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Marriage Matters - Support the Federal Marriage Protection Amendment

6/6/2006 - 6:05 AM PST

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is. It exists. It is not a matter of “my truth” and “your truth”. There is an objective truth for all men and women that can be known, having been revealed by the Natural Law.

As Christians, we need to reassess the political terrain and our role in it. Many of my fellow Catholics succumbed to a delusion, hoping that following a politically “conservative” line would effect true change. They either never understood the social teaching of our Church or failed to critically think through the implications of its claims. Now, they are seriously disillusioned.

There is now a “Compendium of the Social teaching of the Catholic Church”, which should place the Catholic issues in perspective. Catholic Christians cannot be first “conservative” or “liberal” or “neo-conservative”. We must first be Catholic.

Some of the strongest voices insisting on legal equivalency between homosexual paramours and married couples are self professed “libertarians”. Libertarians are often characterized as being “on the right”.

I remember when I served the Presidential campaign of Steve Forbes as an advisor on pro-life, pro-family and faith based issues. I saw the “alliance” between libertarian groups such as the “Cato Institute” and evangelical and Catholic activists, in its infancy. I knew then that the implosion of the Republican coalition was inevitable.

One morning, a self professed “libertarian Catholic” (another oxymoron) engaged me at a meeting of the advisors of the campaign. I told her, with as much sincerity and kindness as I could muster, that libertarianism and Catholicism were antithetical. Libertarianism exalted an atomistic individualism as the measure of freedom while Catholic Christian faith insisted that we are by nature and grace social creatures, made for family and called to find authentic freedom only through serving the common good.

Years later, as a graduate student of the early Church, I truly want Christians to know that it was Christianity that taught such novel concepts as the dignity of every person and their equality before the One God. 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.

In 1996, a professor of Sociology and comparative religion named Rodney Stark wrote a compelling book entitled “The Rise of Christianity.” Rich in sociological and empirical data it details the growth of Christianity at the beginning of the first millennium. The book chronicles the rise of the Christian faith from a small Jewish sect in the first century to extraordinary cultural dominance 300 years later. Using historical documents, the author demonstrated how the early Christians lived in faithful, heterosexual, monogamous marriages in the midst of a pagan culture, claiming to be “enlightened” while they decayed from within. The lifestyle of the Christians had an extraordinary affect over time on that debased culture.

Christians insisted that freedom must be exercised with reference to an objective moral code, a law higher than the emperor, or the sifting sands of public opinion. It was 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. The Christian 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 world view. The Christian understanding of marriage and family is not some outdated notion of a past era but the framework for a future of true freedom. We are now living in a new missionary age. The mission field is our own Nation.

During the first millennium, in the pagan culture of ancient Rome, fidelity between a husband and wife was uncommon. Sexual promiscuity, reflected in “hetero” and “homo” sexual aberrant behaviors were common. Women (and some men) were considered to be property - and used as sexual objects. Abortion, infanticide, and exposure (placing children on rocks to die by the elements or be picked up by slave traders) were not only commonplace practices but proclaimed to be “lawful” by an arrogant and misguided government.

Epidemics began to multiply among the promiscuous Romans, apparently related to the lifestyle of sexual excess, causing civic and (Pagan) religious leaders to flee the cities, leaving the sick to die.

In contrast to this ancient pagan culture, the Christian way of life stood out as an alternative. The emphasis of those ancient Christians was upon marrying once.

Husbands and wives remained faithful to one another. Children were welcomed, cherished and seen as both gifts from- and the means of - serving the God whom they proclaimed in both word and lifestyle. Christians did not abandon the sick, but cared for them, even the sick pagans, to the point of sacrificing their own health. According to Stark, Christianity helped to answer the question "why bad things happen to good people"? It was answered through understanding the implications of the suffering and Cross of Christ.

In addition, the Christian faith answered the existential questions that were unanswered in classical paganism. The Christians lived the love they proclaimed and had a strong family system that was increasingly attractive to the pagans. This lifestyle also allowed the Christians to live longer. The author writes: "Christian values of love and charity, from the beginning, had been translated into norms of social service and community solidarity. When disasters struck, the Christians were better able to cope, and this resulted in substantially higher rates of survival. This meant that in the aftermath of each epidemic, Christians made up a larger and larger percentage of the population even without new converts."

Stark noted that Christianity in the first millennium brought about the formation of a new culture: "To cities filled with homeless and the impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachments. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced with epidemics, fires, and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services."

In short, the Christian Way of Life transformed Christianity from a sect into the major dominating faith. It also transformed the world of the First Millennium…and the Second. It can and it will do the same in the Third Millennium, even in this contemporary Rome. A new missionary moment has come with this assault on Marriage.

Let us put our hands to the plow, for the fields are ready. This afternoon, President Bush, a man with whom I have had many disagreements, had the courage to speak the truth concerning marriage. I call upon all Senators, indeed all Americans, to support The Federal Marriage Amendment.

Marriage Matters.


Deacon Keith A Fournier is a Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia serving St Benedict Catholic Church in Richmond, a dynamically orthodox Catholic Parish committed to living the fullness of the Catholic Christian faith - and transforming contemporary culture with the values informed by that faith. A graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, the John Paul II Institute for the Study of Marriage and Family and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law, Deacon Fournier is currently a PHD student in theology at the Catholic University of America.

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