Like most clergy one of the happier parts of my job is conducting marriages. They are very fulfilling to be involved in and I always feel a certain privilege in my role as officiant. However one development which seems likely to become a part of the scene in Ireland is the pre-nuptial agreement which will it seems to me make it difficult for those of us who act on behalf of churches to continue to do so where such agreements are entered into.
Why am I so worried or what is my concern? Well it comes down to this: From a Christian perspective marriage is a covenant not a contract and there is a significant difference. A contract can be voided by mutual agreement and is based on limited liability and on distrust. A covenant cannot be broken in new circumstances and is based on unlimited responsibility and trust between the parties.
But what about divorce - does it not already undermine the covenant of marriage? I am a realist and I do believe that people should get second chances and that most marriages which end in divorce were entered into in good faith. However if on the other hand you enter into a marriage with the conditions for dissilution already discussed it seems you are 'preparing to fail' and that is a fairly hopeless and sad basis for any relationship.
So what would I do if asked to officiate at a wedding where the couple had entered into such an agreement? I think I would have to refuse, for to do otherwise seems to me dishonest and misleading. The Church wedding is not just a fancy backdrop to a civil occasion. It is something different than the civil ceremony and perhaps we need to make that clear to those who are embarking on this path in life.