What We Should Already Know

I had not intended to weigh in on the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. For the life of me I could not understand all the hullabaloo. I saw no reason to expect anything else from them, and indeed was quite surprised that it was as close as it was.

I don’t understand the Christians who act shocked and self-righteous. “How dare the Supreme Court undermine the values that we hold dear!” Please! We as a nation have not held dear any value undermined by this decision in a very long time.

I don’t understand Catholics wondering, “What shall we do now?” Or expecting the reign of terror and warning everyone to run for the hills. Why should their be any question what to do now? The Church is as clear as she has ever been both on what marriage is, what it is for, and who can engage in it. She is equally clear on how Catholics are to treat all people, regardless of their beliefs, sins, disabilities, political views or sexual choices. Neither marrying homosexuals nor bashing them is an option. I didn’t realize that there was anything to discuss.

It wasn’t until I talked it over with Kathleen that I realized that maybe I see it a little differently than other people. She was the one who suggested that I blog about it, so here goes.

Could either of these women articulate a clear, concise definition of marriage? If they could would they be talking about the same thing? Could either of these women articulate a clear, concise definition of marriage? If they could would they be talking about the same thing?

Here is the truth of the matter. When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage and the Catholic Church declared same-sex marriage impossible, they were quite simply talking about two different thing. Like the two old ladies that G. K. Chesterton saw yelling back and forth from third story windows across the street, the Church and SCOTUS will never agree because they are arguing from different premises.

To be clear, the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1601).

You will notice the elements of matrimony are:

  • It is a covenant (exchange of persons)
  • A partnership of the whole life (indissoluble)
  • Ordered towards the good of the spouses (mutual love and growth in holiness)
  • Ordered towards… the procreation and education of children (there has to be sex, and it has to be at least open to life).

This concept of marriage is not let me repeat not at issue here. This has not been extended to homosexuals because it can’t. Furthermore, it was never even under discussion (except obliquely in some of the dissenting remarks) because we as a society have not believed in that vision of marriage in more than half a century.

In our society marriage is:

  • A legal contract (exchange of goods and services)
  • That can be dissolved at any time by either partner for any reason (no fault divorce)
  • Should be good for both spouses (meaning they should be happy with each other and have a good sex life)
  • Children are optional, but it is not considered in good taste to have more than three.

You can see that the only thing it has in common with Catholic Matrimony is some vague idea that it should be good for both partners, and that they should be having sex.

And let’s be clear about one more thing before we move on. It was not the LBGT lobby that destroyed the widespread Catholic vision. It was normal, average, straight, married Catholics and the clergy that aided and abetted. You remember the old song, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Johnny with a baby carriage.” That is a Catholic vision of marriage. When Catholics started using contraception they broke that vision. Children are still an option, but they are not considered part of the fundamental reason for marriage. They are more like a perk that may or may not be your thing.

Then no fault divorce came in. Once again, it was the straight, white-wedding, church wedded couples that were divorcing. We cannot blame the LBGT movement for that either. What is more we continue to destroy our credibility when we divorce, when we act like children are a nuisance to be avoided, or an  event to be tightly controlled and carefully timed. My friends, we are our own worst enemies here.

If marriage is not insoluble, and marriage is not for the purpose of making babies and raising them into adults, then what is it? It can only be about companionship. Really it’s just two (or three or four) people who like each other and are having sex with each other. They want to go on liking each other and having sex with each other as long as it makes them both happy enough to ignore the bad breath. Somehow, such is human nature, when you like someone and have sex with them long enough, you want everyone to recognize that.

That is all modern American marriage is. It is having a party and getting a certificate to say “we like each other and plan to have sex.” Of course it comes with certain legal and social benefits, but it is not at all the same as Catholic matrimony.

This seems totally obvious to me, that what we are talking about are two completely different things. When Kathleen and I got married we got a state marriage license. We didn’t do that so that we would be validly married in the eyes of God. We did it so that we could properly support the state’s vested interest in keeping track of who is having babies with whom, and who is living in whose house on whose paycheck and insurance card. Getting a state marriage certificate is as prosaic and practical as the guy I knew who got married to his live-in girl friend a month before an Afghanistan rotation. They were already living together, had been faithful and committed to each other for years. The only thing it changed was their legal standing, and family separation pay ($250 per month) for fifteen months.

The reality of our marriage occurred within the context of our nuptial Mass, and in our consummation of that sacrament. The government has absolutely zero to say on that subject. It is utterly the realm of the Church and the spouses and God.

This moment from our wedding had nothing to do with the government. This moment from our wedding had nothing to do with the government.

It is this distinction that guides my thoughts on the subject. No, the Church cannot extend matrimony to LBGT unions because they are not capable of procreation and procreation is one of the two major ends of Catholic marriage. That is all there is to say on that topic.

The state can extend its own version of marriage (survivor benefits, insurance plans, etc.) to whoever it wants to. It may be a short-sighted policy, and the way they went about it was certainly all wrong (stop me if I am wrong, but doesn’t the law of the land come from the legislature?) but we cannot say it was unexpected or inconsistent.

Homosexual people are people. Again, there really should be no confusion on how we are to treat them. If you have homosexual friends, stay friends with them. Continue to love and support them, hang out with them, watch movies, discuss sports, whatever it is you do with any other friend. Pray for them. They are not married, but most likely you probably know a few straight couples who are living together outside of wedlock. Speak the truth in love, explain why you cannot consider them married and cannot treat them as such (because marriage means something totally different to you as a Catholic than it does to them as non-Catholics or non-practicing-Catholics). Ask them to respect your views as you respect theirs. Of course they are absolutely free to disagree.

By the same token, I don’t see why we should be surprised when friends and family do not understand our insistence on the truth. Since when has the truth been popular? Not only that but the LGBT movement has an incredibly successful propaganda machine (i.e. the American liberal media) at their beck and call. Their message gets out. Only the most distorted and grotesquely caricatured version of ours gets anything like the same level of exposure. Jesus said there’d be days like this:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” Matthew 10: 34-36

Kathleen pointed out that the big stew that most Christians are concerned about is the potential for persecution. Now that it is legal it is not at all far-fetched for gay couples to expect a Catholic priest to marry them in a Catholic church. When this doesn’t happen, legal battles will ensue. In our current cultural climate, we are likely to end up on the losing end of those.

I acknowledge the possibility. I go further. I accept the inevitability. This is the problem with losing the long historical view of Christianity. We are a persecuted Church. That is our job in the world, in a very real sense, to be sacrificial victims for the rest of humanity. Our problem is that we in America have gone complacent. We are so used to having religious freedom that we cannot imagine it any other way. What can we do if the government takes away our right to practice our faith?

Let's never forget where we came from. St. Stephen, the First Martyr by Dom Prosper Gueranger, 1870 Let’s never forget where we came from. St. Stephen, the First Martyr by Dom Prosper Gueranger, 1870

Well, first thing is to realize that the government cannot take away that right, because the government didn’t grant it. The Constitution does not grant rights, it recognizes them. We are fortunate that our country recognizes our right to practice our faith. Many countries don’t. Historically most countries haven’t. All efforts to ensure that our country continues to recognize that right should continue, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. We have not only a right, but a responsibility to worship God, and to obey His law, and whether the government recognizes that right or not, our task is still the same. Even if we are sued, publicly condemned, branded hate-mongers, get our houses egged, our windows smashed, lose our jobs or get thrown in jail, we cannot recognize what doesn’t exist (i.e. homosexual matrimony) and we cannot badmouth our brothers and sisters. On this Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul it is appropriate to remember Peter’s words:

“Beloved, rejoice in the measure that you share Christ’s sufferings. When his glory is revealed, you will rejoice exultantly. Happy are you when you are insulted for the sake of Christ, for then God’s Spirit in its glory has come to rest on you.” 1 Peter 4:13-14.

To that end I suggest the following courses of action:

  • Pray, especially the Rosary, every single day in reparation for our own sins and those of our country.
  • Fast from at least one meal once a week, in reparation for our sins of impurity
  • Live out the true vocation to marriage if you are married (if you are not married, consider becoming so) in such a way as to inspire imitators.
  • Rejoice. Be not afraid. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in Jesus that He has conquered and that whether He means us to live or to die, He will be Our Good Lord.

What do you think? Join the discussion.

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