Well, our feminist is on the rant again I see. You don’t want to take her too seriously, she gets a bit carried away at times. However, she does make you think about some of the issues around marriage. There are so many ways of looking at it and I was going to take a different angle on this but I was watching the news the other night and they reported a story about Fr. Brian D’Arcy being censured by the Vatican for expressing some views in support of marriage for priests, or against celibacy, if you prefer to look at it that way. Fr Brian is well-known in Ireland and writes a column in a newspaper, the Sunday World, and he sometimes does a stint in the ‘spiritual’ section, on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2.
As someone who was brought up Catholic, I’d like to throw out a few ideas around the issue, and would be interested in what other people think. I have been watching the BBC 2 series, Divine Women, and have found it interesting how the early Christian Church operated, compared with all the patriarchal rules and regulations that have been imposed upon it since.
So consider this, within the Catholic Church, when a man or woman wants to become a priest or a nun, they have to go through years of study to prepare themselves before they are allowed to make that lifetime commitment and, in effect, when they do, they become married to God. Now, on the other hand, any gombeen with a notion to, can give 3-6 months notice, do a pre-marriage course or not ( I don’t think they are compulsory) and then get married.
Within the Catholic Church, there is no divorce and there is certainly no re-marrying in the Church if you have been divorced. Now just for arguments sake, lets concentrate on the nun’s perspective on this. A nun wears a wedding ring and is considered a bride of Christ. She can leave the Church, which many have done, and she can then get married in Church. Why is that allowed? She is able to divorce herself from God and re-marry in Church, even though she went through all those years of training in preparation for her marriage to God or taking Holy Orders, as it is called.
But an ordinary woman or man cannot do the same, even though they may have had little or no preparation at all before marriage. Is there a double standard operating here? Is marriage to God, not as important as marriage to another human being? Holy orders and marriage are considered sacraments in the eyes of the Church, how is it possible within the law of the Church to be able to marry God, then leave him/her or it, and then marry a person in the Church?
And there’s another thing, if any of you have watched the Big Fat Gypsy Wedding series on Channel 4, I wonder if you think like me that there is something immoral about allowing sixteen year olds to marry. What does anyone know about anything at sixteen, not to mention the realities and responsibilities of a marital relationship?
What is marriage supposed to be about? What is it’s purpose? We were taught at school, a Convent Grammar, that the purpose of marriage is to have children. So, if you can’t have children are you entitled to get an annulment? Or if you know beforehand that you can’t have children, should you be denied the right to marry?
I’m just asking these questions because I’ve actually come to believe that there is something unnatural about the whole situation or maybe it’s more about the whole approach to marriage.
I’ve been on this whole spiritual journey for many years now (I may have mentioned it in one or two other posts) and the more I look at these things the less sense they seem to make. Among my friends, there has recently been a plethora (great word that by the way, I remember it from The Three Amigos, if I recall correctly!) a plethora of relationship break-ups, and all the break ups were instigated by the females, funnily enough. Some of the couples were married, some not, but all involved children.
A few months back there was a great story in the Observer newspaper about a woman who was approaching her forties, she wasn’t in a relationship but wanted to be a mother. If you know the story you can skip ahead but if you don’t, read on, because it’s really interesting. What she did was, she advertised for a man who wanted to be a father because she wanted the child to have parents who were both interested in being parents. She wasn’t having much luck, as most of the men she interviewed shared different ideas about parenting. Then a friend recommended a gay man who they knew also wanted to be a father. They got together, had shared ideas about parenting and so they decided to go ahead and have the child. And this is where it gets really interesting…he fell in love with her, even though he had lived his whole life as a gay man and had never had a romantic relationship with a woman. They are now very happily married and the child is about two years old.
Isn’t that a fascinating story??
So maybe the conversation we should be having before marriage is not what colour the bridesmaids should wear, or who to invite, but how to bring up the children? Because the pre-nuptial agreement, which is very popular among the rich to protect their assets, is something that could be brought in and extended to cover not just the monetary assets but every aspect of the marital relationship from childcare to housework and, in case there is a breakdown, living arrangements, finances, and contact arrangements for the children. People think about their monetary assets but give no consideration at all to what will surely be their greatest asset, their children!!
We jump into these situations assuming everything will work itself out in time and the real issues are seldom addressed before the wedding, then it’s too late afterwards and when I look around me, I honestly don’t see very many genuinely happy marriages. That is not to say that marriage can’t work and there aren’t good marriages out there but I don’t believe the preparation is anywhere near adequate for the task ahead and I really believe that parenting is something that should be taught in schools.
I also think that no girl should be allowed to marry under the age of twenty-five, and I would make that twenty-nine for a man. I know people have got married at younger ages and stayed together but I really believe that it needs much more thought and preparation than it is currently given and, I think with a few changes, we might have better marriages and fewer divorces.