Homosexual Unions: Should We Enshrine Them in the Law?
by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
©Catholic Online 2004
Much attention has been paid during the last few years, both in legislatures and by the media, to the question of whether homosexual relationships should be recognized by the civil authority in a way similar to marriage. Because this important matter relates to the Natural Moral Law, the reflections offered by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in its publication of June 3, 2003 entitled Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons, "are addressed not only to those who believe in Christ, but to all persons committed to promoting and defending the common good of society." (1) The numbers in parentheses refer to the paragraph numbers in the document, which is available on the Website of the Holy See (www.vatican.va).
The Creator of the universe--God Himself--has established the institution we call marriage. "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." (2)
According to the Book of Genesis (Chapters One and Two), God fashioned the human person male and female, who are equal and complementary. The use of the sexual faculty: a.) helps to realize the communion of man and woman; b.) allows man and woman to participate in the Lord's work of creation. "Therefore, in the Creator's plan, sexual complementarity and fruitfulness belong to the very nature of marriage." (3)
After the Son of God, at the behest of His Eternal Father, took the spotless flesh of the Ever-Virgin and became man through the power of the Holy Spirit, He raised the natural union of a man and a woman "to the dignity of a sacrament." (ibid.) Christian marriage reflects the intimate bond between Christ the Bridegroom and His beloved, chaste Bride the Church that He founded.
Since homosexual acts are in disharmony with the Natural Moral Law, given their lack of openness to procreation and because they do not derive from a true affective and sexual complementarity, one must conclude that homosexual unions cannot be regarded "in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family." (4)
From the earliest centuries, the Church unhesitatingly accepted that homosexual acts are depraved, disordered and against the virtue of chastity. She does not judge each person who engages in such behavior to be culpable. Men and women with homosexual inclinations are to be treated with respect and compassion; all forms of unjust discrimination toward them are to be rejected. These men and women, like other Christians, are summoned by God to live chastely.
Three diverse positions concerning homosexual unions have been taken by various governments: a.) tolerance without conceding legal recognition; b.) support for legal recognition under the guise of avoiding discrimination; c.) legal recognition on a par with marriage as well as permitting the adoption of children.
Where tolerance without legal recognition holds sway, Christians are to do whatever they can to witness to the revealed truth, including "unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology; stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions; reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defenses and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil." (5)
In places where homosexual unions are legally recognized or are afforded the status and rights of marriage, one must clearly and emphatically oppose such recognition, refraining from cooperating formally--and, if possible, even materially--in the enactment and application of these gravely unjust laws.
The legal recognition of homosexual unions is to be opposed for the following reasons.
From the order of right reason: Only those human laws that are consistent with the Natural Moral Law are legitimate. A civil law recognizing homosexual unions would influence detrimentally the "patterns of thought and behavior" (6) in a society; it would "obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage." (ibid.)
From the biological and anthropological order: Homosexual unions possess neither the procreative nor the conjugal dimension of marriage. Even artificial forms of reproduction do not make homosexual unions inherently procreative. "Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development." (7)
From the social order: Society cannot survive without the authentic institution of marriage, which would suffer incalculably if homosexual unions are judged to be equal in legal status to it. It is not unjust to prohibit a homosexual couple from marriage because each party has no intrinsic right to marry another of the same gender. And even though each is an adult, he or she enjoys no autonomy to contribute to the moral regression and degradation of society.
From the legal order: Homosexual unions do not, as marriages do, ensure the continuation of the human race. Therefore, they do not deserve special protection in this regard. One cannot assert that homosexual unions must be given legal recognition so that cohabiting homosexual men and women may protect their rights and goods. These persons can have recourse to the provisions of law "like all citizens from the standpoint of their private autonomy" (9).
All Catholics are required to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions but Catholics politicians even more so. When legislation favorable to such unions is first proposed, the Catholic legislator is obliged to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against the law. To vote in favor of this legislation, which would harm immensely the common good, is gravely wrong.
If the legal recognition has already been conceded, then the Catholic legislator must oppose it in whatever way he can and express his opposition. Based on the March 25, 1995 Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) of Pope John Paul II, the Catholic lawmaker, if total repeal is impossible, "'could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality', on condition that his 'absolute personal opposition' to such laws was clear and well known and that the danger of scandal was avoided. This does not mean that a more restrictive law in this area could be considered just or even acceptable; rather, it is a question of the legitimate and dutiful attempt to obtain at least the partial repeal of an unjust law when its total abrogation is not possible at the moment." (10)
The Church loves and respects homosexual persons but does not condone homosexual comportment or the legal recognition of homosexual unions. Holy Matrimony must be promoted and cherished "as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society." (11) To recognize homosexual unions as legal or to accord the rights of marriage to them "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." (ibid.)
From a pamphlet published by Eternal Life, 902 W. Stephen Foster Ave., Bardstown, KY 40004-2402 (1-800-842-2871 or 1-502-348-3963).
https://www.catholic.org , VA
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan - Official, 390 66616-1125
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