Should all Christian Churches no longer seek state's recognition of marriages?

Thread to discuss pros and cons of the following ideas:
*]The Church should no longer seek to have the State recognize Church marriages, because what the State is acknowledging is now so drastically different than what the Church recognizes. Couples will forfeit tax benefits as a result unless they participate in a separate secular ceremony. In so doing, the Church severs association with what the State considers a marriage. The State thus must treat them as single individuals who have a Church-only recognized marriage.
*]All Church organizations, such as Catholic Charities, or as the Bishops’ Refugee group once did, shall forfeit all State funding. Would this compromise the State’s influence to coerce religious organizations into recognizing State doctrines?
[/LIST]What do you think?

I have been thinking for some time that the only way to preserve the sanctity of marriage would be for churches to stop participating in state marriage, and perform sacramental marriage only. State marriage would effectively be a “civil union” and True Marriage, as a sacrament, would only be performed by churches.

This would necessitate people of faith to have it done twice, once by the Church and once by the state, but it would offer more protections to churches that refuse to be involved in gay marriage.

I have often thought that this might be the way things end up going.

My concern though is that we might end up with a situation like the one in Mexico, where you have lots of couples with marriage licenses who are living together, maybe even have children, but are “saving up” for the “big Church wedding” that may never come. Americans seem to have a perception that “Church weddings” are grand affairs already (though I know many of us CAFers know that they don’t have to be at all. ;))

I would also wonder what the responsibility of individual American citizens would be in this case - to forego the state benefits of marriage altogether, or to go ahead and do the two ceremonies? This places a lot of burden on the couple.

I think there is also a downside to this. People are lazy and if they have to do something twice, they may just opt to get married by the State only, since they will be under the impression that is the one that matters.

Also, people may think church marriage might be an optional ceremony or they may see the church ceremony as not as important because it doesnt have any affect or say in the “real world.”

In my state, the JOTP “ceremony” is little more than the couple signing the license before a hired witness. In a Church wedding, the priest is the witness. I don’t think it is beneficial for people who are actually married to not be married by the state as well. There are more complications than not getting a tax rebate, which isn’t significant anyway. If it comes to a point where the Church has to forgo tax breaks in order to refuse to “marry” those who are not eligible for marriage, then that’s what has to be.

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In a sweeping historic decision released on June 26, the US Supreme Court has ruled that the Fourteenth amendment to the US Constitution requires all states to grant legal recognition to …


Title slightly altered for non-Catholic Christian response.

How is this different than the US? People are already living together without getting married. There are several countries that already require two separate marriages, not just Mexico. Many couples in Mexico marry in the church and not civilly (such as my inlaws) just as other couples marry civilly and not in the church. And then others just live together without any marriage just as couples in the US and many other countries are doing now anyway. I have always thought it should be two separate things. Separation of church and state affects everything in the US except marriage and it was a bomb waiting to explode. Now is the time to step out of the wedding business and stick with the sacraments.

I agree. Your idea is the only way for church’s to disassociate themselves from the mess that has now been created. That and states can now refuse to issue marriage licenses altogether. That has only been a money maker anyway and I am sure then can get revenue somewhere else.

The gay radicals wanted this to happen so they would be considered “normal”, well I am sure that there are other creative legal ways that this madness can be combatted.

A couple of thoughts…

  1. State recognition of marriage (in the US anyway) affords certain legal protections that a Church can’t provide. Church can’t enforce alimony payments if one spouse decides to call it quits.

  2. If Churches were to opt out of civil marriages would they still view those married only civilly as married?

The legalities of a state marriage is one of the foundations of the arguments for same sex marriages. Religious communities can perform sacramental weddings, but if the couple is not registered by the state, there are no legal protections. Taxes, health care, ‘next of kin’ decisions, benefits… the list is endless. You might be married in the eyes of the church, but that is all. Children would belong to the mother and not the father. Think about what you are proposing.

“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring… covenant between baptized persons raised by Christ The Lord to the dignity of a Sacrament.” From Article 7 The Sacrament of Matrimony
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Let’s put our focus onto creating and supporting good Catholic marriages

Why would children only belong to the mother? Both names would still be on the birth certificate.

Beyond that, Couples married in the Church could still seek the civil union if they so chose, for the tax and other benefits.

One thing I think Christians should demand as citizens is that the state in which they reside cease to recognize marriage at all, and simply have civil unions available for adult couples who want them.


Jon, you ask a good question, and even tho I am not an attorney, I do know that biological parents are not always considered legal parents. If the mother and father are not married in the eyes of the state, they lose many rights. You would have to go through a legal process to establish paternity and then to assume legal rights to protect and care for the child. If the couple are married in the eyes of the state, all of this is automatically protected.

I believe the reason the state originally got involved in the marriage issue was to protect women and children. At one time the husband could just abandon his family and the wife and children were left in the streets. I’m not sure how far this dates back, but I’m pretty sure that was the reason.


I’m enjoying all the feedback, FYI. :o

Regarding this, I wonder if the State would still enforce this if such a case went to court. For example, if the State considered a certain contract entered by two parties, the State would have to rule on the matter based on the terms of the contract in which the two parties engaged. Thus, if the two parties entered a religious marriage specifically, the court could rule that one of the parties violated that contract and thus enforce alimony based on citizenship. On the other hand, is it possible a court would refuse such a case ? Is there a precedent for that?

  1. If Churches were to opt out of civil marriages would they still view those married only civilly as married?

The Catholic Church would view civil marriages as valid if those marriages were determined to be what the Church considers a marriage. Obviously, the Church considers a gay “marriage” fictional, so those would not be recognized. See more at answering this question.

The only problem with these is the fact that marriage as being argued by the Supreme Court is not an invention of the Catholic Church. It is recognized and practiced as a sacrament in the Church, but it did not invent the institution of marriage itself. Nor was authority to preside over weddings or officiate at them a direct command from heaven or Scripture.

Marriage predates Christianity, and though recognizing the bringing of Adam and Eve together as the first “marriage,” even Judaism recognizes that the institution was a development of misogyny of ancient cultures.

*A Brief History of Marriage *from states:

Most scholars agree that “marriages” originally constituted a man’s “reserving” a particular woman or women as his property. This was accomplished simply by bringing a woman into his tent or cave (or palace) and having sexual relations with her. As such, it was referred to as “taking a wife.” By the time of the Bible, however, the Jewish people had already begun to invest the man/woman relationship with far more than sexual significance.

Outside of Jewish culture, marriages were a secular affair. As societies grew, secular laws and secular authorities governed and defined marriage. In contrast there are no wedding ceremonies or directives found in the Torah and no structure to this arrangement in the rest of Hebrew Scripture.

Christianity also has a set of inspired Scriptures that do not demand or authorize the Church or her ministers to officiate at a marriage. in an article entitled What is the history of marriage? noted:

Attempting to find a role for marriage that did not conflict with their communitarian ideals, some early Christian writers suggested that marriage “has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament” because Jesus performed his first public miracle at a wedding.

But the account of the Wedding of Cana found in John chapter 2 offers no instruction on how to perform a wedding, no authorization by Jesus to engage in a ceremony or officiate at one, and no theological details that explain how matrimony has a sacramental nature.

In the first century it was the governing powers of Rome that were the authorities which demanded registration of marriage. When Rome fell, the Church being the only structure left to exercise authority began to be officiate and register the unions. It was only afterwards, in the fifth-century, that the Church declared marriage a sacrament at the Council of Florence. By then the Roman Catholic Church had become the world power over secular powers, Herself crowning kings and queens, replacing the secular Roman power that crumbled before it. While Catholicism recognizes Providence as the author of the Church becoming the “author” of the definition of matrimony, this is only because there were no other powers at the time that could claim authority over the lives of what eventually became European Christendom. But still the Church was never the inventor of the institutional arrangement itself.

As such the sacrament of Matrimony isn’t the same thing as a marriage as recognized by the state. It never has been. Marriage as practiced by Catholics is something different than marriage as recognized by states.

What would help the Church’s arguments against the current ruling on same-sex marriage is a clear and demonstrable logic to its arguments. For instance:

Instead of claiming that same-sex marriage is a tragedy and against God’s purpose, we as Catholics must demonstrate how this is so.
What is the evidence from same-sex couplings up to now?
How do they validate the Catholic position?
What is the Scriptural and Apostolic Tradition’s evidence that gives the Church its reason for its stand, current and future positions on her defining marriage?

Questions will have to be answered to prove that the Church did not merely “inherit” officiating at marriages merely due to the collapse of Western society. She will have to show how this is inarguably the decision of Heaven and that unlike situations in the past (where the Church has found itself on the wrong side of history, such as in the persecution of the Waldensians, the Spanish Inquisition, failure of some bishops to report and correct child predators, etc. and is now making public reparation for) that She is in no way ever going to be found on the wrong side of history again by taking this stand.

We as Catholics cannot fail on this. Whatever stand we take we shall either know and claim for certain that we take it with the guidance of the Holy Spirit or we will end up having to apologize again to the world for blinding ourselves, claiming we believed we were doing God’s will at the time but now know we aren’t.

I for one am tired of belonging to a Church where we and our popes are having to apologize for how wrong we were in the past for our failure to act, our persecution, our wrong views, etc. We are the Church who burned our own St. Joan of Arc at the stake. We need more than opinion this time around.

Yes, marriage started with Adam and Eve. It’s a big part of JP2’s Theology of the Body. A lot of the questions you posit are answered there, or in such encyclicals as Arcanum and Humana Vitae, or by apologists such as Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse or Jimmy Akin, or frequently on radio shows like Catholic Answers, Sheila Liaugminas, Teresa Tomeo, Al Kresta, et al. Catholic sources and rationale for Marriage are in no shortage, and the reasoning is quite sound and powerful. It is simply ignored.

But the crux of this discussion is that the Church has a particular understanding of marriage at present, which is contradictory to that which the State labels. The State’s new definition is even alien to that marriage founded in the natural law from the Beginning. So the question is, what are the pros and cons for dissociating with the State’s dogma on this matter.

Isn’t this the way it works in Europe?

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