"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Royal Cohabitating

(Which do you like - the cuddly engagement photo or the formal?)
In a recent mini-obsession following Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton, I had to do a little reading about the princess-to-be. Part of me just finds it fascinating that England still has royalty - prestige and honor based solely on lineage. During my reading of a few (it really was only a few, ok, a handful) articles, I came upon some interesting tidbits, like that Kate's ring is worth $250,000 and was the same one worn by Princess Di. My first reaction to that was, hey, that's not that much at all. Then I realized it makes her left hand worth more than our house.

Anyway, I also came across this line in an article - oh, wait, I tried to find the article again on Google, but so much more has been written about Kate Middleton (predictions on her gown, wedding gift donations to their favorite charities, she quit her job to prepare for the wedding - you name it!) since I initially read it that I couldn't find it. So, I'll just paraphrase, and you'll have to believe me, that the article mentioned she and Prince William are currently "road-testing" their marriage by living together (no servants! aside from security) in an undisclosed location. It was just a throwaway line, which indicates that no one in England thinks anything of cohabitation these days.

The line struck me as interesting for a few different reasons. One was that the same article emphasized how careful she and Prince William were never to arrive together at events such as friends' weddings during their EIGHT years of dating. The article also noted that being the Prince's girlfriend does not get you security paid on the royal tab. Middleton was constantly bothered by paparazzi. To the world, she had to be NOT in any way officially connected to her boyfriend. But once they were engaged, why not move in together?

Another thing that I found interesting is that Rowan Williams will be witnessing to the couple's marriage. I'm assuming that Williams knows that they are living together prior to marriage, though I'm not implying that he somehow officially sanctioned the betrothal slumber party.

Let's be real, here. At my own pre-cana retreat of 12 couples, my fiance and I were the ONLY ones NOT cohabitating. America or England, cohabitation has become the norm. Here in the U.S., it's perhaps more interesting that we bother to get married at all; my family's two European foreign exchange students are in the long-term-live-together-with-no-formal-commitment situation. I recognize that whether secular, Anglican or "Catholic," cohabitation has become morally acceptable and even expected. But don't forget that the Catholic Church is still opposed to it. I've heard of some dioceses requiring a more strenuous marriage preparation course for couples who are cohabitating. In many places though, I think people are just happy that couples still find it meaningful to get married in the Catholic church.

Looking at it historically, Christians have been opposed to cohabitation (meaning just the man and the woman living together prior to marriage) for, basically, well, forever. In a different vein, another interesting tidbit that's sociological rather than historical is that cohabitation statistically increases the chance of divorce. But then, divorce has a long history in the Church of England, which also was the first Christian body to sanction contraception.

So I was tempted to call this post, "Blame it on the Anglicans," but of course, whether Henry VIII or Prince William, the trends of royalty are sometimes just the trends of the time, although the actions of royalty also affirm and sanction the trends.
(Our royalty - Prince Patrick Poopypants, as he's often called in our household)
The pre-cana retreat I mentioned earlier, however, must certainly prevent me from blaming cohabitation on the Anglicans (and their royalty). Recently a professor who was going to have to respond to a question about changing Catholic rules regarding marriage asked me what I would say. What should be done in regard to the reality of people's lives today, where contraception, premarital sex, and cohabitating are so normative?
(Parenting is fun, especially the third time around!)
A tough question, and I'm no church policymaker. All I could say was based on what we've tried to do, namely, prove that living up to the Catholic "rules" is not only possible, but fulfilling. Moving in together AFTER the wedding instead of months or years before, makes the wedding day itself more exciting...as does not engaging in premarital sex. To some of our relatives it may have seemed strange or "old-fashioned," but I think they also found it intriguing. Likewise, the joy of having children early in the marriage (which is also unusual today in our socioeconomic class) is something we also wanted to share with those who knew us. We wanted it to be clear that our marriage wasn't just for us and that ours was a life-giving love.

When we recently moved to a new place, away from our insulated grad-student-pro-NFP community, we faced the challenge of making new friends, whether Maia's school classmates' parents, the neighbors, or the people in the pews at our new church. We have managed to fit in well, making our house a place of real hospitality, where neighborhood kids drop by for dinner and where many others (who are actually invited) also come for dinner...or playdates. We haven't done anything to broadcast our "traditional" values. We just live them, strengthening each other in the hardships and enjoying our growing family.
(The joy of matching bath towels!)
I think we've fooled everyone into thinking we're normal, nice, everyday sorts of people.

But once we have more than three kids (and enjoy it!), I'm sure we'll start to raise some eyebrows.


Theology PhD Mom said...
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Theology PhD Mom said...

Have you seen the pope's comment's yesterday on natural versus sacramental marriage? He's calling for priests to make a much stronger distinction - which might be another thing that helps in this whole discussion.