Rebekah and Tom are getting married this month. Rebekah is petite and blond. Tom is tall, dark, and… (You know the rest!) Both are strong Catholics, and they are looking forward to forming a family together. All their friends and families will be at the wedding.
Maybe you have thought at least once about what your own wedding will be like and about what type of person you will marry.
President Bush, in his recent State of the Union address, spoke about the need to protect the “sanctity of marriage”. What did he mean by this term, and why does it need to be protected?
There are some who want to change and redefine the whole meaning of marriage to include homosexual relationships. In this lesson, we will discuss the essentials of marriage and the efforts being made by some groups to change the definition of marriage.
Marriage and common sense
Most of us know what marriage is without even thinking about it. But, since some people are now proposing something different, it is important that we do not become confused.
Marriage is the most important relationship between human beings. It is not just any relationship between human beings, but is a special type of union between a man and a woman. It is the most fulfilling of human relationships, and it is the way that we pass on life and values from one generation to the next.
A gift to each other
Marriage is based on the love between a man and a woman. In real married love a man and a woman give themselves totally to each other in a way that binds them for life and allows them to give life to new human beings. A simple way to say this is that marriage (and sex) is for bonding and babies.
The bride and groom bond in love precisely because each adds something special and different to each other. The difference in their personalities and in their physical characteristics shows how they are a gift to each other. This adding of something beautiful and different is called complementarity.
One letter from a husband to his wife perhaps expresses this complementarity well.
“I remember those tentative early overtures when neither knew the other’s heart and words merely echoed the hollow safety of banter. Then the magical progression, neither knowing why, to the stage where …each somehow knew that there had been a discovery. What had been discovered was the rest of one’s self.”
This husband also expresses his wonder at how their bond has helped them create and raise another human being who is a fruit and living expression of their love.
“Each new child a proof of our love for each other. Each new child a share in the mystery of creation…Parenthood convinced us of the necessity of complementing each other. We each had found someone, but now we must become someone who could augment the other.”
Aren’t homosexual unions similar to marriage?
Can a comparison be made between marriage and homosexual civil unions, just because they are both types of relationships between two people? Well, most of us realize that homosexual unions are not really marriage. The most essential elements of marriage are missing: homosexual unions are not between a man and a woman; they involve a selfish use of our sexual faculties; they cannot truly make babies. Saying that marriage is also a union of homosexuals misses what real marriage is about.
Love the person. Reject the evil.
We can never despise homosexual persons nor discriminate against them. Men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Not all those who suffer from this tendency are personally responsible for it. But this does not mean that homosexual acts are right, and should be protected by law. Making homosexual unions equivalent to marriage would approve and promote actions that are intrinsically disordered. It is like saying “I think that people should not lie, but, since liars are people too, we should have a law that protects lying.”
A campaign against values
A battle has arisen, however, because there are groups who are using the homosexual issue to attack solid human values. They are hoping that people with common sense about right and wrong, especially Christians, do not defend their values. Allowing selfish values to prevail has led to many problems in our society, including abortion, a huge increase broken families, a greater neglect of children, and so forth. It has deeply damaged and even destroyed some things that are the real foundations of society. Without foundations, people’s hearts and their lives become more and more broken. Real marriage is one of these foundations without which society begins to crumble.
No right or wrong?
Some people say that there is no absolute right and wrong. They say that right and wrong is different for each person, depending on one’s feelings, culture, or genetic makeup. This is called relativism, because for these people there are no absolutes; everything is relative to the way one feels.
People of sound thought have always opposed relativism because it leads to the abuse of human dignity (slavery, political oppression, abortion, etc.). If everyone is allowed to do whatever they want, even if it is wrong, eventually the wrong will damage everyone. If you have ever seen a bully that no dares to oppose, you will understand what this means. The Pope warns us that a culture that does not respect the truth will become cruel. The Church tells us strongly about the dangers of relativism today. We need to develop an ability to recognize relativism, and stand up for objective right and wrong in our own lives and in society around us.
The proposal to approve homosexual marriage is one example of relativism that will damage our society.
“When the saints go marching in” …to the closet?
The majority of people actually disapprove of homosexual marriages. Survey after survey has shown this.
However, there are some powerful people who say that Christians should not impose their values on other people. This sounds reasonable, yet these same people are working very hard so that their values and choices (abortion, homosexual marriage, etc.) are protected by law. This is very important to realize. These activists realize that, even in a democracy, somebody’s values are going to prevail.
The Church is often in a strange position today, as one of the few organizations that are not afraid to say the obvious: some things are gravely wrong for every human being and making them legal will tell people those things are right. Although this may be simple, common sense, it is an unpopular truth, and so it takes courage to stand up against the loud, popular voices. This is one reason why many people see the Church as a miracle today, and are attracted to her.
Courage to stand up
Many Catholics have been convinced of the truth and beauty of Christian values, and have done great things in this country to help the good of all. But there have also been many Catholics, even some in important positions, who have been ashamed of what they stand for. They have hidden or gone against their values in politics, in the highest courts of our land, in entertainment, in the news media, in business, and in all other fields. Instead of helping to build society with good values they have caved in to other ideas.
Politicians have the right to decide on their own about matters that do not have to do with basic morality. But the Church reminds Catholic politicians clearly “no Catholic can support policies which compromise or undermine fundamental ethical values.”
Moral values make society better. In large part these values often rely on Christians who will defend them courageously, not just in politics, but each person in the part they play in society, as a student, teacher, family member, neighbor, parishioner, citizen, etc. Each person is challenged to live and act in a way that upholds and defends basic moral values. This is “the way in which Christians offer their concrete contribution so that, through political life, society will become more just and more consistent with the dignity of the human person.”
Sanctity – Inviolability or sacredness, obligation, right.
Homosexual – Tendency to direct sexual desire towards someone of the same sex.
Civil union – A legal relationship allowing same-sex couples to obtain the rights, responsibilities and benefits of marriage.
Discriminate – To hold a prejudiced outlook, action, or treatment towards someone
Relativism – A view that ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups holding them
Complementarity- the state of filling up or completing; supplying mutual needs or offsetting mutual lacks
- ” God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them . God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’.” Genesis 1:27-28
- “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her…” Ephesians 5: 25
- “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24
- “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Mark 10:6-9
Saints and Heroes
Blessed Peter To Rot (1912-1945) was a husband and father of three children in Papua New Guinea at the outbreak of World War II. As a catechist he worked to teach and defend the Catholic faith, especially in 1942 when the Japanese invaded New Guinea and detained all of the missionaries who had been working before. In 1945 all religious activity was prohibited, but Peter continued to fulfill his duties. He opposed the legalization of polygamy, which the Japanese were demanding, and thus was sent to prison. After several months in a prison and a concentration camp, he was murdered by two military guards who hated the Catholic faith. Pope John Paul II said of him, “When the authorities legalized and encouraged polygamy, Blessed Peter knew it to be against Christian principles and firmly denounced this practice…he told people that he was ready to die for the faith and for his people.”
1. What things do you think about when you imagine the perfect marriage? Do you know any good examples of married people? What catches your attention about these couples?
2. What does it mean to love unselfishly? What are some examples of practicing this love in daily life, within or outside of marriage?
3. Relativism is something that can show up in many areas, not just the marriage debate. What are some other issues that people have gotten used to saying, “what you think is fine for you, and what I think is fine for me.”? Who gets to decide which viewpoint is right, and which is wrong? How can we know?
4. How can Catholic politicians build moral values in society through their own profession? How about doctors? Lawyers? Professors? Businessmen?
- Write letters or emails to state and national congressmen supporting the marriage amendment.
- Write letters to President encouraging him to appoint judges that will stand for family values.
- Send a card or a letter from the class to the bishop and priests thanking them for all they do to support families.
- Organize a Marriage Appreciation Day.
- Make and hand out door-to-door pamphlets about marriage and this present debate, along with concrete suggestions for people to voice their opinion.
- Write a letter to a newspaper editor, taking a positive stance towards marriage.
- Invite a speaker to give a talk at school about marriage, perhaps a couple who can speak of their experience of fidelity and commitment.
- Call up a talk radio station to openly say something for family and marriage.
“Along these lines, families should grow in awareness of being “protagonists” of what is known as “family politics” and assume responsibility for transforming society; otherwise families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference.” (Pope John Paul II Familiaris Consortio; The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World)
“There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.
- Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law.
- Homosexual acts “close the sexual act to the gift of life.
- They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.
- Under no circumstances can they be approved.
This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons, no. 4)
Ferdinand Holbock, Married Saints and Blesseds through the Centuries. Ignatius Press, 2002.
Argument in support of gay marriage by Human Rights Campaign-
Argument against gay marriage by the Family Research Council
Defense of Marriage Act http://www.indiana.edu/~glbtpol/doma.html