No one doubts the confusion on sexual morality these days. What was clear in our vocabulary one hundred years ago has gradually been muddled by both words and actions. Thus, contrived words and phrases offer padding to once-hard realities, and the actions of the majority of people who reject virtue shift the paradigm into calling what was once dark now light.
Just as "anti-personnel devices" belies the fact that crude land mines rip the limbs off small children, "nuptial cohabitation" is a fancy way of saying that those who cannot commit to marriage still want to shack up and pretend. Giving them a new moniker does nothing to remove the fornication involved, nor does it make the couple any more inclined to seek the graces of the sacrament of matrimony -- since their decision has already given the bum's rush to God and His commandments.
Now, since most people do so (90 per cent of couples presenting for marriage are already sharing pots and pans) the definition of "nice people" and "thoughtful citizens" shifts to ignore the entire category of sexual activity, rather considering stewardship of the earth's resources, kindness towards animals, and how one behaves while standing in line at the coffee shop or interacts with his office mates. Both important in their way, but hardly the measure of integrity and virtue.
Now who is using new definitions and shifting the yardstick on morality? This clever couple at U.S. Catholic, who want to acknowlege all the good will and kind intentions of those who consolidate bedroom furniture and share closet space.
Couples who share this double commitment [to fidelity and exclusivity] manifest it in various ways, including a strong couple identity, a strong sense of “us” and “we,” the maintenance of their partner and their marriage as a high priority, a protection of their relationship against attraction to others, a readiness to sacrifice for one another without resentment, and an investment of themselves personally in building a future together. Such double commitment is the surest path to marital intimacy.
Well, sure, until they part. "Us" and "we" are useful terms until there are competing interests, which cannot even guarantee the fidelity and exclusivity of many married couples. We all mean well, but then things fall apart and we move on.
I cannot begin to fisk this as well as Carl Olson already has. He also points to the sharp rebuke by Archbishop Curtiss, who rejects the notion that this thesis can be in any way thought to be Catholic, and by Archbishop Chaput in his weekly column.
I believe in the intelligence and good will of the authors. I also believe that their argument is bafflingly naïve. If the Church, in her reflection on the Gospel, has always taught that sex outside marriage is morally wrong, then for the Church to now bless “nuptial cohabiters” amounts to colluding in sin. Ritualizing a sinful behavior, or calling it a nicer name, does not change its substance. The very last thing we need in a society already awash in confused sexuality is a strategy for accommodating it.
The greatest irony of the U.S. Catholic article comes in a comment by the authors that many young adults “cite confusion about Church teaching because Church leaders send mixed messages about sex, contraception, and divorce/annulment.” I very much agree. And one of the sources of that confusion might be Catholic publications, theologians and researchers who help feed it.
We need more support for marriage in society and the Church, not alternative arrangements. Cohabiting couples deserve the understanding and patience of the Catholic community, but above all they need to hear the Christian truth, persuasively offered, about the nature of marriage, the meaning of their sexuality and the importance of the family. We waste words and time when we focus on anything else.
Support for marriage, thankfully is being bolstered in many quarters, not the least of which is the Archdiocese of Boston. He includes a prayer we can all use in the coming years.
Vocation of Marriage Prayer
Heavenly Father, through the intercession of the Holy Family,
Help us treasure the gift of marriage that reflects the love of Christ for the Church,
where the self-giving love of husband and wife unites them more perfectly and
cooperates in your plan for new life created in your image.
Help us support men and women in their vocation of marriage, especially in difficult times when they join their sufferings to the Cross.
Help us uphold the institution of marriage in our society as the place where love is nurtured and family life begins.
Help us acknowledge that our future depends on this love and on your providential care for us. Amen.
Nihil Obstat: Reverend Mark O’Connell, J.C.D.
Imprimatur: Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM, Cap
Archbishop of Boston
May 15, 2007
No obfuscation there. Just timeless Church teaching, pure and simple.