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The Decline of the Family (3)

The ceremony attached to marriage has undergone some odd changes in American society. Many people are used to the old Anglican form ("for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health" etc.) because it shows up in books and movies so much. It actually comes from the Old Catholic form in England centuries ago (and is quite similar to the Catholic form used in most parishes today). The next thing that Zimmerman found was the traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony was lost; and that is clearly where we are at.

Over the past few decades we have seen a rewriting of the vows, and a changing of the ceremony in the Church. I know of more than one Catholic who got "married" by a justice of the peace and said they did not know it was sinful. I have had people ask for things in a wedding that are completely forbidden by the Church (no, you do not need to know what they were). I have told people of the rules that the Church has for a wedding, and been told outright, "that's just silly, why shouldn't we just go to a wedding chapel and not have to deal with that?"

The ceremony of the wedding not merely sentimental niceties. It means something, eternally; yet most people have little acknowledgement of that fact. Rarely today do you hear the traditional vow that the woman will "love, cherish, and obey" her husband (unless, of course, they are married in an Ordinariate parish), but that is the traditional form. The ceremony has been attacked by numerous changes and adaptations. Some of these aberrations, finally, have been condemned by the Church, but some of them have snuck in to certain forms of the rite in the Church.

Should we then be surprised that the world has been changing its understanding of the ceremony and even changing the vows to fit with modern sensibilities? I remember once hearing that a couple wrote their own vows to say "until we decide to go our own way". I am not joking (wish I was though!). We have arrived at a state where the ceremony is so devalued in most of America that cohabitation has become the acceptable alternative ("why bother with marriage? it's just an outdated idea" is what many say).

More to follow...


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