Church of England disses marriage proposals

Tobias Stanislas Haller, on his blog In a Godward Direction, writes on the position expressed by the Church of England in this week's released statement:

The Church of England has issued a statement in response to the British Government proposal to recognize same-sex marriage. The document is a particularly disappointing rehash of the same defective anthropology and circular reasoning to which we have become accustomed on this issue. For example, the paper asserts:

Such a move would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history. Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation.

The authors hammer away on the alleged "complementarity" of the sexes as a necessary component of marriage without apparently recognizing either the circular nature of that argument or the dangerous tendency towards Christological heresy inherent in its anthropology. The circular nature of the argument is: “Marriage can only take place between a man and a woman because only a man and a woman are of different sexes.” This is, of course, merely restating the premise. The more dangerous, and heretical, trend of this argument lies in the suggestion that the sex difference implies a different order of being for men and women. This is known as sexism, and it undercuts the orthodox doctrine of the incarnation. One would think the church might be more sensitive to that issue, though one wonders how many English bishops actually believe the doctrine.

The other problem, of course, lies in the mistaken assertion(s) of intrinsic universality -- if, even, universality of something means it is either necessary or good. However, in this short paragraph alone there are several imputations of universality that do not bear up. Polygamous, polyandrous, and group marriages have existed in various cultures down through history, so the assertion of an intrinsic natural monogamy will not stand. The utilitarian approach — asserting some social benefit on the basis of the complementarity of the sexes — also will not stand. Even if there were a real complementarity to the sexes, it is not evident how that in itself benefits society. To take the more obvious reality of procreation, surely that is a mixed benefit to society, as an excess of it can have negative consequences on a society. Nor is procreation intrinsically connected with marriage, but rather with biology. Procreation outside of marriage, and marriage without progeny both exist as relatively common realities. There is no intrinsic connection. The paper is trying to argue that their “should” derives from an “is” — and the “is” is not true in this case. The real assertion here is that it is best that procreation take place within marriage. That is, at least, and arguable point, but it has no bearing on the question of same-sex marriage, any more than it has on an infertile marriage. But procreation it itself is not a virtue, even if procreation within marriage is. Mutuality and fidelity, the other cognizable virtues, are at least recognizable as such, but are also shared by all good marriages, same- and mixed-sex. Arguing from universals that are not universal makes little sense: look instead for virtue where it actually exists.

The paper also includes this statement:

We also believe that imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise.

Well, my position is that imposing for essentially ideological reasons an old meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise.

There is an old saying that one who marries the spirit of the age will soon be a widower. The fact that the Church of England was wed to the spirit of a past age, and is now a widower to it, is becoming apparent. Age is no certification of rightness or goodness. Theses must be tested by their consistency with reality, not on the basis of an ideology that can find no better argument than the continued hammering on the same self-ratifying premise.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
h/t Thinking Anglican

Comments (3)

Marriage as we understand it today is in itself an innovation. Marriage from biblical times to at least the 19th century has been a matter of property - women as property, marriage as securing and/or transferring property, children as property, for securing property. Of course, as I read this document, it is obvious to me, if not the writers themselves, that this is the very position from which they have written.

Wow. Throughout history, huh? Must be hard to explain Lamech, Jacob, Esau, Abraham, Gideon, Rehoboam... Just to name a few.

Note to CoE: You did a wonderful job of including almost every passage and phrase from the Bigot’s Official Bag of Tricks, but you missed one. Just add, “I don’t hate [fill in the blank]. Why, some of my best friends are [fill in the blank].”

Eric Bonetti

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