Institutional Seriousness of Marriage

June 15, 2023

One of the most powerful factors that gave solidity and stability to the traditional family was its public and institutional character. Mariano Yela states in his Prologue to José Gonzalez’s book Family Guidance and Therapy:

It used to be that, at least in the West and from Roman times, the family was above all an institution. It was constituted publicly and formally upon marriage. This was regulated by religious, ethical, legal and widespread customary norms that transcended … the criteria, sentiments, preferences and private decisions of the betrothed, although it did not necessarily exclude them. The institutional character afforded a great solidity and stability to the family. Divorce was, by and large, legally unviable or difficult and almost always the object of social disapproval. The members of a broken-up family used to consider this a failure, a stigma and a tragedy.12

The Wedding by Johann Hamza.

The idea that marriage should not be left only to the sentimental and affective whims of the betrothed prevailed until the end of the 18th century. This concept is foreign to us today. However, this contributed powerfully to the stability of families and to the common social good.

In an article of his entitled “Safeguard of Childhood”, which was published in The Family of Today, the Family of Tomorrow, Louis Roussel, scientific advisor to the National Institute of Demographic Studies in France, states:

The future spouses were not asked their opinion. Marriage was something too important for that. It was an essential strategy for the survival of the family. The decision that Joan would not marry Harry was not taken out of cruelty. Whether they loved one another or not was unimportant in relation to the primary aspect which was the continuity of the family.13

Frank Musgrove, professor of History at Manchester University, in his book The Family, Education and Society, adds:
Our modern-day system in the West of a romantic marriage is a recent curious anomaly. It is an eccentric prerequisite of the so-called advanced societies. In the past … marriage was a first class ingredient for social cohesion and for uniting the interests of conflicting social groups.… Generally speaking, when looking at marriage over a period of time, we observe that it is typically and normally a diplomatic agreement. And it is always, in a certain sense, a “marriage of state”. Its essential purpose is to establish an alliance between different social groups that are frequently opposed to one another.”14


12. Mariano Yela, Prologue to José Gonzalez’s book Family Guidance and Therapy, Editora Instituto de Ciencias del Hombre, Madrid, 1984, p.10.
13. Louis Roussel “Safeguard of Childhood” published in The Family of Today, the Family of Tomorrow No. 1-2, 1985, Paris, p. 118.
14. Frank Musgrove, The Family, Education and Society, Editora Verbo Divino, Estella (Navarra), 1975, p. 92

The Christian Institution of the Family: A Dynamic Force to Regenerate Society, by Tradition, Family, Property Association. Part II, Chapter 1, Pgs. 95-96.


Previous post:

Next post: