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Notes for the Etiquette of a New Age Print E-mail
By Hadley Arkes   
Tuesday, 15 January 2013

This past week, in Washington, it was announced that “effective immediately, same-sex weddings may be celebrated at Washington National Cathedral,” standing at the heights of the city. 

In making the announcement, the Dean of the Cathedral observed that, “for more than thirty years the Episcopal Church has prayed and studied to discern the evidence of God’s blessing in the lives of same-sex couples.” This did bring some additional news. 

Are we to gather that for thirty years the Episcopal Church has done more than extend a pastoral concern for all people, with their varied descriptions, but had actually been cultivating an acceptance of same-sex “couples”?  

Had the Church been at work all this time preparing to accept same-sex marriage? Or if not “marriage,” had the Church been settling in with an acceptance of sexual couplings, however permanent or transitory, outside of marriage?

            The Church might have been busy discerning, but this new move was evidently stirred on by the fact that these weddings were now stamped as rightful in the laws of the city. A few miles up the road and across the border, the legislature of Maryland had also acted recently to recognize same-sex marriages.  

But from Bethesda, and the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, the young Msgr. Edward Filardi put out a message rather different from that of the Dean of the Cathedral. Msgr. Filardi has often had to put himself at odds with the liberal currents that run within his own parish.  He could hardly avoid doing it again unless a striking change in the moral terms of our lives would be treated as matter barely worth noticing.


          The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by John Martin, 1852

And so he opened his pastoral note by saying, “Welcome to Sodom. Yes, that is what Maryland has now become. . .with the same disregard for the natural law of human love”: 

That same disregard is now written into state law. The distinctive physical and life-cultivating complementarity of woman and man has been dismissed as a basis for marriage. Additionally, those who cannot honor this diluted definition in their personal and business activities will be held legally liable for discrimination and punished accordingly.

Msgr. Filardi went on to record a “great sadness that many of Satan’s helpers in ushering in this demonic distortion of marriage were Catholics, such as our governor [Martin O’Malley]. . . .We must pray that they recognize this error, repent and make reparation.” 

While we wait for those recognitions to come rolling in, along with the reparations, it is clear that a change in the laws will bring with it a change in many parts of the so-called “culture.”  As Msgr. Filardi noted, many ordinary people would face penalties if they demurred from recognizing the rightness of these marriages – e.g., if they simply declined to take photos for them.

But as the ripples move outward, beyond the matter of legal penalties and disabilities, the question will begin to affect the conventions of our lives together in many ordinary ways.  And so, during this same week, at a service on the West Coast, a friend of ours encountered an acquaintance from Washington. She asked about the lady’s son: had he married? Yes, he had, and the mother quickly added with a decorous hint of excitement, “it was a same-sex marriage!” 

The news was conveyed with the sense that the mother was quite in tune now with the moral sensibility that was coming with this advanced, new age. For the rest of us this is yet another sign of the strains to come. How are we to react as people virtually invite us to confirm, with congratulations, the ethic they are announcing to us – or to stamp ourselves as retrograde if we show our reluctance to chime in? 

My friend gave a non-committal nod of the head. As we used to say, this was a moment when some of us begin looking down at our shoes, not knowing what to say. And so it may be worth starting to set down some notes now and then as to what we might devise as a scheme of etiquette to get us through these times.  

I’ve mulled over this line of responses to the news of the same-sex marriage.

“Oh, that’s nice. . . .Is it an ‘open marriage’?”  If the person asks, “What do you mean?,” one could explain:  “Are they open to a third person joining them? After all it’s been reported that we have about 500,000 polyamorous households in this country. These people profess to love one another, and that their love is not confined to a coupling. What would you say when they come asking why we would not honor their loves with the recognition of marriage?” Is it that two men would not invite a woman to join them? Is this just another version of hostility to women? We have polygamy making a comeback in the Southwest now. Would it threaten you if these people restored this ancient form of marriage?

The question can’t be met with the answer, “We insist that marriage is confined to two.” For as the point was made long ago, if this matter were to be carried simply by insistence or stipulation, that argument is countered with our own stipulation:  that marriage means one man and one woman. 

. . .But then again, we quickly add, before we follow out further the chain of possibilities: “I’m sure everything will turn out well.”       


Hadley Arkes
is the Ney Professor of Jurisprudence at Amherst College and the Director of the Claremont Center for the Jurisprudence of Natural Law in Washington. D.C. His most recent book is
Constitutional Illusions & Anchoring Truths: The Touchstone of the Natural Law. Volume II of his audio lectures from The Modern Scholar, First Principles and Natural Law is now available for download.
 
 
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Comments (15)Add Comment
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written by Jack,CT, January 15, 2013
This new age " "the way things are these days" and
on and on...we need to fight this immoral stance.
This is one of the reasons i get so offended when
people claim to be "Episcoopal" is Roman Catholic
"Light", NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!
jack
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written by Bangwell Putt, January 15, 2013
"I am dejected, seized by desolation. Is there no balm in Gilead? Can no physician be found?"
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written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, January 15, 2013
When citizens of one country, say Algeria, enter into a marriage there that is actually or potentially polygamous and then come to settle in, say, France, where marriage is strictly monogamous, the courts have to ask themselves whether the relationship between a man and the ladies living under his protection in a polygamous union is sufficiently analogous to the relationship of husband and wife, as described in the Code Civil, to make it just to apply the same rules to them. Otherwise, there is a real danger of the courts creating obligations, rather than enforcing them.

The same question can arise in relation to succession to moveable and immoveable property, the owners of which are citizens of and domiciled in a foreign country

No jurist has suggested there is an easy answer to this.

The analogy with same-sex marriages is obvious enough.
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written by Manfred, January 15, 2013
Thank you for an informative article, Dr. Arkes. I have just a few small points I would like to add. You capitalize the first c in Episcopal Church. Leo XIII made it clear-the Episcopal churchmen do not enjoy faculties-they separated from the True Church. This was again brought up in Dominus Jesus in 2,000 where non-Catholic Christians were declared to not have churches but rather faith communities. You seem to give the Episcopalians more authority than they possess. Do not forget that it was the Episcopalian counterpart, the Anglicans, who broke with the condemnation on contraception at Lambeth in 1930 triggering Casti Connubii by Pius XI. My last point is EXCOMMUNICATION. If the Church refuses to excommunicate figures such as O'Malley, Biden, Pelosi, Sebelius, the Cuomos (pere et fils) et al., then the Church has made Itself a paper tiger and It and Its members will be paying a terrible price as It/we are swept into the dustbin of history. It is obvious that this task is beyond the leadership of the Church, Bp Filardi excluded, and that only Divine intervention brought by conversion and prayer will save us.
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written by Richard A, January 15, 2013
How's this for a response? "How fortunate for you! Soon you can start enjoying those grandchildren."
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written by Jacob R, January 15, 2013
Only Polyphobes think marriage is for two..

(Even though evil doesn't exist, you literally have to be an evil bigot to disagree with me.)
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written by Dan Deeny, January 15, 2013
A very fine article. Amusing! Helpful!
Does Gov. O'Malley receive communion? Yes, we might be waiting a long time for the recognitions and reparations. But better late than never, n'est-ce pas?
Keep up the good work.
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written by Grump, January 15, 2013
It's quite revealing of America's descent into depravity that while 400,000 people turn out in France to protest against same-sex "marriage" that there are virtually no like demonstrations in America. Meanwhile, as the First and Second Amendments are being eroded day by day by the Obama Regime the masses are otherwise diverted by the sins of a bicycle rider seeking public forgiveness kneeling before the TV altar of the nation's mother confessor.
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written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, January 15, 2013
Manfred is a little too broad, when he says, “ non-Catholic Christians were declared to not have churches but rather faith communities.” In fact, Dominus Jesus [17] says “The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches.”

As far as the Episcopal Church is concerned, around the beginning of the last century, several Episcopalian bishops received consecration from Janesnist bishops of the Union of Utrecht, whose orders are valid; something that post-dated Leo XIII’s judgment, which complicates the issue.
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written by Manfred, January 15, 2013
@Michael Paterson-Seymour: "...that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches." Thank you for your comment Michael, but you make my point as the Churches referred to are the Orthodox Churches which do indeed maintain the succession and the valid Eucharist. As for the "several Episcopalian bishops received consecration from Jansenist bishops...., please! This gets back to my constant focus on Hell. I insist in my own life on erring on the side of prudence on any matter as the risk I run if I am wrong is too horrific to contemplate. Sometimes, instead of exchanging comments on a serious Catholic site, I feel I am exchanging opinions at a Rotary lunch.
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written by Layman Tom, January 15, 2013
@Jacob R KILLS! I don't care who ya are. That's funny right there! It’s all the more impressive as this is a pretty somber topic. Thanks for the chuckle.

It seems that my opinion about the piece is in tune with most of you. I'm not sure why the Church is timid about enforcing her rightful expectation of adherence by the adherents. Particularly those members who ostentatiously use their power and prestige to flaunt their disregard for everything she stands for. I wish somebody would explain this to me. I would love to see Cardinal Dolan or one of the other bigwigs pen a guest column on TCT and explain exactly why we tolerate these bozos. Could it be that the USCCB is afraid to make enemies in the halls of power and the media? How's that working out for them? It’s called the war between good and evil, not the tea party between good and evil. It’s time to strap in and take care of business. If that means we have to part ways with former troops because they won’t march to the drumbeat anymore or worse they now wear the enemy’s colors, so be it.

Catholicism is not a faith of convenience. So for those recalcitrant officials, there must still be something in the church that they want, some need they are getting fulfilled. Otherwise they'd have all left for the First Church of the "Whatever is Popular Now". So assuming there is something that they are getting out of being catholic, it only makes sense that it should be denied to them as long as they continue to trash the church and all she stands for.

I know that I'm not perfect. I'm a broken sinner. I try, and I am truly, truly grateful for the grace God has showered on me and for the fact that the Church is my refuge and accepts me, faults and all. However, I have no power or influence and my sins, though an affront to God, are not corrupting others and are not publically assaulting the precepts of morality or the Church's authority. If they were, I would expect the Church to boot me out into the street. Actually, I would be man enough to remove myself.

I know it is not ours to judge men. However we can judge their actions and their words. If they act to destroy, and are smugly proud of that, maybe, just maybe the church has cause to smack them down. Adhere is the root word of adherent. If you won't do the verb, (or at least try really hard), you don't deserve the noun.

-Peace
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written by Louise, January 15, 2013
WWVS
For those not in the know, I'm referring to Violet in the tv series "Downton Abbey"; she has so many witty zingers up her sleeve. I suspect Richard A may be one of her fans.
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written by Louise, January 15, 2013
In keeping with my previous comment, how about,
"Oh dear, the future can't handle too many of those."
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written by Mack Hall, January 16, 2013
Well and bravely said, Dr. Arkes. I quibble only in the matter of the quote about a structure belonging to one of the many denominations as "the National Cathedral." I do wish you had reminded the reader that since we do not have a national church, we have no national cathedral.
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written by Frank, January 18, 2013
@Layman Tom, your points are well founded and I too wish Cardinal Dolan would visit this page and explain to us why the Church does not take action against Catholics of national political prominence taking positions and supporting legislation contrary to Church teaching. At the end of the day, however, whatever polite debate that once existed over these matters deteriorated to the exercise of bare knuckle application of power as the Left has always embraced the mantra, "by any means necessary." It has been argued that the primary reasons behind exposing the sexual abuse cases by priests stems primarily from the Church's position on abortion, gay marriage, homosexuality etc and that the Left has used this as a weapon to marginalize the Church's voice. THIS IS NOT TO SAY these abuse cases should not have been exposed. The Church is better for removing pedophile priests and letting due process and justice run its proper course. Our Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops clearly understand the additional secular fury unleashed on the Church if the likes of Pelosi, Biden, Sibelius, O'Malley and the Cuomos were either denied communion or excommunicated. But then, I would hope that our leading clergy would also understand that the Church was born in deception (Judas), doubt (Thomas), denial (Peter), retreat and fear (all of them right after the death of Christ), death and resurrection (Jesus Christ) then divine empowerment at Pentecost and dispersion through persecution. If we can accept that the Church has been and will continue to be persecuted, then perhaps our clerics will accept the inevitable and act. Until then, I agree that the Church is a paper tiger.

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