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CULTURE

Shall We Abolish Marriage?

By Thomas Storck
Our society has stood the whole question of marriage on its head.


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Thomas Storck looks at marriage and its place in society from a disturbing angle: given the diminished state of the institution, does society really have any interest in continuing to protect it? Marriage has historically been about children, and the state’s preference for it has been to protect those children. In a society where a man and a woman feel free to exclude children from their “marriage” (not to mention same-sex couples desiring “marriage,” with no possibility of children as the fruit of sexual union)—what are we protecting?

A man and a woman decide they want to live together. Both will work full time. One or both have been sterilized. They reserve the right to split up whenever one or both desire. But if this couple decides to go through a marriage ceremony, they are entitled to certain benefits from the government and most private employers. But why should the government or society care about what this couple does any more than about any two other people living in the same house or apartment? What have they done that makes them special?

Well, our couple, as I said, is married, at least in the eyes of the state, and as such they have a special status. But when you begin to think about it, why should they have any special status? For real marriage, Catholic marriage and even the marriage of good pagans, was an institution oriented toward the founding of a family. Except for those unfortunate couples that nature prevented from having children, marriage was above all an institution for bearing and rearing children. And this was the only reason why society developed certain protections and privileges for the married, because it was an institution for the care of children, the most vulnerable members of the human race and its future as well.

But now, with widespread use of contraception, marriage and the marriage act have lost most of their meaning, the meaning put into them by God Himself when He created us. That's why the absurd claim is made that two men or two women can marry each other, because we have forgotten that marriage is above all about children. Without children marriage would never have come into existence. The human race has surely been able to indulge its sexual couplings for centuries outside of marriage and would continue to do so if marriage did not exist. So why marriage?

Indeed, it is hard to find an answer to that question if marriage means simply that two individuals can live together until they get tired of each other and meanwhile receive various benefits from society. Why should society care what they are doing? But, of course, if by marriage we mean what God and human nature proclaim it to mean, then it is easy to say why marriage should exist. But, unfortunately, this latter kind of marriage is quite rare today. Orthodox Catholics may use the same word as others, but the reality we are referring to is very different. We are a very small minority, we who see marriage as something whose bounds and rules were created by God when He created us as male and female. And as male and female we are not only naturally oriented toward sexual union, but that sexual union is naturally oriented toward its natural fruit, a child. But when sex is seen as nothing but a form of mutual pleasure, why should legislatures take the trouble to produce laws protecting it and establishing something called marriage for it? And if men and women treat their God-given fertility as an enemy, but still expect to be able to enter marriage, no wonder that those with same-sex inclinations should want the same thing.

The answer, obviously, is not to abolish marriage, though the time may come when Catholics will have to avoid the state-sponsored institution and resort only to the Church and her own laws for their marriages. After all, if the state grants two men or two women the right to enter marriage with each other, is that an institution that Catholics want to be identified with? But until that happens, we would do well to try to restore and strengthen the real institution of marriage, especially among our co-religionists. We must promote natural family planning, we must oppose and even abhor contraceptives, and we must honor those with the generosity to raise large families. Then, regardless of what turn our culture—and its laws—takes, we will have done what we could to restore the dignity and public sanctity of marriage and to witness to the truth proclaimed in Genesis, "Male and female He created them."  

Copyright © 2000 Thomas Storck




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