Marriage has *always* been changing

Has it not?

Some people in the Church (Catholic as well as non-Catholic) will talk of marriage as now being defined differently from its universal, divine establishment of a monogamous male-female pair order to each other for family life. It is as if suddenly, thanks to the Supreme Court, there has been a break from what everyone has always conceived of what marriage to be. I realize that several people speak of trends in Western society that have slowly been creeping away from what marriage really is (Such people will mention contraception, divorce, or even feminism). But the point is there is this idea that there is certain and historical view of marriage that is being abandoned.

When I look to the past, and even in the Biblical accounts, I find that the **one **underlying feature that makes the concept of marriage so similar from age to age or place to place is simply the male-female pairing. Now obviously, the man-woman component of marriage is the primary component to many people who adhere to the “traditional” view of marriage. But little else besides this has remained the same. From patriarchal views and the role of women to the purpose of pleasure in sex to polygamy and multiple other cultural situations, marriage has shifted around in meaning.

I think the historic or trans-cultural understanding of marriage that many pro-traditional marriage adherents promote is really a superficial glance at the fact that most people – now and in the past – have been attracted to members of the opposite sex. And this is simply how families formed. But beyond this, there is not a single “living out” of marriage that has been expressed across all times and places. Even in the New Testament, which assumes male-female marriage, there is an expression of such differences. Paul is noted in many places to express the headship of man over woman. However one wishes to interpret this, there is no doubt Paul lived in a patriarchal society. As much as he assumed man-woman marriage, he assumed the dominance and privilege of man compared to woman, husband over wife. Nowadays, the same Christians who uphold the “traditional” view of marriage will not explicitly live out this other concept of Paul’s – that the husband is the “man of the house.” Many times, wives make the decisions and take control as much as if not more than their husbands, but that does not make their marriages anything less than an authentic Christian marriage.

So shouldn’t we recognize that this “universal” or “trans-cultural” and historical idea of marriage is really a superficial and simplistic one that simply recognizes that most people for most of history have been attracted to the opposite sex?

The Catechism of Trent says that the patriarchs’ polygamy was contrary to the nature of marriage, but not to their fallen nature.

Based on what proof?*

No we look to the teachings of Jesus and His Church, the Catholic Church. God does not change.

No. There is nothing superficial or simplistic about marriage and family, the basis of our society. Homosexual activity is not a social good, it is contrary to both natural law and God’s law.

While we can say that marriage has looked different over the millennia, two factors remain unchanged throughout history and should not be flippantly dismissed as not importsnt or essential.

  1. marriage has always been a male female relationship
  2. marriage has always been ordered to the stability and raiding of children with both their father and mother.

People didn’t suddenly become sexually immoral in the past 50 years. The fight for purity has been going on as long as humanity has. For thousands of years humanity has dealt with everything from homosexuality to bestiality, fetishes, mistresses, concubines, sexual slavery, serial divorce, ‘marriages’ established through coercion, pedophilia, rape, incest, and so on and so forth, not to mention the far more common occurrences of fornication or masturbation. All of these things come from mankind’s fallen nature and are an enemy to natural marriage, and moreso, to sacramental marriage within Christianity.

Polygamy, as explained by St Aquinas, severely inhibits natural marriage but it is nonetheless a natural marriage. Even a pedophilic marriage would nonetheless count as a natural marriage. This doesn’t make these situations morally acceptable, but the “components” are all there to allow a union to take place. Homosexual relations, in a similar vein to bestiality or masturbation, is a sexual encounter in which no actual conjugal union takes place. So in addition to it being immoral, it is also nonsensical in so far as calling it marriage is concerned. Obviously, non-Catholics will be unlikely to agree with this, since they don’t have a concrete definition of marriage in the way the Church does.

“St Aquinas, severely inhibits natural marriage but it is nonetheless a natural marriage. Even a pedophilic marriage would nonetheless count as a natural marriage.”

Pedophilic marriage is not a marriage. It must be between adults. Are you saying Aquinas said otherwise? Polygamy was against the nature of marriage, but because of fallen humanity it was allowed by God for the patriarchs. Incest was once moral. Both cases have ceased. Nowadays we have a situation of people being born genetically gay. Its a hard issue to deal with for sure

Hmm I am a little dismayed by some of the responses so far, and they cause me to wonder whether or not my initial post was read in full. Simply referring to marriage as always male and female or referring to church teaching is highlighting some of the things I was concerned about in my post. I think we look at the past and what marriage is too simplistically when we say it has always been the same for all places and times. The male and female aspect is obviously explained by the fact that most people are heterosexual. A heterosexual male is not going to marry a man in the first place.

People have always been “genetically gay”. There was just insufficient insight both within and outside of the Church in the past for it to be well understood.

There is nothing that prevents a 13-year-old and a 40-year-old from being united in conjugal union in a natural marriage, as this wasn’t terribly uncommon in past agrarian societies, such as when a well-off landowning man would take on a 2nd or 3rd wife. Natural marriage was (and to some extent still is) linked to economic survival, so the young woman would often be the 3rd or 4th sibling in a family of less prestige than the one she was marrying into. This still occurs some today. Not that any of that means the practice should be accepted, but when we are defining the necessary components of natural marriage - something that extends beyond religious boundaries - you need a man and a woman, which brings about the possibility of children.

So shouldn’t we recognize that this “universal” or “trans-cultural” and historical idea of marriage is really a superficial and simplistic one that simply recognizes that most people for most of history have been attracted to the opposite sex?

No.
A more careful look at the treatment of marriage across continents and cultures, in various eras, would notice something deeper: there is consistently a public recognition, a sacredness, a celebration. Commitments are made. Why? Because kids naturally need parents.

It’s far from superficial. To suppose that they are merely recognizing erotic feelings is careless speculation.

Don’t you think we should adjust our understanding of love, family, and sexuality as we learn more about them?

There is nothing that prevents a 13-year-old and a 40-year-old from being united in conjugal union in a natural marriage, as this wasn’t terribly uncommon in past agrarian societies, such as when a well-off landowning man would take on a 2nd or 3rd wife. This still occurs some today. Not that any of that means the practice should be accepted, but when we are defining the necessary components of natural marriage - something that extends beyond religious boundaries - you need a man and a woman, which brings about the possibility of children.

This is the traditional definition of marriage, yes.

But when people are nervous about changing this traditional understanding, I do not think they realize that there have been many changes and that the male-female component itself is ingrained in the concept of marriage because most people have been heterosexual.

I don’t at all buy that the “recognition, sacredness, and celebration” is part of marriage only because kids are intrinsic to it. If we look nowadays, even couples that are fully open to life, the primary motivation for their marriage is the couple’s shared love.

No, your “because” is incorrect. The male-female component is ingrained because it is ordered toward procreation.

Can you name a single one of these various “understandings” which by its nature was not ordered toward procreation?

Again, this assumes the traditional definition…

I pointed out that the only connection marriage in the past and in all cultures have is the male-female (and naturally, procreative) aspect.

But procreation naturally comes from a male-female bond, and most people in the past have been heterosexual. That just makes sense evolutionarily and biologically. And it makes sense, socially, that the structures would form around this predominant way of things.

13 is not pedophilic. Also I don’t know if people were ever born gay in past times

They have adjusted, though not necessarily in the way some people would prefer. Marriage became recognized as a sacrament in the Middle Ages, as we evolved to recognize divorce & remarriage not merely as impermissible (as understood by St Augustine) but metaphysically impossible (as understood by St Aquinas). The Catholic Church’s current theology on marriage & family is even more thorough and holistic than the teachings on sexuality expressed in the past. These are all used to help better combat the various heretical ideas that pop up with each new generation. St John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” is increasingly regarded as another major stepping stone in understanding the dignity of the human person in the context of sexuality.

Having same-sex attraction as an inherit condition changes nothing whatsoever in so far as whether or not it is metaphysically possible for same sex people to be wedded, or whether homosexual relations are moral or immoral. I could sit here and make a 10-page list of inherit temptations that would not promote the benefit of the self or of mankind. The Church does not use guttural urges as its compass for determining morality, but the actions & habits that are necessary in order to fulfill mankind’s destiny and meaning of life, which is fidelity & union with her Creator.

This thread will not be about the origins of homosexuality as an orientation. The fact is, the vast majority of people who are homosexual do not choose their inclination, and they experience their intense feelings very early on.

“But from the beginning…” meant that everything outside one guy one girl was wrong. Other changing definitions were thus irrelevant

The origin has to do with whether we say they are “objectively sinning” or merely “acting against Nature”

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