Sanctification Of OF By The Home—V MARRIAG E F. J. SHEED ALMOST all present-day discussion of marriage starts the wrong way round. People look upon human beings as creatures who arc, as it were by an incredible stroke of good luck, endowed with sex; and the whole discussion is to decide what arrangement of men and women will procure the maximum of fun, or enjoyment, or emotional value out of this lucky endowment. But this is to ignore the question of what nature had in mind in giving human beings the powers of sex. Once this question is asked there cannot be the faintest doubt as to the answer. Human beings have sex because nature wants the human race continued. She has given men and women these powers in order that they may be able to carry on the race; and she has attached enormous enjoyment to their exercise in order that they may be willing to carry on the race.
' To ignore nature's purpose in giving us sex, is plain cheating; and no one has ever cheated nature with impunity, because nature always has the last word. Her concern, as we have seen, is that new fife should be produced. She does not insist that human beings shall use their sexual powers with the deliberate and conscious intention of producing new life. That is why the enjoyment has been attached to the use of sex—because man is so made that without some such inducement he might easily neglect nature's purpose for the continuance of the race. Nature does not in the least mind men using their sexual power for the satisfaction of their own conscious purposes, provided they do not frustrate hers.
The Stormiest of Powers
But this brings us to one of the strangest of all apparent paradoxes. The production of new life has been entrusted to the power of sex. Now sex is the stormiest of all human powers, more potent than any other for the destruction of individuals and societies. Whereas the production of new human life demands a very high degree of tranquillity and stability. It seems an amazing thing that this most delicate of human operations should be entrusted by nature to the stormiest of human emotions. Only in marriage as a Christian understands it is the apparent paradox reconciled,
In the permanent union of one man and one woman for life, sex is made to flow in a strong channel in which it loses no whit of its power while yet its disorder is
checked and all its possibilities of destruction are subdued and it can exercise all its might for the service of life.
It is well that we should grasp this marvellous balance. For the non-Catholic theorist on the relation of the sexes never does seem to grasp the immense power of sex nor to realise how hard it is to bring so mighty a power into control for the good of the race.
Must be Monogamous
It is this necessity of serving the purpose of life that primarily explains why marriage must he monogamous and permanent. It is not simply a matter of bringing children into the world; they must be nourished and fostered and educated until they reach something approaching maturity.
This fostering is necessary for the proper continuance of humanity, and without it life's purpose would be largely nullified. Now it is clear that between birth and maturity the child needs the care of both father and mother. There are elements, necessary to the formation of the new personality, which can be provided only by a man; and other elements, equally necessary, which can be provided only by a woman. And the contribution of the father and mother must be in the fullest sense co-operative.
Parents Must Co-operate, Not Act Individually It is not sufficient that the man should contribute what he can and the woman what she can, leaving the child to harmonise the two sets of contributions as best it can. There must be the closest co-operation of mother and father and only thus will the child develop normally and with no lopsidedness.
The very minimum that this implies is that the marriage should not be broken until the children have reached maturity. But actually it implies that the marriage should be unbreakable. For if husband and wife are looking forward to the day when their duty to the children will be accomplished and they can separate and enter into new partnerships, the break has already come, and the delicate adjustment of their two forces can no longer exist.
A Real Relationship
Nature, therefore, sees monogamous and permanent marriage as the institution by which life is best served. Polygamy means that the various women lose their status as co-operator (which demands equality of value) and become a mere convenience.
Terminable marriage equally means in practice that the woman is merely a convenience to the man or the man to the woman. Only by the fullest union of man and a woman for life can they give without diminution or wastage all that they have it in them to give for the development of the life they are bringing into the world. So close is this union that almost of ourselves we might be driven to ask whether there has not come into being some per fectly real relationship between husband and wife.
Let me make clear exactly what I mean by this. The mother and the father are both related to the child. No one can fail to see that their relationship to their child is a real relationship. But is their relationship to each other any less real? Apart from the revelation of God, we should simply be left with the question. Every instinct in us would seem to demand that husband and wife should be really related, as really as both to their child. Beyond that, we could not go.
But God has told us that there is in fact such a relationship brought into being by Himself. He makes them one. Their oneness is His direct act. Marriage, we know, is a contract, whereby two people freely lake each other as husband and wife. But God does not leave it at that. He ratifies their act and this whether the marriage is between baptised Christians and therefore sacramental, or not. Marriage, therefore, can be fully understood only as a contract (made by the man and woman) resulting in a full relationship between them (made by God).
If it were merely a contract made by themselves, then like any other contract it could be terminated by mutual agreement. But the relationship that God has made is in the power of no one but God.
Development of Personality All that has been said so far may be regarded as the absolutely necessary elements in marriage if it is to serve life as nature requires that life should be served. But nature has an uncanny—that is to say, God-given—knack of killing several birds
with one stone. In co-operating with nature's purpose for the race, man finds his own personality enriched in a great variety of ways.
It is plain, as has already been suggested, that. humanity is not complete in either a man or a woman. In the union of the two, all sorts of powers and possibilities of each can be realised which in separation would have to remain undeveloped. The man and the woman complement each other, and that mutual work by which each builds up the other is one which continues throughout the whole of life. And this is not merely a mathematical dovetailing of two personalities, each of which has something the other lacks : although if it were no more than that it would still be immense.
Even "Perfect" Marriages Require Continuous Effort Sex enjoyment is not simply the jelly on the pill which induces man to enter upon the hard responsibility of bringing new life into the world. It also has its part in the development of the human personality; and one would have to be singularly blind not to realise that the glow that sexual love gives to life is something of very high value.
All these things reach so high a point in Christian marriage that any sexual arrangement short of it seems woefully inadequate —even for the aim that it proposes to itself of getting the maximum enjoyment out of sex.
That for so great a reward, man must strive unceasingly, goes without saying. Life is not a garden of roses. The most perfectly constituted marriage still requires a continuous effort of the human will to maintain it. All the daily trials tend to dim its splendour; and the sexual power can threaten to overflow the most powerfully constructed channel and find all its destructive powers reinforced tenfold by the years of control.
But as against all that life can bring for life's destruction, there still stands the will of man : and behind the will of man stands the will of God to help all those who turn to him for help.