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home : letters : letters June 29, 2016

11/14/2012 10:19:00 PM
Marriage: legal vs. spiritual

To the editor:

The Marriage Amendment was a sledge hammer approach at addressing traditional marriage concerns. Now that it has been defeated and out of the way, perhaps we can approach this delicate issue with a little more sensitivity. An approach that respects the sacred tradition of religious marriage and yet recognizes that times are changing and new concepts of committed relationships are necessary and unavoidable.

Marriage is a multidimensional institution, and this past marriage discussion primarily affected two of them - the spiritual and the legal. I think now is the time to consider keeping these two dimensions separate by state law. Doing so would provide a much more sensitive approach and support what is already in place within major recognized religious organizations.

For example, the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and the Mormons (LDS) already define marriage uniquely and differently than does the rest of society. For example, Catholics consider marriage to be a sacrament of the church (as do the Eastern Orthodox), and unless you participate in that sacrament conducted by a Catholic priest in a Catholic church, you are not married - in the spiritual sense.

The Mormon church has a concept called Celestial marriage that is conducted in a Mormon temple. If you end your Catholic or Mormon marriage in a civil divorce, you are no longer married in the legal sense, but you are still married in the Catholic and Mormon traditions, in the spiritual sense. The only way to end a Catholic marriage is to go through a Catholic annulment and the only way to end a Celestial marriage is to go to the Temple and have it canceled.

So, in these traditions, the legal (or civil) part of marriage and the spiritual part of marriage are kept quite separate. Calling both the legal and spiritual parts of the matrimonial relationship "marriage" is a source of confusion.

By keeping these dimensions separate, each faith tradition can define marriage in their own special way that supports their spiritual traditions and the state can encourage committed relationships (civil unions?) in a way that best creates a stable civil society.

Gary Engstrom

Cannon Falls

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