John Zmirak has come up with the only good, creative idea I’ve seen:
Having crawled back into the sacristy and won the reluctant toleration that is all we dared to ask for, is there anything Catholics can do to preserve at least among our own flock the real understanding of marriage?
Oh yes. There is plenty, all of it long overdue. I recall that in the 1990s some Evangelical activists proposed laws (one passed in Louisiana and two other states) allowing couples the option of contracting “covenant marriage.” This amounts in essence to marriage as it had been defined before the onslaught of lax divorce laws — with few conditions permitting divorce (abandonment, abuse, and adultery), with custody preferences for mothers and guarantees of alimony for wives and children. Once it was enacted in Louisiana, bishops lauded it — but issued a statement assuring Catholic couples that it was merely optional.
It is time for us to revive this idea and encode still stricter provisions that mirror Canon Law, eschewing divorce and remarriage, in a standard prenuptial covenant that must be signed by Roman Catholics if they wish to be married in the Church. No pastor should be allowed to witness the Catholic marriage of any couple who will not sign such a pact — since, by refusing to do so, they would be in essence confessing that they intend not a sacrament but a charade. Rogue marriages conducted without this agreement should be, in the Church’s eyes, null and void. Catholics who still wanted elaborate ceremonies in Gothic environs could go off and rent some empty Episcopalian building.
These covenants, in their intent, should be legally enforceable — though, of course, American courts might throw them out. (The freedom of contract is only applied when it furthers leftist goals.) Still, even if judges invalidate our prenups, the Church should still demand them — and use their existence as prima facie evidence blocking future attempts at annulment. If we could make of marriage an obligation as solemn as, say, one’s credit card debt, we’d go a long way toward making it seem almost…sacred. The day that divorce is tougher and rarer than bankruptcy is the day that our values are rightly aligned.
Alongside these prenuptial covenants, American dioceses must make training in natural family planning a non-negotiable part of every pre-Cana course — since the routine use of contraception by Catholics is one of the key factors undermining lasting marriage. In fact, the way many churchmen respond with dissent or neglect to Humanae Vitae is one of the reasons that no one else takes us seriously. How dare we tell same-sex couples that they have no right to wed, when we barely trouble to teach our own congregations which kinds of sex it’s a sin to have? We wonder why no one listens to us. It could be because we are winking.