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Weigel: Church should consider ‘withdrawing from civil marriage business’

November 14, 2012

Discussing “the crisis of a second Obama administration,” George Weigel names three threats to the Church in the United States: the HHS mandate, the “gay insurgency,” and

the re-election of a vice president of the United States who has declared “transgender discrimination” to be “the civil rights issue of our time;” who has openly celebrated the abortion license; who has grossly misrepresented the Church’s teaching on the life issues; and who is, in myriad ways, an ecclesial embarrassment. So are Catholic members of the House and Senate who not only vote against truths known by moral reason, but then have the gall to justify their irresponsibility by a faux commitment to “pluralism” or, worse, by recourse to what they are pleased to call “social justice Catholicism.”

To address the threat of the “gay insurgency, which will press the administration to find some way to federalize the marriage issue and to compel acceptance of the chimera of ‘gay marriage,’” Weigel writes that “it seems important to accelerate a serious debate within American Catholicism on whether the Church ought not preemptively withdraw from the civil marriage business, its clergy declining to act as agents of government in witnessing marriages for purposes of state law.”

Weigel adds:

Thus pastors and bishops must continue to explain why the life issues are “social justice issues,” and indeed priority “social justice issues.” And some effective way must be found to make clear, publicly, that men and women like Vice President Joe Biden and Representative Nancy Pelosi are living an auto-defined Catholicism so incoherently that their communion with the Catholic Church is severely damaged. Absent such clarity, ill-catechized Catholic voters will continue to misunderstand both the nature of discipleship and the responsibilities of citizenship.

As for the opportunity embedded in this crisis, it is nothing less than to be the Church of the New Evangelization, full-throttle. Shallow, tribal, institutional-maintenance Catholicism is utterly incapable of meeting the challenges that will now come at the Catholic Church from the most aggressively secular administration in American history. Only a robustly, unapologetically evangelical Catholicism, winsomely proposing and nobly living the truths about the human condition the Church teaches, will see us through the next four years. Radically converted Christian disciples, not one-hour-a-week Catholics whipsawed by an ever more toxic culture, are what this hour of crisis, in both senses of the term, demands.


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: self - Nov. 15, 2012 6:21 PM ET USA

    I agree with Mr. Weigel. We were married in Peru where that is the practice and it did not present any problem. That approach further supports the need for the Church to get "separated" from the State (i.e., less dependency on Government subsidies to its services, etc.) so it can adhere to its beliefs/practices with more independence and less government control.

  • Posted by: John Chrysostom - Nov. 14, 2012 4:35 PM ET USA

    So instead of leading and transforming the culture we withdraw from it voluntarily?

  • Posted by: Justin8110 - Nov. 14, 2012 11:52 AM ET USA

    In some ways Weigel echoes what the late great Father John Hardon kept repeating until his last breath; namely, that "only heroic Catholics will survive the 21st century." We must literally be willing to go without health insurance or even to go o our deaths rather than betray the Faith. This is what is called of us in these trying times. Nothing less than a willing acceptance of the cross will keep us from captitulation to the State here and hell hereafter.

  • Posted by: Don Vicente - Nov. 14, 2012 11:34 AM ET USA

    The Church has always wanted sacramental marriage to be, at the same time, valid under civil law. The situation in many formerly Catholic countries (e.g. Mexico, France) where there are 2 ceremonies, civil and religious, is NOT what the Church desires. If we VOLUNTARILY gave up the civil validity of a sacramental marriage, we would be abandoning a hard-won RIGHT not enjoyed by Catholics in many parts of the world -- and for what? We would be conceding the secularists a victory without a fight.