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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine, Marriage and the Catholic Church

Every year I try to do this blog post and I usually get sidetracked to the point of not doing it. I also would have liked to source it more, but a lot of this is from memory and the loathesome Wikipedia.

Valentine's Day itself is based on Saint Valentine, who is something of an arguable historical figure. Not much is known about the various saints named Valentine, but "he" is generally associated with messages, love and marriage. Valentine's Day has settled into a day of acknowledgement for married and unmarried couples alike.

I thought I would instead look at the Catholic Church's contribution to marriage itself. In the past, marriage fell somewhere between arranged unions and informal hookups. In the Middle Ages, marriage became more based on the choice of the couple themselves.

Still, this had its own problems. It was possible for the engaged couple to marry themselves before God without the presence of witnesses or a priest. It was the norm to have a ceremony, but this unwitnessed marriage was a good opportunity for a man to bring more than one woman to the marriage bed without proof of an actual wedding.

This is the point where the Council of Trent formalized the verification of the marriage union. Much of the Western world followed, making an official marriage based on love the cultural standard.

This is what I consider when I think about the expansion of the definition of marriage. In a way, the Catholic Church's strict rules about marriage were the basis of modern society. Arguing against the need for a definiable marriage seems to fly in the face of history.



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