Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Sanctity of Marriage?

Notice the question mark in my title? I happened to catch something on TV this morning that really surprised me. Maybe it shouldn't have given how our society looks at marriage and family. "Sanctity" doesn't seem to exist.

I turned on the TV today and the Today Show was on. I don't normally watch it, but that's the station the TV had been on when we shut it off last night. Matt Lauer was talking to some woman (I never found out if she was a gossip columnist or a marriage counselor or what) and they were discussing the break-up of Al and Tipper Gore's 40 year marriage.

Apparently being married 40 years is a success even if you decide to break-up. Both Mr. Lauer and his guest seemed to think that after 40 years, deciding to go your separate ways doesn't mean your marriage was a failure. Really?? I thought marriage was for life, "till death do us part"? But apparently, they both felt that 40 years was quite an accomplishment and that they deserved to end things and do some new things. They also felt that since the children were grown, that wasn't an issue.

When did marriage just become a convenience that can be thrown out whenever you wanted? Whenever it no longer suited you? And who says it doesn't effect the children?

(I'm not naive, I know this sentiment has been around a long time, but it really hit me this morning.)

I remember my mother telling me that someone she knew in our neighborhood was very upset because her parents were getting a divorce. This wasn't a child, this was a grown woman with children of her own. I don't think it matters how old your children are when you divorce; it is still devastating to them. The issues are different (yes, if your children are adults there are no custody issues or anything like that) but there are still issues: holidays, can you invite both mom and dad to an event, doubts regarding your parent's relationship while you were growing up, and I'm sure many, many other things.

But more important to my point of this post, what happened to the sanctity of marriage? The idea that marriage is meant for life? When did we get to the point that at some later stage in life it is suddenly okay to divorce because your marriage lasted x-number of years? Whether it is 4 years or 40 years, a marriage ending is a sad thing, and not a success in my opinion. (BTW, I am not speaking about marriages that end because of abuse or some other awful thing occurring in the home. Marriages like that obviously need help and sometimes the best option is for it to end, for the health and well-being of the abused spouse and/or children.)

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1601:
"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."

The key words for me are "covenant," "for the whole of life," "ordered toward the good of the spouses," and "raised ... to the dignity of a sacrament." This is only one very tiny section in the Catechism on marriage. There is much, much more. The Church holds marriage up on a pedestal. It is the entire basis of the family and thus for society.

When marriage becomes nothing more than a convenience for two people who are open to ending that marriage whenever they feel it is no longer something they are interested in, it becomes almost like a business partnership. There is no security in that (for the spouses, the children, and everyone around them).

Really I'm just mostly amazed that because the Gore's were married for 40 years, their marriage can still be considered a "success" even if they split up. At what point can a marriage break-up and still be considered a success? Is it a number of years? Does it depend on whether there are children or not? How old the children are? What is it?

For me, coming at marriage from a sacramental point of view (that's no secret), the end of any marriage is something to be mourned. I do not consider the Gore's to have had a successful marriage just because, well, they made it 40 years and that's more than many couples these days. What a cop-out!!

This is just one symptom of how our society is quickly falling into complacency. It's really sad! There are no more standards and many standards that are around are sort of relational. There is no right or wrong any longer, it is all just up to individuals. If it feels right, then do it and what's right for one isn't necessarily right for someone else.

What a load of crap! Really? This is where society is going? It is scary and it makes raising kids very hard. This is one symptom, there are many, many more.

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