Saturday, 28 January 2012


I tend not to follow what is going on in the Anglican communion.  I have enough trouble getting my head around what’s happening in unam sanctam et Catholicam apostolicam ecclesiam.
However, following some blog links in an idle moment (doubtless there was pressing work to be done...) I ended up at Symon Hill’s blog.  

His name alone should have warned me.  

Listen Bertie, said Aunt Dahlia earnestly, I’m an older woman than you are - well you know what I mean - and I can tell you a thing or two.  And one of them is that no good can come of association with anything labelled Gwladys, or Ysobel, or Ethyl, or Mabelle, or Kathryn.

And I’m sure if she had been warning Bertie off unsuitable men, she would have include Symon.  (Whilst that is not strictly relevant to my main point, I do believe that what this - and indeed every - blog needs, is more and better quotations from P G Wodehouse).

Anyway, Symon was very pleased with himself because his (and others’) blogging had got a chap who thinks he’s a bishop to withdraw an endorsement from a booklet by some other chap called Stephen Green.

I don’t know much about Green, though he has got my email address from somewhere and sends me stuff for my junk mail folder on an occasional basis.

But what had really got in among Symon was that Green pointed out that the relatively recent law creating an offense of marital rape was not in keeping with the Bible or a Christian understanding of marriage.  Symon, of course, is not alone: people have been tweeting in outrage about 'publicly endorsing rape'; which is a misrepresentation of what the argument is about.

As I say, I am no expert on what members of the Anglican communion believe (though I am not sure many of them are either).  

However, in my understanding from a Catholic perspective, marital rape is quite simply an oxymoron; it is not possible.

Before everyone faints with horror, let me be quite clear.  I do not condone a husband forcing himself on his wife (or vice versa, come to that).  I certainly do not condone any force, threats or violence in that context.  Indeed, the standards of love expected of either spouse are very high indeed: husbands must be prepared to give their lives, not just sacrifice their lust, for the love of their wives.  Wives, likewise, must love their husbands.   My point is very specific: as I understand it, (and of course I am open to correction if I have misunderstood) the nature of the sacrament of marriage includes giving consent to marital intercourse, irrevocably.  Rape is intercourse without consent. Therefore in the context of a Christian marriage, it is not possible: consent has been given.  Use of threats, force or violence in that context are  sinful, and also may well be criminal: but they are not rape.

If I am not condoning the use of force or threats (which I most certainly am not) why am I concerned about the designation of forced intercourse within a marriage as rape?

The answer is that I believe we are in the midst of a concerted attempt totally to de-couple both sex and pro-creation from marriage; and also to re-define marriage as well as re-write the sexual norms we have inherited from Christendom.  Therefore it is important to be clear that as Catholics, we understand that the only legitimate use of human sexuality is in a valid marriage, open to life.  Likewise, it is important that we educate our children correctly about marriage, so that they are able to contract valid marriages and know what they are committing themselves to, when they say ‘for better or for worse...’ etc.  

UPDATE: see subsequent post


Richard Collins said...

I think that I should join one of his pilgrimages for homophobia ('cept I don't suffer from it!)

Part-time Pilgrim said...

I think you have scooped up quite a lot of bathwater in a failed attempt to rescue the baby with this post, Ben.

I think lots of things could be done to achieve the objectives of the last paragraph withouth giving some men the idea that they can force their wives into sex.

You may understand a husband's obligations but you are not the type of husband the marital rape act was aimed at. Unfortunately that type of husband does exist.

Ben Trovato said...

P-t P

Is your contention that I am wrong in my analysis, or imprudent in my expression of it?

I thought I had made it sufficiently clear that any force in this context is wrong: I repeatedly stated that in various ways...

The post was about my understanding of the marriage vows in Catholic thought, and I believe the use of the specific word 'rape' is at odds with that.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent, for example, states ' the marriage contract is not a mere promise, but a transfer of right, by which the man actually yields the dominion of his body to the woman, the woman the dominion of her body to the man,'

That's the sort of thinking I am trying to unpack. But as I said also repeatedly) I am aware that my understanding may be at fault, and if it is I would like to be put right.