A good interviewer is transparent, so that his questions draw out the best answers from the one being interviewed. Vittorio Messori -- best-selling author of books eliciting thoughts from both John Paul II and Benedict XVI -- has been an enigma to most of his readers, but now he offers some deliberately provocative comments concerning marriage, suggesting that we “return to pre-arranged marriages.”
He explains further:
If marriage is not just continuous emotional chirping, but it is a pact for life, it is worth re-evaluating the wisdom shown in the past, when parents chose their daughters’ husbands. So many of my forty year old single or separated female friends have confided to me that we should go back to pre-arranged marriages. Instead of leaving everything up to chance, it is better to put our trust in someone who has experience and is able to make an informed judgement based on temperament, whilst taking into account factors such as age, solidity and perhaps even material wealth as well…”
And yet, if a culture hasn't been choosing well for several generations, then at what point will young people be able to trust their parents' judgement--parents who are more than likely themselves to have been divorced, and probably struggling with many dimensions of their faith. Wisdom is a gift of God that accumulates among the faithful over the years. That might be a problem in some places, no?
He continues, pinning the blame for bad matches on smarmy romantic notions:
[I]t is precisely this romantic Nineteenth century concept of love which is steeped in rhetoric from the Italian novel Heart and full of women whose only role is to care for the family that has ruined the Catholic family. If anything, the role of Catholics today is to combat romantic love. Marriage, I repeat, cannot be based on emotions, because emotions are, by nature changeable. Without faith in Jesus, the promise of “forever” made between a man and a woman would be irrational.
Now, interestingly, I've met a couple whose marriage was arranged. They were very happly, having been raised in southern India. They had only met briefly when going down the list of suggested spouses drawn up by their parents. She was something like the sixth on his list, and he was the second on hers. A fifteen minute discussion sealed the deal.
"What did you talk about?" I asked, shocked.
"School plans. Job prospects. Basic stuff." was the cheerful answer.
They were delightful and deeply Catholic. But the key element was that they shared a rich culture and their families had been doing this for centuries. It was an art. When the children are young, the parents take note of their peers, and they watch the development, the formation, the school progress, the growth in virtue. They keep tabs on the families they admire, and take note of the ones who would make good spouses for their children. For them--with all of those added layers--it worked.In fact, although they were living in the States, their families back in India were keeping their eye on prospects for their children, whom they hoped would continue the tradition.
It probably doesn't work for everyone, but with both the man and the woman given the veto power and a chance to size up each prospective mate, it has quite a good success rate. The added benefit was that the entire community was invested in each marriage, and if either the husband or the wife in a union began to stray from his or her responsibilities to the family, the people close to them offered fraternal correction, based on the Gospel.
Could it work in the diverse societies now found in the West? Where everything including food, entertainment, work ethic, and lifestyle are hyper-individualised? Highly doubtful, but would it be worse than what we have now? Hmmm, perhaps just a different kind of bad.
Interesting idea, but maybe one for the back shelf. Way back.