Princeton Prof, Robert George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, Robert George, et al
have written what I believe to be one of the best defenses of opposite-sex marriage, and one of the best arguments against same-sex marriage available in print. Titled, “What is Marriage?”, this paper appeared in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy
I’ve often said the reason support for same-sex marriage has grown so fast in the West is because we have ceased to understand what marriage is. George et al
understands that when it comes to the marriage debate, everything hinges on the question, What is marriage? Does marriage have a nature independent of cultural norms, or is it a mere social construction that can be whatever society wishes it to be? The authors rightly begin their paper by defining and contrasting these two perspectives (what they call the “conjugal view” and “revisionist view”):Conjugal View:
Marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together. The spouses seal (consummate) and renew their union by conjugal acts—acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction, thus uniting them as a reproductive unit. Marriage is valuable in itself, but its inherent orientation to the bearing and rearing of children contributes to its distinctive structure, including norms of monogamy and fidelity. This link to the welfare of children also helps explain why marriage is important to the common good and why the state should recognize and regulate it.Revisionist View:
Marriage is the union of two people (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life. It is essentially a union of hearts and minds, enhanced by whatever forms of sexual intimacy both partners find agreeable. The state should recognize and regulate marriage because it has an interest in stable romantic partnerships and in the concrete needs of spouses and any children they may choose to rear.
They go on to argue that only a conjugal view of marriage is able to offer a principled basis for marital norms, results in the common good of society, and that a departure from this norm in favor of the revisionist view will damage the long-term health of society.What Makes a Marriage a “Marriage”?
What is marriage? Most will agree that marriage involves three elements: (1) a comprehensive union; (2) a unique link to children; (3) norms of permanence and exclusivity. While most revisionists wish to dispense with the second element, few would dispute the remaining two.Comprehensive Union
Regarding (1), while there are many important and/or intimate human relationships (filial, familial, business, etc.), a marital relationship is unique among human relationships because it is comprehensive in scope, involving every aspect of a couple’s being. A marital relationship not only involves the sharing of one’s life, emotions, will, and resources with another individual, but also a sharing of one’s body (sexual relationship, which George et al
call an “organic bodily union”). A relationship that lacks organic bodily union is not comprehensive, and thus not of the marital sort.
That organic bodily union is integral to a marital relationship is evident. Imagine if two people committed to marriage on the basis of their shared love for tennis rather than on a sexually exclusive relationship. Would that make it a marriage? No. It would be indistinguishable from a friendship between roommates. Sexual intercourse is necessary for a bodily union – and hence marriage – because our reproductive organs are the only organs we possess that naturally require the aid of another human being to fulfill their intended purpose. All other bodily systems such as digestion and circulation can fulfill their natural function on their own. Only in sexual intercourse are two bodies “coordinated for some biological purpose of the whole,” and thus sexual intercourse is required for a bodily, organic union of persons:
It follows that for two individuals to unite organically, and thus bodily, their bodies must be coordinated for some biological purpose of the whole. That sort of union is impossible in relation to functions such as digestion and circulation, for which the human individual is by nature sufficient. But individual adults are naturally incomplete with respect to one biological function: sexual reproduction. In coitus, but not in other forms of sexual contact, a man and a woman’s bodies coordinate by way of their sexual organs for the common biological purpose of reproduction. They perform the first step of the complex reproductive process. Thus, their bodies become, in a strong sense, one—they are biologically united, and do not merely rub together—in coitus (and only in coitus), similarly to the way in which one’s heart, lungs, and other organs form a unity: by coordinating for the biological good of the whole. In this case, the whole is made up of the man and woman as a couple, and the biological good of that whole is their reproduction.
Two people of the same sex cannot achieve organic bodily union because they do not share any bodily functions that require a coordination of their bodies. If they cannot achieve organic bodily union, and yet organic bodily union is required of a comprehensive union which, in turn, is an essential element of a marital relationship, then it follows that the same-sex relationships are not, and can never be a marital relationship.
A revisionist could deny that organic bodily union is required for a relationship to be of the marital sort. If so, then why not provide two same-sex roommates with marriage benefits if they desire to get married? What about best friends? Wouldn’t it be discriminatory to prevent them from exercising their right to marriage on the grounds that their relationship is neither romantic nor sexual? If so, then the fact that two people of the same sex are having a sexual relationship should not privilege their relationship above anyone else’s.
We might even ask why three romantically involved individuals cannot marry. Why should they be prohibited from exercising their marital rights just because there are three individuals who are romantically and sexually involved rather than two? On the revisionist definition of marriage there is no principled reason to forbid this, but on the conjugal view there is: two—and only two—people of the opposite sex can create an organic, bodily union. Furthermore, children can only have two biological parents, which makes sense of why marriage has always been understood to be between two individuals of the opposite sex (no more persons are needed to create a child).Unique Link to Children
Regarding (2), a marital relationship is naturally oriented toward children. This naturally follows from the organic bodily union between spouses since children are the telos
of the human reproductive system. There is a connection between children and the way marriages are created and renewed: sexual union.
What about same-sex couples who are raising children together? Does this justify opening up the institution of marriage to same-sex couples? No. A commitment to raise children together, by itself, does not make a relationship of the marital kind. Two brothers who commit to raising their deceased sister’s child together do not thereby acquire a marital relationship. Furthermore, our social and legal traditions have always recognized a couple as married prior to the birth of their first child. A childless couple is still married in virtue of their comprehensive union and mutual commitment to permanence and exclusivity. The kind of relationship and union they enjoy is naturally oriented toward procreation, and thus is a genuine marriage even if they cannot, or choose not to have children. This is analogous to a sports team. The structure of the team is such that it is naturally oriented toward winning. It may fail to win any games. While it would fail to reach its telos
, it does not cease to be a team.Permanence and Exclusivity
Regarding (3), the conjugal view of marriage makes sense of our intuition that the marriage ideal entails permanence and sexual fidelity. Organic bodily union makes sense of the permanence of marriage since it involves a coordination of our reproductive system into a single whole. Just as we remain joined to the rest of our bodily systems for the duration of our life, we are to remain with our marital partner (our other sexual half) for the duration of our life as well. Relationships that lack such bodily union have no rational basis for such permanence.
Indeed, apart from children, there would be no reason for governments to involve themselves with the regulation of marriage:
A thought experiment might crystallize our central argument. Almost every culture in every time and place has had some institution that resembles what we know as marriage. But imagine that human beings reproduced asexually and that human offspring were self-sufficient. In that case, would any culture have developed an institution anything like what we know as marriage? It seems clear that the answer is no. And our view explains why not. If human beings reproduced asexually, then organic bodily union—and thus comprehensive interpersonal union—would be impossible, no kind of union would have any special relationship to bearing and rearing children, and the norms that these two realities require would be at best optional features of any relationship. Thus, the essential features of marriage would be missing; there would be no human need that only marriage could fill.Objections
Here’s how the authors answer key objections to the conjugal view of marriage:How will same-sex marriage affect you? What’s the harm in giving legal recognition to same-sex relationships?
The same question could be asked of the same-sex marriage advocate regarding polygamous marriage, or any other alternative form of marriage.
One way it would affect us is that enshrining the revisionist idea of marriage into law would send a message to society that marriage is not about children, but about adult emotional fulfillment. If emotional fulfillment is the basis of marriage, then marital instability will increase because emotional unions are easily worn down. After all, what reason is there for people to stay together when their emotional connection is severed? It would be more like a friendship that runs its course and ends.
It would also obscure opposite-sex parenting as the ideal form of parenting, having erased it entirely from our legal framework. We know kids do best when raised by their biological parents, so enshrining the revisionist view of marriage into law would have the effect of causing a greater number of children to be raised in less-than-optimal family structures, increasing social disorder in the process.
It would also affect moral and religious liberty. If we enshrine the revisionist view of marriage into law, the state would be explicitly affirming same-sex and opposite-sex relationships to be equal. How would the state view those who do not see these relationships as equal, then? They would be viewed as bigots, and may suffer legal consequences for acting on their moral and religious point of view (for example, a photographer can be sued for discrimination for refusing to photograph a gay wedding on the grounds that s/he believes homosexuality is immoral).It is unjust for the government not to recognize same-sex relationships as marriage?
No. The government is only justified in recognizing real marriages as marriages. It would only be unjust to extend marital benefits to those who are not involved in a marital relationship. The government should not be expected to call certain kinds of relationships “marriage,” that are not marriages, simply because some people are psychologically incapable of engaging in a real marital relationship. While this psychological inability is no fault of their own, this is no more reason for the government to redefine marriage to include same-sex relationships than it is to redefine marriage to include single persons to accommodate those who have not been able to find a marital partner despite their desire and best efforts to do so.
Isn’t denying same-sex couples the right to marry similar to miscegenation laws?
No. The purpose of miscegenation laws was to promote white supremacy. The problem was not that people did not think interracial relationships could form marriages, but that they did not want such marriages to be formed even when they were possible. Unlike race, sex is a relevant factor to marriage.It’s unjust to prohibit people from marrying the person they love.
There is no general right to marry the person you love. There is only a right not to be prevented from participating in a genuine marital relationship when such a relationship is possible and desired.The conjugal understanding of marriage is based solely on religious beliefs, and thus it should not be privileged in a secular society.
This is false. Although the world’s major religious traditions have historically understood marriage as a union of man and woman that is, by nature, apt for procreation and childrearing, this merely demonstrates that the conjugal view of marriage is so basic to human society and flourishing that every major religion has felt the need to incorporate it into their religious traditions. It is the demands of our common human nature that have shaped (however imperfectly) all religious traditions to recognize this natural institution.
Robert George, Sherif Girgis, and Ryan Anderson, “What is Marriage?” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy
, vol. 34, number 1, 2011: 245-287, 286-7.
Robert George, Sherif Girgis, and Ryan Anderson, “What is Marriage?” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy
, vol. 34, number 1, 2011: 245-287, 247.Source: http://theosophical.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/the-best-argument-i’ve-read-for-traditional-marriage-and-against-same-sex-marriage/
In light of the Supreme Court's second day hearing on the issue of same-sex marriage , here is the full text from the Vatican's official document on the Catholic Church's teaching of homosexual marriage: "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons." It was approved by Pope John Paul II and signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and congregation secretary Archbishop Angelo Amato, S. D. B. Introduction
1. In recent years, various questions relating to homosexuality have been addressed with some frequency by Pope John Paul II and by the relevant dicasteries of the Holy See. Homosexuality is a troubling moral and social phenomenon, even in those countries where it does not present significant legal issues. It gives rise to greater concern in those countries that have granted or intend to grant legal recognition to homosexual unions, which may include the possibility of adopting children. The present considerations do not contain new doctrinal elements; they seek rather to reiterate the essential points on this question and provide arguments drawn from reason that could be used by bishops in preparing more specific interventions, appropriate to the different situations throughout the world, aimed at protecting and promoting the dignity of marriage, the foundation of the family and the stability of society, of which this institution is a constitutive element. The present considerations are also intended to give direction to Catholic politicians by indicating the approaches to proposed legislation in this area that would be consistent with Christian conscience. Since this question relates to the natural moral law, the arguments that follow are addressed not only to those who believe in Christ but also to all persons committed to promoting and defending the common good society. I) The Nature of Marriage and its Inalienable Characteristics
2. The Church’s teaching on marriage and on the complementarily of the sexes reiterates a truth that is evident to right reason and recognized as such by all the major cultures of the world. Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings. It was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties and purpose, No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives.
3. The natural truth about marriage was confirmed by the revelation contained in the biblical accounts of creation, an expression also of the original human wisdom, in which the voice of nature itself is heard. There are three fundamental elements of the Creator’s plan for marriage, as narrated in the Book of Genesis.
In the first place, man, the image of God, was created "male and female" (Genesis) 1:27). Men and women are equal as persons and complementary as male and female. Sexuality is something that pertains to the physical-biological realm and has also been raised to a new level – the personal level – where nature and spirit are united.
Marriage is instituted by the Creator as a form of life in which a communion of persons is realized involving the use of the sexual faculty. "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).
Third, God has willed to give the union of man and woman a special participation in his work of creation. Thus he blessed the man and the woman with the words "Be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). Therefore, in the Creator’s plan, sexual complementarily and fruitfulness belong to the very nature of marriage.
Furthermore, the marital union of man and woman has been elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament. The Church teaches that Christian marriage is an efficacious sign of the covenant between Christ and the Church (ef. Ephesians 5:32). This Christian meaning of marriage, far from diminishing the profoundly human value of the marital union between man and woman, confirms and strengthens it (ef. Mathew 19:3-12; Mark 10:6-9).
4. 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."
Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts "as a serious depravity. . .(ef. Roman 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Timothy 1:10). 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." This same moral judgment is found in many Christian writers of the first centuries and is unanimously accepted by Catholic Tradition.
Nonetheless according to the teaching of the Church, men and women with homosexual tendencies "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." They are called, like other Christians, to live the virtue of chastity. The homosexual inclination is however "objectively disordered" and homosexual practices are "sins gravely contrary to chastity. II) Positions On The Problem Or Homosexual Unions
5. Faced with the fact of homosexual unions, civil authorities adopt different positions. At times they simply tolerate the phenomenon; at other times they advocates non; at other times they advocated legal recognition of such unions, under the pretext of avoiding, with regard to certain rights, discrimination against persons who live with someone of the same sex. In other cases, they favor giving homosexual unions legal equivalence to marriage properly so-called, along with the legal possibility of adopting children.
Where the government’s policy is de facto tolerance and there is no explicit legal recognition of homosexual unions, it is necessary to distinguish carefully the various aspects of the problem. Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. Therefore, discreet and prudent actions can be effective; these might involve: unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology; stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions; reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defenses and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection. III) Arguments from Reason Against Legal Recognition of Homosexual Unions
6.To understand why it is necessary to oppose legal recognition of homosexual unions, ethical considerations of different orders need to be taken into consideration. From the Order of Right Reason
The scope of the civil law is certainly more limited than that of the moral law, but civil law cannot contradict right reason without losing its binding force on conscience. Every humanly-created law is legitimate insofar as it is consistent with the natural moral law, recognized by right reason, inalienable rights of very person. Laws in favor of homosexual unions are contrary to right reason because they confer legal guarantees, analogous to those granted to marriage, to unions between persons of the same sex. Given the values at stake in this question, the state could not grant legal standing to such unions without failing in its duty to promote and defend marriage as an institution essential to the common good.
It might be asked how a law can be contrary to the common good if it does not impose any particular kind of behavior, but simply gives legal recognition to a de factos reality, which does not seem to cause injustice to anyone. In this area, one needs first to reflect on the difference between homosexual behavior as a private phenomenon and the same behavior as a relationship is society, foreseen and approved by the law, to the point where it becomes one of the institutions in the legal structure. This second phenomenon is not only more serious but also assumes a more wide-reaching and profound influence and would result in changes to the entire organization of society, contrary to the common good. Civil laws are structuring principles of man’s life in society, for good or for ill. They "play a very important and sometimes decisive role in influencing patterns of thought and behavior." Lifestyles and the underlying presuppositions these express not only externally shape the life of society but also tend to modify the younger generation’s perception and evaluation of forms of behavior. Legal recognition of homosexual unions would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage. From the Biological and Anthropological Order
7. Homosexual unions are totally lacking in the biological and anthropological elements of marriage and family , which would be the basis, on the level or reason, for granting them legal recognition. Such unions are not able to contribute in a proper way to the procreation and survival of the human race. The possibility of using recently discovered methods of artificial reproduction, beyond involving a grave lack of respect for human dignity, does nothing to alter this inadequacy.
Homosexual unions are also totally lacking in the conjugal dimension, which represents the human and ordered form of sexuality. Sexual relations are human when insofar as they express and promote the mutual assistance of the sexes in marriage and are open to the transmission of new life.
As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarily in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons. They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. This is gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle, recognized also in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration in every case. From the Social Order
8. Society owes its continued survival to the family, founded on marriage. The inevitable consequence of legal recognition of homosexual unions would be the redefinition of marriage, which would become, in its legal status, an institution devoid of essential reference to facts linked to heterosexuality; for example, procreation and raising children. If, from the legal standpoint, marriage between a man and a woman were to be considered just one possible form of marriage, the concept of marriage would undergo a radical transformation, with grave detriment to the common good. By putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage and the family, the state acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties.
The principles of respect and nondiscrimination cannot be invoked to support legal recognition of homosexual unions. Differentiating between persons or refusing social recognition or benefits is unacceptable only when it is contrary to justice. The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it.
Nor can the principle of the proper autonomy of the individual be reasonably invoked. It is one thing to maintain that individual citizens may freely engage in those activities that interest them and that this falls within the common civil right to freedom; it is something quite different to hold that activities that do not represent a significant or positive contribution to the development of the human person in society can receive specific and categorical legal recognition by the state. Not even in a remote analogous sense do homosexual unions fulfill the purpose for which marriage and family deserve specific categorical recognition. On the contrary, there are good reasons for holding that such unions are harmful to the proper development of human society, especially if their impact on society were to increase. From the Legal Order
9. Because married couples ensure the succession of generations and are therefore eminently within the public interest, civil law grants them institutional recognition. Homosexual unions, on the other hand, do not need specific attention from the legal standpoint since they do not exercise this function for the common good.
Nor is the argument valid according to which legal recognition of homosexual unions is necessary to avoid situations in which cohabiting homosexual persons, simply because they live together, might be deprived of real recognition of their rights as persons and citizens. In reality, they can always make use of the provisions of law – like all citizens from the standpoint of their private autonomy – to protect their rights in matters of common interest. It would be gravely unjust to sacrifice the common good and just laws on the family in order to protect personal goods that can and must be guaranteed in ways that do not harm the body of society. IV) Positions of Catholic Politicians with Regard to Legislation in Favor of Homosexual Unions
10. If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibility as politicians. Faced with legislative proposals in favor or homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are to take account of the following ethical indications.
When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic lawmaker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.
When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is already in force, the Catholic politician must oppose it in the ways that are possible for him and make his opposition known; it is his duty to witness to the truth. If it is not possible to repeal such a law completely, the Catholic politician, recalling the indications contained in the encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, "could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality," on condition that his "absolute personal opposition" to such laws was clear and well known and that the danger of scandal was avoided. This does not mean that a more restrictive law in this area could be considered just or even acceptable; rather, it is a question of the legitimate and dutiful attempt to obtain at least the partial repeal of an unjust law when its total abrogation is not possible at the moment. V) Conclusion
11. The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values that belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of man and women and for the good of society itself. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect Angelo Amato, S. D. B. titular Archbishop of Sila, Secretary
By: Lisa Cotter - FOCUS
Let’s jump right in. Three things I wish students knew about marriage...
1. There is no such thing as “The One”
Ouch. I know you’ve written me off already, but hear me out. In life we have free will, which means we have the ability to choose. We like this when it comes to picking our hairstyle, bank, and ice cream, but when it comes to who we are going to marry, we want a clear voice from heaven to tell us what to do. While every so often this does happen, like it did for St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s parents Bls. Louis and Zélie Martin, more often God is a little more subtle. Does He already know what we will choose? Yes. But that doesn’t make the choice any less of a choice.
When I first grappled with this it made me angry. “Where’s the romance in that? You mean to tell me that my husband could prayerfully discern to marry someone else and still be happy; he doesn’t HAVE to chose me?” But the more I thought about it, I felt both relieved and honored. Relieved because it took the pressure off knowing that I wasn’t on a wild goose chase to find “the one” in the midst of billions. Relieved because I knew that so long as I was praying, seeking sound council, and frequenting the sacraments, God would not abandon me as I discerned which man to commit my life to. He would be in the midst of choosing my spouse, just like any other life decision that I made. The feeling of honor came in knowing that my future husband would also be making a choice. A choice to love me. He wouldn’t be forced into it whether he liked it or not, rather, he would choose me out of the billions for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Now that’s romantic.
2. Getting married doesn’t mean you’ll never be lonely again
Freshmen year of college while I was working at a Catholic summer camp one of the directors gave a dating talk in which she said, “I thought that getting married meant that I would never be lonely again.” She went on to explain that she was wrong. What surprised me about her remark was that I could understand it to be true for couples that had bad marriages, but she had a good marriage. “Wow,” I thought, “If she still gets lonely, there’s no hope for the rest of us.”
Here’s the deal, while marriage can be wonderful and very fulfilling, it is still an earthly covenant and because there is sin in this world, nothing can ever be perfect. There will be times when you will disagree with your spouse and the one person who you thought would always be right by your side will feel distant. Your marriage will sanctify you, challenge you, and force you to become a better person, and nothing on that list is easy.
The strife of this world doesn’t go away when you get married, it just changes. Sure you stop worrying about how you’re going to find a new housemate since your old one is moving out, but instead you start worrying about if moving your whole family across the country for a new job is really a good idea.
3. Theology Of The Body is real, but sometimes our interpretation isn’t
If you have read the Theology of the Body, or a good commentary on it, you know that the Church is no prude. Sex is a blessing that was made for bonding and babies which, in its proper context, should be enjoyed. But there is something sad which I have witnessed that can happen to many enthusiastic “Theology of the Body-ers” after they get married. They commit to a chaste courtship, they commit to following the Church’s teachings on contraception, and they excitedly begin their marriage with all its benefits. Then the honeymoon phase wears off and reality starts to surface. Maybe she has issues from past relationships that prevent her from being able to see sex as something beautiful and not as something that she unwittingly ran to in her search for security and love. Maybe he begins struggling with keeping the act pure as he battles with the memories from his past porn addiction. Maybe they are both a little bit shocked that sex isn’t always heaven on earth with a beautiful array of fireworks. And they start to think that they were fed a line about the magic of free, total, fruitful, faithful love in the bonds of marriage.
Before they throw the baby out with the bathwater (to use a loose, corny pun if I may), they need to consider this: The Church’s teachings on marital love are not flawed, but like most good things, it takes a lot of work and sacrifice to understand them. It’s the world that has fed us a line and straightening out that mess together takes a lot of vulnerability. Working through past baggage and human frailty is never easy, but if spouses are willing to truly love each other and commit to struggling through the issues, instead of trying to avoid them, with the grace of God a little glimpse of heaven on earth can be possible.
There are more things I wish you knew, like “No, he won’t change if you belittle him”, “Yes, she does need to talk that much”, and “Maybe it’s possible for you two to agree on where to display his sports or hunting or music collection (just forget about the living room) and her 47 Tri Delta t-shirts (which really may be better used as rags for washing the car), BUT, I’ll leave you with this. Marriage is not easy, but it is worth it. It is the greatest adventure you will ever take. And if you should choose to take it, be willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of it.
"My Best Friend" is a single by country music singer Tim McGraw that reached the top of the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart upon its release in 1999.
Ben Foster of Country Unvierse wrote, "Sometimes it just takes the right vocalist to find the layers of emotion woven into a lyric that could scan as pedestrian in the hands of another performer. In this instance, Tim McGraw indeed proves to be the right vocalist."
Written by Kelsey Gillespy. Posted to Young
Catholic Women by Brooke Heischmidt.
In our society, marriage is portrayed as something to be gained, then mocked,
then crumpled up and thrown away. And, as an almost-married woman, I have
received many condolences for my engagement and the end of my life. But if
those who have marriage mock it, I couldn’t help but wonder:
a) why is there a large group of people adamantly fighting to gain the right to marry? and;
b) why would the “haves” deny the “have-nots” their right to something that is apparently meaningless?
What is marriage, really?
As a writer with a fondness for words, I turned to my good friend, Merriam-Webster, for guidance.
“What is marriage?” I asked bluntly. M-W replied, “The state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law…OR…the state of being united to a
person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage.”
But the notion of marriage being “consensual” doesn’t ring true for all cultures, so it appeared that my friend was a bit culturally biased. Heck, the second portion of that statement isn’t even acceptable in certain states of our
own country. So, as a member of a faith that is constant across the globe, I decided to crack open the Catechism and see what the Catholic Church thought: “Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics” (1603).
Well, I still didn’t have a satisfactory description to share with others, but I did have a few more steps in the right direction; and, because I’m addicted to progress, I kept searching. Since marriage has “permanent
characteristics” and is not solely a social institution, I combed through literature on three main religions hoping to catch a glimpse of this sneaky little sacrament. The Qu’ran (30:21) says that God “created for you spouses from
among yourselves, in order to have tranquility and contentment with each other, and He placed in your hearts love and care towards your spouses.” In the Jewish book of Bereshit (also known as Genesis), it states that marriage is when “…a man leaves his father and mother and is united with his wife.” Christianity continues this idea when the New Testament reiterates that after the man and woman leave their parents, they become one with each other. These portraits of marriage seemed much better than the ones I’d seen on TV.
I wondered which version the LGBT community was fighting for.
As I kept reading, I came across the book of Vayiqra (Leviticus) in the Torah. This sacred text forbids sexual intercourse between males, saying, “And you shall not cohabit with a male as one cohabits with a woman” (18:22),
and classifies it as a to’eivah (something abhorred or detested). Orthodox Judaism still holds fast to this belief, but the Reform movement tries to adapt Judaism to today’s world–similar to certain Protestant movements. Yet,
at a Christian, I don’t look to religious radicals of our day for the answer; no, I confront the source of my faith and look to Jesus as the example. I find that He never wavered or caved in to peer pressure. During His lifetime,
religion was a revered and respected part of Jewish life. And, in those days, it was the religious leaders who challenged Jesus and eventually wanted Him dead. But even as His skin hung in loose strips from His body and spikes were driven through His flesh, He never backed down or turned away from what He knew was right.
Can you imagine if He had? If, even in one moment of weakness, He cried out for mercy or appeased His persecutors out of fear of an excruciating, torturous death? But He did not. He held fast to Truth, even in His most trying and terrifying times. And the stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone of the Church. So the Church must remain steadfast in their obedience to Christ–even in their most trying, pressure-filled times. Thus, the unwavering definition of Holy Matrimony:
“A matrimonial covenant by which a man and woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1601)
God is constant. We are the ones who change and differ. His commandments, principles, and love stay the same. From the beginning of creation to the end of time. So, although some people differ in their sexual orientation, the laws and principles of marriage remain “permanent”. We all have crosses to bear, some heavier than others. Homosexuality is merely one example of a cross to carry–and it must be one of the heavier ones. For
marriage is meant to be beautiful and fruitful–to produce physical life and be spiritually life-giving as well:
“Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.’ The woman, ‘flesh of his flesh’, his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a ‘helpmate’. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator’s eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized in the common work of watching over creation. ‘And God blessed them, and God said to them: Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.’”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1604-1605)
Marriage, according to these definitions, seems beautiful–so how can the concept of to’eivah ever be associated with it? In archery, “sin” is defined as anything that is not perfect. If we apply that concept to life–at least to mine–it shows how sinful I really am. After all, everyone who knows me also knows I’m not perfect, nor will I ever be throughout the course of my entire life. But that doesn’t mean I should intentionally engage in activities I know are less than perfect. Especially when, in the religious sense, spiritual imperfection (sin) separates us from God–whether you believe in Him or not. Homosexuality itself is not considered a sin; acting on homosexual desires,
however, is a different story. The same can be said of heterosexuality: heterosexuality itself is not bad, but acting lustfully on those desires is most definitely sinful. Thus, as a Church, we are not only trying to defend marriage, but we are also trying to protect our brothers and sisters. By entering into a homosexual marriage, a couple is publicly acting on homosexual temptations; and, for the rest of their lives they will also engage in private acts of those same passions. Each of those acts sets them further and further from God. They are the ones who get hurt. Furthermore, when one person sins, it affects the whole community–the whole body of Christ. So, as a Catholic, being against gay marriage is not an attempt to oppress anyone or slap anyone in the face; rather, it is a way for me to honor the sanctity of marriage, strengthen the world-wide community, and–out of love–prevent others from severing themselves from the source of true joy.
In short, marriage is not going to miraculously change your life and completely fulfill you. Only God can do that. And since matrimony is a holy endeavor, it’s not a legal license that evokes peace and happiness in a marriage–God’s blessing upon it and presence within it is what bestows grace. If anyone seeks a marriage without those two things, is that marriage as good as it possibly could be? For “what appears good only in comparison with
evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be good” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1620).
God looked upon His creation and called it good. That means he sees YOU as good.
And the mutual love between man and woman in a marriage is very, very good in the eyes of the Creator.
Now, let’s strive for the most excellent good.