Tag Archives: same-sex marriage

Anne, Thomas and a Marriage Story

October 26, 2012

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I happened to catch the movie, “The Other Boleyn Girl” the other day. It is the story of Anne Boleyn and it could be said that her story is the other side of St. Thomas More’s story. I am not a historian and I am sure that it can be said that this movie may not be fully historical fact, but it does portray a story that is pertinent for today. It is a story about marriage and the redefinition of it.

If you are unfamiliar with the story of King Henry VIII and his six wives here is the short of it. King Henry wants a new wife and the Pope won’t give him an annulment. He defines himself as head of the church so that he can divorce his wife and marry the woman he is lusting for ~ Anne Boleyn. Anne manipulates her own sexuality to ultimately become queen of England. In the process she becomes the object [or cause] of the fall of the Catholic Church in England and the beginning of the Church of England. Again, I am not an expert on history, but this is the simplistic version of what I know.  You can find more of St. Thomas More’s life at: http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org/2012/06/22/fortnight-for-freedom-day-2-st-thomas-more-married-saint-and-hero-of-religious-liberty/

Ultimately this historic story is about the defense of marriage. St. Thomas More as Lord Chancellor of England lost his life defending the Church and marriage. Anne, fueled by competitive drive, or possibly in this time of few rights for women – a sense of survival – succumbed to her own desires while fulfilling the desires of the King.

It is sometimes best for me to learn from a poor example rather than a good one. As I watched this film and the portrait of Anne – it struck me that it was her ambition that was her downfall. Her drive to be in control, her manipulation of the truth, her need to succeed that ultimately did her in. She wasn’t alone in this – King Henry’s needs seemed simpler or at least more direct – that of lust and perhaps to sire a son. Which I guess breaks down into sex and power. St. Thomas More was motivated by his knowlege of the truth. What do I want to be motivating me?

How much is our defense of marriage today like that of St. Thomas More’s dilemma?

To stand as the church teaches is not popular –while it may not cost you your life, it may cost you your friends. The acceptance of Anne Boleyn as Queen – redefined Marriage in England and King Henry created his own church so he could define the church to fit his needs. Today we have many who want to redefine marriage to suit their needs. It may be driven by power, lust or a type of manipulation – all under the guise of wanting to profess equality.

Ultimately Anne got what she wanted, but eventually lost her head and St. Thomas More also ultimately died defending marriage by not conceding to Anne as queen. It took courage. St. Thomas More showed us this courage in a few ways. First he lived his marriage rightly by loving his wife until widowed and strongly loved his family. Second, he stood strong on the teachings of the church -even though it cost him his life. He didn’t recognize the marriage of King Henry to Anne Boleyn because he knew that no one could redefine what was defined by God  – not even the king.

I am left wondering how I might behave in St. Thomas More’s shoes. Or maybe I am in them. How will I defend marriage? Our defence of our beliefs on marriage today deals with the same sex marriage issue, but much can be learned from Anne and Thomas.
If you struggle with the “Church” getting involved in matters of marriage or think there is no place for it. The story of Anne and Sir Thomas may give us some historical perspective on what happens when the “state” takes into its hands – redefining marriage. You may want to pick up “The Other Boleyn Girl” and “A Man for All Seasons” and see who you want to stand with? Will you defending the truth or choose to bend with the crowd or follow selfish motives?
A St. Thomas More Prayer for Religious Freedom and more information can be found on the website Unique for a Reason. http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org

O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

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Church points to impact marriage redesign would have on children, society

August 14, 2012

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Each family is a cell that is as vital to society as a cell phone is to communication. Photo/d:space Licensed under Creative Commons

Have you ever wondered why phones are called “cell” phones? If you already know this, you’re ahead of me: “Cell” doesn’t refer to a component in the phone but the fact that service providers divide up a city or region into geographic areas called cells which are equipped with a tower and radio equipment. Because of this structure, users within a cell can communicate with those in other cells.

Each cell plays a critical role in ensuring communication for the entire city or region. In a similar way, the Church teaches that each family is a cell vital to the function of society. According to the Catechism:

The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society. (CCC:2207)

Marriage is a private matter between a couple but the Church teaches that the broader society has an interest in the institution because it’s where children are most often conceived and raised. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 recognizes the family’s special role: “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

Caring for Children

Supporting marriage is a way of protecting children even though more emphasis is often placed on marriage’s legal and economic considerations. Congress, government administrative bureaus and agencies define the word ‘marriage’ as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

The Church doesn’t disagree with this definition but she views marriage and family also through a sacramental lens, focusing more on the welfare of children and their parents, who are the future of society. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states:

By reason of the vocation and social responsibilities of the person, the good of the children and of the parents contributes to the good of civil society; the vitality and stability of society require that children come into the world within a family and that the family be firmly based on marriage. The tradition of the Church and anthropological reflection recognize in marriage and in its indissoluble unity the only setting worthy of truly responsible procreation.

Unfortunately, many marriages today do dissolve without unity but that’s not a reason to re-engineer the institution. According to Pope Benedict XVI, “marriage and family are rooted in the inmost nucleus of the truth about man and his destiny.”

He continues,

Today, the need to avoid confusing marriage with other types of unions based on weak love is especially urgent. It is only the rock of total, irrevocable love between a man and a woman that can serve as the foundation on which to build a society that will become a home for all mankind.

Consequences for Society

If government redefines marriage ignoring the particular roles of husband and wife—and mother and father—children won’t get the guidance they need as they grow to sexual maturity, the U.S. Bishops wrote in their pastoral letter, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan. Without this protection the State would effectively deprive children of the right to both a mother and a father.

In addition, they write, expanding the definition of marriage beyond that of one man and one woman would make the pattern of spousal and familial love and the generation of new life only of relative importance rather than fundamental to the existence and wellbeing of society as a whole.

Church leaders have foreseen some consequences of fundamentally changing marriage and family but ultimately some believe it would take a generation or more to know the full effects. Bl. Pope John Paul II wrote about the possibility of “a destructive ‘anti-civilization.”

Promoting stability in marriage and the virtuous life it entails, will ensure “the happiness and well-being of the nation is safely guarded; what the families and individuals are, so also is the State, for a body is determined by its parts,” wrote Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Casti Connubii.

Those parts, or cells, are superior to other communities, wrote philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand in his book, Marriage: Mystery of Faithful Love.

We cannot dwell any further on this important question beyond seeing the rank that marriage holds among communities and understanding that it represents in itself something far superior to all others, and that in itself it would glorify God as an image of the relationship of Christ and His Church even if no other communities existed.

Continuing to Share God’s Plan

Given how vital the cell of marriage and the family is to all of civilization, the Church will continue to share God’s plan for the holy institutions as they are attacked from many sides, wrote Pope John Paul in his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio:

 At a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family, ensuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the people of God.

 

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Don’t expect to learn about marriage from an author who thinks she’s written the book about it

February 19, 2010

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Committed cover“Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage,”

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Since her last book — “Eat, Pray, Love” — sold 7 million copies, I hoped for something worthwhile out of Elizabeth Gilbert’s supposed “making peace with marriage.”

What a waste of time.

If she hadn’t been an author with a  recent success, I wonder if any publisher would have bothered with this 280-page memoir that’s part pity-party, part narrow-minded opinion-spouting, anti-Christian, too much about her birth family and not enough research about the marriages of real people outside her circle of friends or Third-World villages.

Dozens of therapists, priests, counselors and pastoral ministers have written much more useful works about the sacrament, and they didn’t have to consistently bash organized religion over and over and over in order to do it.

Gilbert’s obviously writing for those who haven’t use for anything so trite as religion or church. Her consistently going back many centuries to bring up outdated views held by some church leaders in the distant past gets annoying, especially when she rarely quotes the sources of the “facts” she’s spewing upon the public.

Selective history

She attacks the concept of marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman, spending page after page proclaiming the rightness of her belief in same-sex marriage. She claims marriage hasn’t historically been between one man and one woman, but it took all of six minutes for me to flip through Paul’s first letter to the people at Corinth to find in the seventh chapter of his letter, “every man should have his own wife, and every woman her own husband.” That’s something he wrote in the first century, which to me makes one man, one woman marriage pretty historical.

Lord knows the Catholic Church through the ages wasn’t perfect, that abuses occurred, that religion was used for power by some. But Gilbert misses the point when she charges that churches are trying to “rule” when it comes to defining marriage; rather, churches and church leadership are working extremely hard to inform, advise and help society see the wisdom of one man and one woman as a relationship expressed by the word marriage, and that it is so much more than just a commitment.

Gilbert seems to get that when she finally works her way — painstakingly for the reader through her personal journey — to the contribution of a community to marriage.  There is a “collective accountability” about marriage that is supportive. As Gilbert puts it, “Maybe all our marriages must be linked to each other somehow, woven on a larger social loom, in order to endure.”

She seems to get it, too, when she makes the connection that a person can be happy in marriage because they know they are indispensable to somebody else’s life, because they have a partner, because they are building something together, something they both believe in.

Then she goes and ruins it again by male bashing — which I suppose an author is supposed to do in order to be published by someone like Viking and make it with the in crowd. Men, the claim goes, get more out of marriage than women do. What a one-sided, pessimistic point of view!

The world is bigger than Gilbert’s world

Perhaps it’s that attitude about “Committed” that bugged me the most. This is a writer who is so into her own world — her own issues — that’s she’s pulled together a bunch of research to fit her own views.

She’s ignorant of the views of one helluva lot of other people and makes leaps of judgement about the rightness of her own views.

My journalism professors in college would have graded work like “Committed” a “D” at best, marking it up in red with the questions, “Why so few sources?” and “Where’s your attribution?”

The single piece she writes that hit home was her analysis of the result of the intimacy of a long marriage: “It causes us to inherit and trade each other’s stories. This, in part, is how we become annexes of each other, trellises on which each other’s biography can grow.”

Other than that, isn’t until page 214 that Gilbert gives readers much of value when she quotes true experts on marriage — John Gottman and Julie Schwartz-Gottman — about conflict resolution.

My advice? Google Gottman and you’ll get good stuff on marriage from folks who one, know what they are writing about, and two, aren’t so self-absorbed as Elizabeth Gilbert. And, if you want to read a worthwhile memoir, try Patricia Hampl’s “The Florist’s Daughter.”  (see the review at http://bit.ly/cGydew) — bz

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