For the month of February, MUR will explore the concept of the complementarity of the sexes.
Complementarity is a word that comes up a lot when talking about marriage and trying to explain the Church’s teaching on it. Unfortunately, it sometimes has negative connotations, some of which can be downright offensive to either sex.
Today as we kick off Complementarity February (an MUR original), we are going to start with what complementarity is NOT.
It is not “You complete me,” a la Jerry Maguire.
It is not Plato’s conception of “two halves of the same soul” who were split apart by jealous gods (see The Symposium).
And finally, it is not even, “He’s helpless in the kitchen and she’s helpless with the car.”
Instead, complementarity is the awesome fact that everything Martha does, as a human being, she does as a woman. Everything Bob does, as a human being, he does as a man. Martha and Bob are different, and we thank God for that. When Martha and Bob fall in love, there is an vitality there that derives from their fundamental sexual difference.
I have never met a married couple who said, “Yeah, we’re basically the same.” Even when they share interests, philosophies, goals, skills, and ideas, a man and a woman in love always come up to an “otherness” that will never go away. He will never think the same way she does about X, Y, or Z. She will never react the same way he does to A, B, or C. Part of that is due to sexual difference. Complementarity means that a man finds in a woman, and vice versa, a whole person who experiences the world in a completely different way that is equally valid.
Pope St. John Paul II wrote: masculinity and femininity are “two reciprocally completing ways of ‘being a body’ and at the same time of being human—… two complementary dimensions of self-knowledge and self-determination and, at the same time, two complementary ways of being conscious of the meaning of the body.”[i] He means that being human means being a body-soul unity, a person with not only intelligence, will, emotions, and a soul but also a body that requires food, drink, sleep, exercise, and even to go to the bathroom. There are two ways of being a human person—a male way and a female way. These are not biological deterministic concepts because they are about the whole person, body and soul together.
When men and women are together — whether they are married or whether they are simply friends, co-workers, or acquaintances — there is something “creative” about their collaboration, as long as they are open to the others’ uniqueness. Neither should dismiss the other’s perspective, but neither can they fully enter into it. Pope Francis pointed out that these days we don’t always know how to handle this difference. He said, “For example, I ask myself, if the so-called gender theory is not, at the same time, an expression of frustration and resignation, which seeks to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it. Yes, we risk taking a step backwards. The removal of difference in fact creates a problem, not a solution.”[ii]
For too long, men and women defined their differences by what they were “able to do,” which both overemphasized and, at the same time, minimized the truth — the truth that men and women in many ways can do the same things, but they will not do them the same way.
In conclusion, here is a section from Mulieris Dignitatem, in which Pope St. John Paul II gave a list of female saints to consider: “Monica, the mother of Augustine, Macrina, Olga of Kiev, Matilda of Tuscany, Hedwig of Silesia, Jadwiga of Cracow, Elizabeth of Thuringia, Birgitta of Sweden, Joan of Arc, Rose of Lima, Elizabeth Ann Seton and Mary Ward” (no. 27). It would be difficult to find a more diverse group of women. As a parallel list for men, how about Joseph, husband of Mary, Ignatius of Loyola, John Vianney, Maximilian Kolbe, Padre Pio, Pier Giorgio Frassati, Martin de Porres, Francis and King Louis IX. God created us all to be saints, and none of us will be exactly like anyone else. The equality-in-difference of the saints shows us that men and women will always be masculine or feminine, and even more so when they are who God called them to be.
[i] John Paul II, Theology of the Body (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2006), p. 166. See also USCCB, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan (2009), pp. 9-11.
[ii] Pope Francis, “On Man and Woman” General Audience, April 15, 2015).
In this fourth of the 5-week series, MUR is going over the FAQ #3 in Section 2: What’s the difference between a husband and wife who can’t have children, and two persons of the same sex, who also can’t have children?
This is a great question and one that requires a bit of patience to find a satisfying answer. The soundbite answer is: A man and a woman, united in the sexual act, is always and only the type of act that can result in the conception of a child.
As the MUR FAQ puts it, even when a husband and wife do not in fact conceive a child (due to infertility, age, and so on), their sexual acts are still the kind of acts by which children are naturally conceived. In contrast, two persons of the same sex may be perfectly healthy, but will never be able to enter a one-flesh communion and thus unite in such a way that a child is conceived.
On the human level, the marriage between a man and a woman, regardless of whether they have children, is deeply affected by the relationship of each of them has to their parents. You see, every child has a mother and a father, and then grows up, and to some extent bases his (or her) understanding of marriage and relationships on what he saw between his own parents.
Let’s flip the question around a bit: if marriage is supposedly about children, then why allow couples who cannot procreate to be married?
Well, first of all, we never said that marriage is only about children. We’ll come back to that later.
Setting aside the privacy issues and the horrifying idea of the government being allowed to peek into health records before issuing marriage licenses, hopefully the answer is still pretty clear: because a man and woman, no matter what, can share the whole of their lives with each other, uniting bodies, hearts, minds and souls. The community benefits from every witness of fidelity and love between a husband and a wife. Children in their extended families and neighborhoods can see in them a picture of love, of what is possible, even if their own parents are not together. They may choose to open their marriage to children through adoption, foster care, or other more temporary arrangements, or they may choose to serve in any number of different ways. They are still complements to one another.
A quick philosophy lesson before the next question: An accident means a trait or a quality that something has, that is not always or necessarily there. For example, color is often an accident; an apple doesn’t have to be red to be an apple. The essence, on the other hand, is what makes something be what it is. It’s not an apple if it’s a pear, even if the pear is red.
So here’s the question: Is the impossibility of conceiving a child an accident in the couple, or connected essentially to their relationship?
A man and a man, or a woman and a woman, cannot become parents together, by definition, by essence. Their infertility is a result of the nature of human beings, not to an accident of infertility in one or the other (or both).
Does that help?
In this 5-week series, MUR is going over a few of the FAQs on our website. This week we look at FAQ #10: Why does the Catholic Church care so much about marriage?
Short answer: Because it’s such a good thing for people and for society. In fact, nothing really compares to marriage when it comes to creating a stable environment for children, and a strong foundation for communities.
The Church’s ultimate goal is to help people to get to heaven. This is the gift that Jesus made possible by his passion and death, but it’s not automatic. We “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12) This means that participating in our redemption is a daily work, a lifelong journey. The Church’s deep desire is for all people to join in this work, to receive the abundant mercy that God is always offering. “For as long as we are alive it is always possible to start over, all we have to do is let Jesus embrace us and forgive us.”
So the Church cares about marriage because she cares about the salvation of married people. All married people. She knows that marriage is the context in which God, in most cases, wants to save people and show them His mercy. In experiencing the total love and acceptance of another human person, who is different but the same, a human being can come to understand God’s love and forgiveness. In having children with that person, giving life out of the union of sexual difference, spouses can come to understand God’s love in an ever deeper way through the overwhelming love they experience toward their children. These are great gifts of love in themselves, and at the same time, they point toward a higher love, a love which also expresses both difference (3 persons) and sameness (one God). This is a way to help them understand what it means to be a man or a woman. Pope Francis talked about this with engaged couples.
In addition to willing the salvation of all married persons, the Church wills the salvation of every one of their children, and as expressed above, there is no healthier context for children than in a home with a married mother and father. It is the best place in which a child can learn what love truly is, and how it includes sacrifice and hard work. In a home where at least one parent is voluntarily missing, children may question whether God’s love, too, is changeable or temporary. It will then be more of a challenge for them to internalize the concept of unconditional love and acceptance.
Much of this is evident through personal experience. Reflect on the people in your own life who either grew up in a home without one or the other parent, or experienced a parental divorce later in life. The Huffington Post is actually running a series right now on the children of divorce, including adults. (For Your Marriage has a round-up about this, if you’re interested.) There are also children who were raised with two parents of the same sex who have spoken about their wound of the missing parent.
In conclusion, marriage has significance not only to the persons contracting it, but to their families, their communities, and – really– the world.
For the next 5 weeks, MUR will be going over a few of the FAQs on our website. We are starting with #3: What is marriage?
Here is the Catechism definition: Marriage is the lifelong partnership of mutual and exclusive fidelity between a man and a woman, ordered to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children (see CCC, no. 1601; CIC, can. 1055.1; GS, no. 48).
Let’s see how much is covered by that one sentence:
- Lifelong = no divorce, ends at the death of one of the spouses
- Partnership = each spouse gives the proverbial 100% and the two persons are equal
- Mutual = shared in common
- Exclusive = excluding all others
- Fidelity = faithfulness, sexual and emotional
- Ordered to = made, designed, or constructed in such a way as to do X
- Good of the spouses = what is good for both the man and the woman– heaven
- Procreation = helping God to bring new life into the world
- Education = parents are the first educators of their children
At the heart of married love, the Church says, is the total gift of self that husband and wife freely offer to each other, becoming “one flesh” and being open through one another to children, “who are a living reflection of their love” (FC, no. 14).
In other words, when a husband and wife unite in the sexual act, it is not just some form of pleasant recreation, but rather an expression of the unity they seek to live out on an everyday basis through sharing themselves with each other.
Marriage in the Catholic Church between a baptized man and a baptized woman has also been raised to be a Sacrament by Christ.
A sacrament (lowercase s) is a sign of something greater; it points beyond itself to some other reality, and is somehow tied to that reality. For example, the body is the sacrament of the soul. You know that I exist, and that I have a soul, because you see my body and it is a human body.
A Sacrament (with a capital S), on the other hand, is one of the seven formal Sacraments of the Catholic Church which come from Christ Himself to give his people the grace they need for the journey. Each one of the Sacraments has its roots in Scripture and Tradition. Marriage is a unique Sacrament, because it was always a (lowercase “s”) sacrament from the beginning of time. The union of man and woman always pointed beyond itself to something greater: the mystery of a God who is Love. But Jesus raised this natural sacrament to a formal Sacrament at the Wedding of Cana, revealing that it is a concrete sign of his union with the Church. He showed that the relationship of man and woman to one another was also meant to be open to God and his grace.
This also partly explains why the Catholic Church is interested in the civil definition of marriage, not just Sacramental marriage. The union of a man and a woman points to God, even when it is not a Sacramental bond.
The bishops of Northern Ireland wrote an open letter to members of the legislative assembly regarding the proposal of same-sex “marriage”
Dear Member of the Legislative Assembly,
Today, Monday 2 November, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly will debate a motion calling on the Northern Ireland Executive ‘to table legislation to allow for same-sex marriage’.
As pastors and teachers we have a responsibility to offer guidance to members of the Church and to participate with other citizens in debating the values and laws that ensure the authentic common good of society.
In public debate about the nature of marriage and the family it can sometimes be lost that the Church’s first words to all who experience homosexual attraction are those of love, understanding and a desire to journey supportively with all who follow Jesus with a sincere heart. The Church teaches that every person must be welcomed with respect for their dignity and with care to avoid “any form of unjust discrimination”(Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 2003, n.4).
In the context of the forthcoming Assembly debate, we wish to express our particular concern that the motion presented provides no detail whatsoever of the scale or scope of the legislation being proposed. It is also completely silent on the vital issue of respect for individual religious conscience and protections for Churches and other religious groups. Those who vote in favour of this motion have no way of knowing what the full consequences of such a vote will be. What will be the impact for services provided by Churches and other faith groups that offer vital support to marriages and families in all kinds of distress and thereby contribute to the well-being of children and society? The failure of legislators to provide any form of protection for Catholic Church-related adoption agencies that have had to close in recent years is a stark warning to all who value the wide range of social and pastoral services that Churches provide. The motion being debated in the Assembly fails completely to protect the future of these services and their right to operate within the religious ethos from which they were founded and continue to provide a valued service to communities.
We ask you especially as a legislator to keep the rights and welfare of children to the forefront of your considerations when voting on the forthcoming motion. Religious and non-religious people alike have long acknowledged and know from their experience that the family, based on the marriage of a woman and a man, is the best and ideal place for children. The proposed motion before the Assembly effectively says to parents, children and society that the State should not, and will not, promote any normative or ideal family environment for raising children. It therefore implies that the biological bond and natural ties between a child and its mother and father have no intrinsic value for the child or for society. As Pope Francis stated recently, “we must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity” (16 April 2014). We also reiterate the objective truth, affirmed by the recent Synod on the Family, that “there is no foundation whatsoever to… establish an even remotely analogous correspondence between homosexual unions and God’s plan for marriage and the family“ (Synod 2015, Relatio Finalis, n.76).
The truth about marriage derives from its intrinsic nature as a relationship based on the complementarity of a man and woman and the unique capacity of this relationship alone to generate new life. This truth does not change with the shifting tides of historical custom or popular opinion.
Finally, we appeal to members of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly to give urgent priority to the many other issues that impact on children, marriage and the family in our society, including the continued failure to lift the distressing levels of child poverty in Northern Ireland, which are among the highest in Western Europe, and the immense stress being caused to many individuals, families and marriages because of proposed welfare cuts and the long term social disadvantage to which so many in Northern Ireland continue to be subjected.
With respect and encouragement for your important work as a public representative.
Archbishop of Armagh
Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor
Bishop of Dromore
Bishop of Clogher
Bishop of Derry
Bishop of Down and Connor
In light of the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 6th…
Today Archbishop Kurtz issued a statement about the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling, calling it a “tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us.” Read the full statement here.
Archbishop Kurtz compared the decision to Roe v. Wade and how it doesn’t change the truth- which is “unchanged and unchangeable.” He continues on to say that, “Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.”
It is a deep truth that the human being is an embodied soul, male and female. The archbishop writes, “The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female” and notes that this is part of what Pope Francis has described as “integral ecology.” “The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.”
The bishops follow Jesus Christ who taught these truths unambiguously, and the president of the USCCB encouraged Catholics to keep speaking for the truth and moving forward with the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. Archbishop Kurtz ended by saying, “I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.”
In addition, a number of other statements have been made:
- Alaska Catholic Conference (Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau)
- Colorado Catholic Conference (Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo)
- Iowa Catholic Conference (Dubuque, Davenport, Des Moines, Sioux City)
- Kansas Catholic Conference (Kansas in Kansas City, Dodge City, Salina, Wichita)
- Louisiana Catholic Conference (Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Houma-Thibodaux, Lafayette, Lake Charles, New Orleans, Shreveport)
- Michigan Catholic Conference (Detroit, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Saginaw, Marquette, Gaylord, Grand Rapids)
- Nebraska Catholic Conference (Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island)
- Ohio Catholic Conference (Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Steubenville, Toledo, Youngstown)
- Texas Catholic Conference (Galveston-Houston, San Antonio, Amarillo, Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Laredo, Lubbock, San Angelo, Tyler, Victoria)
- Virginia Catholic Conference (Arlington, Richmond)
- Wisconsin Catholic Conference (Milwaukee, Green Bay, Madison, La Crosse, Superior)
- His Eminence Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston
- His Eminence Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston
- His Eminence Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, ADW Statement
- Most Reverend Edward B. Scharfenberger, Bishop of Albany
- Most Reverend John O. Barres, Bishop of Allentown
- Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory, Archbishop of Atlanta
- Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin
- Most Reverend William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore, and a radio interview
- Most Reverend Robert J. Baker, Bishop of Birmingham
- Most Reverend David Kagan, Bishop of Bismarck
- Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport
- Most Reverend Daniel Flores, Bishop of Brownsville
- Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn
- Most Reverend Richard J. Malone, Bishop of Buffalo and Chairman of the Committee for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. Also a column on this issue and religious freedom in the diocesan paper.
- Most Reverend Christopher J. Coyne, Bishop of Burlington
- Most Reverend Robert E. Guglielmone, Bishop of Charleston
- Most Reverend Peter Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte
- Most Reverend Paul D. Etienne, Bishop of Cheyenne
- Most Reverend Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago
- Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati
- Most Reverend Richard Lennon, Bishop of Cleveland
- Most Reverend Michael Mulvey, Bishop of Corpus Christi
- Most Reverend Michael J. Hoeppner, Bishop of Crookston
- Most Reverend Kevin Farrell, Bishop of Dallas
- Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit
- Most Reverend Mark Seitz, Bishop of El Paso
- Most Reverend Lawrence Persico, Bishop of Erie
- Most Reverend Chad Zielinski, Bishop of Fairbanks
- Most Reverend John Thomas Foldas, Bishop of Fargo
- Most Reverend Kevin Rhoades, Bishop of Fort Wayne- South Bend
- Most Reverend Armando X. Ochoa, Bishop of Fresno (video link)
- Most Reverend James S. Wall, Bishop of Gallup
- Most Reverend Donald J. Hying, Bishop of Gary
- Most Reverend Steven J. Raica, Bishop of Gaylord
- Most Reverend Walkowiak, Bishop of Grand Rapids
- Most Reverend David L. Ricken, Bishop of Green Bay
- Most Reverend Leonard P. Blair, Archbishop of Hartford
- Most Reverend Larry Silva, Bishop of Honolulu
- Most Reverend Joseph William Tobin, CSsR, Archbishop of Indianapolis
- Most Reverend Joseph Kopacz, Bishop of Jackson
- Most Reverend John R. Gaydos, Bishop of Jefferson City
- Most Reverend R. Daniel Conlon, Diocese of Joliet
- Most Reverend Paul J. Bradley, Bishop of Kalamazoo
- Most Reverend Richard F. Stika, Bishop of Knoxville
- Most Reverend Michael Jarrell, Bishop of Lafayette
- Most Reverend Timothy L. Doherty, Bishop of Lafayette in Indiana
- Most Reverend Glen J. Provost, Bishop of Lake Charles
- Most Reverend James A. Tamayo, Bishop of Laredo
- Most Reverend Joseph A. Pepe, Bishop of Las Vegas
- Most Reverend John Stowe, OFM Conv., Bishop of Lexington
- Most Reverend James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln
- Most Reverend Anthony B. Taylor, Bishop of Little Rock
- Most Reverend Jose H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, also his article “Creation and the Future of Marriage”
- Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of Madison
- Most Reverend J. Terry Steib, SVD, Bishop of Memphis
- Most Reverend Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami
- Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki, Archbishop of Milwaukee and his blog post “Church, State, and Catholicism”
- Most Reverend David R. Choby, Bishop of Nashville
- Most Reverend Gregory Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans
- Most Reverend Terry LaValley, Diocese of Ogdensburg
- Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma
- Most Reverend John Noonan, Bishop of Orlando
- Most Reverend William F. Medley, Bishop of Owensboro, Kentucky
- Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach
- Most Reverend Arthur J. Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson
- Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, also his July 6 column and a special edition column in which he shares “The Importance of Thinking Clearly” by Rev. Dominic Legge, O.P.
- Most Reverend David A. Zubik, Bishop of Pittsburgh
- Most Reverend Alexander Sample, Bishop of Portland
- Most Reverend Robert Deeley, Bishop of Portland, Maine
- Most Reverend Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence, also encouraging conscientious objection
- Most Reverend Michael Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh
- Most Reverend David J. Malloy, Bishop of Rockford
- Most Reverend William Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre
- Most Reverend Jaime Soto, Bishop of Sacramento
- Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of Saint Louis
- Most Reverend Donald J. Kettler, Bishop of Saint Cloud
- Most Reverend Edward Joseph Weisenburger, Bishop of Salina
- Most Reverend Michael J. Sis, Bishop Of San Angelo
- Most Reverend Gustavo García‐Siller, Archbishop of San Antonio; also interviewed for a news story.
- Most Reverend Gerald R. Barnes, Bishop of San Bernardino
- Most Reverend Robert W. McElroy, Bishop of San Diego
- Most Reverend Patrick J. McGrath, Bishop of San Jose
- Most Reverend John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe
- Most Reverend Gregory J. Hartmayer, Bishop of Savannah
- Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton
- Most Reverend Paul J. Swain, Diocese of Sioux Falls
- Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois
- Most Reverend James V. Johnston, Jr, Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau
- Most Reverend Felipe J. Estévez, Diocese of St. Augustine
- Most Reverend Robert J. Cunningham, Bishop of Syracuse
- Most Reverend Daniel E. Thomas, Bishop of Toledo
- Most Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M., Bishop of Trenton
- Most Reverend Gerald Kicanas, Bishop of Tucson
- Most Reverend Edward J. Slattery, Bishop of Tulsa
- Most Reverend J. Strickland, Bishop of Tyler
- Most Reverend Michael J. Bransfield, Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston
- Most Reverend Carl A. Kemme, Bishop of Wichita
- Most Reverend Robert J. McManus, Bishop of Worcester
- Most Reverend George V. Murry, Bishop of Youngstown
- Diocese of Cheyenne
- Diocese of Harrisburg
- Diocese of Salt Lake City
- Diocese of Venice
Also of note are statements from our Ecumenical partners:
The Anglican Church of North America
Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
An article from Archbishop Coakley of Oklahoma City.
The Catholic bishops of Australia are rallying against the increasing acceptance of same-sex “marriage” and the pressure to adopt it. Their Pastoral Letter is named “Don’t Mess with Marriage”.
“A pear is not an apple. Same-sex marriage is not the same as a marriage between a man and a woman. The opinions of media personalities, or politicians, or a parliamentary vote can do what they wish, but no matter how much they say it, a pear remains a pear and does not change into an apple. Equally same-sex marriage is not identical with a marriage between a man and a woman. In the Christian tradition marriage has the two aspects of the mutual support and love of a man and a woman, and the openness to procreation, to bearing life. That is what the word “parent” means in its Latin origin, a bearer, a creator, a life-giver. No matter how you use the word “marriage”, a same-sex union does not have the fundamental possibility of parenting. True marriage remains a vowed union between a man and a woman, a commitment for life, to provide a context in which new life might be born. The nature of marriage cannot be altered by the vote of politicians; it is not their area, it is the plan of God for the natural order.”
Bishop Malone, the Chairman of the Committee of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, spoke at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. Watch the video here!
At the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the constitutionality of marriage laws, one of the justices said: “I thought that was the whole purpose of marriage. It bestows dignity on both man and woman in a traditional marriage… It’s dignity-bestowing, and these parties say they want to have that same ennoblement.”
It is important to define terms like dignity. The Oxford English Dictionary defines dignity this way: “The state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads, “The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God” (CCC 1700). Every human person has intrinsic dignity; it is not bestowed by any government or institution.
The civil recognition of marriage has traditionally acknowledged the commitment of one man and one woman to one another in the interests of strengthening that bond and establishing the parentage of children. It was not instituted in order to confer dignity on the man or woman. Other relationships that are important to people’s lives, such as friendships, do not seek or require governmental intervention. The state has a compelling interest and responsibility to protect marriage—it does not have such a compelling interest or responsibility with other relationships.
If the law treats marriage as dignity-bestowing to persons, then there can be no rational limit to who can ask the state for a marriage license because every person or even every friendship deserves dignity. Four single women who are friends and share a house should be able to marry, since they are entitled to the same dignity as everyone else, for example. To not allow these four to marry is not a denial of their dignity or reducing them to “second-class” citizens. Rather it acknowledges that their relationships, no matter how personally fulfilling, are not of compelling interest to the state such that the state needs to formally recognize and support them.
In the marriage debate, let us not imagine that marriage is any more important than it is. It is important enough to fight for, but it is certainly not where human dignity comes from.
At his blog, Archbishop Kurtz reflected on whether the legal system is prepared for ramifications if marriage is redefined in law.
Archbishop Lori gave the opening prayer, and Archbishop Kurtz gave an address. (Pictured above with Archbishop Vigano, the papal nuncio, and Bishop Perry; Not pictured but also present were Archbishop Broglio and Bishop McIntyre)
This Easter, as we celebrate the Resurrection, we may also contemplate the gift of religious freedom; a gift that sometimes requires vigilance.
Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles wrote an article for The Tidings Newspaper in which he highlighted the importance of marriage and family to the plan of God, and the necessity of all citizens to be able to express their views about it. He noted, “Those who govern and shape the way Americans think and behave — in politics and law, education, entertainment and the popular media — form an increasingly secularized elite that has little tolerance for religious institutions or values.”
Regarding marriage, Archbishop Gomez reminded us that, “In his own teaching, Jesus pointed us back to this “beginning.” He told us that the marriage covenant between man and woman is at the heart of God’s design for creation — and that no one has the power to change that design.”
He encouraged us to pray for our country, and said, “But I’m sad to say that right now across the country, others are trying to impose their “faith” — a secularized ideology and an anti-religious morality — on religious believers and it is our rights that are at risk of being denied.”
Representative Randy Weber and Senator Ted Cruz reintroduced legislation into the House and Senate that would protect states’ marriage amendments: the State Marriage Defense Act. Archbishop Cordileone sent them each a letter of support (Cruz and Weber) and announced this for the media.
Let us keep praying and fasting!
World Meeting of Families Catechesis Series
The USCCB is excited about the World Meeting of Families (WMF) being held in Philadelphia in September 2015. We are presenting a series of short articles focused on the WMF Catechesis Love is our Mission: The Family Fully Alive and its implications for our daily lives. We will follow the timing suggested by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by exploring one theme each month leading up to the World Meeting. The Archdiocese for Military Services has also written reflections each month. Click here for Chapter Four!
Chapter Four: “Two Become One” Takes More than Romance
Theresa Notare, PhD, Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth
One of my married friends likes to say that marriage is an unrelenting demand to put others first. That’s because marriage is the union where a man and a woman –“the two”—become “one” (see Gn 2:24). Self-giving is at the heart of marriage. Chapter Four of the catechism for the 2015 World Meeting of Families (WMOF) shines a light on this biblical teaching.
Love, as many would agree, is central to marriage. “Married love,” however, is “more than romance” (no. 55). It’s not that romance is bad; it’s actually quite good, even exhilarating. It’s just that romance does not represent the full reality of love. Romance is only a tiny fruit of love, more like the frosting on a cake. Love, as God intends for marriage, is more.
Married love calls husband and wife to move out of the tight confines of their individual egos and blend their lives, hopes, dreams, and desires. Marriage requires that spouses share the unique gifts of their masculinity and femininity. The Church recognizes marriage as a vocation. It is a specific call from God to love in a nuptial manner, that is, in a way that builds the one-flesh union and is in service to life.
Living married love well is not automatic. Husband and wife will need to rely on God’s grace and consciously cultivate and live the Christian virtues, especially mercy and chastity (no. 62). It may be easy to see how mercy is part of marriage. After all, forgiveness is essential to all good relationships, especially marriage! The benefit of chastity, however, may not be so clear. The WMOF Catechism offers a helpful thought: “Chastity forms the good habits of self-denial and self-control, which are prerequisites for treating others with mercy” (no. 62). We can understand this benefit of chastity more deeply by looking to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him [which]… ensures the unity of the person, it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2338)
Chastity is that virtue which protects the whole person. It fosters respect and ensures that people do not treat each other as objects. Chastity helps people understand the meaning of human sexuality and the gift of procreation. It enables husband and wife to love each other with respect, joy and reverence since it assists in sexual self-control. It enables spouses to speak the nuptial language of the body (a language of total self-gift and openness to life).
Chastity fosters generosity. It helps spouses avoid any action that would assault their persons or the nature of marriage. So, for example, the chaste couple does not use contraception or pornography. Contraception falsifies the nuptial language of the body and assaults the gift of fertility, while pornography degrades their persons and mocks God’s design for married love.
In considering the nature of married love it is important to remember my friend’s words—marriage is an unrelenting demand to put others first! The nature of married love insists that husband and wife give themselves to each other, selflessly, totally, and for the whole of life. Building a strong marriage is a life-long process and the human ego can be difficult to tame. That’s why practicing the Christian virtues can be helpful to ensure that “the two” will “become one!”
Socrates: So Bob, have you had a chance to think about what we talked about last time?
Bob: Yes, I have, and I realized that you are missing a really important fact.
Socrates: I am?
Bob: Yes. You are presenting the ideal. I’m talking about what’s real. There are a lot of children who, for lots of reasons, can’t be raised by their biological mother and father.
Socrates: I know that.
Bob: Well if that’s true, then it means that we have to accept the reality of the situation and try to do something good for the child, even if it is not ideal.
Socrates: You’re right. What are you proposing?
Bob: One of the ways we can help children is by allowing a same-sex couple to adopt them, thus creating a family.
Socrates: That’s a bit of a leap, isn’t it?
Bob: What do you mean?
Socrates: I mean that you looked compassionately at a tragic situation that many children find themselves in, and then jumped to a “solution” that doesn’t actually meet the need that they are experiencing.
Bob: I’m sorry; I still don’t quite follow you.
Socrates: Let’s say that a child is born to a mother and a father, who are both subsequently killed in a car accident. There is no other family, and the child is placed under the care of the state. That seems like the worst thing that can happen to the child, right?
Bob: Right. Even losing just one parent is terribly traumatic for a child.
Socrates: Exactly. So what has the child lost, when his or her parent dies?
Bob: The child has lost the real-life connection to and support of his or her mother and father; a relationship that should have guided the child into adulthood.
Socrates: Right. Like we talked about last time, a child would miss not just the functions that a mom and dad serve; he or she would miss the relationship to a person of each sex who relate to the child in a unique way, as well as the chance to observe the mom and dad relating to each other.
Bob: Yes, that’s right.
Socrates: Can you see how your solution—allowing two persons of the same sex to adopt—does not solve this problem?
Bob: You mean because the child will still be missing either a mom or a dad?
Bob: I guess you’re right, but the child is still missing his or her own mom and dad, no matter what adoptive situation comes up. I don’t think it’s that big of a difference to the child whether he or she is adopted by a man and a woman or two people of the same sex, as long as the child is loved.
Socrates: It is true that an adopted child usually loses a real-life connection to their biological parents (at least most of the time) and that’s sad, no matter what happens next.
Bob: Adoption is always a response to a non-ideal situation—to a need or a deprivation experienced. Is that what you mean?
Socrates: Yes. But when the child is adopted by a married mother and father, he or she will still be given a concrete and living relationship with both a mom and a dad. They will still experience those different relationships and be able to observe the relationship between the parents as a model.
Bob: But there are plenty of children who are adopted or being raised by single parents who do just fine .
Socrates: The question of single parenthood is an interesting one and actually distinct from the question of adoption by two persons of the same sex. Perhaps we can take it up again at another time.
Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco responded to the announcement on Friday that the Supreme Court will hear the Sixth Circuit marriage cases.
The Archbishop notes, “Only a man and a woman can unite their bodies in a way that creates a new human being. Marriage is thus a unique and beautiful reality which a society respects to its benefit or ignores to its peril.”