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Article published February 1, 2013
Respect marriage view
Tootie Betres Renfrew
Regarding Nancy Cope’s Jan. 8 letter, “Words’ meaning stolen,” which speaks of marriage, and the Jan. 21 response by Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, “View has no place,” I would like to express my opinion. It is clear that Cope knows the Decree on the Sacraments, Session VII, March 3, 1547, at the Council of Trent, for that is where the Church declared that if one did not see marriage as a sacrament of the Church, then that person is “anathema.” Many Christians believe as the Church teaches, that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has raised this contract between man and woman to a higher realm — that of a “sacrament.” Some people might be surprised to learn that many churchmen have voiced the opinion that marriage is so complex that it should be left to the civil sphere of life, to the government. But those who follow the Church believe that the sacraments bestow God’s grace on those who receive them. The belief is that the sacraments are the way that God’s action in the life of the couple enables the couple to see themselves as living “in Christ” and, in turn, Christ living and acting in their relationship, attitudes and actions. People marry for many different reasons: social, emotional, financial, spiritual, religious, legal, etc. Marriage could be recognized by a state, organization, religious denomination, peers or local community. It is viewed as a contract irrespective of religious affiliation. I think Cope’s point was that we should not call this union a “marriage.” She pointed out, correctly, that most see marriage in a more spiritual way and a way that reflects Church teaching. (See Trent.) I think that to simply define the union of same-sex couples as marriage contradicts almost a thousand years of an understanding of that term. Call it a contract, a union, a coupling, but surely when most of the world holds a different definition for marriage and sees it as a “sacrament.” this calls for something to be done. The difficult task in front of us is to restate the theology of marriage in a way that is true to Christian tradition and yet takes account of the signs of the time and calls the union what it is. It was a difficult and complex task that finally brought marriage and its definition as between a man and a woman into the sacramentality of the Church and for its community of believers. So, upholding this as dogma needs to be respected and not something to be denied or scoffed at by those who wish to change the meaning of “marriage.”