Saturday, 27 December 2014

A word or two on marriage

The BBC News website reported just before Christmas that Sir Elton John and David Furnish marry. The BBC report includes the sentence:
Mr Furnish and Sir Elton, who have two sons, became civil partners in 2005.
We were all invited to join the ceremony and celebrations by way of the electronic media.

From the point of view of Catholic teaching, of course, Mr Furnish and Sir Elton did not marry. According to Catholic teaching, marriage can only take place between a man and a woman, and not between two men. Their two sons are sons of a surrogate mother, so they are not uniquely the sons of Mr Furnish or Sir Elton, as if two men were able to have children together.

I do think it is worthwhile, from time to time, to explicitly recognise that there is a discordance between the use of language about marriage in the wider world and the use that accurately reflects Catholic teaching. While same-sex marriages now provide an immediate occasion to avert to this, the marriage of celebrity divorcees has been presenting such occasion for decades. It would be unfortunate, in the light of the two Synods dedicated to the mission of the family, if Catholics were to so readily assimilate the two usages of language to each other that they were as a result no longer able to distinguish what is truly Catholic teaching.

The Feast of the Holy Family, celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas Day, is an opportunity to reflect on marriage and family life. In different ways, bishops in England and Wales are doing this in the form of pastoral letters:  Bishop Davies (Shrewsbury) has chosen to affirm Catholic teaching, Bishop Campbell (Lancaster) has thanked Catholic families for the care offered in the circle of the extended family; and Bishop Williams (Brentwood) quotes St Francis:
As we gaze at the scene from Bethlehem we can make some words of Saint Francis our own: “We are mothers of Christ when we carry Him in our heart and body through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience and give birth to Him through a holy activity which must shine as an example before others.”

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