With regard to gay “marriage”, here is a list of the questions I come across most often, with my brief answers:
“Why are you against gay marriage?”
It’s not that I am against gay “marriage” per se, it’s that gay “marriage” is an ontological impossibility. It’s like asking why I am against square circles. Marriage has an essence, a meaning. It has always been a certain kind of union of persons, specifically a conjugal union rooted in biology itself; it is complementary and heterosexual by its very nature. The particulars of marriage contracts have varied over time and cultures, but the essence of male/female has not. Brides have always presupposed grooms. The fact that marriage is a “universal” throughout human history indicates something huge, namely the recognition that this one particular type of personal relationship is unique among all others: It is naturally ordered toward procreation. That children result from the union of man and woman (now mother and father) is the foundational reason that human societies have had an interest in protecting, elevating, and/or providing benefits for this type of union.
Without this sexual complementarity, and without the ability to consummate a marriage, there can be no marriage. With bodies of the same sex, the marital act cannot be completed and consummation is not possible. A bride implies a groom in the same way that a lock implies a key. Two locks make no sense together. Two keys make no sense together. The union of husband and wife, like the integration of lock and key, is a relationship different from any other.
“But what about heterosexual couples who are infertile? They are allowed to marry even though they can’t procreate!”
The completed sexual union of male and female is always ordered toward procreation, even if the couple does not actually conceive a child. Age or illness or a defect in the reproductive system may make individual unions infertile, but that doesn’t change the nature of the act, which is ordered toward generation. Producing children is not the basis of a valid marriage, the conjugal union is. Whether or not children are conceived is beyond human control. It’s not the conception of children that makes a marriage, it’s the total, one-flesh union of husband and wife. The conjugal union itself, not the fruit of the union, is the seal of the marriage.
And as we’ve all known infertile couples who’ve eventually conceived years or even decades after their weddings, we can never say with certainty who will or will not be childless. God and nature have ways of surprising us. However, we can say with complete certainty that two men will never conceive a child from their sexual acts, nor will two women. The sexual “union” of two men or two women is always barren, as nature and right order would have it. It’s the way it’s supposed to be.
“What about men and women who are handicapped and not able to consummate? Are you saying that they cannot be married?”
This is a very delicate subject to discuss precisely because we have forgotten that marriage is a conjugal union. If there is no possibility of a conjugal union, not even one time, then the essence of marriage is missing. A relationship between two people without the ability to have sexual intercourse (i.e., to become “one flesh”) is called a friendship. That sounds cold to the modern ear, since we want everyone to feel good and “be happy”. But feeling good at the expense of what is true can never satisfy, not ultimately.
Impotence or the inability to consummate is an impediment to the Sacrament of Matrimony for sure, but even the secular state will annul a civil marriage on the basis of non-consummation.
Now, with today’s technology, thank God, there are many ways to cure impotence and allow for marital relations, and that is a blessing.
“So you think marriage is all about sex! Can’t you see it’s about love?”
No, marriage is not “all about sex”, of course, but sex is an intrinsic part of marriage. As mentioned above, a close and intimate relationship without sex is called a friendship, and neither church nor state would have reason to validate or elevate or give special status to that, as wonderful as friendship is. Also, while romantic feelings (what people usually mean these days when they talk about “love”) are ideal and desired between spouses, they’ve never, ever been a prerequisite for valid marriage. To say so would be to deny that many of our own ancestors (and even some of our parents and grandparents!) were actually married. My grandparents, for example, did not know each other well when they became husband and wife. Yet they were married for over fifty years and had many children and grandchildren (and great-grandchildren, and now great-great-grandchildren). A romantic feeling at the time of their wedding was not a requirement for a valid marriage.
Heck, if you ask Golde and Tevye (you all are huge Fiddler on the Roof fans like me, right?), they’d say their marriage turned out just fine, even though they met on their wedding day.
(Yes, I know they are fictional, but they are also representative. And you might notice that their understanding of love is closer to what authentic love actually is: A choice, and a willing of the other’s good, not a “feeling”.)
“But the state says that gay people can marry, so that means they can!”
There are many things the state has said that are legal fictions, i.e., that are not true or based in reality. For only a small example, governments have declared at various times that certain human beings are less human than others (slaves, Jews, the unborn), or that women are men and men are women (transgender laws). None of those laws can change reality. The law is not magic, and it cannot make black people less human, it cannot make women turn into men, and it cannot make marriage between two men (or two women) possible. The state can play with words, but it cannot change essences. The playing with words is a problem unto itself, and we should be very wary when any political agenda bursts forth in a frenzy, redefining a word to mean something foreign to anything it has meant before. So, when someone says to me, “Look, if the state says two men are married, then they’re married!” this is what I hear:
“Look, if the state says that a woman is now a man, then the woman is now a man!”
“Look, if the state says that all chairs are now clocks, then they are!”
“Look, if the state says that Jews are not human, then they aren’t human!”
“Look, if the state says that black people can be the property of others, then they can be!”
“Look, if the state says that the unborn are not human beings, then they aren’t!”
(Four out of five of those “truths” have happened, by the way.)
I teach my children not to lie. I will not go along with a lie. I will not teach my children to go along with a lie.
Marriage is pre-political — no state invented it, nor can any state redefine it. Heck, even the etymology of the words “marry” and “matrimony” (derived from the word “mother”) excludes the very concept of a homosexual “marriage”. Of course, the government can give out specific benefits and services to whomever it wishes (that’s within its legitimate authority), but what it cannot do is redefine an institution that it did not create in the first place.
We may not legitimately demand the change of a thing’s essence, simply because we have strong “feelings” about what we want. The truth about marriage is what Hillary Clinton so eloquently stated just a few years ago, before her “evolution” on the issue. She believed:
“…the fundamental bedrock principle that [marriage] exists between a man and a woman going back into the mists of history, as one of the founding foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principle role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society in which they are to become adults.”
“Marriage has got historic, religious and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman.”
Politicians cannot suddenly pass a law or judges sign some papers and change the truth of it.
“Why not support civil unions if you can’t support gay marriage?”
That was tried and it didn’t work well, to say the least. Clearly, gay rights advocates were not satisfied with that accommodation, as they barreled right past that and now demand that the word “marriage” apply to gay unions. Gay unions must be seen as on par with and equal to true marriage. Nothing less will be tolerated. But even before the demands for full “marriage” recognition came, the problems with civil union laws were evident, as they effectively forced the closure of Catholic ministries, including foster care and adoption agencies, some of which had been serving the needy in their communities for a century. This happened despite the fraudulent assurances by the civil union supporters that the law would have no effect on faith-based services [which only begins to answer another common question, “How does gay ‘marriage’ affect you, anyway?”]
Ultimately, the concept of civil unions was always just a stepping stone to the bigger prize, and it never protected religious liberty or traditional marriage anyway.
“You should be concerned about all the ways that heterosexuals have weakened marriage!”
Oh, I am incredibly concerned about that! Divorce (especially the pernicious “no-fault” divorce), adultery, polygamy, swinging, pre-marital sex, contraception and abortion, etc…. All of that has harmed the institution of marriage and, of course, children. However, just because we’ve severely damaged marriage, that’s no argument for demolishing it completely! The proper response to the sad state of marriage today is to strengthen it, not un-define it into oblivion.
Besides, every marriage that is weak, irregular, or even broken has at least the potential to be strengthened, regularized and restored. But with two men (or two women), there is no potential for marriage in the first place (see #1).
“The Church cannot impose her views of marriage on society!”
There are a couple of things wrong with this argument. First, no one is saying that all Americans should be married in a Catholic Church and have a sacramental marriage. In fact, the Church herself recognizes the valid marriages of billions who are not Catholic or even Christian. Valid marriages do not have to be sacramental.
Second, the idea of the Church “imposing” the heterosexual nature of marriage is silly. One cannot impose something that has always been there. One cannot impose the status quo. The imposition, as I have written about before, is coming only from one side, and it’s not coming from the Church.
And of course there is the question of atheist regimes, which do not recognize gay “marriage”. How can that be explained? Certainly, no one is going to try to blame the Catholic Church for that, right? After all, atheistic regimes are all about condemning and persecuting the Church, not acquiescing to her. Clearly, marriage as conjugal union is a natural law issue and not a “Catholic” issue.
“Why do you talk about gay marriage so much?”
I wish you could see my face right now. Oh.my.gosh. How I wish and even fervently pray that I would never have to speak or write on this topic ever again. It’s a cultural obsession (not too strong a word!), with the elites’ only aim to beat us down into silence and/or submission on this topic. We are not to utter a peep against gay “marriage”, or we will pay a price, whether that price is simply ridicule, mocking, and harassment, or a more serious penalty such as loss of friends, family, job opportunities, or livelihood. Perhaps jail one day? I wouldn’t bet against it.
I long for the days where gay “marriage” was not integrated into every news story, every college course, every television show, every court case, every sports event, every holiday, every legislative session, small school children’s textbooks, car commercials, hamburger wrappers, etc., etc., etc.
I have gay “marriage” fatigue (like everyone else I know), and yet there is no option but to speak for what is True, because that’s who we are as Catholics. It’s what we are called to do, in season and out. We won’t hurt you or hate you or ask the government to fine you or ruin you if you disagree with us, but we will speak the Truth in love, because lies are no good for anyone. It is always better to understand what a thing is, and then to use that thing according to its nature. That is how human beings and human societies flourish, after all.
Catholic Stand is a site about ideas and about truth. We dialogue here as mature adults (I hope), striving to draw closer to what is True, Good, and Beautiful. I assume that Catholic Stand readers are Truth-seekers on some level. None of what I have said above should be construed as “hateful” or “bigoted” or “mean”. It is neither mean nor hateful to say that a dog is not a cat, or that a man is not a woman, or that a chair is not a clock.
Love is not a feeling. Marriage is not a construct. Society’s very foundation may not be un-defined on a whim of “But I want it!” Happiness cannot be found by going against our human nature and dignity. Truth does not change. All of this must be talked about. And as much as I don’t want to, I will continue to talk about it, because marriage is just that important.