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By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

4/21/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

In the land of ideology, subjective preferences--tastes--what Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes called 'can't helps'--and nothing else--govern the good, which means nothing governs the good.

To understand marriage, we have to develop, if we don't already have such a sense, a sense of social realism.  If we have a well-developed sense of social realism, we can see through the ideologies that surround gay "marriage," in particular the homosexualist ideology which is wildly based upon unreality. 


By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (

4/21/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Marriage & Family

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

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Homosexual "Marriage" is built upon unreality.  At its most basic, any advocacy of gay "marriage" is built upon an anti-realist view of society.  It is not based upon what is, but is based entirely upon the advocate's idea of what should be.  What is has no bearing on what should be, on what is good. 

For the anti-realist, ontology--the study of being, of what is, of something's nature or essence--has nothing to do with morality--the study of what is good.  When our concept of the good is cut off from the concept of reality, we walk away from realism and into the land of ideology. 

In the land of ideology, subjective preferences--tastes--what Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes called "can't helps"--and nothing else--govern the good, which means nothing governs the good. 

As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who rejected any notion of natural law, tersely put it, moral truths become "more or less arbitrary . . . . Do you like sugar in your coffee or don't you?  . . . So as to truth."  "Our tastes," Holmes pontificated ex cathedra under whose authority I can only imagine, "are finalities."  This is the opposite of realism.  This is idealism.  Moral values are based upon our ideas, not reality.

Physical realism takes things as they are, as real.  It is the common sense by which we lead our lives.  Very few of us jump off the ledge of the Grand Canyon--at least without a parachute, or bungee cord, or some other gravity-deflecting device--because we are aware of that ineluctable reality of the law of gravity.  That is realism.

In his famous biography of Dr. Samuel Johnson, Boswell tells the story of how Dr. Johnson refuted the theories of subjective idealism of George Berkely which denied the reality of material world.  "I refute it thus!" Dr. Johnson exclaimed, as he kicked a rock.

When it comes to homosexual "marriage," we have to refute it by kicking a rock, so to speak.  That is to say, we can only refute homosexual "marriage" if we stay close to reality, to what is.  This is the case because marriage is a natural community, not one we make ourselves.  It is not at all like the question of whether we like sugar in our coffee or not.

To be sure, in the case of marriage, we are not dealing with a physical matter such as a rock.  Rather, we are dealing with a moral institution, a social institution, one founded upon a particular human community.  In fact, marriage is the most basic of social communities from which all others are derived.  But though it is a moral and social institution, marriage remains a natural institution, a natural community, and so is based on natural reality, on what is.

Before any human law steps in to govern marriage, the natural, social institution of marriage is already there.  It existed before human law.  Indeed, it existed even before the Church, and so the Church does nothing other than "sacramentalize" or perfect the natural institution which pre-existed her existence. 

The Church, like the State, has no authority to change the fundamental aspects of marriage because it is based upon the reality that existed before Church and State existed.  Marriage is a primordial institution.  That's why the defense of marriage has nothing to do with religion or with faith.  It is not a matter of religious faith, but a matter of being sane.

Marriage is not based upon faith, which Scriptures define as the reality of what is hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).  No.  Rather, marriage has everything to do with natural reality, what is before us, what is seen.  That's why, like Dr. Johnson's rock, it can be kicked.

Marriage existed before the Lord walked in Palestine and wiped clean the slate of the legal accretions allowed to blight the original, primordial meaning of marriage and which tolerated divorce because of the Jews' hardness of heart.  "But from the beginning of creation, God made the male and female," Jesus said.  "For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. . . . What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."  (Mark 10:6-9; Matt 19:7-9)

Marriage has been there from the beginning.  It is part of created reality, of what is, a place where reason reigns.  It is not part of supernatural reality, where faith comes into play.

If marriage existed before Jesus Christ walked on this earth in the third century A.D., it certainly existed before the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, ordained and established our federal government in 1787 which was ratified by the requisite number of states in 1788. 

Indeed, marriage existed before the Greeks ever came up with the idea of democracy, and so it precedes democracy, which means even the people--be they the majority--have no say in the matter.  You cannot make the sun into the moon by a majority vote because the sun is the sun and the moon the moon, and that that is so is part of what is.

The institution of marriage preceded any positive human law on marriage, and it would exist, though perhaps not flourish as well, without human law that conforms to its fundamental order.  Similarly, it would exist, though perhaps not flourish as well, under human law that does not conform to its fundamental order, which is the regime under which marriage currently operates.  Human law cannot change it: it can only help it or hinder it.

Since marriage is a natural community that precedes the State, marriage is a matter of natural right.  It is a natural and intrinsic good.  It is not what is called an instrumental good.  It needs no justification other that itself: marriage justifies itself as good without reference to a greater good.  It is a good simpliciter.

Marriage is not good because it is useful, though it also may be that, and there are certainly social benefits to the common good derived from flourishing marriages, just like there are certainly social costs that arise from marriages that fail. 

Marriage is good because it is natural.  It is part of the created order, of what is.  We therefore have a natural right to marriage.  Being a natural right, the right to marriage is a human right, and as a result no human law can proscribe marriage. 

But all this is true only if marriage is not a matter of "taste," if marriage is something other than whether I like sugar in my coffee or not, if marriage is something akin to a rock.

Most of us would not need to kick a rock to believe that a rock is a rock.  To that degree, most of us are realists. 

But realism must not confine itself to the physical world.  There is also realism in the moral world, in social reality.  There are natural moral and social realities, such as marriage, that have "rock-like" qualities. 

To understand marriage, we therefore have to develop, if we don't already have such a sense, a sense of social realism.  If we have a well-developed sense of social realism, we can see through the ideologies that surround gay "marriage," in particular the homosexualist ideology which is wildly based upon unreality. 

The unreality of the homosexual "marriage" advocate is based upon the obviously false assumption that sexual activity between two men (or between two women) is morally equivalent to conjugal or sexual activity between one man and one woman (who are mutually complementary), and which is naturally ordered to, and open toward, the procreation and education of children, even if all these relationships place within the context of a mutual life-long and comprehensive commitment.

The first two same-sex commitments, whatever they are called, are not marriage, and can never be marriage.  It is metaphysically impossible--so long as one is anchored in reality--that the sexual activity between two men or between two women is naturally ordered to, and open toward, the procreation and education of children.

Only the last--a complementary union of one man and one woman that is naturally ordered to, and open toward, the procreation and education of children and which takes place within the context of a mutual life-long and comprehensive commitment--is marriage. 

If one does not see the difference between the same sex "marriage" and the real thing, it is because one is no longer a moral or social realist.  When one is not a moral or social realist, one begins to live what is not as if it were what is.  Another way of saying this is that one begins to say "evil be thou my good," and this takes one into the realms of privation, into the regions of phantasmagorical but not real "good," to a land of unreality, where Paradise is lost.

To be a social realist, as Eduardo J. Echeverria defines it in his book Dialogue of Love, "means you hold that . . . natural communities such as marriage and family, are real social wholes, real in themselves, having their own nature or essence and ends, given a normative creation order."

Because social realism means that natural communities such as marriage are a real social realities, with their own nature or essence, and their own ends, all of which are informed through a normative order in created existence, the social realist will recognize, like Dr. Johnson recognized about the rock, that such natural communities "are not just 'fictitious entities,' as individualism would have it, constructed by either a contract between self-contained individuals."

As J. Richard Percy recently wrote: "Marriage is a rock for humanity, and a safe haven for children, precisely because it hinges upon the Creator, not upon ideological passions, nor upon decisions of state." 

The rock that is marriage is not a matter of taste, a matter of "can't helps," a matter of whether one likes sugar with one's coffee.  A social realist, well-planted in reality, in what is, will see this intuitively, implicitly. 

Marriage is, and can only be, a complementary union of one man and one woman that is naturally ordered to, and open toward, the procreation and education of children and which takes place within the context of a mutual life-long and comprehensive commitment.  That's just the way it is, and defining it in any other way is trying to make real something that is not.


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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