Friday, 24 February 2012

Head of the family?

In the light of the public debate about the nature of marriage, it seems appropriate to reflect on some controversial aspects of that venerable institution. I have an article on the main site about the nature of marriage and why the Church says same-sex marriage is not just undesirable but impossible. Cardinal Keith O'Brien's strongly worded statement on the government's plans can be read here. Archbishop Nichols' Pastoral Letter can be read in full here, and his reflections on marriage and friendship here. An overview of the global panorama on same-sex unions is provided by Zenit here. Meanwhile, over at Humanum is an editorial concerning divorce, and a future issue will review the arguments over same-sex unions. The following notes concern rather the question of equality in marriage in the light of the "new feminism".

St Paul's Letter to the Ephesians (5: 21-33) tells us to "subordinate ourselves to one another in the fear of Christ" (we might say, "out of respect for Christ"). He goes on to tell wives to be "subject" to their husbands as to the Lord, because "the man is the head of the woman, just as Christ is the head of the Church, the redeemer of his body." So husbands must love their wives "as their own bodies", "just as Christ himself loved the Church and handed himself over for her", in order to to sanctify her. He is saying all this, he adds (v. 32) "in reference to Christ and the Church".

It is easy to read these instructions in a "worldly" way, and derive from them an instruction to place the man in the position of master, with woman as the passive slave ("body"). But in the light of the relationship of Christ and the Church, there is another way

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Religious freedom (2)

The Muslim peer and Conservative Party Chairman Baroness Warsi recently spoke at the Vatican about the militant secularism and the attacks on Christianity that have become more prevalent in Britain in recent years. Muslims and Christians stand united on this issue, she said. The Queen has also, on her Diamond Jubilee, defended the role the Church of England plays in our society.

On 15 November, in a meeting that has had to be postponed from 11 April, Cardinal Angelo Scola will make a rare visit to London to speak about the work of the Oasis Foundation, which promotes the mutual understanding of Christians and Muslims, especially in Islamic countries where Christians are a (sometimes persecuted) minority.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Religious freedom (1)

In the US, the so-called "contraception mandate" proposed by the Obama administration has been bitterly contested by the Catholic bishops and others – such as Steve Krason of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists in his "Call to Action", and President William Fahey of Thomas More College in his "Open Letter". Requiring Catholic employers to provide (or in the revised version at least indirectly support) contraception and sterilization services in employee health insurance plans seems a clear violation of conscience. Furthermore, as Dr Fahey points out,
This mandate casts human life and pregnancy in the same category as diseases to be prevented, and it reduces the beauty and goodness of human sexuality to an individual, utilitarian, and dangerous act. If birth-control, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs are to be considered curative – as the administration desires – one must ask what is it that they 'cure' or 'prevent'? Human life itself is now placed into a category of social burden, which the government now claims the competence and authority to control and define. Such an action undermines the very purpose of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The point is that, while the US Constitution enshrines a certain separation of Church and State, this does not make it into a secular state. On the contrary, the US has traditionally been highly religious, if predominantly Protestant, in character. The separation of powers

Monday, 13 February 2012

Faith and marriage under attack

On both sides of the Atlantic, we are witnessing a concerted attack on Christianity and on the institution that the Church deems the fundamental cell of society, namely the family founded on the marriage of a man and a woman. In the US, Archbishop Chaput and other bishops have reacted strongly to the "contraception mandate" – the plans of the Obama administration to force Catholic agencies indirectly to fund contraception and abortion services. In the UK, the High Court ruled "unlawful" the practice of local town councils to open their meetings with a prayer. A government scheme permits girls as young as 13 to receive secret contraceptive implants at school without the knowledge of their parents. Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned against the movement to legalize assisted suicide or euthanasia as representing a disastrous shift in the "moral and spiritual atmosphere". In both the US and UK, where homosexual unions are increasingly regarded as normal, pressure is growing for the right to homosexual "marriage", contrary to the dictionary definition as well as the longstanding universal tradition that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman,