Two Questions about Marriage and the Civil Law

May 13th, 2012 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Here I consider two questions. The first question is whether defending the legal recognition of marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman is imposing one’s religious views on others. The second is whether Christians should seek through the political process to maintain or change civil laws.


Nuptial Mass at the Saint Louis Cathedral Basilica
(Photo courtesy of Jeff Geerling)

I. Is Defending the Legal Recognition of Marriage Imposing one’s Religion on Others?

Some people think that Christians should not propose or support legislation that legally defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Among the reasons they offer is the notion that religious people should not ‘impose’ their religious beliefs on people who do not hold those religious beliefs. We would not want others to impose their religious views on us, and therefore we should not do so to others. So, the objection bases itself on the Golden Rule.1

It is true, of course, that we ought not coerce people to believe or practice our religion. That is a truth we know by natural law, that the dignity of the human person calls us to uphold the religious liberty of all persons, such that their freedom of will and self-determination are respected.2 But our obligation not to impose our religious beliefs on others does not entail that we should not support civil legislation that upholds the traditional definition and institution of marriage.

That is because we can know both what marriage is, and what is right and wrong regarding marriage through the same natural law by which we know that our religious beliefs should not be imposed on others. (See the article by Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan Anderson, titled “What is Marriage?.”) Natural law is not based on or derived from divine revelation, and is therefore not based on religion. Our grasp of the natural law can be improved or diminished by the communities in which our moral understanding takes shape. And religion can illumine or distort our perception of the natural law in certain respects and to varying degrees. But even so, we know natural law through the rational capacity we have as human persons. So seeking to conform civil law to the natural law is not necessarily imposing religious beliefs on anyone, even if a truth belonging to the natural law is also believed and taught within one or more religions.

In addition, by reason we can know that marriage is a natural institution ordered to the common good, and upon which the common good depends essentially. The common good requires the formation of stable families intrinsically ordered to the procreation and rearing of children. The preservation of society requires a continual addition to its population, since each human person has only a finite lifespan. Without procreating couples, a society would cease to exist within a century. But for its perpetuation, society needs more than additional human beings; it needs these additional citizens to be educated, socialized, and formed in the virtues, such that upon reaching adulthood, they too can enter into marriage and other practices or crafts, and contribute to the preservation and improvement of society. A mere child factory or cloning factory could not do that, nor is that what children need in order to develop in a healthy, well-adjusted way.3 Only families are intrinsically suited to provide the formation and rearing children need to acquire the virtues and enter into society. Without the institution of the family, society would not only depopulate into extinction, but children would not be rightly prepared upon reaching adulthood to enter into marriage and other practices necessary for the flourishing of society. For this reason the common good of society depends vitally on the institution of the family, and therefore on marriage which is the family’s stabilizing bond by which it is intrinsically ordered to the procreation and rearing of children.

The legal recognition and defense of marriage helps protect and preserve a correct public understanding of and participation in the natural institution of marriage, because just law is a tutor in virtue to the citizens raised under and informed by that law in their actions and thus in the dispositions they develop.4 If the civil law were to treat other types of union as marriage as well, this would teach the citizens under that law that marriage is merely an arbitrary social contract between any number of persons of any sex — a concept of marriage presupposed by the ‘equality argument.’5 Such a law would obscure the truth about marriage as a natural institution, and would sanction and promote a culture of sexual behavior and dispositions contrary to that required to enter into and maintain the marriage institution as the essential foundation of the stable family. In this way the legal recognition of marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman protects and preserves not only marriage, but also the social practice of forming families naturally ordered to the procreation and rearing of children, by which our society is maintained. Conversely, legislation that defines marriage as something other than a union of one man and one woman is in this way harmful to the common good.6

In his 2004 pastoral letter titled “On Our Civic Responsibility for the Common Good,” Archbishop Burke (now Cardinal Burke and Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura) wrote:

“Such legal recognition of a same-sex relationship undermines the truth about marriage, revealed in the natural law and the Holy Scriptures, namely that it is an exclusive and lifelong union of one man and one woman …. Likewise, the legal recognition of a homosexual relationship as marriage redounds to the grave harm of the individuals involved, for it sanctions and even encourages gravely immoral acts.”

And in 2003, as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) published a document titled “Considerations Regarding Proposals to give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons,” in which he wrote:

“Laws in favour of homosexual unions are contrary to right reason because they confer legal guarantees, analogous to those granted to marriage, to unions between persons of the same sex. Given the values at stake in this question, the State could not grant legal standing to such unions without failing in its duty to promote and defend marriage as an institution essential to the common good.

It might be asked how a law can be contrary to the common good if it does not impose any particular kind of behaviour, but simply gives legal recognition to a de facto reality which does not seem to cause injustice to anyone. In this area, one needs first to reflect on the difference between homosexual behaviour as a private phenomenon and the same behaviour as a relationship in society, foreseen and approved by the law, to the point where it becomes one of the institutions in the legal structure. This second phenomenon is not only more serious, but also assumes a more wide-reaching and profound influence, and would result in changes to the entire organization of society, contrary to the common good. Civil laws are structuring principles of man’s life in society, for good or for ill. They “play a very important and sometimes decisive role in influencing patterns of thought and behaviour”. Lifestyles and the underlying presuppositions these express not only externally shape the life of society, but also tend to modify the younger generation’s perception and evaluation of forms of behaviour. Legal recognition of homosexual unions would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage.”

The State has an obligation under the natural law to defend the natural institution of marriage for the common good, just as the State has an obligation to defend innocent human life. Legally defining other sorts of union as ‘marriage’ would obscure the truth concerning marriage, and distort the public’s conception of marriage and the dispositions and behavior of its citizens in relation to marriage. In such a case, the State would be failing in its duty to defend marriage. When a State’s marriage laws fail to defend marriage, its laws are in that respect unjust, and citizens, whether Christian or not Christian, are right to seek to rectify the unjust laws.7

Cardinal Ratzinger in that same document explains that justice requires that the State defend and not distort marriage, writing:

Society owes its continued survival to the family, founded on marriage. The inevitable consequence of legal recognition of homosexual unions would be the redefinition of marriage, which would become, in its legal status, an institution devoid of essential reference to factors linked to heterosexuality; for example, procreation and raising children. If, from the legal standpoint, marriage between a man and a woman were to be considered just one possible form of marriage, the concept of marriage would undergo a radical transformation, with grave detriment to the common good. By putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage and the family, the State acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties.

The principles of respect and non-discrimination cannot be invoked to support legal recognition of homosexual unions. Differentiating between persons or refusing social recognition or benefits is unacceptable only when it is contrary to justice. The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it.

Nor can the principle of the proper autonomy of the individual be reasonably invoked. It is one thing to maintain that individual citizens may freely engage in those activities that interest them and that this falls within the common civil right to freedom; it is something quite different to hold that activities which do not represent a significant or positive contribution to the development of the human person in society can receive specific and categorical legal recognition by the State. Not even in a remote analogous sense do homosexual unions fulfill the purpose for which marriage and family deserve specific categorical recognition. On the contrary, there are good reasons for holding that such unions are harmful to the proper development of human society, especially if their impact on society were to increase.8

My point in quoting from these Church documents is not to base the natural law argument on the Church, but to show that even the Church’s argument makes use of a natural law argument.


Pope Benedict XVI

Christian traditions in which morality is drawn exclusively from the Bible have very little recourse when and where the moral authority of the Bible or their particular interpretation of the Bible is not recognized in the public square. This is also why Protestantism is more vulnerable than is Catholicism to the objection that opposing same-sex ‘marriage’ legislation is imposing one’s religious beliefs on others.9 Calvin and Luther believed that depravity had so corrupted human reason that it is untrustworthy especially in ethics and philosophy. For their theological heirs, the practical consequence of that position is that we must rely on Scripture, not reason, both to determine and to ground morality. There is, of course, truth to our susceptibility as humans to rationalizing our unethical behavior, and using metaphysical assumptions we want to believe, in order to arrive at the philosophical and moral conclusions we want to be true. And there were Protestants who developed and contributed to our understanding of natural law — persons such as Hugo Grotius, Peter Vermigli and Francis Turretin. But Protestantism’s low view of reason, in combination with modern philosophy’s move toward positivism, tended to prevent any substantive or widespread Protestant reliance on or formal recognition of the natural law, and a development of and integration of natural law ethics within its theology. That was especially so in the nineteenth century, and culminated in the twentieth century with Karl Barth’s explicit rejection of natural law.10 And without a formal recognition of the natural law, a Christian’s opposition to same-sex ‘marriage’ can be based consciously only on Scripture, and he is therefore susceptible to the “religious imposition” objection.

II. Should Christians even seek to maintain or change public laws?

Similarly, some Christians claim that the efforts to protect the legal recognition of marriage or enact legal protections for the unborn, are an unhealthy or unjustified mix of religion and politics. Christianity, they claim, is about bringing people to the Kingdom of heaven, not about making this world a better place. The latter notion is associated with both theological liberalism and ‘liberation theology’ which replace the supernatural with the natural, and so remove from Christ’s gospel His invitation to the heavenly union which is eternal life in the divine family of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and reduce the heavenly call to a summons to social and political transformation on earth. According to such Christians,

[T]the realm of nature should not be expected to function and look like the realm of grace. Living in the tension of two kingdoms we should stop trying to transform the culture of this world into the kingdom of our Lord and instead focus on the church being the church, led by it duly ordained officers and ministering through the ordinary means of grace. (Source)

What “the church being the church” means here is engaging and focusing on preaching, evangelism, sacraments, prayer, discipleship, etc. What this theological position intends to exclude, more than anything else, is the organized attempt by Christians or the Church to change laws or influence government policies, whether regarding marriage, abortion, war, capital punishment, etc. They express this typically as opposition to Christian engagement in ‘the culture war.’ In a post titled “How to win a culture war and lose a generation,” Rachel Held Evans recently proposed that Christians simply stop fighting the culture war, because, she claims, it is not working, and it is ‘turning off’ a generation of young people.

What ought we say to this? To be sure, from a Catholic point of view, those who seek to maintain the distinction between the Kingdom of heaven and any earthly political system are right that there is such a distinction, and that the denial of the supernatural is a grave error. The good news of Jesus Christ is a call to the beatific vision, a supernatural participation in the eternal life of the Blessed Trinity, not a man-made utopia accomplished by a Pelagian-style reversal of Babel. And we are built up in this eternal life through the liturgy of word and sacrament. And as Catholics we believe by divine revelation that Christ has elevated marriage to the dignity of a sacrament as I’ve written about in more detail elsewhere.

Yet this does not make marriage cease to remain a natural institution, much as baptism infuses into us the supernatural life of God, but does not make us cease to remain human. Marriage remains a natural institution to which humans are intrinsically ordered as beings who are by nature both rational and sexual. A fundamental Catholic principle is that grace perfects nature; grace does not abandon or destroy nature. Catholics are not Marcionites, Manicheans or gnostics. The God who created us is the same God who calls us to eternal life. The notion that salvation involves a spurning of nature or creation implies that the God who saves us is not the God who created us and all of nature. The falsehood of Marcionism is the reason underlying the truth of the Catholic principle that grace perfects nature. Redemption is not a second deity’s exit plan for man from the bungled mess brought about by an incompetent previous deity’s flawed design. In calling us to supernatural union with Himself, God does not call us to abandon our natural responsibilities to our family, our neighbors, and our society. The opposite error of a liberation theology that reduces the gospel to corporal works of mercy is a gnosticism that purportedly takes us ‘out’ of the world, and strips us of our civic obligations to build up the political society in which we live according to the natural law and the common good.

Cardinal Burke described our dual citizenship in this way:

Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our lives, we have become citizens of Heaven, heirs to the eternal life which Christ has won for us by His Passion, Death and Resurrection. Citizens of Heaven, we remain citizens of Earth and of the particular nation in which we live. In fact, our heavenly citizenship requires our imitation of Christ who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

13. As citizens of both Heaven and Earth, we are bound by the moral law to act with respect for the rights of others and to promote the common good. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council makes clear the responsibilities which are ours as citizens of the City of God and the city of man:

“The Council exhorts Christians, as citizens of both cities, to perform their duties faithfully in the spirit of the Gospel. It is a mistake to think that, because we have here no lasting city, but seek the city which is to come, we are entitled to shirk our earthly responsibilities; this is to forget that by our faith we are bound all the more to fulfill these responsibilities according to the vocation of each one. But it is no less mistaken to think that we may immerse ourselves in earthly activities as if these latter were utterly foreign to religion, and religion were nothing more than the fulfillment of acts of worship and the observance of a few moral obligations. One of the graver errors of our time is the dichotomy between the faith which many profess and the practice of their daily lives. As far back as the Old Testament the prophets vehemently denounced this scandal, and in the New Testament Christ Himself with greater force threatened it with severe punishment. Let there, then, be no such pernicious opposition between professional and social activity on the one hand and religious life on the other. The Christian who shirks his temporal duties shirks his duties towards his neighbor, neglects God Himself, and endangers his eternal salvation” (Gaudium et spes, No. 43a).

Our heavenly citizenship adds the grace of Christ to the duty of our earthly citizenship, which is to preserve, safeguard and foster the common good. As citizens of Heaven, we have the grace of the divine charity of the Good Samaritan to inspire and strengthen us in loving all, without boundaries.

14. The secularism of our culture, with its tendency to an exaggerated individualism, can easily cause confusion regarding the relationship of our duties as Christians and citizens, as citizens of Heaven and citizens of Earth. We can easily begin to view our Christian duty as a private matter without legitimate reference to our civic duty. The Word of Christ, however, calls us to the constant conversion of our lives, by which we overcome any selfish individualism and live truly in Christ for love of God and our neighbor, also in fulfilling our civic responsibility. (“Our Civic Responsibility for the Common Good“)


Cardinal Burke

The duties and obligations we have as humans, to our families and to the common good of society, are retained, not lost or revoked when we become Christians. Among these duties are the promotion and preservation of the common good through the establishment of just laws. Our obligation to establish and uphold just laws in our society belongs to us even apart from Christianity, and is not removed by becoming Christian. Nor does becoming a Christian restrict the legitimate means by which we are to establish justice in society only to evangelism or individual conversion. Martin Luther King Jr., in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” explicitly appeals to natural law to argue that the Jim Crow laws must be changed. He did not think that becoming or being a Christian meant that we should no longer seek for our civil law to reflect and uphold the natural law. Otherwise, he would not have marched and protested against unjust civil laws. Similarly, William Wilberforce invested his whole life into a similar effort to establish laws against the grave injustice of slavery.

The gospel does not present us with an either/or regarding grace and nature, but a both/and. This is why becoming a Christian does not negate our responsibility as Christians to work to change unjust laws, whether they be about abortion, euthanasia, torture, racism, child sex trade, even laws that fail to give marriage its due protection, and are in that respect unjust. If abandoning the culture war means letting unjust laws or practices prevail, then calls to abandon the culture war are calls to cowardice, apathy, and indifference. That’s not what any generation needs. Our obligation not just as Christians, but first as human persons, to establish and defend social justice depends neither on our prospects for success, nor on the youth being enamored or ‘turned off’ by our efforts. It depends only on the goodness of justice, and the evil of injustice.

Some Christians acknowledge our obligation as individual Christians to establish and defend justice, but claim that the Church as such has no business in such matters. And it is true that the mission of the Church is not fundamentally directed toward a political or economic end, but instead to a supernatural end. The Second Vatican Council taught, “Christ, to be sure, gave His Church no proper mission in the political, economic or social order. The purpose which He set before her is a religious one.” (Gaudium et Spes, 42.) This, however, does not mean that the Church has nothing to say regarding political or social injustice, or that her mission which she received from Christ calls her to remain silent or disengaged in the face of social or political injustice. It means rather, as Pope John Paul II explains, that the Church has been given no technical competence or specific mission to promote some political or economic system over another, provided they each properly respect human dignity and uphold justice.11

From the Catholic perspective, the gospel handed down to us from Christ through His Apostles is not merely to man as individual, but also to man in his social dimension. The Church’s proclamation of repentance and conversion applies not only to individuals, but also to entire societies. In his 1991 Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II wrote:

The Church, in fact, has something to say about specific human situations, both individual and communal, national and international. She formulates a genuine doctrine for these situations, a corpus which enables her to analyze social realities, to make judgments about them and to indicate directions to be taken for the just resolution of the problems involved.

In Pope Leo XIII’s time such a concept of the Church’s right and duty was far from being commonly admitted. Indeed, a two-fold approach prevailed: one directed to this world and this life, to which faith ought to remain extraneous; the other directed towards a purely other-worldly salvation, which neither enlightens nor directs existence on earth. The Pope’s approach in publishing Rerum novarum gave the Church “citizenship status” as it were, amid the changing realities of public life, and this standing would be more fully confirmed later on. In effect, to teach and to spread her social doctrine pertains to the Church’s evangelizing mission and is an essential part of the Christian message, since this doctrine points out the direct consequences of that message in the life of society and situates daily work and struggles for justice in the context of bearing witness to Christ the Saviour. This doctrine is likewise a source of unity and peace in dealing with the conflicts which inevitably arise in social and economic life. Thus it is possible to meet these new situations without degrading the human person’s transcendent dignity, either in oneself or in one’s adversaries, and to direct those situations towards just solutions. (Centesimus Annus, 6)

The Church’s mission is neither entirely other-worldly, nor entirely directed to this world. Social justice is not the entirety of the gospel, but it is “an essential part of the Christian message,” because grace does not destroy nature, but preserves and perfects it. Repentance is a turning away from, and repudiation of injustice. In this way the call to justice, addressed both to individuals and societies, is an inseparable part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as the Church’s proclamation of the gospel calls individuals to repentance, so she calls nations to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24.) This justice to which the Church calls the nations includes the legal recognition and protection of the marriage institution.

Pope Benedict XVI (when still Cardinal Ratzinger), summarized the Church’s teaching on same-sex ‘marriage’ laws in this way:

The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself. (“Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons,” 11)

We can and should reason together concerning the natural law argument’s implications regarding same-sex ‘marriage,’ and we should do so with respect and genuine charity for all the persons involved. To participate in that dialogue, we need to be able to listen and understand those with whom we disagree, and genuinely respect their dignity and personhood. For our part, that conversation needs to be marked by kindness, compassion, patience and sensitivity. Empathy helps us see that the desire for marriage among persons with same-sex attraction is a same-sex expression of the deep longing we all have as humans to love and be loved with lifelong commitment. In this way we start by recognizing and affirming common ground, and what we recognize in each other that is good and right. We are not merely seeking agreement with those who disagree with us, but civic friendship which includes sincere and mutual good will, even when we see little prospect for reaching agreement.12

Here I have sought very briefly only to explain answers to two relevant questions: why opposition to same-sex ‘marriage’ legislation need not be the imposing of religious beliefs on others, and why Christians have an obligation to seek to establish and maintain just civil laws ordered to the common good of society, including laws protecting the natural institution of marriage. Such concern for justice is part of what it means for Christians to be the salt of the earth. Love is the fulfillment of the law, and Christ’s gospel of love therefore calls us to rectify social injustices, even within the civil law. The Catholic teaching is in this way a middle position between the error of liberation theology on the one hand, and the error of gnostic theology on the other.

  1. See, for example, Fuller Theological Seminary Professor Daniel Kirk’s essay, “Regarding Amendment 1 in North Carolina.” []
  2. See the argument in Dignitatis Humanae. []
  3. A memorable example of such an attempt to eliminate the family institution is depicted in Huxley’s Brave New World. []
  4. Aristotle wrote, “Lawgivers make the citizens good by inculcating [good] habits in them, and this is the aim of every lawgiver; if he does not succeed in doing that, his legislation is a failure.” Nicomachean Ethics, 1103b2. []
  5. If marriage were a social construct, then we as a society would have the power to define it any way we wish. And in that case, since marriage has certain legal benefits under the civil law, it would be unjust to define marriage such that various classes of people are excluded from entering into marriage and so enjoying those benefits. But because marriage is a natural institution, and not a social construct, we cannot rightly define marriage just any way we wish, but only according to what it is. That is, because the natural institution of marriage is between one man and one woman, we cannot rightly define marriage as the union of two (or more) persons of the same sex, or the union of a human and an animal, or the union of a human and him or herself, or the union of a person with a fictional character, any more than we can define 2+2 as 5. For that reason, because marriage is a natural institution consisting of the union of one man and one woman, there is no discrimination or inequality on the part of citizens or civic leaders who, on that basis, refuse to modify civil laws so as to allow persons to ‘marry’ others of the same sex. The equality argument presupposes the ‘social construct’ conception of marriage, and in this way begs the question [i.e. presupposes precisely what is in question] in relation to those who believe that marriage is a natural institution. []
  6. A common question is whether polygamy is contrary to the natural law, since it was permitted and practiced among the Hebrews in the Old Testament. Polygamy does not frustrate the procreative end of marriage, but it does hinder a secondary end of marriage, which is the raising and social and moral training of those children. The self-giving nature of spousal love is complete, and therefore exclusive. For that reason, where one man has two or more wives (or one woman has two or more husbands), the resulting family structure is prone to discord and rupture, whereas the proper rearing of children requires an intrinsically stable family structure. However, because polygamy does not frustrate the procreative end of marriage, it is not absolutely contrary to the natural law regarding marriage. That is why it could, under certain circumstances, be divinely permitted in the Old Testament, as a step toward a more perfect understanding of marriage. Nevertheless, the marital institution by nature is a union of only one man with only one woman; this union is intrinsically ordered to the procreative end of marriage, and is naturally suited to fulfill the secondary function of marriage involving the raising and education of children. Jesus implies that marriage is monogamous when He answers a question about marriage by appealing to God’s original design constituted of one man and one woman. (cf. Matthew 19) UPDATE: See Christopher Kaczor’s article “The Perils of Polygamy.” []
  7. From the point of view of some of those supporting same-sex ‘marriage’ legislation, every person has a right to marry, and civil laws that recognize marriage as only possible between a man and a woman are unjust by failing to acknowledge that right in the case of persons seeking to marry other persons of the same sex. As explained in footnote 5 above, this argument presupposes the social construct notion of marriage. And if marriage were a social construct, then this argument would be cogent. But because marriage is a natural institution, it is as impossible for two persons of the same sex to marry, as it is impossible for a circle to be square and remain a circle. The very essence of marriage requires the union of persons of the opposite sex. In that case, there can be no right to marry a person of the same sex, because there can be no such thing as same-sex marriage, no matter what society may decide to call same-sex unions. So the argument for same-sex ‘marriage’ as a right is a question-begging argument, because it presupposes the social construct conception of marriage. The resolution of the disagreement, requires therefore a mutual examination of that more fundamental question. []
  8. Considerations Regarding Proposals to give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons,” 8, emphases mine []
  9. See, for example, Matthew Anderson’s Christianity Today article “Why Natural Law Arguments Make Evangelicals Uncomfortable.” (March, 2011) []
  10. There are some Protestants seeking to recover and reintegrate natural law with Protestant theology. See, for example, Stephen Grabill’s Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics, (Eerdmans, 2006). See also J. Daryl Charles’s Retrieving the Natural Law: A Return to Moral First Things, (Eerdmans, 2008). []
  11. See Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 41. []
  12. Opposition to a position does not justify violence against those who hold that position. That is true no matter which side of this issue one holds. In my opinion, resorting to violence is more often an indication that the person engaging in violence does not know how to present a rational defense for his position, and has abandoned rational discourse as a means of resolving disagreements. []
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  1. Bryan,

    A wonderful and timely message on this all important matter. A Catholic priest once told me that the great crisis facing contemporary society is the “death of Natural Law”. The fact that schools and universities have not taught this has created our inability to deal with these matters in a reasonable manner in the public square. A former student of mine, who attended (just graduated) an elite American university in the Northeast that begins with the letter “H”, reported to me that in a class on human rights, the professor immediately dismissed Natural Law as the basis for human rights because he said it was an attempt to smuggle religion in the back door. My student, God bless him, politely asked the professor how he proposed that human rights be safeguarded. The professor told him that the basis of human rights resided in the consent of the governed. So much of today’s discussions on ethics and the public square have been reduced to legal positivism. Until we, as people, recover a genuine Natural Law framework, our public discourse will be reduced to counting heads and tallying votes. Thank you for this excellent article.

  2. Bryan,

    Excellent article. A couple of questions:

    1.”When a State’s marriage laws fail to defend marriage, its laws are in that respect unjust, and citizens, whether Christian or not Christian, are right to seek to rectify the unjust laws.” – Your usage of “unjust” laws is 180 from the conventional argument that depriving homosexual individuals of their “right to marry” is unjust. I overlooked your footnote but you support your argument very well using natural law as your basis. People’s emotions get intertwined with this subject. They refer to their experiences with homosexual individuals and see it as an issue of fairness/equality. Have you had success discussing this topic using your line of reason (appealing to natural law)?

    2. There are many Christians who are also Libertarians and use the argument that the state should not limit a person’s freedom, thus the state should not deny two consensual adults from entering into a marriage. Have you encountered this line of reason?

  3. [...] the title of a new post by Bryan Cross at Called to Communion. I commend it to you for your consideration. Bryan discusses [...]

  4. There’s something even more basic than natural law at work.

    If a civil union where purely viewed a contract by the state, then any sort of contract may be allowed, including all fringe sexual unions that are currently illegal. The non-sexual forms of such contracts aren’t necessarily even against natural law. I’m sure all of us have relatives where two or more siblings live together to a ripe old age. For one reason or another, they choose to forgo actual marriage (or choose to not remarriage after widowhood) and want to live with their siblings as siblings until they die. States already have such arrangements for wills. Extending such arrangements for property is not a big stretch. Now the Church (and state!) can protest anyone entering into such personal contracts as a pretext for sexual unions, but that protest is no different if there were no such contract. Mortal sin is mortal sin.

    The key problem is, states don’t view marriage as simply contracts. This is where they go against Natural Law. They impose “rights” and “responsibilities” on others. As such, if those “rights” and “responsibilities” are contrary to natural law or even are contrary to a religion’s law, no Church can simply stand by and accept it. And if the new “rights” and “responsibilities” force Church institutions that existed before the state was founded to stop, the Church must be in rebellion (in the most civil way possible). Such new “rights” and “responsibilities” end up denying the true rights and responsibilities we own to God in religion.

    IMO, the real solution to this dilemma is for the state to get out of the marriage business, as was the case in most pre-modern societies. I’ll never forgive Martin Luther for transferring marriage from the Church into the state. Marriage belongs within the Church exclusively. A state might choose to register a marriage, but while that registration might be useful in property disputes, it must not impose any obligations on anyone outside the union. Just because the state says you’re registered doesn’t mean I have to recognize that union or stop from preaching against it or have my children be indoctrinated in that union, etc.

  5. Anil, (re: #4)

    For reasons I explain in my article, the State cannot “get out of the marriage business,” because the State has the duty to uphold justice within the civil order regarding marriage, which requires legally recognizing what marriage is, and recognizing the rights and obligations of married couples to each other, and to their children, issues of custody, inheritance, etc. Those duties and rights arise from natural law, and ought to be rightly represented by positive law. Jennifer Roback Morse has a helpful three-part series on what’s wrong with the libertarian proposal that government “get out of the marriage business;” the first part of the series is here.

    Furthermore, the Church has no jurisdiction over unbaptized persons. The Church has no rite for the marriage of two unbaptized persons. So if marriage belonged “within the Church exclusively,” then in a society with some percentage of non-Christians, those persons would not be able to be married. But, as I explained in the post, marriage is a natural institution, and was so before Christ elevated it to a sacrament available (as sacrament) only to the baptized. But because grace does not destroy nature, marriage remains at the same time a natural institution, and therefore remains available (as a natural institution) to the unbaptized. The same nature-grace relation I described in the body of the post, applies to the relation of the jurisdictions of Christian marriage held by the State and the Church, respectively, according to the general relation of State and Church described in comment #7 of “Philosophy and the Papacy.” In that general relation, the Church has higher authority than does the State. But that does not mean that the State has no obligation in recognizing and defending marriage. Because the State has an obligation to recognize and defend marriage, the solution to disordered or unjust civil laws concerning marriage is not an abandonment by the State of its obligations pertaining to marriage, but a correction of its unjust laws pertaining to marriage.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  6. I’m trying to understand more fully: Guess I don’t understand the distinction between “Natural Law” and “Religious Belief.” Isn’t the difference just that one is revealed and the other observed?

  7. Thank you Bryan, for an excellent article. I think that this is exactly the kind of explanation which is not getting “out there” nearly enough, and that is one reason why the media has such an easy time painting the Catholic position in the negative way that it does.

    I wonder if it would be possible to point readers to further resources which might help show and explain the difference between marriage as a social construct, and marriage as a natural institution, specifically, and, more importantly, why we ought to recognize that marriage is the latter as opposed to the former. The reason I ask this is it seems to me that anyone already leaning in a “pro-homosexual-marriage” direction to whom I would talk would automatically assume the former to be the case, and would have a very hard time accepting the idea that the latter is the case. They would object that my claim that marriage is a natural institution and not a social construct is an unfounded and religiously-based claim, and in effect simply moves the debate back to a different point without any non-religiously-based way of addressing/resolving the dispute. Perhaps this is just another way of saying the same thing as Tom said in #1 in recounting the “H” professor who claimed that any talk of basing human rights upon Natural Law is just smuggling religion in by the back door.

    However true I may believe the content of this article to be, practically speaking, it seems difficult to envision changing many minds on the issue when (in effect) it will appear to those with whom one is discussing the issue as though the only way they could even understand what we mean by words like “justice” and “common good” would be for them to learn an entirely new and foreign (to them) system of categories and definitions which they don’t see anyone else (except perhaps the Catholic Church) proposing.

    As a former protestant, I see the position (as presented here) of the Catholic Church on this issue, and specifically the reasons the Church proposes in support of her teaching on this issue (and on the other “Life” issues) to be tremendously compelling, and indeed for me this realization was one very pivotal step in my conversion process. However, if the teaching of the Church as presented here is as valid as I believe it to be, then there must be a way for us to show this to someone who isn’t already predisposed to accept the Church’s teaching as true, and who is not necessarily looking to “convert” to Catholicism. Because if we are going to be involved in the political process in order to attempt to protect good laws, and replace bad laws, that’s exactly where most of the people we are going to be talking to, and trying to convince on this issue, are going to be.

    Does anyone else feel this difficulty? Are there resources available, either online or in printed format which could help to show why we say that marriage must be seen as a natural institution, and cannot be seen merely as a social construct? Especially resources which would be understandable by someone who isn’t already a Catholic or looking to convert to Catholicism?

    Anyway, thanks again for the article, and thanks in advance to anyone who can provide any help on this question….

    Pax Christi,
    Jeff H.

  8. Nathan #6

    Actually, no, the moral law stands on its own, at times without respect to religious belief. A friend of ours, CS Lewis, wrote a magnificent booklet entitled The Abolition of Man. Part of his book relates that disparate cultures in disparate parts of the world at much different times with no connection with each other recognized truths about man and morality. The moral law has a universality that transcends time and place. God did not hide how we must think about Him (however we perceived Him given the when and where of our existence); about parents; about spouses and children; and about related items to our dealings with other human beings.

    The closest we Westerners generally come to the moral law is the 10 Commandments, but people with different religions and philosophies were drawn to very similar if not identical conclusions. Grace abounds and God gave people who lacked the Hebrew Law a true vision of how things should be.

    He also identified what would happen if we lost our connection to the moral law. One of the real benefits of Lewis is that he wants us to think and gives us a platform to examine his recognition.

    CS Lewis closes his book with lists of comparisons of related items of the moral laws drawn from those disparate cultures and times, and we see how closely those items resemble each other. I hope you can find a copy. It is a short read full of information that you are rightly concerned about.

    Cordially,

    dt

  9. Furthermore, the Church has no jurisdiction over unbaptized persons. The Church has no rite for the marriage of two unbaptized persons. So if marriage belonged “within the Church exclusively,” then in a society with some percentage of non-Christians, those persons would not be able to be married. But, as I explained in the post, marriage is a natural institution, and was so before Christ elevated it to a sacrament available (as sacrament) only to the baptized

    This issue is of particular interest to me, since I come from a libertarian mindset. I’m of the opinion that the government shouldn’t be in the marriage business, with a view of marriage in the civil sense as ‘contract law’.

    I guess the main question is who ‘owns’ marriage. Does the church, or the state? If it is the church, then the church should be advocating its members get married without state recognition, and it should be pushing for fairness laws for all people (not special dispensations for those ‘married’). It could likewise push for ‘civil union’ laws that grant certain benefits… but I don’t think it could maintain an opposite sex only position on civil union.

    If the state owns marriage, then the church is in the position it is now. However, it is the ‘people’, not just the ‘Christians’ who get to decide what to do with the institutions given them… and right now it seems like the ‘people’ want to allow gay marriage.

    My question is what is the church supposed to do? If 2 homosexuals marry, then convert to catholicism, is their marriage valid? Again, who ‘owns’ marriage? It seems to me that if you want to elevate marriage to a sacrament, then you must re-marry new converts, and the church must stamp their approval on marriage… but if that is the case, why do we behave as though the state owns marriage (and turn to the state for its approval, and view its approval as important / binding)?

    It seems to me that the solution is for Christians to 1. take back the institution of Marriage by not turning to the state for ‘official’ recognition and 2. support fairness / equality in law when it comes to co-habitation – regardless of the sex of the people involved. The state can ‘get out’ of the marriage business, and ‘get into’ the civil union contract law business. One active thing married Christians could do is to get a legal ‘divorce’, but remain married (in the eyes of the Church and God and themselves). The church could also perform its ceremonies without requiring a signing of a state document (or submitting its pastors / priests to the state for the ‘authority’ to perform a marriage).

    I’ll never forgive Martin Luther for transferring marriage from the Church into the state. Marriage belongs within the Church exclusively.

    Not to harp on this, but it sounds like your taking my argument, but then blaming Luther (presumably your a Roman Catholic?) — yet the argument your fellow Catholics are making in this article is that the state needs to have a say in marriage law since it is a ‘natural’ institution. So which is it? Is Luther still the RC boogyman, or is the RC on Luther’s side in this argument?

    Furthermore, is Luther as an individual the sole person responsible… to the extent that you will ‘never forgive’, or is he perhaps 1 individual that has made the same mistake as the rest of the Church (Roman Catholics included) that determined the state should own marriage?

  10. Just as a point of interest, most weddings have this line in them: “By the authority vested in me by the State of ___________ I now pronounce you man and wife and what God hath joined together, let no man nor woman put asunder.”

    It seems to me that since 1. priests need to be licensed by the state to perform marriages, and 2. the state is particularly mentioned in the ceremony– therefore the ‘state’ owns marriage… and as such it will do what it pleases with its institution, ultimately opening it up to homosexual marriage. I see this as a failure of the Church.

  11. Jeff, (re: #7)

    I wonder if it would be possible to point readers to further resources which might help show and explain the difference between marriage as a social construct, and marriage as a natural institution,

    See the article titled “What is Marriage?” linked in the body of the post. Girgis, George, and Anderson are publishing a book this Fall on this subject; the book is titled What is Marriage? Man and Woman. A Defense. I’m not doing any heavy-lifting in this post regarding a defense of the natural law. I am explicitly and purposely pointing to sources that do.

    However true I may believe the content of this article to be, practically speaking, it seems difficult to envision changing many minds on the issue when (in effect) it will appear to those with whom one is discussing the issue as though the only way they could even understand what we mean by words like “justice” and “common good” would be for them to learn an entirely new and foreign (to them) system of categories and definitions which they don’t see anyone else (except perhaps the Catholic Church) proposing.

    I agree. It is a paradigm difference. That’s why learning it requires a good deal of patience. But when people reside in very different paradigms, there is no short-cut to achieving agreement. The Catholic-Protestant disagreement is also a paradigm difference, and that’s precisely why reconciliation is so difficult in that case too, because we tend to debate questions each from within our paradigm, and so continually talk past each other and beg the question at the second-order (i.e. paradigmatic) level. I can hardly emphasize that enough, because I see that happen on a daily basis.

    However, if the teaching of the Church as presented here is as valid as I believe it to be, then there must be a way for us to show this to someone who isn’t already predisposed to accept the Church’s teaching as true, and who is not necessarily looking to “convert” to Catholicism. Because if we are going to be involved in the political process in order to attempt to protect good laws, and replace bad laws, that’s exactly where most of the people we are going to be talking to, and trying to convince on this issue, are going to be.

    I completely agree. That’s precisely why when divine revelation is accepted only by fellow Christians who make up some smaller percentage of the population, our reasons and argumentation in the public square regarding public policy need to be based in the natural law, because natural law is in principle accessible by reason, without the supernatural gift of faith. At the same time, we have to realize that our grasp of the natural law is deeply influenced and shaped by our particular community, our culture, and our practices. So, even when we sit down at the dialogue table, and limit ourselves to what we can know by reason alone, appealing to the natural law isn’t like appealing to 1+1 =2. It requires a careful process of working our way from primary precepts to second precepts, drawing out implications of implicit principles underlying our practices, and the completion of this process may not be entirely possible in the arm-chair position. It may even require lived participation in communities sharing this understanding of the natural law. So I’m not saying that natural law is an instant fix here, a plug-n-play solution that instantly persuades anyone. But I am saying that there is a good case that can be made from the principles of natural law, and that that needs to be how we are making our case in the public square in a pluralistic society where many persons do not accept Scripture as divine revelation, and understandably have legitimate concerns about having other people’s religious convictions forced upon them.

    Anyway, thanks again for the article, and thanks in advance to anyone who can provide any help on this question….

    You’re welcome. Thanks for your comment.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  12. Bob, (re: #9, 10)

    Asking who “owns” marriage is a bit like asking who owns the human race, or who owns the planet. Stewardship does not require ownership. Marriage is a gift from God, and we are called to be good stewards of this gift. But the Church and the State are to be stewards of marriage in different ways. The civil authority has stewardship of marriage as a natural institution belonging to the civil order, over which the civil authority has charge. The Magisterium of the Church has stewardship of marriage as a sacrament belonging to the supernatural order. But there are not two marriage bonds, as though when two married unbaptized persons both receive baptism, they acquire a second marriage bond. No. When they are both baptized, their *one* marriage bond is raised to the level of a sacrament. Christian marriages (where both persons are baptized) are not a distinct species under the genus of marriage bond. Likewise, when two baptized persons are wedded in the Catholic Church, they do not receive two marriage bonds (i.e. a natural marriage bond, and then a sacramental marriage bond). Grace does not replace nature, but perfects and elevates nature.

    So when two baptized Catholics are married in the Catholic Church, their marriage should be recognized by the State as a genuine marriage, and protected by the State, because of the State’s responsibility to recognize and defend marriage in the civil order, to which Christians belong. To claim that the State should not recognize Catholic marriages, or should require persons who were married in the Catholic Church to be married again before a magistrate of the civil court, would be to imply that there are two marriage bonds (one spiritual, and one civil or natural), and that would imply the gnostic idea of grace I criticized in the body of the post. Catholics must therefore oppose the idea that there are two species of marriage bonds. And that’s why, with some qualification, the Church should not be advocating that its members be married “without state recognition.” That would be claiming either (a) that there are two marriage bonds (one spiritual, and one civil) or (b) that the State should not recognize and defend Christian marriages, and/or (c) that Christian marriages are not real marriages. And all three implications are not good or true, for reasons I hope are obvious.

    My question is what is the church supposed to do? If 2 homosexuals marry, then convert to catholicism, is their marriage valid?

    Two persons of the same-sex cannot marry, because as we know by natural law (and by divine revelation) the very essence of marriage is the union of man and woman ordered toward procreation. So your question assumes something that is impossible. Even if the State were to legalize same-sex ‘marriage,’ that legal entity would not be a marriage, and the Church could not recognize it as a marriage.

    Again, who ‘owns’ marriage? It seems to me that if you want to elevate marriage to a sacrament, then you must re-marry new converts, and the church must stamp their approval on marriage… but if that is the case, why do we behave as though the state owns marriage (and turn to the state for its approval, and view its approval as important / binding)?

    It is not an either/or, Church or State. Rather it is a both/and, and they each have different roles in relation to marriage, as explained above. Yet they do not have equal authority. The Church has greater authority — hence when there is a conflict between the two, we must obey God rather than men. See the second link in comment #5, which explains the relation of Church and State.

    One active thing married Christians could do is to get a legal ‘divorce’, but remain married (in the eyes of the Church and God and themselves). The church could also perform its ceremonies without requiring a signing of a state document (or submitting its pastors / priests to the state for the ‘authority’ to perform a marriage).

    Again, that idea presupposes either that there are two marriage bonds — one spiritual, and one civil, or that the State should not recognize and defend Christian marriages, and/or that Christian marriages are not real marriages. And all three implications are not good or true. Underlying that idea is the ancient gnostic heresy that grace takes us out of nature, that spiritual ‘marriage’ does not include natural marriage. And underlying that is a docetic denial of the incarnation. God really became man, so Christian marriages are real natural marriages, but raised also by Christ to a means of participation in the supernatural life of God.

    Just as a point of interest, most weddings have this line in them: “By the authority vested in me by the State of ___________ I now pronounce you man and wife and what God hath joined together, let no man nor woman put asunder.”

    That is not said at Catholic weddings (see the liturgical text of the 1970 missal for the Latin Rite here). The authority of the Church to marry her members comes from Christ, who elevated marriage to the dignity of a sacrament, and entrusted the sacraments to the Church. The Church, not the State, has ward of the sacraments. But the Reformers did teach that marriage is purely a civil affair, because they denied that marriage is a sacrament. And in this way, even though Protestants believe that the State should conform to Scripture regarding marriage, in the Protestant system the State (not the Church) has authority over marriage, and the Protestant minister marries persons as an agent of the State. (See objection 4 in the objections section of “What Therefore God Has Joined Together: Divorce and the Sacrament of Marriage.”) This is why in Protestant congregations what determines whether and to whom a person is married is the civil law. In the Catholic Church, by contrast, what determines whether and to whom a person is married is canon law, regardless of his or her condition according to the civil law.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  13. And that’s why, with some qualification, the Church should not be advocating that its members be married “without state recognition.” That would be claiming either (a) that there are two marriage bonds (one spiritual, and one civil) or (b) that the State should not recognize and defend Christian marriages, and/or (c) that Christian marriages are not real marriages.

    Two persons of the same-sex cannot marry, because as we know by natural law (and by divine revelation) the very essence of marriage is the union of man and woman ordered toward procreation. So your question assumes something that is impossible. Even if the State were to legalize same-sex ‘marriage,’ that legal entity would not be a marriage, and the Church could not recognize it as a marriage.

    In the Catholic Church, by contrast, what determines whether and to whom a person is married is canon law, regardless of his or her condition according to the civil law.

    What I hear when I read these comments is maybe not what you intend. Please correct me.
    1. There is only 1 marriage – Marriage in the church and Marriage in the state is the same, except for the raising of its sacramentalness.
    2. Marriage is only marriage if the Roman Catholic church says so. If the state can say people are married or not married, and the RC church generally recognizes the states authority, but retains a higher authority in not recognizing gay marriage, and also with the ‘annulment’ process (declaring valid state marriages as ‘never happening’ in the eyes of God).
    3. Cannon law trumps civil law – so in practice there are 2 marriages as people may end up being married under 1 law but unmarried under another law. Formerly, this was limited to divorce situations, but homosexual marriage opens it up to another set of people. This doesn’t even touch on the issue of polygamous marriage.

    under the New Covenant it is impossible to be validly married to two or more persons at the same time.

    I’m betting the RC Church doesn’t get many Muslim converts…

    If the state does ‘legalize’ something, doesn’t it by definition gain legality? I can understand the Church not recognizing same-sex marriages, but they would still retain their legality.

  14. Bob, (re: #13)

    1. There is only 1 marriage – Marriage in the church and Marriage in the state is the same, except for the raising of its sacramentalness.

    There is only one kind of marriage bond. A valid marriage between two unbaptized persons, and a valid marriage between two baptized persons, are not two different species of marriage bond. The civil authority has an obligation to recognize and defend marriage and the family both when the marriage is between unbaptized persons and when the marriage is between baptized persons.

    Marriage is only marriage if the Roman Catholic church says so. If the state can say people are married or not married, and the RC church generally recognizes the states authority, but retains a higher authority in not recognizing gay marriage, and also with the ‘annulment’ process (declaring valid state marriages as ‘never happening’ in the eyes of God).

    Things are what they are because of their objective character. “X is X” does not depend for its truth on the Church saying so. But, we can know what marriage is not only by the natural law, but also by the authoritative teaching of the Church and the Apostolic Tradition she maintains. And for Catholics, the authority of the Church to determine and define what marriage is, is greater than the authority of the State to determine and define what marriage is.

    Cannon law trumps civil law – so in practice there are 2 marriages as people may end up being married under 1 law but unmarried under another law. Formerly, this was limited to divorce situations, but homosexual marriage opens it up to another set of people.

    It can happen that the State considers a person married when under canon law that person is in fact not married. But that doesn’t mean that there are two types of marriage; it means simply that the State’s law regarding marriage is not necessarily an infallible guide to determining which persons are or are not truly married, just as the fact that the State sends a tax bill to your house under your name does not entail that you are still alive.

    I’m betting the RC Church doesn’t get many Muslim converts…

    Entering the Church Christ founded typically requires sacrifice, sometimes great sacrifice. But we are all called to take up our cross, in order to follow Christ.

    If the state does ‘legalize’ something, doesn’t it by definition gain legality? I can understand the Church not recognizing same-sex marriages, but they would still retain their legality.

    Answering the question requires distinguishing between positive law and natural law. If the positive law were to recognize same-sex ‘marriage,’ then such a union would be legally recognized *according to the positive law.* And the Church’s refusal to recognize it would not ipso facto change its legality in that sense. But, positive law is subject to natural law, and same-sex unions (of a sexual nature, not chaste friendships) are contrary to the natural law. So the same-sex union recognized by the positive law would [because of the natural law] not be marriage, even if the State called it marriage. Abraham Lincoln would tell a story of a boy who, when asked how many legs a calf would have if he called its tail a leg, replied “Five,” to which Lincoln would respond, “No, four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg.” And the same is true in this case. Calling a same-sex union a marriage does not make it a marriage, even if it makes such a union legal under positive law. But for the reasons explained in the post, if the State were to treat other types of union as marriage, the State would in that respect be failing in its duty to uphold marriage for the common good.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  15. Nathan, (re: #6)

    I’m trying to understand more fully: Guess I don’t understand the distinction between “Natural Law” and “Religious Belief.” Isn’t the difference just that one is revealed and the other observed?

    I should have been clearer in the post. In this post, by ‘religious beliefs’ I’m referring primarily to beliefs that we have and know through supernatural divine revelation. It is possible in principle to have and practice natural religion, which is not based on supernatural revelation, but only on what can be known about what is due to God, through the natural law. But that’s not what I had in mind here when I was referring to ‘religious beliefs.’ Concerning natural law, for a brief summary I recommend the Catholic Encyclopedia article on that subject.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  16. How did we get into this situation, culturally, and how do we move forward? The root problem is the conceptual separation of sex and procreation, such that procreation is no longer recognized as intrinsic to the meaning of the sexual act. Emily Stimpson argues this in “Why We’re Losing the Marriage Question.” Catholics and Protestants both bear responsibility here — Protestants, for formally rejecting the Tradition concerning contraception, and Catholics, for failing both to teach and to live the Church’s own Tradition concerning contraception, spelled out very clearly in Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.

    In her article Stimpson links to Andrew Sullivan’s 2003 article titled “Unnatural Law” and subtitled “We’re all sodomists now.” Sullivan is quite right on that point, namely, that the culture as a whole has disassociated sex and procreation. Endorsing contraceptive sex undermines any principled opposition to sodomy. (Nota bene, Sullivan makes some reasoning mistakes in that article, based on, among other things, a failure to distinguish between per se and per accidens, but his thesis is correct that if sex need not be intrinsically ordered to procreation, then there is no basis for the immorality of sodomy.) Mark Driscoll’s popular endorsement of heterosexual sodomy within marriage only drives home Sullivan’s point. Pounding the pulpit and quoting Leviticus 18:22, while giving the green light for husbands to have anal sex with their wives, is a moral voluntarism that collapses, as Pope Benedict showed in his Regensburg Address, under the weight of intellectual scrutiny seeking to reconcile faith and reason. But so does pounding the pulpit with Leviticus 18:22 while promoting or ignoring the practice of contraception.

    How do we move forward? To address the internal problem first, we need Catholic bishops and priests to catechize the faithful on this subject, and not absolve those who have no intention to stop using contraceptives. Likewise, Protestants need to be humble enough to realize and admit that they made a mistake in going along with the sexual ‘liberalizing’ culture in the middle of the twentieth century on this issue of contraceptives. Protestantism needs to replace its moral theological deficiency concerning this subject with the resources provided by the broader Tradition (summed up well in the Theology of the Body), and a recognition of that Tradition’s authority. Otherwise, if it becomes illegal to publicly oppose same-sex ‘marriage’ (which is quite possible, given that such opposition can easily be construed as hate-speech), we will have only ourselves to blame for having promoted a conception of sexuality that made such an outcome all but inevitable.

  17. To address the internal problem first, we need Catholic bishops and priests to catechize the faithful on this subject, and not absolve those who have no intention to stop using contraceptives.

    And with that, I ask you all pray for me tonight as I give a presentation at my parish on John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Its night two on the subject and we will be looking at “Historical Man,” and will be discussing masturbation, sodomy, and contraception among other things.

    Should be interesting.

  18. Father,

    I will pray for you. I am heading to Mass now and will bring your presentation before the Lord.

  19. I will pray for you too Father. I own Theology of the Body, but haven’t read it all. I can understand how sodomy and contraception is wrong metaphysically, but how do you deal with the biological need of “release” that sex has? I understand that God made it pleasurable so that we would procreate. Today, we are told that it would be abnormal for, especially teenaged boys not to masturbate occasionally. Do teen boys have to confess something that is shameful in public admittance, and fight the biological need if it doesn’t involve pornography? I know nothing of “wet dreams” because I wouldn’t dare ask my son, but if this is mortally condemnable, parents should have help addressing this aspect of sex with our kids.

  20. Alicia #19:

    …the biological need of “release” that sex has?

    Is it clear there is a biological need? I’m not sure there is. Wet dreams are different. being involuntary – but it is not clear to me there is a biological need that requires volition to meet. There is a biological need to eat, and we must exercise our will to do it. But for ejaculation tout court (I mean, not coupled with the desire for procreation) – I am unconvinced.

    jj

  21. Masturbation is a grave evil. Still it something that teenagers, especially boys, are going to struggle with. You don’t need to talk with them about it very much. Find an examination of conscience that lists it as a mortal sin. But be patient. It is like teaching your 4 year old not to lie. It takes awhile for them to get the it. Likewise it takes 14 year olds a while to get rid of masturbation. You don’t need to bring it up over and over. Just let the sacrament of confession do its job. If they are serious about following Christ they will surrender that area of their life in time.

  22. Thanks for the prayers everyone. The talk went fairly well, though it was a bit too long and I started to fade towards the end. As a result my “sales pitch” for NFP was lacking a bit of enthusiasm. Thankfully, my friend who teaches the Creighton method was there to spot me and did a wonderful job. Now I just pray that it bears some fruit for the 40 or so people who attended.

    Alicia,

    I think in order to answer your question we have to understand the purpose of the sexual urge as a call to communion. The sexual urge pulls us out of ourselves and into communion with another person. If we understand it as this, then we can see that there is nothing more contrary to the purpose of sexuality than an act of masturbation, which is done in isolation. The purpose of our bodies, as JPII talks about in the TOB, is that we might make a gift of self to our spouse. Masturbation is not an act of offering ourselves as a gift. It breeds a certain amount of selfishness.

    I believe that the solution to this type of sin is the Eucharist, which is where our call to communion is most fully experienced, at least this side of eternity. I would encourage people struggling with this type of sin to attend Mass frequently and to spend time giving of themselves in selfless charity.

    Sadly, it might be normal for a teenage boy to not masturbate occasionally. That doesn’t make it right and they are likely doing themselves more harm than they realize. Frankly, they are harming their ability to love their future wife.

    Fr. Bryan

  23. Bobby B.,

    We know each other so I can call you that. ;-)

    You said:
    “It seems to me that if you want to elevate marriage to a sacrament, then you must re-marry new converts, and the church must stamp their approval on marriage… ”

    First off, it is Jesus who elevated it to a sacrament. This is what most christians continue to believe, and have believed for the past 2000 years. So it is not the Church wanting to elevate it, it is Christ who did elevate it.

    As you know, my wife and I were married as Protestants in 2000, and we later became Catholic in 2010. Our natural marriage did change upon our entering into the Church. A few weeks before our being recieved into the Catholic Church, our priest, father Dufner recorded our marriage in the parish book as being a sacramental one. He recorded it as taking place in 2010. If future generations look at the dates, they may be a bit confused!
    As far as the Church “stamping its approval”, the sacrament of marriage is only witnessed by the priest, the bride and groom actually perform the sacrament. Of course there are people who cannot get married for whatever reason who go through the motions of what looks to be a marriage, such as 2 men or a shotgun wedding where one party does not consent, but even then the Church will simply say that there was never a marriage because one could not occur. They declare the apparent marriage to be null. So they dont stamp approval, they just call it like it is. Merely an observation of reality.

    And of course I disagree with your reasoning about gay marriage. The duty of government is to encourage the good of society. Allowing evil a place at the table does not fit with that goal. Whether it is child porn or gay marriage, government has the duty to protect people form these evils when it can.

    Later dude,

    -Dave

  24. My brother had a question. He wondered if it might be permissible to allow same-sex couples to have privileges (rights?) like hospital visitation rights or the many financial privileges that married couples enjoy.

  25. JJ, Randy, Fr. John,

    I’m thankful that the Church gives guidence about these difficult issues.Thank each of you for your responses. It sure isn’t easy to speak about them.

    Alicia

  26. Alicia #25
    Actually, I didn’t refer to what the Church tells us – and, indeed, it is what natural law tells us – about masturbation. I only wanted to say that the idea that masturbation may satisfy some biological need seems to me spurious and without foundation. You did mention nocturnal emission, and that occurs and is involuntary and without any sort of sin accompanying it. But I do not think one can call biology to witness to anything healthy about masturbation – much less necessary.

    And that is, in a way, the point. Masturbation is not wrong because the Church says it is; the Church says it is because it is wrong. Randy and Father John have pointed this out very well.

    jj

  27. Hi Alicia,

    I just wanted to give a word of encouragement. These sins of the flesh are easy to accept, but they do a lot of damage. They make us selfish, as Father said above, and they make it hard to love others. They also instill in us the habit of twisting up our consciences until they tell us what we want to hear. This means that they are a “gateway drug” to other much worse sins, such as: habitual inability to tell the truth; a tendency to view others as a means to professional, social, or economic ends; and an inability to listen to and trust the voice of God when he speaks to us in our hearts.

    No one is lonelier than the person who cannot order their sexuality towards God. And the devil does an insidious job of convincing us to give into either pride or despair about these sins, so he can keep us lonely. But here is the encouraging part: God really truly does help us with these sins. In fact, he heals us, gives us a new life, and there is no comparison between that new life and what came before.

    If a person makes frequent use of the sacraments, offers up their weakness to God, and then replaces the ugly things in their life with holy things (friendship, charity, laughter, singing, good food, a long conversation, prayers of praise and thanksgiving) so that their need for communion is filled in better ways, then over time they will be thoroughly healed. Chastity isn’t a constant struggle. In fact, as the saints taught us, it is about keeping the battle lines far away from the castle, so you never have to face that life-and-death moment of temptation at all. When you’re guarding your eyes and changing your thoughts to other things ever time the devil tempts you (without making a big deal about it, just doing it habitually because you’ve developed the habit of doing so), then chastity is like a background skirmish that you fight with the enemy occasionally, rather than a dominating struggle that takes every ounce of energy.

    And then, once the devil sees that chastity isn’t going to be that big a deal for a person any time soon, he moves on to all of the other sins. Which means that person can start growing in holiness in other areas.

    Because chastity is just the beginning, and you want your son to get past that beginning so he can start accepting God’s grace in all of the weightier fights of christian manhood.

    God will give him that beginning, but he has to know that he is weak, while trusting that HE is strong.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  28. Thank you K Doran and John,

    Let me make something clear, I do not not know what anyone in my household does in private, so that means I don’t know “if” someone is unchaste or not. I used the fact, that I have a son to point out that psychology(though I haven’t any training here, just have heard the psycho-babble my whole life) claims that there is a biological need that orgasm brings as a justification for sex, and it usually uses boys who seem to be visually oriented, and are aroused this way. I cannot prove that it is a biological need, but I am certain that it is a desire that should be rightly ordered. Protestants use the sexual abuse that has involved some of the Priesthood as proof that nature has given certain urges that could be rightly directed if marriage were allowed. The perversion could go any direction, and it has, but because children ARE easy prey, they have been easy prey. Surely, this doesn’t make every priest culpable, that would be horribly unjust to imply or believe. Chastity, as K. Doran has pointed out is possible, I’m sure.

    But this brings up another point…because we can never get beyond ethics and masturbation is a grave sin, how can the RCC claim that anyone can be saved if they are not in full communion with her? Because it is so easy to commit a mortal sin and since the world thinks that sexual exploration is healthy and if not done will lead to some kind of repression, and since Protestants believe that a sin is a sin is a sin, and doesn’t have a category for things done in secret, how can the world be saved except it have the direction of the church? In other words, why has God allowed so many to be deceived, if He really desires our salvation? I don’t believe in a mere fiduciary arrangement, but the virtues of Aristotle leave no room for infused righteousness either. How can someone who is infused ever lose what was added to their nature?

  29. Alicia (#28)

    …how can the RCC claim that anyone can be saved if they are not in full communion with her …it is so easy to commit a mortal sin …

    It is worth reflecting here that being in full communion with the Catholic Church itself means that you are in a state of grace – that is, amongst other things, that you are not guilty of unforgiven mortal sin – so it doesn’t help a person to be a formal member of the Church if he imagines that that means he can be guilty of unforgiven mortal sin. That only increases his guilt, since he has the resources of the Church to help him.

    You need to differentiate between the matter of mortal sin and the formal nature of mortal sin. For a sin to be mortal, it must have three characteristics:

    1) Grave matter (masturbation qualifies)
    2) Full knowledge – you must know that the action is a grave sin
    3) Full and free intent – you must, knowing the gravity of the action, decide to go ahead anyway.

    Consider a teen-aged boy – whether Catholic or not – who masturbates. He qualifies on 1). It is not so clear, in any given case, about 2) and 3).

    Regarding biological needs, there is a problem with standard psychology (and sociology and anthropology) here. Most students of these subjects assume, whether consciously or unconsciously, that what is is natural. The many – perhaps most – males, and, perhaps an almost equal number of females, masturbate, makes it natural from this point of view. It is natural because it occurs in nature – ‘nature’ here being defined as what happens regularly. Most such students would assume (inconsistently) that a person who likes cutting off body parts is acting against nature, partly because it is a rare disorder. I should point out that there are some who are faithful to their beliefs and think that this is not against nature – but this is less common.

    So the usual psychologist considers that, since there is, undeniably, a desire for orgasm; since the self-production of orgasm is common; that it feels good – that these things must amount to a biological need.

    It doesn’t follow – if there are indications that nature has its own law of right ordering. And we all think that it does. At the level of anatomy, we don’t think that a cat born with three legs is in a state of ordered natural anatomy. It is clearly disordered.

    Thoughtful men – think Aristotle, for one – have always observed, regarding sexuality, that it has a right ordering toward procreation and union of the spouses. The natural-law arguments for monogamy, for continence outside of the marital act, for the wrongness of contraception, are all ancient, and, in my opinion, unanswerable. This is not the place to go into detail about them, but someone has posted a link on a longish paper on the subject. Jeff Mirus here reviews two books on the subject of the natural law and sex. They sound worth reading (I will be reading them).

    jj

  30. John, once again, I thank you fot the clarity and taking the time to help me.
    I’m confused about the last thing you said:” The natural-law arguments for monogamy, for continence outside of the marital act, for the wrongness of contraception, are all ancient, and, in my opinion, unanswerable.” Did you mean, unanswerable outside the revelation of God in the Holy Scriptures as understood by the RCC?

  31. Alicia (#30):

    Did you mean, unanswerable outside the revelation of God in the Holy Scriptures as understood by the RCC?

    No, I mean philosophically unanswerable. Revelation does not tell us that God intends marriage to be monogamous, exclusive, and fruitful; reason does. The reasons are very roughly:

    1) Sex is clearly intended for procreation.
    2) Biologically, human infants require a stable family situation for many years.
    3) Such a situation is not stably attainable where sexual jealousy exists.

    I am far from expert in this discussion and I strongly recommend consulting the experts. I think Ed Feser has discussion about this on his blog.

    That said, the Church teaches us about these things precisely because we are fallen and our disordered desires mean that we have to resort to philosophical exploration to understand them – and easily deceive ourselves. That’s why these things are in the Bible. The Ten Commandments are not themselves matters of revelation. They all teach us things we can know naturally – including the duty of worshipping God – although conceivably only the Sabbath principle rather than the seven-day Sabbath itself is a matter of natural knowledge.

    Most of Catholic teaching about marriage is ancient wisdom. Even in those cultures that allow polygamy, it is not the norm for most people – and is notoriously problematical, particularly due to jealousy.

    If it were not for your husband’s threat of divorce, I would advise you to seek formal instruction in the Catholic faith immediately, and to associate yourself with a parish. It is often said that you can only see the Church properly from the inside – like a stained-glass window. But I don’t know about your situation with your husband and you will have to seek the Lord’s guidance to be prudent. God does not want your marriage to break up for any reason whatever!!

    I pray for you daily.
    jj

  32. Alicia, you ask:

    … how can the RCC claim that anyone can be saved if they are not in full communion with her?

    Your question could be rephrased, from a Catholic perspective, to this question:

    “How can anyone can be saved if they are not in full communion with Jesus Christ.”

    Many Protestants that I know would answer my rephrased question with this answer: no one can be saved without full communion with Jesus Christ. And no Catholic should object to that answer. The point that I would like to make is that Catholics believe that full communion with Jesus Christ entails full communion with the church that Jesus Christ personally founded:

    UNICITY AND UNITY OF THE CHURCH

    The Lord Jesus, the only Saviour, did not only establish a simple community of disciples, but constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him (cf. Jn 15:1ff.; Gal 3:28; Eph 4:15-16; Acts 9:5). Therefore, the fullness of Christ’s salvific mystery belongs also to the Church, inseparably united to her Lord. Indeed, Jesus Christ continues his presence and his work of salvation in the Church and by means of the Church (cf. Col 1:24-27), which is his body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-13, 27; Col 1:18). And thus, just as the head and members of a living body, though not identical, are inseparable, so too Christ and the Church can neither be confused nor separated, and constitute a single “whole Christ”.

    Ref: DECLARATION “DOMINUS IESUS” ON THE UNICITY AND SALVIFIC UNIVERSALITY OF JESUS CHRIST AND THE CHURCH

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html

    ——-

    I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.
    John 15:5-6

    I don’t want to sidetrack this thread into a discussion about why the Catholic Church teaches that the church that Jesus Christ personally founded is necessary for man’s salvation. I only want to make the point that this Catholic doctrine can be supported by scripture, before I attempt to answer your next question.

    Because it is so easy to commit a mortal sin and since the world thinks that sexual exploration is healthy and if not done will lead to some kind of repression, and since Protestants believe that a sin is a sin is a sin, and doesn’t have a category for things done in secret, how can the world be saved except it have the direction of the church?

    That is a very good question! How, without guidance from God about matters concerning morality, can man be saved? The scriptures tell us explicitly that Jesus Christ personally founded his own church and commanded his disciples to listen to what his church teaches. If a disciple of Christ should “refuse to listen even to the church”, he or she is to be excommunicated. (Matt 18:17) The Catholic Church, of course, claims to be the church that Jesus Christ personally founded; the church that all men and women must listen to. Again, I don’t want to sidetrack this thread into a discussion about that claim. I only want to answer your question from the Catholic perspective – that the Catholic Church is indeed, exactly what she claims to be, the church personally founded by Jesus Christ to whom all men must listen to.

    It is because of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that the Catholic Church can teach infallibly about matters of faith and morals. The object matter for her infallible teaching is not strictly limited to matters of divine revelation, because the object matter for infallible moral teaching also includes what is known by men through the natural law. You make the valid point that in the world we find the idea “that sexual exploration is healthy and if not done will lead to some kind of repression.” But we also find in the world an idea that a union of two homosexuals should be granted the legal status of marriage; that abortion is not a sin; that people should be denied their civil because of the color of their skin; that it is not wrong to pay a person an unlivable wage as long as it is legal wage, etc. In other words, in the world we can find many erroneous ideas about what constitutes moral behavior.

    God knows that in the world many false ideas abound, and it is because God desires for men to know the truth that he has intervened in history to give us certain knowledge about the truth (e.g. giving Moses the Ten Commandments). Above all, man has been given the supreme gift of the Word made flesh. The incarnate Word personally founded his own church, and the Word promised that the Holy Spirit would guide the church that He personally founded into all truth. This is a very great gift from God that has been given to humans – a Spirit guided church that can never teach error about matters of morality. Man-founded “churches”, on the other hand, are not given any protection from God from teaching error about moral matters, and that is why the moral teaching of man-founded churches is so often defective.

    Alicia, you ask:

    I don’t believe in a mere fiduciary arrangement, but the virtues of Aristotle leave no room for infused righteousness either. How can someone who is infused ever lose what was added to their nature?

    I don’t understand what you mean by the statement “the virtues of Aristotle leave no room for infused righteousness”, so I won’t try to address that point. But as to your second point, it seems to me that you are asking a question about what properly belongs to human nature. For a discussion about that question, see Bryan Cross’s CTC articles: Aquinas and Trent: Part 1-7. I recommend these articles, because they were helpful to me to get a better understanding about the question that you are asking about human nature.

    May God bless you and enlighten you in your search for the truth!

  33. Alicia:
    I hasten to add that the fact of the matter of a sin being grave means that, whether mortal – or even venial – sin is attributable to the person or not, the fact is that all evil actions – even when they are definitely not sinful – damages the person.

    Those hypothetical boys you were talking about – and not so hypothetical, in fact, nor, in reality, limited to boys – are doing themselves harm by their practices. They may not incur guilt – though it is a fact that the longer a practice continues, and the more a person thinks about it, the more, I believe, he is likely to understand that there is something wrong here – they may not incur guilt, but they are damaging, not only their legitimate sexual relationships, but in a way all their relationships, and not only personal ones. I am not here reiterating stuff about self-abuse making you go blind or something – indeed, I think the tendency to attribute physical harm to continuing in sin is often to trivialise sin. The potential harm may go much deeper.

    A married couple may, in perfectly good conscience, practise contraception. They may be Protestants and their own minister may have counselled them on methods of contraception. It may never have occurred to them that there is anything about it that is other than simple prudence. Their own intentions may be open to new life.

    Nevertheless, the fact is that this practice, like any that is an evil, damages them. It damages their relationship, for starters, their relationship with their children, ultimately with the whole universe – and with God.

    Let us take something that is not only not sinful but is, in fact, laudable: killing someone in self-defence, perhaps as a soldier in war. The killer is obliged to this act – and has done the right thing.

    Yet the act itself is evil. The killer has committed no moral evil. But killing people is evil. And it is classic that men are damaged by having to engage in this practice. It must be done. Do not mistake me. I am no pacifist. There must come times when men must place their bodies between their loved ones and the depredations of those who would harm them. But it does not leave them unscathed.

    Even our secular society recognises this. I am driving. A small child dashes out in front of my car and is killed. Am I guilty of a sin? Certainly not!

    But I feel destroyed. I feel guilty. I know I am not. Yet I have killed that child. And what is one of the things the police will offer me? Counselling.

    Enough. I just didn’t want to seem to say that, if you are not guilty of a mortal sin because you don’t have either full knowledge or full intention, then there is no problem. The real evil in the world is sin. Newman famously once said (and took a lot of flack for it):

    The Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.

    Sin is the greatest evil.

    jj

  34. Bryan, thank you for this article, and your combox comments. It has been enlightening to me to see that a natural law argument can be made to defend the legality of marriage so that marriage is restricted to members of the opposite sex.

    You write:

    Here I consider two questions. The first question is whether defending the legal recognition of marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman is imposing one’s religious views on others. The second is whether Christians should seek through the political process to maintain or change civil laws.

    I would like to ask a question about the first question. Is the restriction of legal marriage to one man and one woman a matter of natural law, or is that one-man-one-woman-only belief of the Catholic Church a matter of divine revelation? Polygamy was practiced by the Jews before Christ became incarnate, and polygamy is still legal in many non-Christian countries. I have always assumed that the restriction of marriage to only monogamous unions was a restriction given to men through divine revelation. I would appreciate your thoughts on this issue.

    Regarding the question of the state imposing religious beliefs: in California, there has been an attempt to use the state courts to overturn Proposition 8, the California initiative that was passed to restrict marriage to one man and one woman. The legal argument against the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 has been that Prop 8 is the imposition of religious beliefs upon the citizens of California, and is, therefore, unconstitutional. If Prop 8 is overturned on these grounds, it seem obvious to me that legalized polygamy is soon to follow in California. If man-man, and woman-woman homosexual unions are given the legal status of marriage on the grounds that the state has no right to impose any religious beliefs upon her citizens, then on what grounds can the state justify imposing monogamy upon Muslim men and Mormon men?

  35. A more fruitful approach, in my opinion, is to ask, “Are Catholics permitted to contract an indissoluble marriage under the laws of contract? If not, why not?”

    It seems to me that the public policy invalidating such contracts impairs the free exercise of the Catholic religion. Catholics in the US are not permitted to marry each other in a way that they, and their Church, understands marriage.

  36. Maybe you guys will let me ask my question again. My brother seems to be in favor in legalizing same-sex marriage so that same-sex couples can enjoy privileges that married couples enjoy, such as hospital visitation rights and privileges involving financial security. So is this a legitimate position to hold? And is it also legitimate to hold that same-sex couples should get these privileges? The article says that legal guarantees conferred to married couples should not be conferred to gay individuals. But does that include things like the aforementioned privileges? If so, why?

  37. Mateo, (re: #34)

    See footnote #6.

    James (re: #35),

    The marriage bond is not a legal contract. So a man and woman can form a marriage bond that is indissoluble, even if the civil law does not treat their marriage as indissoluble. The civil law’s treatment of the marriage bond as dissoluble does not make that bond dissoluble, or prevent Catholics from marrying each other with an indissoluble bond. But, the civil law in such a case does not accurately represent the marriage bond, and therefore in that respect does not adequately defend the marriage bond.

    Brian (re: #36),

    There is nothing intrinsically wrong with being allowed to designate in advance which persons are allowed to visit oneself in the hospital in the event of an emergency. But that wouldn’t require legally defining same-sex unions as ‘marriage.’ As for financial privileges, the question is whether it is conducive to the common good to provide some unique financial incentive to the family structure. If it is conducive to the common good to do so, then not every other kind of partnership should enjoy that same incentive, because doing so would remove (or diminish) the incentive to the family structure, and would remove any principled difference (in the the civil law) between business and family. Such a civil law code would be deficient by not defending marriage, as described in the body of the post.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  38. Bryan, this is a measured, timely, and well-argued post. Thank you for taking the time to write it out.

    Thank you also for the link to Dr. Roback Morse’s series of articles against the libertarian view of marriage and parenting, which I have not seen before. Unfortunately, I found it to be an insufficient refutation of the libertarian position — which creates problems for an off-hand dismissal of the libertarian’s argument that the state should not be involved with marriage.

    RM argues that it is impossible to privatize marriage because the state must get involved when there are legal disputes. But the libertarian position* is precisely that the state is an unnecessary and insufficient tool for resolving such legal disputes.

    So why think it’s impossible to remove the state? The explicit argument RM makes is that, “let’s face it,” the government will always be the final arbiter. I do not know why RM thinks that’s an idea libertarians accept — and she gives no reason to do so other than to assert its inevitability. It’s a common argument but I think a flawed one. (Roderick Long responds to the “final arbiter” argument and similar objections in this helpful article: http://praxeology.net/Anarconst2.pdf)

    The implicit premise behind RM’s thinking seems to me to be that private law equals relativism. That’s why she thinks private law will result in “lawlessness” that the state must step in to clean up. But if natural law is knowable by human reason, then it’s at least possible that private law won’t result in relativism any more than private mathematics, biology, or art must result in relativism. Polycentric legal orders — or law provided by institutions not tied to a central state — are capable of applying universal law to particular circumstances and have done so throughout history. (To name but a few examples, ancient Jewish society, early Roman law, certain Greek city states, medieval Iceland, medieval Ireland, English common law, and certain American civil codes all made such provisions to varying degrees.)

    RM might concede that in other contexts decentralized social systems could make adequate provisions for rights. But, she says in her article, the state as we know it has involved itself in our lives too much to be extricated. There is “zero chance” that the it will cede any legal authority to institutions such as the church, and to think otherwise is a “fantasy.” Therefore, we might as well recognize this reality and work with the state (or use the state) to accomplish our desired ends.

    The problem I have with this conclusion should be obvious: if we think that the state is an unethical tool in shaping society — and a libertarian does — then whatever noble ends we intend by its use cannot legitimize it as a means.

    I apologize if this has been too tangential for the thread. It might be unwise to address RM’s series of articles with a mere blogpost comment. However, I do think that these issues create a problems for a quick-and-dirty refutation of libertarianism that relies on what she’s written.

    * Libertarians are a diverse group of thinkers. Some think the state is necessary and has a proper role in society — RM would call herself “libertarian” along those lines. I have in mind something that goes a few steps further and denies the legitimacy of the state. Not the view that rejects law or even governance per se, but rather a rejection of the institution that asserts a monopoly on the provision of justice over a geographical area and the right to tax and regulate its inhabitants.

  39. Peter, (re: #38)

    It wasn’t my purpose in this article to address libertarianism. Nor was my comment #5 intended to be a “quick-and-dirty refutation of libertarianism.” It was only to provide an accessible resource to persons wanting to know what is wrong with the libertarian proposal that government “get out of the marriage business.” What libertarianism tends not to see, in my experience, is that man is by nature a political animal, and must necessarily form political societies. The good of man is the common good. The libertarian, in that respect, is like the advocate of same-sex marriage; the latter fails to see that marriage is a natural institution inherent in human nature, but the former (insofar as he approaches anarchism) fails to see that the polis is a natural institution inherent in human nature. Anarchy, like egoism, is contrary to human flourishing, because it fails to understand that human flourishing is necessarily political flourishing; the good of man is not merely man’s individual good, but the good of the polis. And achieving that good requires a civil authority. Man as individual cannot pursue the common good; man pursues the common good as a member of a polis. The common good is not merely the sum of each man pursuing egoistic fulfillment. See Charles De Koninck’s essay “On the Primacy of the Common Good.” As St. Thomas write:

    Consequently, since the law is chiefly ordained to the common good, any other precept in regard to some individual work, must needs be devoid of the nature of a law, save in so far as it regards the common good. (Summa Theologica I-II Q.90 a.2)

    And later:

    The common good of the realm and the particular good of the individual differ not only in respect of the “many” and the “few,” but also under a formal aspect. For the aspect of the “common” good differs from the aspect of the “individual” good, even as the aspect of “whole” differs from that of “part.” Wherefore the Philosopher says (Polit. i, 1) that “they are wrong who maintain that the State and the home and the like differ only as many and few and not specifically.” (Summa Theologica II-II Q.58 a.7 ad 2)

    Man will necessarily form political society with a government. Those who deny that, will either rule, or be ruled. The responsibility of those who govern, is to uphold justice and the common good. Libertarianism’s fundamental error is one or both of the following: (1) a neglect or denial of the common good (as something other than the sum of the good of individuals), and/or (2) a false assumption that individuals pursue the common good on their own. The civil authority orders society toward the common good, and has its authority from God, who established it. (See comment #7 in the “Philosophy and the Papacy” post.)

    Claiming that there could be (or should be) multiple competing positive laws within the same political body, each applying to the same persons regarding the same types of actions, and having the same authority, is like claiming that an army can have two or more generals, each having contrary opinions, but each having the same authority over the very same set of men. No one sets up any institution or organization that way, ever, because it is incoherent. One cannot be bound by either of two contrary laws each having equal authority. Such a condition is therefore a condition of lawlessness. As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” [as if they have the same authority]. (Mt. 6:24) Law can have authority only if it is promulgated by those having authority. If you remove legislative authority, you remove positive law, until it is shortly replaced by another law-giver, and another positive law, man being a political animal.

    But, all this is beyond the scope of this article.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  40. Thank you for the response, Bryan.

    Whether you meant to cite RM’s argument as a sound refutation of the libertarian proposal or merely provide it as an accessible resource on the topic, it still seems to me that it has the weaknesses I outline above, which is a problem.

    I’d encourage you to take a glance at the work done by Rasmussen and Den Uyl, or other Aristotelian liberals like the aforementioned Roderick Long, who adhere to libertarian ideas as a part of their overall view of human beings as political animals. As Aristotle points out, what makes men political by nature are the needs people have that mutually benefit one another. What libertarians reject is aggressive violence, not social order.

    On your second paragraph: Any legal order, including private legal orders, are necessary precisely because people make competing claims that cannot coexist. Private law does not entail positivism any more than it does relativism; my starting premise is that there is such a thing as universal natural law.

    I hope that helps clarify what I was saying above.

  41. Today, in Public Discourse, Prof. Robert George published an article titled “Marriage, Religious Liberty, and the “Grand Bargain”.” In this article he wrote:

    Thus, advocates of redefinition are increasingly open in saying that they do not see these disputes about sex and marriage as honest disagreements among reasonable people of goodwill. They are, rather, battles between the forces of reason, enlightenment, and equality—those who would “expand the circle of inclusion”—on one side, and those of ignorance, bigotry, and discrimination—those who would exclude people out of “animus”—on the other.

    Why? Because if (a) as I explained in my post above one’s theology puts natural law out of reach as a standard to which to appeal, and if (b) one’s theology, for the same theological reason, makes faith fideistic, as I explained in “Wilson vs. Hitchens: A Catholic Perspective,” then opponents of redefinition are imposing their arbitrarily assumed beliefs on others, in what amounts to a will to power, hidden under the mask of religious or ethical rhetoric. In order to defend the traditional definition of marriage in a way that does not reduce to imposing one’s arbitrary will on others, one cannot hold a theology that makes natural law inaccessible to us and makes faith fideistic.

  42. Bryan, (re: # 41)

    I do not think homosexualists will ever budge from their positions. Even if Christians were to finally make their case for the defense of traditional marriage on rational (and not just religious) grounds, they would still be seen as too severe and offensive. Life-long celibacy for same-sex attracted individuals? “Screw that. Reason and the truth be damned.”

    Even though we might win the argument, we’ll still lose the battle.

  43. Brian,

    In my opinion, that’s very close to the deconstructive psychoanalysis we recently discussed on another thread, except that it judges persons to love some way of life more than they love truth, even before they have made a decision in light of the full disclosure and explication of the evidence of the truth. When you love someone, you believe the best about him, not the worst, and you hope for the best in him, not the worst. Such love in turn brings out the best in those touched by it. This is the mark of a Christian, who mimics Christ’s incarnational action by coming in love and hope even to those who might reject him, who finds and nurtures, even in prostitutes and tax collectors, that deep longing in the human heart for truth, that hunger and thirst for righteousness. To be a Christian is to imitate Christ in precisely that same extending of faith, hope, and love to the lost, reaching deeply into the soul of those made in His image, and finding and grasping in love the ‘hand’ that gropes in the darkness for truth, and ultimately for Truth. This was, and is, Jesus’s ministry. (cf. Luke 4:18)

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  44. Hey, Bryan.

    I do not think I am being uncharitable, but I see now that my poorly-articulated comment could be interpreted that way. Many liberals, though, make no secret of their dogmatic opposition to natural law arguments and their conclusions. They have no interest in rational discourse. Reason be damned, they say, if it leads to a moral prohibition on abortion, contraception, homosexual acts, etc. And so, what we’re dealing with is a kind of liberal fundamentalism. Reason is going to have a very tough time in that fight. Do you agree that this fundamentalism exists?

    Do any of you know of good blogs where this issue is tackled in more depth?

  45. In “Same-Sex Marriage Ten Years On: Lessons from Canada,” published yesterday, Bradley W. Miller, an associate professor of law at the University of Western Ontario and a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University, describes four different social effects in Canada of the enactment of same-sex civil marriage laws a decade ago. Those effects are relevant to the argument I have made in the article above concerning the civil authority’s responsibility under justice to defend and uphold the natural institution of marriage for the sake of the common good.

    See also Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse’s lecture titled “How Re-Defining Marriage Harms Society:”

    UPDATE: In addition, of course, is the loss of religious freedom, and the punishment by the civil authority of those who for religious reasons believe that marriage is essentially between a man and a woman — see, for example, here and here.

    Robin Phillips notes the following:

    On 1 April 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex ‘marriage’. Four years later, the country began giving legal recognition to ‘threesomes’.

    On 3 July 2005, Spain legalized same-sex ‘marriage’. The following year, heterosexual marriages were ‘modernized’ so that birth certificates could no longer have the names Mother and Faith, but ‘Progenitor A’ and ‘Progenitor B’.

    Mexico City legalized same-sex ‘marriage’ on 21 December 2009. Two years later proposals were introduced to allow for fixed-term temporary marriages.

    Canada introduced gay ‘marriage’ on 20, July 20, 2005. Two years later the Attorney General of British Columbia considered legalizing polygamy. This has been followed by schools in Toronto promoting polygamy.

  46. Well, what do we do to start changing people’s minds about this? What’s the plan?

  47. Brian, (re: #46)

    The question is part of a broader question: how do we help others to attain the mind of Christ? The first step is in-house. Many Catholics do not know their faith, and are not spiritually and intellectually formed by the Catholic philosophical tradition, the Catholic moral tradition, the Catholic social tradition or the Catholic theological tradition. Rather, though they believe and recite the Creed, their philosophical/moral outlook is largely shaped by the values of the secular culture. The mind of Christ is something revealed to the world not primarily in individuals as individuals, but in the Church as a community, as a people. Right now in many places the quality of Catholic catechesis is appalling and shameful. As a result, the mind of Christ is virtually invisible to the world around us, because we are not being the salt of the world. Poorly catechized Catholics think very much like the world, and do not even know that in many ways their thought is contrary to natural law, to the mind of Christ and to the teaching of the Church. They acquire their values not from Scripture and Tradition, but from Hollywood and pop culture. This is a problem that has to be addressed both by the bishops and by the Catholic faithful who do know the teaching of the Church. As a people we cannot give what we do not have; on the other hand, those who have the mind of Christ never need to be compelled to evangelize, because evangelism is at the center of Christ’s heart. The key to evangelism is not techniques or technology, but union with Christ, acquiring His heart and mind. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

    It is true, of course, that we are to be in the world and not of the world. But in order not to be of the world, there are certain respects in which we cannot be in the world. Otherwise, we end up like Lot and his family, unaware of how much we have come to have the mind of the world rather than the mind of Christ. And the sort of separation and “come out from among them” required is greater, the more evil a culture becomes. The communal life of Catholics informed by Scripture and Tradition is a *very* different way of life from that of the world, because its values are very different. That communal life, informed by Catholic values, needs to be recovered. The government (in the US) has begun to treat the Catholic faith as something that is expressed only on Sundays and only within a church building because that’s how many Catholics express their faith, as if they were not members of two communities (see the quotation from Cardinal Burke in the article above), but only one, with one shared way of life and a common set of values. But that has to change, and is slowly changing, as the values of our culture diverge more widely from those of Christ and His Church. Catholics in every parish, under the leadership of their bishops, need to rediscover the communal dimension of the way of life informed by the mind of Christ, distinct from the city of man. Only through the communal expression and embodiment of the mind of Christ is the Catholic faith successfully handed down to future generations, and made a light to the world.

    Step 2 will have to wait for another time.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  48. Today, in his Christmas address to the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict said the following that relates to Footnote 5 in the article above:

    The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: “one is not born a woman, one becomes so” (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term “gender” as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man. (source)

    Part of his address can be seen in the following video:

    H/T: Rorate

  49. Bryan, thank you for posting this. What Pope Benedict said is hugely important. I have a question that has been plaguing me lately though………How are we to consider the hermaphrodite? If they have both kinds of reproductive organs then either object of their sexual desire would be considered inordinate and a sin, right? How would we or they “know” what sex they are? Of course anomaly is known because of a normality, but when this kind of thing happens biologically, I have wondered how it would play out morally. This question arose while I was reading Ed Feser’s The Last Superstition( wonderful book BTW), and so I have wanted an answer to this for sometime:)

    Susan

  50. Susan (re: #49)

    I’m not surprised the question arose while reading Feser’s book, because he addresses there the problem of scientism, according to which we can know about reality only what can be determined through what is referred to as the scientific method, thus ruling out the possibility of knowing the natures of things. If it were true that in certain cases we could not determine the biological sex of an individual human, it would not follow either that there is a third human sex or that this particular individual had no sex. The sexual “element” of human nature, concretized in the gametes, determines instantly and irreversibly the soul and body of each individual human organism from its outset to one of only two possible sexes: male or female. For this reason every human is already either male or female, from the moment of conception, and retains that sex for the rest of his or her life, and eternally, regardless of any surgical or hormonal or genetic procedures he or she may subsequently receive. The givenness of our sexuality already at conception is why the particular individual later develops either uniquely male anatomy, or uniquely female anatomy. The cases of what is called hermaphroditism involve a developmental failure (of some sort) in the biological realization of the sex to which that organism is fundamentally ordered at the moment of conception. And yes I’m aware of the chromosomal abnormalities that occur in certain cases, but those are fully compatible with what I said above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  51. My wife and I have a good friend with Klinefelter Syndrome. Each cell in his body has two X-chromosomes and one Y-chromosome (instead of the male normal of one X and one Y). He is, nonetheless, undeniably male. All males have an X-chromosome; it is the presence of the Y that makes him male.

    It is, it seems to me, a result of nominalism that makes people look at this or that individual feature of a person – including such ‘features’ as ‘gender self-image’ – to decide what male is. There is, for such an outlook, no ‘is’ there :-)

    jj

  52. John, good to hear from you. I thought predominate features is what clued us in to the nature of a thing. We gauge somethings by what we see. Now that I understand that even if a person has say, external male parts and female internal reproductive parts, there is a way to scientifically know whether they are a male or female, being that the sexual element is concretized in the gametes. I have never heard of Klinefelter’s but I did know about Turner’s. Is this where teleology comes in…..the world is made up of male and female and not “other” in the mind of God and so the human baby is made one or the other at conception and will tend towards fulfilling that realization exactly because that is its potentialty?

  53. Susan (#52

    I thought predominate features is what clued us in to the nature of a thing. We gauge somethings by what we see. Now that I understand that even if a person has say, external male parts and female internal reproductive parts, there is a way to scientifically know whether they are a male or female, being that the sexual element is concretized in the gametes. I have never heard of Klinefelter’s but I did know about Turner’s. Is this where teleology comes in…..the world is made up of male and female and not “other” in the mind of God and so the human baby is made one or the other at conception and will tend towards fulfilling that realization exactly because that is its potentialty?

    Certainly, the way we know what something actually is is by looking at the outside. When I see a convincingly-dressed transvestite, I may be sure I know that I am looking at a woman. And, yes, certainly it is what is in the mind of God that determines what something is. But I don’t think we need to go so far back as that to know what something is. That cross-dresser isn’t a woman, even though I can be fooled.

    And when the idea in God’s mind of what something is becomes expressed by His creation of that something, the something then, even if imperfectly (as in the case of hermaphroditism, Klinefelter’s, etc), expressed His mind, and does so in a way that we can know, even if we have to get around these imperfections, what it is. A male is a male – even if his maleness is imperfect; a female is a female, ditto.

    We need to be careful not to confuse what reality actually is with our ability to know it. We have the potential to know the truth of things – a superb book by Josef Pieper called Living the Truth is about that topic. Man can know the truth of things – which is not the same as saying that he always does. God always does.

    Here is an excellent article about the Pope’s speech, regarding ‘gender politics.’

    jj

  54. Susan, (re: #52)

    Predominate features of a species clue us in to the nature possessed by individuals of that species. Otherwise three-legged dogs would be a separate species, and so would every other abnormality and deformity within a species.

    Also, I’m not advocating genetic reductionism. Even if in a particular case we could not determine the sex of an individual from his/her karotype or genetic makeup (think of some form of mosaicism and/or hypothetically the possession of only various incrementally smaller portions of the Y), that individual would still have a sex, either male or female. Our chromosomal makeup is not the essence of our sexuality, even though it plays a determinative role in the sex of the embryo. (If, for example, a technology developed that swapped out all an adult’s Y chromosomes with X chromosomes, or vice versa, it would not change the sex of the individual, just as so-called ‘sex-change’ surgery does not change the sex of the individual.)

    Regarding teleology, the biological manifestation of an individual’s sex through the development of sexual organs and sexual physiology is the teleological realization of the sex that individual already is. Receiving maleness or femaleness at conception orders the embryo teleologically toward adult manhood or adult womanhood, respectively.

    This is also why I generally do not use the term ‘gender’ for ‘sex,’ because the term ‘gender’ is constructionist (from the social designation masculine or feminine to various words in certain non-English languages), while ‘sex’ is given.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  55. I am posting this question for a friend.

    Do you think faithful Catholics can still have divergent opinions on whether or not to legalize civil unions/domestic partnerships/civil, secular, non-sacramental marriage?

  56. Brian, (re: #55)

    No, because the Holy See has already provided a clear boundary on this question:

    Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.

    In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. (“Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons,” 5)

    Therefore because the faithful are obliged to give “religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium,” and because the Magisterium has set down a clear position here, we cannot remain “faithful” while knowingly rejecting the Magisterium’s teaching.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  57. In his inauguration address for his second term in office, President Obama said:

    Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.

    To be fair, this is intended for popular consumption; it is not intended to be a careful moral argument. Nevertheless, this line of reasoning resonates with a popular sentiment, and therefore deserves closer examination.

    First note that the conclusion does not follow from the premise. Just because we are all created equal, it does not follow that each person’s love for another is equal to every other person’s love for others. That is, just because we are created equal, it does not follow that we love equally, and that no person’s love is greater than or less than anyone else’s. Some among us love others with a greater love than do others of us, in that they give more of themselves for the good of the other person.

    But in his statement President Obama is not referring to the measure of the intensity of the love. He isn’t attempting to claim that all persons love with equal intensity and equal degrees of self-giving and devotion. Rather, he is arguing that because all persons are created equal, therefore the civil law should not treat the form of love between a husband and a wife expressed in their marital commitment as something greater in kind than the form of commitment in the homosexual love between a man and a man, and between a woman and a woman. Because under the law humans are created equal, therefore under the law the homosexual love between two persons of the same sex should be treated as equal to the love between a man and a woman expressed in the commitment of the marriage bond. To deny this, according to the argument, is to deny that persons with same-sex attractions are created equal under the law to persons who marry persons of the opposite sex.

    Formally, the argument looks like this:

    (1) Under the law, all persons are created equal.

    (2) If under the law all persons are created equal, then the bonds of love formed between them should be treated equally under the law.

    (3) Both heterosexual and homosexual persons are members of the set of “all persons.”

    (4) The bonds of love formed between heterosexual persons, and between homosexual persons, should be treated equally under the law. [From (1), (2), and (3)]

    The argument is valid, because the conclusion follows from the premises. The problem with the argument is that premise (2) is false as stated, and therefore the argument is unsound. Disordered forms of love that either harm the common good (for an example see comment #45 above) or do not further the common good should not be treated as equivalent under the law to ordered forms of love that do advance the common good, and upon which the common good depends essentially. The existence of love of some sort between persons in various kinds of relationships does not entail that all these types of bonds are equally essential to the common good or deserve to be identified as marriage. Even ordered life-long same-sex friendships should not be treated as equivalent under the law to marriage, because while such friendships are conducive to the common good through their contribution to social cohesion and civil solidarity, the common good is not essentially dependent on such friendships as it is on marriage, on account of marriage’s role in the preservation of society through procreation.

    In this way President Obama’s argument presupposes falsely that (a) no kind of bond described by the persons forming that bond as a bond of ‘love’ is harmful to the common good, or is no less essential to the common good than is marriage, even if that non-marital bond were to be treated under the law as identical to the marriage bond, and/or (b) that the State (and thus the law) has no duty to uphold the common good.

  58. I was thinking about this the other day, Bryan. I recently gave a presentation on the issue of marriage and in my presentation I pointed out that proponents and opponents of same sex marriage are viewing marriage through different paradigms (there is everyone’s favorite word, again!). Proponents of marriage equality seem to have reduced the goods of marriage to one: Friendship. In other words, the only thing that makes marriage a marriage in their eyes is a certain degree of friendship between the two parties.

    Opponents of marriage equality, on the other hand, maintain that there are goods in marriage besides the friendship (though they certainly don’t deny friendship to be a good within marriage). The creation and raising of new human life here is certainly the most obvious. Opponents of same sex marriage do so because same sex relationships do not do not offer society the same benefits that opposite sex relationships have: creating new people to live in society.

    So I tried to think of another example where people receive different benefits under the law because they benefit our country in ways other citizens do not and I came up with Veterans. People who have served our country in the military receive benefits that I do not receive under the law. I do not take this to mean that I am a second class citizen in any way. I take it as an admission by the government that veterans have done something good for our country and have earned the privileges that they receive under the law.

    Similarly, opposite sex married couples benefit our country by giving our country new citizens and raising these new citizens in an environment that makes them responsible members of society. This does not mean that any individual who does not receive these benefits is a second class citizen in the slightest.

    Is this line of reasoning fair?

  59. Fr. Bryan O:

    My answer to your closing question is “Yes.”

    Best,
    Mike

  60. Fr. Bryan,

    Yes, that line of reasoning is solid, and it is a fairly good analogy. What we’ve lost, among our cultural values, is the awareness of living for the common good, rather than only for our own individual happiness. Hence young people now tend to think in terms of what fulfills them personally, and think of sex in that same way, not realizing that sex is a God-given instrument by which to serve society, not recognizing their obligation (all other things being equal) to marry and perpetuate society through rearing children within the framework of responsibility provided by marriage, and not recognizing that deep commitment, sacrifice and service for the common good (both in the natural and supernatural orders) are the avenues to true happiness. Hence the spread of the ‘hook up’ culture, and all sorts of sex-as-use practices, along with abortion. The deeper problem is the egoism and individualism, not realizing (as an imbibed value and life principle) that we are here for others, and that our true happiness is found in deep commitment to and service of others, both at the level of family, and at the level of community, and in various associations.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  61. Hi Brian,

    I believe that one of your premises not being addressed is the idea of the ‘common good’ – first, does it even exist, and second, by what means should the common good be achieved.

    It has been my experience that the ‘common good’ is always used to inflict bads on people, and is in fact being used as the rational in this discussion (rightly or wrongly) to keep a specific group of people from enjoying certain benefits and protections that other groups currently enjoy.

    In this discussion, we are all lamenting the deterioration of the family – and some are pointing the finger at homosexual marriage as both ‘evidence for’ and ‘further destruction of’ the family. We are all ignoring the elephant in the room – the welfare state – that has single-handedly destroyed more families than gay people ever will. Furthermore, the welfare state was set up specifically for the common good, and has wide support among the Catholic faithful.

    So forgive me for being a bit cynical when I see people tout the common good as a reason to support some law or program or whatever. There is the individual good, and when individuals live in free societies where they can make their own choices free from coercive laws – at that point the market shifts in favor of the strong family unit, and the end result will be more strong families. When you apply distortions to the market (either through welfare systems, or other efforts to promote the ‘common good’) you end up with less of what you were trying to get in the first place.

    Hence young people now tend to think in terms of what fulfills them personally, and think of sex in that same way, not realizing that sex is a God-given instrument by which to serve society, not recognizing their obligation (all other things being equal) to marry and perpetuate society through rearing children within the framework of responsibility provided by marriage, and not recognizing that deep commitment, sacrifice and service for the common good (both in the natural and supernatural orders) are the avenues to true happiness.

    I hate to say it, but this is all utter hogwash. This mindset that I exist for the good of society leads down many a dangerous path. Perhaps our children belong to society as well, and they ought go fight to preserve this society they belong to. Perhaps I am using too many resources in a way that doesn’t benefit society as a whole, and more of my income / resources must be taken from me in order to compensate this society that I owe so much (and must sacrifice for).

    To put it bluntly, my sex with my wife is for me, and for her, and for whatever offspring may or may not come from it. It is not for you. There is no obligation other than the one imagined in your head.

  62. Bob, (re: #61)

    Without doubt, the concept of the common good can be abused to attempt to rationalize totalitarian actions and measures that are contrary to the common good, either by denying important individual liberties, or by denying important individual responsibilities. But, abusus non tollit usum, (abuse does not nullify proper use). So the abuse or misuse of the concept of the common good does not nullify the truth concerning the common good.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses the subject of the common good in paragraphs 1907 -1912. And we can distinguish between the common good of man in the natural order, and the common good unqualified. That there is such a thing as the common good of man in the natural order follows from our nature as social and political animals by nature. It is a truth of philosophy knowable by the natural light of human reason; supernatural divine revelation is not required in order to know that there is such a thing as the common good.

    Our good is not attained as individuals living only as individuals. In such a case, we wouldn’t even learn to speak. We wouldn’t even survive. Even marriage is a kind of common good, greater than the sum of the good of each individual spouse, because the union is itself an intrinsic good, and makes possible the discovery and production of both internal goods and external goods that extend beyond the capacity of the couple to comprehend fully.

    Nor is our good attained entirely through our integration into the family unit. The good of the individual family is a common good at the level of the family, already greater than the good of the individual. This is why, when necessary, it is good and rational for a father to lay down his life for his family. He is not being irrational in doing so. And the same for the mother. But human flourishing requires even more than the family; it requires a community of families. We are dependent rational animals, as a recent philosopher argues, not only dependent on our own family, but on our community. This can be seen, for example, in the way a family depends on the whole community when the family’s house is burned down, and all their possessions are destroyed. It can be seen by the purpose of civil laws, which (when just) are not ordered merely to any particular person’s good, but to the common good of the society. It can be seen in the purpose of the military, which exists not for the protection only of any one person or subset of persons, but for the protection of the whole society. For a fuller defense of the common good see, Charles De Koninck’s essay “On the Primacy of the Common Good,” linked in comment #39 above.

    Just as we have a natural moral obligation to our family, so likewise we have a natural moral obligation to pursue and uphold the good of our society. To ignore or detract from the common good of society is immoral. This is why we have an obligation to uphold the just laws of our society. This is entailed by the Fourth Comment (to honor our parents), and Christ’s command to give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s. Our obligation under justice to pay taxes arises from the task of the just ruler to pursue and uphold the common good. If there were no common good, there would be no task for the just ruler, and hence no obligation to have someone labor toward this end, let alone compensate him for his labors toward this end.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  63. But, abusus non tollit usum, (abuse does not nullify proper use). So the abuse or misuse of the concept of the common good does not nullify the truth concerning the common good.

    The concept of using power to promote the ‘common good’ does not square with the non-aggression axiom. Catholic social teaching expects and promotes that force (law) be used against people in order to take from one and give to another. There is no proper use of this power, only abuse. It is categorically impossible to promote good through theft. (Please provide an example if you disagree).

    Our good is not attained as individuals living only as individuals. In such a case, we wouldn’t even learn to speak. We wouldn’t even survive.

    Thank goodness for charity on the individual level. I am very charitable to my children – raising them and never expecting re-payment. All common good can be achieved through charity.

    This is entailed by the Fourth Comment (to honor our parents), and Christ’s command to give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s. Our obligation under justice to pay taxes arises from the task of the just ruler to pursue and uphold the common good. If there were no common good, there would be no task for the just ruler, and hence no obligation to have someone labor toward this end, let alone compensate him for his labors toward this end.

    I think you and I have different interpretations of what Christ means when he says ‘give to Cesar’. In any case, as I said before, the common good doesn’t require taxes to be achieved – and stealing from one to give to another is not a solid foundation to build a society on. Until you cross that bridge, I don’t think we can have a profitable discussion on this topic. Again, this is an area the Catholic church really struggles with. In European countries the church (usually catholic) even have their own ‘church tax’ – using aggression of the state to collect money for them.

    I don’t pay taxes to Caesar to promote the common good (something Caesar is notoriously bad at). I suspect that you too grumble when the tax man comes. I suspect that you pay taxes out of self interest – because if you don’t then people with guns will make your life miserable until you do.

    Even if you do happily pay your taxes, I don’t think you can give me an answer as to the optimal tax rate so that the most common good can be achieved. What is that rate? and what services ought be provided so that we are in step with the Catholic Churches view of the common good? Where is an example of the right amount of power being applied so as to provide the example of a ‘just ruler’?

    I can answer those questions. Can you?

    Given that the same-sex issue is self extincting, why does the Catholic Church focus so much on it? There are so many other areas where the common good is being trampled on in orders of magnitude greater than gay marriage. Its kind of how our society focuses on TSA security when the odds and impact of terror is so insignificant when compared to death on the roads, or by slipping in the shower, or all the other mundane ways we die.

    Catholics should focus on making adoption a cheep process instead of the bankrupting drain it is now – instead of worrying about the handful of homosexuals that want to adopt a child. You should focus on the destruction of the black family (which survived slavery, but can’t survive welfare) – instead of the handful of homosexuals who want to ‘marry’. But hey – welfare is for the common good, and Homosexuals shouldn’t marry or adopt cause that is against the common good.

  64. Hey, Bryan. Leah Libresco, a recent convert to Catholicism from atheism, has stated her support of civil unions for same-sex couples in a recent blog post entitled Yes, I am in favor of civil gay marriage! She wrote:

    I live just over the DC-Maryland border, so I didn’t get to vote in the marriage referendum this November. But, even though I get no personal credit for the outcome, you can bet I had an Election Night dance party anyway. And here’s why:

    Civil marriage =/= Sacramental marriage

    Marriage in the Church is about both people making a positive committment to each other, to any future children, and to God.
    Marriage administered by the State is about setting up protections for each person in the couple and any children who happen along.

    I was hoping you could interact with her thoughts in light of what you have written here. Thanks!

  65. Brian, (re: #64)

    It is true that civil marriage is not sacramental marriage. But it does not follow from that distinction that legislation treating same sex unions as civil marriage would be either beneficial to the common good or would not harm the common good. There is good reason to believe that it would harm the common good, as I explained in the article, and there is evidence that it does harm the common good (see comment #45).

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  66. @Brian (#64):

    I posted a quick comment on Leah’s site already; basically I think her view entails that consanguineous (civil) marriages are okay as well as plural marriages. I mean, Leah wrote:

    Here’s my one sentence, purely secular understanding of what marriage is about: You spur each other on to Virtue and you may want to spur children along in a similar way.

    Which is fine so far as it goes (it is a one-sentence summary, so I don’t want to expect too much). Nonetheless, by such an understanding, it seems to me that two brothers could (civilly) marry, two sisters, one man could (civilly) marry multiple wives, etc. (IF a corporation can pursue Virtue, which on some understandings it can, then one could also marry a corporation). Ultimately, Leah’s view disconnects sex from marriage entirely which is false (I mean, two celibate monks could [civilly] marry, by this definition, even if they never intended to have sex). So if it’s the kind of relationship that’s open to two sisters, two brothers, multiple persons, and even two persons who never intend to have sex, I’m really not sure that calling it “marriage” makes any degree of sense at all. Honestly, it sounds more like she’s considering giving civil status to what I and my friends do (pursue virtue). But as Robbie George (and his coauthors) point out, it really comes down to the fundamental question really quickly: What is marriage?

    My $0.02. I’m off to teach.

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  67. On January 31, 2013, the Harvard University Federalist Society hosted a debate on the question of “Same-Sex Marriage,” between Sherif Girgis (co-author of What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense) and Andrew Koppelman (professor of law at Northwestern University and author of Defending American Religious Neutrality). The video of the debate (which is one hour in length) can be found on the C-SPAN web page here.

  68. Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George discuss their book What is Marriage?: Man and Woman, A Defense at the Catholic Information Center in Washington D.C. on December 19, 2012:

    UPDATE:

    In the Fall of 2013, Ryan debated NYU Sociology Professor Judith Stacey on this question, as seen in the following video:

    On April 5, 2014, at a conference at Stanford hosted by the Stanford Anscombe Society, Ryan Anderson gave the following talk (text of the paper):

    followed by this Q&A:

  69. For those who want something that is smaller to digest on the topic, there is a review of the book by Girgis, Anderson, and George in the March edition of First Things, which is available for free to read here:

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/02/a-review-what-is-marriage-man-and-woman-a-defense

    thanks Bryan!

  70. If an unmarried man and woman know that one or both of them are infertile though not impotent, they may enter into a valid marriage. And if a man and a woman marry validly, and one or both subsequently become impotent or infertile, their marriage remains, and remains valid, so long as they each live. So why then is marriage limited to a man and a woman? Because marriage by its nature is intrinsically ordered to procreation. That is the case even if one or both spouses are infertile. Their infertility does not entail that marriage can form between humans of the same sex, or between humans and non-human animals, or between persons and artifacts, because those kinds of unions are not by their nature intrinsically ordered to procreation, whereas in the case of a married man and woman in which one or both are infertile, the nature of the union remains intrinsically ordered to procreation by the fact that one is male and the other female, even though by the effect of age or sexual dysfunction one or both spouses is not fully capable of doing the part of their sex in fulfilling that procreative end. The mistake underlying the “infertile couples may marry” objection is a failure to distinguish between accidental conditions of such spouses and the essential procreative end of the marriage bond. The objection treats these accidental conditions as delineating the sufficient conditions for marriage, not comprehending that what is accidental to particular marriages and particular stages of marriage does not define or change the essence of marriage.

  71. What I would like to know is, given these sound arguments against marriage revisionists, why do they seem to be winning in the courts? What arguments are the marriage advocates giving, and why aren’t they persuading judges?

  72. Antonio:

    In my opinion, the SSM crowd are headed for a sweeping victory in the long run. Here’s how the dialogue goes.

    “Gays should have equal rights to marry.”
    “But they do already. They just don’t want marriage so understood.”
    “You know what I mean. They should have equal rights to love whom they want and have that called marriage.”
    “So we are morally obligated to re-define marriage so as to give them what they want?. Why?”
    “Because marriage is an emotional commitment expressed in a sexual relationship. That’s what straights have. And that’s what gays should have.”
    “You’re using a re-definition of marriage as a premise in an argument calling for a re-definition of marriage. That’s called begging the question.”
    “Who’s begging the question? I’m only following the understanding of marriage most Americans already have.”
    “You’re right. God help America.”

    Once contraception and no-fault divorce become established as normative, there was no stopping the SSM train. America has lost a proper, natural-law understanding of marriage, and we’re just seeing the latest result of that.

    Best,
    Mike

  73. Antonio, (re: #71)

    One fundamental root of the problem is the loss of our capacity as a people to engage in rational discourse, with all the intellectual and moral virtues that requires, including the formed dispositions to follow the rules of logic and avoid fallacies. Instead, we are largely moved and governed by shallow sentiment, snark, and sound-bite. That’s no longer limited to the Jerry Springer show; it is becoming the case even in academia. Fewer and fewer people have the mental discipline to read even articles of the length posted above, let alone books. And this creates a culture in which reason is mostly removed from debates surrounding moral questions. See for example Ryan Anderson’s exchange (part 1, part 2) with Piers Morgan last night. That’s simply not the sort of context in which meaningful rational dialogue can occur, for the very same reason that meaningful rational dialogue could not take place on the Jerry Springer show, which in the classroom I’ve likened to Plato’s cave.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  74. Bryan, given your interest in rational thought and discourse, and as a professor — I’m wondering if any of your courses on logic, rhetoric, or the like are available online (perhaps through opencourseware or similar). Or if you could recommend an online course from another professor — like a philosopher Dr. Feingold or a course by Dr. Liccione. I’d like to grow my understanding here more deliberately. I’ve learned so much observing the contributors here and would like to think more rationally and logically myself. Thanks.

  75. Eva, (re: 74)

    I’m not aware of any online course on logic or rhetoric. There are some good introductory logic books, such as Kreeft’s Socratic Logic (Second Edition), and Oesterle’s Logic: The Art of Defining and Reasoning (Second Edition). For rhetoric, I’m not entirely happy with any of the existing books. I would start with Aristotle’s Rhetoric, and Eugene Garver’s two books on this subject, along with Corbett’s Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  76. See also the March 21, 2013 interview with Archbishop Cordileone in USA Today on the question of redefining marriage.

  77. Thanks Bryan. I’ll add them to my book queue. In the meantime you should consider recording your classes (audio and/or video) for OpenCourseWare or the like. I don’t think I’m alone in wishing I could be a student in one of your classes. (Mike — you too!)

    Regarding Fr. Barron’s latest video — I was so thankful for his thoughtful way of clearing the fog, so to speak. I hope his next video emerges from the fog with practical ways we can engage our friends and neighbors in loving ways regarding this issue.

    Peace.

  78. Eva:

    Thanks! My next project after my current one is to put together a critical-thinking online text, with multimedia. Something like that is desperately needed as an alternative to the current, unsatisfactory textbook market.

    Best,
    Mike

  79. Because they are so darn expensive, I’ve only bought only one course from, “Great Courses” for our family. I see that they do have courses on philosophy and thinking. Maybe? Mike what do you think?

    http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=4413

    Susan

  80. Susan:

    Great Courses is OK for its purpose, but none of the courses are designed explicitly as critical-thinking courses. People who go in for GC, such as yourself, generally already are critical thinkers and are just looking for a convenient way to learn about the classic texts and ideas of the Western tradition. Good on you for that though!

    Best,
    Mike

  81. Can anyone recommend a book on the defense of marriage besides the one by Gergis? Are there any others?

  82. R.J. Snell’s First Things article titled “How Songs Like Macklemore’s “Same Love” Change the Marriage Debate” is insightful and worth reading.

    See also the USCCB’s “Marriage: Unique for a Reason” website.

  83. Bryan (re your original post)

    Excellent article! Very well done… and I strongly agree with your position that traditional marriage is ordered by both Biblical truth and natural law. I have used this same position with non-Christian (and Christian) friends on many occasions. Homosexuality is a behavior not a physiology. Sexuality serves only one natural purpose… procreation. Homosexuality serves no natural purpose, and thus cannot be considered natural.

    I did want to respond to one comment posted…

    In your original post…

    “Protestantism’s low view of reason…etc”

    I do not believe that Protestantism (universally) has a low view of reason. The “low view of reason” you speak of might be more accurately described as the Protestant’s low view of reason relative to God’s revelation… which is a considerably different thing. To the extent that human reason agrees with God’s revelation, it is perfectly fine. Barth and others were rightly skeptical of human reason because it is so often used to rationalize unGodly behavior… which you previously mentioned. My only point here is that there are plenty of Protestants out here who will happily join voices with you, using both natural law and God’s law to make the case for marriage.

    Blessings
    Curt

  84. 28 Alicia

    You said…

    Protestants use the sexual abuse that has involved some of the Priesthood as proof that nature has given certain urges that could be rightly directed if marriage were allowed.

    Alicia… first I want to bonk you on the head for this comment. I know Catholics who say exactly the same thing, but I would never attribute that to Catholics generally. Please be a little more judicious in your general characterizations of Protestants. We, like Catholics, are a pretty diverse group.

    On the more loving side, regarding your comment 19 and others, I want to offer you hope that boys can grow into young men with a proper view of sexuality, in spite of a culture that floods them with all manner of sexual deviance. I have three sons, two of whom are getting married in July. All three of them have remained chaste through their teen and college years. When my #2 son told me that he wanted to marry his girlfriend, I thought it was a little too soon for them. Both he and his fiancee are in grad school, at Harvard and MIT respectively. While I thought they both had a great relationship with each other and the Lord, it seemed to me that they should get grad school behind them. His argument to me was this… “Dad, Paul says that we should remain celibate if possible, but if not, it’s better to marry than to burn.” He had remained celibate, but recognized it was time… regardless of worldly issues like grad school. How could I argue with that? I had to respect his maturity both spiritually and as a young man trying to do the right thing. Our other two boys (and two daughters) also have a very healthy view of sexuality as the consummation of the marriage union. I believe they have gained this from several things that are indispensable…

    1. My wife and have a healthy marital relationship
    2. Our friends have healthy marital relationships
    3. We were careful to choose our children’s friends at an early age, meaning:
    —- Mostly church friends whose parents shared our Biblical worldview
    —- Involvement in a very active church youth group
    —- Active teaching about the Biblical view of sexuality (at home and at church)
    4. Close guarding of the internet until they were capable of self control
    5. Endless prayer for them

    Now please don’t think that our kids were sheltered or home schooled, etc. Nothing would be further from the truth. They went to semi-urban public schools with all the pitfalls thereof. They are “out of the box” kids, and all quite different. Our fundamental policy was this: we wanted to teach them to “live in the world, but be not of the world”. The youth group was a great help, providing them enough critical mass at school to get them through the temptations of drugs, alcohol and sexual promiscuity. So there is hope!

    To conclude… there was a time when I believed that a man’s sexual behavior was driven largely by uncontrollable urges that needed to be satisfied. This belief, honestly, grew out of my own miserable failure as a teen during the sexual revolution of the 60s-70s. My children have changed that view. God promises that …

    No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

    I believe this, and know you do too. Its just as true for our children as it is for us. Have hope! and pray for them!

    Blessings
    Curt

  85. Bryan

    A few other thoughts that I did not see in the discussion above…

    People will often argue that gay people are born with a predisposition to homosexuality, which is false but widely held. My wife and I support a ministry called Regeneration… a Christian ministry to gay people who have decided to seek change “to live lives of sexual integrity”. It was founded by a gay man who became a Christian and overcame his homosexuality. The folks I have spoken with who have done likewise through this ministry will tell you universally that homosexuality is a behavior that is chosen, not a physiology one is born with. While there may be external factors that contribute to a homosexual path in life (sexual abuse, parental dysfunction, etc), there is still a choice that is made.

    Nonetheless, the media has perpetuated the myth of “predisposition” toward homosexuality. However, the argument is not lost, even if one subscribes to this notion. This is because there are other activities that are still considered culturally taboo in which people may have a genetic or sociological predisposition. For example, a 13 year old boy may have urges to have sex with his sister. As crass as our culture is, most would certainly not condone this behavior. Using the predisposition argument, one would have to ask… isn’t it unfair to deny that boy his “natural” urges. Well, no, its not. The boy needs to control those urges. So should we expect post-pubic boys to have more self control than adult men? Most people would say no. Then why cannot a man control his urges as well (whether homo or hetero sexual, for that matter)?

    Using the same logic, we could move to a different behavior… How about alcoholism? Studies have shown that many alcoholics have a physiological predisposition toward alcoholism. Yet no one calls it hate speech if we encourage an alcoholic to refrain from drinking. Why not? They are predisposed… they can’t help it. Of course, we would get the argument that alcoholism is harmful to the individual and potentially others. And homosexuality is not? That’s another lie perpetuated by the media… that homosexuality is about love and doesn’t hurt anyone… major league bull! My wife and I also support a ministry called Hope Springs, a ministry to AIDS patients in Baltimore (one of the homosexual melting pots of the US). Trust me when I say, homosexuality is killing people. Of course, the HIPAA laws hide this fact from societal view.

    To your point, Bryan, I believe Christians should do several things:

    1. Get the facts and use them in your watercooler discussions. The facts are not on the homosexual’s side.
    2. Pray for our political leaders
    3. Be active in the political discussion
    4. Be active in ministry to gays and lesbians

    This last one I should explain. I think most here would agree that being gay or lesbian is well outside God’s plan for man and woman. Through various ministries and relationships with gays and lesbians, I have learned one thing that they have in common… there is some pain deep within them that is destroying them and they don’t know what it is. That pain in many cases began early in life with abuse, family disorders and other negative stimuli, often at a time of formation both sexually and in terms of personhood. Grace, I have found, is an incredibly powerful concept to the GLBT community, particularly when they grow weary of the militant facade that many of them have adopted for self preservation in their younger years. The concept of a God who will meet them right where they are, and then gently walk with them back to spiritual wholeness is overwhelmingly attractive to many. Think about this… why did the gay community reject the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy? If they wanted to just “live and let live”, the policy should have been fine, right. The problem is that the gay community wants love more than anything. True love. Real love. Honest love. That’s why public acceptance is so important to them… just tell me I’m ok… that’s what they want. Again, much of this need comes from a lack of such love in their youth, and a misguided search in their teens. That said, what is the message the church is called to bring? Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself… the summation of all the law and the prophets, according to Jesus. So I say… let’s give gays and lesbians what they want… love. The right kind of love. When we hold hands with an aids patient, their visiting friends see something they long for.

    Blessings
    Curt

  86. Hi Curt @ 84

    Nice to chat again, my first name is Susan. Alicia is my middle name and I used it to be incognito so as to learn and dialogue here at CTC during a time when there was hostility and resentment toward me because I was utilizing this site.

    For the sake of my family, I will again say, that I have no idea what my kids do privately or what anyone does privately for that matter. It was a hypothetical example that I used because I thought it would best fit the point I was trying to make. I thank you for offering me words of encouragement concerning all who are mine; that was thoughtful of you, and yes, I do have every hope in the mercy of God for my whole family.

    Now, as for what I was attempting to communicate originally… There is not a consensus among Protestantism about masturbation. The view can change depending on who you talk to, and so I can’t lump all Protestants together in regards to this touchy subject and I don’t.
    My whole point in speaking of Protestantism in general wasn’t to act as if everybody believes the same thing concerning the subject of masturbation( I’m certain that all Catholics don’t think the same about it), but to show that a universal consensus on the matter will *always* be impossible without a magisterium. If I am a Protestant that professes belief in the doctrine of sola fide and I am officially taught that all sin is deserving of damnation and that I’m constantly breaking God’s law then it will never be important to a pastor to warn his congregation about “other” sins that go unmentioned. Sure there are pastors who might address their congregation and mention that masturbation is a grievious sin, but it does nothing to establish the certainty that *his take* on the subject was right and binding on those in his congregation. Wouldn’t it be best for every Christian to be able to avoid sin if he can? Isn’t it the responsibility of pastors to warn Christians about every kind of sin so that they can try not to repeat them? Why is it when it comes to the sin of adultery, pastors don’t pull any punches, but don’t mention from the pulpit the many other sins that people commit? They surely don’t want the individual to break God’s law in this regard nor do they want the body of Christ to be harmed by the pain that adultery brings, so why don’t they have anything definitive to say about other sins that are destructive to the soul of the sinner and the body of Christ?
    If a church is ignorant of all the things that are sin, then congregants are not being truly shepherded. This is my point. Catholicism takes sin very seriously, and can tell you definitively what is sin and what isn’t, and not only that, it keeps a person accountable. After becoming Catholic and learning about mortal and venial sin, I have been able to council my children in a way that went undone by the pastors of the church where my family attends without me. I don’t tell them, “Hey guys you are always sinning and that’s the way it is, so don’t do any of that navel gazing thing that makes you worry, just stay ignorant about certain sins because it does matter anyway.” Staying silent is the same as telling them that it sin is a sin is a sin, and that is an untruth. Curt, I grieved and worried, that they were not being instructed about the many sins that they were possibly yet unwittingly committing by not having a church that would tell them absolutely.
    Does this make sense?

  87. The majority argument in yesterday’s Supreme Court decision regarding DOMA is primarily a legal argument, which I do not intend to address. (For a brief response see Sherif Gergis’s “The Supreme Court, You and Me, and the Future of Marriage.”) But there is a related moral argument, which is relevant to the post above, and similar to the argument President Obama made in his second inaugural address, which I discussed in comment #57 above.

    The argument goes like this:

    (1) A law limiting marriage to the union of persons of the opposite sex restricts persons of the same sex from marrying each other.

    (2) The legal restriction disallowing persons of the same sex from marrying each other injures and harms persons who wish to marry others of the same sex, depriving them of rights and responsibilities, while not injuring persons who wish to marry others of the opposite sex.

    (3) A law is unjust if it injures or harms some persons and not others.

    Therefore,

    (4) A law limiting marriage to the union of persons of the opposite sex is unjust.

    The argument is valid, but its soundness hangs on premise (2). Premise (2) presupposes that marriage is not a natural institution naturally limited to persons of the opposite sex, but can instead be whatever the civil law stipulates it to be, even including same-sex unions. As I explained in footnotes 5 and 7 above, only if marriage is in essence whatever the civil law stipulates it to be would it be harmful or injurious to some persons for the civil law to define marriage in such a way that those persons could not enter into marriage.

    If, however, marriage is in essence a natural institution ordered to the procreative union between persons of the opposite sex, then the civil authority has no power to make marriage possible between persons of the same sex. And since no injury or harm is done to persons by not doing what one has no power to do, a civil law recognizing marriage to be only between persons of the opposite sex, and thus restricting persons of the same sex from marrying each other does not injure or harm persons who wish to marry persons of the same sex. So the argument above depends for its soundness on the presupposition that marriage is not a natural institution naturally limited to persons of the opposite sex, but is instead open to be whatever the civil law stipulates it to be. That presupposition, however, is precisely what is in question between the two sides of this dispute. (See, for example, this excerpt from Robert George’s Conscience and Its Enemies.) So the argument above fundamentally begs the question, i.e. presupposes precisely what is in question between the two sides.

  88. Bryan,

    Are you telling me that society at large, and not just the comboxes at CTC, suffer from chronic question begging?

    : )

    I couldn’t resist. I think your point elucidates what happens when a society trades in reason for sympathy. The opposite of reason is madness, and surely we are ever approaching reason’s antithesis. The problem is that violence often accompanies madness, because the intellect that is reasonable will not be quieted by mad rhetoric. Instead, it will have to be quieted through force. That is where we are heading.

    Lord, have mercy!

  89. Susan

    If I am a Protestant that professes belief in the doctrine of sola fide and I am officially taught that all sin is deserving of damnation and that I’m constantly breaking God’s law then it will never be important to a pastor to warn his congregation about “other” sins that go unmentioned.

    Why not? Protestants are commanded not to sin, just like Catholics. Its not like we think we should “sin all the more that grace may abound” as Paul put it.

    They surely don’t want the individual to break God’s law in this regard nor do they want the body of Christ to be harmed by the pain that adultery brings, so why don’t they have anything definitive to say about other sins that are destructive to the soul of the sinner and the body of Christ?

    We do. And not only do we teach about it, we have small groups designed to help people overcome sinful habits that are weighing them down… including male sexual sin.

    If a church is ignorant of all the things that are sin, then congregants are not being truly shepherded. This is my point. Catholicism takes sin very seriously, and can tell you definitively what is sin and what isn’t, and not only that, it keeps a person accountable.

    Well, I’m not sure the Catholic church has a monopoly on the knowledge of sin. Protestants take sin seriously as well. In both churches, we are talking, I think, about true adherents to the faith. There are, of course, both Protestants and Catholics who don’t take sin seriously (or the church generally, for that matter). My point is that true adherents in Protestantism and Catholicism take sin seriously. Regarding accountability, this is the precise reason we have small groups to address these issues. For example, our “Men’s Fraternity” group teaches men Biblical truth about authentic manhood… how we are designed… what are the traps (sin) … right relationship with God… our wives… our families… our work, etc. One example of accountability in this group… Men who have struggled with internet porn are connected together with monitoring software that emails their web visits to an accountability partner. This has proven very effective in helping men get beyond sexual addiction. For us, its not enough just to teach what sin is. Much more than this, we need to help people learn to how to stop destructive sinful habits.

    Curt, I grieved and worried, that they were not being instructed about the many sins that they were possibly yet unwittingly committing by not having a church that would tell them absolutely.
    Does this make sense?

    Sure… I would worry too if that was my church experience. I have belonged to a number of Protestant churches and that has not been my experience. Further… I live in the very Catholic state of Maryland, and I grieve for the Catholic friends of my children who do not seem to get the same level of support from their churches as my children have gotten in our church. In fact, many of them have come to youth group with my kids, not just for a sense of belonging, but to hear Biblical truth that meets kids where they live, and helps them overcome the temptations that are part of their world. That said, it is probably not helpful to do tit for tat. There are great Catholic churches and great Protestant churches. Likewise there are lousy examples of both as well. I do understand the concept of the magisterium, and having a single doctrinal message. I also understand that the Protestant world includes denoms that are whacked out doctrinally. That doesn’t mean that they all are.

    Blessings
    Curt

  90. Curt and Susan,

    May I respectfully request that in this thread we stay on the topic of the post at the top of this page. Thank you.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  91. I dont understand the arguement. iI am a christian, I was married under in a church by a priest under God’s witness. I did not go to the courthouse and file my marriage, I dont feel as if i have to. Why isnt the arguement for Equal rights for all people, not just for Homosexuals. Why arent Commonwealth marriages accepted? A person psoted above “A law is unjust if it injures or harms some persons and not others”. It harms me when we have to pay for seperate medical insurance, auto insurance…when we got into an accident last year and because my husband and I were in the vehicle together (he was the driver) with our kids, both of our insurances had to take the hit. Would of just been on the driver if we didnt have children together. I think the argument should be Equality for all…

  92. Bryan (90)

    You bet… sorry for the digression!

    Regarding the unfortunate Supreme Court rendering… Whether we work though the arguments of reason and natural law or through moral pronouncement, it seems to me that there is a greater problem with truth itself in the public conversation. I was listening to the local news yesterday and the Maryland State Attorney General was commenting about the case. He declared this decision to be a great victory for the civil rights of persons who were born a certain way. That people are born gay is patently false. It has been shown through genetic research to be false. It has been shown through the study of identical twins to be false. Yet the myth continues.

    If people are content to choose their own truth prima facie, then no amount of reason, argument or morality will have any impact on their position. In my humble opinion, this amounts to mental hedonism.

    I agree with Brent… Lord, have mercy!

    Blessings
    Curt

  93. @Brian 87

    I think your argument here is that marriage can’t be defined in such a way as to contradict natural law – correct? and this natural law is specifically anti-homosexual.

    Let me see if I can put this in one of those logical flow diagrams.

    1. The Bible is anti-homosexual
    2. The Bible and natural law are in harmony
    3. The homosexuality goes against the natural law
    4. The catholic church argues homosexual marriage goes against natural law.

    If this is the general argument, then there is a problem in number 2 and 3. There are many homosexual creatures in nature, and even some fascinating hermaphroditic creatures. Any law derived from nature would view homosexual acts as ‘natural’.

    Unless the argument is that human homosexual acts are unnatural, and that other animal homosexual acts are either natural (because they are not human) or pollution by sinful corruption (explain hermaphroditic creatures then). My point is that if we are looking to nature for natural law, nature is homosexual.

    @Curt 53

    Sexuality serves only one natural purpose… procreation. Homosexuality serves no natural purpose, and thus cannot be considered natural.

    Define natural purpose. If you look for the purpose in ‘nature’ then it has multiple purposes, procreation being one of them. Establishing dominance is another.

    See here is the circular in your reasoning. Natural law is law derived from nature so long as it agrees with what the Church says it is. Calling one behavior in humans ‘natural’ and condemning another as ‘unnatural’ when the same behavior is found in nature is… dishonest? or at least very confusing and perhaps the term ‘natural law’ doesn’t mean what it tries to say it means.

  94. Bob B (93)

    “Although homosexual behavior is very common in the animal world, it seems to be very uncommon that individual animals have a long-lasting predisposition to engage in such behavior to the exclusion of heterosexual activities. Thus, a homosexual orientation, if one can speak of such thing in animals, seems to be a rarity.”

    Levay, Simon (1996). Queer Science: The Use and Abuse of Research into Homosexuality. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. p. 207.”

    In addition, humans have a natural ability to reason which animals do not… Thus we can understand the purpose of sexuality where an animal cannot. Deer have a natural affinity to headlights… not a behavior I want to emulate.

    Blessings
    Curt

  95. Let me see if I understand your argument. Because we are rational, we understand that Natural Law support only heterosexual behavior within marriage, and that homosexuality is a perversion of nature, even though Nature clearly displays homosexual behavior all over the place.

    That doesn’t sound rational. Care to elaborate?

    Don’t get me wrong, I can see quite clearly that the Bible (at least the OT) has a strong anti-homosexual slant to it, and I have no problem with people being anti-homosexual by turning to the Bible as an authority. However, to claim that Natural Law – something that is supposed to be self-evident to all humanity through nature, and something secular governments are supposed to be subservient to – somehow supports an anti-homosexual position and to claim Nature itself to be on your side as demonstratively false. Cars running into deer have little to do with it. Do you have a better argument?

  96. Yes, Dr. Cross. Sorry everyone. I suppose this topic belongs under the category of the Magisterium.

    But, Curt I’m not sure I have the smarts to tease out the nuances of our conversation so as to show you how your paradigm fails to function as means to establish theological truth. I realize my words sound as if I am closing the door on our conversation but I’m really not. I feel obligated to hang-in there with you and keep trying because of your goodwill to engage in the first place; but I’m honestly not able to recognize where we are locking horns. I can’t detect when a conversation has run its course. I hope it hasn’t run its course, but I don’t a strategy yet :) I will take a break and think about it more and join you on another thread, but only if it is possible that we can make real progress. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with me.

    ~Susan

  97. Where did you get these notions about natural law, Bob B? Specifically, the notion that natural law has anything to do with how animals act in their environments?

  98. Bob B (95)

    Let me see if I understand your argument. Because we are rational, we understand that Natural Law support only heterosexual behavior within marriage, and that homosexuality is a perversion of nature, even though Nature clearly displays homosexual behavior all over the place.

    That doesn’t sound rational. Care to elaborate?

    Those are your words, and I would agree… they don’t sound rational. You might want to read the entire Levay quote above… and then pose your own hypothesis based on all that he says, rather than misparaphrasing others to say what you want.

    Blessings
    Curt

  99. Susan (96)

    Lets try on the magisterium page. I’m going to try to insert a link to it, but not sure if it will work. If it does, click it. If not, I’ll post the link.

    Click here.

    Blessings
    Curt

  100. @Brian Ortiz 97

    Natural Law is an attempt to come up with a system of laws based on the nature of the thing (usually humans). Some quick examples – humans are ‘by nature’ free, ergo laws against non-voluntary slavery, false imprisonment etc are in line with natural law. Humans own property, so laws against theft are in line with natural law (for humans). Animals do not own things – there is no such thing as stealing from a lion. Neither are lions murderers when they kill the antelope (or whatever they eat) as they are acting in accordance with their nature.

    In this thread, Brian and others are arguing that Marriage is ‘by Nature’ between a man and a woman. This is due largely to the ‘unnaturalness’ of homosexuality. When the claim is made that homosexuality is unnatural, we need to unpack that and find out if it is true or not. I grant that the OT condemns it – great. However, we are talking about naturalness, not moralness. Is homosexuality ‘natural’ – IE a part of human nature. All I’m doing is putting forward the idea that homosexuality ‘might’ be natural for humans as it appears to be natural for other creatures in nature too. If homosexuality is natural, then arguments that the nature of Marriage is between man and woman are weakened.

    Today, we observe that most humans are right handed, but we accept that left handedness is an under-represented part of nature. We no longer persecute people in this country for their left handedness, and laugh at the idea that left handedness is associated with satan (as was commonly thought not too long ago). We don’t hit kids over the head with Bibles when we catch them using their left hands – instead we encourage them to become baseball pitchers. Has the nature of left-handedness changed, or were we as a culture incorrect about the naturalness of left-handedness?

    It is also possible that the nature of Marriage is not dependent on the nature of homosexuality. If that is the case, I’m submitting a new word… we’ll call it egairraM – it is by nature a union of homosexuals to the exclusion of hetrosexuals – unless your left handed.

  101. Dear Bob,

    I think there is an equivocation in your comment above about the meaning of the term “natural.” When natural law theorists speak of “natural,” they do not mean “occurring some where in the biosphere (nature).” Because, obviously, on that reading everything that happens is “natural.”

    Homosexuality is “natural” only in that extended sense (i.e. – it occurs in “nature.”)

    Instead of nature, a less ambiguous term would be essence, or form, or quiddity.

    And, in that sense, homosexuality is not “natural.” It is contrary to the essence, form, or quiddity of the human person – just as blindness or paralysis are not “natural.”

    Keep in mind, also, that nature (in this sense) is not simply a matter of statistical probability. If, by chance, an entire population were reduced to blindness or paralysis – a 100% chance of disability for some reason – this would not make those conditions any more “natural.” What counts as “natural” is rather something discerned by reason through a consideration of the essence of the species. I recognize that man is, by nature, a rational animal – even if some particular subset of men lack reason.

    Nor is homosexual attraction immoral, per se – for the same reason that blindness and paralysis are not immoral. However, it would be immoral if I willfully blinded myself, or induced my own paralysis, or willfully destroyed my own rationality.

    The reason that your left-handedness illustration is not germane is that there is no free, rational choice associated with left-handedness (nor is left-handedness contrary to the essence of humanity – essence entails more than just statistical probability.).

    What makes homosexual acts immoral, therefore, is the willful decision to act in a way that is contrary to the essence of the human person, in a way that frustrates the essential ends of human sexuality. In just the same way that willful intoxication is immoral – I consciously chose to act in a way that I know will destroy (at least temporarily) my rationality.

    Thanks for commenting,

    David

  102. Bob B (re: #93)

    Any law derived from nature would view homosexual acts as ‘natural’. Unless the argument is that human homosexual acts are unnatural, and that other animal homosexual acts are either natural (because they are not human) or pollution by sinful corruption (explain hermaphroditic creatures then). My point is that if we are looking to nature for natural law, nature is homosexual.

    Your criticism equivocates on the term ‘natural,’ by using it in the sense of ‘whatever things do,’ whereas I’m using it in its philosophical sense, according to which it is possible to act against one’s nature. For example, man by nature is rational. But it is possible for humans to make irrational choices, and carry out irrational actions. The fact that humans often act irrationally does not show or entail that rationality is not intrinsic to human nature. The fact that humans murder one another does not entail that it is human nature to murder, and that justice is contrary to our nature. So it is important not to equivocate when criticizing the philosophical claim regarding human nature. Your appeal to examples from non-human animals makes just this mistake, by treating what I mean when I say that marriage is ‘natural’ as including whatever non-human animals do or sometimes do.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  103. Bob B

    re: 100 and prior on what is ‘natural’ in natural law

    Natural law does not derive its guidance from something because one finds examples of behaviors in the created order. In the area of sexuality, as I understand it, it means specifically what is the purpose for there being males with their particular physical sex traits, and females with theirs.

    The sex organs of male and female are by nature created for complimentarity directed to propagation of the species. By natural design, the male sex organ, for example, emits seed when stimulated. The purpose of emitting seed is to permit creation of life by being joined with an egg within a woman. This is what is meant (in my understanding) of natural law: the use of something according to its purpose in nature, its purpose as designed. However, such a purpose, such a design, does not prevent using these traits primarily for other purposes (e.g. pleasure). Using something for other than its primary purpose (pleasure) as its primary purpose is when the term disordered is aptly applied.

    Finally, I’d like to note that the natural purpose of sexual expression (procreation) joins human activity with that of God (creation of the soul). It is why this gift is so highly cherished and so vigorously defended. That is why misuse of this amazing gift and design is considered profane. A culture that denies God places no value (or explicitly denies) a soul, runs the risk of reducing the expression to that of its most base form (pleasure) and the attendant ills that stem from such a use.

    Hope this helps.

    In Him,
    Bill

  104. @David 101

    Thank you for the reply – and this is precisely what I am trying to articulate, but my thoughts aren’t coming across. The claim is that homosexuality in humans goes against the ‘essence’ of what it is to be human, and so in that regard it is unnatural.

    Do other things have essence? For example, a bear riding a tricycle could be said to be unnatural, and some have argued that the humans were wrong in getting circus animals to perform. I’m OK with this argument – that is a valid argument from Natural Law.

    What about homosexuality in animals then. Can you make the positive claim that the essence of giraffe does not include homosexual acts between giraffe? Could you not say that homosexual acts in giraffe’s “frustrates the natural end of giraffe sexuality”? No – because our understanding of the essence of giraffe (or any animal) allows for homosexual acts as a part of what it is to be that animal.

    How then can you make the positive claim that the essence of man excludes homosexual activity? It seems as though the claim rests on a proper discernment of what this ‘essence’ is, and does it or does it not include homosexuality. You say that it does not (and it is apparently self evident). I say that it might, and I point to the ‘essence’ of other animals which does include homosexuality as evidence.

    I see this as leaving us on the horns of a dilemma. Either homosexual acts are a part of the created order as evidenced by other animals, or they are evidence of sinful corruption. If they are evidence of sinful corruption, then we aught to curb homosexuality in the rest of created order, just as we attempt to curb it in humanity. Either all creatures are acting contrary to their essence, or none of them are, or you need to explain how YOU know that the essence of humanity does not include homosexuality, where as the essence of bonobos does.

    The sex organs of male and female are by nature created for complimentarity directed to propagation of the species. By natural design, the male sex organ, for example, emits seed when stimulated. The purpose of emitting seed is to permit creation of life by being joined with an egg within a woman. This is what is meant (in my understanding) of natural law: the use of something according to its purpose in nature, its purpose as designed. However, such a purpose, such a design, does not prevent using these traits primarily for other purposes (e.g. pleasure). Using something for other than its primary purpose (pleasure) as its primary purpose is when the term disordered is aptly applied.

    I don’t think your argument holds up. The tire swing in my back yard is not disordered. All this rests in our ability to properly discern the essence of humanity – its nature. Maybe your Magisterium can give you guidance on this issue, and it says that the essence of humanity does not include homosexual behavior. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it drops the rest of us into circular reasoning where the Magisterium makes the rules based on the essence which it gets to define however it wants to. At that point the essence ceases to be self-evident.

  105. Hi Bob,

    I’m going to take a stab at this too. Distinctions among creature are recognized only be a particular creature that has the quiddity to make distinctions.

    All other creatures act in nature according to mere appetite, and by nature have no intellectual function that allows them to see that intercourse is meant for a specific end; namely the propagation of the species. Man because of his possession of reason is able see that intercourse has a telos.

    A creature that has reason is the only creature that can be said to be moral because it is the only creature that recognizes its own essence as being a reasonable creature. If he violates the dictates of what his reason tells him, he is culpable because in this way, he is violating what is his nature…the nature peculiar to man.
    His reason tells him that the essence of sex is procreative, and to act contrary to that is to act contrary to his essence of being a reasonable creature.

    Anyone, correct me if I’m wrong.

    Susan

  106. Bob,

    re: 104.

    The tire swing in your back yard is not a living thing and perhaps Im confused but I see no relevance to the topic. What I do see is a lack of interaction with the very clear basic points about the nature of sexuality other than to push it off on some supposed need for a Magisterium. The whole gist of natural law arguments are that they are evident from the nature of things as they are (not as they necessarily behave according to the purpose of what they are). Please, I am very interested to hear how “my” argument does not “hold up”. Can I have more detail than an ipse dixit?

    Thanks.

    In Him,
    Bill

  107. Bob,
    On natural law start with these:

    Whose nature?Which law?

    Metaphysics of romantic love

  108. @Bill 104
    The nature of a tire is to go on a vehicle and be useful on the road. To use it in a tire swing is purely for pleasure, and against the essence of tire. Use of tires outside the bounds of a road is sinful. (yes – thick with hyperbole).

    I understand how male / female genitalia match up, and how it might seem obvious that the normal configuration is the only correct configuration, and I understand how this idea of essence and natural law came about (self evident law). The problem is that the people who came up with this have a known agenda, and conveniently ignore how the rest of nature uses its genitalia. The premise that frustrating the normal outcome of sex, or engaging in sex without being open to the possibility of children is against nature is a flawed premise. How can we know? Because the rest of God’s creation does the same thing. Either the essence of all these other animals has been bent towards disorder, or the examination of our own essence is flawed.

    It is not in the essence of bonobos to be 3 legged – it is in there essence to have sex with just about any other bonobo they come across. How do you know that our essence does not also include homosexuality just as bonobo’s does, or left handedness, or black skin? Or is the magisterium the only one’s who get to say what is in an essence or not?

  109. Hi Bob,

    As per your “homosexuality among animals” example:

    Animals are not moral agents because they are not rational. Thus, we do not speak of lions and dogs committing murder, rape, or theft – even though many of their actions would in fact be murder, rape, and theft if performed willfully by fully rational human beings. For exactly this reason, we do not ascribe moral responsibility to humans who act in this way under psychotic delusion.

    So, I doubt we can we can speak of “homosexuality among animals.” Probably we can, at most, speak of animals performing acts which would be homosexual if performed by rational, consenting humans. But I don’t know enough about animal psychology to really say. It doesn’t matter. Animal homosexuality, if it exist, would not be sinful for the same reason that animal “murder, rape, and theft” are not sinful.

    There is more to the essence “human” than being sexually dimorphic. Human is, first and foremost, rational. That is to say, the human person is able to discern the end or final cause of at least some things, is able to rationally adapt means to ends, etc. This is what makes man a moral agent, and not animals.

    Again – questions of statistical probability, animal biology, and so forth are just not determinative.

    does this help?

    David

  110. Bob, (re: #108)

    Your tire example doesn’t work because tires are artifacts, and artifacts as such have only extrinsic natures/teleologies, whereas the human nature on which natural law is based is an intrinsic nature. Your animal examples miss the point, because they equivocate on the term ‘nature,’ as I pointed out in comment #102, and Feser explains in the links Tap provided in #107. Your “the people who came up with this” objection is an ad hominem which could just as easily be returned to those who disagree with what I’ve said here, thus cancelling each other out, and in no way advancing our conversation toward agreement in the truth.

    You wrote:

    The premise that frustrating the normal outcome of sex, or engaging in sex without being open to the possibility of children is against nature is a flawed premise. How can we know? Because the rest of God’s creation does the same thing.

    Here you set up a straw man, by construing the natural law argument as one based on ‘nature’ defined as whatever things do. But, as explained above, that’s not the sense of the term ‘nature’ on which the natural law argument is based. In order to criticize the natural law argument, you first have to understand it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  111. Archbishop Cordileone discusses the question in USA Today.

    UPDATE: Archbishop Cordileone’s talk at the March for Marriage, June 19, 2014:

  112. Two very human depictions of persons living and struggling with same-sex attraction, approached from a Catholic point of view are found in the films “The Third Way” and “Desire of the Everlasting Hills.”

    The Third Way:

    The Third Way from Blackstone Films on Vimeo.

    and Desire of the Everlasting Hills:

    Desire of the Everlasting Hills from Everlasting Hills on Vimeo.

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