July 8, 2011


N.Y.’s same-sex marriage law

There’s no doubt about it. The Catholic Church lost an important battle when the New York legislature approved a same-sex marriage bill, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it, making New York the sixth state to approve gay unions. New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan was the leader of the efforts to defeat the bill, joined by the other New York bishops.

There also seems little doubt that the new law is a popular one in a large segment of the American population, including some Catholics, and especially among young people. It’s nothing short of amazing how quickly the gay community was able to make same-sex marriage a civil rights issue, and convince people that denying homosexuals the right to marry is discrimination.

The Catholic Church seems to have failed to get its teachings across, not only to the general community, but also to many Catholics.

Some people in our society seem to hate homosexuals, but definitely not the Catholic Church. She teaches that men and women with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard must be avoided” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2358).

Why, then, isn’t denial of their right to marry not discrimination? Because of the nature of marriage. No matter what our society now seems to believe, marriage is more than two people falling in love and committing themselves to fidelity, although that’s part of it.

The definition of marriage begins with the idea that it is a covenant between a man and a woman.

“Same-sex marriage” is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

The catechism says, “The matrimonial covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring” (#1601).

One of the purposes of marriage is to bring children into the world, and that cannot happen in same-sex marriage. The Church insists, therefore, that marriage can be only between one woman and one man. “The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator” (CCC, #1603).

Same-sex marriage, therefore, is not a civil rights issue. It’s a human rights issue that violates the understanding of marriage that has existed in every society throughout history, and is ingrained in the human condition.

The Church also teaches that, while it certainly isn’t immoral to have homosexual tendencies, it is immoral to engage in homosexual acts, and, of course, marriage presumes sexual acts. Homosexual acts “are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity” (CCC, #2357).

It should be noted that the Church opposes contraception by heterosexuals for the same reason. It, too, closes the sexual act to the gift of life.

It’s not surprising that modern society has rejected the Church’s teaching on this matter. The survey taken by the Gallup Poll, reported in our June 10 issue, showed that only 39 percent of Americans believe that same-sex relations are morally wrong.

The Church also teaches that premarital sex is morally wrong, but that same poll found that only 36 percent of Americans agree. It’s hardly an accident that those percentages are almost even. Our society has come to accept almost any sexual activity except adultery, and it sometimes accepts adultery “if both parties agree.”

The sexual revolution that began in the 1960s is still with us half a century later.

The action of the New York legislature occurred during the same year as the Indiana legislature passed a resolution to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriages. Before it becomes part of the constitution, though, the resolution has to be passed by another separately elected legislature and then approved by voters in a referendum.

In view of what happened in New York, we have to wonder if that will happen, even if nearly 30 states have passed similar constitutional amendments. Before Hoosiers have a chance to vote on that amendment, other states will probably also approve same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, though, Indiana law still prohibits it here.

—John F. Fink

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