Anyway, the subject of marriage comes up and a former clergyman, now schoolteacher, says,
'The three reasons given for it in the Prayer-Book have always seemed to me to be inadequate,' agreed Mr. Prendergast. 'I have never had the slightest difficulty about the avoidance of fornication, and the other two advantages strike me nothing short of disastrous.'Waugh means to be funny, of course, and it is but he got me wondering what the three reasons are. Thanks to the wonders of Google, the answer is:
Duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.An odd set of reasons wouldn't you say?
First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.
The first is kind of weird because the absence of marriage is no obstacle to the procreation of children, a fact the negative consequences of which we are regularly reminded of. In fact, the two independent clauses in that sentence seem more important than the primary clause. And yet it does seem that as good a thing as raising children well is, the reasons for marriage should start with the man and woman entering into it.
The second is not just silly but actually blasphemous. Marriage is God's purpose, he created them male and female and so forth. God's purpose for human beings is that we leave our parents to cleave to another. To reduce that sacred and noble project to "get married so you don't fornicate" is obscene.
And what is it about marriage that stops you from fornicating?
The Canadian Prayer-Book replaces the first with:
Matrimony was ordained for the hallowing of the union betwixt man and woman ...I suppose so but it seems to me that God has already done that. When you are before God's priest waiting to make your vows the important question is not whether marriage will hallow your relationship but whether you are serious, mature and prepared enough to enter into this hallowed state.
By the way, as someone is sure to bring it up, no, Saint Paul did not say this. He said it is better to marry than to burn. And he said this in a particular context. Paul thought the second coming was coming any day, a factor that would make marriage a secondary consideration, but he told those who felt they could not live without it to go ahead with easy consciences. How that thought gets translated into reason #2 above is a mystery to me.
The third is apparently an addition by Archbishop Cramner. It seems inoffensive as far as it goes. But, how exactly does marriage make this possible in a way that wouldn't be available without marriage?
All in all, a pretty poor showing. No wonder Waugh felt free to mock it.
No, I don't have a better idea ready to go. If I were to undertake the thing, however, I'd start not with the union but the vows and reasons we might make vows before God.