Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Marriage, the State, and the Church -or- Fr. John's Paranoia
Well done, Fr. John, even if I do say so myself! Managed to stir up a few hornet's nests without even really trying! For example, "Journeyman James" has a copy of my thoughts about the "Civil Rights Issue of the 21st Century" posted at his site; he wanted a copy there because I don't have permalinks here at this site. (I am working on it... a process complicated by the fact that I don't have a clue! Thankfully, Steve is helping out -- as he usually does!) Meanwhile, over at Huw Raphael's site, things are getting a bit toasty in the "Comments" section. That's all fine; I have no problems with the discussion this far. In some ways, I hope I'm wrong; and that the issue of same-sex marriages, once legalized by the state, will not become an engine driving any persecution of the Church. I will add (after all, this is *my* site!) that, if it isn't this issue, it will be some other issue. It's coming... We need to get ready...

Back to the issue of same-sex unions as "marriages." At James' site, a commenter, Alana (who didn't leave a site to link to; or an email address), made a suggestion worth considering:
One solution would be for churches to PUSH, and push HARD, for legislation that would insure a separation of "civil" marriage and church marriage. That way, everyone is required by law to have a civil ceremony, and churches are freed to maintain their religious boundaries.

I agree. Here's my reply:
Alana's suggestion is well taken. At present, the marriage laws in just about every state allow that a person validly authorized (by ordination or other action) by their respective church hierarchy or leadership to function as an agent of the state to perform the marriage ceremony: in effect, to perform both the civil ceremony and the religious rite simultaneously. (Another way of saying this is that the state accepts the religious rite as the civil ceremony.) The state's interest is to ensure that both persons are legally able to marry; and to establish a background process whereby, if the union is subsequently dissolved, the dissolution protects the persons involved, including offspring, and maintains public order without unnecessarily requiring the resources of the state to financially support any of the persons involved. (It doesn't always work that way...) Thus, the state's interests in many ways are shared by the faith community. As there were essentially no points of conflict, the state could easily validate (on a civil basis) the religious rite; and the persons being married would not be required to take part in two ceremonies.

To be honest, I'd rather not be an agent of the state. When I serve as a priest, I am not the representative of the state; I am there to make present the God Who receives the promises of those being joined, and to pronounce God's blessing upon them, as He bestows His grace in the mystery/sacrament by which these two persons become one. Let the state protect its interests as it wishes with regard to marriage; and let the faithful come to Church to receive the mystery of Holy Matrimony; for the state cannot bestow the blessing of God; the state is not the agent of grace.

Yes, we should push, and push hard, for such a situation, whenever and where ever the state in which we reside begins to contemplate the legalization of same-sex unions as "marriages."

There's something to think about: a practical suggestion! (Is that Orthodox?) (I said that tongue-in-cheek!) Let's keep this one in mind; just in case we might/will need it some day...

Is it Just My Paranoia?
Read this, and tell me what you think:

Here's an article from the Pawtucket Times, entitled "Marriage is a Civil Right."

OK, so the second article suggests that I'm not off the mark in identifying this as a serious issue; and the avenue along which it will be pursued. (Gee; if I'm not careful, I'm going to think I might be schmart...) The first one is the closest I've been able to manage to find that elusive article from Great Britain. I'm not saying it's going to happen; it's just that it's so easy to see that this is certainly one way in which it could happen...

Now on. Thanks again, Steve!