Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Marriage: More than friends with government benefits

December 10th, 2012, Promulgated by b a

This is another guest post by Dan Kane, a Director of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights at the European University of Rome and the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum.

With the Supreme Court hearing arguments regarding same, gender marriage in March, 2013, I would like to toss my hat into the proverbial ring regarding the nature of marriage.

Marriage is not simply the joining of two people who love each other and are committed to each other. Typically, we all love and are committed to many people.

Marriage is the primordial contract between men and women and the common denominator of all cultures, places and times. Marriage has no distinct beginning and predates all governments and religions. It has been unchanging in its essential nature from the start of history – until our present experiment.

With respect to history homosexuality is seemingly primordial as well. However, until now, homosexuality was a behavior and not an identity. It reflected what one did – namely a preferred fashion of sexual behavior, not a cultural lifestyle or personal identity.

The natural and complimentary differences between man and woman are at the core of what defines marriage. By nature, no other type of union can bring children into the world and by reason no other type of union is better suited to raise them. When children are not possible because of disease, age or intention, a natural marriage continues to supports this notion of male – female complimentarily as the basis of a natural family.

This point bears exploring. Is homosexual marriage the same as natural marriage if the couple – for whatever reason is incapable of conceiving children?


While there may be some superficial similarities – deep friendship and love, shared resources, etc; couples incapable of conception are not the same as homosexual couples. Robert George raised a pertinent analogy using of all things, baseball.

A baseball team has its characteristic structure largely because of its orientation to winning games; it involves developing and sharing one’s athletic skills in the way best suited for honorably winning (among other things, with assiduous practice and good sportsmanship). But such development and sharing are possible and inherently valuable for teammates even when they lose their games. Just so, marriage has its characteristic structure largely because of its orientation to procreation; it involves developing and sharing one’s body and whole self in the way best suited for honorable parenthood—among other things, permanently and exclusively. But such development and sharing, including the bodily union of the generative act, are possible and inherently valuable for spouses even when they do not conceive children.

By extending the conjugal concept of marriage further (and doing my best to keep this PG-13) even sterile couples become a one-flesh union. They become one by design naturally. The same-sex couple does not and cannot. Homosexual behavior is something one does to another while the act of marriage is something one does with another.

Such acts regardless of the affection or intention of the parties involved are not unifying or life giving even as an icon. Homosexual acts are a personal search for sexual fulfillment by using bodies contrary to their design. Indeed, it is a sin that “cries out for vengeance from heaven” because it corrupts the icon of the Holy Trinity that natural marriage is.

Protecting natural marriage is not bigotry or a denial of rights – not every desire is a right; or an imposed religious conviction – Catholicism did not invent marriage, it simply protects it. Natural marriage predates all religion, all time, all places and all cultures. One should consider, who is imposing, denying or a bigot – those who simply uphold what humanity has known in every time and place from the very start of civilization – or those who want to define marriage to suit their own attractions to include relationships never recognized in the history of civilization as marital.

Marriage is not thriving in our culture; non-marital sexual activity abounds and even the Catholic Governor of New York publicly cohabits. We have had 55 first ladies in NY and one first concubine and not one person is the least bit concerned. Catholic representatives – the fruit of the most dismal catechesis possible – from near and far voted to legalize marriage in NYS last year and voted to force Catholic entities to provide contraception and sterilization services several years before that.

The confusion over marriage is the result of the near universal acceptance of contraception reducing acts once reserved to the married to an ordinary, even recreational, behavior. Homosexual activist Andrew Sullivan correctly observed “we are all sodomites now” referencing the widespread use of artificial contraception and recreational sex. Alter the acts proper to the married and you naturally distort the perceived meaning of marriage.

With sexual activity and the resulting conception of children – once considered particular and specific to marriage now separated from marriage; it is not hard to see how this confusion results in the nature of marriage becoming a question for the first time in recorded history. Prior to our era, only marriage made a sexual relationship licit and responsible in the eyes of the culture.

Throughout all time, cultures and governments of every type have defined marriage as a union between man and woman. By its very nature, marriage is more than a public declaration of personal love between two persons and the validation of sexual behavior. Marriage is the framework and the holistic structure within which a new generation is naturally conceived and formed by role models that are both male and female with gifts, temperaments and natures that are both complimentary and contrasting.

Marriage also cannot be reduced to “friends with government benefits”. If there are unjust tax, inheritance and guardianship laws, they should be properly addressed. The solution to a legislative entitlement injustice – particular to the entitlement culture of America, is not to jettison marriage for a tax deduction.

The campaign to change the meaning of marriage has one goal a largely symbolic statement from the government that same-sex relationships are equivalent to marriages. But they are not equivalent in nature, purpose, kind or history so this statement cannot be honestly made without distorting – in a word, lying – about what natural marriage is. Intense, personal, sexual friendships that have the hope of permanence do exist. However, that is insufficient to define these friendships as marriage.

Pray that the Holy Spirit inspires the Supreme Court to properly define marriage so that our nation does not become complicit in another horrendous sin that cries to Heaven for justice because justice will indeed be brought to our shores as we further habituate our nation to a culture of sin and death.


16 Responses to “Marriage: More than friends with government benefits”

  1. Scott W. says:

    –The sports team analogy is a good one to remember because discussions on this are usually a case where the defender of true marriage includes the procreative aspect and the same-sex advocate goes, “Aha! But what about barren heterosexual couples?” and then pretends he doesn’t understand the concept of marriage being ordered to procreation.

    –He’s spot on about contraception. This illustrates that the Church has some very weak and unreliable allies because those outside of the Church who are against same-sex “marriage” are usually either ambivalent or enthusiastic supporters of contraception. This means you can expect such allies to eventually crumble and embrace the indefensible. Get used to being alone. However, you may have noticed certain types even within the Church who use the widespread use of contraception as an excuse to counsel despair and capitulation on same-sex shenanigans. Which brings me to…

    –Underminers inside the Church. There are Catholics who contracept. There are certain notorious bishops who run cover for homosexuality. But there are also otherwise good Catholics who (presumably) innocently swallow the libertarian potion about “getting the government out of the marriage business” When you get those, please point them to our marching orders:

    –speaking of libertarian hoo-haw, don’t use, or let anyone use, the phrase “allowing gays to marry.” It’s baloney because the government isn’t passive when it comes to enforcing contracts. No one enforces one contract or law and not another without making a judgment of good and bad. You are not “allowing”, you are materially and formally supporting.

    –Study up because it is on this issue as much or even more than abortion that we will be tested. We have already seen people fired from jobs, students and parents bullied, and even one case of fleeing the country. This is a hill we have to die on. Don’t say yes if you are just going to flake out later.

  2. DanielKane says:

    A completely different perspective that supports natural marriage from the Witherspoon Institute (also published yesterday) –

    This argument is pure law (no morals) and is quite unique.

  3. DanielKane says:

    Scott W. – could not agree more. We must rebut at every encounter a human/civil rights argument because (1) it is not a right (2) if considered a right there is tremendous, forceful law.

  4. Ludwig says:

    I admit this one is tricky for me. I’m an all-out registered libertarian, and I have a tendency to think that society is headed in the direction of “gay marriage” whether we like it or not. (And to be clear, I do NOT like it.)

    I just wonder if legislation is a practical or effective battleground in which we try to fight this today.

    There are plenty of immoral things that are “legal.” Some, (abortion, for example) we largely agree we should fight legislatively. Others (lying, breaking the Sabbath, greed, or even general homosexual behavior outside of the “marriage” argument) we don’t propose to fight legislatively. We fight these sins by example and personal interaction with those who struggle with these sins.

    A legislative ban on gay “marriage” (1) probably won’t stand very long and (2) won’t change the “hearts and minds” of any gay couple determined to “play house.”

    I’m afraid we only set ourselves up for failure by trying to fight this legislatively.

    (I don’t post this is “Ludwig’s final and authoritative word” on the subject. Just throwing out a perspective that I struggle with and constantly question. Ben has sent me a 43 page PDF repudiating the “civil unions for all” concept that I find a tempting “punt.” I’ll find the time to read it one of these days.)

    Please don’t flame me. =)

  5. DanielKane says:

    Hey Ludwig – The media is headed towards same sex marriage, not society. When same sex marriage is put to the people, it is defeated 37 times and approved once. Even on state ballots this past election, the defeat of same sex marriage got more votes than Romney. Even California voted to ban same sex marriage (Prop. 8). So the legislative track is a decent one to pursue. Now that it is on the Supreme Court docket,it will likely be decided by the Court by midsummer with arguments set for March, 2013.

    At the end of the day, the unintended consequences of same sex marriage, like the unintended consequences of Roe v Wade will be WORSE than the decision itself. Once children (either actually or symbolically – in the aged) are removed anyone may marry for any reason.

    Incestuous marriages will surly come about because if the conjugal issue is set aside, why don’t I marry my mother? She would benefit from my superior medical insurance and I would benefit from about 40 years of survivor’s benefits from her social security and retirement. I would inherit her estate tax free. Undoubtedly we love each other (which appears to be the criteria). She is (actually) my dependent so my marriage to her would benefit society by me assuming responsibility for her. Indeed, there already is some financial interweaving. Just like gay marriage, such a vulgar proposition only hurts society and benefits only the parties involved in the long term.

    Couples have been playing house since the times of King David – maybe even before that. They will continue, I presume, to do so. Not allowing them to enter into marriage will not change that; on this we agree. But homosexuality as a cultural behavior is quite new. Undoubtedly, there were always persons who have a preferred form of sexual expression that includes the same gender. But, and this is critical for the last 1900 years or so, homosexuality was something you did, today, it is something you are a cultural shift not noticed by anyone.

    If homosexual marriage is acceptable, where (literally and honestly) is the line – incest, monogamy, group marriages, bestiality…and how can anyone rebut these examples and include homosexual marriage? It is simply impossible. Making the mutual desire of the spouses the solitary criteria for marriage negates all taboos regarding marriage. I am denied the equal protection of the law if two guys can marry and I may not marry my mother. Legally and philosophically this is poorly thought through and the unintended consequences are real.

  6. Scott W. says:

    I’m afraid we only set ourselves up for failure by trying to fight this legislatively.

    It isn’t about succeeding or failing. It is about witnessing to the truth. Please read the link I provided. Or to sum it up:

    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.

    Win or lose legislatively, we have to fight because the state has an obligation to protect true marriage and laws that enshrine homosexual “marriages” are no more legitimate than if it re-enacted the Fugitive Slave Act.

  7. annonymouse says:

    Sadly, this is an area in which it appears that the enemy is having great success. For this past election marked the first time “gay marriage” has ever succeeded at the ballot box. But this dark movement appears to be gaining momentum. There is overwhelming support for recognition of “gay marriage” among our young people. You cannot watch primetime TV (especially ABC) without confronting homosexuality, spun always in a positive light. News media use the Westboro Baptists as their example of the religious opposition to “gay rights.” And sadly, our Church (while publicly opposed to “gay marriage” in most places – although such opposition seemed notably absent in some NYS dioceses last year) seems to be silent on the fundamental issues at hand – the disordered nature of homosexual attraction, and the sinfulness of homosexual “relations,” and a right understanding of human sexuality.

    I don’t expect this tidal wave to stop anytime soon. Just this morning I read that UPS has now withdrawn its long-time support of the Boy Scouts over their reaffirmed decision to exclude gay leaders. Starbucks, General Foods, and a host of others have gone far past neutrality and have contributed to “gay marriage” recognition efforts.

    Yes we should oppose such efforts legislatively. But I think in order to be successful there needs to be a much broader effort to teach our secular culture a rightly-ordered paradigm of human sexuality, one in which the intrinsic link between sex and procreation is restored. Societal acceptance of homosexuality and official recognition of such unions is an obvious result of the contraceptive mindset so prevalent in our culture for the past fifty or so years.

  8. Ben Anderson says:

    This battle is certainly not lost… and it’s definitely nowhere near bleak enough to give up the fight. One thing I’ll note that I think finally got through to a friend that I was having a debate with on the topic… I just kept coming back to this – same-sex-relationships, whatever you want to call them, will always be something different than relationships that can create life. Whatever you want to call them – they are different. I give credit to Jimmy Akin who said, “you’re just playing games with words.” If they hijack the word marriage to mean something other, that doesn’t change the fact that there are still 2 distinct things that aren’t the same. You have to admit that there is a difference. Thus the whole equality argument flies out the window. The other thing I’ll mention is that I think religious folks need to learn the non-religious arguments much better. Religious arguments don’t fly with non-religious folks (and religious folks who don’t want to impose their moral code on others). It’s fine to use religious arguments within the Church, but they don’t work too well outside. It’s a really simple concept that many people don’t seem to grasp. We are in no way trying to impose our theology on anyone. It’s a fact of nature that two people of the same sex cannot produce children.

  9. Ben Anderson says:

    apparently I’m not done. I find myself mostly dispelling myths when having these debates:

    – I’m not telling same sex couples they can’t live together.
    – I’m not telling same sex couples they can’t have visitation rights or any other red herrings in this debate.
    – I’m not denying any rights to same sex couples.
    – I don’t think “homosexuals” are less human than “heterosexuals”.
    – Most people don’t live according to the proper Christian sexual code of conduct, so I really don’t view homosexuals any differently than anyone else. In fact I’ve had good relationships with many.
    – All I’m saying is that same-sex relationships are different than a life-long man-woman relationship oriented towards the bearing and rearing of children.
    – Passing ssm legislation doesn’t offer more freedom – it significantly takes away the freedom to treat these relationships differently. This is spelled out quite well in RR Reno’s “The Selma Analogy” (anti-discrimation laws will be put into full force and you will not be allowed to disagree)

  10. annonymouse says:

    Ben, I WOULD deny homosexual couples the same adoption rights as heterosexual couples. Kids need a father and mother and we oughtn’t deny them that opportunity when there are many heterosexual couples that would like to adopt.

    The other frightening aspect of this is what is/will be taught in schools. Schools will treat same-sex couples as morally equivalent to opposite-sex couples. Sex education courses will, obviously, need to discuss and teach what is, frankly, sodomy. And our Church’s teaching will be further balkanized.

    I agree that this is a fight that needs to be fought.

    One encouraging aspect is that perhaps our separated Christian brethren will see the Church, in her consistent teaching on these matters, in a new light.

  11. Ben Anderson says:

    Ben, I WOULD deny homosexual couples the same adoption rights as heterosexual couples.

    I completely agree with what you’re saying – just not the wording. Since I don’t consider it a right to raise someone else’s child, I will continue to say I have no interest in denying same-sex couples any rights.

    One encouraging aspect is that perhaps our separated Christian brethren will see the Church, in her consistent teaching on these matters, in a new light.

    indeed it is. It really puts the whole “invisible” church theory to the test.

  12. Richard Thomas says:

    Actually there was a study indicating chldren of homosexual couples had more emotional dysfunction and did poorer that heterosexual children. So this would be an argument for denying sams=e sex couples adoption rights

  13. raymondfrice says:

    “Actually there was a study indicating chldren of homosexual couples had more emotional dysfunction and did poorer that heterosexual children. So this would be an argument for denying sams=e sex couples adoption rights.”

    It is often the case that same-sex couples will take the hard to adopt “leftovers” that the heterosexual peoples will not take because they prefer a more perfect child, rather than those ‘damaged” by abusive parents or are neurologically impaired. Of course there will be more problems!!

    A similar situation is Rochester General Hospital Cardiology which has a lower mortality rate than Strong because Strong takes the cases that RGH rejects.

  14. Ben Anderson says:

    I assume you’re referring to the Regnerus study? In which case, Raymond, this study has faced the highest levels of scrutiny and seems to have come out unscathed. If you’re able to write it off so quickly with your argument above, you might want to send a letter to the homosexual lobbyists – they will be very pleased to realize they’ve missed something so obvious and I’m sure would be willing to reward you greatly.

  15. raymondfrice says:

    “argument above”

    I did not see my position as an argument but based on an opinion from my experience in the adoption field in Monroe County. I always saw children as being better off with caring people rather than to be left in an impersonal institutional setting. I guess some studies indicate I was wrong.

  16. Richard Thomas says:

    Hi Ray,

    Sure, there are people of same sex attraction who are caring people. I am concerned about the longevity of same sex relationships. On the average,same sex marriages last about 1 and 1/2 years. So it seems tome the children will have a revolving door of ” whose acting as mother or father ” and that is not stable

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