care, as long as the couple happens to be heterosexual?

  4. RJ Bauman says:

    Garsen,

    The marriage becomes valid only when there is no impediment, such as impotence, for example, at the time the Church observes the marriage , as a witness to it, at the time they pledge marriage to one another at their wedding ceremony. An impotence of one or the other at a LATER time does not disolve the marriage. It may bring about a just reason to separate or civilly divorce, the marriage remains unless some other impediment is discovered in an annulment proceeding by a church tribunal who seeks for the the truth of the circumstances of the couple at the time of their nuptuals.

  5. Garson Ames says:

    So, basically..you’re saying that impotence and the inability to procreate are not reason alone for a marriage to be dissolved.

    If that’s the case, then why would impotence and the inability to procreate, be a reason for a marriage not to be valid in the 1st place.

    One could get lost in the loopholes!

  6. Barbara says:

    I see it very plainly, a man and woman constitute a marriage. Anal sex is sodomy which is a sin; men attempting a perversion of the sexual act with each other and by analogy women attempting such perversion with each other in the sin. If you do not believe that is a sin, then you would believe that any sex can marry each other.

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