The Marriage at Cana, Marten de Vos, 1596-97
Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp [Web Gallery of Art]
Last week the Catholic Herald published this letter, signed by nearly 500 priests in England and Wales. There are around 5,000 priests in those two countries. I know that the organisers of the letter, 'a small number of concerned lay people', were unable to contact every priest.
It is surely a sign of the strange times we are living in that such a group of priests feel the need to publish such a letter. It recognises the need for the Church to reach out to those in difficult marital situations. But it also reminds us of the need to listen to the experience of those who are and have been faithful to the teaching of Jesus himself, given through his Church down through the ages, despite many difficulties and to encourage them to live out the commitment they made to each other on their wedding day when they gave the gift of Jesus himself to each other in the sacrament of matrimony, 'till death do us part'.
You will find the letter and the names of the signatories on the Catholic Herald website here. Fr Tim Finigan, a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark in the south of England, gives a background to the letter on his blog, The Hermeneutic of Continuity here and here.
Some Scripture texts on marriage
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Jesus quotes this in Matthew 19:4-6: So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
We find the same in Mark 10:6-9: [Jesus said to them]
'The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament' (No 1601).
A note of irony
After choosing the painting at the top I discovered that it is in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, Belgium. In late December Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp said in an interview with a Belgian newspaper, We have to look inside the church for a formal recognition of the kind of interpersonal relationship that is also present in many gay couples. Just as there are a variety of legal frameworks for partners in civil society, one must arrive at a diversity of forms in the church.
I wonder which is closer to the teaching of Jesus Christ, the statement of Bishop Bonny above or the sentiments in the song below?
I thank the priests of England and Wales who signed the letter.