In today’s second reading, the Apostle John tells us in such simple language the greatest of truths: God is love. This reminds me of something the late Cardinal Basil Hume, O.S.B., archbishop of Westminster, England, wrote. He said that every experience of love—even love between two men and two women—is an experience of God, for God is love. However, not every expression of love is godly.
This is good to keep in mind as we consider the growing movement to promote acceptance of same-sex “marriage”, endorsed this week by Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic, and then by President Barack Obama.
The Catholic Church is very clear in its teaching that the word “marriage” has a specific meaning. It is a covenant between one man and one woman, made before God and the community, to live together in faithful monogamy thus forming the basic cell of society, the family, into which children might be born and reared.
Jesus endorsed this concept when he said, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (Matthew 19: 4-6) The Church’s understanding of sexuality in marriage, based upon God’s revelation and the Natural Law, is that it must be unitive and procreative, at least in potentia.
While members of the same sex can indeed enter into the unitive dimension of lovemaking, it is impossible for them to fulfill, even potentially, the procreative aspect of this great gift in their congress. “Aha!” advocates of same-sex “marriage” will say. “By that line of reasoning, you should not allow sterile people, or older women who have passed their child-bearing years, to marry then.” This is a flawed objection because such persons can and will engage in the conjugal acts which, under optimal conditions, could lead to co-creating, with God, new life.
To call other relationships, which lack this essential component, “marriages” does an injustice to not only the word but to the institution itself. If any relationship can be called a “marriage” then the specialness of marriage is lost.
Some might object by saying that it is strictly an arbitrary social construct that demands that the partners in marriage be of opposite sexes. If that were the case, then it would be unavoidable to conclude that the number of partners is also arbitrary.
This would open a Pandora’s box of not only polygamous marriages, but even of polyamorous marriages. (It is important to note that, in societies that do allow polygamy, each marriage is still a relationship between one man and one woman; the spouses are not all married to each other.)
Many, basing their arguments strictly on feelings and emotions, argue that people should be free to marry based upon whom they love, but this, too, would lead to chaos. On what grounds would society be able to say that parents should not marry their children, or siblings should not be able to marry each other, if the only criterion were love?
Millennia of human history enhanced by many streams of religious thought have taught us that the traditional definition of “marriage” works best for the common good.
Do traditional marriages fail while monogamous same-sex relationships thrive and prosper? Ofcourse they do but that’s no argument to change the definition of marriage. Rather, it is an argument for strengthening marriages.
Is this treating homosexuals as less than equal? I do not think so. After all, gay men and Lesbians have always had the right and option to marry according to the traditional definition of marriage, but because of their sexual orientation, they are disinclined to marry someone of the opposite sex. This is completely understandable.
What maintaining the traditional definition of marriage does accomplish is the social recognition that heterosexual relationships and homosexual relationships are not the same. But heterosexuals and homosexuals are indeed equal.
What we, as a society, must work on is the promotion of equality without reducing it to “sameness.”Our Church is in the lead in this endeavor. While advocates of same-sex “marriage” are predominantly concerned with what redefining “marriage” can do for the good of same-sex couples, the Church is concerned with what is best for the common good.
Pax et Bonum,
Fr. Gregory Coiro, O.F.M.Cap.