May 25, 2012


Redefining marriage is impossible

(Parts of this editorial are taken from the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.)

When President Barack Obama came out in support of the redefinition of marriage on May 10, it was hardly a surprise.

It’s surprising that he didn’t do it earlier since he had already instructed the Justice Department not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. He did it then because polls show that a majority of Americans now favor same-sex marriage even though that is an oxymoron.

The change in attitudes on this question has been extremely rapid, especially among the young, mainly because advocates in the secular media have been able to make it a civil rights issue instead of an attack on marriage as the foundation of society.

Marriage between a man and woman is no longer looked upon as the best way to have children and care for them, as witnessed by the growing percentage of children born out of wedlock. Furthermore, Americans’ attitude toward sex has changed so much that no sex acts except adultery are considered wrong.

Homosexual acts are still considered wrong by the Catholic Church and evangelical Protestants, which is why the voters in North Carolina voted overwhelmingly for a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.

In Indiana, the General Assembly has passed a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, but it must do so again next year before it will go to the voters in 2014.

The Church objects to the effort to redefine marriage. It insists that marriage isn’t just a label that can be attached to different types of relationships. It’s the unique, fruitful, lifelong union that is possible only between a man and a woman.

Sexual difference is essential to marriage. Sexual behavior between two men or two women cannot arrive at the “two in one flesh” experienced by a man and a woman.

Nor can those acts be life-giving. The union of man and woman in marriage is so intimate that from it can come a child to be loved, something that can never happen in any other relationship. Only because of sexual differences can spouses cooperate with God to create a child.

Every sociological study has affirmed the importance of both a father and a mother in the life of a child. Only a woman can be a mother, and only a man can be a father, and each contributes in different ways to the formation of their child.

Yes, of course, there are successful single-parent families in which children grow up with only one parent—usually the mother. There’s a big difference, though, between dealing with the problems of single parenthood and approving families that deliberately deprive a child of a father or a mother.

But isn’t marriage a basic right? Absolutely. All persons have the right to marry, but not to redefine marriage. Having the right to marry does not mean having the right to enter into a relationship that is not marriage, and then to force others by civil law to treat it as marriage.

The Church is greatly concerned about treating homosexuals with the respect that they deserve. The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults says, “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (p. 407).

Homosexual men and women are not attracted to those of the opposite sex. Isn’t it discrimination to deny them the right to marry? Treating different things differently is not unjust discrimination. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman for reasons we’ve already expressed. The civil right to marry is the right to enter into a very particular kind of relationship, not the right to enter a relationship that is not a marriage.

Redefining marriage would, in fact, threaten the civil right of religious freedom since it would compel everyone—even those opposed in conscience to same-sex sexual conduct—to treat same-sex relationships as if they represented the same moral good as marital relationships.

—John F. Fink

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