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Do we need to set aside the Word "Marriage" and use "Holy Matrimony" exclusively?

June 27, 2013 196 Comments

062713In the wake of the supreme court decisions of this week, I would like to return to a question I have Asked before: Are we coming to a point where we should consider dropping our use of the word “marriage?”

It is a simple fact that word “marriage” as we have traditionally known it is being redefined in our times. To many in the secular world the word no longer means what it once did and when the Church uses the word marriage we clearly do not mean what the increasing number of states mean.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines “Marriage” (i.e. Holy Matrimony)  in the following way:

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; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament (CCC # 1601)

The latest actions by numerous states and the hat-tip that the Supremes gave Same sex unions mean that increasingly, the secular world’s definition of marriage no longer even remotely resembles what the Catechism describes.

To be fair, as we have previously noted, this is not the first redefinition of marriage that has occurred in America. The redefinition has actually come in three stages:

  1. In 1969 the first no-fault divorce law was signed in California. Within 15 years every state in this land had similar laws that made divorce easy. No longer did state laws uphold the principle which the Catechism describes as a partnership of the whole of life. Now marriage was redefined as a contract easily broken by the will of the spouses.
  2. The dramatic rise in contraceptive use and the steep drop in birthrates, though not a legal redefinition, amount to a kind of cultural redefinition of marriage as described in the Catechism which sees the procreation and education of offspring as integral to its very nature. Now the American culture saw this aspect as optional at the will of the spouses. Having sown in the wind (where we redefined not only marriage, but sex itself) we are now reaping the whirlwind of deep sexual confusion and a defining of marriage right out of existence.
  3. This final blow of legally recognizing so called gay “marriage” completes the redefinition of marriage which the Catechism describes as being a covenant, …which a man and a woman establish between themselves. Now secular American culture is removing even this, calling same-sex relationships “marriage”.

Proposal: So the bottom line is that what the secular world means by the word “marriage” is not even close to what the Church means. The secular world excluded every aspect of what the Church means by marriage. Is it time for us to accept this and start using a different word? Perhaps it is, and I would like to propose what I did back in March of 2010, that we return to an older term and hear what you think.

I propose that we should exclusively refer to marriage in the Church as “Holy Matrimony.”

According to this proposal the word marriage would be set aside and replaced by Holy Matrimony. It should be noticed that the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to this Sacrament formally as “The Sacrament of Matrimony.”

The word “matrimony” also emphasizes two aspects of marriage: procreation and heterosexual complementarity. The word comes from Latin and old French roots. Matri = “mother” and mony, a suffix indicating “action, state, or condition.” Hence Holy Matrimony refers to that that holy Sacrament wherein a woman enters the state that inaugurates an openness to motherhood. Hence the Biblical and Ecclesial definition of Holy Matrimony as heterosexual and procreative is reaffirmed by the term itself. Calling it HOLY Matrimony distinguishes it from secular muddle that has “marriage” for its nomen.

Problems to resolve – To return to this phrase “Holy Matrimony” is to return to an older tradition and may sound archaic to some (but at least it isn’t as awkward sounding as “wedlock”). But clearly a new usage will be difficult to undertake. It is one thing to start officially referring to it as Holy Matrimony. (Which, by the way I have done in my parish – we no longer prepare people for marriage, but for “Holy Matrimony”) But it is harder when, for example, a newly engaged couple approaches the priest and says, “We want to be married next summer.” It seems unlikely we easily train couples to say, “We want to enter Holy Matrimony next summer.” or even just to say, “We want to have a wedding next summer.” Such dramatic changes seem unlikely to come easily. Perhaps you, who read this blog can offer some resolutions to this problem.

Perhaps, even if we cannot wholly drop the terms “marry, ” “marriage” and “married” a more modest form of the proposal is that we at least officially discontinue the use of the word marriage and refer to it as the “Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.”

What do you think? Do we need to start using a new word for marriage? Has the word been so stripped of meaning that we have to use different terminology to convey what we really mean?

When I proposed this two years ago this very time, many of you we rather unconvinced and some were even perturbed that we were handing on over our vocabulary to the libertines. That may be, but we already know that “gay” will never mean what it used to, and it would seem that  “marriage” will never again mean what it did.

A secondary but related proposal is that we begin to consider getting out of the business of having our clergy act as civil magistrates in weddings. Right now we clergy in most of America sign the civil license and act, as such, as partners with the State. But with increasing States interpreting marriage so differently, can we really say we are partners? Should we even give the impression of credibility to the State’s increasingly meaningless piece of paper? It may remain the case that the Catholic faithful, for legal and tax reasons may need to get a civil license, but why should clergy have anything to do with it?

Frankly, I am uncomfortable signing DC Marriage licenses, and do so only because my Ordinary has indicated we should continue doing this. I am happy to obey him in this and defer to his judgment in the matter. There is a reason his is the Ordinary and I am not. That said, I have told him what I think. But for now, it seems clear we must stay the course and still sign them until the Bishop says, no more.

If we did stop signing civil licenses, we would surely need a strong catechesis directed to our faithful that reiterates that civil “marriage” (what ever that means anymore) is not Holy Matrimony and that they should, in no way consider themselves as wed, due to a (meaningless) piece of paper from a secular state that reflects only confusion and darkness rather than clarity and Christian light.

Here too, what do you think? Should the Catholic Bishops disassociate Catholic clergy from civil “marriage” licenses?

Comments (196)

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  1. markomalley says:

    Pope Leo XIII was truly prescient when he published Arcanum.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment in regards to the signing of civil licenses. If I was in your position, I would feel HIGHLY uncomfortable acting as the agent of a state that has utterly perverted the very meaning of marriage. Frankly, I would not be surprised if, sooner rather than later, your public function as an agent of the District government may come back to haunt you with some sort of “public accommodation” suit.

    For those who think I might be exaggerating, I suggest that you read the rant penned by Justice Kennedy for the majority in this decision. He may as well have taken his shoe off and started beating the bench with it.

    Despite the desperation of the times, I am filled with hope.

  2. Abaraxas says:

    Were Christians ceding the issue to the government in the first place a Faustian bargain that they should now reject?
    http://www.gopbriefingroom.com/index.php/topic,105932.0.html

  3. John says:

    Father- I’m on board. Wonderful thoughts. I have been asking this question and I wondered wha you thought.

    If a two Catholics are married on the beach, mountain top or parents house and NOT in a Catholic Church by a Catholic Priest, are they “married” in God our Father’s eyes? Or are they just married in the eyes of the State? Thank you for your thoughts. This is a very important topic, so thank you for writing about it. Let’s keep the dialogue going.

    • JD says:

      John, if 2 Catholics get married outside of the Church, they are not validly married. Even if only 1 of the couple is Catholic, the marriage is not valid if outside the Church.

      • Deacon Jason says:

        I do not believe the building is not part of the correct form or matter. Think about it – if the Church was being persecuted and the sacrament had to go underground (which has occurred in the past), there would be no more valid marriages! The form is the mutual exchange of vows within the rite and the matter is the consummation of the marriage act. Just like Baptism, the rite should morally occur within the four walls of the Church. But in extreme circumstances, the rite can occur just about anywhere.

  4. Dennis Murphy says:

    I am sure others, more informed than I, will be able to suggest ways to improve upon your suggestion. I cannot. I think you have presented a clear and at least in its essence, simple means to set ourselves apart from secular marriage. I endorse both of your suggestions. Thank you.

  5. Rick says:

    Thank you Msgr. Pope.
    Your proposal seems quite to the point. It recognizes the conditions that we face as Catholics, and the cultural hostility we currently face. It also has a clarifying quality that would only help in instructing Christian faithful of what they are entering into—especially on the question of procreation as an integral element of matrimony, and by implication, the moral dimensions of sterile/contraceptive sex. It also proposes a practical or administrative solution to replace the current practices.

    Some questions might be about the risks. For example, whether there are precedents in other countries where your proposal has been put in place. Or, what if any fallout would ensue legally for Catholics who are already married, or what legal jeopardy would Catholics risk under holy matrimonial bonds conducted under this new ecclesial regime? For example, would the exercise of holy matrimony itself be considered a hate crime by Justice Anthony Kennedy and like-mined members of the Supreme Court because it seeks to exclude gay couples?

  6. Peter says:

    I think I like the disassociation with civil marriage concept and the prohibition of clerics signing licenses, Father. Problem is, as you state, the need for strong catechesis. Sadly, that is not available. In my parish we are still working on implementing the “new” translation of the mass, almost 2 years after the fact.

  7. Lauren H says:

    What would the verb form be? “I am ‘matrimonied’ to my husband” just doesn’t work so well, does it? Would we use “wedded”?

  8. Frank says:

    I think you’re on to something with clergy not acting as civil magistrates in weddings. At first I was thinking how irritating that would be due to the inconvenience but that would be exactly the point! An engaged couple would have to realize that what they were doing is different somehow than what the government (and society in general) recognizes as marriage. Brilliant idea.

  9. John C. Hodge says:

    For greatest effect, the restoration of Holy Matrimony should be done in ecumenical council with the other Orthodox and conservative churches who hold to the basic principles of the sacrament. By mutual agreement they recognize the Holy Matrimony performed by the others, yet reserve other elements for just their congregants.

    But this demands likewise that none of the parties to the agreement recognize marriage outside the bonds of Holy Matrimony, and that congregants despise the secular marriage license. While there could be a number of married couples wanting to again sanctify their Holy Matrimony, as an article of faith alone, without the secular ritual, this would be a labor of love. A purification of their sacrament.

  10. deltaflute says:

    I foresee some problems even with removing yourself as officiate for the state. Government already recognizes baptisms to prove citizenship. Would the government still recognize the Sacrament if its done within the church but outside the scope of the state? I know some countries have already divided the two meaning you have to obtain a state liscence and ceremony separate from a church one. And if the state does recognize such a ceremony could this have problems? The chuch marries younger than the usa does. Just my musings.

  11. David says:

    Very thought-provoking, thank you Father! However, there are a couple of counter-points that I thought might be worth exploring:

    It seems there are other countries where civil marriages and Holy Matrimony are separate and distinct: an old article by Dr. Ed Peters references Mexico. And he indicates that there have been “numerous negative pastoral consequences,” precisely because the state does not provide civil recognition of Holy Matrimony.

    I’d be interested to know more about those “negative pastoral consequences.” It seems like this would be important research prior to any action on the part of the Church (or her ministers).

    I also liked Dr. Peter’s comment: “it is crucial to understand that this civil recognition of marriage is granted by the state and for the state’s reasons; it in no way implies any obligation on the part of religious officials to compromise their own beliefs about marriage, divorce, or anything in between to obtain it.”

    Here’s a link to his article:
    http://www.canonlaw.info/2006/09/responding-to-immoderate-p_115916265777717009.html

  12. jb30 says:

    What if the Anglicans, or other so-called Christian presbyters decide they are going to rename their gay “marriages” Holy Matrimony? The cycle would repeat. If there were something that the Gay community thought they were excluded from, you can bet they’d rush to hijack it to ensure they impose their minority views on the majority.

  13. edraCruz says:

    Matrimonial Sacrament. As the Holy Church sees it and indeed it is a sacrament, a covenant, and truly holy because it is witnessed by a Priest and GOD HIMSELF being the third person in the wedding and in supposedly lifetime of marriage. If the couple see it this way, I do not think heterosexual marriage will fail. Unfortunately, we moderns look at it as pursuit of pleasure, er, happiness. So when we are not happy anymore, divorce.
    The problem here though, even if we go into sacramental matrimony, these people with disordered sexual orientation will again bother the Church, just as they did bothered Catholic Charities when they requested for same sex parent adoption. These people have agendas, we don’t know where they are coming from. Well, let us see their no damage claim. Definitely, the children will suffer for they will see a disordered kind of life devoid of agape love but life of lust, for what else can you call it? I cannot conceived in my mind how can a man agape love another man, for if indeed you agape love a man, you must be willing to forgo of this disordered relationship for you don’t want him to suffer and be eternally separated from GOD. It must be eros love. Miserere nobis.

  14. Marty says:

    We are in this situation now because the church as an institution has not had enough spine in the past to stand up and overpower this movement. Changing the title of the act will not solve the problem. As long as the church remains split among itself showing no will to stop this movement and stand behind God’s word, marriage as an institution will be forced out by these people. That is their ultimate goal.

    • edraCruz says:

      Excuse me. Why do we always blame the Church? We are all privy and to be blamed for every one acquiesced to a fait accompli because we did not know of the repercussion. When we accepted the sexual revolution in the 60’s, which was already being rammed down our throats by the liberals, Humanae Vitae came out, crying out in the desert. Did we concur with it? We even shrug our shoulders and said the Church lives in the past, for we were all afraid od the Malthusian theory of overpopulation. Please stop this blaming of the Church. We are all guilty. Mea maxima culpa.

      • Don says:

        edraCruz –

        You say don’t blame the Church because we are all guilty. But that sees the “Church” as just the clergy. The Church is made up of all baptized Catholics. You and I are no less members of the Church that a deacon, priest or bishop. Yes we are all guilty, which means the Church is guilty.

        The majority of Catholics are active agents of the Culture of Death. We have all seen the stats: most Catholics openly reject the Church’s teaching on marriage; most Catholics openly reject the Church’s teaching on abortion; most Catholics openly reject the Church’s teaching on contraception. Even worse, the vast majority of Catholics don’t even acknowledge that they are obligated to go to Mass every Sunday, let alone on Holy Days.

        And the Church (meaning all of us, not just the clergy) have pretty much let them get away with it. Things have been permitted to get so bad that “laying down the law” now would, no doubt, result in a massive backlash – a media firestorm, far emptier pews, and far emptier coffers. If we gave an “in or out” ultimatum to every Catholic in America, I fear the “official” Catholic population of our country would instantly drop from 70 million to 25 million. Maybe that’s exactly what we need – to stop letting Catholics (particularly public figures) make a mockery of our faith. I feel at some point we have to say “enough is enough” and draw a line in the sand. You’re either with us or you’re against us. Someone, somehwere, once said that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

        What to do?

      • Victor says:

        @edracruz, I do not read Marty’s post as “blame”. It is important to recognize our failings before we correct them just as the Spiritual Exercises make us focus on our sins in order to correct them. There is no question that the Catholic Church in the US (clergy and us) is philosophically disunited and inconsistent and has not shown the steadfastness required to battle with conviction and love those that would destroy it. The Church has been infiltrated; even the Vatican admits so. Time for each of us to stand up. There should be no cowards in the Catholic Church.

  15. Patricia says:

    Not only is this a good idea, it is neccesary for these confused times. It will be good to draw the line , and make the distinction a very clear one. I think it best it be done sooner than later, the public discourse is ongoing but goes nowhere because we are talking about two different things. The fact remains that children in society at large will be more at risk than ever, because the state has abandoned their right to both parents. It is conceded that the state removed this with no fault divorce, and the trivialization of marriage , and abandonment of chastity and self -sacrifice in our relationships.

  16. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    I believe you could awaken the sleeping giant. The Church should, as the progressive relativists are quick to emphasize, draw a clear distinction of the separation of Church and state. Freedom of religion is a right protected under the constitution and it’s time the Church stop kidding itself. Stop acting like the sanhedrim trying to lobby for political favors. Walk in the ways of Christ making those distinctions the halmark of our place in the world and in society for the preservation of Christian morality and the natural order of creation. It’s time to put away the Buddy Christ and preach the distinctions between the secularist special interest movements and the objectives of Christ’s teachings and the Church’s motives before we go the way of the passenger pigeon. Don’t be concerned about making friends or enemies, make converts. [” If the new social order can condone abortions to control populations due to unwanted pregancy, why not resolve the problem by exterminating the propagating partners? It’s economically sound. We do it to control the dog and cat populations. Life has become a cheap commodity where homosexual unions are more appealling than heterosexuality. Bye the way, have you heard what the Catholic Church believes? Maybe the Catholic Church has a better idea.”]

  17. Barbara says:

    I whole-heartedly agree. Civil marriage and holy matrimony are not the same thing. Ceasing to have our priests act as agents of the state in conferring civil marriage may be the only way to forestall lawsuits against the Church to “marry” same sex couples. We basically need to get out of the marriage business and provide catechesis on holy matrimony.

    • Jackie says:

      I think that the idea of specifying that a marriage ceremony in a Catholic Church is the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a great idea! It is an excellent solution to the current problem. It is my impression that, in many Spanish-speaking countries, the civil ceremony is completely separate from the religious ceremony.

  18. Betsy says:

    Obviously it was a mistake to have one of our holy sacraments partnered with the State to begin with. If divorce is ever acceptable, this would be it.

    • Nathan says:

      I wouldn’t say it was a mistake to begin with. Remember, it worked very well for a good 17 centuries! The State has a vested interest in promoting marriage, i.e. traditional marriage or matrimony, which is why the State “partnered” here in the first place. Should we divorce the two now? Probably. But that doesn’t necessarily imply it was a mistake in the first place or that we shouldn’t work for a day when we can re-partner with the State if we can reconvert society to Christ and the true view of marriage.

  19. Dick Schenk says:

    I totally agree that the Catholic Church in the United States should move away from the “marriage” term. “Holy Matrimony” is excellent. Perhaps a somewhat awkward term that works is “Sacrament of Catholic Love”. Sure this may seem strange for young couples wanting to be married, but hopefully that is only a temporary feeling as it is explained to them the marked difference between the Sacrament and what our American culture now means by the very diluted term of “marriage”.

    Absolutely stop signing civil licenses!!!

    Hopefully your ideas catch fire among the Catholic faithful and more importantly among the United States Catholic bishops.

  20. WD615 says:

    I think it’s a bad idea. There is the whole issue of just ceding words to people who try and redefine them. And marriage holds a lot more meaning than the word gay does. Not to mention that the word religion and Christian, and heck the word church itself, are highly misused, increasingly by evangelicals even but no one is calling for a redefinition nor should they. When Chrisitanity arose and the Romans, or Greeks, or Saxons or whoever had a misconception about marriage or some other thing the job was, and is, to clear up the misconception.

    I also have the fear that separating the terms will lead to people thinking Catholics don’t get married. But most non-Catholics won’t be thinking of the new re-definition.

    And what problems could arise from jumping on the newly engaged couple and telling them they can’t get “married?” Or that they won’t enter into a “marriage?” What about people who are stubborn and refuse to abandon the old term? I can just imagine the overly zealous churchgoed saying that the person who’s getting “married” instead of “matrimonied” is going against the Church.

    All of our problems won’t be solved by simply abandoning old words and picking new ones. Our duty is to teach the right conception and definition of marriage and that might even be made harder by dropping the word “marriage.”

  21. Chuck Lentine (AKA GOD'S Cowboy) says:

    I get the Catholic point of view on this one BUT Catholics CAN’T win this war on their own. They won’t even win it with the help of all the Christians. The only way to win this war is via UNITY. Catholics have to work together with GOD fearing people of all religions. Jews and Muslims also live by the teachings of Moses. So they too are going to be against teaching their children that same sex relationships are normal and thus approved by GOD.

    We need to start calling straight marriages RELIGIOUS MARRIAGES or MARRIAGES BLESSED by GOD. and other relationships could be called NON-RELIGIOUS MARRIAGES or MARRIAGES APPROVED by the STATE.

    Chuck Lentine
    (AKA GOD’S Cowboy)

  22. GaryM says:

    It is increasingly clear that, in time, the Church and it’s Bible will be directly attached for being Homophobic. The government decides what a hate crime is, not the Church. Clearly, the Supreme Court DOMA ruling, among other laws and rulings, sets this up for direct testing. So Monsignor, I support you in your efforts and love your Holy Matrimony idea, but we are entering a very dark period where all our beliefs will be challenged. As our tradition of religious persecution has taught us, it always comes down to our interior belief in God and how committed we are to stand with Him.

    In a way, we have been asleep while the soldiers approached with Judas for the final kiss of betrayal. In a way, think of it as the Passion of His Church. If there ever was a time to drag out our dusty novenas, Benediction and adoration, fasting, Rosaries, Stations of the Cross, Eucharist processions through the streets, holy hours, expanded Mass schedules, daily prayers, spiritual consecrations, Miraculous Metals and Brown Scapula’s etc., this is it! After all, it is our faith where we find the tools to defend His Church.

    Interesting muse:

    Per Catholic teaching, does anyone know what are the four sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance? Do you have any idea what is the vengeance identified for each of these sins? Enjoy.

  23. Donna L. says:

    Thank you, Monsignor, as always for giving us the tools to intelligently discuss this issue with non-believers.

    Since reading the article last night, I have been thinking of how I can immediately make the distinction between holy unions and unholy unions when speaking to others… not so easy!! For example, “They’ve enjoyed a long holy matrimony.”

    No doubt, God will provide His children with a term to make this necessary distinction. I think, for now, I will simply say, “They have enjoyed a long CHRISTIAN marriage.” And I will stress the word “Christian”.

  24. Justin says:

    I am Orthodox Christian, and I fully support your effort to revert back to the Holy Matrimony definition for 2 reasons:

    1) Homosexuals have succeeded in hijacking the word marriage for themselves so now they can use that ownership to launch further legal attacks against Christians. By doing so the word “marriage” no loger correctly describes what the church does.

    2) The church needs new legal framework to defend itself from the future persecution that will be soon launched by the homosexiual and other anti-Christian organizations. By calling it a holy matrimony, the Church will reduce the impact of the persecution because it could claim that it is not performing “marriage” and is not in such business.

    As for the re-learning curve of the faithfull, it is not a big deal because over time they will embrace the teachings of the Holy Church.

    best of Luck

  25. Steve M says:

    This suggestion is essential I believe. The society will not stop at this point. A generally concept right now is that somehow we shoudl not be allowed to make decisions in the larger society based on our Faith. We need to act quickly to protect the Sacrements from this on going attack. It is truly sad but if we do not act to create a greater separation between Church and state, the government will move to take over. The Sumpreme Court can clearly only be counted on to support the society. The liberal majority of the Court is not in dange of losing their votes. It is more likely that we will lose the limited voice of the conservative members. It is incredibly sad but “in the world not of the world” is the only answer. Protect Holy Matrimony and render unto Caesar civil marriage and then pray for the country.

  26. CN says:

    Ok, let’s go yet another step forward. In Canon Law, we recognize the marriages of non-Catholics as valid in natural law, that is, that they are indissoluble and transmit benefits through its nature. Certain natural marriages can be dissolved by the authority of the Church in favor of the faith. Might it be reasonable to really tighten up the integrity of “Matrimony” by having a two-tiered system. Mere marriage (man and woman) can be allowed, but Matrimony preferred. Marriage can be broken in favor of Matrimony, and Matrimony be subjected to intense vocational discernment and severe scrutiny disallowing most annulments before celebrated?

  27. Brendan Foley says:

    No, we should not give up the word just because it is twisted by others. We should speak of it in the sense increasingly alien to all others all the more.

    Does this mean we create problems with communication? That’s fine, we can settle that by defining our terms beforehand like in any discussion of serious matters in conflict. That simply gives an opportunity to explain further and appeal further.

    Will we end up with what seems to be a different language? Good. That’s what we call a different philosophical tradition and world view, which is what we have already, and are just making it more distinct and defined. This would not be a unique occurrence of such a split, but is rather very common. Most, if not all, distinctions in worldview and philosophical tradition lead to what could be called a difference in language, often as real as the difference between English and Korean, but sometimes closer like Spanish and Italian.

    Why do we want this? I’m reminded of MacIntyr’s “Whose Justice? Which Rationality?” when he explains the eventual crisis for a philosophical tradition, where from within they can no longer resolve a problem or conflict. When that happens, the people may encounter a different, distinct philosophical tradition that does resolve the conflict in a very different way and thus they, sometimes in mass, convert to that tradition, or at least form something entirely knew but influenced by that tradition. It means the destruction, in many ways, of the old philosophical tradition that had the crisis, but it also means a further step towards Truth.

    Do not worry that we speak on different terms, just be aware of it and let it be known to all what that difference is. Then, when we use the term, it may sometimes become it’s own form of evangelization, a witness to something that is distinct, but something which we hold as very real.

    Besides, you’ll run into the same problem with the said proposal, since people already link the idea of matrimony and marriage as interchangeable.

    • Teresa says:

      Indeed the question of words and how we use them is crucial to this issue. Either the institution of marriage has an ontological basis knowable through both reason and revelation and not defined by different social norms or it does not. If it does, as the Church holds, then redefining the term away from that ontology destroys it. We participate in that destruction if we fail to uphold the true meaning of marriage. Calling the sacrament “matrimony” does not address the issue that we really are talking about the same thing when we talk about marriage, and have been through thousands of years (apart from cultures that redefine the individual in order to allow for same-sex marriage — as having two souls or as fulfilling the role of a ‘man’ and entitled to a wife). What many homosexual advocates want is to have same-sex relationships recognized as equal to the unitive and procreative marriages of opposite sex partners — the same in kind and not in degree. The roots of the word ‘marriage’ run too deep and across too many cultures and religions to be ceded to a modern nominalist paradigm. We risk losing more than Christian marriage, we lose the truth of marriage itself.

    • Deacon Jason says:

      I don’t think we should give up the word either, but maybe the correct approach to say that the state has given up the meaning of the word, so the Church no longer recognizes the validity of state marriages; therefore, the Church cannot cooperate with the state. Instead, the Church will continue to conduct real and valid marriages, while the state conducts whatever term we should properly refer to it as – legal contracts? Quasi-marriage? Pseudo-marriage?

  28. Richard says:

    I am also thinking that state marriage should be separated from holy matrimony. They are now two radically different things. Have the couple go to the courthouse in their torn old painting clothes to get their licence and to stand before the judge as the law requires, then come to the church for the real thing unencumbered by the state. Could we make it fly this way or is that too complicated?

    I think if we do separate this state marriage thing from holy matrimony we can better make the case that holy matrimony is to be permanent, fecund, and in keeping with the complementarity of persons that we have up to the past century always understood to be essential to marriage in it’s now archaic sense.

  29. Dana C. says:

    I think it’s a great idea. A couple wed in HolyMatrimony would most likely still get a civil marriage license for tax purposes and because they are citizens of the state, but the priest would be taken out of the civil marriage equation. If priests aren’t out of the civil process, they will eventually be required by the state to “marry” homosexuals.

  30. Todd Flowerday says:

    Count me a skeptic on this idea, too.

    Sacramental marriages can always be renewed from the inside out, one at a time, one day at a time, or even in a church-wide concerted effort.

    What other people want to do in their unions is part of civil society. If we want to have a hope for influencing them, let’s get to work on what we can control: our positive witness.

  31. Michael Petek says:

    We can invent a new term ‘heterobonding’ to refer to marriage as it used to be: a voluntary union for life of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others and which is to be consummated by the act by which children are conceived.

    By all means, get out of the business of civil registration, which will pertain to unions of an essentially different description. Anyone who must heterobond in church can do so. For couples ineligible to marry in church, the churches can offer a service of witness and registration of the event.

  32. laura says:

    I came to the same conclusions after attending a beautiful casual golf-course wedding this spring. However official, when I talk with my children, entering into the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is different than a wedding happening anywhere between anyone. The technicalities will be difficult -“my husband and I have been matrimonied? for 10 years.” But, it is a way that I can distinguish between the reverence, seriousness, openness to life, and permanance before God reflected in a ceremony celebrating a couple authentically being Sacramentally joined versus the celebration of “us” that so many weddings are in our world moment. The word “married” in my children’s world just refers to two people who had a party and said they really loved each other at the time. Well over half the children they go to school with go home to non-traditional family situations and changing my terms helps me lift up the ideal without giving into my negativism.

  33. Bob in Va says:

    Father it is a good idea and one which has been floating around for a few years—treat the civil/secular nonsense simply as contract law while the Church pursues the serious business of covenant. However, the problem isn’t marriage per se. The “gay” agenda is part of the socialist attack on all institutions of freedom and self governance, on the Church, and most especially on the family. It will keep advancing, as it has in many jurisdictions, to control speech (hate speech restrictions on homosexuality prevail in most government schools, is official policy in Ca, and exists in most colleges), to intrude upon what and how we teach our children, to indoctrinate our military, and impinge into our places of worship and the exercise of our religious freedom. You will soon enough see the Church lose its tax status and as the Church lost its license for adoptive services in Connecticut, the same will be seen regarding all Church enterprises. This is only the beginning.

  34. Papabile says:

    1. ABSOLUTELY, the Church should stop working with the state in the signing of marriage certificates.

    2. I would take it a step further saying that solemn marriage rites will not be allowed for those who obtain the “civil” marriage license first as it asserts something that is not true. Yes, the Church would still marry those who already have the license, but in private.

  35. Sheila Fogarty says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. However, this is for Bishops to take up and will pray for them to get this done quickly. There is many good bishops, however; we still have too many that put state before the Body of Christ.
    Also, what will be done with ‘wayward’ bishops. I have an uneasiness that some will comply and others will not. It would have to be across the board… without exception. Thank you, Father. This is a wonderful idea. God bless you.

  36. Anne says:

    Brilliant! I’m in! Can we also have the courage to say, ” I am going to “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass this Sunday” instead of the anemic “I’m going to church on Sunday?” This would distinguish what we do on Sunday from what other Christian denominations do. I am sure you will surprise, inspire or offend many of your friends, neighbors or co-workers.

    • Kent says:

      Anne –

      I’ve always said ‘Mass’, maybe not ‘The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass’, but always Mass, I think it drives my non-Catholic friends nuts. :-)

  37. Theresa Stutz says:

    I’ve been think and suggesting this since I realized that there has already become a kind of natural ‘separation’ between the two concepts! I believe the Holy Spirit is once again using the Word of God as a “two edged sword”. After attending a number of Weddings as of late, I am sad to report that so many young people seem to be so poorly catechized! They see the “vows” portion of their day, as merely a stepping stone (often just to please the parents) to the “real” celebration, (that being, the reception party)! I have been to elaborate wedding celebrations where little if any of the budget has been used to decorate the actual Church! I’ve listened to angry couples and budget ‘conscious’ parents grumble about ‘paying’ Father for the use of his services and church, yet thousands are budgeted for the “bash” following. One wedding was so quick, (all of 15 mins) that I was shocked! That couple had openly lived together, and now 10 years later still say openly that going to church isn’t their “thing”. Frankly I would prefer that the couple who truly wishes to have God’s Blessing be encouraged to understand that God would like to bestow a permanent grace, and is giving pearl of great price! This seems more in line with Christ’s teaching than to presume that it is automatically incorporated into a ‘contract’ that can be broken for a small fee. Thank you!

  38. Cynthia BC says:

    In terms of state recognizing same-sex unions as marriage, perhaps the dominos are falling…but for the time being there still are states that define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Decoupling marriage and Holy Matrimony in some states but not others could result in rather a lot of confusion among the faithful. I think the discussion thus should be with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops rather than within an individual Archdiocese.

  39. RichardGTC says:

    “This final blow of legally recognizing so called gay “marriage” completes the redefinition of marriage . . .”–who know what else these people with their weird ideas may have up their sleeves.

    I don’t think moving to new terminology is a good idea. First of all, I don’t think we have lost the word marriage. The word marriage still makes people think of a man and a woman unless the word homosexual or some other word is placed before it. Also, why should we make things more awkward for ourselves? Also, I even think we are beginning to regain the word gay from the Gay lobby.

    I have much more sympathy for not signing marriage licenses. The Church may need to disassociate herself more and more from the state.

  40. Dennis N says:

    My first marriage which ended with an annulment and divorce, occured on the island nation of Mauritius. On a Friday afternoon, after paying a small bonus to the registrar, he came to her parents’ house and we were “married” at the dining room table. Monday evening, we were married in the local Catholic church. The priest never asked to see our wedding license and the registatrar didn’t care about the church wedding. I would suggest that this caused no problems for anyone (by the way, we considered the date of the church service our anniversary).

  41. Lenny says:

    “If we did stop signing civil licenses we would surely need a strong catechesis.” We are half way through the Year of Faith and my understanding of its purpose was to teach the Faith to those who consider themselves the Faithful and yet are very much a part of the world. Yes, a strong catechesis would be absolutely invaluable and this topic would be the perfect place to begin. IN my Diocese there has been practically no mention of the Year of Faith. It is time to create a real Catholic Culture that would be able to Evangelize our country. Yes, your proposal is excellent, I wish your Ordinary would think as you do. However…
    It’s time. As the song says: “Rise up oh men (people) of God” Let’s start ( rising up) within the Church with all of its awesome Truths and Teachings that bring Life to the Fullest. Thank you for this and all of your posts.

  42. Max says:

    The government’s coup has been accomplished. The government licenses we have spent so much time defending was the trojan horse that destroyed the idea of marriage in the popular conscience.

    How many Catholics get married by the State and not by the Church? How many consider signing a piece of paper at City Hall to be on equal standing with a covenant relationship?

    City Hall used to say any breathing heterosexuals could get married; previous marriages were irrelevant, no marriage prep was offered, you could get married by Elvis having known each other for only a couple hours. Yet we have been defending this system as “upholding marriage”! Ha!

    The fact is that had government never been issuing licenses in the first place, Catholics would never have gone to City Hall for a “marriage” ceremony and considered themselves married and not needing a “Church wedding”. The population saw marriage as being something any man and woman could get at City Hall, so why is it such a stretch for them to say, “Well if any man and woman can get a slip of paper, why shouldn’t two gays?”

  43. Kent says:

    Excellent thought, Msgr! Actually I am going to mention this to our Pastor Msgr. Morris at Sunday’s Mass, hopefully he will be presiding at the 6:00 pm Mass where I am reading. Lets spread this idea amongst the Church’s and maybe it will take hold.

  44. EJCM says:

    I recall a being with a priest in an unrelated meeting nearly a decade ago when the Canadian parliament decided arbitrarily to change the definition of marriage. He had similar sentiments saying something to the effect that the we lost the definition of marriage but we need to start calling it Holy Matrimony. I was taken aback a bit because he was a notoriously “progressive” priest. I thought it was a good idea then and I do now. Young couples need to realize that getting married in the Church means more than long aisles and pretty (in most cases) surroundings.

  45. Mandamum says:

    One small suggestion – can we use “Holy Matrimony” even without the prefix “The Sacrament of…” for those of us Catholics validly married in the Church to an unbaptized person? I would love for my marriage to be a Sacrament, but as of now, it’s not. But we both freely undertook what the Church describes Matrimony to be, so can one have Holy Matrimony even without the Sacrament? (Essentially the CCC definition up to the semi-colon).

    (I know, exceptions make bad law…but not necessarily bad matrimonial unions)

  46. Jerry says:

    Already with you Msgr! For our invitations last year we explicitly said “Sacrament of Holy Matrimony” to differentiate from “Marriage”.

    However, haven’t found a satisfactory verb form replacement for “married” yet. The other sacraments are a mixed bag, including “ordained”, “went to confession”, “received the Eucharist”, etc.

    Kinda envious of the Mormons in this one respect with their “sealed” language :)

  47. Laura Reilly says:

    Dear Msgr Pope,

    I like this post. I did not see the earlier one two years ago. However, it seems to me that the use of the word marriage, the description of the act of union/obligations/social responsibilities, insidiously replaced the term “Holy Matrimony” as a sort of short-hand in our culture. I am consoled that my husband and I can walk that back to a more complete description of what we did before God and man 20 years ago by referring to our Holy Matrimony. This is good. This is a blessing to have open to us such a beautiful path to the heart of the matter. What a great opportunity to witness to our neighbors. Thanks for the inspiration!

    In Christ-
    Laura

  48. Kingsley says:

    As much as I fully understand, I wouldn’t be happy if the Faith conceded that word for secular “ownership”. It’s just like the “gay” term as has been mentioned. It sickens me that wherever I spot rainbow stripes, it, in some sense, hearkens to gay rights and that is not cool at all. I want to be able to look at a rainbow and understand that it is, first, an amalgam of colors in a spectrum of white light and a sea of beautiful colors (seven of them last I checked) witnessed in the aftermath of rain and sunlight. That’s the way I want to feel when someone mentions marriage.

  49. Katy says:

    Thanks Monsignor Pope, for your post.

    I think the day may have arrived when Catholics should simply opt out of civil marriage and all its state-conferred benefits and penalties (including the tax penalty). Putting together a proper will is sufficient to guarantee inheritance rights (except that the death tax will hit spouses hard). If our contention has been all this time that the value of state recognition of marriage (and conferral thereto of certain benefits) is ONLY because of the unique value of marriage to society with respect to the stability and rearing of children, then those days are gone already. The state has decided that that is no longer the purpose of marriage, and therefore, we don’t need to support (or participate in) state-recognized marriage (and all its state-conferred sequelae) and doing so is simply a losing battle at best and a cooperation with evil at worst. Such is, perhaps, the martyrdom demanded by our wicked age?

  50. CRS says:

    Thank you Msgr. This is just what I needed to read today. I do believe the distinction should be made, as anyone can enter marriage, but not all are eligible for Holy Matrimony. Being myself “married” but not bound in Holy Matrimony, I can say the confusion is rampant even among educated Catholics. I have heard so many times, “but you’re married,” and have had to remind them that my “marriage” is not valid since it is not in the Church in any way, shape or form. It would be so nice to have an official distinction in terms so I won’t have to explain myself every time a Catholic looks at me puzzled.

    But I will add this: my “marriage” was a result of walking away from practicing my faith, though I didn’t stop believing. Now that I have come back to the Church and am obeying all the laws regarding this “marriage,” i.e., living as brother and sister/roommates, I refuse to validate it as I know I won’t be able to enter Holy Matrimony freely or totally. It is only for that reason that I am somewhat grateful for the No-Fault divorce process in California.

  51. Lee says:

    I agree with your proposals. I hope all the Bishops will support you on these proposals and make it a reality. The sooner the better but I know this will be a challenging task. At least the Church should get out of signing off on civil licenses ASAP.

    • Tom L says:

      Here is a question:

      If there is a separation of the sacrament from the civil legal union, then which order should each be done in or is there a necessary order?

      One problem with thinking through all of this is that we are trying to logic through things pretending that what is legal right (legal justice) is not part of what is naturally right at least in some way. It will be contradictions all the way down on this path. The human will, either individually or collectively, cannot make something which goes against the natural law, an effective human law. We should not be quick to accept this compromise in wording or a separation of the individual acts.

      If we accept this position of separation, we open ourselves to many problems because in not showing that there is an order necessary or an essential connection between these things, we begin to strip legal justice of its dependence on natural and hence eternal law for those things on which is ought to depend.

      It is like separating faith and reason in order to get around a problem only to later find out that you are beginning to accept them as mutually exclusive dominions. Even if we are not accepting them that way, others will. It doesn’t take a leap of faith to see this.

  52. Will Dunkirk says:

    Modernity, entering into postmodernity, is the flamboyant stage of a dissolute drunkeness that takes a cheap thrill in offending every conceivable sentiment of decency: first he was farting and kissing other people’s wives, now he is occassionally exposing himself. There’s no reasoning with or talking sense into a drunk and you don’t get married while you’re inebriated. To be a modern secular person is to be hammered: your natural sense, reason and instincts just don’t have sway over you anymore. We have to wait for them to sober up; we have to wait for the hang over. Resisting these alarming trends may just be aggravating a drunkard, which is dangerous.

  53. Jamie R says:

    How about ‘real marriage’ or ‘holy marriage’? We should not concede the core term to those that debase it. Rather, we should amend it to show that we have a true understanding and definition of the term.

    I do wonder about the unintended impact of the Church withdrawing from its civil role. We could have ‘lukewarm’ Catholics avoid the religious ceremony; on the other hand, many might still do it if only for the ceremonial aspect. I wonder as well about implications for a parish’s finances if couples opt for purely civil ceremonies.

  54. PeggyMcL says:

    For years, possibly since the French Revolution, marriage in France has been handled in 2 steps for those wishing a church wedding. French law only recognizes a civil marriage, which is performed by a civil authority such as a mayor or other authorized official. Religious ceremonies are optional, have no legal status and may only be held after the civil ceremony has taken place. Couples go to the registry office, sign the forms, etc., then on to the church for the wedding. I’ve thought in recent years that this would be a logical way for the Catholic Church to untangle itself from an increasingly hostile secular culture. But would it be another step in letting the church be forced out of the public square? I pity the Bishops having to make such decisions.

  55. Row says:

    In Germany, a couple goes to the town government for the joining. That is all the state requires. If they want, they then go to their church – be it Catholic or evangelisch. It works for those who want their union officialised by their faith.

  56. Cathy R. says:

    Good idea in using the term “Holy Matrimony” but perhaps (because other churches who will “marry” same sex couples also use the word Matrimony from time to time) we should use the very specific term “Holy, Roman Catholic, Matrimony” so there can be no question that it is heterosexual and that it is a sacrament (not all churches view marriage as a sacrament).
    As for the signing of licenses, I agree with your Ordinary, leave it alone for now. Sooner or later some same-sex couple will take one of our churches to court because we are discriminating against them because we will not marry them. The “state” will tell us “If you want to issue marriage licenses, you cannot discriminate!” THEN we get out of civil marriage license business. (You have to know this will happen!)

  57. MarkW says:

    St. Capitulation, patron of unconditional surrender, pray for us!

    Give in if you like, people, but don’t think for one moment that it will stop here. As soon as you lot allow them to have their way, there will be something new demanded of us.

  58. Mike says:

    I would take it farther. Those of us married in the church should go out and get civil divorces and accept any resulting tax and legal consequences to state simply that our marriage is not what the government says it is. It is what the church of Christ says it is.

  59. Don says:

    With the Supreme Court rulings this week, I believe it is inevitable that a constitutional right to homosexual marriage will become recognized within 5 years. In the DOMA case, the majority defined the Church’s unchangeable teaching on marriage (i.e., that it is limited to the union of a man and a woman) as an offense to humanity – as pure bigotry. This languange will be used to challenge every state statute or constitution that refuses to recognize homosexual unions as marriages, and the homosexualists will win. Justice Scalia lays it all out in his dissent.

    Where does that leave us?

    Make no mistake, we are swiftly moving from fighting to preserve traditional marriage in law to merely fighting for the ability to maintain our view without being shunned as the equivalent of racists. The 1st Amendment will offer some legal protection for purely religious organizations and for individuals but not for any entity that engages in commerce. All such organizations will be subject to anti-discrimination laws. They will be fined out of existence unless they recognize same sex marriages.

    More and more people will find it hard to stay faithful to the Church when put to the test of suffering persecution for their faith. Most of this persecution will not be by the government itself. It will come in the form of a culture and society that agressively shuns the Church’s individual members in the way that racists are shunned today.

    So, to get to the point, in my view the Church can’t get out of the civil marriage business fast enough. I completely agree with the idea of using the term “Holy Matrimony.” We need to treat Holy Matrimony purely as a Sacrament and keep as far away from participating in “state-sanctioned” marriage as we can.

  60. james s. says:

    I don’t feel cheery about it, but you’ve got my vote to stop signing the civil licenses. That it should come to this!

  61. Missy says:

    I think this is an awesome idea. I LOVE it. I disagree with the suggestion someone made of using the term “real marriage” or ‘holy marriage.” That sounds like we are competing and comparing our marriages to other forms of marriage. I think we should sidestep the term marriage and use Holy Matrimony. I think if a couple comes to you asking to be married, you should simply explain what the Church’s view on Holy Matrimony is, and confirm that that is what they are seeking. You could explain why the Church has chosen to use this term instead of marriage. That should not be too hard for anyone to comprehend. My only other concerns would be, for example, the Bible and stories of the saints where marriage is referred to with its former meaning. But of course, annotations could be added to clarify this (e.g. referring to the marriage of Mary and Joseph, or married saints, etc).

    A question: is the Catholic Church the only institution to use the term Holy Matrimony? I think it is important that we use a term that refers ONLY to Catholic marriage. An alternate might be Sacramental Marriage. It still uses the word “marriage” but makes it clear it is the sacrament, not the civil marriage. However, Protestants have Sacramental marriages too which could cause problems further up the road if they ever redefine their terms.

  62. OneLoneCatholicGuy says:

    Rock on, Msgr!

    I propose the term: “The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony” or simply “The Sacrament of Marriage”. It should be totally separate from the state.

    We should separate ourselves from the state.

    We wouldn’t let the state dictate who can be Baptized and when and by whom, nor let the police hear Confessions, nor let the local city hall force us to register our Priests, we should reclaim our Sacrament of Holy Martimony, and let the state be damned!

  63. BillA says:

    As someone whose personal conscience and religious faith (Reform Judaism) both strongly affirm same sex marriage. I believe that you have the absolute correct answer to the problem. I would also add in as an additional reason the rise in unmarried persons of different sexes living together. From a legal stand point, many rights and benefits are limited to “married people”-tax, inheritance, insurance,guardianship, end of life questions, etc These rights depend on one’s legal “status” 2 straight people can decide whether they want to take advantage of these rights. In most states 2 gay persons can’t. I don’t see these as religious questions. Religious institutions can and should (in most cases) make a determination who they will “matrimony” and which “matrimonies” they will recognize. That may also help people to recognizee the significance of “matrimony”. Obviously there would be bugs in the system. Some religions permit child marriage (legally there can be no valid consent) or polygamy (I believe distinctions can be validly made between your being able to grant rights on one other individual as opposed to a group)

  64. sam says:

    The Church already has its own means of conducting “Holy Matrimony” and registration. The man and woman should seek the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, from the Church, without register it with the state. They should set up a registered will per spouse, which states, that in the case of death the inheritance should go to the children and the spouse.

  65. MG says:

    There are actually two distinct issues here–whether to use the word “marriage,” and whether to sign civil licenses.

    How the issues are related turns on whether marriage has a nature all on its own. Look at it this way. There are two reasons why someone might want priests to stop signing civil marriage licenses. The first reason would be the idea that marriage has no intrinsic nature, and therefore it is whatever the State says it is–what the State calls “marriage” really and truly is a mere erotic bond, and of course the Church has no reason to be in the business of helping people form mere erotic bonds. The second reason would be the idea that the State is *wrong* when it uses the word “marriage” for mere erotic bonds, because marriage is, by its essence, more than this.

    Now the Catholic understanding is that marriage is a *natural* institution that has been raised to a supernatural level as a sacrament. Since it is a natural institution, it makes more sense to follow the second reason given above–namely, to insist that the State is *wrong* when it talks about marriage in the way that it now does.

    Marriage is not a purely faith-based institution (like Baptism). Apart from the Church, there’s no such thing as Baptism, but apart from the Church, there is still natural marriage. If Catholics stop using the word “marriage,” we will give the impression that there is no natural institution of marriage–there’s just what Revelation teaches, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, there’s whatever the State sees fit to define. But that’s not really consistent with Catholic doctrine.

    So while the idea of refusing to sign licenses makes sense, I think we should insist on using the word marriage–and we should object when others call homosexual unions “marriages.” When they do this, they are wrong, whatever the State might say.

  66. Dan says:

    I’ve heard English speakers from other countries say “wed” instead of “get married.” Like this: “We want to wed next summer.” I like it. I think it sounds classier than “get married.”

  67. Dan says:

    You could also say “Bob and Sue will be wed next month.”

  68. MG says:

    I would like to second the above suggestion to read Ed Peters’ article —

    http://www.canonlaw.info/2006/09/responding-to-immoderate-p_115916265777717009.html

    and also the article he links to by Jimmy Akin.

    This issue is very complicated and unclear, and it’s provocative (in the good sense!) for Msgr. Pope to bring it forward for discussion. Perhaps the crucial issue is the following. Does the priest officiate at two distinct ceremonies, one religious and one civil? Or does the priest officiate at just one ceremony, a ceremony which the State recognizes? If it’s the latter, then the current situation is actually a good one: the State, corrupt as it is, recognizes our good marriages as marriages! If it’s the former, then the current situation is more problematic: the priest is somehow putting his seal of approval on something corrupt.

  69. teri colby says:

    My friends and I (who are attorneys and Catholic) have talked about this after seeing the writing on the wall, society’s acceptance of gay marriage progressing at a rapid pace. We thought to call it ”Sacramental Marriage”…keeping it truly Catholic and not loosing the word marriage because we are being strong-armed.

  70. Victor says:

    The cultural war is a war of words, definitions. The battlefield is the legal system. While I think this article has a good proposal, it is also a defeatist one. If we cannot defend the definition of marriage, how can we expect to defend the definition of matrimony? It would be naive to believe that the enemies of the Church and our beliefs would stop where they are. They do not really seek marriage equality, they seek the destruction of organized religion with the Catholic Church on the top of the list. This article seems to suggest that we cede philosophical territory to “make nice” with those that seek to destroy us. Nietzsche is winning over St. Paul – are we supposed to accept that and find some warm hole to crawl into?

  71. DJB says:

    No. Do not concede. Contine using the term marriage. Continue in the civil license game until the Govt. requires violation of doctrine. Do not concede the territory. It will that much harder to get back the little there is.

  72. Carlos X. says:

    Dear Monsignor,

    Your proposal is a logical response and its main strength is that it identifies an impenetrable kernel that no one can invade or infiltrate: a dogmatic definition (or restatement) of true marriage. I had the same intuition at about the same time that you did originally, but I have abandoned it because I have concluded, as intellectually appealing as it is, it is a reductionist approach. If we adopt this approach, it may be seen to imply that “Holy Matrimony” is just one more form of “marriage” out there, another variant, and a lesser species than the general term: “marriage,” which will now be the culturally modified definition of marriage. Shudder to read this, dear Monsignor, if you had not already thought of this: it will be seen as on a par with gay marriage–just another vision of what marriage can be. Additionally, by “accepting the new reality,” we may be seen to be forfeiting the Church’s prerogative to preach universal truths to the whole world. In other words, our teachings aren’t limited just to Catholics: “Holy Matrimony” would only be within our control as a terminology within Catholic circles. I am reminded of the words of Archb. Romero, my spiritual patron, who lamented that “many believe that when the Assembly approves laws concerning abortion or divorce that this legislation makes these actions moral.” (I know you are in no way saying that the Supreme Court has lent moral validity to gay marriage, but please read on.) Romero rejected giving in with conformity in the face of legislation contrary to our faith, saying that, “even though a thousand legislative assemblies pass laws against Christian principles, such laws are still sins against the moral order.” (September 30, 1979 Sermon.) I think that we basically do not have any option but to continue to be opposed. We will be at odds with the world, but that is our role. Again, Romero: “The Church cannot waiver. Even though the whole world might accept a law …”

    Respectfully in Christ.

  73. Sarah in WA says:

    I like the return to the term “Holy Matrimony.” But, what consistent terminology would I use to replace the basic statement “I am married” when I describe myself to others?

  74. mdepie says:

    Two Comments:
    1) The state will soon compel the Church to recognize gay marriage by performing them or it will penalize its clergy in some fashion. ( This process is already begun, there have been civil lawsuits involving mostly evangelicals who refused to say rent out a venue for a reception for a gay couple and that sort of thing. ) It is therefore essential that the Church define what it does as something explicitly religious and sacramental to take some protection under what remains of the First Amendment. I suspect given the moral bankruptcy among the political class this will be imperfect protection, but any port in a storm as they say.

    2) What this union is called is secondary, Holy Matrimony has some merit, if we were wanting to avoid the issues of people balking at new terminology as kind of odd, “sacramental marriage” would be a simple alternative.

  75. Joseph says:

    The next step will be “marriages of 3 or more people” or “marriages between me and my dog.” Once the floodgate was opened, where will it end? The Church in America needs to respond now not react after the fact. I would suggest any title the Bishops would determine that avoids the word “marriage.” That word is now in search of a definition. Most RC clergy use the Pre-Matrimonial Investigation Book. I would prefer the word “matrimony” being used in certificates and records to distinguish it from “marriage.” The certificate should name the clergyman as Priest/Deacon Witness. As for the use of “Sacrament” or “Holy” I leave that to people expert in the history of the name of this sacrament. Using “matrimony” would be a teachable moment for couples getting matrimonied and for our people in general.
    In states where marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, I would sign and register the license. In other states, I would ask the couple marry civilly after confecting this sacrament to avoid legal complications. Naturally all this is deferred to our Bshops. I just hope they would get ahead of this curve.

  76. Greg says:

    Monsignor Pope – this is a very good and workable idea whose time has come. I believe that as we continue our downward march into all sorts of marriage types, the Church will need to refer to the true sanctity of marriage as “Holy Matrimony” and I also believe as you do – that priests should get out of the business of being civil magistrates when it comes to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. If people want to get married in the Church, let them obtain a secular marriage license first, and THEN, if they truly desire a blessed union, they should arrange to have that celebrated in the Church. That would, perhaps as they say, separate the sheep from the goats.

  77. Ludley Wadzlo says:

    I propose a similar idea: “Sacramental Marriage”

  78. Fr. K says:

    I agree the word “marriage is quickly going to lose its meaning in the popular culture. We should start using the term, “Sacrament of Holy Matrimony” more often. I also thought of how the Roman Missal formerly described the Mass to be used for the occassion: Missa pro sponso et sponsa. it is a mouthful to say, but descriptive of a man and a woman promised to each other.

  79. Br. Bob says:

    +JMJ+

    Msgr. Pope,

    I agree with you that we should start referring to the Sacrament as Holy Matrimony. I would also like to point out that your video has an error in it starting at 2:14. It quotes thew second edition (non authoritative) of the catechism #2358,and states that homosexuals “do not choose their homosexual condition, for most of them it is a trial…”

    However, in the authoritative 3rd edition of the CCC, #2358 does not include that clause (mainly because of the lack of scientific evidence, despite what the homosexual agenda would lead people to believe). The new #2358, states simply “…This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial…”

    I hope you can contact the makers of the video and get it updated.

    God bless you.

    Br. Bob

  80. Liz says:

    Regardless of what happens with same sex unions, we need to return to the term “sacrament of Holy Matrimony.” This isn’t a new phrase someone just came up with. We have been guilty of making assumptions, and taking things for granted. We should take heed and stop saying ‘confession’ when we mean the sacrament of reconciliation. Stop saying ‘I went to Communion, and say ‘I received the sacrament of Holy Euchrist.’ Stop saying ‘He was ordained’ and say ‘he received the sacrament of holy orders, etc. Either words matter or they don’t. Let’s learn a lesson here.

  81. Darryl K. Williams says:

    Yes, in August 2009, while still an ELCA Lutheran and before being received into the Catholic Church, I made a similar proposal on http://www.permanentfixes.com, “Church and State in Avoidable Slow Motion Collision.” (http://www.permanentfixes.com/2009/08/church-and-state-in-avoidable-slow.html)

  82. Paul says:

    I disagree on using the term Holy Matrimony in place of marriage, because I don’t think we should just cede the language, and because not all valid marriages are sacramental marriages. What word(s) do you think we should use for valid, non-sacramental marriages?

  83. Mary O'Malley says:

    What makes you think they won’t eventually come after “matrimony”?

  84. Marc Herlands, JD, LL.M. says:

    Based on Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels, we should support people whom God puts together into a loving committed relationship. Good Biblical concepts of Marriage are not based upon procreation. In Genesis, Abraham and Sarah were married for decades and were childless. Priests are said to be married to the Church. Marriage is not about sex. It is not about children. It is about love and the commitment to share and care for each other as two people united into one family unit. It is not exclusively heterosexual. P.S. It is very much worth noting that Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. But, He did say a lot of about harming children, and the consequences will be dire. He also condemned other forms of less than loving sexual activity. Finally, He did not want anyone to call Him “Father.” because only God is our true Father. And, He reminded us that what He said was what God told Him to say. The sooner religious institutions in general practice and preach His Truth, the better it will be for everyone.

  85. Carol La Salle says:

    I also proposed exactly this shift a few years ago to our parish priest. For myself it was more about helping Catholics to remember that our understanding of Holy Matrimony is so very different than the understanding of marriage in the secular world.

    I believe that the Church needs to step out and assist Catholics in rediscovering what the Sacraments are truly about and this one distinction would do a great deal to achieve that.

  86. Mike says:

    I have a friend who years ago said Catholics should stop entering into civil marriage altogether, so that civil divorce would not even be a legal possibility.

  87. Mary Ann Eiler says:

    Thanks, Monsignor, for your recommendation. It’s realistic and doable. And it’s Christian.

    There are no simple solutions to the culture war problems, but we always have to do the truth in love.

  88. Ruthanne says:

    The Church must refer to marriage as the marriage covenant, which is the Sacrament of Marriage. The civil definition of marriage need no longer apply. If a young couple asks their priest “We want to be married next summer.” He must say “Wonderful, you want to enter into the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and do a little catechesis on the terms. Pre Cana classes must be strengthened. The bans of Holy Matrimony must be published in the church bulletin for 6 months prior, As far as the license goes, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s until we can petition the state governments to issue a type of license indicating it is both ecclesial and legal, sort of like car tags for cars, trucks, commercial vehicles, etc. and CDL and regular driver’s licenses.

  89. Mary says:

    The term Holy Matrimony should be encouraged to explain our One Holy Catholic Sacramental Marriages, just as Holy Communion is used to differentiate between Catholics receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord, versus other religions who receive “communion” with crackers and grape juice, so to speak. May God Bless us!

  90. Kathleen says:

    “A secondary but related proposal is that we begin to consider getting out of the business of having our clergy act as civil magistrates in weddings. “

    Father, I believe the ONLY way the Church and individual churches will be able to protect themselves (and their flock) from the legal consequences of the government interpretation of the definition of marriage is by ceasing to collude with the state. The Bishop and Ordinary might want to consult the diocese attorney.

    First, when a Catholic priest (or minister of another church) acts as a civil magistrate “in accordance with the power vested in [him] by the state of _____,” he submits himself and his church to government control. To be a “state actor” (legal terminology), he must conform to the rules and regulations of the state, with the force of law to compel him.

    Secondly, he makes himself and his church a mark for the activists drawing up the list of targets for expensive civil lawsuits to punish the violation of civil rights.

    The Church and churches have a way out of this trap — give up the “power vested” to perform a state function. Stick to religious functions. Sure, consecrate church weddings, but as something separate from and in addition to the legal / civil marriage administered by the state. Will that mean two ceremonies for the faithful? So be it. This system has been common in parts of Europe for decades.

    Unfortunately, other businesses in the business of weddings (florists, musicians, photographers, bakers, venue operators, etc.) will not have this option. The First Amendment (freedom of practice) will not protect them, and they will be forced to comply, regardless of individual religious conscience, or go out of business altogether.

  91. Mark Mathias says:

    Certainly the term Holy Matrimony or The Sacrament of Marriage or any of the other variants that help specify what Roman Catholics intend are helpful. However, since the term marriage has the same etymology as the term matrimony and is simply a variant of it, I do not believe that it is acceptable to concede to this faithless generation’s attempt to redefine it. Instead, use it as an opportunity for furthering the conversation. When someone uses the term in a distorted sense, whether by implication, explicitly or context, gently and reverently assert why you find that use of it unacceptable. Don’t accept it. Carry the argument with logic and don’t back down. The word has hundreds of years of proper use and a powerful fad with only a few years behind it, even if backed by the might of Mordor, will not stand if the truth is persisted in by those willing to stand up for it.

    An analogous problem comes up with referring to a same sex relationship as a “union”. It is nothing of the sort.
    Nothing is united organically. Two men are a pair. Two women are a pair. A man and a woman may couple, may unite. That is what is described by the two becoming one flesh. Two of the same sex can never become one flesh to produce anyone. Even if The United States of America in its official language calls the legal arrangement of a pair of men a civil union, it is neither civil nor a union.

    Language is important. Use it properly and when others use it improperly, call them on it. This is what is called “engaging the conversation”. You will no doubt be considered an irritant at the very least, and you may have to pay the price for your words, but isn’t that what it is all about? Anything else is an abdication.

  92. Claire says:

    I have a few suggestions: how about calling it a “Blessed Marriage” or “Holy Marriage”. We could say for example: we are “blessed married” or “holy married”. It could also be said this way: we are “blessed wed” or
    “holy wed”.

  93. Pgal says:

    I have personally remarked for many years, based on the direction our culture has been heading, that it might be best if Christians from all sects allowed Civil Law & the idea of Civil Unions to take its course in our Society and instead circle the wagon around the definition of the SACRAMENT of Marriage.
    As a convert to Catholicism after years of Protestant based ministry, I believe that it is the duty of Christians and Christianity to recognize Holy Matrimony as a RELIGIOUS event that is set apart and NOT open to all.
    We Christians have contributed in large part to the issue that has led to the blurred lines we have today. We have left the Altar and have reduced the Sacred Ceremony of Holy Matrimony to strolls on the beach, jumping from airplanes & Las Vegas chapel events for decades. Our divorce rates as Christians are at record highs and our birth rates record lows. In the pursuit of self we have largely abandoned Humanae Vitae and the true meaning of Marriage – a sacred, cleaving union between a man and a woman before God that has procreation as a primary goal. This in turn has separated the act of the sacred union from the Church and has allowed Society, including many Christians, to view the definition of Marriage in a very different light from which it was ever intended.
    Render unto Caesar was timely when Jesus said it and ‘as in the days of Noah’ has come full circle once again. The direction our culture has taken has made it clear is time to circle our wagons and for those in Authority within the Catholic Church to brush the dust off of a lot of Homilies that have not been spoken to the Church Militant for years. I hope the Church is ready for battle, because it is surely to come.

  94. William says:

    I love it. I’ve been thinking this for the last couple years and it’s great to see that other people as seeing the same thing. I wonder what will start this trend in the Church?

  95. Thierry says:

    My wife and I are actually contemplating getting a civil divorce. Since what the State’s understanding of marriage no longer has anything to do with what our sacramental marriage is all about,we don’t want to have anything to do with State sanctioned so called marriage. Would it not be the ultimate irony if all the people validly married ended up no being married in the eyes of the state and only sodomists, serial polygamists and other perverts ended up being married!

    • Xenophanes says:

      Getting a civil divorce would be most unwise because of many rights and benefits you will lose. If one of you dies, for example, do you want the other to be able to get survivor’s benefits from Social Security? What about visitation rights in a hospital? What about inheritance? True the latter two could probably be taken care of with legal documentation but it’s not automatic. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater–at least, what you think of as the bathwater. You should really see a good lawyer if you are seriously thinking of this. My advice is:

      One thing the Church officials have said is that marriage is prior to the state.When they say it has not changed, well, that is false historically. In the Bible, where it was a private contract between the families, represented by the fathers or other dominant males. Oops! There’s a change in the definition of what marriage is! Many of the major figures in the Old Testament had more than one wife, and polygyny existed in many other societies. There is no criticism of polygyny in the New Testament. Oops! For 10 centuries, the Church allowed marriage and divorce. Oops again.

      In modern times, especially with the rise in wage labor, couples could get married without the approval of their parent, as they became more economically independent of them. And they did it on the basis of mutual choice, often characterized as based on love and affection–and this has been recognized by the popes. Social, economic, and political organization is no longer based on marriage-there are some survivals as with the British monarchy. So anyone who thinks there have been no major changes in marriage over the millenia is misinformed. `

  96. kurt says:

    You are now making the the offer the gay activists made in the past. The church should have taken them up on it rather than rejecting it.

  97. debbie gross says:

    HOLY Matrimony…Yes…Beautiful.

  98. Erik Warner says:

    1. I am certified as a catechists by my Archdiocese so I understand and share your thoughts about the difficulty in making these changes.
    2. Yes. We absolutely should use: Holy Matrimony. This term clearly signifies to the world that what we mean is something totally different from what they mean. More importantly it would indicate to those getting ready for Holy Matrimony that what we teach, what we prepare you for is something completely different than the “mutual masturbation contract” that marriage has become in the secular world.
    3. Yes. We absolutely should get Priests and Deacons out of the civil “Marriage” business.

    • TYLER LORGE II says:

      AGREE ERIK!!! AMEN TO WHAT YE SAY AMEN ++++++

    • Stephanie Richer says:

      Absolutely. Priests have no business being agents of the State in solemnizing marriages.

      • Nancy Kirner says:

        The term “Marriage” has been hijacked by secular society in order to take care of certain issues related to financial, medical, and property rights and privileges. There are some rights and responsibilities that belong to those secular spouses that husbands and wives, by virtue of being parties only to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, would not receive. While we Catholics view the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony as a higher status than merely being married, we would do those seeking to be married in the Church a terrible disservice if we forced them to go through a separate ceremony to satisfy the secular aspects of marriage. Try getting a passport or signing up for Social Security without a marriage certificate from the secular world. We need to provide those seeking the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony with both the secular and Sacramental benefits of the term “marriage.”

        • Leah K says:

          Why would this be such a disservice? Satisfying the secular aspects of marriage would be a matter of paperwork (and fees…. of course!). If anything, separating the two would highlight the different natures of civil union and Holy Matrimony, drawing a couples attention to the distinctions and forcing in a way a more deliberate decision. They would seek one for the civil benefits and the other for the Sacramental grace.

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

      The whole process of how the Church chooses those for consecration as bishops should be examined. Any priest who it is known wants to be a bishop should never be one!

      I served the late Archbishop Lawrence Khai as his American Secretary, and he told us that they had to ask him several times to become a bishop and he refused until they brought up holy obedience, then and only then did he acquiesce!

      Yes Holy Matrimony is far better, and how about returning to the days when priest insisted that the Bride, and bridesmaids dressed modestly, not strapless topless etc. etc. ad nauseam. How can we expect God to bless a ceremony at which His Mother’s warnings: “Unless My message is heeded, certain fashions will be introduced that will offend My Son very much” are completely ignored.

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher, Founding Director
      Concerned Roman Catholics of America, Inc.

  99. Steve C says:

    Dr Taylor Marshall also brought this thought up in a post of his here http://www.taylormarshall.com/2013/06/why-word-matrimony-not-marriage-is.html

  100. Tricia says:

    Beautiful article! I just told my daughter that when she gets married we will have the wedding invitations refer to her Holy Matrimony! She fully agreed with me!

  101. Tilly says:

    I think there is a strong argument to be made that bride/groom marriages become annulled when the state adopts gender neutral marriage (aka gay marriage). The states strip gender references from the law when they accommodate gays into marriage, which in effect redefines the words bride and groom on preexisting marriage licenses without the couples knowledge or consent.

    Leave it to the rich people of both parties (who are responsible for the so called inevitability of gay marriage) to change the meaning of words on signed legal documents and pretend “your marriage is not harmed.” The fact is that m/w marriage ceases to exist at the policy level. It’s a silent coup.

    • L. W. casillas says:

      That, my friend, is baloney. You can’t have something Holy like our marriages “de-sanctified” by the actions of others. Nor the reality of what exists in the heart and soul of believers obliterated by the civil actions of civil entities.

  102. Jennifer says:

    Msgr., while I completely agree with you about the use of the words “Holy Matrimony” as this most accurately conveys what is taking place, I think it would be a big mistake for our clergy to pull back from acting as civil magistrates as I think this would lead to fewer people participating in this sacrament and just opting for the civil marriage out of convenience. I don’t see why we can’t push the government to allow us different wording on the licences as a possible solution.

  103. Nancy Craig McGrath says:

    When I entered Holy Matrimony with my husband, I had already been married twice. My first husband was an alcoholic and an atheist, who told our children there was no such thing as God and Jesus was a myth or a fairy tale. My second husband molested two of my children from my first marriage. He had been voted outstanding young man of the year by our town and was a deacon in the protestant church. These marriages were annulled by the church and I have now been married to my husband for 32 years. I became a Catholic 32 years ago. I go to church every Sunday and sing in the choir. I am truly blessed.

  104. Maureen says:

    I think this is a great idea. If we can say First Holy Communion, Reconciliation and consubstantial, we can get used to Holy Matrimony. I will start now so that my circle will begin hearing it.

  105. Joanne says:

    I agree with what is being said here and I feel that a clear distinction between “marriage” and Holy Matrimony is in order and in fact necessary. Just as you state in the post “That may be, but we already know that “gay” will never mean what it used to, and it would seem that “marriage” will never again mean what it did.” This is clearly what we need to do. I also agree that the Church as a whole and priests should stop signing the civil documents needed for a legal state marriage. I feel that the Church should have nothing to do with this and make it very clear to Catholic couples that the civil paper does not mean that one has entered into the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. It will take some time but we must stop using the term marriage and replace it with Matrimony right away I will do this in my social circles. Unfortunate for me I have only been allowed to enter into a civil marriage my hope and prayer for the future is that Christ’s unity can extend in my home and may my family be blessed with a Sacramental marriage this I want more than ever if anyone can pray for me for this, it is appreciated. Thanks for the post and prayers!

  106. TaillerHews says:

    Remain as civil magistrates only for marriages which have been approved for Holy Matrimony in the Catholic Church. Indeed, the State gets to make law regarding marriages (regardless of religion), but the Church elevates that State marriage to a valid/licit Sacrament.

    Do not submit to State requirements to marry anyone who does not comply with Church Law.

  107. Teresa Shafir says:

    As a former Catholic who married outside the religion I found this article a breath of fresh air. The most basic principal of seperation of church is what you have described. The argument of what the state criteria is to allow people to be joined as a legal family does not change a covinent with God. Changing the name of religious marriage in my opinion is an acceptable way to assert your differing beliefs on marriage and who is entitled by the federal government to share in the legal arrangement. There are Catholics living in Musulim countries that do not have a right to vote, or drive. I believe that part of the teachings of the Catholic Church should begin to incorporate tolerance for non-believers, Musulims, Jews, Hindu’s and all of Gods people who are living peacefuly on Earth.
    So please continue your dialogue on how the Catholic Church and its large following that all the same requirements still stand to undertake the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. It’s in no way tarnished by the separate action of the government to legalize a civil union.
    There are advantages to living in a secular society.

  108. John P. Moloney says:

    The using of the word MATRIMONY would be impressive. In Ontario, many legal cases refer to MATRIMONIAL CAUSES/ CASES, so the term is already in use.
    While we’re on the subject of change, how about expressing our belief saying “SHE IS WITH CHILD’ (instead of pregnant} ? it would be very biblical and would raise awkward questions for the pro-abortionists.

  109. John P. Moloney says:

    Using the word Matrimony makes a lot of sense to me and meaning ‘care of mother(s)’
    would be more difficult for the state and others to distort its meaning.
    While we are at the matter of changing speech how about saying “SHE IS WITH CHILD’ instead of merely pregnant ? It would cause some discomfort to the pro-abortionists and let all of society know the truth of the situation.
    Benedicamus Domino!

  110. Deacon John M. Bresnahan says:

    This is a debate well-worth having. Cultures change the definition of many words (like “gay”) and the Church needs to adapt to such changes to protect her teachings. Maybe it is time to regard secular marriage as merely a construct of the state and that Holy Matrimony is a sacramental work of God — the real joining together of a man and a woman.

  111. The Rev'd Canon John A. Hollister, JD says:

    This proposal merely recognizes that one aspect of the project for Europeanizing the United States has now reached its logical conclusion. The aspect to which I refer is the de-sacralization of marriage and its conversion to a mere (and temporary) civil contract.

    Ever since the French Revolution, followed by Napoleon’s invasion of most of the rest of Western Europe, the standard pattern in most Western European countries has been for the state to take no cognizance whatever of religious wedding ceremonies. Everyone must be married in a secular, government registry office (“Standesamtliche verheiratet” is the German phrase: “married in the registry office”) and then, if the individual parties choose, they can have a wedding ceremony under the oversight of the Church (“Kirchliche verheiratet”: “ecclesiastically married”).

    We could see this pattern operating in, for example, last year’s marriage of Prince Albert of Monaco to Princess Charlotte: they had a civil marriage at the Monaco town hall and then a nuptial mass in the courtyard of the Palace. Monaco, of course, follows for the most part French legal and governmental forms.

    The adoption–probably the very necessary adoption, under present circumstances–of this dual format in the USA is simply one more evidence of how religion, which formed the foundation of our national independence, has been pushed out of what Fr. Richard Neuhaus called “the public square”.

    John A. Hollister

  112. David L Alexander says:

    Just a couple of things off the top of my head:

    1) Should this posture become the norm, a Catholic couple who simply goes to the courthouse and “closes the deal” there alone, so to speak, is not really “married outside the Church,” but simply not married at all (not that that makes it acceptable …)

    2) If we’re going to use another term to replace “marriage,” we have to consider the practical side of its replacement: “Hey, everybody, Dick and Jane are getting matrimonied next spring!” Doesn’t quite have that ring to it, don’t you think?

    Or don’t you?

    • RM says:

      Hey, everybody, Dick and Jane will be celebrating the sacrament of Holy Matrimony next spring! That sounds “super cool”!

  113. Rick McGinniss says:

    A strong “amen” on the idea (from a Baptist pastor in Kansas City).

    Love this site, Msgr!

  114. Steve E says:

    Msgr.,
    I agree with the idea of calling it, “Holy Roman Catholic Matrimony.” Clear, concise and valid.

    I also agree with no longer signing Caesar’s “marriage” license. To sign the certificates is to willfully cooperate with evil. That is a sin. You can tell Cardinal Wuerl that.

    We have lost the word “marriage” to Satan. We will not get it back in our lifetimes.
    Better an orderly retreat than an outright rout.

    Once place to look for examples of how to exist and thrive under a hostile government is the
    RCC dioceses in China. There, they have the official government “Catholic” church, and the church
    recognized by the Vatican. Time to start taking pages from their playbook….

  115. Maria says:

    I think it’s a great idea. Also, perhaps it would help businesses who want to provide services for matrimony, not the newly defined “marriage.” “We provide flowers for birthday,s anniversaries and holy matrimony.”

  116. Aquila says:

    Yes, and yes. It’s actually not that common that the Church legally marries people; in the non-Christian world, of course, it is pretty uncommon (I understand that in some Muslim countries, Christians are married by an Imam for legal purposes, and of course enter into Holy Matrimony in their own Christian tradition). Further, many European countries have the legal procedure carried out by the Mayor or some other government official, with the religious ceremony quite separate. I think that this is very good: it makes it clear that what the Church does is not what the state does, and it evades any problems of hurt feelings or, worse, deliberate entrapment by those who might seek to appeal to anti-discrimination legislation.

    As a humorous aside, I understand that some Catholics in France, for convenience sake, enter into Holy Matrimony in Church and then settle the legal aspects at their leisure. It is not unknown for elderly aunts to be scandalised by the “unmarried” couple “living in sin” in the interim…

  117. Seekup25 says:

    what would be the verb for “Holy Matrimony?”

    • Fr. Frank Jindra says:

      Holy Orders: I have been ordained.
      Holy Matrimony: I have been matrimonied?

      • GABRIEL says:

        I also think this is a splendid and beautiful idea to refer to it as “holy matrimony”, but like Seekup & Fr. Frank Jindra, I have questions about how to say the sentence “we were holy “matrimonied” last spring?

        Is that the correct word?

        You said “Matri = “mother” and mony, a suffix indicating “action, state, or condition.”

        Are there any past-tense forms of this suffix “mony”

        • RM says:

          It’s easy! We celebrated the sacrament of Holy Matrimony last spring. This is our First Anniversary of celebrating the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. When one says,”This is our first wedding anniversary”, it is as if a Sacrament never took place. The fact it was a sacrament gets lost because many people who get “married” never participated in a sacrament.

  118. Mary De Voe says:

    Excellent. Sometimes “no fault divorce” is custody by the state to prevent a monstrous batterer from killing his mate. The Church calls this a “separation”, if a monstrous batterer can even constitute Holy Matrimony.

  119. Mary Katherine Esposito says:

    Mr. Pope, I disagree with many of your arguments against same-sex relationships and marriage, but I fully support your initiative. The ability to apply new and more accurate labels to whatever it is that you are doing inside of your own church, and within your own denomination, is quite sound. No state or federal law has ever suggested otherwise, nor has there been any suggestion that churches, mosques, synagogues or temples be obliged to perform marriages of which they don’t approve.

    Similarly, “holy unions” for same-sex couples have been taking place for many years within congregations that are pro-gay. The state has had no problem with this. The recent debate, as you know, has been about state and federal designations only. All arguments have been put on the the table for decades now — all sides have been heard. The public and elected legislatures have voted, and you can see that a shift in understanding about Freedom under the law has finally occurred. The Supreme Court has now weighed the facts and concluded that the restriction of man-woman only marriages is invalid for civil federal law. The decision, in part, is based on the Freedom of Religion that gay Americans share with the rest of the country.

    You may or may not like the decision, but I’m thrilled that you have an understanding that civil laws and your religious beliefs are not the same. Your freedoms and my freedoms and the freedoms of gay and non-gay Americans ARE all the same. The conflict comes when one group purposefully chooses to suppress the freedoms of the other. It’s a losing proposition in the USA, and regardless of your beliefs about marriage or matrimony, civil or holy, no one should be able to dictate inequality based on religion, and no one should be able to dictate how you define your religious order. You, as a priest or preacher, don’t want to sanctify same-sex couples, or any couples at all? Then you don’t have to. All Americans can and ought to agree on that. What happens now between you and your parishioners is your business.

    • Steve M says:

      If only what you write would be true.

      So how do you come by the positions and opinions you express in the public square? They can’t be from any religious background as you deny Catholics the right to have our choices formed by our Faith. So hwo did you get yours that makes these so much better than mine?

      • Mary Katherine Esposito says:

        Steve M — Who is it that has denied you, or any Catholic, the right to express or believe what they felt about American society?

        The government is in the business of defining what takes place “in the public square.” Hopefully, this is used as a method of order to prevent and resolve conflicts between its citizens. We have a tradition of allowing family members FIRST to decide what happens with their own health, wealth and afterlife care. Until now, a man and an unrelated woman have been able to create their own family unit. This chosen family is then registered and publicly recognized as a “marriage.” The two individuals are then considered “immediate family members” and “next of kin” for legal purposes. It doesn’t matter if they’re Catholic, Muslim, or atheist. It doesn’t matter if they can bear children or not.

        Gay people have been purposefully excluded from this “institution of marriage.” Why? Because of religious beliefs written into the law. That law assumed that gay people have no legitimate religious beliefs themselves, and it also denied them the right to legally define the family of their choice. Why have we done this? What purpose did it serve to treat them legally as if they were strangers? To deny them the right to care for a partner in a hospital; the right to bury their dead loved one in a grave; the right to inherit a life’s work as an estate without suffering through excessive taxation? We all are going to get sick and die. Can’t we find the ability to give same-sex couples the dignity of being with and caring for the one person whom they loved most in this world?

        Can you honestly say every gay person behaves in a way that is more detrimental to society than their heterosexual neighbors? You cannot make that blanket assumption, so what is the problem?

        If the Church is going into the realm of seeking public funds and providing public accommodations, then the government is going to decide what regulations the Church must abide by. If the business at hand is fully within the Church, then government butt out! Steve, noone is denying you or the Church the ability to speak out or to do what you wish inside your house of worship. However, when religious actions spill out into the public arena, they are subject to scrutiny and regulation. I’m no genius. I think you can understand all of this.

        Personally, I do my best to have an open mind and heart; and though it is difficult at times, I can only use the brains God stuck in my head to weigh the evidence before me. Much of which consists of talking to people I love, listening to people I don’t know, reading, reflection, and a prayers for patience and guidance. The best thing I can do to grow in this life is to learn by helping others, asking questions, and trying to look at the world from another person’s perspective. Having heard and discussed all points on this issue, I conclude that, regardless of anyone’s religious beliefs, it is a cruel injustice to continue denying same-sex couples the right to LEGALLY define their family of choice as “married,” and to extend to them the same LEGAL rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

        Those rights have nothing to do with my religious background or yours. The confusion here seems to be about where the government ends and the Church begins. As Charles Pope indicated above, “civil marriage” and “Church marriage” are not the same thing. He prefers more of a distinction for his own reasons, and apparently wishes he could absolve himself of the need to say: “By the power vested in me by the District of Columbia (or State of whatever)….” That is Mr. Pope’s Freedom of Religion to do such, but he says some people with whom he’s talked believe “marriage” should continue to be an all-in-one package. (By the way, an ordained clergy member has to apply to the government for recognition as a marriage officiant.) So, again, “matrimony” or “marriage” — that’s entirely between the Church, the priests, and the parishioners to do what they wish within the faith.

        Also, to those saying it’d be awkward to NOT use the words “married” and “marriage” — that is the exact same point gay couples have made for 20 years about civil “unions” and “partnerships.”

        • Mary Katherine says, The government is in the business of defining what takes place “in the public square.” Really? I think that is a rather dangerous notion as you state it. I can see some need to coordinate the sue of the public square such as setting boundaries and times for use so that all have fair access. But be very careful in giving the govt the power to “define” what is said there!

    • RM says:

      It is impossible for same-sex couples to have a “holy” union. Without going into details an abomination to God can not be “holy”. The Supreme Court is made up of humans, and they do make errors.
      Pope John Paul II said,”If one does not get the issue of life correct, it will be impossible for one to get any issue correct because ALL issues flow from life.” How many of the Supreme Court justices get the issue of life correct? This is why so many gov’t programs fail. Many lawmakers do not get the issue of life correct; therefore, their policies cause harm even when the intention seems good. This is why a person who votes PRO-LIFE is an ALL ISSUES VOTER. One who does not vote pro-life is a NO ISSUES VOTER. The anti-life politician will not get any issue correct. God is the Creator and loves to create, especially life. Satan is a destroyer, and loves to destroy life. Anti-life politicians are pleasing Satan and policies they create will be destructive.
      Americans do share the same freedoms. Every man has the right to marry a woman who is willing and able to commit to him for life and every woman has the right to marry a man who is willing and able to commit to her. There are situations where either the man or woman is incapable of committing for life, such as a mentally disturbed individual. When these people enter matrimony, it is highly likely it won’t work. Neither person may be “at fault”. Just one person may be incapable of committing for various reasons and it will not work. More people are falling into this category. No man can marry a man and no woman can marry a woman. IT IS EQUAL FOR ALL. THERE IS NO DISCRIMINATION. No man can marry an animal and no animal can marry a man. IT IS EQUAL FOR ALL. No man can marry a tree and no tree can marry a man. IT IS EQUAL FOR ALL.
      If the Supreme Court rules that a man can marry a tree, would that ruling be equality? Equality for people that love trees so much they want to marry it? Shouldn’t people be allowed to marry trees, dogs, cats, etc? Is that absurd? A man marrying a man is more absurd than a man marrying a tree.

  120. Patty says:

    I agree with all of the above. I will call Marriage Holy Matrimony and that will open up the conversation of what that implies. I also like the idea of saying with child instead of pregnant. It may take me a while to get used to it but I think it is important.

  121. jenn e says:

    Mary K. E. says it all. I say, no don’t pull back and do any of the sort. Keep reeducating. There is an inherent dujalism in this logic. You are correct that the meaning has been emptied. But don’t pull away and retreat into some catholic stronghold. Don’t just say ok marriage is now something else. We are not at the feet of Moses giving in to stubborn hearts but of Christ and so is the whole world whether they know it or not. The Bible is full of misunderstandings and in the end Christ died because of sin. We want things are way.
    This is not the right answer. Only the easy one.

  122. Lucy A. says:

    Ms. Esposito above raises a valid concern for those who believe that traditional marriage is in the best interest of society (although she herself does not share this concern). If priests cease to sign marriage licenses, Holy Matrimony will no longer be recognized by the state. It will have the same status before the government which same sex marriages did in the past.

    As Aquila pointed out, the Church will be less susceptible to anti-discrimination litigation, but we must cautiously consider whether we should acquiesce this ground in the public square.

  123. Fr. Frank Jindra says:

    I have been thinking along these same lines RE: being a “civil magistrate.” We can, or should(?), be able to state, as a policy of the Church, that we will not do a civilly-binding ceremony. What I had not considered was the name change for what we do. I LIKE IT!!

  124. MarkV says:

    I am not a fan. Though I completely understand why, we cannot run away from words and concede a perversion. Because the word “head” is used for both a toilet and oral sex, WE have never stopped using it appropriately. Because divorce has become more common, WE have not stopped preaching Matthew 5. When Satan quoted scripture, Christ did not ask that it be discarded. And now that others want to redefine or steal marriage from our lexicon, we should not cave!!

    Let us also remember that the old definition is actually not lost, but will be forever memorialized. Now there is no way to read any book that uses the word “marry” prior to 2000 without an asterisk and an explanation of how marriage used to be understood. If we change our words, we cut ourselves off from that tradition. However if we keep using those words, then we anchor ourselves to the history that must be appealed to in all print documents. We are the Catholic Church. We embrace truth. We do not run away, redefine or reword. That is the other side. My vote is No.

  125. Elizabeth D says:

    Since Holy Matrimony is our term for the Sacrament by which two baptized persons enter a valid marriage, and not all valid marriages are sacramental, this is really a non-starter. It’s well intentioned but not really a good idea. It’s really a redefinition of “Holy Matrimony” if we start using that term to refer also to valid but non-sacramental marriages. And you definitely can’t use “Holy Matrimony” to refer to the invalid marriages of civilly married fallen away Catholics, or divorced and remarried Catholics–what are we to call it, “invalid Holy Matrimony?” No. Holy Matrimony refers to a subset of marriages–those that are Sacramental. All Holy Matrimony is marriage; not all marriage is Holy Matrimony.

  126. TomP says:

    Msgr., with all due respect, that’s a really dumb idea.The union of a husband and wife is fundamentally different from all others, and being different it has a different name. That name is “marriage”. You might as well concede to an attempt to have styrofoam redefined as steel. To redefine something as being something it’s not has dangerous results for society, and we cannot afford to adopt a defeatist attitude or allow our enemies to subvert the terms of the argument. Nothing prevents those with same-sex attractions from getting married, other than their own lack of interest in being in a heterosexual relationship. If you think that this will stop at one word or one social structure, you’re kidding yourself.

    • While we’re looking at the language I would like to banish the phrase “With all due respect” But any way words do change meaning. I seriously doubt you walk about today saying how “gay” you feel. Yet when I was a kid gay just meant happy, and we used it a lot. Not any more! So words do change, and not always in ways that please us.

  127. Jenn says:

    My parents were married in the Catholic Church in another country and the priests do not perform the civil marriage. They have a small gathering called the civil wedding the week before the chyrch wedding and then they have the church wedding a week later. (In case you’re wondering, they don’t get to live together/consummate the marriage during that week they are waiting to have the church wedding). So yes, it’s a good idea, it is done in other places around the world!

    • Mark says:

      I would like to strongly agree with Jenn here. In Cameroon especially, the parents and families are involved in the traditional wedding, the mayor or his appointee is involved in the civil union, and the priest “marries” the couple. A couple in a civil union is not considered “married” within the Catholic Church and a priest has nothing to do with a civil union since civil unions are done strictly for tax purposes and other benefits.

      Msgr. is absolutely right! Holy Matrimony is more fitting for our time. We must learn to pick our fights right. The word marriage has been diluted and the meaning corrupted. For Catholics, it is important that children brought up in the faith understand the difference between what happens at the council house and what we expect to happen in church or at least in the presence of a priest.

  128. Matt Philbin says:

    Msgr., it’s worth the effort to begin using “holy matrimony” — not least because when they come for that term as well, Catholics and Christians in general may finally realize who we’re dealing with. Like the bishops who thought being on the same side as the president on healthcare would buy them space for conscience, we don’t understand the depth of their contempt for us.

    Certainly, there are gays who just want their relationships to be held as equal, or who want the material benefits marriage offers in monetary/tax terms. But there’s also a hard, nihilistic edge to the gay movement (and the left in general) that wants very much to tear down institutions and social arrangements. They are the shock troops, and behind them come the polygamists (as they have openly stated), pederasts and the whole panoply of dysfunction and sin. If Catholics reserve “holy matrimony” to themselves, it will be unacceptable. Just as the Boy Scouts are about to find out, “tolerance” is not enough. You can’t have a single, small place left to yourself because everything MUST validate and celebrate. Their narcissism demands that “progressives” see their reflection in every institution, and their nihilism demands that they destroy those they can’t corrupt.

    So, yes, let’s change the terminology and wait to find out how long we’ll be allowed to use it.

  129. Ambrose Little says:

    Maybe someone else brought this up–didn’t have time to read all the comments..

    Seems to me that “Catholic marriage” and/or “marriage in the Church”/”married in the Church” already suffice to address the semantic differences. It’s not like this is a sudden change/new thing for us, right? We also have “sacramental marriage.”

    I don’t see the need to get overly formal about which phrase we use.

    Also, “getting out of the marriage business” as a thing doesn’t seem evangelical. It sort of ghettoizes Catholic marriage and further closes us in on ourselves. We need to be a light _in_ the world, including witnessing to what the ideal for marriage is according to God’s plan for people.

    • RM says:

      For Catholics to be a “light in the world”, they need to embrace the sacrament of Holy Matrimony according to Church teachings and abstain from using forms of contraception. When couples engage in the sacred Holy Matrimonial embrace they must give and receive of themselves completely without interference or else the Holy Spirit is not invited to the event, and God is prevented an opportunity to create. This holy embrace becomes an unholy event when contraception is used. Evangelizing and witnessing will be difficult under such circumstances. Contraception prevents the complete giving/receiving of each other and rejects the graces received during the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. These graces will be greatly needed during different stages of this covenant, especially if the couple desires to witness and evangelize others.

  130. David says:

    This would be a bad idea: to essentially bow out because we may be losing the battle, and cede the definition/notion of marriage. This is precisely what those who want to redefine/destroy marriage have sought to do: change the meaning of the word and thereby attempt to say the reality is changed. We should fight against this not retreat and just use another term. For that matter, it would only be a matter of time before people would start to redefine matrimony.

    We also must remember that marriage and matrimony are not distinct realities, as the sacrament of marriage is not distinct from the natural institution of marriage, but the former includes/is also the latter, by natural law. Sacramentality does not add something to natural marriage as though something external is superimposed on it. It raises, strengthens the same natural institution. Marriages of non-baptized persons are also no less valid or less of the realty of marriage as those of the baptized. It may pose further damage to introduce a dicatomy in people’s minds between the natural reality of marriage and matrimony.

  131. Carol says:

    Countries like Mexico, France, Italy and some of the former Communist Countries have estranged relations with the Catholic Church because of previous historical events and as such do not accept our marriages as official for the State. Thus, the previous civil ceremony is required to establish civil effects. In the USA and several other countries where freedom of religion has been established the State does recognize the Church marriages as valid also for civil effects. In the USA each State or Commonwealth determines the requirements for the clergy person in each jurisdiction. Our priests and deacons, who have received faculties from the Archdiocese or who are delegated by the proper pastor and who validly witness marriages in the Catholic Church also serve as the official civil witness. Their jurisdiction is derived from the fact that they are approved and given faculties by the proper religious authority (Bishop or his representative) AND are acting according to all the rules and practices of their “sponsoring religious body”. (Thus if a priest or deacon were to act irresponsibly and attempt a wedding outside the practices and regulations of the Church, such a union could be disputed in the courts as invalid also civilly.)

    If the US Conference of Catholic Bishops wanted to give up this freedom and privilege it would be up to the whole Conference to so act as I understand the procedure. This is not something an individual Bishop in the country would want to take on by himself because of the serious consequences that might follow.

  132. Chloe says:

    When my husband and I got married in 2012, we asked if a civil marriage license was necessary, because we sort of wanted to boycott it. We had both a Claritian priest and an FSSP priest tell us that they were obligated to sign a state marriage license and that they could not give us the Sacrament without it.

    It was a bummer philosophically, but we agreed that in the long term it would be easier for hospitalization and children to be recognized by the state.

  133. Arthur Williamson says:

    I came to this exact conclusion a while back, and have been promoting it amongst friends and acquaintances here in South Africa.

    The problem is not a new one and long predates the current ‘gay marriage’ crisis.

    For centuries the solemnisation and registration of marriages was the exclusive domain of the Church, just as with baptisms, confirmations, and ordinations. The State merely (and rarely) took note of the changed status of the persons so marked by the ‘character’ sacraments.

    The Protestant revolt in the 16th C began the process of bringing marriage into the domain of the State. In England, it was precisely this point that was at issue, and led directly to the split with Rome and the erection of a ‘church’ subject to the State. Since then, Protestants have used the term ‘marriage’ to describe relationships that the Catholic Church would call adulterous – a perfectly legitimate marriage could be set aside and another ‘marriage’ entered into despite the subsistence of the first marriage in the eyes of Christ’s holy Church.

    Today, in most so-called ‘Christian ecclesial communities’, an increasing percentage of ‘marriages’ follow a divorce. For decades if not centuries these ‘marriages’ have, in the eyes of Christ’s Church, been only putative and not real, since the parties were in fact already married. Yet our culture has called these new second, third, or fourth relationships ‘marriage’ because a man in funny clothes quoting the Bible proclaimed they were. In many cases they are not marriages but adulterous unions sacrilegiously blessed by self-appointed pastors, if the truth be told. This much any informed Catholic already knows.

    Of course, to surrender the word ‘marriage’ to the corrupt culture is a great sadness. There is a very rich history and a vast body of literature over twenty centuries that uses the term to denote what the Church understands and teaches. But it seems to me that its meaning has been steadily eroded over centuries to the point where the original and essential meaning cannot be recovered in the present historical phase. For now, the word does not mean what we mean by it, not even in the way most Protestants use it.

    Here’s a radical thought: Perhaps, in (temporarily) surrendering the word ‘marriage’ to the State and a sick culture, we should employ the very tactic the Enemy has used to evacuate its real meaning: make the word ‘marriage’ synonymous with “shackled”, “enslaved”, “captured”, “limited”, “restricted”, “reduced”, “expropriated”, “subjugated”, “bonded to Caesar/State”, etcetera.

    There is a small language challenge in switching to ‘Holy Matrimony”. How do we verb it? “I wish to enter the state of matrimony” is clumsy and won’t catch on. How does one language “I am married to Sue” without using the tainted word? Perhaps the Latinists can help us with a neologism that connotes “indissoluble lifelong commitment and bond”.

    I am praying that the hierarchs in the Church wake up and clarify this issue for the faithful, and take a courageous stand for matrimony and thereby also against its perversions. “Dominus Iesus” (CDF declaration, August 2000) already went some way to clarify the word “church” which is similarly confused, and now the Church needs to step up and do the same with Holy Matrimony.

    Lastly, I propose St John the Baptist as our patron in this cause. He first ran into trouble with the authorities when he took a strong stand for real marriage by calling Herod’s adulterous relationship for what it was, a sham and an offence to God and society. He lost his head because of his defence of marriage. We should be prepared to do the same.

    The New Martyrdom awaits, starting with mockery. Let us pray for the courage to be worthy of our calling.

  134. Alicia R. says:

    Absolutely!

  135. Kevin Aldrich says:

    I think the idea is a mistake.

    Matrimony or marriage refers to the natural institution which applies in every age and every place. That is what the CCC is referring to when it says, “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.”

    That reality is raised to a Sacrament when two Baptized persons enter into the natural marriage covenant.

  136. Barbara Ettner says:

    Yes, yes and yes. It would, however, require great courage and persistence to infuse the idea of “holy matrimony” into contemporary culture, but a good place to begin is to adopt that language and use it consistently. That is how words such as “gay” and “marriage” change meaning: it begins with using the words to suit the agenda. Using the term “holy matrimony” acknowledges there is only one authority legitimizing the union and that is God through His church. To change the actual behavior of clergy to no longer sign civil marriage licenses would require leadership on the part of Catholic bishops and leaders of other Christian denominaions — who also value the sanctity of matrimony — to change practice. It would also require, as noted by some commenters, re-educating the faithful and those seeking to enter into holy matrimony, about the difference between civil and sacramental uniion as evident in some European countries where there is a clear distinction, in practical terms, between matrimony in the church and the separate process of registering the union with civil authorities.

    I know that I will use the term “holy matrimony” from now on and, well, will probably not use the term “marriage” much at all anymore.

    Barbara

  137. Steven Barrett says:

    One can just imagine all the huffin’ n’ puffin’ from the so-easily-provoked “How judgmental can one be” crowd as they bristle with self-righteous indignation about the good Monsignor’s suggestion to divide the more generic [marriage] from “Holy Matrimony.” Has Msgr. Pope denigrated the legal standing of anybody’s marriage by suggesting this change? Of course not. But for those of us who truly believe our unions have been Blessed by God, it gives us pause to think of Who has helped to keep us together in times when the “humanity” each of us has just isn’t strong enough to pull us through. (Would we date, court, and even marry outside the human species? Of course not! I live in Massachusetts where we’ve had same-sex marriage for a decade and it hasn’t turned the Commonwealth upside down. Even in the very liberal college town area where I live, more heterosexual engagements and wedding notices are posted in the local fishwraps than are those for same-sex unions. What I’d rather see than more hand-wringing and “woe is us” shrieking and keening from the more rightist elements in our Church and society are efforts to promote the Church’s teachings on what a truly “holy” union looks like in the eyes of God. This raises the stakes; and that’s something that’s been missing all along on both sides of the issue. When more people have to answer to Him, especially after they’ve given His side a full and fair “reading” in both their hearts and minds, that’s when we’ll see a higher respect for what God has intended marriage to be since time immemorial. It’s not enough for Catholics and all Christians in general to say, ” Well, we’ve got the right idea, and while non-Christians and non-believers can and have committed themselves to everlasting unions and produced solid familes, we’re in God’s favor.” Really? He wants to see us work at our marriages to make them more truly whole wherein they’ll become more truly Holy in His eyes.

  138. Rose Marie Shea says:

    Since our culture has reduced marriage to nothing more than a meaningless social convention with financial benefits, I agree wholeheartedly with BOTH suggestions. The term ‘marriage’ should be retired and replaced solely with ‘holy matrimony,” AND we should get out of the marriage business. In France there are two ceremonies, one civil and one religious. That’s what we should do.

  139. Mercedes says:

    I’m not even sure people want to be “married” anymore. What they want is to have a wedding together. I also am bothered by the number of “weddings” where they have friends get “ordained ministers” to officiate this wedding. No wonder we have so many divorces, when all you are beholden to is your friend from college who filled out an online form and paid $20.

  140. Joan Grant says:

    All I know is that in the 50’s we as Catholics applied and received a State license and then received
    Holy Matrimony at Mass. No one even thought it to be a problem! Didn’t attend any civil ceremony
    but received the sacrament of the Holy Matrimony in the Catholic Church.

  141. Pam says:

    When my brother wed his bride in Germany, they had 2 ceremonies. Legal ceremony is required, plus they married in the church. I always thought that was nice. The legal part can be done quickly, as in old movies. I do worry, though, about young people who don’t especially want church weddings. Needing 2 ceremonies might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, so to speak. They might marry in the church to please their parents if only one ceremony is required. So I don’t know whether priests should sign state licenses or not. Something for the bishops to pray about.

  142. Rev. Stephen L. Collins says:

    I agree, Monsignor. I will no longer use “marriage” to describe the preparation for Holy Matrimony. From now on, the couple will be preparing for Holy Matrimony.

  143. Edwin says:

    I think to properly defined it with the Christian Faith Fr. Charles is right and I think it will start with individuals to say Holy Matrimony and I will start using it Amen

  144. Raymond M. Keogh says:

    I believe that where the law changes the meaning of ‘marriage’ to include arrangements that are outside the traditional definition, the only option open to the Church is to define Catholic unions clearly in terms that are (legally) different from the secular meaning. This will force a complete separation of legal and religious ceremonies. Catholic couples will, nonetheless, also have to ‘marry’ under State law. This separation is common practice in some countries.

    Separation of Church and State contracts has several positive spin-offs:

    • It recognizes Catholic Unions as something distinct – even from traditional heterosexual marriage that permits divorce;

    • It overcomes the threat that churches are discriminating against certain secular arrangements. The answer is: the Church does not ‘do’ (secular) ‘marriage’;

    • It also facilitates Catholic educators in teaching children about Catholic Unions without being accused of discrimination against alternative secular arrangements: special preparation is required for Catholic life-long commitments (especially today);

    • It strengthens the meaning of the bond between a man and woman at a time when the secular world will be unable to prevent a further liberalization of the term ‘marriage’. For example, ‘marriage’ based exclusively on love (with a totally liberal meaning of the word ‘love’) makes it difficult if not impossible, in the long-run, for the State to limit ‘marriage’ exclusively to couples. Demands to allow polyamorous arrangements are already surfacing.

    If the accusation is made that the Catholic Church is becoming an exclusive or extreme ‘cult’, external to modern society, we must remind ourselves and our accusers that scientific and social literature consistently keep indicating that sustained unions of biological parents are best for the parents themselves and the children and, therefore, contribute positively to the ‘common good’ (in purely secular terms). The great additional benefits of Catholic unions are achieved and illustrated through the day-to-day commitments of couples within a living faith.

    What form of words can be used to provide a clear (legal) distinction between Catholic Unions and secular ‘marriage’? Officially, as Msgr. Charles Pope points out, the Church defines Catholic Unions within the term Holy Matrimony. Good.

    For day-to-day usage, perhaps ‘Catholic-Unions’ / ‘Church-Unions’, etc, are user-friendly equivalents? For those who feel we are capitulating by abandoning the word ‘marriage’; this need not be so. It is, after all, the State that is forcing the change, in legal terms – not the Church. We are always free to use the traditional word ‘marriage’ but must always make its meaning clear (e.g. as in the term ‘Sacrament of Marriage’).

    Raymond Keogh

    Ireland

  145. Diane Woods says:

    This proposal, to use “Holy Matrimony” exclusively, resonates at the deepest level. For the first time in a long while I breathed a sense of peace. It is simple and profound to the Catholic faith. Perhaps, we cannot change the rising momentum of a new world order but this simple solution is restorative to what we cherish and know to be true. As we bear witness to the painful changes within our courts that dilute and indeed change the meaning of ‘marriage’ between a man and a woman by simply making use of the sacramental words “Holy Matrimony” not only differentiates the holiness of the sacrament but it becomes didactic and perhaps in perfect timing with our ‘New Evangelization’ and catechetical teachings.

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  147. John Smith says:

    This is a really useful post for anyone who is planning to get married in near future. It’s clear and explains the basic things you need to have in place to ensure every one understands what’s expected of them. I really appreciate the examples given.

  148. Teófilo de Jesús (@vivificat) says:

    Monsignor,

    You stated the same view back in 2011 and I applauded you then (cfr. http://tinyurl.com/knwp65b).

    In light of today’s SCOTUS’ decision granting tacit approval to same-sex “marriage”, I applaud you harder. We need to retrench and protect holy matrimony vis-a-vis civil “marriage” as soon as possible. Please relay my concerns to your ordinary on this matter, and my convergence with your own thoughts on this urgent matter.

    +JMJ,
    ~Theo

  149. Tom Pulju says:

    Marriage is a sacred covenant. No government has the competence to say whether my wife and I gave each other this sacrament when we were married in the Catholic Church. The Church should not have to change its term for this sacrament; governments should have to change their term.

    A State, for instance, could grant or deny “binding liability arrangement” (BLA) licenses instead of marriage licenses.

  150. Rev. Bryan Hudson says:

    I agree with the premise of using the term “Holy Matrimony” to identify Christian marriage. The word “holy” may be best defined as, “other than.” After witnessing and experiencing the presence of the Lord at my son’s wedding ceremony last weekend, I thought, “This is more than a marriage, as our culture now understands it, this is holy matrimony.”

    Today a wrote a blog post, “Holy Matrimony” is Marriage Life No Other.”: http://www.bryanhudson.com/2014/10/holy-matrimony-is-marriage-like-no-other.html?spref=fb

    Thank you
    Rev. Bryan Hudson

  151. Nancy D. says:

    I think we need to make it abundantly clear, that the necessary element for a marriage contract to be valid, and one of the necessary elements for the The Sacrament of Marriage to be valid, is the ability and desire to exist in relationship as husband and wife. Once we remove this necessary element for a marriage contract as well as The Sacrament of Marriage, we will be coerced into condoning and affirming marriage fraud and the sin of adultery.

  152. Jim L. Sekerak says:

    We could use three connected terms; (I) ‘Wedding celebration/ceremony’ to indicated that two people are being “joined together”. (2) ‘Pre-marriage course/instruction’ to provide those preparing to be joined with respect to psychological, economic and sacramental aspects involved-especially exposure to those who are married (with children). (3)’Holy Matrimony’ to stress the presence of God, the commitment being made and wholeness i.e. holiness of same. Those who are trendily “progressive” should be encouraged to use a more proper term which reflects what they are doing, inc. being enjoined to a car, themselves, pet, etc. and at the same time allows them to move away from the more traditional concept. This should be appealing to secularists since it will not be associated with religion and even distances themselves from marriage which pre-dates both government and the Church.

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