Tag Archives: Catholic

Married at first sight: A review (mainly of the concept)

There was a show on Channel 4 recently called “Married at first sight” in which the basic premise was that a group of psychologists, anthropologists, an Anglican vicar, and so on, would discuss and match up two random strangers, who would only meet on the day of the wedding and see how it would pan out.

It was interesting, I’ll give it that but as a Catholic, I think marriage is a serious, eternal commitment. It is binding yourself to someone for the rest of your life and beyond the grave. It shouldn’t be taken lightly. It certainly shouldn’t be done for entertainment purposes. That, to my mind, devalues marriage.

Obviously, a programme like that that lays bare a dystopian view of marriage, and it has to get past the commissioning editors (the people who pick TV shows) and to do that it was framed as an “experiment”. They framed this experiment as, if two people were matched using scientific methods (like all dating sites use but e-harmony makes a point of saying they use it) then if they had an arranged marriage on the basis of this, would it work?

Now, this is only going to attract two sorts of people. It will attract desperate people and opportunists. They may feign curiosity, but no-one makes a life decision as big as marriage, out of curiosity. Nothing is as involving to a person’s core as the person they share a sexual relationship with. That is the Catholic view, but I have a lot of atheist friends and they seem to share that belief when I’ve shared it with them. Given that it involves something so core, it shouldn’t be the subject of a television programme as these are human beings. Inevitably, someone will, as someone did, get deeply hurt and driven to tears. The programme was well produced and presented but watching the inevitable happen was actually rather unpleasant. I think the science of it is interesting, but in a series such as this, to describe it as anything other than entertainment is misleading. It is called an experiment to try and validate the selatious nature of the show.

If dating sites use this logic, how many times daily are these logarithms run and how many potential partners are identified? Of those potential partners, how many result in them actually meeting, or having a relationship, or an intimate relationship? Crucially, how many people, with time and space given, actually end up marrying the person that the dating site says is best? If it doesn’t happen in the real world, why would it work in a controlled environment? Even when they do, are those marriages successful? It is a naive concept to thing that this would work and could be done ethically and it was opportunist of the show’s production team to exploit that curiosity. People generally don’t end up marrying people as a result of what a dating site says because it is generally a bad idea.

One general rebuttal that I’ve heard in response to this is that if the marriage doesn’t work out, there is always divorce. In my opinion, if divorce is something you are considering on your wedding day, you really shouldn’t be getting married. Marriage should be a rest of life commitment and not something done to get viewing figures.

If indeed, it were a genuine experiment and there was a genuine desire not just to make a television show but to see if an arranged marriage based on dating website logic could actually work, then the ethics must be considered. Given the subject matter of the experiment it would be wise not to use human subjects where possible. This is why, if it were an experiment, it wouldn’t actually need to take place. Given the immense human and emotional hurt, and spiritual collateral damage that could be involved in something like this, it would make sense, if the outcome could be theorized or predicted, not to actually use people in the experiment. In this particular case, it can. The idea for this show experiment actually comes from a Danish show experiment that has been exported globally so that there are several international versions of this show experiment. In all of the other versions the outcome is overwhelmingly similar. In the Danish one, the couples are divorced. In the Australian one, all but one of the couples are separated. The American one is the same. Therefore it does not take much of a leap that in the English one, at least one couple would fail and very few couples, the exception rather than the rule, make it past six months, let alone a year. A marriage failing, however dubiously entered into, is always an emotionally draining and stressful experience, as I can personally attest to having witnessed several of them break down.

In summary, this show has a really interesting concept, but it turns extremely dark and very disturbing when it becomes apparent that these people are being drawn into an obviously doomed situation, one that will undoubtedly damage them, and at that point, the show ceases to be a piece of fun entertainment and just becomes depressing.

If we strip away the illogical instruments of reason from this situation, we examine it logically and pragmatically. If we remove subjective elements from this, such as love, emotion, it can be seen to be hugely damaging in ways other than spiritually or soulfully, marriage is contract. It is a hugely complicated legal contract and one that can be enforced through the courts. Radmacher vs Granatino [2010] UKSC 42 is a legal case that declared that pre-nuptial agreements are not legally binding. There is therefore no guaranteed legal protection for anyone from being legally bound to someone they might not want to be bound to. Signing any document, especially one as legally important as a marriage contract, should always be given due diligence and consideration, and to enter into such an arrangement with someone that one doesn’t know could potentially be devastating. I can’t see how they could have factored the UK’s strict marriage laws into the making of the program.

To quote the Simpson’s “You have given a chance for everyone to express love In its most purest form — a binding legal contract.”

Catholic teachings on sexual morality

I have been spending a lot more time with Catholics recently. Catholic women who are roughly the same age as me. They are involved in the pro-life movement. The issue of sex reared it’s (catholically ambiguous) head over coffee last week and led me to a lot of soul searching. I was told that masturbation was wrong which I was sure wasn’t the Catholic view. I don’t think I’d be criticised in church for something that can’t be helped, but I did some digging and technically that’s correct, but the issue isn’t as black and white as that. The same goes for pre-marital sex, homosexuals and a variety of other stuff.

My personal view

With maturity my views have changed. Sex should only be done with love. Without love it is meaningless. It doesn’t matter if two people are married or not. It’s a soul enriching thing.

When it comes to things like homosexuality or masturbation, I’ve always been of the opinion that the Catholic view is that there are so many things that people can do that are good or bad, that God really doesn’t concern himself with what we do with our bits. If a homosexual volunteers at a soup kitchen, helping to feed, clothe and support the homeless, on the day of judgement, I don’t think God is going to turn around and say “Oh well, I was impressed with all the social good you’ve done but since you spent your evenings in the arms of another man… Sorry, but it’s straight to hell with you.”

I’ve always taken a relaxed attitude to sex.

The strict Catholic view

The Orthodox view is that any sex outside marriage is wrong. I disagree. It comes down to four things within the Catholic sphere as it were. First and foremost, is natural law, and this gets forgotten. In other words, if you were stranded on a desert island and you weren’t married then natural law dictates that you procreate. The second thing to go on is Catholic scripture, that is to say, the bible. What is written in the Bible is black and white, but, so much of it contradicts each other. One part might vaguely say that it is wrong, other parts might vaguely say it is right. The third is Catholic tradition. Most of this is contained in the catechism. When it comes to some things like homosexuality it says “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” which is Article 2358 of the catechism. This, Catholics take to mean that homosexuality is ok. The fourth and final one is the
magisterium. This is what the pope lays down. It’s important to the integrity of the church as it is what separates us from other denominations of Christianity. It teaches that “Masturbation constitutes a grave moral disorder” is what one pope has said once.

My view now

One thing that I took from the discussion was that I had entered into sex blindly. It is all about context. I know that now. The in depth view of it taught me that. Contemporary Catholics and Catholic doctors teach that masturbation is necessary. Rather it escape in a controlled rather than an uncontrolled manner. Masturbation does constitute a disorder when it causes a person to become introverted, but it’s generally fine if it doesn’t.

The conflict with faith

A conflict arises with faith. Natural Law says masturbation and sex out of wedlock is fine, because it’s natural. The bible doesn’t really say anything against it. Tradition doesn’t really comment on it either but the magisterium says it’s wrong.

I therefore maintain that the church has no issue with masturbation, or indeed my sexual practices. In the end it all comes down to what is in your heart. If you have a pure heart and enter into sex in the right context and situation, I don’t think it matters. Regardless of views, I think the Catholic church and it’s teachings aren’t black and white, they are shades of grey, like humans and there views on morality.