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In a New York Minute: Coming Persecution of Christians over True Marriage?

By Deacon Keith Fournier
June 28th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The leaders of the homosexual equivalency movement are dedicated to building a society where the positive law of the Nation forces us all to call to be a marriage what can never be a marriage - or face the police power of the State. They scored what they believe was a decisive "victory" for their brave new world in New York last week. History will prove them wrong. However, with the tragic act of the legislature in New York, hostility toward Christians will continue to grow. 

ALBANY, NY (Catholic Online) - Sadly, even those who knew they were doing something which violated the Natural Law and threatens the common good - voting to call something a marriage which can never be a marriage - succumbed to the pressure of the mob last week. And the mob celebrated in the streets of New York on Sunday. The mob also placed on display some of the behaviors which will soon be protected by the positive or "civil" law of the State. To borrow from the refrain of the old Eagles song, "In a New York Minute, everything can change. In a New York Minute, things can get pretty strange."

The leaders of the homosexual equivalency movement insist that homosexual sexual practices are morally equivalent to the sexual expression of marital love between a man and a woman. They are dedicated to building a society where the positive law of the Nation forces us all to call to be a marriage what can never be a marriage - or face the police power of the State. They are using the courts and the legislatures to enforce a cultural revolution. They scored what they believe was a decisive "victory" for their brave new world in New York last week. History will prove them wrong.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn expressed the issue well, "This issue has been framed as upholding marriage equality. This is not the case since one of the principal purposes of marriage is to bring new life into the world. This cannot happen in same-sex marriage. It is not a civil rights issue, but rather a human rights issue upholding the age-old understanding of marriage. Our political leaders do not believe their own rhetoric. If they did, how in good conscience could they carve out any exemption for institutions that would be proponents of bigotry and prejudice?"

The truth about marriage is not simply a "religious" construct.  The Natural Law reveals - and the cross cultural history of civilization affirms - that marriage is between a man and a woman, open to children and intended for life. Marriage is the foundation for the family which is the privileged place for the formation of virtue and character in children, our future citizens. The family is the first society, first economy, first school, first civilizing and mediating institution and first government.

In his apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Charity, Pope Benedict summarized the duty of the Catholic faithful when confronted with this assault on authentic marriage:  "Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself."

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Catholic Church wrote in 2003, "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.

"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."

Soon, New York will use the police power of the State to force all of its citizens to call what can never be a marriage to be one. A new Edict from a New Caesar, Governor Andrew Cuomo, insists that they bend the knee to the new order. In the warning issued before the vote by Archbishop Timothy Dolan New York, "You are claiming the power to change what is not into what is, simply because you say so."

This will not stand. However, it reveals a growing persecution against Christians and others who insist that a marriage is what it is - and not what Caesar decrees. The so called "religious exemption" requirements of the legislation are simply a ploy to placate those who might otherwise see the obvious bigotry which this legislation entails. The idea is not new. "Exempt" the Church out of the public square by forcing faithful Christians, Jews and others who insist on the importance of marriage - and the and family and society built upon it - into their own ghettos. Maybe there they will  leave everyone else alone.

Sadly, even some Catholic legislators sold out. They did not understand what their Church proclaims about true marriage. Like the truth she proclaims about the dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death, the truth about marriage is written in the Natural Law. The irony is that the son of the man who betrayed the truth about the dignity of the child in the womb - and the absolute prohibition against killing children in the womb by intentional abortion- has now betrayed the truth about marriage. Both father and son claim to be Catholic.

What the Catholic Church teaches about marriage is not only a "religious" position, though it is certainly affirmed by revelation. It is objectively true and cannot be changed. In this age which Pope Benedict XVI rightly called a "Dictatorship of Relativism", such truth claims elicit anger among the new cultural revolutionaries.   

Get ready. This is only the beginning. The Church has faced these challenges before and the truths she offers for the proper ordering of truly just and human societies always prevails. I am reminded of one of my favorite stories from the beginning of the first millennium, a time very much like the beginning of the Third Millennium.

The year was 258. It was a difficult beginning for what would become the First Christian Millennium of Christian history. Hostility against these early followers of Jesus Christ was growing. The barbarism and severity of pagan Rome had begun to reach a fever pitch. It would soon lead to a blood lust. The newborn Christian Church, faithful to the One who had given Himself for the life of the world, continued the work of His redemption.

Roman authorities charged Christians of that era with "odium humani generis" [hatred of the human race]. The Romans claimed to be citizens of a great empire, yet they practiced primitive forms of abortion as well as "exposure", the killing of unwanted newborns. They also, at various times, tried to institutionalize approval of homosexual relationships on a par with authentic marriage.

Emperor Nero in the first-century A.D. was not only overt in his homosexual relationships but sought to make them normative in the empire, to give an equal status between homosexual relationships and marriage. First and Second century Rome was a challenging mission field for these early Christians. Rome proclaimed itself the shining example to the world of its age while it violated the natural law and embraced debauchery.

The day that Deacon Lawrence experienced his birth from death to life was an ominous and frightful day in ancient Rome. Four days earlier, the great Bishop of Rome, Sixtus, was arrested by soldiers of the emperor Valerian, along with his beloved deacons, and beheaded. Valerian had issued an edict to the Roman Senate that all the Christian clergy-bishops, priests and deacons-were to be arrested and executed. There were so many holy people among the martyrs of early Rome. That makes it even more remarkable that the life and death of this one humble deacon-Lawrence-is attributed with "all of Rome becoming Christian."

Sentenced to death in the Emperor Valerian's sweeping condemnation of all Christian clergy, Lawrence offended the Emperor-and thereby endeared himself to all Christians since-by assembling before Valerian the "gold and silver" of the Church. According to the tradition, Deacon Lawrence, knowing that the fervor of Valerians' hatred was extending to all Christians who owned property, began to give it all away. He distributed the money and treasures of the Church to the city's poor-believing the clear admonition of the Savior that they were blessed and especially loved by Him.

Valerian heard the news and wanted the treasure to satisfy his unbridled lust for worldly power. So, he offered Deacon Lawrence a way out of sure death. If he would show him where the Church's great gold and silver were located, he would issue an order of clemency, sparing his life so that he could continue his work. Valerian was delighted when the deacon asked for three days to gather all the gold and silver of the Church together in one central place!

For three days, Deacon Lawrence went throughout the city and invited all the beloved poor, handicapped, and misfortunate, who were all being supported by a thriving early Christian community who understood the Gospel imperative, to come together. When Valerian arrived, Deacon Lawrence presented him with the true "gold and silver" of the Church!

The emperor was filled with rage! Beheading was not enough for this Christian Deacon. He ordered Deacon Lawrence to be burned alive, in public, on a griddle. Witnesses recorded the public martyrdom. The deacon cheerfully offered himself to the Lord Jesus and even joked with his executioners!

The tradition records massive conversions to the Christian faith as a result of the holy life and death of one Deacon who understood the true heart of his vocation and the faithful Christians who refused to compromise the truth and stood strong against persecution.Hopefully, the situation we are beginning to face will not involve literal executions. However, it most certainly will involve suffering from attacks against our reputations and efforts to marginalize our participation in the public square.

This is a new missionary age. We must remember that the allegations leveled against the early Christians, such as the story of Deacon named Lawrence and his companions, were charges like "Hatred of the Human Race". Hmmm.. Notice some of those signs on display among the mobs of homosexual equivalency activists and their supporters on Sunday?  In a New York minute...things are getting pretty strange.

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