The issue de jour (well, one of the big ones, anyway): why won’t the Catholic Church relax about gay marriage? And how can we claim to be purveyors of mercy and love while simultaneously denying a subset of the population their shot at happily every after?
This is not an easy teaching in our present cultural climate, but it is a simple one, I promise. The bottom line is thus: the Catholic Church will never recognize gay marriage because there is no such thing as a gay marriage.
Are there same sex couples who love each other and are attracted to each other and who desire to build a shared life together? Absolutely. But what they have cannot be called marriage, because it does not meet the necessary criteria: marriage is a life long, covenanted commitment between two persons of the opposite sex ordered toward the mutual good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children.
I know the arguments and I’m sure you do too, but I’ll just go ahead and highlight the usual suspects: what about couples who get divorced? What about couples who are biologically incapable of having children? What about couples who cheat/beat/lie/steal/hurt one another? How can those marriages be called such while loving, committed same-sex couples are denied the dignity of the title?
Simply put, because even though human beings are inevitably going to fall short of the glory to which each of us are called, God and His Church are never going to lower the standards in order to wallow with us in our misery. He will, however, lower His arms in order to lift us up to the life He desires for us.
Marriage is a higher calling, a natural attempt to live out a supernatural reality. We’re all incapable of answering that call without the sacramental graces God provides. And even then, we still screw it up. Over and over again. But that’s not an argument for altering the terms on the designer’s part, is it?
Marriage, the big-M sacramental kind, is not primarily ordered toward personal fulfillment or entertainment or even happiness. All those things are (hopefully) wrapped up in the larger experience of the marriage relationship, but they’re not guaranteed, and they’re actually not the point. The twofold end of marriage is the mutual good of the spouses (and sometimes what’s good for you isn’t necessarily pleasant) and the procreation and education of children. So a marriage can never be, from the outset, intentionally damaging to one or both spouses or closed to life. That’s actually not “marriage” at all.
Gay marriage is a misnomer because homosexual relationships are not ordered toward the good of the other, and because they are fundamentally sterile. So right off the bat, neither of the twofold “goods” of marriage are present. Basically put, the raw material is missing from the start. Think of it like baking a cake without sugar, flour, or eggs. You can certainly attempt something cake-shaped and perhaps even vaguely reminiscent of cake in flavor (and I speak from sad, paleo experience here) but you’re not really eating cake. The ingredients are wrong.
Human beings are more complex than baked goods, and the issue of who should be allowed to marry is a touchy one, but keep this in mind going forward: every adult human person has, by nature of their inalienable dignity, the right to pursue marriage if they are so called. But nobody has the right to redefine or reconstruct marriage in order to suit their own tastes or preferences. So while we are all extended the invitation to enter into the Sacrament of marriage, we are not permitted to alter its essence.
More the point, we’re not actually capable of altering its essence. Marriage “is” something deeper than human eyes can see: it’s a re-imaging of the love of the Trinity, and a participation in God’s own nature of self-giving and life-producing love. And in His design we’re welcome to participate, but we’re not able to change the terms.
This is a tough sell to a culture largely incapable of philosophical or metaphysical reasoning, but the truth of it isn’t diminished by our inability to grasp it.
In a culture such as ours which has embraced contraception, abortion, divorce and a whole host of other evils, this is a particularly difficult concept. Because how high and mighty do you have to be to say that I can do all kinds of crazy sh*t in the name of freedom and autonomy but that poor slob over there can’t marry his boyfriend, because sin.
Yeah, it’s a tough sell for sure. But it’s all a piece. Those other touchy issues we’ll surely touch upon this month? The Church will never alter her position on those, either, and for the same reason: She only has our best interests at heart. And She will never sell us short, even when we fail to recognize our own dignity. Especially when we fail to recognize our own dignity.
Here’s your takeaway lesson from today’s post: the Church will never recognize gay marriage because there is no such thing as gay marriage. There’s also no such thing as consecrated Oreos standing in for the Eucharist. Right form, wrong matter.
Is this going to facilitate amicable water cooler discussions between coworkers or pleasant Thanksgiving dinners? Probably not. But in a culture fixated on the physical world to the ignorance of the spiritual, it’s a good starting point for reawakening the eyes of the soul.