Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Thinking too much. . .
I’m a convert to Catholicism, with a Lutheran mother and baptized and confirmed Catholic father. My dad fell away from the Church after college, as he married outside of the Church and all us children were nominally Lutheran. Given how his entire family hasn’t practiced their faith since before my birth, it’s something I struggle to internalize. But, it finally dawned on me that my parents’ marriage is invalid in the eyes of the Church. Now, I’m struggling with various questions I know will arise down the line: Do I acknowledge their wedding anniversaries? Should I let my parents share a room when they visit? What should my husband and I tell our children in the future, if anything? Any guidance would be appreciated.
Validity is a term strange to Eastern Orthodoxy and one which Lutherans also find uncomfortable but it is one which is very much a part of the theology of Roman Catholicism. I do not like the preoccupation with validity and find this question strange to my ears. How should I treat my parents since their marriage is invalid? Well, what about the fourth commandment? Honor your father and mother? Whether or not your parents marriage is valid in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church (to which, it seems, they do not belong, if I read between the lines), they remain married before the law, they continue to be your parents, and you owe them the honor and respect due them as your parents. The commandment came before Tu es Petrus.
The answer given by the blogger was marginally acceptable in my eyes (reminding them that only the RC Church decides what is valid and not) but the answer failed in one central way -- it implied that it was exceptional for this daughter to continue to honor her parents, send a card on their anniversary, or allow them to share a bedroom when they visited in her home. Really? Marriage is sacramental -- even Lutherans see this though we do not call it a sacrament -- but marriage was God's gift in creation prior to all other things. I find it more than a bit confusing and confounding how this could become such a question and such an issue -- so much so that it would bring into question the mere acknowledgement of her parents marriage, anniversaries, or their sleeping arrangements upon visits to her home. It is a muddle to me and one that makes Roman theology and practice on this subject a conundrum and an impediment to my consideration of their larger point in calling marriage a sacrament.
Sadly, there is little that confuses the world or makes the world ridicule Roman teaching on marriage and divorce more than such a question like this and its muddled answer. I had hoped that this might be a moment of clarity in which the Scripture and reason for such teaching might shine but what I got was only more darkness, shadow, and confusion....
Yes, her parents may have failed in their most important duty to raise their children in the faith (Lutherans and Roman Catholics agree here). But the ordered relationship of parent and child does not depend upon the faithfulness of the parent or the success and appreciation of the child. By all means, raise the question to mom and dad why they did not more deliberately pass on the faith to their children (especially as a daughter raising her own children and, perhaps, learning from her parent's mistakes). But it is the ultimate strangeness to preoccupy oneself with the question of validity, whether to remember an anniversary, or to allow mom and dad to share the same bedroom in her home. Goofy. Really goofy. Can someone else explain it to me better than Fr. Z?