What about commitment? If long-standing spouses leave one another for whatever reason, there is no social disapproval for their breaking this unbreakable promise. Clergy perhaps have more experience of this than most other people. Tragically, again and again the pastor in his study is confronted with the breaking of what is supposed to be unbreakable — and often unilaterally.
What about the mystical union, the sacramental bond? We are living in an age when some commend what they call "free relationships", which last only as long as the partners want them to. So all those aspects of marriage that have been regarded from Augustine's time as important, indeed essential, are now threatened.
We must urgently fight to restore a public doctrine of marriage in this country. Divorce reform and other legislation have not just damaged but almost destroyed any public understanding of marriage. For many years, centuries indeed, the public doctrine of marriage was that of the Book of Common Prayer as it is set out in the preamble to the marriage service. One by one, all of the aspects of marriage in the preamble have been placed under severe threat at the very least, if not more than that.
Why do we need a public doctrine of marriage? In their recent pastoral letter, "The True Meaning of Marriage", the Roman Catholic bishops have set out some of the answers. First, marriage is good for society and is one of its basic building blocks. As far as I know, there has never been a society which has not had marriage and the family as its basic unit. Second, it is good for children. The best outcomes for children are to be found within marriage, whether in how they perform at school or their social behaviour. Third, marriage is good for the partners themselves: most studies show that people who are married live longer, are healthier, and perhaps even happier. So marriage is good for society, good for children and good for the partners themselves.
Human beings have many different kinds of relationship. We are social animals and have relationships with parents, siblings, relatives and friends. It is important for us to recognise the importance and the richness of relationships. Regrettably, many of them, because of the patterns of modern life, are nipped in the bud. It may be right for us as a society and indeed for the government to recognise and support some of these relationships. It may be right for people in a particular kind of relationship to take legal steps to ensure that it is just and fair to both parties. I am certainly not against that. During the passage of the Civil Partnership Bill in the House of Lords some of us sought to widen its remit to include people who were sharing domestic arrangements on a long-term basis for a number of reasons. The amendment was passed in the Lords and was only set aside in the Commons. I'll leave you to judge the wisdom of that.
- ONLINE ONLY: Overpopulation and the Reality of Grandchildren
- ONLINE ONLY: Sharia Threatens All Women, Muslim and Non-Muslim
- ONLINE ONLY: The Last Days of the Divvy
- A Party Overrun by Lads and Libertines
- The Myth of Cameron's Etonian 'Chumocracy'
- Here Lie the Remains of Tory Modernisation
- Forget 'Islamophobia'. Let's Tackle Islamism
- Neoconservatism: A Good Idea That Won't Go Away
- Have You Heard the One About Auschwitz?
- Cameron's Too Late To Tame the UKIP Tiger
- ONLINE ONLY: Thoughts from a Hospital Bed
- ONLINE ONLY: Academic Boycotts Teach Us Nothing
- ONLINE ONLY: Send in the Clowns
- ONLINE ONLY: Thatcher, Reagan and the Dictators
- The Resolute Courage of Margaret Thatcher
- America's New Isolationists Are Endangering the West
- An Alternative To Our Reckless Energy Gamble
- The Family is the Key to the Future of Faith
- Persecuted Muslims Who Love Life in England
- They Were the Future of the Tory Party, Once