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Defending the Sanctity of Traditional Marriage, One Wife at a Time

No doubt he has a traditional prenup too. Check out the photo. Ewwww.... (HT Glenn Greenwald)

About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.



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I gather, from the recent document that the U.S. bishops sent to Congress, that there would be no problem hiring Mr. Limbaugh (or Mr. Gingrich) in a Catholic institution.Where there would be a problem hiring someone who happens to be gay or lesbian, whether that person is in a longterm committed monogamous relationship or otherwise.Something about the disparity in the current rules governing whom the church chooses to welcome and whom it chooses to turn away from the table is deeply troubling to me.

I think that, in the interest of charity, and out of respect (if not for him certainly for his partner), better to let this pass over in silence.Besides, the bigger question for a Catholic site is, is divorce and remarriage wrong? Is monogamy part of natural law or even divine law? Should the Church continue to proclaim the indissolubility of marriage for every single Catholic wedding?

The problem with the attempted jab is that I don't know if Rush Limbaugh has made "traditional marriage" part of his repertoire. You'd have to give me evidence, as in quotes, of Limbaugh going off on the many-married or divorced as a scourge of American society in order to buy your point. I've listened to him quite a bit over the years, in the car, and I don't recall him ever even talking about it. Citations?

From Greenwald, Rush in 2009:Look, we found another Obama oddball. Obama's nominee to become commissioner for the equal opportunity employment commission is Chai Feldblum. She's an outspoken gay rights activist, Georgetown University law professor, and she has praised polygamy and contended that traditional marriage should not have privileged status.

Mark,Rush Limbaugh, July 16, 1996:

Marriage is simply the way humanity has discovered that it is the best way to build a building block of an orderly society and sustain it. Thats all it is. It is also the means by which you produce legitimate offspring. And Iand Ivewhatever else Barney and his mate do, they cannot do that. And thats the soul purposenow look, were devaluing marriagea lot of divorce. Got to fix that. There is way, way too much illegitimacy in this country, and its leading to the crime rate. This business of the gay marriage is nothing more than a money grab, in my opinion, so people can get on the welfare rolls or the benefit rolls, in state offices and otherand other places.

So far, Barney Frank's relationships have produced the same number of children as Rush Limbaugh's marriages. None.

And Elton John sang at Rush's wedding. Go figure.

Ewwww? Are we still in high school, er...grade school?

I think history shows that big fat rich guys with heart trouble have always been able to attract a series of ever younger women to marry. Years ago, my anthropology prof suggested that younger women are often attracted to power and security over looks. Many December-May marriages are very happy. I hope Rush's marriage is among them.I also hope Rush's radio show gets cancelled due to lack of interest because the public has wised up to his idiotic vitriol. But I'm not holding my breath.

Rush, a charlatan if there ever was one, is laughing all the way to the bank. As another famous opportunist said: "A sucker is born every minute."

Mark, I have to say--with all Christian charity--that I grow a little weary of your puerile (and often sexist) ad hominems.To my way of thinking, your remark about high school or grade school comes dangerously close to a line that has more to do with demeaning someone personally, and at an exceptionally nasty level, than with fostering useful conversation.As did your remark to Ann Olivier back on July 5, 2009, "I dont think you have any idea how catty comments such as those come across to people who do not share your admitted bias."Or your characterization of the statement of the lesbian couple whose child was denied admission to a Catholic school in Colorado on April 17: "How insular, how quaint, how convenient, howhigh school-ish."I have to say, it strikes me as exceptionally high-schoolish to engage in these types of ad hominem slurs, which seem to target, in particular, women. Or men you lump into a beta-male category.

So, is Rush Limbaugh a Catholic? Why is his remarriage of particular note for a Catholic journal of opiniomn?

William--There are two Marks on this thread, so you may be mixing and matching inadvertently. Can't say I agree with you in any case, but the irony is that my last post actually came to the aid--in a very small way, granted--of a damsel in distress. Further, I think it's unlikely that someone named Eduardo is a woman.Let's go Flyers!

I can understand why the Rush Limbaugh fans are so upset to see him criticized. After all, Limbaugh never criticizes anyone else. He should be afforded the same courtesy.

There are two Marks on this thread, so you may be mixing and matching inadvertently.The quotes William Lindsey was criticizing were all those of Mark Proska. I don't believe he has mixed up the two Marks.

Mark, of all the disgusting, juvenile, sexist, racist, perverted and down-right rude comments I have had the misfortune of ever reading, I think your most recent post is amongst the most offensive. How anyone in their right mind could type something so profoundly rude, something indicating such a lack of culture or something so stupid is beyond me. I am amazed such a comment could be permitted to be posted and have slipped passed the sensors.Of course I am talking about your post on June 6th, 2010 at 6:43pm. A day that will go down in infamy like December 7th 1941, November 22 1963 or September 11th 2001. To cheer for the Philadelphia Flyers is a sin against the spirit. Something unforgivable even by God's standards as the Latin Vulgate clearly indicates (Mt 12:32) " Et quicumque dixerit verbum contra Filium hominis remittetur ei qui autem dixerit contra Torontonium Acer Folium non remittetur ei neque in hoc saeculo neque in futuro"

Is monogamy prescribed by divine or by natural law? Oddly enough, Scripture never condemns polygamy -- which was rife at least from the time of Lamech and his wives Adah and Zillah. Aquinas held polygamy to be compatible with natural law (making an obscure distinction between primary and secondary natural law).

David, thanks.You're right, my remarks were directed to Mark Proska, who obviously recognized that I was addressing him.I had seen that there were two Marks on the thread, but assumed readers would know which of the two I was addressing, since I cite the remarks that one Mark made about high school behavior.

Joseph:That is true. However, scripture was written in a profoundly patriarchal mindset and even if we accept it as revelation patriarchy and all, Christ seemed to have a different view. On the so called "natural law" argument, I met a woman from Nigeria where polygamy is still practiced. She said to not believe the propaganda about polygamous marriage. She was speaking to a bunch of us over lunch, including women, and asked them to simply imagine their husbands going off to sleep with another woman in the same house!!! Puleassse she laughed. I guess it depends on which nature is making the law - and the answer historically is obvious.I am not sure divorce and remarriage though is always wrong, Still, I wonder about divorce

It's not surprising that Rush is a hypocrite like the rest of us.

Thank you for your reply, Mark Proska.Of course my comment was intended for you. It cited phrases that appear in your posting and not in the posting of the other Mark.I think perhaps you didn't read my comment carefully, since you missed its final statement that you seem to reserve these dismissive rhetorical tactics for both women and men you apparently regard as beta to your alpha.To repeat (we teachers, retired or otherwise, have the bad habit of doing this, to make points clear): I don't find your dismissive one-liner, with its slur intended to juvenilize another poster, helpful. I find it, in fact, juvenile. Not only do you trade in a slur in what you say, but you say nothing else. No analysis of the point being discussed. No commentary on the narrative line of the posting. Just a dismissive one-liner designed to make a personal comment about the author of this posting.I am only one poster here, and I have no proprietorial role in maintaining this blog. And I'm only a sporadic and occasional poster, though I read Commonweal threads daily. I may well not speak for other readers here. Speaking for myself, I'd say that I come here to listen to serious, respectful conversation that tries to move the discussion of real issues forward.I don't come here to hear the kind of territory-marking, alpha-male rhetorical one-liners that I can find at any right-wing political or religious website I want to seek out.These one-liners, and the dismissive rhetorical tactics they employ to put some categories of folks in their place, seem entirely unhelpful to me, if it's moving discussion forward that we're seeking. Disagreement I welcome and applaud. But the one-liners and dismissive slurs? They're high-schoolish, as far as I'm concerned. Like calling someone a nerd, and imagining you've really said something significant . . . .

"Should the Church continue to proclaim the indissolubility of marriage for every single Catholic wedding?"Yes.

Eduardo Penalver: "Ewwww. "Mark Proska: "Ewwww? Are we still in high school, ergrade school?"William Lindsay: "Mark, I have to saywith all Christian charitythat I grow a little weary of your puerile (and often sexist) ad hominems."Wow.Eduardo doesn't provide further explanation of his "Ewww", so we don't know if it is the sight of Rush Limbaugh with his hands on the bare shoulders of a woman young enough to be his daughter that induced that verbal gag reflex - or possibly Rush is capable of causing that all by himself.There are a lot of things that induce the "Ewww" reaction in various people, from changing poopy diapers to confronting a plate full of brussels sprouts to (if it may be said) imagining gay marriage ("Ewww" may be the major reason that homosexual marriage is still not permitted in most jurisdictions.) Our "Ewwws" need to be examined, and sometimes overcome. Just a thought for the day.I'm with Jean - I wish them well. (And thank you, Adam, for your flawless theological dissection of Mark Proska's unfortunate heresy. It is difficult to think of a better example of the persistence of evil than the Philadelphia Flyers, whose resilience resembles that of the cockroach after a fumigation, and their exacrable goon, Chris Pronger, who would look great in a Blackhawks uniform.)

Someone with Admin privileges really should do this magazine and blog a favor and delete this entire juvenile post. Moronic.

William--I take your comments to me in the same spirit as some of the comments I make--hoping to inspire a higher level of discussion on the blog, while recognizing that, blogs being what they are, it's best to allow for a fair amount of slack. Nevertheless, I'm sorry you find some of my comments unhelpful. Hopefully this one will be less offensive--at least it's longer!Adam--Thanks for the laugh. You really had me going. As you can see elsewhere, your post was only a slight exaggeration! My Latin is not what it used to be--in fact, it was never what it used to be--so I can only guess that you may be a Maple Leafs fan, perhaps with ties to Chicago? The Flyers are down, but not out. We've come back from the dead before in these playoffs (so maybe the Holy Spirit is actually on our side?), I'm hoping we can do it one more time. Thanks again for the comic relief, and injecting a measure of sanity. George--I generally don't find the "patriarchal mindset" argument very compelling, but in this case I think you may have a point. At the risk of sounding sexist (to some), it's refreshing how a woman's common sense can cut through a lot of male-induced gobbledygook. Your story of the Nigerian woman reminded me of Dr. Johnson's "just kick a stone" retort to Bishop Berkeley.Jim--Chris Pronger in a Blackhawks uniform? Ewwww!

Stop picking on poor Rush. I'm writing from California, where some of my very best friends have been married four, five, even six times. True love is hard to find these post-Vatican II days.

Back in my high school days, a friend of my younger brother used to say that he always told a prospective girlfriend, "You're the only girl I've ever truly loved."At least Mr. Limbaugh has some money to toss into his relationships, er, marriages :)Oh, the money, show me the money.

Joseph, prospective girlfriends might have agreed to a "date" after the delivery of the "you're the only girl I've ever truly loved" line, but I doubt that many of them really believed it. It's that "truly" that's the dead giveaway.

Mark Gordon, thanks for making your point about Elton John performing at Mr. Limbaugh's wedding clear. I thought that was where you were going. And, of course, that's my point: that the issues about which we're exchanging one-liners and slurs deserve open, honest, serious discussion. Which goes beyond the one-liners and rhetorical alpha-dog territory-marking tactics.I'd also note that today's juvenile and eeew may turn out to be tomorrow's taken-for-granted and what's the fuss about. People who are told that their viewpoint is beyond the pale--juvenile, not worth discussion, catty, high-schoolish--just don't stop talking, if they're committed to that viewpoint.I've just finished reading Daniel Mark Epstein's comparative study of Lincoln and Whitman, and am reminded all over again by that study of how abhorrent--how unthinkable and repugnant--many people once found the thought of interracial marriage.Talk about a taken-for-granted yuck factor: in fact, when Stephen A. Douglas chose to play that card before the 1860 election, it almost cost Lincoln the election, because a large majority of Americans took for granted that interracial marriage is not natural. As Epstein notes, had it not been for Lincoln's strong sense of a "guiding moral principle," which the opportunist Douglas lacked and which was evident in Lincoln's debates with Douglas, Douglas would almost certainly have had the upper hand.And, of course, the "discussion" of that issue of miscegenation in many journals of the day was entirely at the level of insinuation and slurs. Do a quick google search for illustrations used in the American press in the past to play on people's "natural" aversion to interracial marriage, and you'll quickly see the juvenile on full display, there for all the world to see.Our own juvenile past as a nation . . . . Which some of us seem unable or unwilling to shed now, when it comes to the discussion of current controversial issues where some of us take for granted "natural" yuck factors every bit as much as people of the past often did when interracial marriage was on the table. And where some of us want to prevent any discussion at all by throwing up rhetorical bars to the discussion from the outset--and then ridiculing anyone who notices and asks for serious consideration of those rhetorical bars and whether they're legitimate.Fortunately, that juvenile tactic of marking serious discussion of a subject off-limits eventually lost ground when it came to the question of interracial marriage (and of the abolition of slavery), no matter what tactics were used to thwart serious, public, honest discussion of the issues.Mind you, neither the discussion of abolition nor of interracial marriage took place in churches and their institutions to a great extent, despite the professed commitment of churches and their institutions to respectful analysis of controverted moral issues. It took place largely outside the churches, except for the significant and ultimately decisive handful of engaged and prophetic religious communities that openly advocated first for abolition and then for interracial marriage.As Epstein's book reminds me, most people of faith and churches were, in fact, hardly in the vanguard of the movement to abolish slavery or to protect the right of people to marry across racial lines.Though we like to take credit for this today.Nor were they by any means in the vanguard of serious, open, significant discussion of these issues. The important conversations--the honest and open ones that moved beyond insinuation and slur and hidden rhetorical tactics to disallow some voices and perspectives: those took place, with these major moral discussions of the past, largely outside the communities of faith and their institutions. Or rather, they took place on the margins of communities of faith rather than at their center--on the margins where there was an opening to freer and more invigorating conversation because on the margins, people of faith were willing to open their closed intraecclesial conversations to secular movements that dared to push against the boundaries with which many people have faith had become altogether comfortable.I'm sorry to learn that this is not the kind of discussion quite a few of us consider worth having, on this particular thread. And so I'm sorry to have intruded on a discussion that seems to be occurring according to ground rules other than those I had understood were at play when the discussion began.

To be clear, God is not responsible for creating a separate personhood based upon ethnicity or ancestry for we are all Men and Women, called to be oriented towards The Will of God.

Its not surprising that Rush is a hypocrite like the rest of us.Brian,If you had inserted a comma after hypocrite, I might be able to agree with you. I suppose we are all -- to some degree and at some point in our lives -- hypocritical. But without the comma, it reads to me as if you are saying we're all peas in a pod. That certainly isn't true. Rush Limbaugh, by reason of his position, has the opportunity to be a hypocrite on a very grand scale, and he takes full advantage of it.

Eduardo, to be clear, perhaps you or someone at Commonweal should write a defense of Traditional Marriage least it appear from the continued displaying of the "Homosexuality and the Church" article on this web site, that Commonweal is promoting a homosexualist agenda which denies The Truth of Love.

Far be it for me, a Leafs fan, to come to the defense of a Flyers fan. I think it is equivalent of an Thomist coming to the defense of a Augustinian or an Aristotelean defending a Platonist (or worst Plotinus) but I felt that I needed to add some levity to the conversation because William Lindsey's reaction to a comment that was rather innocuous seemed excessive.I cannot help but feel that your comment must have struck a particular chord with Mr. Lindsey that is best illustrated by Jim Pauwel's comments on homosexual marriage and the 'ewww' factor. I hardly think 'ewww' constitutes a legitimate philosophical argument, but I did think that Mark's use of it illustrated the absurdity of dismissing a lifestyle based on such prejudice or taste. Additionally, it is a rather astute observation to simultaneously point out some hypocrisy on the left when they dismiss arguments against homosexual marriage as homophobic (read: eww) yet engage in their own form of emotional dismissal (ewww).I think the root issue here, as with nearly all discussions concerning marriage, is the problem of definition and the particular views concerning the origins and purpose of marriage, the role of 'love' in marriage (a rather recent phenomenon), the nature of sex etc. I've always been intrigued by the arguments concerning marriage that move beyond the simple static view because as a Catholic and historian I cannot help but feel that Matthew's gospel which attempts to show a continuation between ancient Israel and the Church results in a more complex (and complete) ethics. Not that I am particularly in favour of may-december marriages, divorce, polygamy or homosexual marriage, but dismissing them off-hand indicates a certain Euro-centric ahistorical view of the marriage dynamic that is not conducive to deep discussion. I recall studying in the seminary where there were a number of seminarians from Southern Sudan (Dinka people). They were the first experience that I had encountered concerning polygamy and it helped me to see that perhaps some of our societal traditions are rather hinderances to the spreading of the gospel message as we tend to confuse our cultural traits with the foundation of the faith.But this reminds me of the trouble the Jesuits got in in China by adopting Confucian (or according to the Franciscans Confusing) dress. Is it not possible that at least some of our 'gut' reaction is more a product of our culture than anything intrinsic to the faith?

Sorry Jim if my above statement comes across as disagreeing with you. Rather, I was trying to second what you said but I'm not convinced I succeeded.

Just to make abundantly clear what I thought was already obvious to everyone by now, my "Ewwww" had nothing to do with Elton John or his sexual orientation. Rather, it was a response to the author's "Ewwww", in describing the picture of a young woman he linked to. You don't have to like Rush, but to describe his wife to be as "Ewwww" is, in my view, reminiscent of behavior one finds in high school (or grade school). Nevertheless, even if misinterpreted, the over reaction to it was revealing, in its own way.

Thanks, Mark Proska, for the clarification.I was clear from the outset about what you meant when you focused on the eeew in Eduardo P.'s posting--and not at all on the issue to which the posting drew attention.Just as I am very clear about why you and your cronies here immediately changed the subject to jock talk. Sort of reminds me of that movie--title and actors long forgotten--when two macho men woke up cuddling each other, not realizing they had ended up in bed together.And immediately jumped out of bed blustering on about the Yankees.You marked the territory plainly and well with your remark, and you set the boundaries of discussion and the tone of the discussion very adroitly with it, indicating who's permitted to talk, whose opinion counts, and what may be discussed. So how about them Yankees?

J.M.J.Adam, no doubt, some of our societal traditions are hinderences to the spreading of the Gospel message of authentic Love. However, if it is true that from The Beginning, we are called to Holy relationships with one another in communion with God, then it cannot be true that the role of Love in Marriage is a rather recent phenomenon. It is through the Spirit of Love that we exist. To deny The Spirit of Love is very serious.

"I recall studying in the seminary where there were a number of seminarians from Southern Sudan (Dinka people). They were the first experience that I had encountered concerning polygamy and it helped me to see that perhaps some of our societal traditions are rather hinderances to the spreading of the gospel message as we tend to confuse our cultural traits with the foundation of the faith."I used to correspond with a person who had done missionary work in Africa. He was somewhat critical of the line from the Eucharistic Prayer, "Lord, you are holy indeed, the fountain of all holiness". His view was that the people among whom he worked had no experience of fountains, so the imagery was lost on them; but they all know what a well is, so he suggested, "the well of all holiness".

I took the original "Ewww" to be, not an overall abhorrence (good word, William) of May-December romances, but specifically of Rush Limbaugh, the fountain of all unholiness, being able to entice romantic emotions in a nubile young woman. (I would think that, among certain demographics, another common reaction to that photo has been, 'That lucky bastard').It seems that, by and large, John Edwards' peccadilloes didn't provoke the "Ewww" response among liberals. That data point suggests that there is more at work here than a visceral reaction to May-December.

Re John Edwards: Are you kidding me? First, his fling was with a woman who wasn't that much younger -- although one might be confused about that given the immaturity of her behavior (she was at least 40). Second, I don't know anyone, liberal or conservative, who isn't aghast at what Edwards did -- that is, when they aren't simply sad at what impact his behavior must be having on Jack and Emma. Edwards and Limbaugh are both narcissistic jerks (would use other term but NSFW); but their hypocrisy turns on different means and flouts different proclaimed values. It's true that Limbaugh might not be Catholic, but he (like Newt Gingrich, etc.) has aligned himself with a party that has made a fetish of promoting conservative family values -- except for when their own members decide they would rather live a different way, and that's okay, like the wizard of Oz, "because because because, because of the wonderful things he does." Which is to say, so long as you agree with me and scratch my back, I'll drop my principles when it comes to you. It's a sad commentary on the authenticity of your values, or your integrity as a person for dropping them so fast when they are challenged by the conduct of your friends. Indeed, they begin to look rather pretextual, not like real values at all.

"I hardly think ewww constitutes a legitimate philosophical argument ... I think the root issue here, as with nearly all discussions concerning marriage, is the problem of definition and the particular views concerning the origins and purpose of marriage, the role of love in marriage (a rather recent phenomenon), the nature of sex etc.I think that's true about definitions and origins, at least in forums like this.To continue a line of thought that William has developed with his miscegenation example: as I've stated, I think the "Ewww" factor explains a good deal of opposition to homosexual marriage in the body politic. That is not to say that there aren't serious arguments against homosexual marriage, but frankly I doubt whether most opponents in the electorate are familiar enough with them to be able to explain them or use them in a serious discussion. "Ewww", as William pointed out, is a powerful political weapon, and I think it probably suffices for a lot of the electorate these days.

Barbara: let me suggest four other off-the-top-of-the-head examples: Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinski; Mark Sanford/Argentinian bombshell (whose name I don't think I ever learned); Eliot Spitzer/absurdly overpriced hooker (ditto on the name); Wilbur Mills/Firecracker (also Argentinian?)All of these instances induce the drop of the jaw, the shake of the head, the slap to the forehead. As you say, "aghast" just about sums it up. But do any of them induce the "Ewww" reaction the way the Limbaugh photo does?Not sure what the point of all this is, except that Limbaugh is special. That's probaby enough from me on the visceral.

Jim, perhaps you don't know the right liberals. Or perhaps their reactions went far beyond "ewww." Mine did. And even as I write this I realize I'm being suckered into defending the notion that liberals have moral sensibilities that might result in "ewww" moments about their friends as well as their enemies.Side note FWIW before I leave: That "ewww" deserves some parsing along gender and other demographic lines.My girlfriends had "ewww" moments re Rush's marriage--ironic since most of us are married to guys roughly Rush's age. For us the "ewww" has very little to do with the physical aspects of the relationship (though all of us feel our husbands are much handsomer than Rush thanks to years of our feeding, grooming, and dressing), and more to do with the notion that any woman of any political persuasion would be willing to listen to that blowhard morning, noon, and night. After two or three decades of marriage, one cannot hang on the beloved's every utterance for hours on end. When one of those political diatribes starts, even one we agree with, most of us look at our watches and give 'em 10 minutes, tops. Then we excuse ourselves to go do the dishes or tidy the bathroom.

This may be the longest discussion in history on the interjection Ewww.All I can say is, pfui.

Jim, thank you--and yes, you took my point precisely about the eeew factor (or yuck factor, to use term that pops up constantly in media discussions of homophobia). At the risk of boring Rita further, I'd like to make one comment about your valuable analysis.You say, ". . . I think the 'Ewww' factor explains a good deal of opposition to homosexual marriage in the body politic. That is not to say that there arent serious arguments against homosexual marriage, but frankly I doubt whether most opponents in the electorate are familiar enough with them to be able to explain them or use them in a serious discussion. 'Ewww', as William pointed out, is a powerful political weapon, and I think it probably suffices for a lot of the electorate these days."Exactly so. And that's why I was hoping we could move the discussion beyond a response that was equivalent to eeew, even as it slammed the use of that term.If we don't talk at a level that transcends those gut-level reactions, we don't get anywhere. Not anywhere meaningful.And if anyone doubts how powerful the yuck factor has been in our discourse about interracial marriage in the past, I'd propose having a look at the illustrations accompanying this posting at Kepler's Tarheel Lutheran website: are just a smattering of pictures from fliers and newspapers of the 19th century, seeking to play on people's "instinctive" and "natural" yuck response when faced with the thought of interracial marriage.Fortunately, we've gotten well beyond that point (or have we?), and I think we have done so because we've been willing to talk beyond the initial impressions, and to move beyond slur and slander as a justifiable way of conversing.

Maybe the difference between Edwards et al. and Limbaugh is that, the former failed to live up to their self and/or public image whereas, very evidently, Limbaugh has made a lifestyle choice that most of us find rather revolting. There's no drama or sorrow in Limbaugh's serial divorce and remarriage. I put Larry King in the same category, except that he isn't as much of a sanctimonious blowhard. It's not just the chasm between the public and the private -- it's the complete oblivion to the fact that one's private life needs to be in any way synchronous with one's profession of values, which therefore appear to be all for show.

Part of me thinks we're all on candid camera (I have a guess as to who's playing the role of Alan Funt), but assuming this is all legitI don't see how Rush's marriage is inconsistent with what some people call "conservative family values." Isn't one of those values that a man and woman in love get married, rather than "live in sin"? So where's the hypocrisy?

Mark Proska, not to belabour the obvious, but traditional marriage is lifelong. Four marriages, the first three ending in divorce, seems more like serial polygamy than traditional marriage. I do not know what attitudes Mr. Limbaugh or his wives brought into his marriages, but if they regarded them as a contract to be dissolved at will, that's not the traditional view. William Lindsey, I respect the serious points you and others were making. My comment was intended to be humorous, I am sorry if it came across as dismissive. I should have added an emoticon~! :)

Rita--Agreed, but in that case, the problem is not with the marriage now, it's with the divorce then. I was more disappointed by the 3rd divorce than the 4th (and hopefully lifelong) marriage. By the 3rd marriage, he was financially set, to say the least. Guess money can't buy love.

Rita, thank you. And I did not intend to be dismissive, either. I truly do think I often try people's patience on a thread like this, by posting a number of times and at length. I don't want to be intrusive.Yes, emoticons help, don't they? The problem with wry humor in online communication, I've found to my consternation when I've tried it, is that people don't have the facial and other body-language cues to know you're being ironic, sarcastic, or wry.I also agree with your point about Mr. Limbaugh's traditional marriages. I'm surprised at the lack of historical awareness of many of those for whom serial monogamy of one man with one woman has become the norm, even as they resist a single marriage or union for a gay couple.Until fairly recently in Christian history, divorce and remarriage was unthinkable. Now people engaged in serial monogamy continue to hold their pattern of marriage up as traditional as they combat gay unions or marriages, never appearing to realize that their marriages would have been regarded as completely non-traditional and immoral a few generations back.

Mark, there was no fourth divorce; this is the fourth marriage. Interesting comment though; do you think that the last divorce was more reprehensible because he was rich by that time? If so, does that mean that poverty or relatively modest finances are a valid reason for divorce? Or perhaps I misread you and you can clarify.I don't know if there's a problem with the current marriage (though you say there's not). He's not Catholic, and so not likely to go through annulment procedures to determine whether any of the previous marriages were valid. However, given that I believe society is more stable when people find ways to stay together despite differences and strife, so I hope marriage #4 works out.

What is the social balance sheet on contemporary society's more permissive attitude toward divorce and remarriage: overall, has it been more or less of a blessing than the old attitudes?FWIW, I believe that there is still quite a bit of residual stigmatizing of divorce.

William's comment is quite astute: what we call traditional marriage is anything but. Appeals to traditional values are really often just appeals to majoritarian values, which are assumed to be traditional whether they really are or aren't.Jim, whether we like it or not, the result of "no divorce" rules in other modern societies, like Ireland, has often resulted in a high level of "non-marriage" to avoid being in a position of not being able to get divorced if you want to. Laws might affect but they hardly dictate social mores.

"whether we like it or not, the result of no divorce rules in other modern societies, like Ireland, has often resulted in a high level of non-marriage to avoid being in a position of not being able to get divorced if you want to."I'm not certain it's such a direct cause-and-effect, though, Barbara. In the US, with no-fault divorce widely available and widely used, there are also high levels of 'non-marriage'. I think something else is at work with regard to that sort of deterioration of marriage.But I'm interested in whether we're better off or worse off as a result of the lowered bar for divorce. I admit it's not clear to me - seems a somewhat mixed picture.

I tend to be leery of legal "solutions" to "fix" moral problems like abortion and divorce, though I am an enthusiastic supporter of divorce arrangements that stipulate children live in the family home, and the divorced parents be the ones to move in and out of the home when it's their turn for custody. I see too many kids at my son's school who carry duffel bags around with most of their worldly possessions in order to satisfy custodial arrangements that leave them living like gypsies. These kids also often lose the family pet when they have to move in with one or another parent in new digs. Or they change schools and lose track of friends. In short, they're denied some of the support that would help them through.The Church could do more to assist couples in trouble, but most Catholic columns I read about marital difficulties tend to end up with candlelight dinners and putting oomph back in sex. It's utterly puerile.Retrouvaille tries to help couples communicate better, but the time commitment and infrequency of the program make it inaccessible for many.There's individual counseling, which priests and deacons try to do, but a lot of that tends to be reminders about what Catholic marriage is supposed to be rather than actual help or advice.That Catholics divorce at the same rate as everyone else doesn't speak very well to the Church's efforts to help married people stay together.But that's a whole other topic, I guess.

Jim--In what sense is the picture "mixed"? What significant benefit has accrued to society from easy divorce? The harms are all too obvious.I would like to see both divorce harder to obtain, with the state as gatekeeper, and marriage harder to obtain, with clergy as the gatekeeper.

"What significant benefit has accrued to society from easy divorce? "What I had in mind is it provides a legal and orderly exit from really bad marriages.That is not to say that all divorces are good, for the parties, their children or the community. But in at least some instances, they're less bad than the alternatives.

"I would like to see ... marriage harder to obtain, with clergy as the gatekeeper."The clergy do (or are supposed to do) some due diligence in this respect. This is why they spend time with the couple. In the Chicago archdiocese, we also require that the couples take a test (although we're not supposed to call it a test) called FOCCUS that is designed to help the couple identify areas of marriage that may need to be addressed before the wedding (e.g. a big disparity in attitudes toward money, which is a big cause of marital strife). But the clergy are not very good at predicting the future. If the clergy see clear problems in the offing, they can refuse to officiate, and/or refer the couple to counseling - a recommendation that the couple may or may not take. If for some reason a member of the clergy refuses to officiate at the wedding, there is nothing to prevent that couple from taking their business elsewhere - e.g. simply going in front of a judge. Are judges also to be gatekeepers?

Jim--Yes, actually, I would like judges to be gatekeepers, at least in an ideal world. Since the state has a vested interested in marriage, it seems to be judges have the authority, and the obligation, to exercise discretion of when the will/won't officiate. I know that's very unlikely to happen, which is why I think it's more feasible for the clergy to exercise that authority. As you note, that's not foolproof either, but every little bit helps. As someone noted before, the real answer is for society to demand it, like we once used to.

The noton of making it harder to get married has been floated for a long time. I understand how and why clergy can gate-keep, but I'm not sure how a judge could assess marital readiness any better than a priest/deacon. Where would the money come from for this gatekeeping process?And if you make the gate harder to open, might some people just decide to forego marriage, shack up, and start having kiddies? Which makes it even more difficult for women to track down their former partners and get them to pay child support when Daddy leaves the nest. (Divorce, at least, requires legal dissolution of a marriage and provisions for spouses and issue.)You could make it a crime to have a child out of wedlock, something I used to think would be a good idea. But then you'd drive up the abortion rate.Forcing people to pay a heftty, progressive divorce tax might be a deterrent. If the parties filing for divorce had to pay, say, an additional 15 percent of their joint annual income to friend of the court/child welfare, that would at least put some $$ where staff and efforts that, in large part, deal with the fallout of divorce and are abysmally underfundedBut I'm not sure there is a legal solution for human stupidity when it comes to love, lust and marriage, Mark, much as I'd like to think there is.

I believe the Catholic view of marriage is that marriage (as the church defines it, of course) is a natural right to which all humans are entitled. I'd think the notion of clergy and judges acting as gate-keepers and barrier-erectors runs counter to this view. The default position is 'So you want to get married? We'll assist you, as long as there is no compelling reason to witthold cooperation (e.g. you are already married to someone else).'

The 6 months preperation/waiting period has been part the Church's gate keeping role. Catholic Sacramental marriages have declined almost 50% in the last two decades. Even the Pope commented yesterday that people are avoiding marriage. [see Allen NCR]

"The 6 months preperation/waiting period has been part the Churchs gate keeping role. "Hi, Ed, I agree (although I'm not certain that "gate keeper" is the right description - but it does seem too long to wait to a lot of young couples).. I was commenting in light of Mark P.'s desire that the clergy make marriage harder to obtain.

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