Same-Sex Marriage? How Have We Gotten Here?

As you can see just below there has been a vote of DC City Council to recognize same-sex “marriages” that have been contracted in other states where such unions are legal. There is also the statement of the Archdiocese in response to that vote.

How have we gotten to the place where marriage has been so radically redefined by a growing number in our society? I wonder if it doesn’t come down to a shift in thinking about marriage that took place beginning in the late 1960s? It was during that time that a fundamental understanding about marriage slipped away. What was that understanding?? Simply this: that marriage is about children. Almost everyone today thinks that marriage is about adults and only includes children if it suits the adults. And even if it suits the adults they decide how many children and when. The bottom line is that most people think about marriage today as for and about adults. To be sure, the spouses are surely an important object of consideration in marriage but children provide the essential reference as to why marriage should be structured as it is. It should be stable (no easy divorce) for the sake of the children. It should be heterosexual because that is an obvious prerequisite for child bearing. Parents should seek to establish a strong bond and strive for unity for the sake of the children. Emphasis  should be given to “staying together for the sake of the children” even if there are difficulties in a marriage. But slowly this thinking has slipped away.

The first big chips in the foundations began in the 1950s when the first “Hollywood” divorces began to publicly take place. People, (who love their movie stars!) began to state that if someone is “unhappy” in a marriage that they shouldn’t have to stay. “After all, is happiness not one of the chief ends of marriage?” Or so the thinking began to go. Some even brought God into all of this, “God doesn’t want me to be unhappy does he?”

The second wave of chips in the foundation took place in the sexual revolution of the late 1960s. Now it seemed that if marriage wasn’t about children, neither was sex. Sex came to been seen primarily for pleasure and for the enjoyment of the partners. The link to child bearing was also severed by the large scale availability and use of contraceptives. To be sure there was pleasure to be had in sex but it is also clear from the nature of the act that it is intrinsically linked to child bearing and its very nature was to bring sperm and ova into regular proximity (pardon the biology lesson). Nevertheless all this was set aside by the sexual revolution. Now couples gave sex what ever meaning they chose. If they wanted to link it to having  a child so be it. If they preferred to keep the whole thing sterile through contraception fine too. So here too, as with marriage, the link to children was diminished or entirely dismissed.

So here we are today. If sex and marriage are no longer necessarily linked to children, but only to the adults and what ever meaning they choose to give these then we have an “anything goes” mentality that starts to develop among many. If marriage takes its primary meaning from what adults want rather than the needs of children then why not easy divorce? If marriage is primarily about the happiness of the adults then surely we should not require or even encourage them to stick it out for the sake of the children. If marriage isn’t about children then why can’t same-sex couples marry? Or so the thinking goes. After all if marriage is about happiness, don’t same-sex people deserve to be happy? And if sex is just about pleasure and not really about child bearing who is to say that people can’t engage in it any number of formats: gay, straight but sterile, pre-marital, etc. It’s not about kids so why bother with all the restrictions? Or so the tinking goes.

Well, this is a lot to consider. But here is the bottom line. If marriage is primarily about adults and only incidentally about children then should it surprise us that some have taken this thinking (very common even among Christians today) to the next level?  If marriage and sex aren’t about children but about adults and the meaning they choose to give it then limits to the definition of marriage are decried by increasing numbers as intolerant attacks on the happiness of another (adult).

But Marriage is about children. Yes, adults are involved and they are important, but in the end marriage takes its limits and structure from the fact that it’s primary fruit is children. Proponents of Gay marriage would surely reject this. But sadly, so do many Christians who have long dabbled in a culture of easy divorce, tolerated promiscuity and notions that my primary right is always to be happy and seldom inconvenienced.

Archdiocese of Washington Issues Statement on City Council Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage

Archdiocese of Washington on D.C. City Council Vote to Recognize Same-Sex Relationships from Other States:

The Archdiocese of Washington is gravely concerned that the District of Columbia City Council has voted to recognize same-sex “marriages” from other states. This vote shows a lack of understanding of the true meaning of marriage.   

Furthermore, considering the importance of this issue for families throughout the city, the archdiocese is dismayed that the Council chose to push this measure through as an amendment without hearings or giving their constituents the opportunity to voice their concerns to their elected officials. 

Marriage is a natural institution established by God and written in the very nature of man and woman and is therefore endowed with its own proper laws. The equality of men and women and the dignity of their coming together as husband and wife is not merely a fact of religious faith or a institution established by civil authorities, but a fundamental reality rooted in human nature and experience. Civil marriage is not simply a union of two people who love each other and are committed to each other, but it is reserved to the union of one man and one woman because of their unique ability to bring children into the world, which forms a stable and secure foundation for our society. 

By bestowing unmarried couples the same status as those who are married, this measure dismisses the true meaning of marriage. We urge our elected officials to respect the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman as understood throughout all time.

Vocations Anyone? – The Sacrament of Marriage

 Someone said to me, “Hey Msgr Pope, you’re talking a lot about vocations to priesthood and religious life. What about marriage?” Hence this article!

  In many ways the Bible is like a wedding album or the story of a marriage. It begins with the story of the creation of Adam and Eve and ends with the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. In between is a beautiful but dramatic story. It is a story of love to be sure, but also a story of a painful loss of love caused by sin and the journey back to find and renew this love again in Christ Jesus. 

God is the Author of Marriage – The Book of Genesis speaks to us not only of our creation but also of our very nature. In the first place, we are made for love because we are created in the image and likeness of God who is love. A second and very important truth taught to us in the scriptural account of our creation is that man and woman were made for one another. God himself declares, It is not good for the man to be alone(Gn 2:18). So God created Eve from the very flesh, the very human nature of Adam. When Adam beheld Eve he was delighted and declared, Here at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh(Gn 2:23). God also teaches in the Genesis account that this in this creative act of His is the origin and understanding of Marriage, For this reason a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.(Gn 2:24).

In Chapter One of Genesis we are also given another important teaching about marriage. Adam and Eve are instructed by God, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it (Gn 1:28). Thus the love of Adam and Eve was to reflect the love of God which is fruitful and life giving. Their love was to bear fruit in their children.

Here then is God’s plan for marriage: a man and a woman in a unity of life and fruitful love so profound that they may be said to be one flesh. Adam sees Eve as his equal, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. He is delighted to behold her and acknowledge that it is not good that he should ever be without her and that he is completed and helped by her. Although the scriptural account does not record Eve’s reflections we may presume they were the same. Alone is was not possible for them to be fruitful and multiply. Alone and apart they could only find death, together as one they would experience gifts of life and the family.

 The wondrous communion of Adam and Eve intended by God and described in the book of Genesis was seriously disturbed by the consequences that flowed from the Original Sin committed by them.   Sin and evil inflicted great harm on the original joy and communion between Adam and Eve. The Catechism describes quite well these sad realities, This experience [of the evil flowing from Original Sin] makes itself felt in the relationships between man and woman. Their union has always been threatened by discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation. This disorder can manifest itself more or less acutely, and can be more or less overcome according to the circumstances of cultures, eras, and individuals, but it does seem to have a universal character. According to faith the disorder we notice so painfully does not stem from the nature of man and woman, nor from the nature of their relations, but from sin. As a break with God, the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman. Their relations were distorted by mutual recriminations; their mutual attraction, the Creator’s own gift, changed into a relationship of domination and lust; and the beautiful vocation of man and woman to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth was burdened by the pain of childbirth and the toil of work. (Catechism 1606-1607). 

Still a noble grace. – Yet despite the distortion caused by sin God continued to point to marriage’s lofty status by presenting it as one of the primary images of his covenant relationship to his people. God was the faithful spouse of his bride, Israel. Through the prophets he reminded his bride that she was espoused to him. Sin was infidelity but God’s love was everlasting and, though he chastise Israel, he would never forsake her. God even used romantic imagery. Consider this example from the Prophet Hosea: “Therefore, behold, I will allure Israel, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her…And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. “And in that day, says the LORD, you will call me, ‘My husband’…and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD. (Hosea 2:14-20) And so it was that God never cast aside the lofty ideals of marriage. He continued to proclaim them to his people.

Established by Christ as a Sacrament – It is in this context that Jesus proclaimed an absolute return to God’s plan. In the Gospels Jesus proclaims his intention to return to God’s original plan for marriage. Divorce had entered the scene through sin. Jesus came to destroy the ancient power of sin and cancels its effects. He is able to empower couples through his healing grace to live to original vision of marriage given by God. This too is clearly taught in the Catechism: In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning. Permission given by Moses to divorce one’s wife was a concession to the hardness of hearts.(Mt. 19:8) The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God himself has determined it “what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”(Mt 19:6) This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus…himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ.(Mt. 19:11) (Catechism 1614-1615).

The three most basic qualities of Christian Marriage are that it is: permanent, faithful and fruitful. The graces of the Sacrament all serve to create and preserve these realities.

Permanence and faithfulness: Since God himself is the author of every valid marriage there arises a bond between the couple that can never be broken…. It can seem difficult, even impossible, to bind oneself for life to another human being. This makes it all the more important to proclaim the Good News that God loves us with a definitive and irrevocable love, that married couples share in this love, that it supports and sustains them, and that by their own faithfulness they can be witnesses to God’s faithful love. (Catechism 1649)  Marriage helps to overcome self-absorption, egoism, pursuit of one’s own pleasure, and to open oneself to the other, to mutual aid and to self-giving (Catechism 1609)

Fruitfulness: Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves. God’s love is fruitful and marital love is to be a reflection of that love. When God established marriage he instructed the first spouses as to its nature, Be fruitful and multiply(Gn 1:28). So by its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of children.  God grants to parents an awesome dignity when He entrusts the care of immortal souls to them. This of itself helps us to glimpse the high calling of the marital life and helps us understand how crucial and necessary the Sacrament of Matrimony is for the Church and for the world.

I have put this article in a slightly longer pdf format here: The Sacrament of Marriage

Here are a couple of Videos by Fr. Richard Neuhaus, who recently passed away. He speaks on the courage to decide and also the essentials to sustain a marriage.Pray for his happy repose as you view these videos