No going back

It was a divorce lawyer's nightmare: 650 couples with 43,000 years' experience of marriage between them. They attended mass at the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral yesterday to celebrate the institution of marriage, but also to 'warn of the dangers of letting it go'. The event was organised by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, a man whose personal experience of marriage is, of course, nil.

The Cardinal spoke of the effects of marriage breakdown on society and the importance therefore of couples staying together. Surely, however, the simple fact is that marriage is no longer viewed by many as 'for ever', so there is no point in exhorting couples to 'work at it'. I'm also not persuaded that changes in legislation are to blame for 'undermining family life', as the Church is suggesting - laws generally only react to what has already happened. Society itself has changed, and we need to learn to live with it, rather than try to turn back the clock.


  1. You say that Murphy-O'Connor's experience of marriage is "nil" but I'm certain his parents were (are still) married. Or are you making a further point about him?

    The point is this: marriages will always breakdown not least because of the strain of modern life. But when people covenant with each other (as they still often do) to live together for richer and poorer, they have to expect to work at it.

  2. Hmm, I don't think the fact that your parents were married counts as 'personal experience'.

    I believe that many people do not expect to have to 'work at it', or at least not as hard as in previous generations.

  3. I think being a child of married parents does give an insight into married life. But even if you are correct - in saying he has no experience of married life - he has the right to talk about it. For instance, I have no experience of domestic violence but I have a right and duty to oppose it.

    Marriage and stable relationships are integral to society - not least in the case of children.

    I hope that your article wasn't just a dig at the Catholics (or the Cardinal).

  4. Of course he has the right to discuss the subject, but I don't think that the Catholic (or any) church has the right to claim moral authority, whether explicit or implied.

    I'm not sure that marriage and stable relationships are still integral to society, or that they will be in future - that was the point of my post. Is the Cardinal (and those with similar views) just hankering for a bygone era, which may or may not have been better?

    Me having a dig at the Catholics? Perish the thought! ;-)

  5. John, I'm not sure what you mean by "claim moral authority". Are you referring to the fact that this man stated his opinion publicly? Or to the fact that he is (possibly) expressing a minority opinion?

    I'm not a Catholic, but I also believe that marriage is a commitment that we need to work at, and that it is a worth some effort (do almost 36 years count as enough experience to say that publicly?).

    Of course I know that marriages sometimes fail, and it is important to help those affected to make the best of the situation. But that does not stop me from advocating the value of marriage.

  6. Hi Victor,

    The church claims moral authority on many issues, but has no basis upon which to do so.

    As to the value of marriage, I'm not expressing a view - I'm just suggesting that perhaps society, or at least a large part of it, has moved on, and no longer considers it (at least sub-consciously) to be 'for ever'. If that is the case, then you can't force people to go back to old ways - far better to accept the new zeitgeist, and respond accordingly.


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