The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Disengagement to Marry

According to Rod Dreher:
Father Patrick Reardon, pastor of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, has just released the following statement:

"Because the State of Illinois, through its legislature and governor’s office, have now re-defined marriage, marriage licenses issued by agencies of the State of Illinois will no longer be required (or signed) for weddings here at All Saints in Chicago.

Those seeking marriage in this parish will be counseled on the point.

Father Pat"

No longer be required or signed. No recognition of the state’s authority over marriage. One is reminded of Alasdair Macintyre’s famous remark about the decline of the Western Roman Empire:

"A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium."

I could be wrong, but it sounds like the pastor of All Saints parish has concluded that the continuation of civility and moral community no longer has anything to do with shoring up the American civil order, and in fact depends on repudiating it in the matter of marriage.
Well, that's one approach, I suppose.

Look, it is the right of any religious sect to choose to get out of the secular marriage business. If this is the beginning of a trend, so be it. I confess that it seems a little petulant--particularly if Dreher is reading Father Reardon's motivation correctly--in that civil marriage has always diverged, in this country, from sacramental marriage. Indeed, in many Christian denominations, marriage isn't a sacrament. Period. Moreover, divorce has long been more readily available under secular law than under the rules of many traditionalist Christian sects, not to mention the rules of other faiths.

Oh, yes. Other faiths. Faiths that have very different definitions of marriage and its meaning.

But let's be charitable here, and assume that Fr, Reardon is not applying Macintyre's lines here. He just wants out, either to prevent a claim that his parish be required to conduct a wedding outside of the framework of its faith (which I an quite sure would not be upheld by the courts, even if tried), or to avoid complicity in the doings of the state.

Or even assume Dreher reads Fr. Reardon aright.

He should live and be well.

I think he's wildly wrong, mind you. I believe full civil marriage equality is coming sooner than I thought. And in my own Diocese, it's already here, for which I am glad. My marriage shouldn't, in my view, be privileged by La Caterina's and my gender. That said, I value religious freedom for others as well as for myself. That includes, in my opinion, the right to not exercise a religion,as either agnostic or atheist, and the right to exercise religions with which I have little or no common ground.

And that includes, of course, the right not to serve as an agent of the state in weddings.

So, it's not how I would react, but just as I respected the right of those clergy who decided not to perform weddings until equal marriage was the law of New York State, it's my duty to recognize the converse right of those who hold opposite views to disengage.

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