In the Sixties and Seventies, marriage was dismissed as ‘just a piece of paper’ - and from that point on everything conspired to reduce its significance to precisely that.
Because it requires people to act unselfishly, marriage is intrinsically vulnerable. So it needs to be shored up and protected by a web of formal and informal laws, conventions and attitudes — not least disapproval of those who flout its core principles of faithfulness and chastity.
But for more than five decades, those laws and conventions have been systematically eroded or destroyed.
The courts removed the concept of fault from divorce and thus emptied marriage of duty and accountability, causing the rate of divorce to shoot up.
All the informal attitudes protecting marriage — taboos against sex outside marriage, illegitimacy, cohabitation — were similarly struck down on the basis that nothing should interfere with the individual’s ‘right’ to do whatever he or she pleased.
With its spiritual and emotional meaning so undermined, marriage became reduced to little more than a contract of expediency.
And it is so much more than that.