Rights and Rites

Living in a pluralistic world is not easy.  Sometimes it is frustrating and sometimes is gets to be quite maddening.

Why can’t everyone just see things the way I see them?  After all — it is so obvious!  After all, it is so clear that THIS is the truth — this is right and that is wrong.

In reality, though, there are so few people with whom we agree 100% of the time.  And, it is more than just an opinion — at times we clearly have BELIEFS that conflict with the beliefs of others.  Maybe it deals with political issues — left v. right, blue v. red, democrats v. republicans v. libertarians.    Certainly religious beliefs can easily bring about conflict.  The “right way” to discipline children can bring about heated discussion.  Maybe it deals with social issues.

Two decisions by the Supreme Court this past week generated heat.  One dealt with enforcement of a section of the Voting Rights Act.  The other dealt with the constitutionality of the “Defense of Marriage Act.”  We have witnessed differing opinions and a clash of deep-seeded beliefs about what is right and just — what is wrong and destructive.

Civil rights and religious rites seem to be in opposition.

We can ask, how does one legislate moral viewpoints and our understanding of what is “right and true”?  I think baggy, drooping pants are “trashy” and would not want [or hire] a customer rep of mine who dressed like that.  But, I do not want to pass legislation that “outlaws” such dress.

What we may see in time to come is another way in which Church and State will be separated.  Churches may decide, that based on theological belief, “this” will be the procedure and process to be “married sacramentally”.  And, the State will determine guidelines and procedures for civil marriage — or legal marriage.

Is this not what we see in so much [majority??] of the world?  When one goes to the Church in Mexico, Italy, France, Japan, etc., the couple seeks the blessing of the Church.  But, they know that they will not be legally married as the State recognizes marriage.  There is the need for a civil ceremony in ADDITION to the church ceremony.  Such was the case 38 years ago when my brother was married in Japan — first the legal ceremony, then the religious ceremony.  Such was the case last summer when my nephew was married in Mexico — first was the religious ceremony and then a civil ceremony back here in the US.

We in the US allow for the combination of rites — an ordained minister acts as an agent of the State — in accord with his/her denominational structures —- AND ALSO as an agent of the Church. It does not have to be this way always.  If _________ denomination does not permit same-gender marriage, then so be it.  The State can decide otherwise.  The clergy person does not have to act in the name of the State … merely in the name of a Church.

We may soon come to see a separation of what is seen as a civil right — and what is viewed as a religious rite.


About thegospelforliving

Retired Catholic Priest - now serving the community as a paralegal and charter school consultant.
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