One of the biggest mistakes that we can make is to believe that holy matrimony has anything whatsoever to do with a secular understanding of “marriage.” Apart from the fact that the increasingly meaningless “marriage” label is affixed to both things, they could not be more different.
Holy matrimony is a heavenly sacrament, defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as “the matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, [which] is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”
Secular “marriage,” on the other hand, is a legally binding contract between two people, regardless of gender, establishing a partnership for as long or short a period as the contracting parties choose, which can be broken at the whim of either party for whatever reason given, and is by its nature ordered to the perceived mutual convenience of the partners with no connection whatever to the procreation and education of offspring. It is not a covenant between baptized persons (baptism having nothing whatever to do with the legal contract) and has emphatically not been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.
The difference between these two things is so abysmal, in the sense of the abyss which separates the one from the other, that it is utter and arrant nonsense to affix the same label to each of them. Holy matrimony and secular “marriage” have about as much in common as the love of Christ has in common with the love of cocaine. Apart from the fact that the meaningless “love” label is appended to both the self-sacrificial love of Christ for His Church and the addict’s self-indulgent “love” of his drug of choice, there is utterly nothing in common between the two “loves.” As with “love,” so with “marriage.”
The foregoing should be so obvious that anyone capable of simple logic and the use of reason should see through the nonsensical suggestion that one thing called “marriage” has anything in common with the other thing called “marriage.” Indeed, those with a healthy and holy sense of humour should fall about in a revelry of rambunctious laughter at the very suggestion that the one can be seen as synonymous with the other.
The problem is that the Catholic Church and the other Christian churches continue to give credence to the diabolical power of the secular form of “marriage” through their legal collusion with the power of the state. For as long as Christian churches allow holy matrimony to be “sanctioned” by the devil, i.e. accepted by the state as a legitimate “marriage” in the state’s understanding of the word, they will be responsible for dragging holy matrimony into the gutter and simultaneously raising secular “marriage” out of it. Worse, they will be giving the devil the loophole he needs to enforce secular “marriage” upon the churches. If the churches accept Caesar’s right to bestow legitimacy upon marriage, according to Caesar’s laws, it is only a matter of time before Caesar demands that churches conduct secular “marriages.” Needless to say, such “marriages” will not be holy matrimony, even if they are conducted in a church, but the collusion of the churches in such devilry will cause chaos and confusion among the faithful.
Need we remind ourselves that Christian bakers in Portland, Oregon, were fined $135,000 for refusing to participate in a homosexual “marriage”? Do we need reminding that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a $7,000 fine imposed on Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin for refusing, in conscience, to provide photography services for a same-sex “marriage”? Does it really take a prophet to see that the same sort of legal coercion and enforcement will be exerted on Christian churches if they refuse to accept the “legitimacy” of secular “marriage”?
The obvious solution to this ugly scenario is for the churches to divorce themselves as soon as possible from the coercive power of the state. Insisting on the separation of church and state, Christian churches should make it clear that those receiving the sacrament of holy matrimony are married for life in the eyes of God but that this holy matrimony is not legally binding in the secular courts. Those Christians wishing whatever economic benefits the state offers to those who sign along its dotted line on the secular “marriage” contract can do this separately from their marriage in church. Two separate ceremonies would become necessary. Holy matrimony would be valid in the eyes of God but have no legal standing in the eyes of the state. Secular “marriage” would be invalid in the eyes of God but have full legal status in the eyes of the state. Holy matrimony would be solemnized in church; secular “marriage” would be contracted wherever the contracting partners wished: a sports bar, a beach, a room in a Las Vegas hotel with an Elvis lookalike presiding, or anywhere else befitting the dignity of the occasion.
All that is needed for this happy divorce between God and Caesar is for the bishops of the Catholic Church and the leaders of the other churches to make a declaration of independence from the power of the state. One small act of courageous leadership is all that’s needed. If, however, those vested with authority fail to act, they will be condemning themselves, their clergy and their people to a nest of vipers intent on poisoning the sanctuary of the Church with the “pride” of their secular “marriage.” Whether they like it or not, church leaders are in the position of St. George. Only they can save the maiden purity of holy matrimony from the enemy of innocence. There is no honourable retreat. There is no room for compromise. Whether they like it or not, they find themselves in a position in which holiness demands heroism. It is time for the girding of the loins and the taking of courage. It is time to face the dragon.
Books by Joseph Pearce are available in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.