Marriages and Recognized Relationships

An Australian priest in Queensland seems to have sorted out the separate issues in the matter of same-sex unions and marriage. Church marriage for heterosexual couples only, and civil unions otherwise:

I’ve got no problem with people wanting their relationships recognised.

The issue for me is that [same sex relationships] is not what marriage is.

Is there a potential benefit to all this? George Weigel would not approve of the “soviet” development, but Fr Mick Lowcock wonders …

… if we should take up a European system where couples go to the courthouse to get their relationship recognised by the state and then the church if they want to have it blessed.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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14 Responses to Marriages and Recognized Relationships

  1. crystal says:

    I just saw in the news that Britain is to legalized same-sex marriage in a couple of years ….

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think the issue for many is the official recognition of the relationship. I think people want to be able to be “married”, whether it’s in a relgious ceremony of just civil.

  2. Patti says:

    I’ve long thought the the best way to level the playing field, so to speak, is this: all legal unions are civil unions and any couple can have one with all of the civil rights that go along with it (i.e.: the State stops enacting marriages; it’s a sacrament, not a business). It’s then left to the individual churches to decide what they will acknowledge by blessing marriages. I think a couple of things get in the way here: 1. language: people are used to talking about marriage and not civil unions (which trips off the tongue like boulders) 2. politics and power: it would be hard for some folks to give up that heterosexual sense of superiority and it would give the far right one less tool for whipping up fear.

  3. crystal says:

    The thing is that separating marriage from civil unions gives the impression that marriage is only and always a Christian and religious ceremony. But it hasn’t been and isn’t.

  4. FrMichael says:

    Typical woolly-headed progressive priest, which Australia has been an expert in creating the past few decades. Not a thought in the world about the moral conundrum Catholic employers and teachers face when same-sex (and presumably heterosexual shack-up) couples relationships are legally treated the same as marriage. So does a Catholic employer pay for benefits for the other partner, even though the relationship is repugnant to Catholic faith and morals? Does a Catholic teacher falsely teach that these relationships are equal to marriage if her state curriculum instructs her to? Old Fr. Mick doesn’t bother address these issues. His only motivation is that he won’t troubled by having them seeking to be blessed in his church.

    Unfortunately, his lazy way of thinking is echoed by too many of our American bishops. The Californian bishops have been particularly negligent in this regard, including the Prince of the Church Cardinal Levada during his time as Archbishop of San Francisco. As long as the parishes aren’t soiled by having to bless this filth, there is no care for the Catholic laity in the secular world having to face this evil without the benefit of the carefully crafted exceptions for the institutions of the Church.

    • Liam says:

      It’s not sooooo different when a Catholic employer (not sure if you mean a parish or an employer who happens to be Catholic) has a Catholic employee who is in an invalid marriage for myriad other reasons. (And, last I heard, no one has forced the Catholic church in the USA to marry such persons at our altars. I don’t see same-sex marriage changing that a jot or tittle.)

      Now, Catholic parishes and dioceses can enforce morals clauses in their employment contracts with their employees, of course, and the First Amendment will protect those arrangements to a fair degree.

    • Todd says:

      I think the woolly-headedness comes with the equation of what marriage is in the legal sphere and how a Catholic views the sacrament. These are not the same thing, nor do we sacrifice high moral standards in sexual behavior from recognizing it.

      Catholic bosses do not determine the morality of their employees’ relationships–at least not legally. If a person is acting within the boundaries of secular law, then there would be a presumption such laws would be obeyed. That my auto mechanic, waiter, grocer, or plumber is a non-Catholic or acting in a non-Catholic way in his or her personal life is not terribly relevant to fixing my muffler, my salad, or my pipes. If they were cheats, thiefs, or frauds, perhaps so. And I won’t return to do business with them in that instance.

      Jesus cautioned believers about hypocrisy, the filth that comes from the heart. What my mechanic may do in a bedroom is of no concern to me, unless, as a friend, she or he approaches me and asks for sincere counsel. I go to a mechanic for counsel on my automobile. Not sex.

      The problems arise when we Catholics think too much of ourselves, and are unwilling to look closely at our attitudes and prejudices. Some of us may say, we’re not anti-gay. But ask the people who are insulted, not those delivering the insults.

  5. FrMichael says:

    Liam, I am referring to a Catholic business owner of a secular business, let’s say a shopkeeper, who would rather not pay for the tube-tying of the shack-up honey (doesn’t really matter gay or straight) of one of his employees. Under CA law, he’s stuck. I have plenty of medical professionals in my parish, and they have even more moral difficulties they have to face.

    Now in CA, we’re worried about the parochial schools and Catholic Charities. The way these laws and regulations have been drawn up, they don’t seem to be “Catholic” enough institutions for state government. Things might be going to the courts. The Culture of Death is really strong around here.

  6. Liam says:

    Fr Michael

    It’s no different than if the Catholic employer wanted to refuse to pay for the benefits of an invalidly married couple. This is not a new issue by any stretch of the imagination. The Church has not imputed formal, let alone substantial material, cooperation to the employer in such a circumstance.

    I think the Culture of Death has always been strong in the USA, just under different guises. Consider, for example, the extermination of aboriginal peoples and the enslavement of millions, and even after erstwhile emancipation, the continued enslavement by another name for a few generations thereafter. That’s just for starters: there’s tons more. This is not to excuse the current guise of the Culture of Death, but it is to remove the silly and unhelpful (because it does violence to the truth) notion that we’ve moved down from some Arcadian bliss in recent generations.

  7. FrMichael says:

    “It’s no different than if the Catholic employers wanted to refuse to pay for the benefits of an invalidly married couple. This is not a new issue by any stretch of the imagination. The Church has not imputed formal, let alone substantial material cooperation to the employer in such a circumstance.”

    Liam, I don’t agree with that blanket statement. There really isn’t much written on the subject, but I certainly wouldn’t hire an employee in my parochial school or parish who I knew was in an invalid marriage. A good number of the business owners in my parish screen their employees under the vague rubric of “good character,” so far without legal sanction. Catholic employers should presume the validity of marriages of their employees, but aren’t obligated in justice (as opposed to civil law) to support the benefits acruing to an invalid marriage if they know that status by moral certainty.
    “Moral certainty” is a pretty high bar to jump if one is not participating in the canonical process or the confessional. “Same-sex marriage” does not enjoy that strong presumption of validity, since it is a priori incapable of being true natural or sacramental marriage. Ditto for heterosexual civil unions, for which there is no expectation of permanence.

    • Liam says:

      Fr Michael,

      Now you’ve switched back to being the parochial employer, where before you were talking about Catholic employers in the world (or so it seemed). My statement was narrow: it is about the imputation of sin to the employer. I don’t think you’ve made the case that my statement was incorrect.

  8. FrMichael says:

    Liam, I will grant you that this country has not moved from a blessed state where the Gospel of Life ruled to the current iniquity. I will simply point out that the atrocities of the past do not compare to the murder of tens of millions in the womb of the past 40 years. Also new is that material cooperation in the Culture of Death is quickly becoming compulsory. Nobody in the past was compelled to own slaves, to be racist, to massacre Indians, etc. With the taxation sources of the Federal Government of the 19th century, indeed, one didn’t even have to support by federal taxes the US Army in the Indian Wars. Doesn’t work now: outside of being Amish or living in a cave somewhere in Montana or Alaska, I’m not sure how one cannot be a participant in the CofD in this country.

    • Liam says:

      Fr Michael

      You underestimate how people in the US were compelled to support the Cultures of Death in the past. And if you think abortions were not a byproduct of those cultures, you are kidding yourself. If you really think through the repercussions of genocide and slavery through the cycle of culture, life and society, you’d shudder more about it than you do here. I shudder about the current Culture of Death. I just don’t greywash the past to make the current Culture of Death appear more starkly.

  9. Todd says:

    No one is compelled to have an abortion, except perhaps by a misreading of the circumstances of life: poverty, lack of support from a husband or family, or a sense of personal hopelessness. And sure, lots of people have just plain bad motivations.

    The reason why I and others might interpret your statements as anti-gay is that it took the reality of same-sex unions to bring this out of your closet, so to speak. I don’t recall hearing you or the bishops speaking out very strongly about this prior to a few years ago. Suddenly you guys want to promote “sacramental” marriage, and it just so happens that gay people want to visit each other on deathbeds or be recognized as a next-of-kin. Where was all this concern when Marriage Encounter needed to be promoted? Or Retrouvaille? Do the spouses of your employees have to work because you pastors are too tight with a buck to pay a just wage for a family to live on?


    Everybody’s a participant in the Culture of Death. It’s just another comfortable moniker for sin.

  10. FrMichael says:


    “No one is compelled to have an abortion…”

    Yes, but every taxpayer in the State of California is compelled to pay for them thanks to MediCal, our version of Medicare. This is what I mean by compelled complicity in the Culture of Death.

    As for the larger paragraph, a quick point-by-point response:

    “Out of your closet.” Actually, my time, like yours, is precious, so I don’t generally ponder about all the possible moral situations that might arise in daily life. I respond to the actual situations in which I and my parishioners live. Right now the rise of the GLBT movement causes great consternation.

    “Suddenly you guys want to promote ‘sacramental’ marriage…”

    Huh? as seminarians my class had a semester course in marriage, so that we could properly prepare couples. That was long before same-sex marriage came to public consciousness. I would estimate that my homilies regarding marriage outnumber any reference to the GLBT agenda in Mass by about 20 to 1.

    BTW what’s with the quotes around “sacramental?”

    The same sex marriage movement is about far more than visiting death beds. I’ve heard the anecdotes too, but in my area– including the Catholic hospitals I have visited and served– there never was a bar to hospital visits based on marital status.

    Marriage Encounter: involvement dating back a dozen years.
    Retrouvaille: gets publicity in the bulletin and an occasional counseling referral. The local affiliate doesn’t seem to lack for help by the clergy, so I haven’t volunteered to help.

    Staff pay. Like the other Californian dioceses, mine has a staff pay manual that must be adhered to. I don’t pay my staff as much as I would like, but none are complaining and two of them are the solo breadwinners for their families. Every staffer can afford to put their children into the parochial school if they like. So I’m paying a living wage, but clearly not extravagantly so. I follow the pattern of my first pastor long ago: have fewer but better-paid lay staffers.

    Off on vacation. It will be interesting to see what the Catholic blogosphere is up to by the time I return. God bless, FrMichael

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