Marriage

Pope Benedict XVI Says Lack of ‘Faith’ Could Be Used in Marriage Annulments

RNS photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service
Pope Benedict XVI leaves Christmas Eve Mass. RNS photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has asked the Vatican’s highest appeals court to consider reviewing church rules on marriage annulments — a statement that may signal a change in tone more than a change in substance.

Speaking on Jan. 26 to the members of the tribunal of the Roman Rota, Benedict said that “lack of faith” on the part of the spouses can affect the validity of a marriage.

While the Catholic Church forbids remarried divorcees from taking Communion, church tribunals can declare a marriage void if it can be demonstrated that some key elements — such as a commitment to have children — were missing in the first place.

Court Upholds Indiana’s Ban on Secular Wedding Officiants

Photo: Marriage license, © MNStudio / Shutterstock.com
Photo: Marriage license, © MNStudio / Shutterstock.com

A federal court in Indiana has rejected atheists' requests to preside at wedding ceremonies, saying only clergy or public officials are licensed to solemnize marriages.

A lawsuit filed by the Indiana chapter of the Center for Inquiry argued that an Indiana law that requires marriages to be “solemnized” — made official by signing a marriage license — only by clergy, judges, mayors or local government clerks violates the Constitution.

But Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana ruled on Nov. 30 that marriage has religious roots. Therefore, government regulation of marriage is an act of religious accommodation — not endorsement — and protected by the Constitution.

Kenyan Church Leaders Say Laws Would Weaken Marriage

Kenyan church leaders are lining up in opposition to proposed new marriage bills, which they say will weaken marriage by allowing cohabiting couples to register as married.

One bill would bring Christian, Hindu, Muslim, civil, and customary marriages under one law, and another would give spouses and children more rights to property. The twin bills were approved by the cabinet on Nov. 9 and are scheduled to be debated by Parliament before Christmas.

“It is the worst law we have had as churches in Kenya. It compromises the standards of Christian marriage and divorce. Instead of three grounds for divorce, we now have nine,” said the Rev. Wellington Mutiso, the general secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya.

'Honey, We Are Home'

BELATED CONGRATULATIONS to Jesus Christ after recent research revealed that he might have been married during his short life. (Although, if he had to help with the dishes every night, it might have seemed longer.)

My immediate reaction was to wonder what you get a deity for a wedding present, even though it’s way too late. Their Pottery Barn listing is probably out of date, but that might be for the best, since all the cheap stuff would have been taken by now. (My oldest daughter is getting married next year, so I speak from experience that you’ve got to get in there fast and sign up for that salt shaker. Otherwise, you’re stuck buying an entire set of towels, or a food processor. She’s my daughter, but one must draw the line.)

Trying to get your head around the idea that the shortest verse in the Bible should be “Jesus wed,” the whole thing seems a little farfetched, but you can’t argue with possible science. Harvard Divinity School professor Karen L. King claims that a 4th-century papyrus fragment, written in the Coptic language of Egyptian Christians at the time, makes a reference to Jesus’ “wife.” King presented her findings at a recent gathering of the International Congress of Coptic Studies, which doesn’t seem like the kind of gathering that generates much Twitter traffic, unless there’s a private party in one of the rooms. (“Would you like to come upstairs and see my papyrus fragments?”)

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Shariah or Not, Muslim Divorces Can Get Tricky

New Jersey lawyer Abed Awad has been involved with more than 100 cases that involved some component of Shariah, or Islamic law, and knows firsthand how complicated things can get.

In one of those cases, a woman claimed she was married to a man according to Islamic law in her native west Africa. The man asserted there was no valid marriage, leaving a judge to decide whether the two were ever legally married in the first place.

If the judge rules they were married, there will be a divorce, and she will receive alimony and a share of marital assets. If the judge rules that there is no marriage, then the woman will be left with nothing from her relationship.

To make a ruling, the judge will need to consider what Shariah, as understood in one corner of western Africa, says about what constitutes a legal marriage. He will likely have to consult Islamic law experts and apply what he learns to his decision.

But what if American judges were prohibited from considering Shariah and other foreign laws, as many state and national politicians want to see happen?

Did Jesus Get Married and Have Children?

It’s amazing what a difference six words can make in our understanding of a figure as central as Jesus to the lives and faith of so many. Even historians and others who don’t claim Christianity personally are intrigued by the scrap of text recently discovered to contain, in Coptic, the sentence fragment: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’”

Was this Jesus of Nazareth? is it authentic? Did the author have an original source to pull from, or simply word-of-mouth legend? After all, this writing seems to be several hundred years newer than the synoptic gospels. Perhaps Jesus was speaking in parable, as he often did, or maybe the “wife” was the Church, which often is referred to as “the bride of Christ.” Who knows? It’s likely we never will, but the buzz that this find creates is more interesting to me than the source of the scripture itself.

Why do we care so much if Jesus had a wife and kids or not? Why does it seem to matter if he died without ever having sex?

Is the Catholic Hierarchy Moving Toward the GOP?

RNS photo courtesy Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Some question the Catholic bishops' alignment with the Republican Party. RNS photo courtesy Archdiocese of Philadelphia

A series of recent developments are renewing questions about the Catholic bishops' alignment with the Republican Party, with much of the attention focusing on comments by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who said he “certainly can’t vote for somebody who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion.”

In a wide-ranging interview published Sept. 14, Chaput also echoed the views of a number of prominent bishops when he praised Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan for trying to address the “immoral” practice of deficit spending through his libertarian-inflected budget proposals.

"Jesus tells us very clearly that if we don’t help the poor, we’re going to go to hell. Period. There’s just no doubt about it,” Chaput told National Catholic Reporter.

“But Jesus didn’t say the government has to take care of them, or that we have to pay taxes to take care of them. Those are prudential judgments. Anybody who would condemn someone because of their position on taxes is making a leap that I can’t make as a Catholic.”

Chaput stressed that he is a registered independent “because I don’t think the church should be identified with one party or another.” But he said that the Democratic Party’s positions on abortion rights, gay rights, and religious freedom “cause me a great deal of uneasiness.”

He added that economic issues are “prudential judgments” open to a variety of legitimate approaches. Abortion, on the other hand, is “intrinsically evil” and must always be opposed.

That is a talking point voiced by many Catholic conservatives, including Ryan himself. Last Friday, Ryan told the Christian Broadcasting Network that opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, and support for religious freedom, are all “non-negotiables” for a Catholic politician while “on other issues, of economics and such like that, that’s a matter of prudential judgment.”

She Said — Egalitarianism: Men, Submit to Your Wives

Male and female icons, Pedro Salaverría / Shutterstock.com
Male and female icons, Pedro Salaverría / Shutterstock.com

Editor's note: This is a He Said, She Said on the issue. To read this author's husband's take, go HERE.

Who would have thought that five years into our marriage we would still be having this debate? Gender roles. Egalitarianism. Complementarianism. 

If you've come here first, please read my husband's take on the issue before continuing on.

We tend to think fairly similarly, though he likes to think himself a complementarian, while I tend toward the egalitarian label. I love words, but that's all these are: words. I think it's all in how you define it for yourself. But since he brought it up … 

He Said — Egalitarianism: Who Needs Repentance Anyway?

Bride and groom on beach, szefei / Shutterstock.com
Bride and groom on beach, szefei / Shutterstock.com

Editor's note: This is a He Said, She Said on the issue. To read this author's wife's take, go HERE.

My wife and I have been embroiled in a deep debate lately. It involves gender roles, complementarianism, egalitarianism, and often threats of a kick landing somewhere on my body. It’s not that we haven’t worked this sort of thing out within our marriage — I take out the trash, she does the laundry — but somehow despite both being raised in Christian households we do not see theologically quite eye to eye on this issue.

I happen to fall on the side of complementarianism. For me this does not threaten the basic equality or God-given image and sense of worth that belongs to all humankind. But I do happen to think men and women were designed differently biologically and otherwise. Yesterday morning in yoga, I did my downward dog alongside 15 women and one other guy. I work in the same building as a special needs school with 22 female teachers and only one dude. I am happy to say that there are some areas women seem to be drawn toward, and in my opinion, excel in.

My wife on the other hand would like to argue (and does) that to pointing out any differences whatsoever leads necessarily to thinking in terms of an inequality. She believes that many of the Biblical mandates on gender roles have more to do with timing and culture than God-given norms.

'Abstinence-Only' Exposed

Girl wearing a "purity ring" that says, "It's for you ... not him." Photo by LovelySoulsCollide via Wylio.

"Chastity is getting a makeover. Surrounded by a sex-saturated society, millions of young people are pledging to remain virgins until their wedding night. But how, exactly, are evangelical Christians convincing young people to say no when society says yes?"

So writes Christine J. Gardner in her brilliant new book Making Chastity Sexy: The Rhetoric of Evangelical Abstinence Campaigns.

Making Chastity Sexy is important and perceptive in a profound way that casts light on a large subject — religion in general and evangelicalism in particular when it comes to attitudes toward sex, life, and religion.

Gardner (an evangelical herself who teaches at an evangelical school) takes her readers far beyond the mere investigation of sex education/abstinence campaigns to make the point that individualistic society and the autonomous self have become the sole means of the "wait until marriage" virginity-sanctifying movement.

In other words the evangelicals are using pop culture techniques just to make abstinence "sexy."

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