Sunday, March 27, 2011

Marriage Revisited

What worked for the ordinary form of the Mass will work for Marriage too

An interview with His Eminence, Cardinal Altus Malum, Secretary for the Conciliar Reform of the Institution of Marriage

Maps, Keys, and Clocks
wishes to express its thanks to the Office of Reform of the Institution of Marriage for allowing this transcript to be printed.

MAPS, KEYS, AND CLOCKS: Your Eminence, thank you for granting this interview.

CARDINAL ALTUS MALUM: I was gratified to accept your invitation. The reforms of the Office require careful explanation to be correctly understood and implemented.

MKC: I am certain that is so. Updating the form of a Sacrament must be a great challenge. Do you find it so?

CAM: Indeed, very much so. There are quite a great many old notions covering the topic that must be swept away like so much dust. But it is all part of the duty of the cleaning that comes with the new springtime. We live in a brave new world of progress and improvement, and the journey forward requires we make way for the exciting possibilities of tomorrow.

MKC: I would think that would make for very engaging work. And those who do it must be erudite individuals.

CAM: That adjective is indicative of a non-strategic mindset; we prefer to say “informed.” And to be informed requires that one be aware of the latest trends and developments so as to ride the whirlwind and direct the storm. It is a dynamic time in which to live.

MKC: How do you approach the task, Your Eminence? How is a Sacrament of the Church updated?

CAM: As a preliminary, remember that authority is based in consensus. With so many people in the world today who are informed and educated and capable of holding their own opinions, there is no longer a need to rely on an autocrat to tell them what to think and say and do. My colleagues and I seek to manifest that simple truth in the activities associated with the new rite of marriage.

MKC: I notice you said “activities” and not “rituals.”

CAM: It is pleasing to see that you noticed the distinction. This change of language is key to the program of reform. Actions follow our thoughts, and a new way of living follows from a new way of thinking. For instance, you will recall that in the old form of marriage, the couple being wed actually stood at the front of the Church with their backs to the audience. This example more than any other reinforced the passé notion of a top-down order to the events, one that relegated onlookers to a non-participatory and secondary role.

MKC: Perhaps the “audience” might have said that they thought it proper that the couple being married was placed in a position and posture of prominence, what with it being their wedding day and the reason everyone had gathered.

CAM: If they’d been taught to blindly accept what they were told, then they might have said as much, of course. And here you have demonstrated well one of the endemic challenges of the sophomoric mindset that my Office is attempting to correct. What matters here is conformity with the new and popular way of looking at things. Uncritical adherence to outmoded mental constructs stands in the way of the new freedoms that await those who are eager and bold enough to seek them.

MKC: I have no desire to seem sophomoric, but please pardon the candor of my next question. You have said that you place chief emphasis on conformity to contemporary modes of thought and expression, but it would also appear that you fault people like myself as being sophomoric for our adherence to a previous mode. Is there a contradiction?

CAM: To answer your question, young grasshopper, let me put a question to you. By people, do you mean only the plebeian crowd, or do you mean the phenomenon of fully actualized men who recognize the organized complexity towards which the universe is evolving?

MKC: Two standards, to be sure, and your Eminence demonstrates insight by distinguishing between them. Please allow me this follow-up question: how can you maintain that you represent a popular outlook on the issues of the day before your ideas have become popular among the plebeian crowd?

CAM: It is a source of great anguish that my Office attempts to generously aid and help people who are incapable of truly appreciating what is being done for them! We are misunderstood and maligned by reactionary conformists and integrists; they cannot grasp the sublimity of what we are about. But we move forward anyway, knowing what is best for them, educating them about the benefits they will receive if they quietly trust their leaders, ostracizing and quarantining the few obstinate and opinionated recalcitrants.

MKC: That’s a grave responsibility to take on, don’t you think, Your Eminence?

CAM: If Providence had not intended the people to yield to the direction of their shepherds, He would not have likened them to sheep, no?

MKC: So you are critical of a top-down order when it comes to the old rituals, and yet you insist that the laity do as they are told when it comes to the new activities. Is this not a contradiction?

CAM: No, I think not. The men of the old hierarchy were conformist autocrats. Our Office, however, is enlightened and beneficent.

MKC: To the uninformed this might seem like an arbitrary distinction. How do you safeguard against the possibility of corruption?

CAM: Your meaning is unclear. The vast majority of the Church’s bishops support or tolerate the new agenda. Where is the possibility of corruption?

MKC: I crave your pardon, Your Eminence, but is there not at least a risk of corruption in any merely human endeavor? And with the new ideas subject to constant refinement and change based on current trends in thought that are often at odds what the historical Catholic Faith, is there not a risk that the ideas themselves are not worthy of fidelity? Is there not at least the possibility that without reference to an external objective measure, people are merely reinforcing one another in a self-indulgent delusion so as to avoid being labeled obstinate and recalcitrant by their peers?

CAM: Indulgent? Yes, I see you are still indulging in the old way of thinking. Even if there were such a thing as an external objective measure, how could our limited subjective minds ever comprehend or even approach it? Your concept is improbable. And as long as the people who still attend church sit docile and content in the pews and make no great fuss, how likely is it that there is corruption? A moment ago I thought you showed promise, but now I see that you still do not understand the evolving ways of our Office. How distasteful and sad.

MKC: But I think I begin to understand more of it now. Allow me to return to a matter you mentioned earlier, when you said it was undesirable for the wedding couple to stand with its back to the audience. What is the desirable alternative?

CAM: A wedding is a public and corporate act, and the structure of the events should reflect this. In the new order of activities, the couple sits on a comfortable couch and faces the audience. In this way two life partners invite the entire community to be witness to their public profession of love.

MKC: How is this couch situated? Does it rest at the end of the aisle?

CAM: Oh of course not, it takes the place of the altar. This necessitated the invention of a new type of altar on wheels – progress once again! – that can be readily moved out of the way at need for the new wedding ceremony.

MKC: An altar on wheels?

CAM: One enterprising parish actually built a sofa into the back of its altar, so that instead of wheeling the altar offstage, they would just spin it around.

MKC: That must have been quite a memorable sight. And so from this sofa the couple pronounces its wedding vows?

CAM: Not at all! We have dispensed with vows and other medieval eccentricities. No, the couple makes a public profession of their love and affection in a form that best suits their personalities and cultural heritage, or lack thereof. We leave it to the artistic spirit of each couple, but we encourage unique and heart-felt expressions of their mutual regard. For example, one groom whose ancestry included indigenous peoples crafted a papier-mâché cow head filled with candy that he broke open with a broomstick to signify the sweet life he and his partner would have together.

MKC: I recall hearing about that wedding – the blindfolded groom lost his grip on the stick and nearly hit the bride in the head.

CAM: I say, that is too bad! You mustn’t focus on the insignificant transitory aspects! The important consideration is that he was acting in an original way that was true to his heart and to his character. That was the beauty of the moment! The young woman was unhurt – in fact, when her turn came, she played a recording of herself reciting a poem of her own invention:

The poor little clown-

The one with a frown:

What he thought was a hat

Was really a cat.

Yes, you’re better off dead

Than with a cat on your head!

MKC: She actually had that played in public?

CAM: Indeed! It was a private joke between the two of them, and making it public helped turn the event into a truly personal and memorable one. A wedding should be a celebration, one that everyone will remember with fondness and talk about to the end of their days. Is it not so in your view?

The reporter dropped his pen at this point. After he somewhat regained his composure, the interview continued.

MKC: Forgive me. Now, after the couple makes a mutual exchange of their…personal creations…what comes next?

CAM: Then, my young fellow, the audience is invited to introduce their own contributions. It is all part of the communal aspect of the day, you see. Naturally, we encourage creativity and spontaneity. Remarks, toasts, testimonials, gifts, reminders, taunts, all that and more.

MKC: Um…fifty years from now, suppose a man wanted to try a marriage as you’ve described today as a way of manifesting an appreciation for his own cultural heritage. What do you envision would be said to him?

CAM: In that time the changes would have been further modified in ways we could never begin to imagine just now. If a nostalgic fellow were to inquire about the wedding activities you and I know today, someone would point out that nobody else is asking for them and tell him he should quit wasting everyone’s time. And speaking of time, I am afraid ours has run its course.

MKC: Thank you, Your Eminence.

CAM: Naturally.


Long-Skirts said...

OMG.........Sean that was BRILLIANT!!! Reminded me a bit of Screwtape!!


How sad, though, that it sounds so much like most of our Cardinals, today.



Olin said...

You certainly have a way with both thought and words! Love it!

Sean said...

And you thought I was just making stuff up: see