There is a move in the current culture to redefine marriage to include the supposed healthy union between two members of the same sex.
As a Catholics, respecting and obeying all that the Catholic Church stands for, there is no way that we can accept this radical cultural shift. There are many reason why, but today's post will focus on why a same-sex marriage, whether defined legally as such or not, does not line up with what the Catholic Church defines as marriage.
What is marriage then? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1601) says, "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."
Essentially translated, this paragraph means that marriage is a covenant (a promise between God and man) between two people of the opposite sex. It is a permanent institution, as pointed out by the wedding vows themselves (what God has joined let no man tear asunder). What really is emphasized here, though,
is the two characteristics of marriage: unitive and procreative. Drawing the spouses together, while simultaneously closer to Heaven, and a blatant openness to life. This union ultimately becomes part of the Church that is regarded as an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace - a sacrament.
What, then, are the characteristics of marriage that homosexual unions can be compared to in order to understand the difference between homosexual and heterosexual couples?
Characteristic One: Free
Definition: This love is not free in the sense that it does not have to be paid for. Rather, free love is not controlled or manipulated by another person or by a disordered desire, according to Christopher West in his commentary on the Theology of the Body. Not forced upon one of the parties (such as in the act of rape), but rather chosen out of free will.
In traditional marriage: In the context of sexuality in a traditional marriage, this characteristic of freedom is fulfilled when a married man and woman are able to give themselves freely to each other. This includes the elimination of lustful desires, disorders such as contraception or pornography, and not being a slave to sexual passions. In this type of love, we see a man and a woman seeing each other in the image of God and willing the good of the other as other.
Personified by Christ: Christ loves us enough that he would rather die than risk spending eternity without us. Despite the sins and transgressions that we laid upon his back on the way to Calvary, He loves us unconditionally.
Not seen in homosexual unions: The inability to fulfill the characteristic of freedom in pertinence to homosexual unions is as follows: Freedom to love is defined as freedom from disordered desires. Yet desiring sexual pleasure from a member of the same sex is a disordered form of love. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 2358) reads, "This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity....these persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition."
Characteristic Two: Total
Definition: Once again from Christopher West, total love is defined as "love without the strings attached, love that holds nothing back. In it you make gift of yourself to another - a total self donation." Complete.
Absolute. Your whole self.
In Traditional Marriage: This instance is where the notion of Natural Family Planning and the absence of any form of artificial contraception is key. When in a marriage between a man and a woman, the presence of a contraceptive essentially says this: "I love you darling. I love all of you. Except your fertility. Because nothing would be worse to me than having another one of you running around." Instead, by removing contraception and being open to both the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage, the husband and wife say "Take all of me. Here is everything, including my fertility. Here are my future children. The grey hairs they will cause you when they run a muck in the church pew. The cost of their school. Our shared tears and laughter. My hip replacement. Our retirement plans. Because you are more than just a body for my pleasure - you are a soul and body which I love totally."
Personified by Christ: This is where Christ shows us true and total love. When in the garden, he sweats drops of blood because of the agony anticipated in the slow death and torture on the cross. Yet he says, "Not my will but thy will be done." This is total giving. Giving one's all for the benefit of the other and holding nothing back. Blessed Charles de Foucland (1858-1916) penned the prayer, "I love you Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father. Amen."
Not Seen in Homosexual Unions: The totality required of a marriage is lost when applied to homosexual unions. There are two good analogies that I have heard this explained in layman's term. The first is that one cannot appreciate a gift they already have. If I own my favorite movie of all time already, when someone gives me that favorite movie as a gift for my birthday, I will not appreciate that gift. After all, I already own that movie. A second ownership of the same object is pointless. Similarly, in the natural world, the two ends of a magnet only connect if they have something that the other does not. The polar opposite ends connect because they offset each other. The two southern poles never connect - they each possess what the other has. Thus, in a homosexual union, one cannot give the totality of oneself to another - because that man already has masculinity as part of his genetic makeup, or that woman already possess femininity both physically and mentally by her very nature as a woman.
Characteristic Number Three: Faithful
Definition: Once again said more eloquently than I could ever hope for, Christopher West says, "Faithful love is love that is committed. That commitment guides all other actions. You keep your promises once you have made them, no matter how your feelings may change."
In Traditional Marriage: True marriage is living one's wedding vows every day. I cannot speak from experience here, but I know from observation alone that this is not the easiest thing to do. There are (or may be in the future, depending on your state of life) days when the feeling of infatuation simply isn't there anymore. You realize that the honey moon is over and there the supposed love of your life is, lying in bed snoring while dirty socks decorate your room like stinky, old confetti. It is in these times that you have to put your nose to the grindstone and decide that love, despite what Hollywood will so convincingly try to portray, is not an emotion but an action and devoted decision.
Personified by Christ: Once again to the crucifix, we see Christ's faithful love. Despite the ease of simply saying, "Well guys, I think I've proved my point here" and walking off the cross, Christ hung on the cross until the last breath of air fell from His lips. He can sympathize with our pain, but also with our struggle to endure in faithful love, even when the going gets tough.
Not Seen in Homosexual Unions: The Catholic Church is not being a prude by saying that homosexuality does not line up with God's plan for the human heart, soul and body. Instead, it calls all people (regardless of sexual tendencies) to a life of purity. It is calling you to live as you were created - to be God's. Any marriage would not be functioning properly if one spouse was continually cheating on the other. Similarly, the marriage cannot work if the union itself constantly cheats the other out of who they are able to be in the light of Christ's redemptive love. Homosexuality never allows both parties
to daily renew the wedding vows because the very act of homosexual physical relations are not marital. This is not to say that those who struggle with homosexual tendencies are evil people who deserve final damnation. They simply are looking in the wrong places for authentic and faithful love.
Characteristic Number Four: Fruitful
Definition: This characteristic is self explanatory. Love that is truly fruitful is constantly open to life. It is open to both the sides of physical fertility, procreation, and the raising of children, but also open to the life of Christ in the spiritual life of the couple.
In Traditional Marriage: The Catholic Church never defines how many children a couple must have for a "authentic Catholic" marriage. However, the Catholic Church does establish the fact that the couple needs to be open to children from the moment "I do" is said. This means an absence of contraceptives of any sort, despite any perceived exception. Responsible spacing of children is advised with the help of Natural Family Planning, the method that uses the woman's cycle to track fertile and infertile times. If
the presence of contraceptives is in the marriage, both the nature of the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage is destroyed. This only applies to marriages that deliberately block the procreative side of life and fertility. The naturally infertile couple is not willing infertility. Yet any marriage that reduces one or both of the parties down to an object for the other's sexual pleasure is violating the fruitful characteristic
Personified in Christ: Christ's love for His Church is always open to life. Pope Francis spoke on this subject a homily on June 2, 2014. The love of Christ, he said, "makes the Church fruitful" by her children through the sacraments of Baptism. "This culture of well-being from ten years ago has convinced us: 'it's better not to have children! It's better! you can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be care-free...it might be better, more comfortable to have a dog, two cats and love that goes to the cats and dogs. Is this true or is it not? have you seen it? Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age and solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness. It is not fruitful It does not do what Jesus does with his Church. He makes his Church fruitful."
Not Seen in Homosexual Unions: Not matter how much perceived emotional love that occurs between two members of the same sex, life can never be produced. Two men, no matter how they try, will never be able to produce a child without the assistance of a woman, and the help of modern medicine. Biologically, the fruitful aspect of the homosexual union can easily be pointed out as non-existent.
To read more on the free, total, faithful and fruitful love as taught by the incredible Saint Pope John Paul II, read the Theology of the Body online here. For more Christopher West, go here. For discussion on the topic of TOB, you don't have to go anywhere though, the comment box is right below.
Si vis amari ama,
'Fire of the Spirit' Teen blog is run by Henry B. To find more information about this blog, go here