Friday, August 20, 2004

The History of Marriage and Other Religious Distortions

Bush Twins' Gay Wedding by Newscenter Staff
August 18, 2004 5:02 pm ET

(Washington) In what is likely to be a major embarrassment for President Bush, his twin daughters have reportedly agreed to attend a gay wedding in nearby Laytonsville, Maryland.

The wedding is that of their beautician Erwin Gomez and his partner James Packard. Although not recognized by law, the two, who also wed in San Francisco when it was legal there, will exchange vows and rings and hold a reception for friends at their Laytonsville home.

Gomez works at the Elizabeth Arden shop in Chevy Chase.

The New York Daily News reports that Gomez gave the First Daughters invitations to next month's affair when the girls came in for their weekly eyebrow waxing and they accepted.

"I gave them the party invitation, and they said, 'That sounds great, we'd love to come - it sounds like a lot of fun,'" Gomez told the News.

"The way they reacted, they were very open-minded."

Whilst it’s reassuring to know that Bush has failed to indoctrinate even his own family with his views, it is unlikely to have any political impact. The relationships of same sex couples must be unique amongst all human relationships in having no access to legal recognition.

In a speech on the subject Bush said:

The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith. Ages of experience have taught humanity that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society.

Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society.

This is entirely spurious. Marriage doesn’t have any “religious roots”. In fact it took Christianity 800 years to impose itself on the civil contract of marriage:

Until the ninth century marriages were not church involved. Up until the twelfth century there were blessings and prayers during the ceremony and the couple would offer their own prayers. Then priests asked that an agreement be made in their presence. Then religion was added to the ceremony.

English weddings in the thirteenth century among the upper class became religious events but the church only blessed the marriage and did not want a legal commitment. In 1563 the Council of Trent required that Catholic marriages be celebrated at a Catholic church by a priest and before two witnesses. By the eighteenth century the wedding was a religious event in all countries of Europe.

The Church encountered equal amounts of resistance in Europe:

In order to assert greater control over its parishioners, the Catholic Reformation Church in the wake of the Council of Trent (1547-1563) attempted to bring relationships, especially those involving sexual relations, under its purview. This process involved the redefinition of marriage rituals, especially in terms of premarital sexual relations and the legitimization of marriage promises by a priest. However, parishioners often proved to have little enthusiasm for such ecclesiastical regulation… the structures of local culture, especially those involving sexuality, proved slow to change…

… The theologians at the Council of Trent significantly transformed the sacrament of marriage through the publication of its famous decree, Tametsi. Through this decree the Church universalized marriage ritual by asserting that marriages were only valid when the promise was publicly announced on three occasions at the parish church, and officially contracted in the presence of a priest. In traditional European culture a consensual marriage promise and sexual intercourse typically guaranteed a legitimate marriage… Further complicating the Church's stand on marriage ritual was the medieval Church's acceptance of "the custom of the place," in which it insisted only that both spouses consent to any marriage in order for it to be considered legitimate…

… Within a decade of the close of the Council, the Catholic Church in Spain, strengthened and unified by the decrees of Trent, began the process of placing itself at the center of the marriage ritual through mechanisms like the Inquisition and regular parish visitations. However, over the long run the Church's ability to impose this conformity on its parishioners was constrained by one significant obstacle: the parishioners themselves. Parish records concerning the contraction of marriage attest to the continued conflict between tradition and reform. A close look reveals that despite the injunctions of the Council of Trent, not all promises of marriage and sexual activity led to marriage, principally because local religious culture tolerated sexual activity between promised partners whether or not the promise was made in the presence of a priest…

…In rural areas like Ourense, marriage traditions which excluded clerical intervention, especially the tradition of legitimizing the relationship through the private or semi-public exchange of marriage promises, continued well into the seventeenth century.

Marriage is not the only area in which Christianity seeks to rewrite its own history. In a similar vein the Catholic Church has distorted the development of, and reasons behind its insistence that Priests be celibate as well as the fact that many pastors of the early church were women. The real reasons for celibacy have nothing to do with spirituality and everything to do with money and politics.

Father John Shuster explains:

History fully supports a married priesthood. For the first 1200 years of the Church’s existence, priests, bishops and 39 popes were married. Celibacy existed in the first century among hermits and monks, but it was considered an optional, alternative lifestyle. Medieval politics brought about the discipline of mandatory celibacy for priests…

…Married priests and their spouses were the first pastors, the first bishops, the first missionaries. They carried the message of Jesus across cultures and protected it through many hardships. They guided the fragile young Church through its early growth and helped it survive numerous persecutions…

..Sacred Scripture documents that priests and bishops of the early Church were married. In the New Testament, in his first letter to Timothy, chapter 3, verses 1 through 7, St. Paul discusses the qualities necessary for a bishop. He describes a "kind and peaceable" father, a man with a family. As part of his description, St. Paul even asks the question, " can any man who does not understand how to manage his own family have responsibility for the church of God?" St. Paul established many small communities and left them in the hands of married priests and bishops.

Church leadership was based in service and was accountable to the people. Each member of the church had a voice in the community … group decisions were made in agreement with the whole assembly. The early Church is portrayed as democratic, where leadership listened to the community and responded to its needs.

The politicization of the church began in AD 313, when Constantine legalized Christianity:

Constantine’s intentions in adopting Christianity were not entirely spiritual. His position was being challenged by political groups; he needed to display his power. Forcing other politicians to become Christians was a test of their loyalty.

Constantine used the new religion as an effective tool to weed out his enemies. It strengthened his political power. Constantine also was faced with unifying the many peoples his armies had vanquished. Christianity was the key to establishing a new Roman identity in the conquered peoples. On the surface he made them Christians to save their souls, but this new religion was his final act of conquest over them...

...With Christianity now the official religion of the Roman Empire, many things changed very quickly in the Church. Priests from the small communities were given special social rank among their new Roman friends. …Romans, who were members of the local ruling elite, quickly converted to Christianity as ordered by the Emperor. These were men trained in public life and skilled in city politics. They became priests and rapidly moved into positions of leadership in the Church.

These Roman politicians, with their newly acquired priesthood, brought the impersonal and legalistic attitudes of government to the Church. The celebration of the Eucharist moved from small home gatherings to what we now call "mass" involving huge numbers of people in large buildings. The celebration of the Eucharist became a highly structured ritual that imitated the ceremonies of Rome’s imperial court. This Roman influence is the source of our vestments, genuflection, kneeling, and the strict formality of Mass..

An institutional Church structure emerged mirroring that of the Roman government. Large buildings, church tribunal courts, rulers and subjects began to replace the family-based small communities that were served by a local married priesthood. The new Roman priests worked to shift authority away from the married priests in the small communities and consolidate political power around themselves. With the assistance of the Roman Empire, Church leadership became a hierarchy that moved away from its family origins and into the Roman mindset of a ruling class that was above the people in the street.

Other changes occurred that shifted emphasis away from the people and towards the preferences of the Roman politicians. The Church adopted the Roman practice of men alone holding institutional authority. There is solid historical evidence that women served as priests and pastors prior to this time…

…In 494 women’s participation in the leadership of small communities came to an end when Pope Gelasius decreed that women could no longer be ordained to the priesthood. This legislation is perhaps the strongest proof we have of women serving as spiritual leaders in the early Church. Women’s roles in the church diminished as popes and bishops marched in lockstep with the Roman authorities…

…The hierarchy viewed married priests as an obstacle to their quest for total control of the church and focused a two pronged attack against them. They used mandatory celibacy to attack and dissolve the influential priestly families throughout Europe and the Mediterranean world. At the same time they claimed ownership of the churches and the lands owned by married priests. As landowners the medieval hierarchy knew that they would gain the political power they sought in every country in Europe. An additional benefit of land ownership was money. They now had the ability to collect taxes from the faithful and charge money for indulgences and other sacramental ministry. This practice contributed to the Protestant reformation and the splintering of the Roman Catholic church community in the sixteenth century.

In the eleventh century, the attacks against the married priesthood grew in intensity. In 1074, Pope Gregory VII legislated that anyone to be ordained must first pledge celibacy. Continuing his attack against women, he publicly stated that "...the Church cannot escape from the clutches of the laity unless priests first escape the clutches of their wives". Within twenty years, things took a turn for the worse.

In the year 1095, there was an escalation of brutal force against married priests and their families. Pope Urban II ordered that married priests who ignored the celibacy laws be imprisoned for the good of their souls. He had the wives and children of those married priests sold into slavery, and the money went to church coffers.

The effort to consolidate church power in the medieval hierarchy and to seize the land assets the married priest families saw its victory in 1139. The legislation that effectively ended optional celibacy for priests came from the Second Lateran Council under Pope Innocent II. The true motivation for these laws was the desire to acquire land throughout Europe and strengthen the papal power base. The laws demanding mandatory celibacy for priests used the language of purity and holiness, but their true intent was to solidify control over the lower clergy and eliminate any challenge to the political objectives of the medieval hierarchy.

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