The Definition of Marriage
by: Bradley Opitz
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; in all your ways be mindful of Him, and He will make straight your paths.
Recently you may have heard a lot of conversation over the rights of homosexual couples. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is currently hearing arguments over the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8. California’s Proposition 8 is a state constitutional amendment stating that, “marriage is between a man and a woman”. By this Proposition, Californians voted to keep the historical definition of marriage as such between one man and one woman. As you may know, just about everyone has an opinion and sometimes deeply held opinions can lead to arguments and misunderstandings. This is an important issue for us to explore. We are witnessing a moment in history regardless of a SCOTUS ruling. As a young Catholic you might be actively engaged in this process and thinking, “How am I to properly respond to this and what am I called to do?” It is easy to get caught up in emotional arguments fulled by feelings. It is important to come to an understanding, that when dealing with social issues, such as gay rights, that right reasoning informs our actions and feelings. I would like to propose the actual case or issue at hand: Can marriage be redefined?
Created To Love
We should ask an important question: Over the course of human history, why has marriage been defined as an institution between one man and one woman? Homosexuality is not a new development to the world. It is something that we have seen through out human history. We see this through out ancient cultures such as Greece and Rome. For us to answer the question, we must first understand the foundation of our creation. Love is the foundation and vocation of every human being. Love is much more than a feeling; it is the willing of good in the life of another human being. This is the most basic building block for a relationship with any person. God is the source of love and He built into us the need to love. “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8 NAB). We are created because of love and we are created for love. “God created man kind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 NAB). God creates every person and every person is created good. There is good news in Genesis 1:27 when it tells us is that we are created in His image and His likeness, male and female we are created. God is a divine communion of persons, three persons making one God. God in His image created you and He created me. Man and woman are not the same as each other; they are different but complimentary. The longing that motivates us for relationship with others is part of our nature as humans. You long to belong to someone and you long for some one to belong to you. Once together, Man “clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Genesis 2:24 NAB). Every desire that we have to be with another person is built-in by virtue of us being created in His image and likeness. Regardless of gender attraction, love is what we are created to do.
Created To Co-Create
Our God, the creator of the Heavens and of the Earth, has created us, unlike anything else, in His image and His likeness and calls us to join ourselves to another person to create one body so that life might be created. The institution of marriage in its most natural form is a product of love. Marriage is ordered to something that is bigger than the individual person. The desire we have to belong with someone and for someone to belong to us has at its very heart two things: to live into the image and likeness of God and to be co-creators with God, that is to say that our natural desire is to have children. It is safe to say that heterosexual and homosexual couples desire to have children. The drive to have children, at a very basic level, is what it means to be human, to create offspring so that you might hand down yourself just as your parents did and your parent’s parents have done since the beginning of time and just as God did with the creation of the first man and the first woman. Children, however is where the issue of marriage rests. By virtue of our creation, there is only one way to procreate. Regardless of technological advances in science, all procreation is ordered to two people (one man and one woman) becoming one person. Marriage is spiritually, historically and naturally an institution that is upheld for the unification of two peoples and the procreation of a third person, a child. If we were to be honest with ourselves and take the objective truth that only a man and a woman can come together to create a child, then we can get to the answer to the question of the possibility of redefining marriage. No matter what a homosexual couple does to unify the individual person to another, the fact remains that it cannot happen. Physiologically speaking, the male is created to give and the female is created to receive. Life cannot naturally be produced through a homosexual relationship. This is why many homosexual couples feel the sting of a childless relationship. When two individuals of the same sex engage in sexual intimacy the two remain two individuals, their bodies are the same and not complimentary, and never becoming one as a heterosexual relationship allows.
In the phileo since, a homosexual couple can love each other as much as heterosexual couple. Who could imagine that anyone would willingly choose to place themselves in the tough situations that homosexual couples face? The fact that the majority of homosexual persons do not choose their own sexual orientation any more than heterosexual persons, has not been disproven. Any charitable person would not want deny any other person, including a homosexual couple social benefits such as happiness and the right to hospital access of a sick loved one. But the fact remains, what we did not create, we do not have the power to change. We did not create the institution marriage. No matter what we can do, we cannot change God’s creation. Marriage cannot be redefined to anything different than one man and one woman. Does this fact mean that the Church should reject homosexual people and the government should suppress certain liberties? The short answer is that the Church calls all people to know that they are created good and in the image and likeness of God and that all things belong to God first before they belong to us, including our sexuality. You can have a homosexual inclination and be in full communion with the Church. A sexual orientation should not be used to define anyone. Our identity calls us to its source, God. How much a person chooses to order himself to God is what determines a saint or a sinner. We are all called to strive for sainthood. The government on the other hand has no ability, as much as it might try, to define what marriage is any more than they have the ability to define when life begins. What it does have the power to do is to define something completely different, such as civil unions. The discussion on exploring the benefits of civil unions needs to be had. This could be a compassionate way of granting homosexual couples certain liberties while keeping the institution of marriage between a man and a woman.
For us, as young Catholics, the challenge is simple. Above all things we need to witness to love, pointing as many people to Christ as we can. We also need to hold on to and proclaim the unchanging truth of what love is and its source that is found directly in God. We do not have to over think it and make it complicated. Jesus states it very plainly; “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27 NAB). The love of Christ and the love of others are what we, as Christians are called to do.
I would like to end this with a prayer that when applied has the ability to soften hearts and calm raging waters in our world:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next.
Looking For Information On This Topic?
- Little Catholic Bubble: “Gay, Catholic and Doing Fine” http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/07/gay-catholic-and-doing-fine.html
- “Catholics Care About Gays?: The Myth Debunked” http://lifeteen.com/catholics-care-about-gays-the-myth-debunked/