Traditional marriage?


There is always a lot of talk of traditional marriage and what that is. Generally it is described as one man one woman. But is this really traditional or a fairly recent development in human history? In the past, very distant past men had multiple wives and even many mistresses. I believe in the bible this is referenced several times at least. Even now in some cultures men are allowed to have more than one wife and even in cultures where this isn’t the case adultery by one or both spouses is quite common. In many so called traditional marriages there is much abuse of women and children making dysfunction the norm. So what really is a traditional marriage? Do we really believe one man one woman is traditional when in the long history of the human race it probably has only been a short time that this is considered the norm? And do norms change?


Jesus taught us what “traditional marriage” is.
Read Matthew 19.


You mean verse 29 where He seems to indicate that leaving one’s wife and children is the highest ideal for achieving eternal life?


Marriage was more about joining families together in times past. No state or church involvement. Love didn’t come into it. Multiple wives were common (and still are accepted in many societies). Dowries were common (and are still common – I had to pay one). Infidelity was no big deal as far as the men were concerned and the concept of marital rape would have had a lot of men scratching their heads in bemusement. It certainly wasn’t what you might call an equal partnership.

We would all consider marriage to be the most horrendous of institutions over many centuries. Yet we all survived it. But the funny thing is, after aeons of all this, now that we have a few same sex marriages, the world is going to come to an end. You gotta larf…


The issue of whether heterosexual monogamy has been the “norm” for marriage, in terms of prevalence, is not quite as pressing as the issue of what is true marriage, period.

The Lord Jesus has already decreed what is acceptable based on undying principles of nature, “from the beginning”:

Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:3-9, NABRE)

The Lord addresses both polygamy and divorce/infidelity in this passage: a single man and a single woman come together to form one flesh. In this, he establishes that the guiding principle of true marriage is what was established by God in the natural order, not by any humans’ distortion of it, no matter how prevalent or normalized the distortion may become, whether it be divorce or polygamy or whatever.

You said: “In many so called traditional marriages there is much abuse of women and children making dysfunction the norm.” This is very odd conjecture. Statistics, please? Evidence? When has the Church ever tolerated such behavior of men against their wives and children?

I argue, rather, that at the heart of Christian marriage is mutual respect and mutual dignity:

Likewise, you husbands should live with your wives in understanding, showing honor to the weaker female sex, since we are joint heirs of the gift of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7, NABRE)

Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them …] Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged. (Colossians 3:19 & 21, NABRE)

Indeed, St. Paul provides the best imagery of this Christian call in Ephesians:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church. In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:25-33, NABRE)


Well, verse 29 says:

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first. (Matthew 19:29-30, NABRE)

Now, let’s walk through this: Jesus admonishes fidelity to one’s spouse, but then he flat-out contradicts himself by saying also that leaving one’s family (to which one had previously chosen to cling) is virtuous? Not likely.

Our Lord speaks, instead, of renouncing what is good for the sake of a higher good. When the Lord speaks of those who have “given up …] children,” he obviously means that they have chosen not to have children in the first place and, therefore, not to marry in the first place.


It is a secondary dictate of the natural law to have one wife only. (It is never permissible for a woman to have many husbands… You ALWAYS know who the mother is, but not so with the father.) This is similar to how it is “wrong to steal,” yet when there comes a certain urgent necessity, the secondary precepts of the natural law are lawfully cast aside and one can make use of creation as he needs - which is lawful since all things are ultimately the property of God and are loaned to us for our use, or something to this effect (“universal destination of goods”).

Here’s the Summa on the topic, though it is far lengthier and complex than most sections, since it is in the supplement and therefore was not directly written by Thomas:


Mrs. Peter might have a different take on the matter… though it’s true we aren’t sure about it from Scripture, is it too big of a leap to say that Peter left her with sufficient means and then went off following the Lord and eventually travelling to Antioch, Rome, etc.? Did he bring her with him? His children? I do seem to remember reading that one of his daughters had joined him in Rome or something, and that she is a saint…

Just a thought.


“Obviously” is a very dangerous word. The Twelve didn’t choose not to marry in the first place.


Gavin_…Statistics and hard evidence I don’t have. Only that I believe from what I’ve observed over the years that there is dysfunction sometimes major dysfunction in many of the traditional families that I’m familiar with. It seems to be a vicious circle through the generations. Therefore I don’t really see the up side of espousing one man one woman only in marriage. By the same token I in no way would be able to have more than one wife.
Also I don’t believe I wrote that the church tolerated the situations of abuse towards wives and children. I don’t believe I mentioned and certainly did not mean to imply any such thing. My apologies if it came across that way. The populous or culture on the other hand in my view has a distinct habit of looking the other way in many circumstances.
Bradski, Thank you for your input. This is in a sense is what I’m so ineptly trying to say.


Interesting that you quote a translation that arbitrarily changes “left” to “given up,” and omits “wife”. Does Jesus also obviously mean that it is a higher good to choose not to have siblings or parents in the first place either?


There would be no “vicious circle” in the first place if man and woman did not come together.

You’ve observed “dysfunction in many …] traditional families”? Well, I’ve observed a lot of function and fruitfulness. Where there is an opportunity for good, there is also an opportunity for evil.


I apologize. I was working off of an explanation someone had given me in the past. I didn’t really look into the matter, so that’s my bad.


This potted history demonstrates that “Traditional” is s poor qualifier to capture the intended meaning.

…But the funny thing is, after aeons of all this, now that we have a few same sex marriages, the world is going to come to an end. You gotta larf…

Actually, not too many who think SSM is a mistake express that view.


You can point to all the shortcomings of human beings in any number of endeavors.
Brain surgeons drink and do drugs and make mistakes in the operating room. Doesn’t change the skill required of the doctor or the necessity of the skill.
Teachers hit students. Doesn’t change the nature of teaching or their necessity.
Presidents have sex with interns. Doesn’t change the nature of the office or the call for the president to be a good president.

Marriage is a word that has been used to express an existential reality. The word itself doesn’t prove the sanctity or virtue of it’s participants. Right? Some really neglectful and cruel people try and raise children.
But the underlying reality is this:

For human beings to be, the union of a man and woman is required. Humans are not hatched out of some a-sexual process, right?
For human beings to flourish, stable families are a requirement. You can point to the odd and welcome case where a non-traditional situation flourishes, but by and large, families are designed to do what is natural.
It is up to us to embrace and perfect that, or to neglect it and live according to our former worst practices and aberrant desires.


This is an excellent and well-stated explanation, up until the end. Yes, we should certainly embrace and perfect what is natural, but as true as these things are, God’s grace is even MORE true. Grace is the even more underlying reality that supports the underlying realities that you list. It is only by grace that the odd non-traditional situation flourishes, and it’s interesting how it occurs even in the lives of people who are not even close to being “faithful”. To me, that points to a reality that God’s love and mercy are so profoundly beyond our understanding, and that Jesus’ parables really are true. God’s love works in everyone’s lives, no matter how far away on the the spectrum they are from “natural.” If that were the basis of our evangelization, as opposed to incessantly banging the “natural” drum, who knows how many would be captivated and converted by finding out who God really is?


Nature is from God’s grace. Everything that exists is from God’s grace. Nature comes from God’s benevolence and providence. To act contrary to nature is working to put yourself outside grace.
Grace is not something God forces us into unilaterally outside our will. We cannot disregard or abuse the nature of things and expect cheap grace to overflow our aprons.
We choose to cooperate with grace by accepting and respecting those things (nature) he has graced us with.

This is why we should respect the environment, feed the hungry, eat properly and not abuse drugs.
Disrespecting nature is not cooperating with God’s grace.


The sun warms me whether I will it or not. God forces it on me, if that’s the word you want to use. Yes, nature is from His grace, but grace goes beyond nature. If we overeat, or use drugs, or engage in unnatural sex, we don’t instantly die as we might deserve. Nature can withstand our unnatural choices. Not forever, obviously, but the fact that we survive these unnatural things reveals something far more interesting about who God is. He is more hung up on His love for us than he is hung up on our unnatural disobedient choices. We should be proclaiming this fact much more loudly than the basic building blocks of nature.


You’re not understanding the argument. Ok
Yes God is love. God created nature out of his love. :shrug:

Yes, the sun warms you. Lay on the equatorial beach for two days straight without sunblock and tell us how grace-filled you feel. :eek:

If you disregard the nature God creates, which flows from his own, you are tempting God, and that is not a free conduit for the reception of grace.
You would be presuming God’s grace. Presumption.

Given your ideas here, anything that violates the natural order of things is allowed because God’s grace will violate your free will and save you against your own choices.

Take a second and think of the implications of that.
Ignore the bloated stomachs of the hungry, God’s grace loves you and it will be ok. NOT.


You’re not understanding my point in the slightest.

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