Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The quality of the relationship?!?

As Rome prepares to write another chapter in the continuing Synod on Marriage drama, we find that Pope Francis has appointed people who seriously disagree with the Roman Catholic stance as well as those who fall in line with the traditional teaching of Rome with respect to marriage, same sex marriage, and the communion of divorced.  One of the more prominent voices disagreeing with traditional teaching from Rome has been Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp.

“Personally, I find that in the Church, more space must be given to acknowledge the actual quality of gay and lesbian couples; and such a form of shared life should meet the same criteria as found in an ecclesiastical marriage,” he said. “We have to acknowledge that such criteria can be found in a diversity of relationships, and one needs to search for various models to give form to those relationships.”

What is most interesting about Bonny's point is his insistence that the quality of the gay and lesbian relationships be a contributing factor in the blessing of the church and the definition of ecclesiastical marriage.  As far as I know this would represent the first time the quality of a relationship was a deciding factor in its status in the church.  Bad marriages are still marriages and good relationships are not marriages (unless the man and woman choose to marry).  What this fellow is doing is blurring the distinctions between marriage and relationships.  As far as I know, the Scriptures do not address with any sort of standing or approval adult, consensual, sexual relationships of any kind EXCEPT the marriage of a man to a woman. 

This is, by the way, the same tack as those who believe in assisted suicide and even active euthanasia.  Quality of life becomes the defining issue over the value of the life itself just as here the quality of the relationship is what would signal its ecclesiastical approval.  This is a slippery slope, to be sure.

I have no doubt that there are gay and lesbian couples who have a better relationship between them than many heterosexual marriages.  But the quality of the relationship is not what gives marriage its legitimacy.  Flawed and even failing marriages are still marriages and excellent relationships of gay and lesbian couples are still not marriage.  Once the quality of the relationship becomes the deciding factor in the church's approval, the church has been given a far different task than to officiate at the blessing of those to be married according to God's design, witnessing their pledges and vows of faithfulness, equipping them with the grace of forgiveness to keep those vows and promises, and holding them accountable when the marriage is no longer easy, happy, or satisfying.

Bonny is sounding the typical party line of modernity but it has no place in the deliberations of the Church, Roman or otherwise.  Marriage is what it is because of God's design and the man and woman who, though living within the boundaries of human frailty, seek to live out their life together as God has willed and purposed.  Marriage is not what it is because those in the relationship think it works or is satisfying to them.

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