Today, I want to talk about a crisis that is threatening one of our basic institutions. The institution is marriage and the crisis is the federal government’s legislation on same-sex “marriage.”
The definition of marriage has always been the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.
The government’s intention is to equate the sexual union between two men or two women with traditional marriage in order to eliminate an alleged unjust discrimination against homosexuals.
To accomplish this, the government has defined marriage as the union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.
At the outset, we need to recall what the Church teaches about homosexuality. Homosexuality refers to relations between men or women who experience sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex.
A distinction must be made between the person who is homosexual and a homosexual act.
The homosexual person may not have freely chosen his or her condition; for some of them, it is a trial. But like all persons, they must be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of hatred, violence, or unjust discrimination in their regard must be avoided.
The homosexual act, however, is another matter. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as gravely wrong, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.
They are contrary to the natural law because they are closed to life. They do not proceed from a genuine, effective and sexual complementarity.
The contradictions that same-sex “marriage” presents, then, are that disorder is order, the unnatural is natural, illusion is reality, wrong is right, and evil is good.
All of these deceits serve to remind us that in same-sex “marriage” we are coming face to face with sin and debating whether to enshrine sin in God’s gift of marriage – marriage the font of life-giving love.
Where does marriage come from? God designed marriage.
His first proclamation on what He intended marriage to be is found in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. You recall how He created the world in seven days. And finally He created a human being – Adam. Seeing that Adam was lonely, because he was incomplete without a fitting mate, He created Eve.
When He presented Eve to Adam, Adam made this joyful exclamation: “At last here is one of my own kind – bone taken from my bone, and flesh taken from my flesh. ‘Woman’ is her name because she was taken out of man.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh (complete, in other words)… So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them. And God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 2:23-24; 1:27-28).
The astounding truth that Genesis teaches us is that at the moment God created the universe, He decreed that marriage was to be a lasting and exclusive union of one man and one woman, and the procreation of children – the bringing forth of new life – was to be an essential element of marriage.
Jesus affirmed His Father’s intentions for marriage when He answered the Pharisee’s question about whether a man can divorce his wife (see Mk 10:2–12).
Jesus answered them, “Have you not read that He who created them, created them male and female? For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What God has joined together let no man separate” (Mk 10:6-9).
In short, Genesis and Jesus tell us that:
Heterosexual gender is a divine creation.
Heterosexual marriage is a divine institution.
Heterosexual fidelity is a divine intention.
That’s what religious faith tells us about traditional marriage. Now, let’s look at what reason tells about it.
Marriage is the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.
Why does marriage have to be that way?
Well, reason tells us that that is the only way marriage can fulfill what nature called it to do, and that is to ensure the survival of the human race.
So there’s a vital public interest in traditional marriage – it ensures the survival of society.
It ensures it first of all because of marriage’s procreative potential – its power to bring new life into the world.
Secondly, it ensures the survival of society because marriage, as the union of one man and one woman, is a stabilizing force for the family, which is the basic unit of society. Weaken the family and society’s future is in danger.
And thirdly, it ensures the survival of society because of the permanence of the commitment the spouses make in traditional marriage – a commitment that is meant to create the stable environment necessary to raise a family.
Now, when we compare traditional marriage to same-sex unions, we see that they are essentially different. This becomes clear when we consider the purposes of marriage as they are reflected in the sacred act of marital intercourse.
The purpose of sexual intercourse is threefold:
1) the potential of the act to procreate children,
2) the growth of the spouses in love and
3) the sexual pleasure, which is meant by nature to be enjoyed.
In the light of this then, the homosexual act of intercourse is sterile; and because of its sterility, a homosexual act cannot fulfill the public’s interest in marriage, which is the survival of the human species. There is no public interest in sex for its own sake, or in the gratification of sexual impulses for their own sake – which is what homosexual acts are reduced to. By their very nature, homosexual acts cannot make the gift of a new life to society.
In this debate, we need to recognize the unnatural character and the physical dangers of the anatomical acts that define homosexual intercourse and hence we will define all same-sex unions.
At best, same-sex “marriage” is a shadowy imitation of marriage, a heartbreaking attempt to create a semblance of some features of marriage, a pretending to be something like the relationships of husband and wife, parents and children – the defining elements of traditional marriage. This reality is not changed if the state collaborates in the pretence and calls it “marriage.”
Reason also tells us that the emotional and physical complementarity of a man and a woman are essential to the purposes of marriage – that is, the growth of spousal love and the procreation of children.
The sexes were designed to complement and complete each other both emotionally and physically – and that complementarity finds its fulfillment only in the union of one man and one woman.
This is not the case in the sexual union of two men or two women. These unions neither complement nor complete the partners.
The complementarity factor is missing and because of this, the partners in a same-sex relationship ultimately repel each other, as the high breakup of same-sex relationships shows.
To call both the union of a man and a woman and the union of two men or two women “marriages” is to camouflage the reality that they are essentially different from each other.
Reason and faith, then, both confirm the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.
How, then, did we arrive at the crossroads where our federal parliamentarians voted into law a bill that contradicts what God and nature intended marriage to be?
It didn’t happen overnight. It is part of an agenda that has been gathering momentum over the past forty years. Let me review some of the milestones during that period that have set the stage for the present crises:
1) The distribution of contraceptives was made legal in 1967. That opened the door to artificially separating the act of intercourse from procreation – the unitive from the procreative.
2) Grounds for divorce were widened in 1968, and again in the early 1980s – a threat to the stability of the family.
3) Abortion, the killing of preborn babies, was legalized in 1969. This also implied the heterosexual rejection of one of the essential purposes of marriage – the generation of new life.
4) Homosexual acts in private between adults 18 years and older were legalized in 1969. Immediately thereafter, homosexuals opened their public bathhouses. Not long after this, “gay” parades were forced on cities across Canada (and the United States), with elected officials participating in the idolatrous frenzy.
5) Strict regulation of the moral content of movies disintegrated during these years.
6) Television has deteriorated so much since the late sixties that even in prime time hours it is no longer safe to watch.
7) Sex abuse has increased and, shame to say, some of it at the hands of priests.
8) Teenage pregnancies and common-law marriages have skyrocketed.
9) One of the consequences of legalizing homosexual acts in private has been the spread of AIDS.
10) Prostitution is on the rise; there is a strong pressure to legalize it. Some European countries already have.
11) Pornography – especially “kiddie porn” – is a multi-billion dollar industry, readily available on the internet to young and old at any hour of the day.
12) Pressure is growing to legalize pedophilia; there is also pressure to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.
13) There are more and more broken families.
It is not hard to see the “domino effect” in action in this incredible sequence of events since 1967 – many of them originating in our federal parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada.
It is really surprising, then, that the next item on the agenda was same-sex marriage? Where will it end?
There are other concerns about same-sex “marriage”:
1) Deprivation. There is today near unanimous agreement that there is no more important factor in the lives of children than having a mother and father in the home. Two same-sex parents cannot be mothers and fathers. Given the uncertainties of children achieving security in their gender identity, deliberately denying them the experience of having a mother and a father is a cruel deprivation. (See “The Marriage Amendment,” First Things, October 2003.)
2) The journey to gender identity is delicate and complex. At a certain point in his development, a boy, for example, needs to disconnect from his mother and connect or identify with his father, if he is to successfully achieve his masculine identity. Physical bonding with his father is all-important – the father spending time with his son, attending his games, playing with him, hugging him – yes, hugging him. As the experts say, “Fathers, if you don’t hug your sons, someday another man will.”
Masculinity can be a mystery for a boy if his father is cold, distant, or absent. If a boy is to discover his masculine identity, he needs the comforting and supportive presence of his father, or a legitimate father substitute, to model genuine masculinity. His absence could be a tragedy. In a sense, it is easier for a girl to achieve her gender identity, because she does not have to detach from her mother as radically as the boy. But she too needs the experience and presence of her father so she can learn to relate her feminine identity to the masculine. But what if a girl is adopted into a household of two fathers, as could easily be the case if the proposed law passes? Where would the mother be for her to identify with?
3) The instability of gay couples: Reliable studies show that “gay” couples who consider themselves to be in a committed relationship have difficulty maintaining sexual fidelity. The meaning of “committed” typically means something radically different than in a heterosexual marriage. Of some 165 of the best male homosexual relationships in one study – some for 18 years – none were able to maintain sexual fidelity for more than 5 years. Why did they stay together for so long? It’s because there is an implicit or explicit understanding in the “gay” community that if you want your relationship to last, don’t expect fidelity.
Such is the compulsive nature of “gay” promiscuity and it has serious implications for the adopted children growing up in a same-sex parent environment. (See: Getting It Straight, pp. 103-105.)
repercussions in the classroom
Now that same-sex “marriage” has become the law, it will mean that heterosexuality and homosexuality, traditional marriage and same-sex “marriage,” will be presented to children and adolescents in the schools on a basis of strict equality. They will be presented as normal alternatives and the pupils will be assured that when they are adults they will have access to either lifestyle or marriage options. It’s hard to think of a clearer go-ahead for activist recruitment of the young and innocent into the “gay” world. Parents will be told that it is forbidden to object. That would be discrimination. We cannot and must not allow this to happen in Catholic and public schools.
Since almost no parents want their children to be homosexual or “gay,” this prospect will generate powerful resistance. School curricula have already been altered in some districts in recent years. Families with two mothers or two fathers are discussed openly in public elementary classrooms even now. Now that same-sex “marriage” has been legislated into law, the pressure to expand the curricula will grow even more drastically, confusing more and more children about their gender identity, and this at the most delicate period of their development. Do not give in.
You may say: What influence can my little effort possibly have on this issue? The odds are overwhelmingly against us. The media have already won the battle.
A remark by an eighteenth century Irish thinker, Edmund Burke, speaks to this doubt, and it was never more timely than now:
“For evil to triumph, all that is necessary is for good men (and women) to do nothing.”
What can we do in the meantime? First and most important, continue to pray. Without prayer, anything else we do will not succeed.
Secondly, we have to review and renew our own understanding of marriage. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body should be studied.
Find out what your children or grandchildren are being taught in school. Do not for one moment think that, because the children are enrolled in a Catholic school, therefore they will be safe. The pressure on principals, teachers, and school trustees will be enormous. “Gay” activists will threaten lawsuits. The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Union is not on the sidelines. (At the time of the Ontario Marc Hall case in 2002, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association [OECTA] contradicted the teaching of the Catholic Church – explained and represented by Toronto’s Bishop Meagher – and claimed that this was only one view, even that of a minority.)
Stand up for freedom of speech and freedom of religion when individuals in your province are being attacked by Human Rights Commissions or provincial departments of justice.
Do not get discouraged, but keep on fighting; keep on resisting this falsehood.
One final point
Do not lose hope. When all is said and done, the Holy Spirit is still in charge of worldly affairs. All the Holy Spirit asks for is faithfulness to the teaching God has given us. Remember the famous saying of Mother Teresa: “We are not called to be successful; we are called to be faithful.”
And I repeat from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led astray by diverse and strange teachings.” (13:8)
Note: In Canada the new definition of marriage, that of two persons (instead of one man and one woman) became the law of the land on July 21, 2005. This homily may be reproduced at will. It may also be found on our website at www.catholicinsight.com.
Fr. Norman Fitzpatrick, C.S.B.
Fr. Alphonse De Valk, C.S.B.