Letter: Marriage rethink

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The Independent Culture
Sir: All peoples, not only Judaeo-Christians, have believed that marriage has a sacred character ("There should be nothing holy about matrimony", 30 January).

Jo Ind claims Christianity "got it wrong" when the "Church in the 13th century declared it a sacrament". The Church in east and west always taught in that vein but the western Church actually clarified its meaning, notably in the 13th and 16th centuries.

Consequently, Jo's claim that "it is an institution made by man none the less" gained relatively little credence until modern times. Most of us could agree that "we need to rethink marriage". Unlike Christians, Jo Ind may have in mind something other than the union of one man with one woman for life. Rather than tamper with a gift of God, Christians' rethinking seeks to make marriage work by identifying the obstacles peculiar to each age.

The Churches did not criticise the Birmingham radio station's publicity stunt because it was an arranged marriage. The closest and most loving partnership I have known began as an Irish arranged Catholic marriage in 1933. Like Indian arranged marriages I later encountered, it depended on support from shared beliefs, an extended family and a close-knit community, which the Birmingham couple will not enjoy.




The writer was Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle 1974-1992