In Praise of Marriage and the Catholic Church
By: Deacon Keith A Fournier
(c) Third Millennium, LLC
With extraordinary clarity, courage, compassion and deep conviction the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith issued its long awaited document entitled "Considerations regarding Proposals to Give Legal recognition To Unions Between Homosexual persons." Along with millions of Catholics, other Christians, other people of faith and good will, I am deeply grateful for the wisdom, the pastoral care, and the authority of the Catholic Church in speaking to one of the most vital issues of our day.
The document presents nothing new. It simply restates the unbroken tradition of the Catholic Christian Church for two thousand years:
"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 which 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 which would be consistent with Christian conscience"
However, it does so at a time when such a clear, forceful and unquestionable restatement is absolutely necessary. Let's face it; there is a social revolutionary movement, led by those on the fringes of the homosexual activist community, that is seeking to force legal recognition of homosexual unions, and equivalency between those unions with marriage. Such a movement not only undermines marriage and family, it threatens the civil order and the common good.
However, we must also be brutally honest about our own house. We have serious confusion in some circles of the Christian community. Purporting to speak for the Church, or to promote some "new way", some Christian voices, (some deeply confused or misinformed, others deluded or disingenuous, and some overtly rebellious) undermine the Church, do violence to the truth, cause scandal, injure the common good and put their own souls in jeopardy.
Numbered among these folks are some unfaithful Catholic politicians who have already hidden behind a "public/private" duplicity concerning of their absolute duty to defend life. Now they are doing the same thing by failing to defend marriage and family and thus undermining the common good. The document could not be clearer in speaking to these folks:
"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 favour of 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 law-maker 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."
The document also acknowledges that the Church is not simply speaking to Catholics in this powerfully written, clear, undeniable ringing defense of marriage and opposition of any efforts to equalize or legitimize homosexual practice or unions. It is also not only speaking to other Christians or people of faith. It is speaking to all people because the truth about marriage is meant for all men and women:
"Since this question relates to the natural moral law, the arguments that follow are addressed not only to those who believe in Christ, but to all persons committed to promoting and defending the common good of society."
The document then systematically presents a lucid, solid, powerful defense of the truth about marriage and family. Yes, it presents that truth from biblical revelation, but also from the order of right reason, the natural law, the biological and anthropological order, the social order and the legal order. That is because truth is truth. Things are not true because they are Catholic; they are Catholic because they are true.
It is vitally important that every person concerned about being able to defend the institution of marriage study, read, re-read and imitate the manner of presentation in this extraordinary document. It lays out a tremendous framework for our "apologetic" work in a culture that has been sliding toward a rejection of the truth. I have seen too many well intended Christians and religious people try to make their arguments by simply quoting the Christian scriptures and either be marginalized ("Oh that is your "religious" position) or be effectively decimated by the sophistry of an opponent who argues from another source.
The greatness of this document is that it partakes of the greatness of Catholic thought and the Catholic Tradition. It beautifully presents the truth about marriage as just that, truth, not simply a "religious" position. Catholic thinking presents a wonderful asymmetry between faith and reason, not an opposition. It presents a consistent unity of the truth in the natural law and in revelation. It provides a coherent, philosophically rich framework for the real work ahead for Christians in this age. An age wherein there is a rebirth of a pagan world view.
Remember, in circles of the social revolutionaries, Christians (at least orthodox, faithful ones) are often presented as unenlightened and forcing "our view" on others. When, in fact, our positions on marriage, family, authentic freedom, the dignity of every human person, and the nature of truth as objective....are what actually frees people from the bondage of disordered appetites. These truths are objectively true for all men and women. We were made for relationship. We were structured for authentic love and human flourishing within family and a society founded upon family.
The current cultural situation we face as Christians in America is not an unfamiliar one - if we look at it in terms of Christian history. I do not care how "scientifically advanced" we think we have become, or how "modern" the issues purport to be, we humans do not really change all that much, at least without grace. The struggle we are engaged in as Christians in this culture still concerns a clash of world views, personal and corporate, and competing definitions of freedom.
The early Church was also sent into cultures filled with people who thought they were extremely "advanced" in light of the arts and sciences of their day. Yet, they practiced primitive forms of abortion and even "exposure", a practice of leaving unwanted children on rocks to be eaten by birds of prey or picked up by slave traders. To them, freedom was rooted in a notion of power over others and the right to do as they chose.
One has only to read the ancient Christian manuscripts such as the Didache (the Teaching of the Twelve) or the accounts of Justin Martyr or other early sources to read of cultures not unlike the one in which we live today, cultures of "use" where people were treated as property - cultures of excess where "freedom" was perceived as a power over others and unrestrained license masqueraded as liberty, where homosexual sexual practices were prevalent.
The word "pagan" was not used as a disparaging term, but actually represented a pseudo-"religious" world view. I use it the same way in referring to our contemporary age as increasingly pagan. Many of the "gods" and goddesses" of this world view promoted these lives of selfish excess, homosexual practices, and hedonism masquerading as freedom. In fact the myths concerning them had them acting in much the same way. They have been reintroduced today, only the myths and statues are different.
These early Christians did not point the finger and rail against the "pagans" of their age. They did not present a "negative" message. They proclaimed the freedom found in Jesus Christ to all who would listen and demonstrated it in their compelling witness of life. They lived in monogamous marriages, raised their children to be faithful Christians and good citizens, and went into the world of their age, offering a new way to live. This "way" (which is what they first called the early Church) presented a very different world view than the one that the pagans embraced.
These early Christians, with joy and integrity, spoke and lived a different way in the midst of that pagan culture. As a result, they sometimes stirred up hostility. Some of them were martyred in the red martyrdom of shed blood. Countless more joined the train of what use to be called "white martyrdom", by living lives of sacrificial witness and service in the culture, working hard and staying faithful to the end of along life spent in missionary toil.
Slowly, not only were small numbers of "pagans" converted and baptized, but eventually their leaders and entire Nations followed suit. Resultantly, the Christian worldview began to influence the social order. The "clash of freedoms" continued, but the climate changed significantly. It was the Christian faith and the practices of these Christians that began to win the hearts of men and women. The cultures once enshrined to pagan practices, such as plural marriage, homosexuality, exposure and abortion began to change dramatically and this dynamic continued for centuries.
It was Christianity that taught such novel concepts as the dignity of every person and their equality before the One God. The Christians proclaimed the dignity of women, the dignity of chaste marriage and the sanctity of the family. It was Christianity that introduced the understanding of freedom not simply as a freedom from, but as a freedom for living responsibly and with integrity.
The Christians insisted that freedom must be exercised with reference to a moral code, a law higher than the emperor, or the sifting sands of public opinion. It was the Christians who understood that choice, rightly exercised, meant always choosing what was right and that the freedom to exercise that choice brought with it an obligation and concern for the other.
Their faith presented a coherent and compelling answer to the existential questions that plagued the ancients, such as why we existed and how we got here. What was the purpose of life? Questions like how evil came into the world and why we could not always make right choices? What force seemed to move us toward evil and how we could be set free from its power? Christian philosophy began to flourish and the arts also flourished under the Christian worldview. Philosophies of government and economic theory began to be influenced by these principles derived from a Christian worldview
What we need more than anything else today is a new missionary age and new missionaries - men, women, children, families, lay faithful, clergy, in every walk of life and profession, living the full Christian life. We also need to develop what I have begun to call a new "freedomism", a coherent, intelligent defense of the truth about what truly sets men and women free and the responsibilities of that freedom.
We need a new Christian intellectual argument and philosophy that confronts the counterfeit notion of freedom that permeates the contemporary culture, one that re-presents the classical Christian worldview to the contemporary challenges by addressing the entire spectrum of cultural issues and challenges with intelligence, clarity, conviction and compelling presentation of truth. The funny thing about the truth, it still sets men and women free. It is the way to respond to the fallacies of those who call good evil and evil good..
We will help to transform the culture by active engagement. We must be faithful citizens, run for office, and never give up our struggles in the courtroom, the classroom, or the marketplace of commerce, all for the common good. Our social and cultural mission is not an option. It lies at the heart of what it means to be "leaven", "light", "salt" and the "soul of the world" as the early Christians taught.
However, we need to realize that the task we face is first, at root, a spiritual struggle that will first be won in prayer, stepped into a new Catholic action by the compelling witness of a vibrant, orthodox, faithful Christianity that is culturally engaging, relevant and compelling to the new pagans of our age.
The document released by the Congregation for the Doctrine is a masterful model of cultural apologetics. It rightly reaffirms that there should be no unjust discrimination against any persons, including persons with homosexual "orientation". However, it absolutely rejects the convoluted notion that homosexual unions are in any way analogous to marriage and asserts that legislation attempting to give legal status to these unions would be unjust and evil:
"The Church's teaching on marriage and on the complementarity 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.(3) 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."
Marriage and family is written in the order of the universe. It is God's idea and not our own. It is the first vital cell of society and creates the first society wherein children are to be raised so that they can fully develop and flourish. Children have a right to a mother and a father. Yes, there are broken homes and single parent homes and we must always provide a compassionate social framework for those families. However, the notion of redefining marriage and family is a serious error and must be opposed.
Marriage and family are the social foundation and glue of any truly just society. They are also under assault. Thank God that the Catholic Church (who is, in the words of the Second Vatican Council "an expert in humanity") has come to the defense of truth, of the common good, of marriage, of children and of society.
This well written document concludes with this summary:
"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 which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself."
Now the real challenge begins. Catholic Christians, indeed all Christians, need to read, re-read, understand and study this document so that we can inform our social and political participation by our faith, defend marriage and protect the common good. We also need to expose and oppose every Catholic politician who fails to follow this absolutely clear direction from the Church.
However, we need to do much more. We need to live like Christians in our families, at our workplaces and in our neighborhoods. We need, as the early Church understood so well, to be a reflection of the truths that this document clearly defends. The truth about marriage and family is the future not the past. It is not some outdated notion of a past era but the framework for a future of true freedom and the foundation for building a more just society.
"Your Catholic Voice" is a movement of faithful Catholics serving the common good. We welcome this document as a brilliant synthesis of the unbroken teaching of the Church. We embrace it without question and pledge to help our members understand it, live it, proclaim it, demonstrate it and use it in our unrelenting efforts to both cultivate our faith and activate our voice.
Together, we thank God for marriage and for the Catholic Church. We pledge to serve the missionary work of that Church as her faithful sons and daughters. Part of that service is to defend the domestic church.
Deacon Keith Fournier is one of the founders of the "Your Catholic Voice" movement and serves on the Board of the Your Catholic Voice Foundation. He is a constitutional lawyer, public policy activist, graduate of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family and Franciscan University of Steubenville. He serves as a Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond Virginia in the U.S.A.
Your Catholic Voice is a movement to promote faithful citizenship based on the fundamental truths of the Catholic Church relating to Life, Family, Freedom and Solidarity. For information go to Your Catholic Voice http://www.yourcatholicvoice.org
Your Catholic Voice Foundation
http://www.ycvf.org CA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - Board of Directors, 661 869-1000
Marriage, Gay, Homosexual, Catholic
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