Reflection stemming from the readings on August 13, Friday of the XIX week in Ordinary Time, year II
I think we can all agree that the Church’s teaching on marriage is something of a controversial topic nowadays.
This is not the Church’s fault; we are just teaching the truth about marriage and sexuality, which is mostly comprehensible just from basic biology and common sense, although there are some aspects that require divine revelation for real clarity. The problem is that our culture has progressively abandoned the use of sound theology, philosophy and common sense, with the result that fornication, contraception in marital relations, and remarriage after divorce have become commonplace and more or less accepted. The importance, ends and indissolubility of marriage are no longer recognized.
Today another aspect of marriage is being progressively obscured: its very definition. Activists around the world are working overtime to legalize “gay marriage.”
Before going on, I want to make one thing clear: God does not hate homosexuals, and to say that he does is profoundly mistaken and un-Christian. God loves everyone and wants the best for everyone. God does hate sin, though, and thus he hates homosexual “marriage.” I know this is a tricky and complicated topic, and I won’t have time to treat it all in depth here, but I feel obliged to clarify the Church’s position on gay marriage because it is often misrepresented. I am providing links at the end of this blog entry that offer more detailed explanations and data for those who are interested.
As today’s Gospel shows, Jesus declares that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman, which cannot be broken as long as they both live. God made men and women to be psychologically and biologically complementary, and the finality of marriage is the mutual love and support of the spouses and the formation of a family through procreation. These goals are not in fact always realized in marriage, but that is due to problems – culpable or not – on the part of one or both spouses as individuals; for example, some couples are not mutually supportive because of a lack of generosity, or are unable to have children due to a physical disorder. However, there is nothing intrinsic to the union of a man and a woman that makes these goals unattainable.
Christ clearly says that some people are not called to marriage, for a variety of reasons. He does not say that if this arrangement does not work for them, they can alter it and call it by the same name. If we can say that there is a right to marriage, then it is the right for individuals to enter a permanent relationship of companionship and at least potential procreation with a member of the opposite sex. “Gay marriage” is a contradiction in terms, failing by its very nature both the full complementarity and natural capacity for procreation that are part of the essence of marriage. Sexual relations between members of the same sex are contrary to God’s plan manifested in the biological structures of the genders and in revelation. Going against this plan is physically, psychologically and spiritually damaging. Hence it is not a “human right.” People who are incapable of the heterosexual relationship called “marriage” are called to live a celibate lifestyle.
Issues like hospital visiting rights, inheritance, and insurance benefits are wider problems relevant to situations beyond marriage and the issue of homosexuality. There is no reason why there cannot be legal acknowledgement of certain practical aspects of mutual dependency, without confusing them with civil unions or gay marriage.
People who experience same-sex attractions are people just like anyone else, deserving of the same love, respect and consideration. Everybody has problems and sinful tendencies of one kind or another, and no one should be judged or categorized strictly according to their most obvious or egregious problem. But true compassion means wanting the best for someone in the light of truth, not distorting the truth to make everyone comfortable. This is why the Church stands firm on its teaching about marriage, and opposes anything that goes against this institution. Let us pray today that the institution of marriage be understood and respected, and that everyone will live according to the truth with respect and compassion.
(For more information, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s sections on marriage and homosexuality (starting at #2357). See also the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons” and its “Letter to Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”. For more interesting perspectives and scientific data on homosexuality see the somewhat controversial National Association for Research and Treatment of Homosexuality.)