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One Chaste Marriage, Four Kids, and the Catholic Church

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The twin beds in my parents’ bedroom were replaced by one big one. Yet again, my younger sister asked about the rearrangement.

My mother’s brusque reply: “Your father is feeling much better!”

Yes, I suppose he was feeling better, reunited with Mom and, at long last, their union recognized for what it was.

I told this story when I delivered the eulogy at my mother’s funeral mass at Shrine of the True Cross in May 2019. I’m sure it was news to most of her many friends in the church that day. The current pastor didn’t know about her complicated marital history, and I was a little nervous about how he’d respond.

But after I sat down, he took the pulpit. “I can’t explain or excuse the things the church asked of people more than 50 years ago,” the priest said. “But it’s clear how important it was to Betty and Bill that their marriage be blessed by the church. Without judging what they went through, we can admire and appreciate their resolve and their sacrifice to enter the sanctity of marriage.”

There is still a lot I don’t understand about a celibate union, but what harm did it do? Our brood of four siblings might have been increased by a few more souls. But my parents didn’t seem to feel shortchanged, so who am I to question things. During her long years as a widow, Mom recalled, “It was what we had to do to be together. It wasn’t so bad.”


Geoffrey Leavenworth is a writer based in Austin, Texas. He is the author of four books, including the novel, “Isle of Misfortune,” and the architecture volume, “Historic Galveston.”

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