Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bp. Ricken: What is marriage, anyway?

Following the Supreme Court's recent decisions concerning marriage, more than ever, Catholics and other Americans are confronted with the fact that our culture and our law is increasingly unable to understand what marriage is. What we are seeing playing out in our courts and state legislatures is, in fact, the result of the steady erosion of our society's capacity to know the truth about marriage: a truth that goes beyond custom and tradition and which is inscribed upon the very nature of reason itself.

As a Catholic bishop, I have two ways of discussing marriage. The first is by preaching the divine revelation that has been imparted to Christ and to his church. If you read what Christ says about marriage when he is asked the famous question about divorce, you find Christ's moral teaching at its most absolute. In fact, it is so absolute that even his disciples are taken aback by Christ's forcefulness on this matter.

Over the centuries, the church's theological tradition has unpacked Christ's teaching on marriage to show that it is a union of one man and one woman for life and open to life. Among other things, this has illustrated the sacramental nature of marriage. But as much as I believe the church's teaching about the sacrament of marriage and the way it helps to express the spouse-like love of Christ for his bride the church, I understand that the sacramental dimension of marriage is not something I can assume that non-Catholics, including most non-Catholic Christians, will accept.

In the Catholic tradition, however, we believe — because we know — that the truths of faith are also knowable, in part or in whole, through reason. This is important because it enables Catholics to make an argument for marriage as a union of one man and one woman for life and open to children based on reason rather than arguments based upon either feelings or revelation.

This becomes obvious when we ask ourselves: What are the ends of marriage? What is its purpose?

The answer is that marriage has two ends which are inseparable from the other that makes marriage different from, say, a friendship or a father-son relationship. The ends are a two-in-one flesh, emotional and bodily union that is simultaneously orientated towards procreation. These ends are realized through the act of conjugal love.
continue at The Compass

PS> Bp. Ricken made the trek to the three shrines a week or so ago.  He posted updates on his Twitter account(he's very good about updating it too). 

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