Marriage has been recognised as a special relationship between a man and a woman that is open to children since before recorded history. It has been recognised across all known human cultures as a relationship stemming from human nature itself. Its origins are not religious.
There are countless examples of ancient customs, laws and taboos that predate any biblical teaching. The Old Testament contributed to the understanding of marriage by teaching that its basis should be love.
The teaching of God
There are two Creation Stories which that open the Book of Genesis. The second of these, which begins with God creating the first man from the soil, preserves God’s revelation that marriage was part of the original creation. The man and the woman ‘become one flesh’ [Genesis 2:24].
In the culture of the time, the human body was understood to be the language of the person. Becoming ‘one flesh’, therefore, meant a loving communion between the first couple at the deepest levels of their personalities.
Jesus instituted a marriage between a baptised man and a baptised woman as a ‘sacrament’. It is a means by which, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus shares divine power with couples who pray, worship and strive to live daily as he taught.
The purpose of this power is to perfect gradually the love between husband and wife, purifying it of selfishness. Jesus dwells with the married couple, strengthening their communion with each other. He strengthens each:
•to take up their crosses, the difficulties, challenges and struggles that stem from married life, including those associated with children
•to rise again after they have fallen, failing to live the ideals of marriage
•to forgive each other, even in the face of infidelity
•to bear one another’s burdens, including illnesses and employment pressures
•to be subject to each other out of love for Christ, who taught his followers selfless service
•to love each other with a love that is tender, fruitful – and supernatural since it is strengthened by divine power.
Sadly, too many couples these days share the Sacrament of Marriage but do not pray, worship and try to live as Jesus taught. They deprive themselves of Christ’s power to purify and strengthen their love. Sometimes their marriages do not survive modern pressures – a consequence from which Christ’s power would save them.
No other arrangement reflects the characteristics of marriage as recognised throughout history. No law can change this human nature reality.
The proposal to legislate that same sex couples can enter into marriage is to say to married couples: ‘There is nothing special about your relationship’. This is untrue and reflects a lack of common sense.
If same sex couples want recognition of their committed relationships, they should propose another word for this.
To legislate same sex ‘marriages’ would be to legislate a fiction. It would not enhance the authority of either law or parliament.
There are already legal protections for those in other domestic relationships than marriage. To pretend that any of these other relationships is a marriage adds nothing to their legal protection.
Some suggest that openness to children should no longer be a characteristic of marriage. Again, this ignores thousands of years of human experience.
Physiology alone shows that it is human nature for the full physical expression of love between husband and wife to be open to children.
A sign of a declining society?
The spreading unhappiness in our society, reflected in fragmenting relationships, troubled young people, the decline in religious practice, drugs and the suicide rate, all point to a society that is moving away from the human heart.
I would suggest history shows societies which drift from the human heart – and, in this case, attempt to deny that the marriage relationship is a special relationship between a man and a woman – either fragment or return to values based on respect for the nature of the human person.
God bless you all
Most Rev Gerard J Holohan
Bishop of Bunbury