Joseph O’Leary, on Catholic Theology and “Redefining” Marriage

Fr Joseph O’Leary has a useful short post at his blog, on the eruption of opposition by the English bishops to the (very modest) proposed amendments to the UK civil partnership provisions. He makes the point I have done before, that the Church has itself participated in the constant redefinition of marriage over the centuries, but adds an important observation that I had not realised: that historically, these redefinitions have come from the people, and only later have been ratified by the state and the church. Nothing new, then, in the current process of redefinition. In many countries, the state is already following the popular lead in recognizing same sex relationships. Most churches (not all, not by a long way) are further behind – but they too will catch up:

Apparently the recent papal visit has galvanized opposition among English Catholic bishops to anything resembling gay marriage. Now they denounce Quakers and liberal Jews for daring to host civil partnership registrations, saying that no one has the right to redefine marriage. In fact, of course, marriage has been redefined many times throughout history. It is only since the 15th century or so that the Church itself has defined marriage as a sacrament. Such redefinitions come from the people in the first case, and are only later ratified by church and state. Today the Church has to face the growing reality of gay unions that resemble marriage, and when it buries its head in the stand, refuses to come up with an intelligent response, refuses dialogue and consultation, it is only making itself ridiculous.

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One Response to “Joseph O’Leary, on Catholic Theology and “Redefining” Marriage”

  1. Jack McNulty Says:

    Marraige was defined as a sacrament in 1215 when the seven we know were listed by a Church Council at the Lateran in opposition to the Albigensians who rejected sexual congress. Thomas Aquinas’ teaching was a touchstone for the Council’s definition. Previously marriage had been esteemed a Sacrament by most believers but had little regulation by civil or canon law. In 1563 The Council of Trent required a canonical form for marriage celebration using a priest and two witnesses. However this requirement could be abbrogated when a priest was not available for at least 30 days.


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