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By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

1/14/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

The sacrament of marriage does not destroy the original, natural institution, but perfects it. But it also presupposes it.

When the natural institution of marriage suffers what the poet David Jones called "the Break," something we are witnessing even now, its natural symbolism is destroyed.  There is no natural significance or symbol left in same sex "marriage."  That's why it is no marriage at all, but a mockery of marriage, an ape of marriage, a travesty of marriage.  It is an equivocal, an unreal marriage.


By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (

1/14/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Marriage & Family

Keywords: homosexual marriage, gay marriage, marriage, natural institution, Andrew M. Greenwell

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Marriage may be said to be an art, but an art built upon nature, specifically, the complementarity of the human sexes--male and female--and the natural desire humankind has for the procreation and education of children. 

Marriage, like human nature, is first something given, then something worked with.  So marriage viewed as art is something-God-given-worked-with, not something we make from nothing.  Marriage is not ours to create, to define, to make out of nothing as if we are gods, or what modernly is more powerful than the ancient gods . . . social engineers. 

The "raw materials" so-to-speak of marriage are given to us; we are not the ones who make the raw materials of marriage.  We do not will the "raw materials"; rather, they are willed for us by nature and nature's God as part of the fundamental parts of our human nature.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it: "'The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws. . . . God himself is the author of marriage.'  The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator.  Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes.  These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics."  (CCC § 1603)

Since marriage is part of creation, a work of the Lord, it follows that it is a great good.  It can be praised, as can any work of the Creator:

"Praise the name of the Lord. For he spoke, and they were made (facta sunt): he commanded, and they were created (creata sunt).  He hath established them for ever, and for ages of ages: he hath made a decree, and it shall not pass away."  (Psalm 148:5-6)

Recruiting the insights of Psalm 148:5-6 and applying them to marriage, we might say: "Marriage is something spoken of by God, made by God, commanded by God, created by God.  He has established marriage for ever, and for ages of ages.  God has made a decree, and it shall not pass away."

This, of course, is something that moderns--particularly the advocates of same sex "marriage"--are loath to recognize.  That marriage is a natural institution, something of God's handiwork, is an affront to them and their false philosophies, since, like anything with a form, it imposes limits beyond which they may not go.

In his interpretation of the Psalm quoted above, Cassiodorus distinguished between creare (to create) and facere (to make).  The former (to create), strictly construed, is reserved to God alone, Cassiodorus says.  The latter (to make) is allowed to man.  It is, in  a sense, a limited participation in creation. 

"Facere enim possumus etiam nos, qui creare no possumus," Cassiodorus wrote.  For we to whom it is given not to create, are able yet to make.

Marriage is first creatio, a created thing, then, building upon that which is given, a factitio, a thing worked at, a thing made from the prior given.  It is both God's handiwork and man's handiwork, but first God's handiwork.  That's why Archbishop Fulton Sheen famously said that it takes three to get married: God and the two spouses.

It is this distinction which completely eludes those who advocate same-sex "marriage."  They view marriage as something over which they have the power of creation, of definition, when they only have the power of "factition," of working with what is a given.

The advocates of same sex "marriage" suffer from a convention that arises from a psychic disease.  In fact, modernity is characterized by a chronic psychic disease.  It is the disbelief in creation, in created nature, a nature which is the handiwork of God and therefore bears within it the logos or reason of God, the supreme Artist.  Moderns reject the notion that nature has within it a sort of residual meaning, a sign or symbol, which must be respected.

If nature has no meaning, it cannot be a sign, a symbol, a thing of wonder, a source of morals.  Instead, it becomes a thing to be used.  Wonder in nature is lost.  Nature no longer speaks to us of real things, of true things, of good things because we no longer wish to listen.  We moderns only understand nature by its utility to us, which means we use nature as we want, and not as it might have been intended by its Creator.

Modern man's rejection of God as Creator and nature as his gift allows him to assume (or think he can assume) the powers of creation over created things, of natural things, including natural institutions.  Art (techne) and convention (nomos) become superior to nature (physis), and even begin to work at cross purposes with it.

Given this mindset, all things--and this includes marriage and all natural institutions--become subject exclusively to art (techne).  Art for art's sake.  Science for science's sake.  Laws for laws' sake.  Profits for profits' sake.  Marriage for marriage's sake.  There is no natural morality walking about and governing our modern artists, scientists, politicians, businessmen, or advocates of same sex "marriage."

The poet David Jones called the event that caused this "the Break."  It is the rejection of nature as a God-given limit, as a source of meaning.  It finds its source in the Enlightenment, but it has continued forward as if it were a destructive juggernaut.  Whatever created thing hits "the Break" is broken.  Once "the Break" hit marriage, and marriage suffered the effects of "the Break," marriage was broken.  Same-sex "marriage" is the result of the natural institution of marriage that has suffered "the Break."

Once appropriated by modern man and rejected as a source of meaning, nature loses its significatory or symbolic message.  Since grace builds upon nature, it follows that when nature suffers "the Break," the sacraments suffer as well because the sacraments build upon the symbolic or significatory meaning in natural things (bread, wine, oil, water, marriage, conjugal sex, etc.).

That is certainly true of the sacrament of marriage.  In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul talks about the natural institution of marriage: "For this reason, man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh."  (Eph. 5:31).  That's nature.

Immediately, building upon natural marriage, follows the sacrament: "This is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and the Church."  (Eph. 5:32)  That's grace. 

In a sense, the sacrament of marriage does not destroy the original, natural institution, but perfects it.  But it also presupposes it.

To marriage, which is a natural something-God-given-worked-with, something with all its inherent signs and symbols (complementarity of the sexes, openness to life, fidelity, monogamy), is superadded grace, a supernatural something-God-given-worked with. 

Like the natural institution of marriage, a natural gift, the sacrament of marriage is also something given, a supernatural gift.  For this reason, the Church has no authority to dicker with, to change, or to re-work the fundamental law of marriage, whether natural or supernatural.

"Therefore, what God has joined, let no man put asunder." (Mark 10:9)

When the natural institution of marriage suffers "the Break," something we are witnessing even now, its natural symbols are destroyed.  There is no natural significance or symbolic meaning left in same sex "marriage."  That's why it is no marriage at all, but a mockery of marriage, an ape of marriage, a travesty of marriage.  It is an equivocal, an unreal marriage.

It is unable to hold any natural signification or symbolism which means, of course, it is not open to any sacramental grace which builds on natural signs and symbols.  A sacrament is both a sign of the underlying reality and a cause of the underlying reality.  If there is no underlying natural reality, no sign or symbol, it simply can't exist. 

You can't baptize with dirt (you need water).  A dog cannot confess (you need a person who can both sin, and confess sins).  A woman cannot be ordained a priest (you need a man, an adam).  You cannot receive last rites with toothpaste (you need oil).  Two men or two women cannot marry (you need one man and one woman).

Same sex "marriage" is not only intrinsically lacking in complementarity of the sexes, it is intrinsically sterile.  It is unnatural, has no natural significance or symbol, and cannot transmit or hold or contain, as it were, any grace.

It is as graceless as it is unnatural.

There is no natural good in it upon which grace can build.  Same sex "marriage" is at most a human artifice, and an ugly one at that.  Only a natural good can be a carrier of grace.  An artifice--especially one which is unreal--cannot be a carrier of sacramental grace.  It is as elusive a thing because as unreal a thing as the smile on a Cheshire cat.

Grace, a supernatural reality, requires nature, a natural reality.  Something as unnatural as same-sex "marriage" is unreality. 

In one of his sermons, John Henry Newman declaimed against "unreal words."  In the sermon, he considered "some of the many ways in which persons . . . make unreal professions, or seeing see not, and hearing hear not, and speak without mastering, or trying to master their words."

Newman says that "there cannot be a more apposite specimen of unreality" than realities based upon mere opinions, opinions that are formed "not by presenting a question in its real and true substance, but by adroitly colouring it, or selecting out of it some particular point which may be exaggerated, and dressed up, and be made the means of working on popular feelings."

"Everyone one has a right to love whom they choose"--the claptrap heard on the lips of many an unthinking advocate of homosexual "marriage"--is just such a species of unreality.  It's not love that is involved in marriage, but conjugal love, and conjugal love requires, if one wants to remain in the world of reality, a man and woman.

I have the right to love my dog, or to love a bit of bourbon or a cigar now and then, but I certainly have no right--except in an unreal and phantasmagorical world--to marry my Pekingese, or my tumbler, or my puro

"I have watched the wheels go round in case I might see the living creatures like the appearance of lamps, in case I might see the Living God projected from the Machine," wrote David Jones at the end of his poem "A, a, a Domine Deus."

Yes, as I pet my dog, drink my bourbon, smoke my cigars, read good books, write some articles, go to work, eat dinner, say my prayers, and do all the other things normal humans do, including being involved in this something-God-given-worked-with called marriage, I have watched the leftist political Machine work its wheels upon the living institution of marriage, this marvelous institution given to us by the Living God.

"I have said to the perfected steel, be my sister and for the glassy towers I thought I felt some beginnings of His creature, but A,a,a, Domine Deus, my hands found the glazed work unrefined and the terrible crystal a stage-paste . . . Eia, Domine Deus."

Like the Prophet Jeremiah whom Jones refers to, I stand aghast at the destruction on marriage wrought by the Godless left, the haters of nature and nature's God.  I am simply amazed at the fact that our government--whose job it is to protect and defend this natural institution--is actually working against it!  I stutter, stammer, even unto God: "A, a, a . . . ." 

How can this be?  "A, a, a . . . ." How can this most basic of God-given institutions be attacked, and how can the people consent?  "A, a, a . . . ."  How is it that there is not an uproar?  "A, a, a . . . ."  How is it the people do not see the wickedness, the insanity involved in same-sex "marriage."  "A, a, a . . . ."  How is it that they do not oust those from power who would despoil us from the something-God-given-worked-with thing, a wondrous thing, called marriage?  "A, a, a . . . ."

How can these enemies of marriage take the "glazed work unrefined and the terrible crystal" of marriage, a something-God-given-worked-with, and turn it into "stage-paste," a work of our own hands, a brittle trinket, a fake bauble, a caricature of natural law?  "A, a, a . . . ."

It's a mystery of sin.  Unanswerable.  Why do dogs eat their vomit?  Why do some people enjoy skinning cats?  Why do some kids crucify lizards?  Why do some people inflict pain on others?  Why do some men kill six-year old children with guns?  Why do mothers put their children to death by the millions?  Why do two men or two women want to mimic, ape, caricature, and blaspheme marriage?  Why do they want the entire land to cooperate in their madness, their rebellion, their venture in unreality?  Why do some men hate God and his works? 

And so, like the poet David Jones, and like the prophets of old, and like all men of good sense, we must sometimes turn our cry unto the Lord to free us from the sins of our land which we seem powerless to stop.  We must turn to God to help us to explain the humanly inexplicable, to answer the humanly unanswerable, to give solace to the humanly inconsolable, to make real once again what man has made unreal.  It is then that the stutter turns to prayer:

"Eia, Domine Deus."

Oh Lord God! . . . .


Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at


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