Excessive rigorism

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Philosopher David Carlin, often a thoughtful critic, writes a provocative piece suggesting that the clergy should stop performing the civil aspects of weddings, for the reason that this makes them complicit in the state's policy of easy divorce.

"...If either of you would like to end your marriage tomorrow, you have a perfect right to do so. If you would like to remain married until death, you can do that too. It's all up to you. Don't feel constrained by the vows you have just taken." [...] The priest, insofar as he is the performer of a civil marriage, will in effect be adding this to his implicit comments: "You have just entered into a union which is between a man and a woman, or between a man and a man, or between a woman and a woman. The civil institution of marriage that you have just elected to become participants in has neither permanence nor gender specificity. It bears absolutely no resemblance to the traditional Catholic institution of marriage."

Prof. Carlin contends that the officiant of a civil-law marriage is in effect saying all the above nonsense: but that's a very doubtful proposition. The Catholic minister who conducts a wedding ceremony and performs the related civil functions has every intention to communicate to the spouses (one man, one woman) that their commitment is permanent. If the State fails to maintain that permanence in civil law, that implies no "implicit comments" of agreement by the clergyman. Carlin's argument seems to consist of little else than putting words in someone else's mouth, an unworthy rhetorical tactic.

Ed Peters offers a rebuttal with regard to the canonical implications of Carlin's suggestion.

Obviously Prof. Carlin grieves over the divorce mentality among Catholics and he is acutely aware of the state's contribution to this social disaster. But while looking for ways to bring Church teaching on marriage more directly to bear on state policies in this area, we must avoid destroying one of the few areas wherein the state and the Church cooperate correctly in marriage....

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On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

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This page contains a single entry by Richard Chonak published on September 25, 2006 2:14 AM.

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