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100 years ago: The new Gretna Green

11 January 2012

January 12th, 1912.

IT IS probably too much to hope that the forthcoming Report of the Marriage Law Commission, ap­pointed as it was to meet the views of the advocates of looser marriage laws, will deal with the abuses of the Registry Office. Yet clandestine unions are a danger to civil society and the State. To be married by the registrar is practically to be married in secret, for the publicity of notification required by the law is absolutely worthless. Only some peculiarly inquisitive Paul Pry would take the trouble, in a big town, to read and take note of the numerous notice forms hung up in the office to advertise approaching nuptials. . .

It is not only bigamy which is facilitated by the present lax requirements of the law, but unions within the degrees still prohibited by Statute — not infrequently that between uncle and niece — and also a number of other fraudulent “marriages” in which a foolish and ignorant woman is the dupe of some designing scoundrel. . .

He who bought [the] Church with His Blood blest and hallowed the estate of matrimony to such an excellent mystery that in it is signified and represented the union which is betwixt Christ and His Church. Therefore, it must be contracted in facie Ecclesiæ. More­over, even as a natural institution the union of husband and wife intimately concerns human society. Accordingly, the question may well present itself whether the Church can recognize as valid marriages which have been effected in a hole-and-corner manner, and with no witness but a perfunctory civil official rattling through a form. In fact, it is Gretna Green again, without the post-chaises. The thing has become an open scandal and offence. It cries for reformation.

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