It is an idea which has been mooted on each side of the marriage debate aisle. It has in the main garnered no popular support. But the time has come once more within the Church to debate whether we should cease to perform any marriages—whether same-sex or traditional—which are also legal acts of the State. Should we cut the final Constantinian tether by which the priest serves simultaneously as civil agent? Should we “go European” such that the couple would be declared to be married when they go to get their license, and then receive a blessing, with vows and rings, in a nuptial liturgy in Church.
Let me clear up some immediate misunderstandings. Yes, your child can have the very same service (and reception), except for a few small liturgical emendations. And no, this does not really change much the divide between traditionalists and progressives on marriage.
I have been led to reconsider this question by the recent, breathtakingly ill-informed comment on revoking religious tax exemption by Beto O’Rourke, the “destroyer of worlds” for his fellow Democrats. Does he really want to dictate doctrine? Are sacramental judgments reducible to “discrimination?” How can a congressman from El Paso know so woefully little about Roman Catholicism? What effect does he imagine this would have on African-American churches? or mosques? or Salvation Army soup kitchens? I wonder if he cares to know more.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. George Sumner is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas.