***Proposal: ***The state is no longer competent to “marry” people or regulate the institution of “marriage.” In order to save the institution of “marriage” the Church should declare that henceforth no “marriage” is valid unless conducted sacramentally before a priest and the Church, i.e., there is no “marriage” outside the Church or recognized ecclesial communions. ******
(1) The state has failed to protect and preserve marriage. This is witnessed most recently by rulings in federal and state court in California, and other jurisdictions. This is NOT, as some believe, a recent development. A cursory familiarity with civil family law in this and other western nations will reveal that the meaning of “marriage” as understood by the Church (other ecclesial communions also) and as understood in civil and secular law have long diverged. This is evident in civil/secular law’s longstanding treatment of divorce, remarriage, child custody, etc. This divergence has been going on for decades at minimum, and most probably for about 200 years or so. Civil “marriage” and the sacrament of “marriage” share only one true similarity: the word ‘marriage,’ and that is all! It is simply time to recognize – whatever one’s view of marriage – that the underlying facts have changed. The state can not be trusted on this matter!
(2) Like other sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Holy Orders, etc.), the sacrament of marriage is a matter for the Church and the Church alone. Just as we no longer recognize the state’s right to regulate other sacraments – the “state” did, in fact, regulate sacraments (especially in Europe) in various ways for most of Church’s history – we should reject any involvement by the state in marriage. The state does not regulate who should and should not receive the Eucharist, Holy Orders, and the like. (Again, at one time, the state did regulate such things.) Likewise, we should reclaim marriage as the sacrament that it is, so that it can be protected from total perversion by the state.
(3) Under natural law the state may properly continue to regulate certain aspects of any relationship between persons, including, obviously, men and women. In this regard, the state should neither marry nor divorce. However, it can and should require parents to care for their children, prevent phyical and mental abuse, and where one person has has been cared for by another with the consent of both for a long period of time the state may prevent the dependent party from simply being abandoned “cold turkey” or promulgate reasonalbe regulations to protect dependent parties (which it does and has for a long time by the way).
(4) With regard to health benefits, pensions, retirement funds and the like, there is no reason that the state should make or allow this to be dependent on “marriage.” Unless the parties specifically so contract,then these matters would be subject solely to civil/secular court authorities. Simply put, parties should, can, and frequently do contract independently of “marriage” regarding these matters. Modern society has overburdened marriage by legally connecting it to benefits that were unknown just a generation or two ago, except in the most advanced western societies. The result is that now marriage is thought of primarily as a social benefits package, not as a sacramental covenant. “Marriage” proper has suffered because, not in spite of, of it’s attachment to various forms of insurance coverage and social welfare benefits and pivileges.
(5) Largely because of #4 above, the Church has basically ceded – slowly and unwittingly – to the state a kind of magisterium over marriage. The results have been disastrous. The false state magisterium can only be reversed if the Church takes steps to reclaim what is rightfully its own: the sacramental institution of marriage. The Church has no choice! Like a hopeless alcoholic or drug addict who will not change, the Church must intervene to protect marriage. The state has become so secular and so outright hostile to the Church and natural law, that it can not be trusted until, if, and when it is reformed. Marriage can not remain in the hands of the state until or while we attempt to “reform” the state (or its laws and policies). Marriage must be taken away from the state before it is damaged beyond repair, and the family and society suffer irreperable harm.
(6) Some will say that natural law mandates the state protect, maintain, and defend the institution of marriage. It should! It has a duty to do so. I agree! But, like an alcoholic or abusive father, who has a duty to care for his children, the father or children may and should be separated in such circumstances to protect the children. When a parent becomes abusive to the children in violation of natural law, the children may be separted from the parents for the betterment of both. The duty is then to heal the relationship, so both can be reunited. However, healing can not take place while the children are being abused. Marriage is being abused by the state. The state has lost its way. The primary duty of the Church in this situation is to the “Domestic Church,” which it must protect first.
(7) This proposal would not be contrary to any infallible dogma of the Church. It would, however, entail some changes in Church “discipline” and the Canon Law, and these can be changed.
The Domestic Church is already gravely injured. The state can no longer protect it. We must do what we have to do. I know some will see this proposal as extreme; it is! However, I situation as regards the “Domestic Church” is very grave.