Humpty Dumpty’s Wedding

Connecting with people you’d like to have known is a nice hobby, and I can claim to be just three handshakes from Abraham Lincoln and, remarkably, only five documented handshakes from George Washington, which is rare since as president he preferred to bow.  Recently at the opera during an intermission of “Turandot,” I put several grateful people three handshakes from Puccini.  Alas, a manager of a sporting goods store near Grand Central Terminal was unmoved when I told him that he was now four handshakes from Felix Mendelssohn.  Just two handshakes from the Alice of Wonderland, I spent many hours in the rooms she knew when her father was dean of the college where I studied and where Charles Dodgson wrote the stories for her under his pen name Lewis Carroll.  Alice Liddell, later Mrs. Reginald Hargreaves, died in 1934 at the age of 82, two years after she visited New York to receive an honorary degree from Columbia University.  It was the centenary of the birth of Carroll and so the degree was something of an oblique tribute to him who was also a distinguished mathematician and invented the “Dodgson condensation” which  is a method of computing the determinants of square matrices. His book on that subject was never made into a film.

While in New York, Alice met Peter Pan, that is, Peter Llewelyn Davies on whom J. M. Barrie based his book.  Queen Elizabeth II has spoken fondly of Barrie reading his stories to her and her sister when they were the young princesses of the Duke of York.  As I figure it, the honor of her extended gloved hand a few years ago set me three handshakes from Peter Pan, the same degree of separation, or rather connection, one has through the Alice line. In real life, Alice’s was not without disenchantments.  Her husband, a well-known cricketer, never recovered from the shock of losing two of their sons in World War I and, in reduced circumstances, Alice had to sell some of her books. As for Peter Pan, he threw himself under a train in London in 1960.

Lest I seem to be wandering, I should make a point and it is this:  one of Alice’s favorite characters in the stories was Humpty Dumpty whose logic served as something of a political satire through the pen of Dodgson, a logician as well as a mathematician and theologian.  He did not invent the name Humpty Dumpty, for that probably was what they called a cannon used in the 1648 siege of Colchester during the English Civil War, and it later became the anthropomorphic egg of nursery rhymes.  All the King’s horses and all the King’s men unable to put the cannon together again after the Roundheads had knocked it off a defense wall, were those of Charles I. That sounds likely to me at any rate.  But Alice’s author made Humpty Dumpty immortal in Through the Looking Glass. Humpty Dumpty boasted: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”   “The question is, said Alice, whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is, said Humpty Dumpty, which is to be master—that’s all.”

That is the question, and one on which the future of our civilization must hang its hat.  When the State tries to establish an imperium over nature itself, it vandalizes all sane instinct and abdicates its duty to promote the tranquility of order by tranquilizing it.  The carnage both physical and moral issuing from  the disastrous legalization of the destruction of unborn children proves that.  Now its dismal postlude sounds in shrill attempts to “redefine” marriage.” So far, eleven countries have done it, along with nine of our own states and our nation’s capital.  In Paris, close to a million public demonstrators have opposed the attempt of France’s Socialist president to play Master of the Universe, or at least Master of its Universal Laws.  It should be obvious to all except the dense and the willfully ignorant, that the next step will be to attack the Church through civil penalties for refusing to accept the authority of the State to invert the natural order of which the State is only a steward.

Pope Benedict XVI gave all this priority in his address to the Roman Curia on December 21, 2012, widely ignored by the major American media which seem jealous of their cohabitation with the present government. He established some sort of precedent by quoting a rabbinical voice not from first century Galilee, that of the Chief Rabbi of France,  Gilles Bernheim of la Victoire synagogue in Paris, and husband of a psychoanalyst.

[I]f there is no pre-ordained duality of man and women in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation.  Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him.  Rabbi Bernheim  shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of right, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain.  When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being.

As the State did not invent marriage, neither did the Church.  But Christ transformed marriage as he did baptism, building upon its nature by investing it with supernatural graces to represent the indissoluble love of the Bridegroom for his Bride the Church.  The natural fecundity of the marriage bond is mocked by substituting for it a  disorder intrinsically infecund.  Our Lord’s miracle at a wedding, the first of the seven Johannine miracles,  brings to a potency  in the spiritual order the seven acts of creation in the physical order.  Trying to redefine marriage by human fiat is to pretend that man is creator and not procreator. This old and regressive conceit began with the first lie in Eden: “You will be like God.”  At the wedding in Cana, Christ’s mother said, “Whatever my son says to do, do it.”  We are free not to do what he says. We are free even to play Humpty Dumpty with nature, only asking which is to be master of words instead of acknowledging the Word as Master.  But when the social order has a great fall in consequence, all the politicians will not be able to put it back together again.

Fr. George W. Rutler


Fr. George W. Rutler is pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City. He is the author of many books including Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943 (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press) and Hints of Heaven (Sophia Institute Press). His latest books are He Spoke To Us (Ignatius, 2016) and The Stories of Hymns (EWTN Publishing, 2017).

  • Ford Oxaal

    And there is no where to hide, so you may as well go all in for Christ. No-fault divorce (the nullification of marriage) was the final decimation of the very foundation of society. Now comes Moloch, peeling off his mask, having gained much strength from the slaughter of the innocents, American style (massive, efficient, sanitized). The jeering and mocking now begin in earnest, the prancing on the grave of marriage. Soon will be the carrying of the cross — as liberty decays to license, so license decays to tyranny. If you renounce Moloch and his worshipers, now is the year to show up for the March for Life — the 40th ‘anniversary’ of the Roe v. Wade monstrosity. Why not? You really have nothing left to lose, except perhaps your creature comforts. As has been said (Woody Allen?), “Eighty percent of life is showing up”. Poland came back from the dead, and so can we.

    • musicacre

      You really covered it; we must now be frank with those who support good, just as the evil has taken off the gloves. A lot of people seem to live out their so-called belief as a spectator, not realizing that goodness and truth and beauty will not be preserved unless fought for. If they don’t rise up now, they will forever be thrown down!

      I live on the West coast of Canada, but I will pray for all those marching in Washington! (Many Canadians will be there too.)

      • Ford Oxaal

        Sorry you can’t be there in person — St. Anthony would probably have us bump into each other. Prayer is of course the front line of combat — see you in the spiritual plane!

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  • Sophie

    Rev. Rutler: Nearly a million protestors at the “Manif pour tous” in Paris last Sunday? N’exagérons pas! On Tuesday, the Préfecture de Police said “pas possible!” They issued a communiqué saying the number was “340 participants, non plus!” The Parisian police are unsurpassed by any police force in the world at counting demonstrators, for reasons that you can well imagine.

    Your claim that François Hollande is attempting to be Master of the Universe is another gross exaggeration. Most French people now support legalization of same-sex marriage, and last week’s demonstrations should not obscure that fact. Hollande’s government is proceeding with its “projet de loi” on SSM.

    Third exaggeration: Neither Hollande nor the French government intend to “attack the Church.” Marriage is a civil matter in France, and it is regulated entirely by the state. In what way do you imagine the Church will face civil penalties?

    I like your Humpty-Dumpty story but would now like to turn it to my own advantage. Francis Cardinal George recently wrote an article about same-sex marriage in which he stated that it was “an impossibility.” This view betrays an ideological rigidity that does not even take linguistic realities into account. The fact of the matter is, word meanings do change. All the time. No single individual can change them, but changes do somehow mysterious take hold in societies. Merriam-Websters already includes the expanded definition of marriage, and the words “same-sex” are used to modify the word “marriage” in the legal statutes of 9 states and 11 countries. “Marriage” now has two varieties. So maybe Cardinal Francis George is the one trying to make words mean anything HE decides they will mean.

    • Sophie

      Please add three zeros to the number 340 in the first paragraph. (You exaggerated up, I exaggerated down!)

    • Ford Oxaal

      There would be no hue and cry for this silly nonsense were it not for readily available divorce. Marriage has been eviscerated, and the family is no longer well-served by the state. So the whole thing is a joke. This is a tap dance on the grave of marriage, a jest. Because family well-being is the purpose of society, a greater farce cannot be imagined.

      • Ford, I’m afraid I do not regard same-sex marriage as “silly nonsense.” I take it very seriously and believe it is a very positive and healthy development, not just for gays and lesbians but for all of us.

        • Ford Oxaal

          But there is no state sanctioned marriage that can be taken seriously without an enforceable lifelong contract. “Until death do us part.” So this is all a state sanctioned charade — a “feel gooder”. It really has nothing to do with serious marriage. It’s make-believe marriage for the sake of the consenting ‘adults’. Serious marriage is about the conceiving and raising of children for the propagation of society, and is therefore lifelong.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour


      Of course words change their meanings and, sometimes, as Wittgenstein argued in the Philosophical Investigations, there is no reason to look, as we have done traditionally—and dogmatically—for one, essential core in which the meaning of a word is located and which is, therefore, common to all uses of that word. We should, instead, travel with the word’s uses through “a complicated network of similarities, overlapping and criss-crossing” [Philosophical Investigations 66]

      However, if we ask ourselves how the word “marriage” is used in our civil codes, the meaning is limited by its context. This comes out very clearly, when citizens of one country, say Algeria, enter into a marriage there that is actually or potentially polygamous and then come to settle in France, where marriage is strictly monogamous. The courts have had to ask themselves whether the relationship between a man and the ladies living under his protection in a polygamous union is sufficiently analogous to the relationship of husband and wife as described in the Code Civil to make it just to apply the same rules to them. Otherwise, there is a real danger of the courts creating obligations, rather than enforcing them.

      No jurist has suggested there is an easy answer to this.

      • Michael, what you have written is very interesting. It’s a very good point that you make about the changing meaning of “marriage” as one travels from Algeria to France. The Algerian polygamist would probably not take kindly to being told by the French government that he is not “married.” Words are important to people and wars have been started over them. Currently in the U.S. and Europe, there seems to be a tug-o’-war going on over the term “marriage.”

        I think the expanded meaning of marriage has already gotten a firm foothold in our various languages and that there’s no turning back. The President of the Southern Baptist Convention recognized this not long ago, as have, apparently, most Catholics.

        Opponents of same-sex marriage tend to see vast differences between it and traditional marriage–differences so vast, in fact, that the word “marriage” cannot be applied to both. I don’t believe these differences are nearly as important as opponents think they are, however. Moreover, I think we all have a much better chance of getting along and cooperating on the really pressing problems of our times if we focus on the similarities, not the differences.

        • John

          “I think the expanded meaning of marriage has already gotten a firm
          foothold in our various languages and that there’s no turning back. The
          President of the Southern Baptist Convention recognized this not long
          ago, as have, apparently, most Catholics.”

          Sophie, even if “most Catholics” recognized this allegedly obvious truth, it would not change the fact that marriage is not possible for anyone other than one man and one woman. Christian teaching is not a majority-rules game, nor is the definition of marriage. Marriage existed before the Church and the State, and no government, elected official or legislature has the competence or the authority to alter it. It is what it is. I believe it was Chesterton who said “Right is Right even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong even if everybody is wrong about it.”

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            To quote the Catholic Encyclopaedia, “Polygamy (many marriages) or, more correctly, polygyny (many wives) has been, and is still much more common than polyandry. It existed among most of the ancient peoples known to history, and occurs at present in some civilized nations as in the majority of savage tribes. About the only important peoples of ancient times that showed little or no traces of it were the Greeks and the Romans.”

            The Council of Trent refrained from declaring polygamy against natural law: “If anyone says it is lawful for Christians to have several wives at the same time, and that it is not forbidden by any divine law, let him be anathema.” The cautious language reflects a difference of opinion amongst theologians that the Council did not resolve.

    • John

      “Merriam-Websters already includes the expanded definition of marriage,
      and the words “same-sex” are used to modify the word “marriage” in the
      legal statutes of 9 states and 11 countries. “Marriage” now has two

      Sophie, this is exactly what Fr. Rutler is saying. Adding a new definition of something to a dictionary or legal code does not change what that thing IS. We can call something whatever we like, but it doesn’t change the nature of the thing. Far from proving Fr. Rutler wrong, your objection precisely upholds what he’s saying.

  • Bill Russell

    Paris, France, Jan 14, 2013 / 10:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).-

    Over one million people reportedly took to the streets in France on
    Jan. 13 in opposition to President Francois Hollande’s “marriage for
    all” proposal.

    Figures show between 1.3 and 1.5 million protested against their
    president’s plans to pass same-sex marriage, according Bruno Dary, the
    former military governor of the city of Paris. Numbers from other media
    outlets range from an estimated 340,000 to 800,000 attendees.

    “It was a kind of a tsunami,” participant Catherine Vierling said of Sunday’s demonstration.

    “There was a peaceful and joyful feeling combined with an intense, strong power,” she added.

    Vierling told CNA that Champs de Mars, a large park next to the Eiffel
    Tower, was so packed that according to the city of Paris, police had to
    escort buses that were stuck in traffic

    Demonstrators included wide range of participants, many with no
    reported religious affiliation. Numerous gay individuals took part in
    the event, with slogans including “We’re more gay without marriage.”

    Attendees also included French gay city mayor, Jean Marc, who is
    outspokenly opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage, as well as
    members from the organization HOMOVOX, which stands for “one voice for

    • Bill, the high estimate is of course for France as a whole, but the numbers for Paris are still 380,000 (max.) according to the Préfecture. It turns out that many people in the demonstration could not explain the slogans on the signs they were carrying and had only a sketchy understanding of the issues involved. There were three major misconceptions:

      First, they believed that every homosexual couple under the new law would have a “droit à l’enfant,” or “right to a child,” as if being married would “entitle” them to a child through adoption. This will of course be no more true of gay couples than straight ones. Every couple will have to qualify on its own merits.

      Second, they claimed to be advocating for the “droit de l’enfant”–the right of every child to have a mother and father. But there is not and never has been any statute guaranteeing a child this right. Nothing will change under the new law.

      Third, they claimed that homosexual couples cannot make good parents. This is of course untrue, and their slogans to that effect did not stand up under scrutiny.

      Yes, there were homosexuals in the protest, and I’m not sure at this point what their thinking was. Certainly, the largest gay organization in France, SOS-Homophobie, was not in solidarity with HOMOVOX. In the U.S., most Catholics seem to be just fine with gay marriage, so these cross-filiations shouldn’t surprise us. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

      • John

        “In the U.S., most Catholics seem to be just fine with gay marriage, so these cross-filiations shouldn’t surprise us.”

        Again, it doesn’t matter what “most Catholics” in the US may or may not believe at the moment about this. If most Americans approved of torture, would that make torture right? This business about majority beliefs distracts from the real matter at hand: what marriage is and what it’s not.

  • Bill Russell

    Can’t fool Mother Nature:

    In a historic study of children raised by homosexual parents,
    sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin has
    overturned the conventional academic wisdom that such children suffer no
    disadvantages when compared to children raised by their married mother
    and father. Just published in the journal Social Science Research,
    the most careful, rigorous, and methodologically sound study ever
    conducted on this issue found numerous and significant differences
    between these groups–with the outcomes for children of homosexuals
    rated “suboptimal” (Regnerus’ word) in almost every category.

    There are eight outcome variables where differences between the
    children of homosexual parents and married parents were not only
    present, and favorable to the married parents, but where these findings
    were statistically significant for both children of lesbian mothers and “gay” fathers and both with
    and without controls. While all the findings in the study are
    important, these are the strongest possible ones–virtually irrefutable.
    Compared with children raised by their married biological parents
    (IBF), children of homosexual parents (LM and GF):

    Are much more likely to have received welfare (IBF 17%; LM 69%; GF 57%)

    Have lower educational attainment

    Report less safety and security in their family of origin

    Report more ongoing “negative impact” from their family of origin

    Are more likely to suffer from depression

    Have been arrested more often

    If they are female, have had more sexual partners–both male and female

    The high mathematical standard of “statistical significance” was more
    difficult to reach for the children of “gay fathers” in this study
    because there were fewer of them. The following, however, are some
    additional areas in which the children of lesbian mothers (who
    represented 71% of all the children with homosexual parents in this
    study) differed from the IBF children, in ways that were statistically
    significant in both a direct comparison and with controls. Children of
    lesbian mothers:

    Are more likely to be currently cohabiting

    Are almost 4 times more likely to be currently on public assistance

    Are less likely to be currently employed full-time

    Are more than 3 times more likely to be unemployed

    Are nearly 4 times more likely to identify as something other than entirely heterosexual

    Are 3 times as likely to have had an affair while married or cohabiting

    Are an astonishing 10 times more likely to have been “touched sexually by a parent or other adult caregiver.”

    Are nearly 4 times as likely to have been “physically forced” to have sex against their will

    Are more likely to have “attachment” problems related to the ability to depend on others

    Use marijuana more frequently

    Smoke more frequently

    Watch TV for long periods more frequently

    Have more often been convicted of a non-minor offense

    • Dremy

      Bill, you begin with the words, “Can’t fool Mother Nature.” But apparently you can be. You have been led down the garden path bigtime by Mark Regnerus’s study. The publisher’s own auditor, Darren Sherkat, concluded that the peer-review process “failed to identify significant, disqualifying problems.” I personally investigated the Regnerus study and obtained copies of his datasets. I wrote an exposé, which you can read here: I would also like to remind you that the consensus of all the major health and social welfare associations in this country has NOT CHANGED. Consensus always trumps isolated studies, especially ones like Mark Regnerus’s, which was bought and paid for by the Witherspoon Institute, where Robert P. George is a senior fellow. George is also founder of the National Organization for Marriage (this country’s largest advocacy group opposed to same-sex marriage), board member of the Family Research Council (certified as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), and author of the Manhattan Declaration, a theoconservative document advocating civil disobedient resistance to any legislation promoting same-sex marriage. Do you think there might have been a conflict of interest there? Read my article to find out.

      • Crisiseditor

        Mr. Remy, If you don’t behave yourself, I’m going to blacklist you again. You can’t keep repeating yourself over and over and expect to be tolerated, especially when your intentions are not constructive. We will only take so much abuse. You are wearing out your welcome.

        • Charles Lee

          There certainly appears to be some concerns with the Regenerus study–why would a counterpoint be considered “not constructive”?

          • Crisiseditor

            The objections raised by Mr. Remy have been addressed in articles published on this site that he either has chosen not to read or refused to acknowledge having read so that he can raise the same objections over and over in the comments section. The Regnerus study may have weaknesses, but no more so than the studies defended by Mr. Remy and his fellow “gay marriage” supporters. Furthermore, if you have been following Mr. Remy’s commenting over the last six months you will know how unconstructive the comments of an atheist gay rights agitator can be on a Catholic website.

  • Facile1

    Language is a human invention. The TRUTH is NOT.

    In Genesis 2:19, we are told “So the LORD God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each living creature was then its name.”

    Humankind’s confusion with its own nature begins with the belief that we invented God and NOT merely a word for the TRUTH (ie GOD.)

    This arrogant secular belief in the power of man’s inventive mind forms the intellectual foundation of many mistaken government policies — policies that have the power in turn to enslave its citizenry.

    As a Catholic, I believe one can only know the TRUTH by knowing GOD. TRUTH does not exist outside of GOD. When one loves the TRUTH, one cannot (will not) escape GOD.

    Until EACH human being freely chooses the TRUTH (ie GOD) to invention (ie human), the human word ‘marriage’ can mean “NOTHING at all.”

    Only one love is psychologically healthy and that is the LOVE for the TRUTH (ie GOD).

    Love GOD FIRST.

    It is only when one truly loves GOD FIRST can one put one’s love for anything else in its proper place — whether it is the love for one’s government or religion (paganism), the love for one’s countrymen or the poor (humanism), or the love for one’s own self or a sexual partner (narcissism).


    If it will make you feel any better, the Catholic Church will never be forced to offer wedding services to Gay couples, any more than they have ever been forced to offer them to Baptist or Muslim or Atheist couples. Conversely, couples do not need the approval of the Catholic Church to obtain a marriage license, nor do any of the legal benefits and protections of marriage come from the Church; they come from the government. And unless the Constitution applies only to people who are heterosexual, there’s no justification for denying law-abiding, taxpaying Gay couples the same legal benefits that Straight couples have always taken for granted.