But perhaps the most explosive question: Why is the Church not willing to sort out the difference, both in its doctrine and in each individual case? Is it because the distinction between justice and injustice — central to the Gospel itself — would force the Church to confront the injustices perpetrated by a state that has dangerously overstepped its authority and the Church’s own failure to act as the society’s conscience on a matter involving its own ministry?
For the Church is simply following the politicians. In contrast with same-sex marriage, abortion, and pornography, politicians and even self-described “pro-family” groups studiously avoid challenging divorce laws. “Opposing gay marriage or gays in the military is for Republicans an easy, juicy, risk-free issue,” Gallagher writes. “The message [is] that at all costs we should keep divorce off the political agenda.” The exception proves the rule. When Pope John Paul II spoke out in January 2002 — calling divorce a “festering wound” with “devastating consequences that spread in society like the plague” — he was attacked not only from the left but also by conservatives like Tunku Varadarajan in the Wall Street Journal.
Likewise, this power grab by ideologues and state functionaries at the expense of the family and private sphere of life was met by the churches with silence. Here is a sacrament consecrated by the Church, vowed before God and witnessed by the congregation. The state comes along and simply tears it up, and the Church mounts no serious response.
In the showdown that never took place over sexual morality and the supervision of private family life, this was the moment the two jurisdictions were forced into a direct confrontation and the state simply and decisively told the Church who is boss. From the moment that the Church failed to inform the state that it could not simply countermand God’s covenant governing the family, the Church has been little more than an ornament in marriage and therefore in the lives of most people.
Marriage is today the most critical interface of church and state. Whoso controls marriage governs society, not least because it becomes “the hand that rocks the cradle.”
This rivalry is not apparent in the terms by which marriage is contracted and consecrated. Here church and state cooperate quite effortlessly: a ceremony, a signature.
Where the power struggle ensues is in the terms by which a marriage can be dissolved, and it was the Divorce Revolution that precipitated the battle that the Church refused to fight. The Church, along with its Protestant counterparts, ceded to the state the authority to dissolve marriages at its own pleasure and on its own terms and to erect a regime of governmental micromanagement over the private lives of the contracted parties, innocent as well as guilty—all without scrutiny or objection by these churches who consecrated the supposedly sacred union.
Far from upholding a sacred covenant, the churches, both Catholic and Protestant, are thus parties to a fraudulent contract. They have allowed their marriage ministry to become a bait-and-switch, luring unsuspecting parties into a supposedly binding and lifelong union, where they are then sitting ducks for state functionaries to come along and simply tear up the covenant and seize control over their lives and children. And the state tears up not only the secular contract, but the covenant between the spouses, the congregation, and God. The state’s edict countermands the churches’ covenant and with it the churches’ entire authority. With the churches’ acquiescence, the state’s officials put God in His place.