The Supreme Court’s recent rendering on same-sex marriage continues to be met with mixed emotions. Many feel this was the correct decision since those who practice a same-sex lifestyle should be entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals. Others feel that the institution of marriage was dealt, yet another, critical blow. Regardless of one’s position, one has to wonder: How could anyone decide who has a right to marry without adequately and honestly (not to mention, objectively) reflecting on the true purpose and meaning of marriage from its beginnings? I recently read an article, entitled The Married Lifestyle, written by Fr. Gabriel Torretta, OP that caused me to do just that.
It is no surprise that marriage has been dismantled over time (especially during the last century) through such events as the institution of no-fault divorce, artificial contraception (and its promotion thereof), and the legalization of abortion. These were due, in part, to personal convictions, reinforced by a sense of entitlement (“I have a ‘right’ to it”). Yet, each of these was contrary to the immutable truth that first existed within marriage, and the human family, from its inception. It is as if marriage had been slowly, and intentionally, dissected and reduced to the lowest common denominator so that, eventually, anyone could participate. However, marriage was never expected to descend to a manipulative level.
Marriage was meant to remain in its proper place—above us—so that we would have to rise up to meet it, and continue maintaining its integrity and proper place within society. It was meant to be a life-long commitment, lived out in a faithful and fruitful manner. Furthermore, children were never to become commodities. Whether conceived naturally or adopted, they were always a blessing, and no one had a “right” to have them (just as they never had the right to disregard them). They have always held significance in the loving union between the husband and wife, who, through their total gift of self, devote themselves completely to the task of procreating and educating said children.
The conjugal act within the marital bond has always demonstrated an essential quality to the nobility of marriage, as has raising a family (and within the Church, continues to strengthen this vocation as a sacrament of service.) Marriage was never conceived to be simply a “lifestyle choice,” where children could be manufactured, if wanted (or destroyed, if not), and intentionally deprived of either parent.
The Supreme Court’s decision seems to imply that the majority chose to overlook the original, and long-standing, purpose of marriage. Instead, they concentrated on the more recent course of events that have succeeded in undermining this institution, reducing it to a lifestyle. Marriage now can be easily accessible by any two consenting individuals. The true essence of marriage has been replaced by a more progressive approach, which ignores history and tradition, and wants to appeal to the demand for equal rights.
Let us ask ourselves, what is meant by “equal rights” when it comes to marriage? What is expected of couples who marry, and can two people of the same gender fulfill this?
Based on the current understanding of marriage, one could say that almost anyone could get married and live it out. However, if we examine marriage from the beginning, we find that it was to be cherished as a distinct human relationship. This implies that not everyone was expected to enter into it; even if he or she wanted to (or believed had a right to). As we know, specific qualities essential to marriage, which were not based on divisive tactics, but on objective truth regarding its purpose and understanding, would not have permitted it.
There is equality among all people, but this equality is not based on sameness. We are unique individuals, and although we bear the mark of our Creator, and possess inherent dignity, this does not entitle us to whatever we want. Finally, marriage was not created for matters of convenience (regardless of who enters into it), but for something more. Those called to live this out have their work cut out for them. Unfortunately, this reality was not always revered, and we are now experiencing the consequences.
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