Dear Rev. Know-it-all,
I heard you say that the state may one day demand that the church marry same sex couples. Well, the Catholic Church says that a man and a woman marry each other and it's not a marriage if it isn't one man and one woman. So, wouldn't that be our argument???
I promised myself that I would drop the topic of marital and connubial strangeness because I am so sick of the whole thing and there’s no way to convince these people anyway, but just today I heard that the glorious state of Illinois, led by the devout Catholic governor, Pat Quinn, and adding another feather to its cap, has just approved same-sex marriage. I mention this simply because a state one-third of whose population calls itself Catholic could not care less about what the Church teaches about sexual morality and family life. Though not a Catholic, Senator Mark Kirk, one of Illinois’ two voices in the national senate was recently asked, “Who came first, God or country?” He immediately said “Country!” I don’t think he represents the bulk of Catholic Illinois in this sentiment. I suspect that many of the Catholics in Illinois when asked who comes first, God or country, would respond, “Neither. I come first!”
Illinois, the 9th most Catholic state in the good old US of A joins those other Catholic states like Massachusetts (½ Catholic), in declaring same sex marriage legal. When you say that the Catholic Church defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, and that should be enough, why should the state pay attention to the Catholic Church when Catholics pay no attention to her? They will lose no votes in defying the teaching of an outdated and impotent religious group. Catholics divorce and abort at the same rate as non-Catholics and I suspect that they are more favorable to same sex marriage than non-Catholics because of the triumphs of progressive Catholic education over the past forty years.
I once wrote that only 24 percent of Catholics believed in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist. Someone corrected me saying, “Oh, no, Father, 100 percent of Catholics believe in the Real Presence.” The respondent’s point was that if you refuse to believe in the Real Presence, you are not a Catholic. One may have doubts and questions, but to believe means to trust. We trust what the Church teaches. Herein lays the problem. Not many people trust the Church. It is very common for people in our times to say that they are spiritual but not religious, or that they are Christians and believe in God just not in organized churches. Fine — let them follow Jesus alone, who defined marriage when He said, “…for this a man leaves his mother and father and clings to his wife and the two become one flesh.” (Mark 10:7) Jesus says in no uncertain terms that marriage is the coming together of a man and a woman in one flesh. And what is that one flesh? Is it not the children to whom they give life? In that child’s flesh two people literally become one flesh. This is clearly Jesus vision for marriage: mom, dad, and the kids.
If you claim to be the follower of Christ in any sense you must believe this. You can’t be disciple of a rabbi, much less a rabbi who is the Son of God, if you say, “I believe all He says, except that business about marriage.” So I paraphrase what was said to me. “100 percent of Christians -- and of course Catholics -- believe that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman that is open to the possibility of children.” It’s just fine with me if you want to marry your flat screen TV, or your sports car or your Uncle Fritz. The problem is that the One for whom I work, whom I worship and for whom I may someday have to die, disagrees with you. And unless you rose from the dead and can promise eternal life I’m sticking with Jesus. As far as I’m concerned, He’s a much better bet than the governor of Illinois.
We Catholics have to admit that we lost the battle sometime in the late 1960's when we decided, despite two thousand years of consistent teaching, that families were not the purpose of marriage. The pope wrote an encyclical “Humanae Vitae” which reminded us that the intimacy of man and woman was inseparably bound up with the life of the family. Malcolm Muggeridge, author of “Something Beautiful for God”, a life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, converted in his 80's from agnosticism to Catholicism. He said that the decision in the 20th century of which the Catholic Church would be proudest would be her decision to reject artificial birth control, because artificial birth control would divorce erotic love from family life. And so it has come to pass.
Artificial birth control meant that a man and woman could enjoy intimacy without sacrifice. In times past there was danger in sexual intimacy, for a man, because he risked becoming responsible for the care of his offspring. The danger was even greater for women who before antibiotics risked death every time they gave themselves to a man in intimacy. The passion and intensity of Erotic Love was once so great that man and woman would risk a great deal for its sake, and if they did things right that intensity of love spilled over into an absolute devotion to their children. Now it has been replaced with casual sex that can be free of any real risk or sacrifice.
Children are not the natural outcome of intimacy anymore. They can be prevented or if need be killed in the womb. Fidelity is optional because divorce is the norm. The few children that our marriages produce command no real loyalty. It is common to meet children now who have never met their fathers. Faithfulness to spouse and family are entirely optional. We have no passion for our spouses and no passion for our children. It has come to pass as Mr. Muggeridge said.
Two men or two women can pretend to marital love, but they cannot achieve it. Why? Their physical relationship is absolutely closed to family life. If they can convince some stranger to collaborate in the production of children, the child born will never be the reflection of the beloved. Even opposite sex couples who cannot have children participate in family life by their openness to children. By their faithfulness and self sacrifice they strengthen the bonds by which societies are made whole. A same-sex couple BY ITS NATURE cannot be the cause of intense and passionate family life.
I remember my mother, an old woman standing by the coffin of her husband, my father. He had been the love of her life since college, almost 50 years before. She touched the cold dead hand in the coffin and then quietly took my brother John’s warm and living hand. She held the flesh that the two had become and was consoled. “For this a man leaves his mother and father and clings to his wife and the two become one flesh.”
We live in a world of convoluted relationships, in which the few children we have are more often than not reminders of failed relationships. We love them but they are not the one flesh that a man and woman can become. What was the strength of Christian civilization has become the failure of enlightenment defiance. We decided that we were the masters of nature and so have come to be unnatural. And that is the strongest argument I know against same-sex marriage.