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Is Marriage a Lifestyle or Something More?

July 16, AD2015

wedding, marriage, matrimony, sacrament, man, woman, couple, union, family, faith

The Supreme Court’s recent rendering on same-sex marriage continues to be met with mixed emotions. Many feel this was the correct decision since those who practice a same-sex lifestyle should be entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals. Others feel that the institution of marriage was dealt, yet another, critical blow. Regardless of one’s position, one has to wonder: How could anyone decide who has a right to marry without adequately and honestly (not to mention, objectively) reflecting on the true purpose and meaning of marriage from its beginnings? I recently read an article, entitled The Married Lifestyle, written by Fr. Gabriel Torretta, OP that caused me to do just that.

It is no surprise that marriage has been dismantled over time (especially during the last century) through such events as the institution of no-fault divorce, artificial contraception (and its promotion thereof), and the legalization of abortion. These were due, in part, to personal convictions, reinforced by a sense of entitlement (“I have a ‘right’ to it”). Yet, each of these was contrary to the immutable truth that first existed within marriage, and the human family, from its inception. It is as if marriage had been slowly, and intentionally, dissected and reduced to the lowest common denominator so that, eventually, anyone could participate. However, marriage was never expected to descend to a manipulative level.

Marriage was meant to remain in its proper place—above us—so that we would have to rise up to meet it, and continue maintaining its integrity and proper place within society. It was meant to be a life-long commitment, lived out in a faithful and fruitful manner. Furthermore, children were never to become commodities. Whether conceived naturally or adopted, they were always a blessing, and no one had a “right” to have them (just as they never had the right to disregard them). They have always held significance in the loving union between the husband and wife, who, through their total gift of self, devote themselves completely to the task of procreating and educating said children.

The conjugal act within the marital bond has always demonstrated an essential quality to the nobility of marriage, as has raising a family (and within the Church, continues to strengthen this vocation as a sacrament of service.) Marriage was never conceived to be simply a “lifestyle choice,” where children could be manufactured, if wanted (or destroyed, if not), and intentionally deprived of either parent.

The Supreme Court’s decision seems to imply that the majority chose to overlook the original, and long-standing, purpose of marriage. Instead, they concentrated on the more recent course of events that have succeeded in undermining this institution, reducing it to a lifestyle. Marriage now can be easily accessible by any two consenting individuals. The true essence of marriage has been replaced by a more progressive approach, which ignores history and tradition, and wants to appeal to the demand for equal rights.

Let us ask ourselves, what is meant by “equal rights” when it comes to marriage? What is expected of couples who marry, and can two people of the same gender fulfill this?

Based on the current understanding of marriage, one could say that almost anyone could get married and live it out. However, if we examine marriage from the beginning, we find that it was to be cherished as a distinct human relationship. This implies that not everyone was expected to enter into it; even if he or she wanted to (or believed had a right to). As we know, specific qualities essential to marriage, which were not based on divisive tactics, but on objective truth regarding its purpose and understanding, would not have permitted it.

There is equality among all people, but this equality is not based on sameness. We are unique individuals, and although we bear the mark of our Creator, and possess inherent dignity, this does not entitle us to whatever we want. Finally, marriage was not created for matters of convenience (regardless of who enters into it), but for something more. Those called to live this out have their work cut out for them. Unfortunately, this reality was not always revered, and we are now experiencing the consequences.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Todd was born and raised just outside of Philadelphia (Go Phils!) but now lives and works down south. He has been involved in the Church, serving youth & young adults, for over 15 years in the areas of ministry, athletics, education, and outreach. He earned his M.A. in Theology from Catholic Distance University (special thanks to the intercession of St. Joseph of Cupertino). He is a proud family man and has a passion for all things CATHOLIC! You can follow him on twitter (@4RealCatholic) for spiritual and inspiring quotes from our Saints.

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  • niknac

    Marriage is what the participants want it to be. I don’t think that marriage can be between a boy and his goat. The only reason I think that is because it’s hard to establish legitimate consent on the part of the goat and therefore possibly abusive.

  • Todd Nolan

    Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki presented his findings between the religious and civil laws regarding marriage in an address he once gave. This relationship was not based on devotion towards a particular faith, but due to a level of harmony with natural law. Below are some interesting statements of his:

    “The Catholic Church did not invent marriage as an institution limited to heterosexual couples. Neither did the state. Marriage is a pre-political and natural phenomenon that arises out of the nature of human beings. The Catholic Church, along with virtually every religion and culture in the world
    recognizes and supports this natural institution because without it, no society will exist or flourish.”

    “…it is a given of First Amendment jurisprudence that the mere fact that a civil law harmonizes or agrees with religious beliefs is not grounds for finding an Establishment Clause violation.”

    “…neither the state nor the Church “created” marriage. Marriage is a natural outgrowth of human nature, capacities and needs in a similar way that language is a natural outgrowth of human nature,
    capacities and needs.”

    “A re-definition of marriage to include same-sex marriage is beyond the competence of the state, because marriage both precedes the state and is a necessary condition for the continuation of the state (because future generations arise from and are formed in marriage). When a state enacts a
    law saying that a same-sex relationship can constitute a marriage, it has the power to enforce that in a society’s external practices, but it is devoid of any intrinsic moral legitimacy and is a contrary to any natural reality. If the government says that an apple is now the same as an orange, and the law
    requires everyone to call apples “oranges,” the state would have the power to punish anyone who calls an apple an “apple” instead of an “orange,” but it would be a totalitarian abuse of raw power and would not change the biological reality of the nature of the fruit in question. So too with the definition of marriage.”


    Unfortunately, many events sought to undermine marriage and turn it into something it was never meant to be. Who can say for certain where this will eventually lead?

    Full Transcript:

  • Sacramental matrimony within the Catholic Church is not reflective of civil marriage. One is presumably informed by Scripture and Tradition, the other is guided by civil law, the protections of the Constitution and the will of the majority of the people in the U.S. That today is simple reality and it’s time to move on… .

    • TomD

      Phil, the point is that what is today referred to as civil marriage is really a unique kind of legal partnership, a civil union if you will, and the word “marriage” has been hijacked by secular society to mean something that it has never meant before in human history. That is the reality as seen by many religious people. This may not be a big deal to you, and it may seem like a simple reality, but it is a big deal to many of us who believe differently than you do.

      The separation of marriage into civil and sacramental essences is not as benign or simple as some would have us believe. Many believe that this separation has had, and will continue to have, a pronounced effect on marital and family stability. This bifurcation has, in no small measure, led to the decline of marriage, as it has in the last 50+ years (actually all the way back to the distinct separation of civil and sacramental marriage from the French Revolution) been increasingly seen more as a legal entity, with certain romantic notions attached to it, as opposed to a sacramental bond between one man and one woman.

      You are right that sacramental matrimony is distinct from civil marriage, but people of faith have a stake in the definition, attitudes and practice with respect to marriage within our society. It is not enough to say that we should “move on” when it involves the radical redefinition of marriage, the basic foundation of civil society, as it has always previously been defined. The redefinition of words, and the attitudes and practices around them, have serious, long-term consequences.

    • JH

      You are just plain wrong. Marriage has predominantly been a civil construct. The Religious connotation to it is a fairly recent construction.

      And yes the state is free to define marriage for its purposes. So are you as a church, even if your definition won’t have any legal ramifications.

      In many aspect the parallel is as is for divorce. A catholic couple gets legally married, and can get legally divorced regardless of whether the church sees them as divorced or married. That’s up to the couple and their relation to the church. From the states perspective the matter us settled in either position.

    • TomD

      “Marriage has predominantly been a civil construct. The Religious connotation to it is a fairly recent construction.”

      The religious connotation is a “fairly recent construction”? Within Western culture, the religious basis of marriage predates the civil basis of marriage.

      Within Western society, it was Martin Luther in the 16th century who initiated the separation of civil marriage from sacramental matrimony. Soon after Luther, the Protestant theologian John Calvin decreed that in order for a couple to be considered married they had to be registered by the state in addition to a church ceremony. This was taken to its logical conclusion during the French Revolution, when religious marriage ceremonies were made secondary to civil marriage. Within the Christian context, prior to the Reformation, marriage was a religious union of a sacramental nature. From the 16th to the 18th century in Western culture, marriage gradually took on more of a civil nature from what had been a religious union.

      Within Western Christian culture, sacramental matrimony preceded civil marriage.

    • Phil Steinacker

      That is complete and utter nonsense. Marriage has been first and foremost a religious construct. It has been secular authorities who high jacked it for their own purposes. Your “memory” is simply flawed and wrong.

    • JH

      No. Especially christianity where out of the marriage business until about 1000 years after the mythological Jesus.

    • Well, here is a twist for you. You believe that this social shift has a pronounced effect on martial and family stability and that the sacramental essence is essential. Of course, not backed by data….so let’s look at some other data.

      THE RCC does rejects arranged marriages…..because they are forced and not sacramental. Look at the data:

      Percentage of marriages in world arranged …..54%

      Percentages of arranged marriages resulting in divorce…..4.2%

      Percentage of arranged marriages in India …..89%

      Percentage of arranged marriages in India resulting in divorce…..1.2%

      Marriages in RCC sacramentally resulting in divorce ,,,,,28%

      So if you want to preserve stability and normalcy then adopt the Hindi model from India or the other half of the world. Seems to achieve you desires significantly better.

    • Actually, the “RCC” (as well as the Eastern rites of the Church) doesn’t “reject” arranged marriages as long as both parties freely consent to the marriage.

    • “consent” is a relative word given the patriarchal culture of India and similar countries where marriages are arranged….you know “under daddy’s thumb”

    • Be that as it may, the Church does not forbid arranged marriage as long as both parties freely consent.

    • Gotch’ya!!!

    • What do you mean?

    • Gotch’ya means I got you means I understand what you are saying…..geez, and I’m old timer,,,,,, can’t use antiquated phrases with young people.

    • Ah, I see.

    • Ann Smith

      Marry whomever you want. Just don’t think your children will be on a level playing field with their peers from homes where they get to have both biological parents under one roof and married for life. The kids from traditional
      homes have less trouble with the law, they have higher paying jobs,
      better educational outcomes, less psychological problems, less physical
      problems, and less suicide (and don’t blame society unless you include
      yourselves). Read the newest research “Truth Overruled” by Ryan

      Oh and by the way, it was the CATHOLICS who sided with the Lovings
      (see Loving v. Virginia) to help abolish the laws against interracial
      marriage. We have known all along that the color of one’s skin has no
      bearing at all on one’s ability to procreate the way God intended. The
      Catholics had a major interest in seeing that marriage be facilitated
      among ALL heterosexual couples.