Titusonenine has just posted an article about an interesting bit of legislation proposed in Washington State. Rather than attempt to approve same-sex marriage in the state, supporters of same-sex marriage are proposing legislation which would outlaw marriages of people that are unwilling or unable to have children. They are basing this on the Washington Supreme court’s ruling that stated same sex marriage could not be legal because it did not provide the opportunity for procreation. This, and the subsequent discussion on T19 brought to mind a section of one of my papers:

The 1975 report if the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission On the Theology of Marriage and its Application to Mixed Marriages found that “On marriage itself the Commission finds no fundamental difference of doctrine between the two Churches, as regards what marriage of its nature is or the ends which it is ordained to serve.”18[Emphasis mine]

Both the 1662 and 1979 prayer books affirm the begetting of children as one of God’s purposes for marriage. Our tradition is not insistent that every sexual act be procreative in the reproductive sense. Jeremy Taylor recognizes this when indicating that sexual expression is hallowed by association with “all or one of these ends.” An obsession in either positive or negative sense with any single end is harmful and distorts the marriage bond. A focus on a single end to the exclusion of all else warps the image of marriage just as the flat rejection of one of these ends does. The Church cannot allow assumptions which do either of these to go unchallenged; to do nothing invites circumscription of the marriage covenant. As Hauerwas relates:

One of those purposes of marriage the church has named is the having of children. That marriage has a procreative end does not entail that every marriage must in fact produce biological heirs, but it does mean that marriage as an institution—that is, an ongoing practice of a community across time—of the church is procreative. Accordingly it would be appropriate as part of the examination of couples desiring to have the church witness their marriages to have their intentioned to have children declared. I would think it quite possible to deny marriage to people who refuse to have their marriages open to children.19

Such a sentiment seems radical in our context and such situations are doubtless best handled in a pastoral manner and on case by case bases by priest and couple. Hauerwas’ observation does, however, cut to the heart of contemporary conflicts regarding the nature of marriage. It seems clear from the elucidation within the prayer book tradition as sharpened by Taylor’s insistence that a couple be willing to concede an openness to any of the particular purposes for which marriage was ordained. Particular sources of fear, insecurity, disdain or hindrance in relation to one of these ends is something that should be explored pastorally over the course of several meetings and should be prayerfully and thoughtfully considered by the couple and priest.

{read the whole essay}

{go to Titusonenine}