Marriage and Family

Is cohabitation still a sin, or is it an embryonic marriage with proof of love?

There are many who will guffaw at this very question: how absurdly old fashioned, not to say narrow-minded and bigoted of Christians to shame/alienate/offend lovely couples whose commitment to one another is beyond question. There may have been no vows, but there is faithfulness, mutuality, responsibility and dedication. There might even be children. What greater commitment to permanence can there be? Is that more important than a piece of paper saying ‘married’? What is marriage anyway?

Couples choose to cohabit for many reasons, not least of which is the immense financial pressures people face, not to mention certain tax advantages and the vast cost of a wedding. A society in which around a third of marriages end in divorce also begins to actively encourage ‘trial’ marriages, which may be dissolved without all the legal struggle of a divorce. For many, the commitment to cohabit is seen as a perfectly reasonable alternative to a commitment to marry. It’s a sort of ‘I promise, but I might change my mind’, and this is considered by many Christians (and those of other faiths) to somehow keep the ‘heart’ out of the union. Thus cohabitation is ‘living in sin’: a pursuit for those with little or no self-control; an opportunity for pleasure without commitment or responsibility.

But cohabitation is not a matter of promiscuity, and neither is it that there is no moral or emotional bond. Why should there be no place for non-marital relationships which are physical, emotional, social and high-minded, but decline to be irrevocable?

If cohabitation is marriage in all but name, because the commitment really is there, it raises the question of when does marriage occur? The traditional formulations permit three main possibilities: with the consent of two people; at the ceremony (which ensures witnesses for the consent); or on consummation. Moral tradition governs sexual activity with a ‘before’ and ‘after’ temporal framework: the legitimising wedding has traditionally provided the dividing line. But a theology which equates a marriage with the wedding has become (or has always been) deficient: after all, it wasn’t until the Council of Trent in 1563 that the Roman Catholic Church insisted that marriages derive their validity within the context of Christian ceremony: it a ‘sacramental moment’.

While the legal and financial requirements of nation states demand a reliable means of documenting a ‘before’ and ‘after’, it appears to have become a simple matter of convenience that ‘after’ also signals when sexual intercourse may take place. But to insist that the ceremony establishes a marriage union is to ignore the teaching of Jesus that marriage occurs when the couple becomes one flesh (Mt 19:5; Mk 10:8). Further, a public moment of consent before witnesses presupposes a prior private moment of consent between the couple: Since the parties are themselves the ministers of the sacrament of marriage, and the role of the Church is to recognise, solemnise, pronounce and bless, the parties may regard themselves as married prior to any wedding that subsequently takes place. Any sex they have will be pre-ceremonial but not pre-marital.

Thus, while the law, for financial and ownership purposes, demands an unambiguous means of establishing whether one is married or not, the ethics can be rather more nuanced, and may talk of ‘how married’ one is. Indeed, for very many , the Bible says absolutely nothing about the degree of intimacy permitted in preparation for marriage: it is a matter for the individual conscience, or for two consciences operating with mutual consent. Sexual ethics can offer recognition of gradual process which the law cannot.

And it needs to be observed that theological thinking on marriage has manifestly evolved over the past 2000 years, in particular through the Reformation emphasis on the ‘mutual society’ of the man and wife (for priests, too), and the post-Enlightenment concept of romantic love. These have led to the modern expectation that the couple should be ‘in love’ prior to marriage, with a consequent raising of expectations. If the primary purpose of marriage is to bring up children, or the pursuit of relationship, the absence of both may have become sufficient grounds for non-permanence, but the presence of both may also be enjoyed in the absence of a marriage. Sexual intercourse is not simply about the production of children, but it strengthens and enriches the relationship of men and women and unites them with a bond of shared emotional and physical experience.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that if human understanding of the purpose of sex within marriage has developed, there may be an argument for revisiting the question of pre-marital sex and acknowledging that it may be a means of preparing for marriage. The Church of England has expressed an understanding of the development of the purpose of sex in its own formularies: the 1662 Prayer Book states that the prime purpose of marriage, and so the sex act within it, was the procreation of children; the 1980 Alternative Services Book talks of the ‘joy of their bodily union’ which is said to ‘strengthen the union of their hearts and lives’. If a cohabiting couple come to their church, insisting that they have embarked on a sexual union to ‘strengthen the union of their hearts and lives’, it would be unreasonable to assert that such a strengthening is irrelevant throughout the courtship or engagement. This is not to ignore the potential procreativity, but shifts the emphasis to the emotional, psychological and relational purpose of sex. Some vicars and Christian leaders really couldn’t care less that two people are already cohabiting (most manifestly are), but there are still quite a few who pretend not to have noticed that the couple both give the same address.

There remains a genuine concern amongst all Christian leaders for meaning and value in relationships, which is a concern for their quality and very soul. Cohabitation, while traditionally viewed as fornication, may be seen to constitute a marriage insofar as there is an intention to meet the biblical criteria for marriage. It may be an embryonic marriage, not least because the only omission is the lack of a formal ceremony, and what need all that fuss and bother? Marriage is an invention of God; weddings are the inventions of cultures.

The reality is that the Church’s traditional teaching that sex before marriage is wrong is not only considered old fashioned; it is inherited baggage from a bygone era, now felt as a heavy load for many couples. And so the teaching has changed through praxis: marriage is not demeaned by cohabitation, but defended by providing a new path from the single state to the married one.

Indeed, a good cohabitation could flourish better than a bad marriage. But by the time one has the right to call a cohabitation ‘successful’, it would have shown the qualities to which marriage aspires; the life-enhancing reciprocity in which a man and a woman take each other to love and to cherish. There is no grim necessity for moralists to impugn the validity of such a union when it has become happily established, just because it has not been ‘solemnised’.

And yet, and yet..

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God (1Cor 6:9f)

Funny how we hear an awful lot about ‘abusers of themselves with mankind’ (variously elsewhere translated ‘men who have sex with men’ [NIV]; homosexuality [ESV], homosexuals [NASB]; ‘sodomites’ [Young’s], but not much at all about fornicators, who (it might be noted) St Paul placed first in his list, even before the idolators. Bit harsh, isn’t it?

‘Fornication’ is a dirty word. But if sexuality is not, as such, unclean, why must it be confined so rigidly to matrimony? It may be observed that ‘fornication’ as defined in the NT was more to do with prostitution than relationship (cf 1Cor 6:15-18). If, by fornication, St Paul had meant a sexual relationship with someone who was not a prostitute – with a woman whom one hoped to marry, for example – the argument would not have worked. The Church might therefore consider not making cohabiting people feel like prostitutes who have somehow demeaned sex, but acknowledge openly the potential advantages of cohabitation. Fornication is ‘living in sin’; cohabitation is a relative virtue.

The ethical approach of defending marital values by extending the marital norm is attractive in the modern context: talk about ‘living in sin’ is missionally obtuse if the words become a stumbling block. Perhaps there should be a revival of the practice of ‘betrothal’, whereby a declaration of an intention to marry would form the beginning of a marriage, thereby retaining an important witness to traditional Christian teaching about fidelity and taking into account contemporary lifestyle choices, the fear of commitment, and the apparent loosening up of attitudes towards premarital sex. If betrothal can be reclaimed, then the theology of marriage as a process of growth towards God and one another can be better promoted. While such ‘marriages’ would lack the social acceptability of legal recognition, they would undeniably meet the spiritual and pastoral needs of marrying couples by retrieving a practice that is embedded in the Bible and recognised in Christian tradition, and should not be confused with casual sex, where no marriage is intended or desired.

There are, however, certain unresolved ambiguities, not least that a betrothal itself constitutes precisely the sort of formalisation rejected by many today. There are also the theological questions: how, for example, might marriage as a sacrament be accommodated? And yet churches have patently softened the canonical, juridical, technical, quantitative approach to marriage, in favour of a path which stresses the personal, relational and qualitative. The repudiation of ‘rules’ has been not only accommodated, but often encouraged.

There are those who would insist that, far from being a defence of marriage, any concession to cohabitation contributes to its demise, undermining traditional teachings on restraint and fidelity. It is to compromise with the permissive society, and relegate sex to the prevailing utilitarian hedonism. But large numbers of young people (and quite a few older ones) are rejecting the Church over the cohabitation issue (not to mention other ethical-sexual matters), and it is absurd to pretend otherwise. Who wants to be like the sort of Christian who is always worrying about ‘standards’ and seems to have lost sight of people? When the Church appears to forget that morality is about people and their joys and sorrows and what is truly good for them, it is no wonder that so many non-Christians have come to expect no understanding or compassion from the Church.

But it is only in the aspiration to permanence that cohabitation will enhance marriage. In a sexual union which does not aspire to permanence, the commitment of a man and a woman to one another is being both given and withheld. Marriage unites two lives for as long as they both shall live in such a way as to exclude all others. Here, uniquely among human relationships, a certain possessiveness is in place; a conscious and mutual belonging. Yes, there may be advantages to cohabitation, but marriage alone gives a couple a chance to take their relationship for granted: not indeed to presume upon it, but to let their love for each other grow without continually pulling it up by the roots to see how it is getting on.

The diminishing of provisionality remains the principal defence of marriage over cohabitation. As an ‘embryonic marriage’, cohabitation will always need to mature to ‘full marriage’, if only to prove to itself its certainty and resolve. Marriage is the ultimate proof of love because it asserts the choice of one above others. But let’s not pretend that the ‘standard’ is more important than the radical inclusion of the person.

  • Jon Sorensen

    Is cohabitation still a sin? – It depends on your religion…

    • IanCad

      Can’t argue with that.

      • Dominic Stockford

        I can – sin is sin, whatever your religion. There is only one God, after all,

        • IanCad

          No Law; No Sin. Many are without the Law and have no knowledge if it.

          • Dominic Stockford

            What?! Are you seriously saying that? Your implication is that someone without any knowledge of the law is Innocent and will share eternal life with God. Romans 1, Paul blows such ideas out of the water.

            “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,g in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

          • IanCad

            “Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.” Romans 4:15

          • Doctor Crackles

            But the law has been revealed.

          • IanCad

            Indeed it has, in the Person of Jesus Christ, and He has commanded us to preach unto all nations. That would include those in darkness.

          • Dominic Stockford

            But the law is everywhere – it is writ throughout all of God’s creation. Which is what Paul said in chapter 1. Paul isn’t contradicting himself, he is merely pointing out that if there were no law there would be no transgression, but he has already made clear that there is law, and it applies to all.

        • Albert

          You’re on form today, if I may say so!

    • The Explorer

      If your religion is sex, it never was a sin: except in the sense of restricting your sexual opportunities.

    • Little Black Censored

      No religion, no sin?

      • Jon Sorensen

        True. Sin is a religious concept

  • Sarky

    As someone who had a two year ’embryonic’ marriage and is now sixteen years into a ‘full’ marriage, i don’t see the problem. The two years living together gave us chance to get to know each other properly and to see if we were truly compatible.
    Cant imagine marriage without living with the person first. What, if after marriage, you found out they were an utter nightmare to live with? Til death us do part is a long time if you’re miserable.

    • Albert

      So you tried each other out first. That’s rather an instrumentalist view of the human person.

      • Sarky

        Maybe, but it’s why my marriage has worked when so many fail. We both knew what we were getting into.

        • CliveM

          How do you know?

          • Sarky

            How do i know what?

          • CliveM

            That your marriage worked because you lived together first. We have a divorce rate at 30%, how many of them lived together first do you think?

          • Sarky

            How many didnt???

            A study in the states showed the divorce rate amongst Christians was higher than in the general population. Why is that??

          • The Explorer

            A lot of heathen never married in the first place, so their ‘divorces’ don’t show up in the statistics.

          • Sarky

            Erm no marriage, no divorce.

          • CliveM

            Still skews the stats.

          • The Explorer

            Note the inverted commas as a form of shorthand.

            I’ll rephrase. A lot of heathen cohabit and split up, but because they aren’t officially registered as a couple their splitting up isn’t recorded and doesn’t feature in statistics

          • CliveM

            You’ve not answered the question! I’ll stick with explorers response.

        • Albert

          What you say makes a kind of intuitive sense. But in the days when enough people didn’t cohabit for it to be statistically significant, studies found that those who cohabited before marriage were more likely to break up than those that didn’t. It’s never been clear why.

          • Anton

            Yes, that’s called Marry at leisure, repent in haste.

          • Sarky

            Because they weren’t compatible and knocked it on the head before they lived to regret it?

          • Albert

            I don’t see how that explains the stats.

    • Doctor Crackles

      You aren’t a Christian are you? This matter is for believers. The world already does as it wishes. The CofE’s problem is that is always wants to accommodate he world.

      • Sarky

        Isnt that the point of the church??

        • Doctor Crackles

          Christians are to separated unto God. In this world and not of it.

      • carl jacobs

        Marriage is a creation ordinance. It is not just for Believers.

        • Doctor Crackles

          I agree Carl and have said as much above.

      • Sarky

        If its for believers, just worry about believers and leave the rest of us alone.

        • Doctor Crackles

          Marriage is for all, but IMO the CofE’s utterances on the matter are for members of the CofE. The CofE needs to get its house in order and return to marriage.

  • Albert

    It’s true that the Church’s position on marriage has developed. But that does not mean that the idea that cohabitation is sinful is a relatively recent innovation. Augustine cohabited, and it wasn’t a marriage, but it was sinful. He didn’t need the Council of Treat to know that.

    • Dominic Stockford

      Anyone who has become a Christian can see that much of their behaviour before that moment was sinful – it is the indwelling of Christ which brings the understanding. And that goes for the matter of fornication/adultery/marriage too.

      The view we are presented with above seems to be one in which people can make up their own mind to call themselves married, but because there is no public commitment made, nor one made in the face of God, they can then tomorrow change their minds. It reminds me of ‘modern liberal society’ and its view of gender….

      • Albert

        Quite. I’m glad you think that, because I read the article and though “Cranmer’s becoming rather liberal.” I thought I was missing something!

  • Anton

    At last, a thread on which Jack might legitimately bring in the matter of contraception, rather than intrude it. I’m sure we shall not be disappointed.

    • Albert

      There’s always time to talk about contraception. 🙂

      • Anton

        Johnny B. Goode

        • Manfarang

          “Oh, my, but that little country boy could play!”

  • Anton

    Marriage is the first human relationship mentioned in scripture. It was instituted before the Fall, and before society, which rests on it. In Genesis 2:24 God says that a man will leave his father and mother and bond to his wife, and they become one flesh. Conjugality, intimacy, total mutual giving of self, is involved between man and woman. Starting their own household, they bond and become one flesh. Although the meaning of ‘one flesh’ includes sexual union it runs deeper still, for they are one flesh even when they are physically apart, in a unity so deep as to be inexpressible, mystical (Ephesians 5:31-32). This is the ultimate in human closeness (Genesis 2:18).

    The phrase ‘bond [dabaq] to his wife’ shows that marriage should be permanent – ‘adhere to’ or ‘stick to’ are alternative translations – and exclusive. Adultery, sex between a married person and somebody he or she is not married to, is a general taboo. Children are literally a shared flesh of the couple and are a normal and happy consequence, although scripture nowhere discourages post-menopausal women from marrying for intimate companionship. God intends marriage as a joy (see the Song of Songs). A newlywed Israelite could not volunteer for army service (Deuteronomy 24:5).

    The living relationship that is marriage between a man and a woman begins with a mutual pledge to live together Publicly in Intimacy that is Permanent and Exclusive (acronym: PIPE), sharing space, lives and bodies. Both parties should consent to the marriage, normally with eagerness (although adults are responsible for their own words whatever: Matthew 12:36). To enjoy exclusive intimacy the couple should set up their own dwelling space, indicating that they have moved from their parents so as to become each other’s first priority. Provision is man’s primary role and woman’s is child-bearing (these are the roles cursed after the Fall in Genesis 3); correspondingly marriage involves, in most cases, a commitment in which the husband provides for the family and the wife bears children. Husbands are to love their wives with both eros-love (obviously) and agapē (sacrificial committed love, as shown by Jesus). Conversely, wives are to obey their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-33). They give their very selves to each other; they become mutually indebted (1 Corinthians 7:3-4) – “I owe you so much.” By their commitment, in vows and after that in their increasingly intertwined lives – and particularly in sexual union – the two are ‘coupled’ into one.

    Marriage is a covenant (Malachi 2:14), a contract to give of one’s self (rather than simply material goods), like God’s covenant with Israel; prophets spoke of Israel’s later idolatry as ‘adulterous.’ Getting married is a two-step process, in which a man and a woman (traditionally, their families) make a private agreement to marry; then they publicly do so. In traditional societies, a day would come on which a girl’s father permits a man to begin sleeping with her; on that day he demands a commitment from the man to take permanent care of her and any children that result. The groom, for his part, demands sexual exclusivity from his bride so that he can be sure that the children he provides for are his. There can be a ‘pre-nuptial agreement’ containing any conditions that the couple and their families agree. Traditionally, it included a bride-price paid by the groom to the bride’s father, and a dowry payable by the bride’s father to the bride as ‘starter money’ for the marriage and to support her if the husband died. (This description is of a woman’s first marriage, not the remarriage of a widow.) The bride-price and the dowry come from each family and might be forfeit if the ‘other’ partner misbehaves, so they stabilise the marriage. (‘Pre-nups’ in our individualistic society involve only the couple and their goods. Some countries consider pre-nups to be incompatible with marital vows and do not recognise them; people occasionally sue today for breach of promise when an engagement is broken off, although usually they just want a ring returned.) Between the private and public agreements, the couple are engaged or ‘betrothed.’

    What conditions should the public declaration meet for it to be a valid marriage? God’s criteria are in Genesis 2:24, as studied above. If the man and woman simply pledge publicly to marry each other then they must be confirmed as both understanding that they will live together in permanent intimacy, with sexually exclusivity. (The meaning of exclusivity differs where polygamy is and is not accepted, but a married person must not have sex with somebody to whom they are not married.) The vows should not involve much more, or violation of a minor clause might be used in bad faith as grounds for divorce. Marriage has to be a public matter (as in John 2) because laws apply – who is the legitimate heir; is sex with a third party adulterous? A nation’s criteria for marriage should match God’s; many States ensure this by recognising only marriages conducted by people whom they license (registrars or ministers of a church having historic links to the State) to use a form of wording involving permanent exclusive intimacy. A priest or registrar who declares the couple married is actually declaring (whatever he believes) that the authorities recognise their marriage – he is a witness on behalf of the State.

    Marriage was instituted before church or State, and Christ’s words about it, “whom God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6, Mark 10:9), show that God ratifies all valid wedding vows. Nationalisation of the wedding ceremony is relatively recent. The mediaeval Roman Catholic church did not insist on its own involvement (although it encouraged it from at least the time of Gratian, who standardised the vows in the 12th century); this became mandatory in Catholic lands as part of the ‘counter-Reforming’ Council of Trent in 1563. In protestant England the authorities required marriage to take place in the Established church only from 1753, when Lord Hardwicke’s Bill to prevent ‘clandestine marriages’ was passed. Marital pledges made outside church were taken less seriously in the event of breakdown than pledges before a minister. Such “common law marriages” (as they were known in England) are nevertheless recognised by God – although the decades before 1753 saw too many informal pledges made under the influence of alcohol. What distinguishes marriage from cohabitation (which has been greatly facilitated by modern contraception) is the pledge of permanence, rather than the certificate. If a couple enter marriage thinking “if this doesn’t work out then I can always get divorced” then they are far more likely to break their promises and divorce. Self-giving must be total.

    Marriage was defined before the State existed, and the State cannot redefine it (even via marriage-lite ‘civil partnerships’); what God has instituted, man cannot alter. God would obviously ratify the vows of Christian couples who privately exchange vows in any State that de-recognises marriage; he would not regard the couple as fornicating.

    Finally, it is obvious that the woman at the well in John 4 was cohabiting (“you have had five husbands, and the man you have now is not your husband”), and Jesus clearly did not approve.

    • Manfarang

      But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites:

      • The Explorer

        Yes indeed. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Busy man.

        • Anton

          700 wives and 300 porcupines?

          • Manfarang

            The King James Version “bittern,” the Revised Version (British and American) “porcupine”;

        • IanCad

          Not necessarily so. Even with a thousand ladies it might be hard to find more than one or two not complaining about a headache.

          • dannybhoy

            A husband feeling a bit horny goes to the bathroom and returns with 4 aspirin and a glass of water for his wife.
            He says, “Here honey, here are some aspirin and a some water.”
            She replied, “but honey I do not have a headache!”
            He replied, “Thank God!”

          • The Explorer

            The Turkish sultan Ibrahim used to race round the Harem yelling, “I’m a stallion, and you’re all my mares.” No concessions to headaches there. He drowned all 280 of his women when he heard a rumour that one of them had been unfaithful with one of the eunuchs and none of them would confess. (None would confess because the rumour wasn’t true.)

          • Anton

            I don’t believe that. The purpose of the eunuchs was to have sex with the harem without conception and prevent them getting too frustrated because the sultan could’t get round the lot of them often enough.

          • The Explorer

            There was rivalry between the Sultana nicknamed ‘Sugar’ and Ibrahim’s mother. Sugar began the rumour to wind up Ibrahim (who was going through one of his fits of impotence) and annoy the mother as a result.

            The actual drowning is authenticated by more than one source. One of the girls escaped from her weighted sack and was rescued by a French ship. And following up on rumours, one of Istanbul’s divers went into the Bosphorus and found the other sacks.

            Sugar was the only wife to survive. She remarried after Ibrahim was strangled, but was murdered in her turn by being given coffee laced with chopped hair and ground glass.

          • Ivan M

            Coffee laced with chopped hair and ground glass? Don’t people watch what they drink nowadays.

        • CliveM

          Got to pity him. One is (more than) enough for any man.

      • Rhoda

        They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, AND HIS WIVES LED HIM ASTRAY.

      • Ivan M

        That model for all horny men only got into trouble when he chased after verboten women. like his father.

        • Manfarang

          Ah yes models- Melania, well she did say the Lord’s Prayer!

          • Ivan M

            Melania is a really wonderful, wonderful First Lady. She is great and wonderful person. You are great and wonderful too.

          • Manfarang

            But I don’t want a divorce.

    • Ivan M

      Jesus told you this? He was just making an observation about the Samaritan Woman, to let her know who He was. She had six men before meeting Jesus but was dissatisfied. Jesus was the seventh and the most perfect Man by Jewish numerology.

      • Anton

        Thank you for your exegetical wisdom.

    • dannybhoy

      In modern Hebrew ‘debek’ is glue…

    • Albert

      ‘counter-Reforming’ Council of Trent in 1563

      I think you mean the Catholic Reformation Council of Trent.

  • Sigfridiii

    How long before the General Synod comes up with a rite of blessing for cohabiting couples? With prayers for the children and the cat?

    • Dominic Stockford

      It will already be happening ‘unofficially’.

  • John

    I have been very happily married for 33 years. We made our vows being absolutely serious about staying together until death separates us. We both lost our virginity on our wedding night. Wow, the wait was worth it! Every wedding I have conducted in the last 9 years has been between cohabiting couples, except a few between two followers of Jesus, which saddens me. The ceremony is largely vacuous and the tingle of anticipation is gone. Each wedding is like a New Year’s Eve party without food and fireworks because the food was eaten at Christmas and the fireworks were all set off on November 5.

    Funnily enough, I was reading Simon Ponsonby’s excellent “God Is For Us” recently where the following story is recounted: I recall, when I was a university chaplain, a former student telling me that he worked in an ice cream parlour in his holidays. His young colleagues were always discussing sex. When he shared that he was a Christian with a different ethic, they mocked him for not having sex, giving him the name “Virgin”. One day, one of them made the acute observation: “It’s funny, we are all having sex but our parents are not; you aren’t, but your parents (both vicars) still are.”

  • Mrs S wilson

    A rather mixed-up article. Is the archbishop for or against cohabitation? Is he in favour of going with the culture or sticking with Scripture? Surely Christ’s words, reflecting those in Genesis, are quite clear – the word “wife” comes before “one flesh”. And once again recent statistics show that cohabitating couples are much more likely to break up, even after marriage, than those who waited for marriage first.
    Your contributor who wouldn’t dream of getting married till he had “sampled the goods” as it were, must have forgotten that a. Engagement, or betrothal, is a time to get to know the person as a whole, not just as a sexual object, so should not be rushed, and b. The husband or wife being the only person whom one has had a sexual relationship with, does away with a lot of problems and gives a sense of security that is lacking where there have been other sexual partners. I feel that your namesake, archbishop, would not agree with you in this article.

    • Dominic Stockford

      The Original ABC put together a fantastic marriage service in the BCP. He would find the arguments presented here ‘difficult to take’.

      • Anton

        I think that the article should not necessarily be taken to reflect the personal view of Cranmer Rebooted.

        • Albert

          It’s curious isn’t it? Last week he was soft on homosexuality, before that the Masons, we know he supports women’s ordination, now this. What next?

          • carl jacobs

            If I had to guess the common theme, it would involve the tenuous future of the CoE and the implication of answering those questions a different way.

          • Albert

            I’ve certain seen it happen many times before. It starts with the ordination of women and then everything is up for grabs…

    • watt

      Yes, Adrian is being too clever by half.

      • Little Black Censored

        Adrian? He was a Pope.

  • Doctor Crackles

    All is fornication unless within marriage. If the union isn’t blessed then no Christian should have anything to do with it. For to do so is to replace unity with God with a false-unity. Why would any believer not want to walk in blessing?

    • Albert

      Brilliant, succinct answer.

  • Sybaseguru

    The stats don’t favour cohabitation per se, nor as a trial prior to marriage. (There a doc on http://www.jubilee-centre.org/cohabitation-alternative-marriage-john-haywood-guy-brandon/ worth reading) By the time a child of the couple is 16, 66% of cohabiting couples will have separated vs 16% of married couples. For those who cohabit, but marry subsequent to birth the figure is 29%
    Having said that I recently read the OT through and one of the things that brought me up short is that there is very little said about stable unmarried heterosexual relationships. There’s rules for everything else, but a complete silence on this topic.
    I’ve always been puzzled by the lack of comment on Mary’s pregnancy. As she was betrothed it seems that no one was really bothered by it apart from (rather obviously) Joseph.
    The only counter to the argument your Lordship offers is that of Jesus and the woman at the well who seemed to be a serial monogamist.

    • Betrothal is not cohabitation. It already involves permanent commitment. Just not yet public, only between families.

      For the biblical assumption of pre-marital purity see deuteronomy 22.

      • Sybaseguru

        Hmmm. Don’t know too many fathers who could prove their daughters virginity on their wedding night these days. And as for stoning adulterers, I’m not sure we’d have too many politicians left. Deut 22 needs careful interpretation, and parts could be deemed “Civil precepts” under article 7

        • The point was just to show that in the Bible pre-marital virginity was assumed, as this was being brought into doubt.

  • The Explorer

    I know unbelieving couples who are. to all intents and purposes, married. There’s a long-term relationship, fidelity (or seems to be), children. The non-marriage is the proof of love: who needs a piece of paper? It rather reminds me of a motorcyclist who wants to ride without a crash helmet; or a driver who wants to dispense with a seat belt and rely on driving skill.

    • Doctor Crackles

      Marriage confers blessing to believers and unbelievers (Matt 5:45). Since society is built upon this very foundation it is absurd that society should actively weaken. For the church to join in the assault on marriage is a dreadful thing.

      • The Explorer

        If your tease away at their outlook they seem to think that marriage must be based on convention/compulsion rather than love, Non-marriage and love, or marriage and convention: which is an absurd either/or. But then, they’re seeing marriage as purely social phenomenon in which God does not feature.

        • Doctor Crackles

          Sad

  • carl jacobs

    Is fornication still a sin? Well, since the purpose of marriage doesn’t change, and purpose of sex does change – because after all God doesn’t change – then, yes, fornication is still a sin. Man can rationalize all he likes. But man doesn’t possess the authority.

  • Tom Cook

    It’s a relatively small sample, but every single cohabiting couple I’ve ever asked why they cohabit and don’t marry say one thing: “We can’t afford it.” None of them witters on about wanting to “make sure they’re compatible” or “forming an embryonic marriage.” Anyone who’s been through that phase of a relationship knows that those are the ”last” things on your mind; you can’t get enough of this person and you want to devote your whole life to them and spend every minute with them and all the other gushy gag-inducing rubbish etc etc. Those who give such reasons are those looking back at their time cohabiting and rationalising.

    I can’t see the problem with cohabitation. As others have pointed out, the Bible does not mandate some ceremony for marriage, or even that there be one. The law (of Moses) recognises that marriage is relational and not formed at the moment of one-fleshness; “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins.” (Ex 22). Here, premarital sex doesn’t create a marriage, nor is it necessarily a matter of sin; it creates the ”expectation” that a marriage will form and the only person who has any say in it is not either of the couple but the bride’s father. The problem is not sex before marriage, but sex that doesn’t lead to marriage.

    One of the evils of our time is that the bar to marriage is set so high. The blocks come from every side; families happily fan the flames, though God only knows why. The media glamourise celebrity weddings. The church plays its merry part, with fees being a significant source of income for some clergy, and then all the trimmings charged for (the bellringers, the organist, the choir all want their cut). What one might term the wedding-industrial complex seems to exist solely to come up with ever more ludicrous ways of burning cash (one couple I know of recently had their rings delivered from the back of the church by an owl. Really.) With the ”’average”’ cost of a wedding in the UK today over £24,000, who can blame young couples for not diving in?

    By piling on the dual expectations that sex before marriage is a deadly sin and that marriage involves more money than the average deposit on a house, have we not become the lawyers, who load people with burdens hard to bear, yet we ourselves do not touch the burdens with one of our fingers?

    • Dominic Stockford

      ‘Can’t afford it’ is a load of codswallop. All you need is the money for the licence – my church charges nothing whatsoever for members to get married. Register Offices are cheap. A blessing afterwards is free.

      • CliveM

        You misunderstand the purpose of getting married and that is to have a really, really big party.

        And they don’t come cheap.

        • Tom Cook

          If it was just a really, really big party, it wouldn’t be so expensive. There often seems to be a perverse desire to make the whole exercise as expensive as possible.

          • Sarky

            Dont know. We went to Gretna with a minibus full of mates and did the whole thing for less than two grand.

          • dannybhoy

            A minibus of potential mates do you mean? In case you lost interest by the time you reached Gretna and had a few options on board…

          • Sarky

            How many marriages have you had?

          • dannybhoy

            Two.
            One of nine years (not terminated by me),
            and this one of 26 years.
            So go on Sarkers, hit me with your punch line …

          • Sarky

            Just don’t understand the little digs. Is it because the way i have ‘successfully’ done things doesn’t sit well with your view of the world?

          • dannybhoy

            My dear chap, why would I want anything other than your health, happiness and contentment?
            Of course I believe in the God ordained institution and ideal of marriage, but I wasn’t having a dig at you, just a gentle tease. I have no reason to do otherwise.

          • IanCad

            So true; So true! Marriage is a blood sport for the ladies.

          • Malcolm Smith

            It has been suggested that the impulse for really big parties is to imply that, in this age of easy divorce, it really means something.

        • Dominic Stockford

          They really should elect me to Parliament, I am so out of touch with the understandings of the people.

    • carl jacobs

      I can’t see the problem with cohabitation.

      The difference is in the publicly declared legally enforceable commitment. Cohabitation inevitably reduces the relationship to the question of “What have you done for me lately?” It makes the covenant about me and not the other. Why? Because you can always leave. This is very similar to the effect of no fault divorce and explains why the permanence of the covenant is so important.

      • Tom Cook

        I can see your point logically, but not scripturaly. Even under the law, there was no requirement of a “publicly declared legally enforceable commitment,” and divorce was as easy as giving her a piece of paper (for the man, at any rate). I doubt very much that Adam and Eve had a “publicly declared legally enforceable commitment.”

        • carl jacobs

          What do you think marriage is biblically? What is the concept of adultery if there is no covenant to violate? Marriage is not a private act. It is a very public act. There is no such thing as a private marriage. It can only exist in a community.

          That legal enforceability is why people don’t get married. When people say “What difference does a piece paper make?” the obvious answer is “If it makes no difference the why don’t you get married?” Because it does make a difference. Because suddenly there are legal ties that need to be severed if one party wants to leave. Shacking up means never having to say “Talk to my lawyer.”

          • Terry Mushroom

            That is an excellent answer.

            “Shacking up” is conditional love.

          • Paul Greenwood

            Shacking up means never having to say “Talk to my lawyer.”

            Stack v Downton [2007] says otherwise

          • Not exactly. Most jurisdictions treat cohabitation as a marriage after a certain period…say 3 years. Even before this, the main issues such as breach of agreement, property division and custody of children are ipso facto in the public sphere, becoming legally actionable. I agree with you and others here that it is better for people to be religious and to treat marriage as a sacrament which can transcend temporal concerns better than secular philosophy can, but that is a separate argument.

        • Paul Greenwood

          and the State had no real role in England before 1753 and Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act….you might like to read up on why this Act came into force

          • Anton

            Mentioned in my long comment far below.

          • Arguably, from God’s perspective, once a man and woman commit to one another for life, whether privately or publically, and become “one flesh” they are married for life.

            Cohabitation and sex, without such a commitment, is immoral and sinful.

          • Paul Greenwood

            publican, publicly

          • Anton

            Has to be public, for the authorities have a legitimate right to know who is heir and who is legitimate, inheritance, bigamy etc. The precedent is that in Genesis 2 they for a separate household, ie it is visible to the world.

          • Not in all times, in all circumstances and in all societies they don’t. And it’s only recently the state has acquired the resources to do so. Look how this “legitimate right” has and is been abused.

          • Anton

            All I’m saying (NB) is that unless it’s public then I believe it doesn’t count as marriage in God’s eyes.

          • Tell that to Isaac and Rebecca.
            You need to define “public”.

          • Anton

            Who lived in whose tent is public knowledge. It’s not clear that there were authorities to inform at that time and place.

          • And he who lives in a modern terraced house with whomever is also known. What you’re actually alluding to is a public service of commitment that is witnessed.

          • Mark Ellse

            I’ve done my best to read up about Lord Hardwicke’s Act but, other than a general desire to regulate, what particular problems was the Act trying to remedy?

          • Anton

            Marriages between individuals who had exchanged vows in a roomful of acquaintances but never informed the authorities that they were married. Such marriages were often denied as having taken place if the relationship broke down. Lord Hardwicke in effect nationalised the wedding ceremony, so that the authorities only considered you married if you had been through a State-licensed ceremony, which in 18th century England meant in a church ceremony, later supplemented by Register Office ceremonies.

          • Mark Ellse

            Part understood, I think. I can see the state’s interest in requiring considered agreement between couples so that the (mainly male) tendency to abandon consequences of the union is curbed. Interesting that, having decided (mainly on the part of complaining women) to let one party abandon the agreement is now considering introducing an implicit agreement as a consequence of cohabitation.
            But what was the role of the priests who were offering unregulated marriages? What was in it for them and the couples who went to them that the Act put a stop to?

          • Anton

            Perhaps I wasn’t clear. Priests were not present at such ceremonies; please reread the second sentence of my preceding post in that light.

          • Mark Ellse

            Actually my confusion came from Wikipedia entry on the Act:
            The Act was highly successful in its stated aim of putting a stop to clandestine marriages, i.e., valid marriages performed by an Anglican clergyman but not in accordance with the canons. Thus the notorious practice of clandestine Fleet Marriages associated with London’s Fleet Prison was ended, although there were various short-lived and abortive attempts to claim exemption for the Savoy Chapel in the Strand and the parish of Temple in Cornwall.
            Interesting.

          • Paul Greenwood

            Secret marriages and bigamy

          • Paul Greenwood
      • For me, marriage is a required sacrament defined by tradition and religious law. It includes formal duties and benefits and also, formal ways to end the covenant. That’s for me and mine. For the secular, who are for better or worse not bound by such formalities, cohabitation has become a form of marriage.

        A good cohabitation does not “inevitably” lead to anything harmful any more than a good marriage does. Personal integrity and cultural backgrounds of the parties will determine the quality and longevity or permanence of both. Thomas makes a good point about the depredations of the parasitical “marriage industrial complex” that has grown around the institution. If we want to convince people to marry, we must either convince people to become more religious, or to somehow reduce the growing complications and costs our judicial system and consumer society impose.

      • We have no fault divorce. We have marital rape. State marriage is no longer “legally enforceable.”

        • Paul Greenwood

          Unlike many other divorce jurisdictions around the world, England and Wales operates a fault based system, which means that there has to be a reason for the divorce to take place.

          The only grounds for divorce with an element of no fault, is the ground of 2 years separation with consent.

          • Paul, I hope you don’t mind me accusing you of nativity, if you are seriously suggesting that nowadays one has to be at “fault”, to be found to have behaved in such a manner that one’s wife cannot reasonably be expected to live with one. That is as purely theoretical as the similar fiction that the 98% of legal abortions nowadays really are because of the mothers’ mental health problems, rather than being abortions on demand, with the right paperwork to disguise them as legal abortions. We really do have divorce on demand in the UK, just like we have abortion on demand, in all but name. Trust me. I know.

          • Paul Greenwood

            Nativity ?????? England has Fault-based divorce

          • I meant naivety.

            England has fact-based divorce. However, the facts needed do not necessarily imply fault. There is the catch-all behaviour petition, for example, which does not require fault, only behaviour such that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent. It has vestiges of fault-based divorce, but it isn’t actually fault-based divorce any more in the UK.

          • Paul Greenwood

            http://www.marilynstowe.co.uk/2017/02/27/supreme-court-justice-no-fault-divorce/

            Supreme Court Justice ‘disappointed’ at lack of no fault divorce

            February 27, 2017

          • Paul Greenwood

            Supreme Court Justice ‘disappointed’ at lack of no fault divorce

            February 27, 2017

      • Paul Greenwood

        What about cohabitation with several partners ? That is the status of Muslim polygamy – one legal wife, rest are cohabitees with children supported by taxpayers

  • CliveM

    A while ago, a minor z-list celeb (can’t remember her name), was asked following the birth of her baby, whether there would now be a wedding. Not now she responded, getting married is a serious step.

    As if having a baby is trivial.

    I think people are confused over marriage and matrimony. More and more see it less as a commitment to fidelity and the proper context for children. Now many see it as an excuse to piss up thousands of pounds having a party in the grounds of a country house hotel. Being married? That’s the same as cohabiting with a piece of paper so why not. Besides divorce is on tap if required.

    Seems to me the major sin isn’t the sex before marriage, but the damage done to society and the children born into it.

    • dannybhoy

      Amen. Love is a man and a woman responding to their biologically programmed needs and finding enough mutual intellectual and emotional compatibilities that they will unite in commitment.
      I would add that in the context of community the parents and friends want their marriage to succeed, and will offer support and encouragement.
      No man – or woman – is an island. We need family and friends.

  • David

    A crucial test is whether cohabiting is, as good for raising children, as is marriage.
    “By their fruits ye shall know them”
    Assuming that this advice applies not just to people, but also to the habits, customs and social institutions of humanity, then, given the statistics, it is clear that it is marriage that provides the best for the nurturing and stability that children need particularly, but also greatly benefits the couple.

  • IanCad

    Heck of a post there YG. Speed read it first, then slower, and, yet again. You did not write it in an afternoon. Much – very much – food for thought.

  • Anton

    The argument that it is sensible to try someone out in bed is false. Sex with someone you desire will always feel great. There is no such thing as sexual incompatibility, but there may be emotional incompatibility. If you are having sex with a partner then you will be too involved to see emotional incompatibilities until they hit the relationship. In any such breakup you will be inflicting or receiving great pain, or both.

    If, moreover, you are living with someone but have not made a permanent commitment, what if one of you falls lastingly ill? Would you walk out on somebody who is in that state? Or will you commit a large amount of time and effort to someone who has not made the same commitment to you? Living together also makes it harder to break up with somebody unsuitable, because of the cost and disruption.

    And what if a baby is conceived? Accidents are more common than generally realised, and you are also dependent on someone else to be secure. Will you marry someone whom you had not chosen to, or will you share responsibility for the killing of your own unborn child (abortion), or face a lifetime of emotional and financial tightrope-walking as a single parent?

    • carl jacobs

      Yes! Exactly so. Let’s state something that is heresy to the modern ear.

      “Marriage is not about your happiness.”

      • dannybhoy

        “Marriage is not about your happiness..”
        You mean your personal happiness?
        But in many ways it is.
        You meet a woman.
        She is lovely
        She is intelligent
        She is compassionate, empathetic, she laughs at your jokes, she seeks your opinion, she supports and comforts you.
        She makes you feel good about yourself, because she embodies so many of the qualities that you yourself admire and don’t possess..
        The love of a woman can turn your world upside down.

        You don’t think your happiness enters into it?

        • carl jacobs

          You don’t think your happiness enters into it?

          The purpose of marriage is not defined by happiness. That’s why the “for worse” clause exists and why the externally imposed vows are so important. Marriage is a standard and not an act of self-creation.

          What has sarky said over and over on this thread? “Be careful or you will end up unhappy.” But in the course of life marriage will require of you that which makes you unhappy. This is the commitment that men seek ways to avoid.

          • dannybhoy

            There is a biological aspect to sexual union.
            God ordained marriage as between one man and one woman (with exemptions for kings and patriarchs but it didn’t usually work out well..)
            Sexual intercourse -mm hmmm!..- may well lead to offspring, and those offspring need nurturing, and that’s where commitment comes in.
            Your children -or the result of your lust if you prefer; need love, looking after, security and mole roddeling that will shape their own attitudes as adults..

      • Manfarang

        The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret.

    • Albert

      Quite – the last point about artificial contraception is important (!). I read recently (can’t remember where) that half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned, and half of those occurred to people using contraception. So cohabitation is a recipe for increased abortion and that in itself would seem to be a reason to oppose it.

    • Sarky

      No such thing as sexual incompatibility??
      What utter nonsense. Its probably THE biggest cause of breakups.

      • carl jacobs

        What is “sexual incompatibility”?

        • Anton

          There’s an obvious answer to that…

          • carl jacobs

            ROFL!

        • Little Black Censored

          Where one has the income and the other has the patability.

          • carl jacobs

            So … ummm …
            That was terrible. It achieved Happy Jack levels of terrible. Which I suppose is an achievement of sorts.

          • Very good, Little Black Thingy.

        • Paul Greenwood

          square pegs round holes

        • What is sexual incompatibility? Where you are both of the same sex I presume.

  • Paul Greenwood

    I thought a lot of Cohabitation was caused by Divorce Laws. Since Parliament has been too-busy re-defining Marriage to pass an updated Divorce Law since 1973 it has become a mess.

    People without Children get hung up on 2 years Separation or 5 years depending on mutual consent and cohabit in the interim. Then they are reluctant to re-marry.

    Or, the huge cost of divorce and the legal exploitation by solicitors makes doing nothing to change status preferable to jumping into a fishing net and jumping off the pier

    • Little Black Censored

      With the extension of matrimonial benefits to cohabiters, it will soon be as hard to prove you are not married as to prove you are not a member of the Church of England.

      • Anton

        “Are you now and have you ever been…?”

      • Paul Greenwood

        There is method in that. The Law Commission knows there are 140,000 Solicitors looking for work

  • Paul Greenwood

    For general bemusement and to keep Cranmer in a cerebral state I offer the following true legal case on this subject:

    http://www.exclassics.com/newgate/ng308.htm

  • CliveM

    Remaining married is hard work. But then nothing worth while is ever easy.

    Cohabitation tries to pretend otherwise. And if splitting up will make you happy, let’s make it easy.

    And painless.

  • Mungling

    It’s true that in the past, a man and a woman may have been married without a marriage ceremony taking place, but I suspect they still realized they recognized were entering into a lifelong, permanent union oriented towards the procreation and education of a new generation as well as the good of the spouse. Today’s couples may cohabitate for many reasons — finances, mutual pleasures, a step towards marriage — and while some may qualify as an “embryonic marriage” I think most would not.

    But let’s say, for a moment, that this was true. At this time, for believing Christians who decide to enter into these unions against the requirements of their Church, this is rank disobedience. Can we please stop pretending sex is some unstoppable force that can’t be checked or withheld? I struggle with Chastity, and I have my slips and falls. I understand that it’s difficult, but I also understand that it isn’t possible. To look at a couple, see that they’re not even trying to live a chaste life in accordance with whatever denomination they hold dear, and pretend that it shouldn’t matter is absurd! Jesus demands everything from us, and if we can’t holster it for the Kingdom, we have serious problems. Even if we regularize these unions, and say “Don’t worry, everything’s OK!” with respect to cohabitation, the same attitude that prevented individuals from refraining from sex until marriage will find its way to disrupt other aspects of their spiritual life.

    • Dominic Stockford

      Yes, and Holger points out elsewhere, quite correctly, that it would be hypocrisy of the first order were we to say anything else, and seek to live any other way.

  • 1642+5thMonarchy

    Another fascinatingly elusive and meandering piece of pondering by His Grace, keeping his readers on tenterhooks as to his direction of travel, ensuring plenty of comment hits no doubt.

    A few thoughts: first, let he/she who is without Sin etc, and second, the church should not water down its absolute rule in this matter as a clear dividing line must be maintained because it is God’s Will, Scritpurally stated, and therefore not capable of human revision.

    The church should in tone of language however be sympathetic and supportive rather than denunicatory. Why? Because:

    1. More than ever before in history individuals are dwelling from the earliest age in a powerful and intrusive consumer culture where sexual gratification is the main marketing message. Why? Because it works and individuals are influenced by full spectrum media assaults to this end, amplified by competitive peer pressure. People are truly in the grip of Mammon.
    2. A huge proportion of young people now leave home in their late teens and enter a different and pressured world away from family support and influences. That so many fall is no surprise.
    3. People now have much greater life expectancy than ever before, more time to be married which means more time for things to go wrong. People get married later now but are they going to remain chaste until their thirties?
    4. The cost of weddings seems like a pathetic excuse, but unbelievably the wedding industry is huge business and has engineered a competitive consumerism to its benefit. To blame the church for a couple of hundred pounds service cost is nonsense when people spend many many thousands on a reception and yet more on a honeymoon.

    We can’t have it all, and trying to all too often means you end up with nothing I’ve seen too many tragedies along these lines. Church needs to critique consumerism without embracing socialism – attack them both, – although we must recognise that the media which profits from ‘selling the dream’ will twist the message out of all recognition.

    One final musing (there’s no simple conclusion) didn’t the medieval if not Celtic church, once condone hand-fasting in the British Isles?

    • carl jacobs

      It’s not about cost or social pressure or life expectancy. It’s about contraception, abortion, and antibiotics.

      • 1642+5thMonarchy

        Those things remove the fear somewhat but are I think only a partial explanation. Social pressures are immense on young people still in their formative years.

        • CliveM

          And pornography.

          • 1642+5thMonarchy

            Yep, forgot that one and pleased to have done so. It’s scary being the father of teenage sons.

          • CliveM

            Yep it is. I think being the father of teenage daughters would be scarier though!

          • Dominic Stockford

            It is.

    • CliveM

      Seemingly neopagans (Wicans a Pagans) have Handfasting celebrants. Although they seem to use with regards betrothal in general.

    • Dominic Stockford

      Until very recently weddings of anyone but the very ‘important’* were small affairs. During WW1 and WW2 for instance, many got married and then went straight back to the front after a swift half down at the Red Lion.

      *Those for whom the wedding meant some significant political change, or alliance.

  • Albert

    Ditto

    • len

      Ditto

  • 1642+5thMonarchy

    Trial engagements of a year when the couple cohabited to see if they were suitable If they weren’t it was dissolved with no further consequence and any issue went to the father. Remember reading about them in one of George MacDonald Fraser’s history books about the North.

    • len

      Phew…thought it something else

      • 1642+5thMonarchy

        [thinks hard] Oh! What grubby minds you lot have.

        • carl jacobs

          Don’t get any ideas, Jack. Nothing to see here. Move along.

          • Eh? It must be your mind, Carl.

          • carl jacobs

            No Jack. It’s my eyes. I’m watching you.

        • dannybhoy

          Well you ‘thought hard,’
          What are you having a go at us for?
          I don’t pretend to understand the workings of a female mind, but as a man I have to admit I look at a woman’s face first, at her figure second. But it is her intelligence and personality that clinches the attraction.
          I would (hastily) add that in my experience sexual attraction can be overcome by time….

          • 1642+5thMonarchy

            I think you missed the joke Danny.

          • dannybhoy

            ‘Splain please..

          • 1642+5thMonarchy

            You’ve got it now I can see from above!

          • dannybhoy

            I’m a bit slow but I get there in the end..

          • 1642+5thMonarchy

            I would rather see it as a marker of your unsullied innocence my friend!

          • dannybhoy

            Danny is not innocent 1642 but he often wishes he could return to that state..
            Sex is an animal attraction, and as long as we are in these physical bodies we will wrestle to overcome it.

      • dannybhoy

        Me too..
        Actually and I think it is in some Jewish communities, a betrothed young woman would go to live with the family of her young man? No sexual intercourse, just a process of getting to know the other family etc..
        Hannah and Avi might be able to help..

        • 1642+5thMonarchy

          I think nookie was involved in the Ooop North version.

          • dannybhoy

            Danny blushes pinkly)
            I meant might help throw light on the subject, that’s all…..

        • Of course no sex, not even holding hands or being together alone. I have only heard of this one in passing, but I could see such customs among some communities in pre-War Europe. I imagine that in situations where the betrothed couple …usually in their early or mid teens… would barely meet, other than with family members and friends around, such a custom would help the marriage by acclimatising the young lady, especially when the newlyweds spent many years living together with with either of the families before setting up their own home. Tight-knit and extended families create their own challenges. This would have worked best when the young man was at a yeshiva (seminary) a few train stations away, coming home only during the High Holy Days, when his betrothed would be with her own family, as even the impression of any potential impropriety from living under the same roof would have been an issue.

          • dannybhoy

            Thanks Avi. I remember now that I heard it recently being quoted from a book on Jewish marriage which was written from a M******** J******** perspective.
            It is interesting that God fearing communities cleave to modesty and morality between the sexes. The emphasis being placed on our spirituality rather than our physicality.
            When a society begins to lose consciousness of the unseen presence of God it turns towards the physicality of life, and concentrates on the senses and appetites of the body in the belief that there is nothing else. So self gratification replaces self sacrifice, and individual freedom replaces personal responsibility and social obligation.
            Ma ata khosev Avi?

  • dannybhoy

    :0)

    • Mike Stallard

      I shall certainly borrow the emotikon. I usually do this(;>)))
      Which is not half as good. :0)

      • dannybhoy

        You have three chins?
        Clive, Jack and Chef are best at emoticons. I don’t know how they do it.
        I found this one on an American blog which I rather like..
        <

  • 1642+5thMonarchy

    What did you think I meant Clive?

    • CliveM

      I’m not saying, this being an open forum with ladies reading!

      • 1642+5thMonarchy

        I can sense you blushing through the interwebby!

        • CliveM

          Like a beacon!

          • 1642+5thMonarchy

            I like an honest man! Credit to you!

    • CliveM

      However I think others thought so too!

      • dannybhoy

        ‘They’ did..

      • 1642+5thMonarchy

        I don’t know. I try to make a considered anthropological contribution and you lot all get tongue tied with imagined smut!

  • Pubcrawler

    Compare more Danico

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/More_danico

    It’s a kind of secular/common-law arrangement.

    • CliveM

      Interesting.

  • Holger

    That’s right, jump through hoops to make life easier for straight couples. Tell them they have as much premarital sex as they like as long as they intend to get married at some point, who knows when, either before or after they shack up together. It’s no problem. God understands.

    And then tell gay people that if they even so much as think of having sex, they’re dirty abominations who can only win God’s approval by dragging out their miserable lives in sexless solitude.

    No shacking up for us. No marriage. Nothing. Just “that’s just the way it is abomination, so shut the [email protected]?€ up and deal with it.”

    You want to relax the rules for yourselves and insist on total conformity for others. What a load of self-serving nonsense.

    • The Explorer

      Looking on the bright side, you don’t get imprisoned any more. Paedophiles do.

      • Holger

        The bright side is very bright indeed. We get married and live as happily ever after as any straight couple, whereas Christians get dragged through the courts and fined for discrimination if they refuse to treat us equally.

        There have even been a few who’ve lost their livelihoods as the price of indulging in blatant homophobic discrimination. Serves them right. Examples must be made to serve as a warning to others.

        • ChaucerChronicle

          ‘Examples must be made to serve as a warning to others.’

          Gruppenführer Karl Oberhorst (1913 – 1943, Kiev, Eastern Front)

          Correct?

        • Ivan M

          How is Frexit doing? You may have to take your business to Shanghai by the looks of it.

          • Inspector General

            The German’s pulled up France by the ear in 1940. You think they’d let go now after all this time?

        • The Explorer

          The real test of hetero attitudes would be to remover the threat of prosecution. That would be like the moment for a hawk trainer when the lead is removed and the hawk returns of its own volition.

        • Inspector General

          Why, oh why, oh why, Linus! You buggers have managed to queer a railway bridge, of all things…
          http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/02/20/railway-bridge-gets-rainbow-makeover-as-beacon-of-equality/
          Your dreams of domestic respectability in the eyes of society are not so much premature as unrealistic. As realistic and acceptable to us ordinary types as that humiliated bridge is. It probably survived the blitz, and now look at it…

          Arrests should be made!

    • Dominic Stockford

      If we weren’t so busy (below) arguing that in fact there is no open door for cohabitation, and that sex outside marriage is condemned by the Bible and should not be indulged in, you’d have a good point. Sadly though, there are one or two who call themselves Christians who do indeed think in such a way as to allow comments such as yours. It would indeed be gross hypocrisy to take the position you outline. Most of us here won’t take that position, however, and neither does the teaching of the Christian Church agree with it.

    • The point is: sexual relationships between men and women are not intrinsically immoral and cohabitation can grow and develop and eventually lead to marriage. On the other hand, sexually active same sex relationships, in and of themselves, are intrinsically immoral and can lead nowhere that is acceptable before God.

      As for “dragging out their miserable lives in sexless solitude”, this overestimates sexual pleasure and underestimates the grace of God.

      • Holger

        The bible itself states that it is not good for man to be alone. A mate and helpmeet is presented as a fundamental component of our happiness. Are you telling me you know better than the bible, which got it wrong because marriage is just an optional extra that serves no vital purpose?

        Remember that in the Genesis legend, Eve was created while Adam was still in paradise. His happiness could not be complete if he no partner to share it with. Sounds rather like an admission by God that partnership is a vital part of man’s nature rather than an irrelevant and unimportant perk, don’t you think?

        What the Christian religion tells us is that God recognises man’s need for intimate partnership, but chooses to deny fulfillment of this need to gay people.

        In other words, he’s like a father who believes in the value and necessity of education, but chooses to deny it to some of his children on totally arbitrary and spurious grounds.

        In doing so, he increases the likelihood that his favoured children will prosper and lead happier, more fulfilling lives, while his less favoured children have to be content with struggling along in permanent deprivation, want and need. He gives you a real shot at happiness but denies us any chance of it.

        Would you call such a father “just”? Would you call him “loving”? Would you call him anything except a partisan and unfair tyrant who spoils his favourite children and punishes those he loves less?

        In effect the God you want me to worship is so profoundly unjust and repellent that even if I believed he existed and wasn’t just a projection of your selfish, cold-hearted and hate-filled ego, I wouldn’t be able to feel anything except the profoundest contempt for him.

        Good thing there’s absolutely no reason to believe he’s really there, eh?

        • There’s a lot of pain, anger and bitterness in that comment.
          You’ve constructed a “Christian God” who, instead of loving you, has condemned you to a life of pain and loneliness. Rather than accept the existence of this “God” you have created, you deny it exists. Your only other alternative is giving into despair.
          The truth is, that god doesn’t exist. It isn’t real. Believing in it gives a false meaning to your life and venting here gives you an outlet for rage.

          • Holger

            I’m glad you agree that god doesn’t exist.

            So will you now be renouncing the Pope and all his works and embracing pure agnosticism as the only reasonable philosophical approach to life?

          • No. As you know, Jack said the god you had invented did not exist.

            Are you now saying you’re a “pure agnostic”. What is this?

          • Holger

            I have always been an agnostic.

            If you want a dictionary definition:

            Agnostics do not deny the existence of God—instead, they hold that one cannot know for certain whether or not God exists. The term agnostic was coined by the 19th-century British scientist Thomas H. Huxley, who believed that only material phenomena were objects of exact knowledge. He made up the word from the prefix a-, meaning “without, not,” as in amoral, and the noun Gnostic. Gnostic is related to the Greek word gnōsis, “knowledge,” which was used by early Christian writers to mean “higher, esoteric knowledge of spiritual things”; hence, Gnostic referred to those with such knowledge. In coining the term agnostic, Huxley was considering as “Gnostics” a group of his fellow intellectuals—”ists,” as he called them—who had eagerly embraced various doctrines or theories that explained the world to their satisfaction. Because he was a “man without a rag of a label to cover himself with,” Huxley coined the term agnostic for himself, its first published use being in 1870.

            Your god is imaginary because you cannot know whether he exists or not. Everything you think you know about him is mere supposition. No hard facts support your conclusion. It’s all just opinion, supposition and self-validating assumption.

          • chefofsinners

            It is faith. Once faith is exerted it is validated by God.

          • Jack agrees with Huxley. Material phenomena are objects of exact knowledge. However, God is Spirit.

            If we “knew” God existed, then what need would have for faith? There’s “knowing” and there’s knowing. God is not imaginary and He has revealed Himself.

        • chefofsinners

          Your error here lies in comparing God’s perfect creation with the position after the fall, once sin had entered the world.
          Since the fall there has been much loneliness. Many husbands mourn their wives and vice-versa. Many single people long for companionship. None of this is the intention of a loving God, it is the corruption which sin and Satan have caused.

    • chefofsinners

      Holger repent your heterophobia.

  • ‘Fornication’ is a dirty word. But if sexuality is not, as such, unclean, why must it be confined so rigidly to matrimony? It may be observed that ‘fornication’ as defined in the NT was more to do with prostitution than relationship (cf 1Cor 6:15-18). If, by fornication, St Paul had meant a sexual relationship with someone who was not a prostitute – with a woman whom one hoped to marry, for example – the argument would not have worked.

    HG is suggesting a redefinition of “fornication” as applying to sex with prostitutes. Perhaps this is what Saint Paul meant in 1 Corintians 6. However, later in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul also had something to say about sexual immorality:

    “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband ….

    Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

    To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

    Admittedly not a ringing endorsement of sex or marriage but clearly for Paul sex should be confined to marriage and sex outside of this relationship is immoral.

  • chefofsinners

    Why would a couple who are cohabiting not want to marry?
    Tell me a reason and you will reveal a sinful attitude.

  • dannybhoy

    Cohabiting can and usually does* indicate a lack of belief in God or a god
    Cohabiting can also indicate a conviction that man and woman are no more than animals, that they are accountable to no-one outside of themselves,and that there is nothing special about life except to enjoy it as much as one can.
    Marriage in all its forms indicates an awareness of obligation to one’s faith, to one another, and respect and loyalty to family ties and community.
    Marriage implies responsibility to one another and to children, and that sacrifice of self is involved for the happiness and fulfilment of spouse and children.

    *Amended. Sorry Dominic..

  • CliveM

    One does wonder why so many cohabiting couples today, who don’t want the responsibilities of marriage, demand all the rights?

    Today few people question sexual morality. Or even consider it. The connection to life has been broken through a selfish use of contraception (note I’m not anti contraception, but do agree it’s misused) and the shameful use of abortion. Because of this, for many it’s simply a recreational activity (fancy some meaningless sex? There are apps to help you find a partner).

    Let’s be honest, it’s not an argument the Church’s seem to want to fight.

    The world is becoming increasingly depressing.

    • David

      Totally agree, but with one exception, namely your final line.
      I’d say “The world is becoming more depressed”.
      I believe in Christ’s final victory, as do you I’d suggest, so I am not depressed.

      • CliveM

        I’m happy with the amendment!

        • David

          Good – Cranmer’s blog needs happy people !

      • Anton

        Our culture is in a probably terminal decline but we are Christians and worldwide our faith is in fantastic shape – largest movement of the Holy Spirit in all church history in China in the last 50 years, Muslims starting to convert en masse throughout the world for the first time since Islam was invented, and Jewish converts increasing rapidly in number now the Jews are back in the Holy Land. This is a fantastic time to be alive, chin up!

        • David

          Agreed ! My first identity is Christian, then British and western. So yes Christ’s Church marches onwards.
          I am very aware of the conversions from Islam but less so from Israeli Jews. Do you have any useful pointers for reading please ?

    • “The connection to life has been broken through a selfish use of contraception (note I’m not anti contraception, but do agree it’s misused) and the shameful use of abortion.”

      And if it is intrinsically immoral and corrupts those who use it? What then?

      The Lambeth Conference resolution in resolution allowed contraception “in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles.” What is a “clearly felt moral obligation” to limit or avoid parenthood or a “morally sound reason” for avoiding complete abstinence (noting it doesn’t have to be complete)?

      In Humanae Vitae Pope Paul acknowledged that spouses might have difficulty in acquiring the self-discipline necessary to practice the methods of family planning that require periodic abstinence. But he taught that self-discipline was possible, especially with the help of grace.

      …the discipline which is proper to the purity of married couples, far from harming conjugal love, rather confers on it a higher human value. It demands continual effort yet, thanks to its beneficent influence, husband and wife fully develop their personalities, being enriched with spiritual values. Such discipline bestows upon family life fruits of serenity and peace; and facilitates the solution of other problems; it favours attention for one’s partner, helps both parties to drive out selfishness, the enemy of true love, and deepens their sense of responsibility..”

      • CliveM

        Happy Jack

        I’m glad you agree that there are good, moral grounds for married couples avoiding pregnancy. It would appear we would only disagree over the method.

        It appears to me that the RCC is happy with methods that avoid fertilisation happening in the first place.

        Although barrier methods are not seen as acceptable.

        That last requirement I would disagree with.

        “In Humanae Vitae Pope Paul acknowledged that spouses might have difficulty in acquiring the self-discipline necessary to practice the methods of family planning that require periodic abstinence. But he taught that self-discipline was possible, especially with the help of grace.”

        Frankly as a statement this represents wishful thinking, but even if it didn’t it would still be inadequate. It’s the woman who is the one who needs protection from getting pregnant. So the lack of effective contraception places (in reality) the full burden and risk upon her. A horny male is unlikely to be thinking to much about Grace.

        Intent is important. If a condom is used simply as a tool for a dissolute lifestyle its wrong, but if there are good moral reasons for avoiding pregnancy, how does using a unreliable method of contraception become more moral?

        In effect the only reliable contraception the RCC allows is complete abstinence. Which for some couples would effectively end their sex life.

        • Cressida de Nova

          A very thought provoking post Clive. How does an unreliable method become more moral and acceptable? Your question is pondered by many Catholics as well. I think in special circumstances where a resultant pregnancy would be life threatening or a health issue situation there would be a dispensation by the Church.

          However ( and I don’t have statistics) some married Catholics do use artificial contraception and at some point in their marriage plan their families even though the Church considers it sinful. They still send their children to Catholic schools , support and fund Catholic institutions , are employed by Catholic institutions and attend Mass on the most important Holy Days.

          They are not supposed to receive the Eucharist unless they confess their sin and resolve never to use artificial contraception again.

          This is a philosophical dilemma. It is easy for a couple past child rearing years when the flames of passion have been subdued to submit to these rules. But in the true spirit of confession and I don’t think a lot of Catholics are aware of this, they must feel genuine remorse for planning their families in the past by the use of artificial contraception. I would say this is very unlikely. Jack, no doubt will have more to say on this one:)

          The Church does not regard sex as an essential part of life, apart from the pro creation aspect within marriage. Catholicism is very big on self discipline.This is contrary to modern thought where sexual expression is thought to be critical for a healthy mind and body rather than sexual suppression.

          The Church does not agree. Sex only has a place within the institution of marriage. As the media church is constantly bombarding us for decades with conflicting messages, I would say it is almost impossible for many young people, to adhere to these exacting mores.

          The Church does not disapprove of cohabitation between a man and a woman providing there is no sexual activity and they live together like brother and sister.I think Pope Francis has said this quite recently.

          • Jack is a Catholic on these matters.
            Ultimately, the Church leaves issues to the individual consciences of its members and trusts in the mercy of God. It can never condone or approve of objective sin, like abortion or contraception, but is pastorally understanding, recognising people are faced with a range of pressures and sometimes make the wrong choice. The commandments are not ideals but moral imperatives and so she teaches grave breaches of them prevent access to the Eucharist. In terms of confession, there is no easy answer to this. Everyone is different and a priest would need to explore the circumstances and disposition of the penitent, both at the time and in the present. We cannot undo the past but we can develop a fuller understanding of Church teaching and recognise where we have strayed, acknowledge this and accept God’s forgiveness.

        • Is it wishful thinking to expect couples to abstain from sex for a few days a month for the sake of another and their family? It’s precisely the need to restrain oneself for the good of each other that constitutes selflessness. It shows disrespect for a woman for a man to disregard her wellbeing because he is feeling “horny”.

          Paul VI also argued Humanae Vitae that “the man” will lose respect for “the woman” and “no longer (care) for her physical and psychological equilibrium” and will come to “the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.” The Pope realised that the Church’s teaching on contraception is designed to protect the good of conjugal love. When spouses violate this good, they do not act in accord with their innate dignity and thus they endanger their own happiness. Treating their bodies as mechanical instruments to be manipulated for their own purposes, they risk treating each other as objects of pleasure.

          Natural family planning, properly practiced is as reliable as artificial methods of contraception for most couples.

          • CliveM

            In a perfect world, the Churches position would make sense. But it isnt. I have much less trust in a young, hormonal, horny mans ability, even within marriage to behave gracefully. My point however isnt about healthy couples, having healthy sex, in a healthy environment. Its when some or all of these factors are not present.

            I noted your comment to Cressida about the Churches view on sex. Not the position inherited from Jews and the OT.

  • chefofsinners

    Articles such as this generally begin in the trousers. One hopes that Mrs Cranmer has no reason to be nervous.

  • Anna

    Taking a hard look at cohabitation from a woman’s perspective. Putting aside the Christian view that sexual intimacy outside of marriage is wrong, it is foolish for any woman to give herself to a man who has not given her the security of marriage. It cheapens her, and makes her an object for the man’s pleasure. All this in the so-called ‘age of equality’! So, a man might walk away anytime, possibly leaving the woman with children. Women are more vulnerable, invest more in relationships, and suffer more when relationships break up. Men find it easier to move on. Even prostitutes charge men something in return for their services. A ring is the very least any respectable woman should expect from a man before she allows him to touch her body. Marriage empowers women, and our mothers were wiser than the liberated women of today!

    • dannybhoy

      10 ticks cos I agree with you so..

      • Anna

        Thank you.

        • Mike Stallard

          I would like to agree too, please.
          I used to think that women and men were sort of interchangeable. I admit that I made a terrible mistake. They are most certainly not. And every word which Anna wrote is both perceptive and right.

          • “I used to think that women and men were sort of interchangeable.”

            That misperception could lead you into serious trouble ….

    • Very well said Anna.

      • Anna

        Thank you.

    • John

      Brilliantly put Anna.

    • William Lewis

      Great comment, Anna, but I would say that men don’t always find it easier to move on. Broken relationships take their toll throughout society.

    • Broadwood

      Ten from me too! One of the great lies of feminism is that marriage is inherently oppressive.

  • Inspector General

    Do you know, that cartoon has it right!

    The idea of a young man and woman cohabitating on an informal basis is completely alien to this man.

    It just isn’t an intelligent thing to do.

    If you’re planning for the future, as sensible types should be doing in that situation and time of life, the very minimum required is a commitment freely given by both to each other. Too much of both individuals ‘inner workings’ for lack of a suitable name are involved. Take care of said workings, lest they fail through lack of maintenance, and send you on a downward spiral…

    One other factor, younger chaps – have you the right woman there. Discuss the size of your expected family before exchanging commitments. You might have a woman who has not, and never will have, any intention of bearing children. As at least two of the Inspector’s close friends have confided. It’s rather late in the day to find out when you’re hitting forty and your options are limited. Though in this situation, divorce must be considered as a just dessert for the lady concerned.

    • If your friends are Catholic, if there was no intention to have children the “marriage” is invalid, i.e. they were never married, and can be annulled in addition to a civil divorce.

      • Inspector General

        Wasn’t entirely sure about that being canon law. Common sense would say end it anyway, whatever. In the two cases mentioned, it’s purely academic. Both are til death us do part men, despite the outrage visited to them during each intimacy over the years…

  • Inspector General

    Advertisement.

    Cash strapped couples could do worse than to contact the New County Hotel in Gloucester. Last year or maybe the year before, the were offering a reception for £999.

    • I979, it cost Jack £30 – and that included the rings, a second-hand wedding dress for his bride and a reception in the Church hall.

      • Inspector General

        Whitbread PA at around 30p a pint then.

        • It was Essex – two barrels of larger on “sale or return”.

          • Pubcrawler

            Classy…

      • Anton

        And you have a toddler granddaughter; your family is blessed with fecundity.

        • Lucy is most certainly a blessing and we thank God for entrusting her to us.

  • God’s purposes for marriage: companionship (Genesis 2:18), procreation (Genesis 1:28), mutual sexual pleasure (1 Corinthians 7:4–5; Proverbs 5:18–19; Song of Songs; Hebrews 13:4), prevention of immorality (1 Corinthians 7:2-5), service of Christ, the representation of the spiritual relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22–33), and the raising of Godly descendants (Malachi 2:13–16).

    The family unit is the building block of society. The permanence of marriage (when respected) leads to the good of the couple and their children and society as a whole. Cohabitation (distinct from Common Law marriage) lacks the proper intent and cannot meet these purposes. It results in serial monogamy and children by multiple “partners”.

    • 1642+5thMonarchy

      I embarrass you with an uptick. Alas I can only award one because that comment deserves multiples.

    • CliveM

      Isn’t Common Law marriage a myth?

      • It was recognised in scripture: Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 24:67).

        Is civil and religious marriage a myth?

        • CliveM

          I meant in this Country it has no legal status, so in effect your relationship has no status.

          • Jack was referring to morality and God’s law, not civil law.

          • CliveM

            Fair enough I misunderstood then.

          • Maalaistollo

            That is correct. From my dim recollection of legal history studies 40 years ago, a couple who lived together as man and wife could be treated as if they were de facto married, but such recognition was ended by Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753, which was designed to end the practice of clandestine marriage, where a dodgy clergyman could be persuaded to solemnise, for example, the marriage of an eloping heiress somewhere at the dead of night. Wikipedia tells me that much of the above has now been discredited, but I suppose that’s what we keep academics for, to keep rewriting history. We’ve still got the dodgy clerics, of course, but their interests are no longer with eloping heiresses but with other kinds of irregularity.

          • Inspector General

            Indeed, M. dodgy clerics of a Marxist Humanist flavour…

      • chiaramonti

        Co-habitation today does not make a common law marriage. Such marriages involve a commitment which is the same as a formal marriage absent the ability to register or formalise the marriage as when the parties are geographically so far away from a registrar or priest that the legal formalities cannot take place. Such a union, albeit in exceptional circumstances these days, would be recognised by the English courts as a true marriage.

      • chefofsinners

        It’s a mithter and a myth.

    • bluedog

      ‘It results in serial monogamy and children by multiple “partners”.’ Something which is becoming a serious social issue in a number of demographics. Cynically, a weakening of the nuclear family suits the marxist approach that the children are wards of the state, rather than the responsibility of a competing authority, the family. Fragmented families are more malleable and dependent.

      • And with the extended family breaking down, the elderly and the sick also become dependent on the State. Enter euthanasia.

      • Inspector General

        Isn’t that the case, Bluedog. In black rich areas of England, involuntary incest is an established problem. The two involved sharing the same father, and the activation of genetic unpleasentries so associated with the awful business of incest….but of course this is what your post is about.

        • bluedog

          Actually not. But you raise a valid point. Of course, one’s thoughts turn too towards Jeremy and Diane, with who’s child we were never blessed.

          • Inspector General

            Surely not the same father…

          • bluedog

            Are you trying to tell us something, IG?

  • Remember John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, backing Prince William and Kate Middleton’s decision to live together before marriage?

    “We are living at a time where some people, as my daughter used to say, they want to test whether the milk is good before they buy the cow.”

    • Mike Stallard

      Try before you buy – old Norfolk saying.

    • Anton

      So far that’s a statement of fact and one cannot tell whether Sentamu approves or (as he should) disapproves.

      • “For some people that’s where their journeys are.

        “But what is important, actually, is not to simply look at the past because they are going to be standing in the Abbey taking these wonderful vows: ‘for better for worse; for richer for poorer; in sickness and in health; till death us do part.’”

        He was being pastoral, acknowledging that our modern culture understands “right” and “wrong” differently. He sold marriage and promoted it, without condemning and alienating those in similar situations who might be listening.

        Was he being as wise as a serpent and as pure as a dove? Or, as the Rev David Phillips, general secretary of the Church Society, claimed had the Archbishop “missed an opportunity to set out Christian teaching”
        He stated: “What he said wasn’t appropriate as he. He gave the impression it doesn’t matter whether people live together before marriage. I thought he would have tried to get across Christian teaching on marriage that says it is not appropriate to have sex outside marriage.”

        In another sign of their modern approach, the Prince and Miss Middleton published their order of service online for millions of people to join in at home.

        The 28-page booklet confirms that Kate Middleton will follow the example of Diana, Princess of Wales by omitting the word “obey” from her vows.

        Instead she will “love, comfort, honour and keep” him, mirroring the vows the Prince himself will make.

  • Mike Stallard

    Your Grace missed out the social dimension.
    Grannies love their grandchildren. Granddads are expected to remember birthdays. In the Jeremy Kyle society where “How long have you been together” is triumphantly answered by “three months and I am pregnant!”, Grannie often does not get a look in. Which is why she is often so very entertaining on the show.
    And Aunties and Uncles too are quite interested sometimes. They are expected to remember birthdays.
    The extended family always used to meet for weddings when the Church of England still functioned traditionally. Now the extended family is manifestly dissolving. I am very impressed by the enormous weddings in Singapore where whole communites come together and then work hard to keep the marriage together.
    Finally on LBC last night the lawyer made it crystal clear that if you are not married, you have no “rights of co-habitation” under the law. When the relationship ends you are on your own without the benefit of the law, he said.

  • Not exactly a crowd pleaser, Your Grace – among this crowd at least.

  • Anton

    “no religion is terrorist. Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist” – Pope Francis, 10th February 2017, on the Vatican’s own website:

    http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/pont-messages/2017/documents/papa-francesco_20170210_movimenti-popolari-modesto.html

    • CliveM

      Curious to understand how this fits into today’s topic?

      • Maalaistollo

        Don’t worry, ChaucerChronicle will be along in a minute to clear it away.

        • bluedog

          A cut and paste of ‘we shall fight them on the beaches’ should do the trick. It is not widely understood that Churchill is only ever on our side and never on the side of our opponents despite their claims to the contrary. One learns that there are Churchillians and churchillians, and that the one true Churchill favours us.

          • Maalaistollo

            ChaucerChronicle will be along for you, too, if you’re not careful.

          • ChaucerChronicle

            There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society, are created, strengthened and maintained.

            Churchill, 16 November 1948, on the birth of Prince Charles

          • And also the worse evils ….

            Happy Jack; 20th February 2017

          • ChaucerChronicle

            There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest vices, the most dominating vices of human society, are created, strengthened and maintained.

            Happy now, Jack?

          • It makes Jack very unhappy.

          • ChaucerChronicle

            All right, Jack. What if the younger generation do not understand the concept of sin and hence feel no guilt.

            What if, deep inside, they are damaged and feel shame (in many cases leading to self-harm)?

            Did Christ, take their shame on the cross?

          • Of course He did – and, in Jack’s Church, although the situation is objectively sinful, such couples are not subjectively culpable.

            “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.”

          • bluedog

            Outstanding!

      • Anton

        It doesn’t. If His Grace objects then I shall discipline myself henceforth.

    • ChaucerChronicle

      Just what do you think you’re doing, eh?

      The topic for today is about fornication and producing bastards.

      • Maalaistollo

        Is that the homework you’ve set?

        • ChaucerChronicle

          Why don’t you do some real ‘fightin”?

          I’ve got Holger on my back and that mad Russian-Afghan, Ivan (and I’ve blocked him – yet he still persists in posting to me – mad).

    • Anna

      Well, he got 2 out of 3 right!

  • ChaucerChronicle

    Your Grace

    ‘But large numbers of young people (and quite a few older ones) are rejecting the Church over the cohabitation issue (not to mention other ethical-sexual matters), and it is absurd to pretend otherwise.’

    Where is the research to support this?

    • The latest statistical bulletin, Households and Families, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), shows that cohabiting couple families in the UK have doubled from 1.5 million families in 1996 to 3.3 million families in 2016.

      There were 3.2 million opposite sex cohabiting couple families and 87,000 same sex cohabiting couple families in the UK in 2016. Together, cohabiting couple families account for 17% of all families in the UK.

      http://www.familylaw.co.uk/news_and_comment/cohabitation-remains-fastest-growing-relationship-in-uk#.WKtcMDGmnDc

      • ChaucerChronicle

        Jack

        Any research that they are rejecting the Church over the co-habitation issue?

        I’ve never heard of a vicar rejecting anyone over co-habitation.

        • Depends what you mean by “Church”. People are certainly rejecting traditional Church teaching by not marrying.
          From a Catholic perspective, cohabitation is gravely sinful and excludes one from the sacraments. Many priests will refuse to baptise children born to unmarried couples because of a lack of commitment to raise them in the faith.
          The Catholic Church appears to be in a de factor schism at present over the issue of “irregular unions” (principally focussed on the divorced and remarried) and the most appropriate pastoral approach to take without breaking with established doctrine. But that, as they say, is a whole other matter.

          • I think people are not taking marriage as seriously as they once did. From the sexual revolution in the 60’s onwards they have increasingly rebelled against Church teaching.
            Now getting married is a nice day out. Couples write their own vows which even those a lot of them end up breaking.

            Growing up I had on the one hand my parents and the Church were teaching me morals, to be chaste and get to know the person properly through courtship along with warnings of the drawbacks of sex before marriage and living in sin.
            On the other hand Cosmopolitan and other popular women’s magazines, were preaching the exact opposite. According to them I should be out there having sex with lots of men, there were articles on the most intimate of things and if I wasn’t then there was something wrong with me, but never fear they featured articles on how to overcome my barriers. They viewed it as women being empowered, liberated and taking control. I’m sure young people felt pressured into this modern lifestyle by society.

          • Increasingly the Church stays silent and many parents/schools encourage their children to practice “safe sex”. The mass media has become the moral teacher.

    • carl jacobs

      Where is the research to support this?

      And who cares anyways. You don’t shaping teaching to the crowd just to please the crowd.

      • Agreed, but the Church needs to understand what is going on find appropriate ways to reach out to those in these situations and lead couples into a proper relationship with one another and with God, without compromising on the moral law.

        Hitting people over the head with heavy bibles is unlikely to prove fruitful.

      • ChaucerChronicle

        Maybe, for all of us, this is the real reason:

        “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few”

    • Sarky

      Its not rocket science.

      • carl jacobs

        So you don’t have any data to answer his question?

    • William Lewis

      I would be surprised if cohabitation was a major reason for rejecting church. Frankly, without Christ, church would be just plain boring.

  • chefofsinners

    Anyone who wants to know why marriage is good need only look around them at our own society.
    Children longing to know their fathers, idealising men they never see and who honestly don’t care for them. Mothers with children by multiple fathers, the result of broken promises and the woman’s desperation to keep the man. Men who find self esteem in bragging about their conquests, who justify their behaviour with half baked evolutionary theory : “it’s natural innit?”
    A benefits culture where the state is expected to pick up the pieces of shattered children’s lives, mend their mental health, care for them so their mothers can work, educate them when they are overwhelmed with anxiety, treat their diabetes, and, the final irony, give them sex and relationships education.
    This is the society of cohabitation, where the bedrock of marriage has been destroyed.

    • Wait for it, Anton …….

      And all predicted in Humanae Vitae.

      The Lambeth Conference 1930 passed a series of interesting resolutions. Note the concessiotn made to the world in Resolution 15. The other orthodox positions have since fallen – and approval of homosexuality, not even mentioned in 1930 is surely next.

      Life and Witness of the Christian Community

      (1) Marriage and Sex: Resolutions 9-20

      Resolution 11 recommended that “the marriage of one, whose former partner is still living, should not be celebrated according to the rites of the Church,” and when “an innocent person has remarried under civil sanction and desires to receive the Holy Communion,” the case should be referred to the bishop.

      Resolution 15 allowed “in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles.” The vote for this Resolution was 193 for it, 67 against it, and 47 not voting. This was the only Resolution for which a record of the numbers voting was required.[15]

      The London Times of June 30, 1930, predicted that the Lambeth Conference would change the “social and moral life” of humanity. This was done by the Conference’s Resolution 15 in which in contradiction to earlier Resolutions (1908 Resolution 41 and 1920 Resolution 66) allowed the use of contraception in marriage.[16] William Carey, Bishop of Bloemfontein, withdrew from the Conference in protest and even sent a petition to the King on the subject.

      Resolution 16 expressed “abhorrence of the sinful practice of abortion.

      “Resolution 18 reckoned “sexual intercourse between persons who are not legally married” to be “a grievous sin.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambeth_Conference#Seventh:_1930

      • chefofsinners

        It is worse than that. Instead of calling sinners to repentance, the church is now chasing after society, trying to make friends with it by sanctifying it, giving it God on its own terms. If ever the salt had lost its savour…

        • That’s not the Church …. it’s the Christian Synagogue of Satan.

          • Anton

            Well said, Jack. When you point your guns at the right target you do well.

          • Something of a backhanded compliment, Anton.

            Translation: when Jack agrees with you he does well.

          • Anton

            I take that as an unconditional compliment!

          • Yeah, you would.

          • Anton

            More compliments, I can handle!

      • Anton

        Guns changed society too. It is up to people to use them appropriately.

        • The use of guns are not intrinsically immoral … and one firing blanks wouldn’t be much use.

          • carl jacobs

            A blank can kill at short range.

          • Trust you to spoil Jack’s analogy.

            And sometimes contraception fails too.

          • chefofsinners

            That’s why I had to stop playing Scrabble.

    • dannybhoy

      “Anyone who wants to know why marriage is good need only look around them at our own society.
      Children longing to know their fathers, idealising men who they never see and honestly don’t care for them. Mothers with children by multiple fathers, the result of broken promises and the woman’s desperation to keep the man. Men who find self esteem in bragging about their conquests, who justify their behaviour with half baked evolutionary theory : “it’s natural innit?”
      I would guess that like us you have worked with children in care..

      • chefofsinners

        Someone’s gotta do it.

        • writhledshrimp

          from=outro-embed

          OT – but a wonderful sermon on politics and Christ.

      • bluedog

        ‘Men who find self esteem in bragging about their conquests, who justify their behaviour with half baked evolutionary theory : “it’s natural innit?”

        A disgraceful reference to Sarky that will fool nobody.

        • Sarky

          Not bothered, “its natural innit” !!!

    • Ivan M

      Nature and Nature’s God have not made this any easier for human beings. When there is nothing else to do as in prosperous countries, idleness and ease naturally turns to thoughts about sex. Though it appears from the experience of the Japanese and the latest generation of youth that even that is subject to diminishing returns.

  • Do keep up Your Grace.

    “Prostitution” is an inappropriate term in the modern world. Today those who sell their body for the purposes of sexual gratification are to be referred to as “sex workers”.

    • Anton

      At a supermarket a few years ago the checkout girl asked me if I had a loyalty card. I replied, “No, I’m promiscuous.” I got a very strange look indeed and now suspect I was lucky not to have been arrested.

      • chefofsinners

        Genuine recent exchange:

        Checkout girl: Have you got a nectar card at all?
        Me: No, not at all.
        Checkout girl: would you like one at all?

        • Anton

          That sounds like a local usage. I suspect I could work out which part of the country you live in from that.

          I now reply, with formal illogicality, “No thank you” when asked “Do you have a loyalty card?” because I know that if I say merely “No” then the next question is “Would you like one?”

          • chefofsinners

            You would be able to work out where the checkout girl came from. Or where I was at the time. Or not.

            Anyway, would you like a loyalty card?

          • Anton

            No. I’m promiscuous.

          • chefofsinners

            What’s it like? I’m promiscurious.

          • Anton

            Promises, promises…

          • IanCad

            Must be Ireland.
            ‘I don’t like the man at all, at all.”

          • Maalaistollo

            Where the girl always took the contraceptive pill twice, ‘To be sure, to be sure.’

        • dannybhoy

          Perhaps an unconscious reference to your height?
          After all without that chef’s hat she might not have seen you……
          ;0)

      • Martin

        Got a free cup of coffee to go with my sandwich at the mid point of my ride today. That was worth having.

        • Anton

          Waitrose?

          • Martin

            Anton

            That’s it, handily situated just beyond the 5 mile point.

          • ChaucerChronicle

            You’re doing it again, and now you’ve induced Martin and Chef.

          • ChaucerChronicle

            Do you see what you’ve done? You’ve got Danny and Cressida talking about your floosy checkout girls.

      • Cressida de Nova

        Attention: Nerd Alert

        Geek Patrol to aisle 10

        “Sir, We are not interested that you know ancient Hebrew for sausage sizzler… now empty your pockets, drop to your knees, hands behind your head. “

        • Bad, bad, girl.

          • Anton

            Canon Law is a contradiction in terms, for the church runs on grace set in contrast to law.

          • The “law” being referred to was the Mosaic Law controlling external conduct. Grace enables us to keep the moral law , it doesn’t replace it.

          • Anton

            Mosaic Law was for a nation, not a volunteer organisation like the church. That is why canon law is an oxymoron. Of course I agree that by grace through faith we are helped to keep the moral law.

          • The Church is a voluntary collective community – a Holy nation.

          • Anton

            Except it’s not been voluntary in too many times and places. You should be able to opt out of it without legal penalty.

          • Harping back to the past?

        • Anton

          I’m sure you’ll be safe from the sharks on your surfing hols, as a matter of professional courtesy.

  • chefofsinners

    Marriage is God’s picture of Christ and His bride. As the scriptures say (progressive version):
    “Cohabitees love your partners even as Christ was in love with the church and gave Himself for it. On a trial basis.”

  • “Is cohabitation still a sin, or is it an embryonic marriage with proof of love?”

    It could be both. What is sin? Whilst objectively sinful, some relationships may not entail subjective culpability. Cohabitation is a broad term. Doesn’t it really depend on the moral awareness and consciences of the couple, their motives and intentions?

  • maigemu

    ‘ for example, might marriage as a sacrament be accommodated? ‘ No. The Reformed have but two sacraments. Marriage is a covenant not sacrament. I am saddened to see the Archbishop being conformed to the world here. Would he bless cohabitation? It seems so. For shame!

  • IanCad

    To address, in order, the questions in the OP: Not necessarily so; and, most likely so.

  • Jon of GSG

    Thank you YG.

  • ChaucerChronicle

    ‘Betrothal’ (considered as within the band of marriage); the consideration of divorce and consumation: the Biblical model

    Now the birth of Jesus Christ came about in this way: His mother Mary, having been pledged to Joseph, before their coming together, was found holding in womb through the Holy Spirit.

    Then Joseph her husband, being righteous and not willing to shame her publicly, resolved to divorce her quietly.

    But on his having pondered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, you should not be afraid to receive Mary as your wife, for that having been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

  • Shadrach Fire

    It bemuses me how clear biblical principles can be rationalised over and pronounced no longer valid.

  • Malcolm Smith

    the vast cost of a wedding
    Nonsense! The biggest cost of a wedding is the reception, which is purely optional. All you need for a wedding is a celebrant and two witnesses. A civil celebrant will charge a few hundred pounds, a registry office less, and a church only for the cost of cleaning and the organist. And even that large expense would be waived if it is only a matter of the priest and two witnesses. No, the objection to a wedding is the same as the objection of marriage: they want the advantages without the responsibilities, plus the option of opting out.
    As my Sunday school supervisor put it: “The sin is not in living together, but in breaking up afterwards. To be more precise, it is in living together while planning to break up.”

  • len

    Marriage is exactly what God says it is. All else is a formula for the disintegration of Society with all the tragedy and trauma that entails.

  • Anton

    Today a cohabiting man and woman lost their appeal against a ruling in a lower court that, unlike same-sex couples, they could not contract a “civil partnership”. I have no idea why they wished to bring such a case, nor why the State has not scrapped the option now that, in its infinite wisdom, it recognises SSM; but there it is.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39039146

  • “… when does marriage occur? The traditional formulations permit three main possibilities: with the consent of two people; at the ceremony (which ensures witnesses for the consent); or on consummation.”

    What I find amazing, is that His Grace should have covered so many angles on this, but overlooked completely the recent “divorce” of the church’s traditional definition of marriage, from the state’s definition of marriage, and the question of whether God’s definition of marriage makes state licensing necessary for validity, or whether Bishop Valentine was right in 296 AD, for conducting Christian marriage ceremonies that Rome had not licensed, suffering a martyr’s death.

    I was free to take a wife when my “girlfriend” and I met, and she a husband. I was 62. She was 49. A widower and a widow. We completed a church marriage preparation course in the summer of 2015. We asked for a wedding ceremony.

    The church building wasn’t registered with the government for marriages though. So any ceremony would not have solemnised a “legal” marriage that the government recognised. That was good news to my ears, because being “legally” married would have forced us to live apart just to avoid impecunity. Secondly, being legally married had proved to be no protection from anything evil the state had done to me in the past. Most importantly, the last thing my conscience was telling me to do was to have a godless, British government “either sex marriage” ceremony at a registry office, for my church to “bless” subsequently. I’d rather tongues wagged that we were “living in sin” because I refused to do any such thing, than compromise my morals by doing anything as mocking of God as marrying legally in a registry office, and then asking Him to bless that.

    Almost two years later, my church having attempted three times to complete the right forms and become licensed, and the denomination HQ above ruling that no marriage is valid to God if it isn’t valid to the British Home Secretary too, I have resigned my church membership, to avoid being put out of membership for the “appearance of evil” of not having a wedding that the church won’t give us, and says it cannot give us legally (which is not true), or a parody of a wedding that I don’t want, from the government, which doesn’t mention God, or even require us to be a couple with one of each sex.