Church and State and Liberty

Friend-of-the-blog Peter shared an interesting article, penned by Monsignor Charles Pope, discussing David Harsanyi’s article Time For Divorce. Harsanyi argues that the government has no role in the institution of marriage. The Monsignor takes an different approach.

Marriage is not a purely “private relationship” as Mr. Harsanyi states. Marriage involves the most essential and serious task of any community, state or nation, that of the procreation of the human species. Because there are children involved the merely private yields to a third party if you will, that of the child or children usually conceived in traditional marriage. And since children are involved who will venture forth as they mature into the wider society, it is a fact that others have a concern for marriage in terms of its definition, its quality, its stability and so forth.

My initial impression is that the Monsignor is thinking sloppily. He concedes that marriage is a relationship between two individuals, but then argues that the implications of that union render it public, from it’s very beginnings.

He makes a similar mistake in arguing that:

Mr. Harsanyi’s argument opens the door to Government – He calls his vision of marriage a “contractual agreement.” Oops. Where there are contracts there are laws. Where there a contracts there are often breeches of contract, lawsuits and the like. And where there are legal actions there is need for a judiciary. And where there is a judiciary there is Government. So even in his “Utopian” and libertarian world the government is not far behind.

This is a classic case of confusing limited power, such as the power to enforce contracts, with unlimited power, such as the power to dictate contractual obligations. Just because we need government to establish basic legal rules doesn’t mean we need judges and lawyers in our kitchens. Just because the government, community, and church, may have an interest at a future time, does that necessitate their involvement at the inception of a marriage?

There’s much more the Monsignor’s article, including some church-specific rational for marital definition, and I look forward to thinking about it more.

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One Response to Church and State and Liberty

  1. Prodigal Son says:

    I think the Monsignor also makes an assumption that is factually wrong. He says “where there is a judiciary there is Government.” That is not necessarily true, in fact, most civil disputes (particularly divorces and other breaches of contract) are handled without government.

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