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.”
All of the talk about marriage hinges on this question; often, when we ask it simply and directly, the answer is halting, hesitant, and surprising. When we ask a question like this, we should try to approach it with genuine curiosity and a willingness to try to figure out the truth. Socrates, for one, was always asking questions in order to help others come to understanding. So let’s try approaching marriage with this form of philosophical questioning in mind.
Socrates: What is marriage?
Bob: It’s when you love someone and commit to live together and have a family.
Socrates: A man loves his mother, lives with her and is family with her: is that a marriage?Bob: No, no—marriage is when you love someone you’re not related to, and then you choose to become related.
Socrates: Like adopting a child?
Bob: No, not like adoption. The person you love is another adult.
Socrates: What do you mean by love?
Bob: A close, intimate relationship whereby you desire to unite with the other person completely; you share a home with that person; you want to have a family together.
Socrates: Oh, then you must mean a man and a woman.
Bob: No, I didn’t say that. A man and a man could do the same thing.
Bob: Two men or two women could love each other just like a man and a woman can. They can care for the other person before themselves, share deep communication, and adopt children together.
Socrates: Oh I thought you said that they unite “completely” and that they have a family “together.”
Bob: I did.
Socrates: But two men or two women cannot physically unite completely; it is impossible. Likewise, they cannot have children because they do not have the capacity.
Bob: Don’t be so crass. The two people can express their love sexually, that’s all I meant.
Socrates: But that’s not what you said. You said that married people unite completely. Now you’re saying that they only unite mostly—financially, socially. In which case, I’m not sure why that relationship should be considered special compared to other relationships. You can unite that way with many people; there’s no reason for friendship to be exclusive. Also, what about two sisters living together and taking care of a younger sibling with special needs? Are they married?
Bob: No, the point is that there are two adults in a sexual relationship who commit to live together and have a family together.
Socrates: Oh, so what’s crucial for marriage, you say, is that the two people are in a sexual relationship of some committed kind, though not a kind that necessarily brings about a union of their bodies. How do they have a family, by the way?
Bob: Often, one of the two people has children from another relationship.
Socrates: From a relationship with someone from the other sex…
Bob: Yes. Or the couple can adopt. Or they can go through the process of third-party reproduction.
Socrates: In which case, the child would not have a parent of one sex or the other.
Bob: All a child needs is two people who love them. It doesn’t matter what sex they are.
Socrates: But you would agree that every child has a biological mother and father, correct?Bob: Yes, I agree with that. That’s a simple fact.
Socrates: Are a father and a mother exactly the same? Are they interchangeable?Bob: Well…no, not exactly. They do seem to interact with children differently and there is more research out there now (http://www.paulraeburn.com/books/do-fathers-matter/) showing how important fathers are to the development of children.
Bob: Okay, I will think about this more. But I don’t think parenting qualities or skills is the issue. Let’s talk about that next time.
Marriage licenses were issue for the first time today in Florida, after the expiration of a stay from the U.S. District Court ruling. The bishops of Florida wrote a statement in response.
The bishops note, “How society understands marriage has great public significance” and that redefining marriage, “advances the notion that marriage is only about the affective gratification of consenting adults. Such a redefinition of marriage does nothing to safeguard a child’s right to a mother and father and to be raised in a stable family where his or her development and well-being is served to the greatest extent possible.”
The bishops also note the wide range of laws that are affected by the change in definition. “These laws also affect and pervasively regulate public and private institutions including religious institutions, such as churches, schools, and hospitals. Besides the predictably disruptive effects, imposing this redefinition of marriage threatens both religious liberty and the freedom of individuals to conscientiously object as already seen in those states that have redefined marriage to accommodate same sex couples.”
World Meeting of Families Catechesis Series
The USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth is excited about the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) being held in Philadelphia in September 2015. We are presenting a series of short articles focused on the WMOF 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 Best Way”
Theresa Notare, PhD, Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth
My mother met my father as a teenager. They dated after high school. When he returned from the Korean War, they married. Like most Catholics at that time, they quickly had four children. As we grew older, and much to my mother’s embarrassment, my father liked to boast to us that they followed the Church’s teaching on birth control. Also he soberly added that there was only one choice in life, even when it came to sex—to follow God’s will and commandments. It wasn’t always easy, he said, but it was the best way.
My father was not theologically sophisticated, yet instinctively he understood God’s design for love and marriage. Dad “got it.” He knew in his heart that every man and woman has an inherent dignity. This understanding shaped his spousal relationship with my mother. The witness of my parents continues to speak to my heart of what it means to be made in God’s image and how that reality impacts the nature of married love.
These thoughts about my parents’ marriage filled my mind when I read Chapter Two of the official catechesis for the 2015 World Meeting on the Family. The theme is about God’s mission of love and how it is revealed in the conjugal relationship. To be made in God’s image speaks both of God’s invitation to share in His life and of the inherent gifts that God gives to each man and woman. The capacity and the vocation to love, just like God, is the foundation for all of human life. It is essential for marriage. And, the conjugal embrace is caught up in God’s divine plan of married love and life.
Scripture and Tradition reveal that God created marriage to be a life-long union between a man and a woman marked by fidelity, permanence, and fruitfulness (see The Code of Canon Law, §1055, Humanae vitae, no. 9). Marriage is a radical call to love like God.
When a man and woman become one flesh in marriage, sex is, by its nature, both unitive and procreative. Procreation is the invitation by the Lord of life to share in the wonder of conceiving children. This is why the Church teaches that children are the supreme gift in marriage (see Gaudium et spes, no. 50). This is also why the Church teaches that “when married couples deliberately act to suppress fertility…by using contraception” they deny “part of the inherent meaning of married sexuality” and actually do harm to their unity (see Married Love and the Gift of Life, USCCB, 2006). This may seem like a hard saying in today’s world, but the burden is lifted when we realize who we are as made in God’s image and God’s vision for married love.
In one of my many conversations with my father, he once admitted that sometimes he had to go to his room, shut the door, pray and remember why he loved my mother. Doing the right thing, even with someone you deeply love, is not always easy. Both he and my mother lived their joint mission of married love, and my siblings and I knew that we were the primary recipients. We saw their joy, playfulness, and reverence for one another.
In the last years of his life, my mother nursed my father through a long illness. My father died at home in my mother’s arms. His last words to her were that she was the love of his life. Their love was easy and passionate. At times it was hard and sacrificial. They chose the best way, they lived God’s mission of married love.
Good news! Judges of the Sixth Circuit upheld marriage in that district. Read Archbishop Cordileone’s comments in the USCCB Media release.
USCCB Chairman Praises Sixth Circuit Decision Upholding Marriage
November 7, 2014
WASHINGTON—Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, praised the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upholding the rights of states to legally recognize and protect the meaning of marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman.
“The Sixth Circuit has upheld the rights of the citizens of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee to protect and defend marriage as the unique relationship of a man and a woman,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “We are particularly heartened by the Court’s acknowledgment of the reasonable arguments for preserving the true definition of marriage and by the Court’s respect for the self-determination of states on this issue.”
The Court’s opinion included an argument grounding marriage in the complementarity of man and woman, saying: “It is not society’s laws or for that matter any one religion’s laws, but nature’s laws (that men and women complement each other biologically), that created the policy imperative.”
The Court’s opinion also argued for the rationality of the states’ protecting marriage’s unique meaning: “By creating a status (marriage) and by subsidizing it (e.g., with tax-filing privileges and deductions), the States created an incentive for two people who procreate together to stay together for purposes of rearing offspring. That does not convict the States of irrationality, only of awareness of the biological reality that couples of the same sex do not have children in the same way as couples of opposite sexes and that couples of the same sex do not run the risk of unintended offspring. That explanation, still relevant today, suffices to allow the States to retain authority over an issue they have regulated from the beginning.”
Archbishop Cordileone said, “The Church continues to support efforts to promote, protect and defend marriage in the law. We pray in solidarity with all people that the authentic meaning of marriage will be protected and honored in this country, for the good of all.”
Those challenging the marriage laws in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee are expected to petition the Supreme Court to review the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
This week we celebrated the feast of St. Therese, the saint of the “little way.” St. Therese reminds us that love is expressed powerfully in the little things that might not even be noticed. We pray that married couples look for simple ways of expressing their love and commitment to each other.
As you may remember from June, Archbishop Cordileone, the Chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, spoke at the March for Marriage. His participation was loudly protested by a number of public figures.
The news source Catholic San Francisco is running a three-part series on the origins of the protest, which was the group “Faithful America,” an organization that funds “LGBT” acceptance, intentionally using the language of faith to undermine Church teaching.
Read the full text here, and follow it as it continues: “The first part of the series… focuses on Faithful America. The second will focus specifically on the tactic of funding organizations which use the language of faith to attack Catholic teaching. The third part of the series will address the “hate” tactic by opponents of Catholic teaching on human sexuality.”
On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14, 2014) the Holy Father received the vows of 20 couples, joining in the Sacrament of Marriage. This is an excerpt from his homily, highlighting the beauty of sexual difference:
“The love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out. The love of Christ can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together. This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man. This is the task that you both share. “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a woman”; “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a man”. Here we see the reciprocity of differences. The path is not always a smooth one, free of disagreements, otherwise it would not be human. It is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life!”
Cardinal George reflects in the Archdiocese of Chicago’s newspaper on the way that the current American culture requires us to choose between our faith and full civic participation, since the dominant ideology has become like a religion.
He writes: “Swimming against the tide… means that those who choose to live by the Catholic faith will not be welcomed as political candidates to national office, will not sit on editorial boards of major newspapers, will not be at home on most university faculties, will not have successful careers as actors and entertainers…. the practice of medicine and law will become more difficult for faithful Catholics. It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined, as Christians and Jews are fined for their religion in countries governed by Sharia law.”
The Cardinal also points out that, “American civil law has done much to weaken and destroy what is the basic unit of every human society, the family. With the weakening of the internal restraints that healthy family life teaches, the State will need to impose more and more external restraints on everyone’s activities.”
Thanks to the Cardinal who has such a gift for seeing and guiding us! Let’s pray for him and all our bishops!