Last week, the Archdiocese of St. Paul ran a news story on its website that began, “A young girl in high school dreamed of the day she would get married. Little did she know that when that day came, her groom would be none other than Christ himself.”
Last week as well, Pope Francis told his apostolic nuncios that in choosing bishops, “Be careful that they are not ambitious, that they do not seek the episcopate – volentes nolumus – and that they are married to a Church without being in constant search of another.”
Does the Catholic Church consider such relationships — a nun to Christ and a bishop to his diocese –not “real” marriages? I wouldn’t say so. They are examples of that distinctive Catholic thing theologian David Tracy calls the analogical imagination — the theological use of language to discern a harmony of meaning “in relation to the whole of reality and in particular in relation to the realities of God, the self, other selves, and the world.”
Or as the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus once put it:
The analogical imagination seeks out resemblances, similarities, correspondences, and overlapping truths between apparently disparate realities. It aims at synthesis on the far side of apparent antithesis, it aims at likeness on the far side of unlikeness. Thus human sexuality in marriage is like the union between Christ and his bride the Church.
In other words, there are, in Catholicism, marriages and marriages. And the relationships they refer to have profound metaphysical similarities one to another, even though they are far from identical.
In the USCCB’s letter condemning the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decisions, Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Cordileone write, “Marriage is the only institution that brings together a man and a woman for life, providing any child who comes from their union with the secure foundation of a mother and a father.”
Sure, guys, but in your book marriage is not only that. So what if same-sex civil marriage is not oriented toward biological procreation and achieved sacramentally in a Catholic church? Use your analogical imaginations.