In the 1930s, my parents had a civil marriage, but my Catholic mother did not think she was truly married if not by a priest. My non-Catholic father went along with a church wedding (but in the sacristy, not the sanctuary) by promising to raise his children as Catholic. My mother thought she had received the sacrament, but had she? Since mutual consent is the essence of marriage, one would think that the sacrament would have to be bestowed on both partners; but my non-Catholic father could not receive the sacrament. Later, when my father left and married another, my mother was told she could not remarry because she was still married to my father in the “true marriage.” When he returned to my mother, and became a Catholic, a priest performed again the sacramental marriage. Since my father’s intervening marriage was “outside the church,” it did not count. What nonsense.Wills argues that the prohibitions against full same sex matrimony are similar nonsense.
I've long argued that marriage has always been a very flexible institution subject to changing historical circumstances and to changes in people's needs and desires over time. It endures precisely because it is flexible. Marriage is not what it was 5000 years ago, 1000 years ago, or even 50 years ago. Marriage varies tremendously across cultures, even Christian marriage. And as so many others have argued, procreation is not necessarily the central reason for marriage, and that Christianity is not a fertility cult. Also, same sex marriages are not necessarily childless.
I think of Gary Wills as nothing less than fully, and loyally, Roman Catholic. I cannot see him joining (at least not willingly) the Episcopal Church as so many have suggested. I think he sees himself as a loyal opposition. However, as Wills himself must recognize, the very idea of a loyal opposition is an 18th century "modern" innovation which I seriously doubt that the current leadership in the Vatican would take seriously in its relentless reverse march back into monarchy and absolutism.