May. 12, 2013
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May. 8, 2013
- Redefining marriage in law is a serious injustice
- Children have a right to be raised by mother and father
- Changes meaning of terms regarding marriage, affects birth certificates
“The Delaware Senate passed an unjust bill that attempts to redefine marriage,” said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
“The claim of this bill to redefine marriage is in vain; marriage cannot be redefined, because its unique meaning lies in our very nature. It is also a serious injustice to the most vulnerable among us: children,” said Archbishop Cordileone.
Archbishop Cordileone went on to emphasize the importance of marriage for children. “Marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any child conceived of their union,” he said. “Our society either preserves laws that respect the fundamental right of children to be raised by their moms and dads together in marriage, or it does not.”
The Delaware bill also includes further implications of marriage redefinition in the law. For example, the bill states that terms such as “husband” and “wife” denoting a spousal relationship in Delaware law are to apply equally to persons in an opposite-sex or same-sex relationship. The bill also allows two “parents” of the same sex to be entered on the original birth certificate, thus allowing for two mothers or two fathers to be on the certificate.
The Governor of Delaware signed it into law.
Mar. 22, 2013
This week’s intention and reflection:
Intention: For all who will march in the March for Marriage on Tuesday, or join spiritually from a distance, that they may witness boldly to the truth of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Reflection: If you need a good reason to attend the March for Marriage, here’s one: When Pope Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he encouraged the Catholic faithful to participate in a march for marriage! The Argentinean legislature was then considering a bill that would redefine mar-riage to include two men or two women. In a letter to Carmelite nuns in Argentina, then-Cardinal Bergoglio said about the marriage debate, “At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God.” (Original Spanish here.)
In closing, the future Pope Francis wrote, “We look to Saint Joseph, Mary and the Child Jesus and ask that they fervently defend the family in Argentina at this particular time.” Following our Holy Father’s example, let us entreat the Holy Family to defend marriage and the family in the United States!
Did you know? On Tuesday, March 26, a March for Marriage will take place in our nation’s capital to show citizens’ support for upholding marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Information about the March can be found at the March for Marriage website. Those who cannot participate in person are encouraged to participate spiritually by offering prayers and fasting on March 26.
- Learn about the Bishops’ Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty
- Sign the pledge to fast on Fridays for life, marriage, and religious liberty
- Join the Call to Prayer Facebook event
Feb. 14, 2013
Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is the last day in National Marriage Week, and the last in our series on sexual difference.
So far in the series, we’ve looked at various ways that our culture describes sexual difference (part one and part two), examined Scripture and the Catechism on the subject, and added two helpful phrases to our repertoire of describing sexual difference (“asymmetrical reciprocity” and “double unity”). One important point remains to be discussed: Why does sexual difference matter?
Difference: the foundation of love
Before considering sexual difference specifically, let’s take one step back: why does difference matter? Our culture seems a bit schizophrenic on the topic of difference. On the one hand, it loudly celebrates “diversity” and the virtue most in vogue is, of course, “tolerance” for people different from you. But on the other hand, difference – especially between men and women – is often treated as suspect, as a thin veneer over inequality. In other words, equality is confused with sameness.
But in a world where everything is the same, love would be impossible. G.K. Chesterton explains why:
“I want to love my neighbor not because he is I, but precisely because he is not I. I want to adore the world, not as one likes a looking-glass, because it is one’s self, but as one loves a woman, because she is entirely different. If souls are separate, love is possible. If souls are united, love is obviously impossible. A man may be said loosely to love himself, but he can hardly fall in love with himself, or, if he does, it must be a monotonous courtship.” – Orthodoxy (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), 128.
Difference, in other words, is what saves us from the fate of Narcissus. Difference – recognizing the other as other – is what prevents us from becoming entranced with our own reflection in a shoddy imitation of love.
But even if we accept Chesterton’s point and agree that difference is necessary for love, we might be tempted to think that sexual difference is just one of many differences between persons, such as race, height, or taste in music. What is unique about sexual difference, compared to other possible differences?
Taking bodily life seriously
First, the reality is that being human means being a man or a woman, embodied as male or female. (Even the difficult situations of those born with ambiguous genitalia are the exceptions that prove the rule. An intersex or hermaphroditic condition is not a new gender, but a combination of male and female characteristics.) Taking sexual difference seriously allows us to take the body seriously. It allows us to treat the body as an integral part of our identities, instead of a cage or shell. We are men or women both body and soul. We don’t just have a body—we are our bodies. (See the Catechism, nos. 362-368 on the human person as a unity of body and soul.)
Distinguishing in order to unite
Second, sexual difference is unique because it is inherently referential. Unlike other differences between individuals (height, ethnicity, etc.), which do not require the presence of an “other” to be understood, the bodily reality of a man is only fully understood in light of the bodily reality of a woman. Recall the point in part three of this series: the generic “Adam” is first referred to as “male – ˈiš” when he encounters Eve, the first “woman – ˈiššāh” (see Gen 2:18-25).
But the uniqueness of sexual difference doesn’t end there. The “referential” difference between man and woman does not simply distinguish between the two; it also serves as the foundation of their unity. Or, more accurately, sexual difference distinguishes in order to unite. Only because a man and a woman are sexually different are they capable of forming a complete union of body-persons; if they were the same, no such union would be possible.
In fact, the sexually-differentiated body reveals that man and woman are fundamentally “for” each other. As Bl. John Paul II explained, “The body, which expresses femininity ‘for’ masculinity and, vice versa, masculinity ‘for’ femininity, manifests the reciprocity and the communion of persons” (TOB, 14.4; see also Catechism, no. 371). Being male or female is not simply a matter of biology or anatomy; it is a witness to the call to love and communion that is inscribed within man and woman’s identity as body-and-soul (see FC, no. 11).
Open to the gift of the child
A third reason why sexual difference is unique is because it – and only it – makes two persons capable of welcoming a new child into the world. The “supreme gift” of the child (see GS, no. 50) depends on the sexual difference between father and mother. The spouses’ capacity for procreation, in turn, ensures that their sexual love does not become egotistic, an enclosed circle. The unity of spouses, wrote John Paul II, “rather than closing them up in themselves, opens them up towards a new life, towards a new person” (LF, no. 8).
The difference is the difference
To sum up: Difference is necessary for love; if all were one, love would be impossible. Love requires recognition of the “other” as “other.” But while there are many differences between persons, sexual difference – the difference of man to woman and woman to man – is a unique kind of difference. It is irreducible and primordial, fundamental to human nature and every human experience. In particular, it is the avenue toward full personal-bodily communion between a man and woman, and thus is necessary for a couple to experience the superabundant fruitfulness of conceiving a child. Both of these capacities – for union and for children – matter for marriage. In fact, they are essential for marriage. This helps us to understand why sexual difference – the difference of man to woman and woman to man – is an essential aspect of marriage. Without it, marriage is impossible.
Feb. 12, 2013
Welcome back to this series on sexual difference! So far we have looked at various ways that our culture describes sexual difference (here and here) and have delved into Scripture and the Catechism on the subject. Now, in Parts 4 and 5, we will examine two phrases – “asymmetrical reciprocity” and “double unity” – that, despite being mouthfuls, are incredibly helpful in illuminating sexual difference.
In his book The Nuptial Mystery, Angelo Cardinal Scola offers the phrase “asymmetrical reciprocity” as a way to understand sexual difference. He writes that “nuptiality,” the complex phenomenon of male-female interactions, “manifests a reciprocity between me and another. This reciprocity bears a very peculiar characteristic which I call ‘asymmetry’” (92).
Reciprocity: From another, For another
Let’s start with the word reciprocity. In common parlance, reciprocal refers to those relationships in which something is exchanged; there is a sense of mutuality; a back-and-forth in which both parties receive what they need. Unrequited love is, by definition, not reciprocal.
For Scola, reciprocity means all of this, and more. The “more” is that for Scola, reciprocity is not something chosen; it is something given. That is, reciprocity is present in our lives even before we ask for it. The very fact that I am born means that I come from another, to whom I am connected (a relationship of reciprocity) well before my consent – and even despite it. Scola writes, “There is not first a wholly autonomous ‘I’ which then enters into relation with an other. The relation is not extrinsic and accidental, but intrinsic and constitutive” (121). What he means is that reciprocity is “built-in” to the human experience. We are through and through reciprocal creatures.
Scola acknowledges that “the ‘other’ is obviously a category broader than that of the ‘other sex’” (93). In some sense, every person presents themselves to me as an “other” – someone with whom to interact who is not reducible to myself. However, Scola continues, “it is undeniable that the original and basic experience of otherness is founded on sexual otherness” (93, bold added). In other words, sexual difference is the paradigm of reciprocity, of otherness, and of relation. When I encounter a person who is sexually different than me, I am eloquently reminded that I do not, in fact, sum up the entirety of what it means to be human. As Scola puts it, “You, woman, are as fully person as I, man. Yet you are this in a way that is radically different from my own, so decisive and so inaccessible. You are, precisely, other” (381).
Asymmetrical: A difference never overcome, open to fruitfulness
Reciprocity, then, highlights the relational character of human persons, and especially of man to woman and woman to man (sexual difference). But what about the qualifier asymmetrical? Scola uses this term to ensure that reciprocity between men and women does not collapse into something akin to Aristophanes’ myth, where man + woman = whole person. If men and women were “halves,” then their relationship would be perfectly symmetrical, and their encounter would erase all difference between them. Instead – and this is key – the sexual difference between men and women is never overcome. Scola says, “Even in the most intimate form of the unity between husband and wife – the biblical ‘one flesh’ – difference is not abolished. The other remains irreducibly ‘other’” (381). Asymmetry ensures, then, that male-female communion in marriage is not a threat to the personal identities of husband and wife. The mystery of the “one-flesh union” is that even in truly becoming one, the two aren’t dissolved into some sort of amorphous uni-creature.
The importance of asymmetry becomes even clearer when we are reminded that it – irreducible difference – is precisely what enables husband and wife to be fruitful! As Scola writes, “The difference between the two (the man and the woman) makes space for a third…The reciprocity does not cancel the difference because it is asymmetrical, since it exists not for the sake of androgynous union of two halves, but for the procreation of the child” (95, emphasis original). Therefore, asymmetry ensures that the relations between a man and a woman never become an enclosed circle, but rather remain open – from within – to the ecstatic eruption of an entirely new person, the child.
Asymmetrical reciprocity is a useful phrase for talking about sexual difference because it expresses both the “built-in” relation between men and women (reciprocity) but also the fact that their relation is never reducible to a tidy equation (asymmetrical). Scola brings out the wholeness of every man and woman as a human person – a wholeness that is nonetheless always receptive to the other.
Next: Another way to talk about sexual difference – “double unity”
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse to Rhode Island Legislature: Remarks on redefining marriage and redefining parenthood
Jan. 18, 2013
As we have mentioned, Rhode Island is one of several states currently facing proposals to redefine marriage to include two persons of the same sex. Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has spoken forcefully on the subject, urging the Rhode Island Legislature not to redefine marriage.
On Tuesday, the Rhode Island Legislature heard prepared remarks from Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., founder and president of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization of Marriage that aims to promote lifelong marriage to young people. In her statement, Dr. Morse reminded the legislators that she had spoken to them about two years ago, during Rhode Island’s 2011 debate over marriage redefinition, and that many things she predicted in those remarks have since come to pass in places where marriage has been redefined: children with three legal parents, custody disputes with three or more adults, attacks on religious liberty, and removal of gendered language from the law.
In her most recent remarks, Dr. Morse offers another series of predictions about what will happen in law and culture if marriage is redefined. These include:
- continuing the removal of sex differences from the law (example: according to Dr. Morse, the bill being considered in Rhode Island replaces “husbands” and “wives” with the gender-neutral term “parties,” as is anticipated to happen in Washington State; birth certificates in Spain name “Progenitor A” and “Progenitor B,” not “father” and “mother”, a move that the UK is currently debating)
- more aggressive attacks on the natural bond between father, mother, and child (example: blurring the distinction between parent and non-parent, such as if a woman “married” to the mother of a child is considered the child’s second parent, possibly to the exclusion of the child’s father)
Dr. Morse acknowledges that the supporters of marriage redefinition may or may not intend the foregoing. “But I predict,” she continues, “they will be the outcome, the logical result of your marriage policy.” In other words, despite any intentions to the contrary, redefining marriage in law will, as one consequence, entail redefining parenthood. (Dr. Morse details several other consequences.) And how could it not? Saying that men and women are exchangeable as spouses is tantamount to saying that men and women are exchangeable as parents, that fathers and mothers don’t matter to children. (It is commonplace to hear that the number “two” is what matters in parenting, not the gender of the parents, although this prevailing orthodoxy is being challenged by recent studies.) Redefining marriage, and redefining parenthood, are serious matters indeed, and Dr. Morse strongly encouraged the Rhode Island legislators to consider the wide-ranging effects of their decisions.
Dr. Morse’s prescient remarks are worth reading in their entirety. Read them here.
Jan. 8, 2013
More from Illinois, which likely could face a marriage redefinition bill early in the new legislative session. Last week, we featured two letters from prelates in the Land of Lincoln: Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois. Both wrote cogently to their congregants, urging them to resist the redefinition of marriage threatened by their state legislators.
As a complement to his letter, Cardinal George also has an article in the Chicago Catholic newspaper, Catholic New World. Entitled “Legislation creating ‘same-sex’ marriage: What’s at stake?”, the Cardinal’s piece does just that – examine what logically and inevitably follows from redefining marriage to include two persons of the same sex.
If marriage is redefined, argues the Cardinal, three things are at stake:
1. The biological, natural relationship between a child and his/her mother and father: ”If the nature of marriage is destroyed in civil law, the natural family goes with it.” In its stead will spring “alternative” family arrangements that cannot provide for a child the fundamental birthright of a father and mother.
2. The ability to believe in man-woman marriage without being labeled a bigot. Cardinal George minces no words here. If marriage is redefined in the law and fully accepted in culture, “Those who know the difference between marriage and same-sex arrangements will be regarded as bigots.” In other words, those who continue to believe and proclaim the true meaning of marriage will be treated with “social opprobrium” and become pariahs, “the equivalent of misguided racists.”
3. Our understanding of the human person: Quoting the Holy Father’s recent address to the Roman Curia, Cardinal George describes the end-game (and engine) of marriage redefinition as denying the created nature of the human person as male and female. Instead, man becomes an “abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be.” Acceptance of one’s sexual identity is rejected in favor of self-creation and manipulation.
The Cardinal raises many more valuable points. Read his entire article here.
Jan. 6, 2013
On December 21, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the Roman Curia on the occasion of their annual Christmas greetings. His address was something of a year-in-review, looking at key moments from 2012. One such key moment was the World Meeting of Families in Milian from May 30 to June 3, which the Pope said showed that “despite all impressions to the contrary, the family is still strong and vibrant today.” And yet serious challenges remain, challenges that threaten the family “to its very foundations.” Today’s Sunday Pope Quote is actually a collection of quotes drawn from the Holy Father’s Dec. 21 reflections on the family and the human person. Here he goes to the heart of the cultural crisis of marriage and the family: ultimately it is a question of who the human person is and whether the given reality of being created male and female is to be accepted…or rejected.
“The question of the family is not just about a particular social construct, but about man himself – about what he is and what it takes to be authentically human.”
“Only in self-giving does man find himself, and only by opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family, only by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity.”
“The attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question.”
“According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed.”
“Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned.”
“The child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. … From being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain.”
“When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defense of the family is about man himself.”
Jan. 4, 2013
Illinois is one of several states where legislators voiced plans after the November election to seek marriage redefinition in 2013. (Delaware, Rhode Island, and Minnesota are also on the list.) Illinois had passed civil unions legislation in 2010, a law strongly opposed by the Illinois bishops. While as of this morning it appears that a marriage redefinition bill will not be brought to a vote in the current legislative session, it remains a threat. The Catholic leadership in Illinois has responded quickly and vocally to this new challenge. We have already featured here the new Defense of Marriage Toolkit offered by the Catholic Conference of Illinois. And now this weekend, January 5/6, Cardinal Francis George and Bishop Thomas John Paprocki have asked for letters about marriage to be read at all of the parishes in Chicago and Springfield, respectively.
The message their parishioners will hear is crystal clear: marriage’s reality, rooted in nature, is the union of one man and one woman. It is a reality that no law can change. If the law does change to remove the gender requirement from marriage, Catholics and all those who hold to the authentic meaning of marriage can expect to face legal difficulties and social stigma.
Cardinal George: “‘Same-sex Marriage:’ What do Nature and Nature’s God Say?”
In his letter, co-signed by all the Chicago auxiliary bishops, Cardinal George emphasizes that marriage is not created by the State or by the Church, but that “marriage comes to us from nature. The human species comes in two complementary sexes, male and female. Their sexual union is called marital.” The State cannot change this natural reality of marriage; to try would create a “legal fiction.”
The Cardinal also highlights the various pastoral outreaches to persons with same-sex attraction in Chicago, noting that “the Church offers the means to live chastely in all circumstances, as the love of God both obliges and makes possible.”
Cardinal George says strongly that if the Illinois legislature passes a marriage redefinition law, “it will be acting against the common good of society. We will all have to pretend to accept something that is contrary to the common sense of the human race.” He urges parishioners to visit the website of the Illinois Catholic Conference to stay updated on the latest in the marriage debate and find out how to contact their elected officials.
Bishop Paprocki: Proposed Law Threatens Marriage and Religious Liberty
In his letter, Bishop Paprocki calls attention to the “fraudulent” title of the marriage redefinition bill: “The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.” In fact, writes the bishop, “the proposed law is…a grave assault upon both religious liberty and marriage.” He too emphasizes the natural reality of marriage as the union of a man and a woman: lacking sexual difference, two men or two women “cannot extend a union of hearts by a true bodily union. They cannot turn a friendship into the one-flesh union of marriage. They are not marital.”
The bishop stresses that redefining marriage in the law would do just that – redefine marriage. It is not simply “expand[ing] the eligibility roster for marriage,” as many claim. More specifically, there are three harmful ideas that would be enshrined in law post-marriage redefinition:
- What essentially makes a marriage is romantic-emotional union
- Children don’t need both a mother and father.
- The main purpose of marriage is adult satisfaction.
These three ideas contradict the long-standing consensus that marriage is recognized in civil law precisely because the love between a man and a woman has the capacity to bring a child into the world. As the bishop says, the “love-making acts” of a man and a woman “are life-giving acts.” Marriage involves commitment and intimacy, yes, but commitment and intimacy of a life-giving nature. Preserving marriage in civil law does justice to children by recognizing their need to be reared by a father and mother together.
Bishop Paprocki concludes by stating forcefully that the proposed bill is “a lethal attack upon religious liberty.” For those who are still skeptical, he points to the fact that Illinois has already seen consequences of laws erosive to marriage. As the bishop notes, after civil unions were passed in 2011, Catholic Charities was forced out of foster care and adoption services in Illinois. He adds that broader religious exemptions are not the answer. “There is no way,” he writes, “none whatsoever – for those who believe that marriage is exclusively the union of husband and wife to avoid legal penalties and harsh discriminatory treatment if the bill becomes law. … The only way to protect religious liberty, and to preserve marriage, is to defeat this perilous proposal.”
- Illinois residents can find their elected officials’ contact information at the Illinois Catholic Conference website.
- Defense of Marriage Toolkit from the Illinois Catholic Conference
- Redefinition of Marriage website from the Illinois Catholic Conference
Made for Life, Part 5: “We were open to life, whether through…giving birth or through the adoption process.”
Nov. 29, 2012
Background: This is part 5 of the Viewer’s Guide that accompanies the video “Made for Life.” Previous sections include: 1) openness to life; 2) gift of self and gift of life; 3) children as a gift; 4) the call to welcome a child and be a child. In part 5, we’ll look at the witness of infertile couples and of those couples who adopt a child. In that context, we’ll reflect on how openness to life is essential for all marriages, not just those that are blessed with children.
“We were open to life, whether through…giving birth or through the adoption process.”
As Kevin and Brenda witness in the video, openness to life has a meaning more profound than popularly recognized today. In the midst of recent attempts to “redefine” marriage, the objection is sometimes raised that there are many husbands and wives who are unable to have children. What makes them different from a relationship between two persons of the same sex, who also can’t have children of their own?
The truth is, there is an unbridgeable difference between a spousal union (a male-female couple united as husband and wife) and a relationship between two men or two women. This difference is sexual difference. First, conceiving a child requires the joint action of both a man and a woman. This intimate participation in conceiving a child is simply impossible for two persons of the same sex. Two men or two women cannot—ever—have a child together. [i]
Second, sexual union between a husband and wife is the kind of union apt for generation. That is, male-female intimacy is the natural route through which a child comes into the world. There are times when a husband and wife may be unable to conceive a child due to infertility or sterility (for reasons beyond their control) or advanced age. Still, their sexual union remains the kind of union that expresses total self-gift and openness to the gift of the child. [ii] The situation is very different for two persons of the same sex. Even if both are young and perfectly healthy, any sexual behavior between them can never form a true union and will never be able to welcome a new child into the world.
The painful cross of infertility does not mean that a couple’s marriage is not fruitful. As Pope John Paul II taught, “Physical sterility . . . can be for spouses the occasion for other important services to the life of the human person, for example, adoption, various forms of educational work, and assistance to other families and to poor or handicapped children.” [iii] In particular, the Church praises adoption as an expression of “true parental love,” which “is ready to go beyond the bonds of flesh and blood in order to accept children from other families.” [iv]
Adoption, as a response to a tragedy or loss, is never meant to be held up as an “alternative” to the natural family of father, mother, and their children. Instead, adoption “takes its form” from the natural family. There is a difference between generously responding to an abandoned child’s need for a mother and a father, on the one hand, and deliberately depriving a child of a mother and a father by placing him or her in the care of two men or two women.
In sum, openness to life is essential to every marriage. Husbands and wives who are not blessed with children of their own still exemplify the fruitful communion of persons in a way two persons of the same sex never can. This communion, built on the sexual difference between husband and wife, opens the door to adoption and to other generous forms of service while still respecting the beauty of sexual difference, the needs of children, and the indispensable place of mothers and fathers.
[i]. Language is powerful and affects our thinking. We must be cautious, therefore, of accepting the culture’s description of two men or two women as “parents.” “Parenting” is not gender neutral but means “mothering and fathering.” Also, two men or two women cannot really be “parents” of the same child.
[ii]. See USCCB, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan, 14: “The marital union of a man and a woman is a distinctive communion of persons. An infertile couple continues to manifest this attribute.”
[iii]. Bl. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, no. 14.
[iv]. Bl. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, no. 93.