Friday, August 6, 2010

Sorry, judge. Marriage is between one man and one woman.

I said that yesterday on Facebook and started a firestorm of comments, many from people who rarely comment. That's cool, I like dialogue. I find it more fruitful than the monologue format of blogging. I'm moving the conversation here, though, because it was getting a little too lengthy for Facebook, and I think that it would make good fodder for public discussion here.

Most of the commentary in disagreement with me was sincere, but predictable. We can't judge others, we're all God's children, it's not fair to deny homosexuals happiness, etc. I was accused not only of being judgmental and insensitive, but also of repeating dusty arguments without putting any thought into it.

The truth is, I have thought about this, a lot. Well, this in particular somewhat, sexual ethics moreso, but the whole ethical dilemma in general a lot.

I have to reject moral relativism because it denies the existence of truth; the push for gay marriage, as well as all the comments I got yesterday, were examples of moral relativism. Moral relativism says that what is right always depends on the circumstances, what is right (or wrong) for one is not necessarily right (or wrong) for others. Consequently, all debate about morality breaks down into shouting matches of "Yeah-huh!" vs. "Nuh-uh!" because there is no basis for measurement. Without any foundation for morals, we all become our own emperors. The problem with this is that some emperors are stronger than others, and some emperors become tyrants while others become slaves. Moral relativism leads to the gas chambers.

As a Catholic, I reject moral relativism because it rejects the existence of truth. We believe in Natural Law, the moral law that governs all people in all places. It is the inborn conscience universal to mankind. Natural Law informs mankind that murder is wrong, that child abuse is wrong, that theft is wrong. Natural Law causes mankind throughout history to revere courage, honesty, valor, devotion, commitment. Natural Law is not only universal, but universally binding. It is wrong to murder. It was wrong to murder 100 years ago. It was wrong to murder 1000 years ago, just as it was wrong for Cain to murder Abel in the beginning of humanity. Individuals may nonetheless murder, but the mere fact that they committed the act of murder does not make it morally licit.

Natural Law recognizes also that there is "a nature" to creation. This holds true to the sexual act as well. Our bodies are created male and female and as such, they are complementary. The sexual act, while pleasurable, is aimed at a specific purpose: the procreation of mankind. In that act, man and woman take part in an action that is unitive and procreative. Man and woman, in an intimate act, find an expression so strong that it has the potential to bring into being a whole new person. The biological explanation of how is empty in its understanding of why. That new person has constant needs: nurture, food, education, support. The most stable and effective environment for meeting those needs are in a family.

Because of this understanding of human sexuality, it is only appropriate to engage in the sexual act in a way that mirrors the open-ness to new life. Hence masturbation, artificial contraception, and homosexual acts are not appropriate in the scheme of the nature of our bodies' dignity. Because of the needs of the offspring brought into being through the sexual act, the institution of marriage has been necessary throughout history to safeguard the environment of children, and to form the building blocks of society as a whole.

Marriage, properly understood, is an institution of a life-long commitment between one man and one woman, who share intimate union, and if their union be fruitful, to protect, nurture and educate their children through adulthood.

Homosexuality is a disordered sexuality, in that it by definition, cannot express itself in a life-giving way. This is not the same as a man and woman marrying past child-bearing years, as their union still gives expression to the complementarity of their being. The homosexual act is by nature not open to life, therefore homosexual unions are not marriage.

And this brings us to the point of yesterday's post. Judge Walker in California declared that gender has nothing to do with the institution of marriage. And he is wrong.

Now, I accept that there are homosexuals. I accept that there are homosexuals living together in a committed relationship even. But it is not marriage. Accuse me of engaging in semantics, but it is not rightly called a marriage. Similarly, a cohabitating heterosexual couple is not rightly called a marriage. Both arrangements have some aspects in common with marriage, but they do not fit the requirements of definition.

So is that all I'm fighting for? A definition? Well in some ways yes, and in some ways no. Yes, I am fighting for a definition, as it is imperative that we live according to truth. If the judge had declared that 2 + 2 = 5, that would not make it so, any more than it was so when an earlier court ruling once declared that black people were property. Declarations that are falsehoods must be rejected, otherwise words, relationships, laws, lose their meaning. If marriage can be redefined, what about love? What about war? Peace? If words can, by fiat, be made to mean the opposite of their meaning, communication quickly loses its meaning.

And also, I'm standing up against more than a definition. Catholic blogger Mark Shea has posted numerous stories to illustrate the point that the modern movement to legalize gay marriage is not merely to allow homosexual couples legal options, which they have already achieved, or to be tolerated in society, which they also have already achieved, but that the end goal is approval. Tolerance is not enough; you must approve.

Now to turn to the Catholic faith, by which I order my life.

Some of the comments that I received were aimed at my religious sensibilities in an attempt to convince me that I was wrong in this matter. They said that God is love, only God can judge, and that if God made homosexuals the way they are, who is the Church to deny them happiness? I'll try to address that here.

God is love. Love is not a feature of God, that He may have at one time and not at another, but is His essence. Not all that He does is love, but all that He is is love. His love is strong so as to give Himself up in bloody agony and torment to buy back his beloved (that's you and me) from the claws of death. His will is for our eternal happiness, which finds its fulfillment in Him. But God does not force His love upon us. Man can, and often does, reject God. For one cannot accept God, yet reject His commandments. Love is an act of the will which seeks the good of the beloved in accord with truth. Love must be based on truth, and truth cannot contradict truth, just as God cannot contradict Himself. So we must live in accord with truth to live in God's love. We must live as God has revealed Himself, in imitation of Christ, in all ways possible.

Now to the question of judgment. Not to pick on the ones who made the comment (because I've heard the statement countless times from countless people), but of course we are to judge, as long as we understand in what way we mean to judge (for judgment already has more than one meaning). Let me pose it this way: Is there anyone reading this who doesn't reject the actions of sinful priests? Is there anyone who doesn't judge them to be wrong? When the priest abuse scandal broke, did anyone reading this say, "Well, it's not for me to judge how others live their lives"? Or another example: If you have children, would you allow your children to engage in sexual acts at the age of 6? or 10? Or would you judge that to be wrong, inappropriate, even -gasp- sinful? Do you judge the actions of politicians? Do you judge the actions of criminals? Of course you would! The point is that every one of us makes all sorts of value judgments all the time. So to choose this particular instance of "gay marriage" and declare that it's not for us to judge is frankly, a copout. Either one doesn't want to think it through to the logical consequences, or what that statement really means is "I judge it to be morally acceptable, and just don't want to say it."

The other meaning of judgment is that of the state of one's soul. That judgment is left to God alone. Neither you nor I can judge another person's soul and declare their damnation. By the grace of God we all aim at eternal life, though the choice is up to us.

As to the last comment, that God made homosexuals gay and to deny them marriage is unfair, let me just say this. It is not known why some people have an attraction to members of the same sex. I do know, however, that opponents of gay marriage are criticized for suggesting that homosexuality is genetic, and conversely, also criticized for suggesting that homosexuality is learned. No one really knows why, though in the end, I don't see that the question of why it is to be the important question. The important question is "What now?"

I believe, as I posted in my comment, that what is important is to encourage all people, homosexual and heterosexual, the importance of chastity. Chastity recognizes the gift of human sexuality (and the sexual act) and that the dignity and worth of a person far exceeds their sexual actions. People need to hear that abuse of their sexuality is an abuse of their dignity. The dignity of each person is to be respected, first and foremost by one's self. Such self-respect demands self-control. (Remember, I'm not letting heterosexual people off the hook here, either.)

I'm not an advocate of "fixing" gay people to make them straight. I'm cynical of such attempts. What I do respect is the effort to support homosexuals in carrying the cross that they bear in having a sexuality that cannot find a life-giving expression. Groups like Courage are an example of such support.

The Church doesn't seek to deny anyone happiness. To the contrary, the Church recognizes that the fullness of happiness lies in union with God. Such union, as we saw before, must realize truth and live in accord with that truth. Gay marriage does not accord with the truth of God's plan for the human family. That may sound painful, but sometimes the truth is painful.

I, like many other people of the current generation, grew up with a deficiency. Our culture has denied the validity of the Ten Commandments for the absolute sovereignty of the One Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Offend Anyone. You can't stand for what you believe in, for it might hurt someone's feelings. Well, if hurting someone's feelings leads them to truth, so be it. I'm not out trying to crush people, in fact, many times I'm still a coward who keeps my head in the sand. But like C.S. Lewis described, sometimes on an arduous journey that one is frightened to undertake, the most important first step is to throw one's bag over the wall. Then, one convinces himself that he is not undertaking the journey, but merely climbing the wall to retrieve one's bag. After that, one has already climbed the wall and might as well keep going.

I'm not trying in this discussion to crush anyone, nor to deny anyone happiness. But sin never leads to happiness. It may lead to pleasure, it may lead to good feelings for a while, but it is far short of the true happiness that we seek in our eternal union with God.

For more reading (as if this post wasn't long enough!) consider these three posts:


fencer_22 said...

working on reading this. it is going to take me a while so i just want to say this first embelishing your arguments with lots of big words just makes your arguments longer and more poetic, but not better. just get the idea out next time huh?

Mike in CT said...

fencer, words have meanings that "Double-Plus ungood" doesn't convey.

Mike in CT said...

No offense, but you can criticize what I wrote after you've actually read it.

fencer_22 said...

and what does that meen? also I'm up to the part about the preist scandal. and there is a big differance because that is not a consenting relationship! as for the kids having sex at young age duh thats wrong. and i never said i, at least, never said i wasn't judging, on facebook i said it's not fair to say their feelings are in and of themselves sinful. so if you wan't to put it that way than i guess i judge it to be morally exceptable.

Mike in CT said...

Fencer, you're not the only person I'm responding to in this post.

And I agree that the attraction to members of the same sex are not in and of themselves sinful. The sin may come in what they do with those attractions, just as you and I have temptations to do many sinful things. But with self-control and God's help, we resist temptation and avoid sin.

Of course there is a difference between a consenting relationship and the priest scandal. I'm just trying to point out that people choose one or two issues to claim we can't judge because we're not God, yet I'm trying to figure out why they just choose those one or two issues.

fencer_22 said...

ok now i'm done reading, lets see here God never said it's imoral, a Pope somewhere along the line said it's imoral. and that Pope most likely said that in a time far less excepting of homosexuals then the time period we now live in. because it was at that time declared imoral every cardinal and on down the line was then supossed to accept it as imoral. that was then tought to each future generation. insuring that the next Pope would also define it as imoral. that system makes a changes in the churches ideals few and far betwean. face it a person born in a biased time period made the decision that homosexual mariage is immorol and because of the nature of the church it stuck. they Vatican has been wrong before, i don't think i need to remind you that the earth is in fact round do i? anyway the not confronting somone about a differance in ideals is not burying your head in the sand. however refusing to consider make your own opinions about new or changing ideas is.

fencer_22 said...

woops didn't see you comment before my last comment. so i'll respond now. would it kill the church to give them a morale alternative to a life of chastity? because honestly if you don't give them some other options then the number of sins your talking about is not going to go down at all

Mike in CT said...

Fencer, Chastity is the only alternative for ALL OF US!

Look, I'm a married man, and I know lots of married people that share my beliefs. And they'll all tell you that the married vocation requires chastity. Because contrary to what the world teaches, it's not sex sex sex all the time. There's sickness, tiredness, anger and frustration, kids, and sometimes the need to refrain out of respect and sometimes to avoid pregnancy if that's a need at that time.

The world wants to convince us that a life without sex is a life not worth living. But I know many, MANY people who have devoted their lives to a celibate lifestyle and find their lives to be fulfilling and in some ways, even more "fruitful" than in the married state.

Mike in CT said...

And by the way, God did say that it's wrong. Re read your Bible. I'll find the passages, I don't have them memorized.

Mike in CT said...

Here are the relevant passages from the Catechism:

You know it's a lot more than just one pope says something and the rest have to fall in line, right? There's a consistency of truth.

And also, by the way, the Church vs. Galileo thing has been grossly misconstrued. I'll try to find some more info on that, too.

fencer_22 said...

haha that's not what i meant i know chastity is an option for all of us and it's a good one to, but i am talking about what the world teaches us people get brainwashed that way and the church dose not have the power to eradicate the apeal of the sex that is the bottom line so if they want homosexual to live a chast life then they should give them some kind of option other than a life devoid of sex, i'm willing to bet that would at least help. but the way it is it sounds like the catholic church is taking the dictator position and saying there is no compromise

Mike in CT said...

Gen 19:1-29;
Rom 1:24-27;
1 Cor 6:9;
1 Tim 1:10.

fencer_22 said...

no the galileo thing was not over construed. they told him he was wrong, forced him to publically renounce his findings, and then placed him under house arrest were he lived out the rest of his life

Mike in CT said...

Fencer, the Church isn't forcing anyone. You and I are free to sin as we please.

fencer_22 said...

so again no compramise how does that not sound like the dictators you use in your arguments

Mike in CT said...

Here's the account of the Galileo trial. It's not as simplistic and the "Anti-science outdated Church vs. the righteous secular atheist scientist" story it's popularly portrayed to be.

Mike in CT said...

Fencer, dictators break off thumbs to get their way. Still have your thumbs? Okay then.

What the Church is NOT doing is denying truth. It CANNOT deny truth, as it is established by God, who is the way, the TRUTH, and the life. It doesn't decide morality, it only conveys the truth about morality, as God has revealed it in His Son.
Gotta go to bed. We'll pick up later, I'm sure.

fencer_22 said...

ok that is a statement. give me proof. an article written by an ubiased third party being a good place to start and if not that then something oh and youve stopped arguing the point before galileo about no compromise

Mike in CT said...

sorry, forgot the link:

fencer_22 said...

oh boy. uncle Mike, first of all i think you may just be biased because if you look cafully when you read this, you will find that they are saying he told them something they didn't like so they put him under house arrest. it also says that his works were and i quote "eventually condemnd" they didn't wan't to hear it because they were convinced they were right and he was wrong. that, is burying your head in the sand by the way. they come right out and say that the Pope is not alwaise right which oh yeah i said erlier. and no duh galileo dind't get it all right, and what would have been wrong with the church excepting a closer to acurate definition of the universe and then later changing it again to what we know now to be true? this is just a sugestion uncle Mike but you should try finding articles not written by a source that is biased one way or the other they tend to have a lot of holes in them that can easilly be spotted if you look closly. and for the record I already new that he wasn't treated poorly during his house arrest. furthermore he was still forced to retract his theory which again is my bigest problem with the whole affair because they told a scientist he could not make a theory that did not comply with the literal interpretation of the bible. they could jaust as easilly ignored him than tell him what he could not do.

fencer_22 said...

ok i just realized what i said about the article being biased was unfair since i doubt that a truly unbiased article has ever been written. what i should have said was find two article with very little bias, which admitedly the one you pointed out was a fair example off, one article arguing each side of the argument and then based on the differances betwean the two try to infur as close to the truth as we can. sorry for sounding rude in my last comment.

Amy said...

Mike, I read your comment on FB and your blog statement and they are right on target. The problem is most of society has not been taught the way you and I have. I have a Master's degree in Theology and so I understand and agree with what you have presented and it isn't that I was brainwashed into these beliefs, it is that I actively chose to study them and ponder them and actively made a decision, with my free will, to support and defend them. The objections you have come across are the teachings of a "politically correct" society who do not want to offend anyone and or be singled out for their beliefs. One commenter talked about what you might think if it was your child who was homosexual. My response to that is, No I would not love my child any less if they came to me and said they were homosexual as one commenter asked but I would encourage them to choose chastity and live in accordance with God's Will. If they didn't follow that than I would not love them less, but I would pray for them as Saint Monica prayed for Augustine, who while a great saint in the Church today, was not a chaste person in his younger years. I guess this whole thing is bothering me because I have been fighting these comments even among teachers of the faith. I remember when I had to go to Confirmation classes and every week, I fought with my teacher over what she said and had to bring in my catechisms from my Catholic high school to combat the wishy washy society version I was being taught. I am not trying to be self righteous for I fall and fail everyday but I do think we need to pray for one another and try to stand up for the truths of the Church, even when, we may be condemned for taking a stand.

Evan said...

If I may offer a few words to Mike and (a few more) to "fencer_22."
Mike, liberals like this judge in California are operating from a totally different moral model—one that is based, not on classical essentialist metaphysics (to which natural moral law is expressed) but on a sort of self-satisfaction theory wherein no objective, non-arbitrary way of determining what is good for us exists. These folks simply want to view things in a pluralistic social-scientific hodgepodge of self-love and self-gratification. In short, as you pointed out already, these are competing moral models; natural law theory vs. a sort of relativistic theory composed of flawed metaphysical assumptions about human nature and the nature of value. Such flawed assumptions “logically” permit moronic arguments; e.g., mandatory euthanasia, polygamy, incest, bestiality, etc. While there may be limits, for the time being, there are certainly none on the basis of liberal principle. Keep up the good fight.
Fencer_22, I (charitably) recommend you do a little research vis-à-vis Galileo before wading into argumentative waters. There were, to be sure, errors made by the Catholic Church regarding the treatment of Galileo but he was by no means an innocent victim of antiquated science-hating religious zealots. To wit, Church officials were willing that heliocentrism be taught as a hypothesis (not as fact) and taught in scientific circles, so long as the faith of the ordinary people was safeguarded. Many people are unaware that Galileo was as prideful as he was brilliant. He began teaching Copernican theory as fact, and the popularity of his teachings brought an essentially philosophical discussion (and while Galileo was many things, he was NOT a philosopher or theologian for that matter) into the public arena. Galileo thus elevated scientific conjecture to the level of theology and was viewed (rightly, in the strict sense) as being an untrained layman now lecturing on Scriptural interpretation. He was warned, both by the Church and friends that he should desist from essentially, over doing it. He even agreed to desist (c. 1616 A.D.) only to later reverse himself (pride?). By the way, Galileo was never “imprisoned” or placed under “house arrest.” He was released into the custody of his friend Abp. Piccolomini of Siena and retired to his estate near Florence. One other thing, while Galileo was truly a brilliant man, his stubbornness sometimes caused him to err scientifically; i.e., he rejected Kepler’s theory of elliptical orbits along with Kepler’s explanation that the tides are caused by the moon’s attraction. Galileo proceeded to push for scientific fact when the science of his day could not prove his theories. The proof would not come until; the gravitational laws of Newton, the experiments of Foucault, and stellar parallax was observed in 1838. While the Catholic Church acknowledged its errors and missteps in handling Galileo’s trial it’s time for those who exalt Galileo as the champion of science vs. religion acknowledge that he was not the scientific martyr/saint he’s made out to be. If there is a war between science and religion, it is not a battle based on any denial from the Church of the need for scientific progress. Rather, it is from certain segments of the scientific community that have adopted a religion of science. It is far more common today (than in Galileo’s time) for certain scientists to declare war on faith, than faith to object to science and its search for truth. If you’re genuinely interested in learning more about the Galileo “controversy,” feel free to check out Jerome Langford’s Galileo, Science and the Church (a preeminent scholarly treatment of the topic) and Thomas Woods’, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization (don’t let the title frighten you off, it’s worth the read).

fencer_22 said...

hey Evan, man, nice to know i'm sturing up the pot since i got such an interesting reaction. but i got about 6 lines into your response and decided that u wanted to write it so that only a law student would understand what the heck u are talking about i hate politics and am best at science and seing as your area of expertice seems to be religion and politics you already had me annoyed. i read the more than slightly biased article mike recomended and pointed out the holes in it maybe you out try and actually read what i wrote since i already said i didn't care how they treated him or what his ego had to do with it my issue is with the fact that they forced him to retract his scientific theory, they could have ignored him or said this is a falshood, but instead they had him retract his scientific theory, that is the ultimate shame for a scientist, to have your lifes work stuffed back down your throat because people don't want to hear it even just calling it the work of a lunatic would have been less humiliating. If you can't keep my argument and the argument most people use straight then i have nothing more to talk about with you.

Evan said...

Hi fencer, as an act of charity and to help keep me "straight," could you point me to your argument? If you continue reading beyond the sixth line of my comments you may, I trust, gain an understanding of the facts. Galileo was not forced to "retract" any of his theories (in case you choose not to read further into my comments, it was the Copernican theory that Galileo was espousing as scientific fact that the Church had a problem with). On the contrary, Galileo's greatest contributions came AFTER the trial. His work on motion and inertia (as you're no doubt aware, having a scientific insight) found in "Discourses concerning Two New Sciences," actually served as a platform for Newton's subsequent theories.

Mike in CT said...

Fencer, the rudeness is unnecessary.

In talking about issues that involve science, history, philosophy, religion, politics and law, you can't complain that other people bring up history, philosophy, religion, politics and law. You might learn something new.

Mike in CT said...

Thank you Fencer, Evan and Amy for your comments. I hope that this conversation continues in a fruitful manner.