The Marriage Act

I received a note this morning from a young friend of mine. He told me, rather sadly, that his lady friend – with whom he had lived for the last three years – had left him for another man. In a way I wasn’t surprised: the young today appear routinely to enter relationships (often starting at university) which lead next to living together, and eventually to marry. Our reaction may be positive – after all, they have had a real life experience before they committed themselves permanently. We shall see.

Since most of the couples I know come from a Catholic background, it is important to look at the issues which arise. I start with the concept of sexual intercourse having two purposes: the expression of marital love and the conception of children.

The Christian moral approach to this over the last thousand years may usefully start with St Augustine. Yes, he teaches that sexual intercourse in marriage can only be excused from sinfulness by intending to conceive on each occasion. It would be, for instance, sinful if the wife was past her menopause.

Over the centuries, Catholic teaching has developed. The sexual side of marriage is emphasised as contributing to the formal sacramental relationship. The couple may well use the “safe period” if they have good reason for avoiding conception. But they are not permitted to prevent conception artificially – whether through barriers or chemical control of ovulation.

The Church has confirmed its condemnation of artificial contraception, but in practice she accepts that it is a matter conscience. This an uneasy balance.

In the outside world, a big change has taken place. Since the 1960’s it has been possible to control ovulation through the “pill”. Suddenly – not only is contraception convenient but, more importantly, it is a method primarily managed by the woman.

The social outcome has been a much greater separation between marriage and sexual intercourse. While it still has its role as the “marriage act”, it would appear that it is nowadays a normal way of exercising and enjoying any close sexual relationship. The effects of this are broad.

We might assume that this would lead to better marriage choices since the couple have had a longer time to know each other, and to test their commitment. But it would appear that this is not so.

“The longer a couple cohabits, the less likely they are to get married. Living together for a long period of time makes little difference to the likelihood of a couple staying together – but increasingly diminishes the chances of them getting married. Couples are most likely to get married or split up in the 2nd or 3rd year of living together. Couples who have lived together for 7 years or more are more likely to split up than marry.”

Yes, I have pinched that paragraph from the Marriage Foundation. This is a splendid organisation (see below) which studies a wide range of matters related to marriage. Its main approach is to use relevant studies of the important issues. It enables us to move from our general opinions about sex and marriage to a degree of authority which enables us to get closer to actual reality.

https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=marriage+Foundation

 

About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Bio-ethics, Church and Society, Moral judgment. Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to The Marriage Act

  1. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes:

    // The social outcome has been a much greater separation between marriage and sexual intercourse. //

    That’s an understatement. Individual sexual pleasure is becoming or has become the principal reason for intercourse – at least for males – not children. My sense is that marriage endures mostly as a social statement among the middle and upper classes, in which the continuing stability of social institutions is a high priority.

    // The Church has confirmed its condemnation of artificial contraception, but in practice she accepts that it is a matter conscience. This an uneasy balance. //

    Indeed. Rather than defending its dogmas, the Church has opted for open hypocrisy. It’s that, the clergy seem to be saying, or institutional collapse. The choice they make says clearly to the world that dogma is less important for them than money. It’s an ugly picture, up there with priests and bishops who won’t stay away from boys.

  2. Geordie says:

    The unchanging Church has changed its mind on morals many times over the centuries, especially where sexual morality is concern. Here are a few examples:-
    You cannot get a divorce but if you are powerful enough or rich enough you can get an annulment.
    Living “in sin” is now called having a partner. If someone in this situation dies we pray for his/her soul which is quite right. But do we have to say he/she was “so-in-so’s” partner. This gives the impression that living together is okay.
    The strict teaching about having a child outside of wedlock caused great injustices to the woman and her child. The innocent child was considered to be a product of sin and was treated abominably. The father was rarely condemned as much as he deserved.
    Now we are told that homosexuality is probably all right whereas in the past homosexuals were imprisoned and in some societies executed.

    I try not to make any judgement on these situations because it is between each individual and God. However I do find the Catholic Church’s claims to be infallible with regard to Faith and Morals rather confusing.

    • milliganp says:

      Justice is always tempered with mercy. We say “hate the sin, love the sinner”. If I refer to someone as a partner, it is obviously a different relationship to husband or wife. Someone might have ‘lived in sin’ for an entire lifetime and repented on their deathbed.
      It’s a difficult situation, any British Catholic congregation will have 15%-50% irregular unions.

    • milliganp says:

      Just to correct some obvious errors in your post. The term annulment is a declaration that a marriage was invalid from the beginning. Examples are a marriage under duress (shotgun wedding), where one party lacked mental capacity or situations where the marriage would have been illicit (marriage to a cousin or someone in orders).
      The standard the church applies to duress or competence does and has changed. In the past you woul have had to produce evidence of the shotgun whereas today a statement “I didn’t feel I had any choice” would be considered.

      • Quentin says:

        Some fifty years ago, I dealt with an engaged couple. Their parish priest was strongly persuading them to get married. After a year into marriage, I had to make a formal statement that the couple were unable to create a relationship necessary for marriage. The marriage was annulled..

  3. milliganp says:

    //Couples who have lived together for 7 years or more are more likely to split up than marry.//
    This is one of those statements that need qualification. If 10% of 7+ year relationships separated and 5% married it would still leave 85% remaining permanent. I speak in this as a mathematician, not a moral theologian.

  4. FZM says:

    Now we are told that homosexuality is probably all right whereas in the past homosexuals were imprisoned and in some societies executed.

    Sodomites were sometimes executed at different times, I think the laws are mostly from after the 16th century, but this was for committing the act of sodomy not for being a homosexual. IIRC the idea that homosexuality as an identity exists comes from the 19th century.

  5. Geordie says:

    milliganp
    I’m aware of the different meanings between annulment and divorce. However there are certain annulments in recent times which are nothing less than divorces. Excuses made today in order to procure an annulment could be applied to many marriages. Surely these marriages cannot all be considered as invalid.
    I recognise the fact that there have been, in the past, invalid marriages which the Church would not consider for annulment because of the very limited conditions the authorities would accept. However it is sheer hypocrisy to behave the way the Church does today. A friend of mine waited years before an annulment was given, whereas certain well-connected people are given annulments in a very short space of time.

    • George says:

      “However it is sheer hypocrisy to behave the way the Church does today. A friend of mine waited years before an annulment was given, whereas certain well-connected people are given annulments in a very short space of time.” This can be replied to in the usual way with references to wolves in sheep’s clothing, sinful holders of holy offices not making those offices less holy, and so on and so forth.

      “Excuses made today in order to procure an annulment could be applied to many marriages. ” Actually it wouldn’t surprise me at all if many marriages, but especially those that go wrong, were wrong from the beginning, for example because the couple had never before marriage discussed and agreed about some critical issue such as when to have children. In that case the problem is not that annulment is too easy but that marriage is!

    • milliganp says:

      // However it is sheer hypocrisy to behave the way the Church does today. A friend of mine waited years before an annulment was given, whereas certain well-connected people are given annulments in a very short space of time.)//
      This is a factless comment, what well connected person got a quick annulment? What facts are known about the reason your friends annulment took so long? Annulments often rely on interviewing witnesses and this can take time. Normally the annulment process cannot start until civil divorce proceedings are complete.

  6. milliganp says:

    The National Board of Catholic Women has published a guide to the annulment process and the question of “easy annulment” is addressed in the following question and answer.

    Q Are Decrees of Nullity easier to obtain today than they were in the past?

    A Only in the sense that in the past few decades the Tribunals have come to a better understanding
    of the workings of the human heart and mind. This has been gained through the development of
    modern psychology which shows that some people have not “grown up” sufficiently by the time of
    their wedding to appreciate what is entailed in so serious a commitment as marriage. This does not
    mean, of course, that the couple should be able to foresee all the snags in a particular marriage. It
    means that where there is a GROSS lack of appreciation or evaluation of the proposed marriage so
    that there is an enormous gap between the party’s Consent and the reality of the lifelong commitment to another human being, there can be no marriage.

  7. Geordie says:

    milliganp
    “This is a factless comment, what well connected person got a quick annulment? ”
    I don’t want to name names because famous people are harassed enough by the gutter press, but a little research will soon show that this is not a “fact-less comment”.

    • milliganp says:

      But you, Geordie, are happy to harass people of faith who believe in the integrity of the church by making a statement without supporting evidence.

  8. John Nolan says:

    In the First World War soldiers had to be reminded by the army medical authorities that abstinence from sexual intercourse was not injurious to health. This was for obvious reasons – casualties from venereal disease were great enough to be cause for concern.

    The majority of working-class men recruited in their late teens would have been sexually experienced, whether from an urban or a rural background.

    Their officers, on the other hand, would have had fewer opportunities for intimacy with the opposite sex, being educated at single-sex institutions and also being constrained by the social conventions of middle-class society.

  9. galerimo says:

    I get the impression from the blog that you see living together by young people as a way of testing a relationship before deciding whether or not to enter a marriage.

    My experience with couples who live together is they are not interested in marriage but prefer this “de facto” arrangement. It establishes itself legally after two years with no need for a contract of marriage.

    I think the real shift among the young is away from marriage – unless you want a same sex union to be recognised as such.

    Marriage has always been a fragile and risky business and hard to know what is really going on within the relationships. I would imagine that marriages of 2 and 3 and 7 years also break up as the living together relationships you describe in this category.

    Living together appears to be a choice for its own sake. Things have changed that much.

  10. David Smith says:

    galerimo writes:

    // Living together appears to be a choice for its own sake. Things have changed that much. //

    Agreed. The civilization that until only fifty years ago regarded monogamous heterosexual marriage for life as sacred has thrown it out. Traditional marriage persists as a social and legal convenience, but just barely, and, I suspect, not for long. The West, beginning conspicuously in the late nineteen sixties (but really probably much earlier in the Enlightenment) began to pull up and burn its Judeo-Christian roots, and as it did that, it sealed its own fate. All that’s left now is a self-indulgent husk, devoid of any lasting meaning, incapable of sustaining itself. The majority rule.

    • ignatius says:

      “All that’s left now is a self-indulgent husk, devoid of any lasting meaning, incapable of sustaining itself. The majority rule…”
      Wot?? What is the husk you speak of and of what is the husk a husk? Sorry guv, this is completely beyond my ken…

  11. David Smith says:

    milliganp quotes:

    //
    Q Are Decrees of Nullity easier to obtain today than they were in the past?

    A Only in the sense that in the past few decades the Tribunals have come to a better understanding of the workings of the human heart and mind. This has been gained through the development of modern psychology
    //

    That’s precious. And I’m sure they’re sincere.

  12. Geordie says:

    What about the children? There is enough evidence to show that children do better in all aspects of life if they are brought in a family where the mother and father are married and stick together. People worry about the mental health of children. A stable marriage contributes substantially to their good mental health.

    We should also remember that a Christian marriage is a sacrament and it cannot be valid until it is consummated. Therefore I find the teaching of St Augustine (below) utterly incomprehensible. However it has had a long and profound effect on the attitude of the Church authorities and it must have caused considerable suffering to sincere couples for centuries.
    “……St Augustine. Yes, he teaches that sexual intercourse in marriage can only be excused from sinfulness by intending to conceive on each occasion. It would be, for instance, sinful if the wife was past her menopause.”

  13. David Smith says:

    Geordie writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/07/11/the-marriage-act/#comment-60391 ):

    // What about the children? There is enough evidence to show that children do better in all aspects of life if they are brought in a family where the mother and father are married and stick together. //

    Indeed. My parents’ marriage was not perfect, but they stayed together, and I’m very grateful to them for that.

    After about 1970, it seems to me, the modern Western world became saturated with over-thinking everything, with finding elaborate and pseudo-rational arguments for choosing paths of immediate gratification. Life, it seemed, had suddenly become unbearably imperfect and in need of endless perfecting. Sexual restraints, impediments to immediate gratification, were bad – old-fashioned and “unscientific” – and needed to be thrown away. Traditional marriage, naturally, became a target that needed to be modernized or simply discarded. First things first: individual “happiness” über alles. Adults first, children somewhere down the line – a separate issue.

  14. David Smith says:

    Geordie writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/07/11/the-marriage-act/#comment-60330 ):

    // The unchanging Church has changed its mind on morals many times over the centuries, especially where sexual morality is concern. //

    I imagine it was usually or always to conform with what people already had come to believe. In other words, the leaders changed the Church to please the people.

  15. John Nolan says:

    80 per cent of annulments world-wide are granted in the United States. Lawyers who specialize in drawing up cases advertise on the internet, and they don’t come cheap. In the 1970s it was said that getting an annulment was quicker than getting a civil divorce. JP II recognized that this was a scandal; between 1982 and 1984 four-fifths of US annulments were overturned by the Vatican.

    The most high-profile annulment case involved Sheila Rauch Kennedy, former wife of Joseph Kennedy II. They were married for twelve years and had twin boys before divorcing amicably in 1991. Two years later Kennedy married Beth Kelly in a civil ceremony and then applied to the Archdiocese of Boston for an annulment of his previous marriage, which was (unsurprisingly) granted in 1996.

    Rauch Kennedy, an Episcopalian, would not accept the nullity of her marriage ab initio, not least because it would mean that their children were conceived and born out of wedlock. She appealed to the Holy See and won her case. The decision overturning the annulment was communicated to the Archdiocese in 2005 but it was another two years before she herself was notified. It wouldn’t take that long to translate it from the Latin.

    The rich, hubristic and amoral Kennedy clan had long had the Archdiocese of Boston in their pocket, but even they could not influence Rome.

  16. FZM says:

    After about 1970, it seems to me, the modern Western world became saturated with over-thinking everything, with finding elaborate and pseudo-rational arguments for choosing paths of immediate gratification. Life, it seemed, had suddenly become unbearably imperfect and in need of endless perfecting. Sexual restraints, impediments to immediate gratification, were bad – old-fashioned and “unscientific” – and needed to be thrown away. Traditional marriage, naturally, became a target that needed to be modernized or simply discarded. First things first: individual “happiness” über alles. Adults first, children somewhere down the line – a separate issue.

    I think you can see the deeper roots of this starting in the Enlightenment period, where thinking of perfection in terms of God, heaven, Christ’s Second Coming, started to be displaced by the idea of perfection as some kind of material state that can be realized by the advent of the correct social and political order in human societies. Within this context it seems like the idea started to develop that the true measure of it was how far any individual was able to fulfill whatever desires they had at a given moment. Then over time this kind of perspective permeated into wider society, including into views about traditional marriage.

  17. David Smith says:

    I wrote ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/07/11/the-marriage-act/#comment-60385 ):

    // The civilization that until only fifty years ago regarded monogamous heterosexual marriage for life as sacred has thrown it out. Traditional marriage persists as a social and legal convenience, but just barely, and, I suspect, not for long. The West, beginning conspicuously in the late nineteen sixties (but really probably much earlier in the Enlightenment) began to pull up and burn its Judeo-Christian roots, and as it did that, it sealed its own fate. All that’s left now is a self-indulgent husk, devoid of any lasting meaning, incapable of sustaining itself. The majority rule. //

    ignatius replied ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/07/11/the-marriage-act/#comment-60427 ):

    // “All that’s left now is a self-indulgent husk, devoid of any lasting meaning, incapable of sustaining itself. The majority rule…”
    Wot?? What is the husk you speak of and of what is the husk a husk? Sorry guv, this is completely beyond my ken… //

    Apologies for the confusing language. The image I had in mind was of a plant (Western civilization) that has decided to tear up its own roots. What‘s left is a dying plant.

  18. milliganp says:

    One of the arguments presented by the Catholic Church for the invalidity of Anglican priestly orders is that, for a sacrament to be valid, the person administering the sacrament has to intend what the church intends. This Anglican orders are invalid because there is no intent, by the Anglican priest, to confect the Eucharist in the way the Catholic Church intends.
    If we apply the same to marriage, where the priest is witness but the bride and groom are ministers, then I would suspect the vast majority of marriages are invalid. It is exceptionally unlikely that 2 people who have each had several previous sexual relationships and have lived together for 2-5 years using contraceptives to avoid pregnancy suddenly morph, after a few hours instruction by a priest, into firm adherents to the Catholic understanding of marriage.
    I am thankful that, as a Deacon, I rarely get asked to assist at a Catholic wedding; the entire process of preparation is fraught with ambiguity and the general attitude is that we should be grateful that someone thinks marriage is worth the effort.

    • George says:

      “If we apply the same to marriage, where the priest is witness but the bride and groom are ministers, then I would suspect the vast majority of marriages are invalid. It is exceptionally unlikely that 2 people who have each had several previous sexual relationships and have lived together for 2-5 years using contraceptives to avoid pregnancy suddenly morph, after a few hours instruction by a priest, into firm adherents to the Catholic understanding of marriage.” It isn’t actually necessary to be firm adherents to the Catholic understanding of marriage to have a valid marriage, as the interesting example of Sheila Rauch Kennedy, which John Nolan raised, indicates. As an Episcopalian it is unlikely that she firmly adhered to the Catholic understanding of marriage.

      If you want a more formal link, I suggest Canon 1099. “Error concerning the unity or indissolubility or sacramental dignity of marriage does not vitiate matrimonial consent provided that it does not determine the will.” http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/_P3Z.HTM

      So it is not necessary to hold completely to the Catholic doctrine of marriage to contract a valid marriage. I suggest reading the page I linked to to see the kind of things that do invalidate a marriage.

  19. milliganp says:

    Quentin Writes: //Since most of the couples I know come from a Catholic background, it is important to look at the issues which arise.//
    I’m amazed; for the marriage formation groups I’ve been involved with, there are rarely more than 25% where both parties are Catholic and probably only 10% where both regularly attend mass. Few have any detailed knowledge of the Catholic understanding of marriage other than as an ideal.
    The overwhelming opinion (particularly among the women) is that living together is an important step towards ensuring compatibility. Experimentation is also seen as important. By the time we meet couples to prepare them for marriage, all the damage is already done.

    • FZM says:

      This matches quite closely with what I have observed at least. There are a minority of people with stronger religious beliefs who hold more traditional views, there is another minority of people who are not strongly religious but still somehow naturally retain traditional attitudes, but the large majority have different, often significantly different, moral norms.

  20. David Smith says:

    milliganp writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/07/11/the-marriage-act/#comment-60442 ):

    // Few have any detailed knowledge of the Catholic understanding of marriage other than as an ideal.

    The overwhelming opinion (particularly among the women) is that living together is an important step towards ensuring compatibility. Experimentation is also seen as important. By the time we meet couples to prepare them for marriage, all the damage is already done. //

    What you say – along with a fuzzy impression I’ve developed from some personal experience and scattered reading – feeds a working assumption of mine that the great majority of modern Catholics in the Western world are hardly, by any exacting criteria, Catholics at all, except by self-definition and, worryingly, by definition of local clergy who know them well enough to know better. If this is true, the bulk of Catholics don’t believe in much of the magisterium at all, and the Church is filled with unconscious imposters, unconscious because the clergy have conspired to keep them comfortable in their mistaken belief. And this, I think, strongly suggests that the clergy, as a whole, are not practicing Catholics, either. And if that follows, as I think it must, then the Western Church is largely an empty shell.

    My question now is, how normal is this when seen in the light of two millennia of church history? Has it always been this way? Have the clergy and the flock always lived a spiritual life largely disconnected from the magisterium? And if so, why do the keepers of the magisterium acquiesce in it, unprotesting?

    • milliganp says:

      I have a personal saying – whenever you find yourself looking at a shambles – presume cock-up over conspiracy. I’m beginning to doubt myself.
      I used to be involved in marriage preparation, from which I gathered the impressions I shared above. My Archdiocese had a formal instructor for NFP and she used to cover the family planning hour of the marriage prep course mainly because everybody else was too scared.
      Her presentation on contraception was to draw a line with Abortion on the left followed by the morning-after pill followed by the coil and then the pill, condoms, coitus-interruptus and finally NFP! By a severe failure to add any clarity she left people thinking that items to the left were “more unacceptable” and to the right were “more acceptable” which left the pill in the middle and condoms as almost the epitome of virtue! I wrote to the Episcopal Vicar for Marriage expressing my concerns and got removed from the panel as my reward.
      “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth!

  21. ignatius says:

    David Smith says:
    “If this is true, the bulk of Catholics don’t believe in much of the magisterium at all, and the Church is filled with unconscious imposters, unconscious because the clergy have conspired to keep them comfortable in their mistaken belief. And this, I think, strongly suggests that the clergy, as a whole, are not practicing Catholics, either. And if that follows, as I think it must, then the Western Church is largely an empty shell…”

    Oh dear oh dear oh dear !!!! 🙂

    I value the catechism highly, I refer to it often and it is an invaluable guide for teaching. In prison we have the book of PSi’s – Prison service instructions. PSI’s are the rule book for prison behaviour. They are comprehensive and all embracing; but not always rigidly adhered to because, wisdom, mercy, justice, dignity and human growth all require discretion as the ground of flourishing. So when I get the catechism out during the sometimes robust exchanges we enjoy in prison groups – we refer to to the guidelines as God’s PSI’s..then everyone understands where we are with things!
    David, I have given this subject much thought over the years and I am glad you have raised it. The church is not an empty shell it is a patchwork dwelling made by human hands in which God is pleased yet to dwell, conferring upon it the dignity, wisdom and kindness of the Holy Spirit.
    This is an important topic you have opened up.

  22. Geordie says:

    St John Henry Newman wrote in his book “Via Media” as an Anglican:

    “the whole course of Christianity from the first……is but one series of troubles and disorders. Every century is like every other, and to those who live in it (it) seems worse than all times before it. The Church is ever ailing……Religion seems ever expiring, schisms dominant, the light of Truth dim, its adherents scattered. The cause of Christ is ever in its last agony…”
    (Taken from Ian Ker’s book “John Henry Newman”)

    Newman wrote this in the 1830s when the Oxford Movement was in full swing. He was defending the Anglican Church against Protestantism and Romanist corruptions. By 1845 he had joined the Catholic Church. It was the early Church Fathers who convinced him that the Roman Catholic Church was the true Church, not the Catholics of his era.

  23. FZM says:

    My question now is, how normal is this when seen in the light of two millennia of church history? Has it always been this way? Have the clergy and the flock always lived a spiritual life largely disconnected from the magisterium? And if so, why do the keepers of the magisterium acquiesce in it, unprotesting?

    For a long time, when most of the Christian population was illiterate and living on the land and modern mass media (including cheap printing) didn’t exist, people appear to have had all kinds of patchy or unusual beliefs. This can be seen in the reoccurrence of revival and missionary movements within Christian kingdoms, when the Church realised it was necessary to go out into rural areas and teach people again about basic prayers and Christian practices.

    The difference may lie in the fact that the unusual or unorthodox beliefs people held were not an obstacle to their belief in Christ, that something much closer to Christian morality was widely understood to be the ideal and that the leading sections and institutions of society were more overtly Christian.

    • milliganp says:

      I’m not inclined to call my grandparents either ignorant or superstitious but I remember counting magpies was important and if you spilt salt on the table you had to throw some over your shoulder. However they believed in the True Presence (Transubstantiation might be a bit too complicated), the value of the family and sexual continence outside marriage (and thus the local priest and the many nuns were no different to the many unmarried men and women in society). They also believed in the underlying meaning of the mysteries of the rosary and the words of the Apostles Creed.
      I’m not sure we have such common ground today.

  24. ignatius says:

    FZM writes:
    “..This can be seen in the re occurrence of revival and missionary movements within Christian kingdoms, when the Church realised it was necessary to go out into rural areas and teach people again about basic prayers and Christian practices…”

    Again a good point well made. Christian faith is only adhered to well if it comes alive in the soul of the person praying. Without the desire for holiness and relationship that prayer begets there is nothing but external form. Desire is usually kindled by encounter of some form or another.

    • FZM says:

      I heard a quote by (I think) Karl Rahner to the effect that if Christianity was to flourish into the future it would have to be a mystical Christianity. I remember that discovering something about Benedictine prayer and spirituality started me on a path that led to a significant change in the way I understood Christianity.

  25. ignatius says:

    Yes it is Rahner. Personally speaking I am compelled by encounter. Were it not for the quiet voice that speaks in the soul I wouldn’t touch Catholicism with a barge pole. I’ve ended up as a Catholic because of the Mystery of Faith expressed in sacrament not because of any moral elegance the Catholic system of thinking may or may not impart.

  26. FZM says:

    That is interesting… I was studying a lot of literature and became intellectually convinced of the importance of religion in life and spiritual in an indeterminate way, then I started to feel that there was some enormously significant truth ‘out there’ and which should shape my life. I didn’t know what to make of it at the time and it was quite scary and disturbing. It only made more sense when I started going to Mass again, there is something about the centrality of the Eucharist and I wonder if I picked up on it during childhood and it was somehow there influencing me without me being aware.

  27. ignatius says:

    FMZ,
    ” there is something about the centrality of the Eucharist and I wonder if I picked up on it during childhood and it was somehow there influencing me without me being aware..”

    Technically speaking I guess the desire for companionship within the Trinity of God begins at baptism! It was the pull of Eucharist which drew me into the Catholic Church as an adult though.
    It must be an unconscious or subconscious thing drawing us in, a kind of spiritual magnetism, homing birds and sea salmon seem to have a kind of rudimentary form of it!! Here is the most satisfying explaination I have found so far:

    Psalm 42
    My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
    from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
    Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
    all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

  28. galerimo says:

    What a great quote from John Henry Newman – thank you Geordie.

    I think at the end of that lecture Newman gave grounds for optimism when he said, stiff as ever! God is still to be relied on as “mightier”.

    The lens on Church in this discussion seems to hold the rickety old institution exclusively in focus. Holding a different lens on the same reality another aspect to Church emerges.

    Communion Church by contrast with hierarchical Church is how we started as Church, it is what we need to return to and I hope it is what is emerging in our time.

    We become Church, a “communio fidelium” when we are baptised –
    “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

    This is the communion model of equal persons interacting as a collective which we should strive to become as Body of Christ.

    This lens expands our view of Church to meet those mystics that Rahner talks about who will be part of the Church in our age.

    And I would add, boldly – whatever their denomination.

    But staying with the hierarchical Church for a while, it is clear there are cracks in that commonly held framework that most people think of as Church.

    Cracks where light can get in. As Cohen rhapsodises: another great prophet of our age. Alleluia!

    So the vast and overwhelming majority of us who live happily (or miserably if we choose) with all the wicket impediments that lie in wait to invalidate our sacramental lives including our marriages – and even for those made to feel outside the church in some other concocted canonical way – we can take heart from such cracks.

    Our Church will always supply whatever is wanting in legality or is erroneous in our standing within this communion. (Ecclesia Supplet)

    Our Church will even heal at its very roots the corruptions and failures that lie at the beginnings and base of all our deficient, faulty or different “Marriage Acts”. (Sanatio in Radice)

    Even if this healing is not found within the limits of canonical devices it is always and certainly in the spirit that lies at the heart of our communio fidelium, which is only ever meant to build up that Body.

    Seen more through the lens of communio fidelium and backgrounding the legal institutions of hierarchal church, the “cracks” of her crippling legal institutions can shed a lot of light

    – we can know our place as part of the church even as we experience the messiness of our lives.

    To include this lens in how we view the Church, we are blessed when we do not let the call to Jesus, which we hear in our Church, become, in any way, an obstacle made by that same Church (Matt. 11:6). An impediment or a scandal.

    And to crown it all (and put it…. not very simply !) our personal relationship with Christ as part of his communio fidelium, is always, at its heart, epithalamic.

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