Sunday, November 8, 2009

Celibate Marriage Experts?

According to an article in the "Faith and Values" section of the Columbus Dispatch, Bishop R. Daniel Conlon is advocating a renewed effort by Priests to support faith based marriage. To that end, hundreds of priest have gathered at a hotel in Columbus, OH this weekend to increase their education and enthusiasm for supporting the institution of marriage.

The Bishop felt compelled to do this because he sees more threats to traditional marriage than ever before, probably because when Xians feel threatened, they always seem to see more threats than ever before in spite of any evidence to the contrary. Although divorce and cohabitation are mentioned, I'm pretty sure it's gay marriage initiatives that are freaking him out. It's also clear that the Bishop perceives a "traditional" marriage as one Xian man + one Xian woman (preferably of the same denomination) wed in a Xian church by a priest (or a man of the cloth of of another title).

I have a few problems with this (as if you hadn't guessed). First, why would you take marriage advice from someone who's never been married? That's kind of like taking flying lessons from someone who's never been in a plane.

Second, traditional marriage is not unique to Christianity or even the Abrahamic religions. Marriages are found all over the world, including societies that have never heard of a bible. "We have to teach what we know to be God's truth about marriage, perhaps in a more forceful way than we have," Bishop Conlon said. That would be fine if he confined himself to his Catholic flock, but that's not what he said. The jurisdiction of bishops and priests is their cathedrals and churches, beyond that constituency people shouldn't have to be subjected to the mythology called "God's truth".

Third, sometimes divorce, cohabitation, and even same-sex marriage can be the right answer. Rigid dogma and the threats of social isolation and eternal damnation have trapped people in abusive relationships and forced people apart who should be together. If the clergy wants to insist that certain rules must be followed or the offending person must leave the church and if they wish to advise that person that they believe such-and-so will happen after they die, that's their prerogative. It's not appropriate to call their unprovable beliefs "truth", or to insist that a person doesn't have the free will to change to different beliefs, and it is never appropriate to insist that a general public, with guaranteed freedom of religion, should be subjected to their dogma codified into civil law.

So if all the Catholic clergy that visited Columbus want to go home and tell their congregations that that they should only marry if their pretty sure they can stay together "till death do us part", or if you want to send same-sex couples away to get married elsewhere, or if they want to tell persons that they cannot be a church member unless they follow certain rules, that's their job, and best of luck. However, when the clergyman steps out onto the public street, his authority ends and everyone should be free to believe what they want, and participate in marriage according to their own rules, as long as it doesn't break the civil laws.

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