The gay marriage debate in brief

On the part of liberals, the underlying premise is that marriage is, and should be, nothing more than government sanction of romantic/sexual relationships, which may be ended at will and have nothing to do with procreation.

Under this definition of civil marriage, it’s hard to refute the argument that forbidding it to homosexuals is based on bigotry. Since heterosexual marriages are no longer necessarily related to procreation, why should we forbid marriage to homosexuals on that ground?

Of course, I disagree with that definition. Therefore I don’t use a double standard: I don’t favor heterosexual marriages which may be ended at will and have nothing to do with procreation, while opposing gay marriages which may be ended at will and have nothing to do with procreation. I oppose both. I think that marriage, once entered into, should not be an at-will proposition, but should only be ended for grave reasons (again, speaking in terms of the civil law), and that it should have procreation and childrearing as its main purpose.

But politically speaking, that train left the station long ago. Since civil marriage is already a train wreck (I didn’t want to use two train metaphors in a row but I can’t think of a better one than “train wreck”), I can’t help feeling more-or-less indifferent to who does or doesn’t participate in it from here on out. I can’t even see why it should matter to a Christian businessman whether he bakes a cake for a gay civil wedding. There is nothing inherently immoral about going through a ceremony in which people promise to love and be faithful to each other until such time as they no longer want to.

Now if two men or two women wanted to have a sacramental wedding in a Catholic church, that would be a sacrilege since it would be mocking a sacrament, like celebrating Mass with pizza and beer. No Catholic could participate in such a thing with a clear conscience. But a civil marriage ceremony is not a sacrament, and a civil wedding — under the definition of civil marriage current in modern American culture — is not made a mockery by being participated in by two persons of the same sex.

Am I wrong?

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12 thoughts on “The gay marriage debate in brief

  1. I am with you there. A priest relative argues the reclamation should be of the word matrimony, signifying the religious sense of a marriage, over simple civil versions. I agree…


  2. I agree with you 100% on this. Civil marriage is a property contract at it’s base. I have argued in the past that government should not be in the “marriage” business, that they should offer “family incorporation” where people can share whatever property rights they want with whatever partner they want.

    But I would also say that you should read up on the history of marriage in the Catholic church. It wasn’t even a sacrament for over 1000 years and didn’t come into its modern form until the 1600s.

    Strengthening marriages is about relationship, IMHO, and no amount of symbolism, wording or anything else is going to do that. If the church wants people to stay together forever they are going to have to teach people how to do that. I will be honest and say I have no idea how to teach people to do that. The couple who taught the pre-Cana class I attended later divorced. My wife and I briefly ran the pre-Cana program for our parish and we divorced. So, I have no answers there.

    But I am sure that simply prohibiting divorce is not the answer either.


  3. Paine:

    How cool that we agree on something. : )

    I don’t agree that marriage was not a sacrament for the first 1000 years of the Church’s existence. I haven’t done a lot of research, but this article spells out the argument:

    I do know that marriage was not a concern of the civil government until after the Protestant Reformation.

    I don’t believe that you can teach people how to “strengthen” marriages. In fact I’m not even sure what that would mean. In the Catholic scheme, a marriage simply is permanent, and in that sense it’s strong since what God has joined no man can put asunder. The strength of a marriage, in this sense, in no way depends upon the happiness or contentedness of the parties.

    But based on my own experience, I do strongly believe that forbidding divorce can help to make marriages happy. Giving people an “out” tends to make both parties insecure. The reason is that any relationship will get “old” at some point, and both parties know this on some level, so right from the start in any romantic relationship there is an underlying insecurity: What happens when the relationship gets old? Will it get old for me first, or for him? Then, when it does start to get old, and they start to get tired of each other, and start to get older and fatter and lose the bloom of youth, the question becomes, Should I hang on until he can’t stand me any more, or dump him before he dumps me?

    But in Catholic marriage, since dumping is forbidden, these questions need not arise. Of course the relationship will get old, and the parties will get older and fatter and lose the bloom of youth, but there is no point in going out and trying to find something better, since you can’t marry anyone else, or have sex outside marriage.

    Now obviously, some Catholics get divorced anyway, and some go out and commit adultery. But that’s not the point. The Church’s teachings can’t help those who disregard them. But for those of genuine faith, who recognize that they are bound to to obey the Church’s precepts under pain of sin, the prohibition of divorce is a source of security in the marriage, which in turn helps to reinforce trust, which helps to eliminate feelings of insecurity, all of which promotes happiness in the marriage. I know this from my own experience and have also been told it by others.


  4. By the way, Paine, I like your idea of a “family incorporation where people can share whatever property rights they want with whatever partner they want.” I hadn’t heard it described that way before, but it’s brilliant.


  5. Gay marriage is inherently immoral according to every definition of the word moral!!

    “Knowing the Love of Christ: An Introduction to the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas”, pg 46-47.
    First, let’s go with Thomas Aquinas. There are three parts to any given action: the intention, the object, and the circumstances.

    “To evaluate actions, we must examine all three parts. The intention of the act is why we are doing it. The object of the act is the accurate description of what we are immediately doing. The circumstances of the act form all of the details surrounding the act that are neither the intention nor the object, but nonetheless alter the character of the act. St. homas notes that for an action to be considered right, it must be good with respect to all three aspects–its intention, its object, and its circumstances. AN action is wrong if it fails in any of the three parts. Consider the case of paying a friend $500 for a ten-year-old pickup truck. First, what is the intention? To acquire cheap transportation to and from a job or to use the truck in a terrorist attack? Second, what is the object of the act? Do you give you friend legitimate or counterfeit currency? Third, what are the circumstances of the act? If you are ten years old, should you really be driving a truck? Buying the pickup truck becomes a bad action if it fails in any one of the above categories.

    St. Thomas holds, therefore, that it is not morally permissible to do something evil (a bad object) for a good reason (a good intention). THe action would be wrong regardless of the intention. There are intrinsically evil acts that can never be justified whatever the circumstances or consequences–adultery, murder, apostasy, and so on. The martyrs exemplify the refusal to commit the sin of denying Christ even while knowing that earthly torture and death will result. St. Paul shows this when he asks rhetorically, “Why not do evil so that good may come?” (Rom 3:8). THe fundamental morality of the act is judged in terms of the object of the act. Circumstances and intentions, nonetheless, are required to come to a full description of the action.

    For an action to be judged a good action, it must be done for the right reason, the action itself must be good, and it must be done in the right circumstances. Consider the act of seving a meal at a homeless shetler. THe object of the act is undeniably good- feeding the hungry. Yet it must be done for the right intention. Feeding the hungry is hardly praiseworthy if it is only done to pad one’s resume. Finally, the circumstances must be acceptable as well. If a husband were at a soup kitchen while he knew his wife was having a baby at the hospital, the act would be a wrong act. The husband would be doing the right thing, but at the wrong time. As T.S. Eliot wrote, “It is a tragic thing to do the right thing for the wrong reason.”

    gay marriage: intention: loving marriage: yes good?

    object: no, always wrong, physical destruction of self. tearing the anus and thus spreading HIV, is one example.
    “Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM)a represent approximately 2% of the United States population, yet are the population most severely affected by HIV. In 2010, young gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24 years) accounted for 72% of new HIV infections among all persons aged 13 to 24, and 30% of new infections among all gay and bisexual men. At the end of 2011, an estimated 500,022 (57%) persons living with an HIV diagnosis in the United States were gay and bisexual men, or gay and bisexual men who also inject drugs.”

    circumstances: Looking at America, giving neither interracial marriage or slave marriage legal standing erased the difference between man and women in favor of creating a difference between races. Support of homosexuality (and comparing to bigotry) is just more of the same – erasing the difference between man and women while creating a difference between races. Those who support gay marriage should be treated like those who supported slavery, and that’s why Venerable Henriette DeLille is under consideration for canonization.

    Also, homosexuality generally comes as a result of sin. The science is very strong on the link behind childhood incest, etc. and adult homosexuality.

    That’s not the only cause. An environment of emotional denial and lack of assertiveness can also lead to homosexuality. There have been many sexual scandals in the Catholic Church that have cost millions of dollars to parishioners, i.e. the 2014 Chapter 11 bankruptcy of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese after Archbishop Rembert Weakland’s gay sexual scandal. Baars anticipated the sexual scandals that would befall the Church before they were publicized by the media, writing “The Role of the Church in the Causation, Treatment, and Prevention of the Crisis in the Priesthood.” Their work on affirmation helps explain the scandals, and homosexuality is more prevalent among the poor (40% of homeless youth are so-called LGBT according to the LGBT Homeless Youth Provider Survey) Excerpts from Fr. Rembert Weakland’s autobiography, “A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church” also illustrate how Dr. Joseph Nicolosi’s clinical experience and research on homosexuality relates to this situation.

    Baars writes in “Psychic Wholeness and Healing: Using All the Powers of the Human Psyche,” “In contrast to the anxiety, fears, restlessness, tension, phobias, scrupulosity, obsessive thinking and compulsive acts of the repressive neurosis, the chief characteristics of the frustration neurosis are: feelings of inferiority and inadequacy, inability to establish normal rapport with one’s peers and form lasting friendships; feelings of loneliness and insecurity; doubts about one’s self-worth and identity; fear of the adult world, and often deep depressions. Although the more energetic among them are able to succeed in business or profession, they fail in their personal lives. If married, they find it impossible to relate in a spontaneous and emotionally satisfying way with spouse and children. In matters of faith, dullness prevails as their feelings cannot participate in a spiritual life. Their religious experience is neither “a burden that is light,” nor “a yoke that is sweet.” Their psychosexual immaturity may express itself in various ways; for instance, in masturbation, homosexuality, sexual impotence or frigidity.

    The syndrome of the frustration neurosis, discovered approximately fifteen years ago by Dr. Terruwe, has put into focus the significance of emotional love for man’s growth as a unique person as well as for his spiritual life. This is a decidedly different focus from that of the ascetical teachings of the Church which in the past seemed to leave little or no room for the emotion of love as something worth cultivating for the sake of the spiritual life. The only love valued by the Church was volitional love, the love of the spiritual will prompting to acts of love. Emotional love and affection, simple human cordiality, if not considered evil, were looked upon with suspicion and thought potentially harmful to one’s life in and with Christ. Spiritual books left one with the impression that intercourse with the Lord presupposed a breaking of all the natural ties one can have with men, and that the mortification of human affections was ascetically laudable in the noble pursuit of solitude and withdrawal from one’s fellowmen.”

    Weakland’s private scandal was accompanied by professional success, rising to friendship with the Pope and appointment as an Archbishop. His autobiography is in line with points raised by Baars. “I still yearned for a relationship, a friendship in which someone would understand and accept me as I was….Somewhat on the rebound, I was caught up over the next few years in an effort to find an intimate relationship with another… Very slowly I began to come to terms with my loneliness…It took time to understand what spiritual writers had always said, namely, that there is a hole, a deep void, an unfulfilled yearning that all humans possess – some sensing it more than others – and into that emptiness and loneliness no other person can really reach.”

    “My spiritual director spoke about having a stronger relationship with Jesus Christ, not just an intellectual one, but an existential one. There had been moments when such a relationship was very real to me – I have mentioned a few already – and I tried to keep these in mind, but I soon realized that a relationship with Jesus Christ, as intense as it might be on the spiritual level, could not fill the emptiness rising from the lack of the physical presence and reality of another human person. In fact, it may have contributed to my tendency to intellectualize everything. The spiritual did not adequately fill the empty hole I felt, and I was often left dry, as spiritual writers say, for days on end. I read what I could about spiritual dryness among the saints and their means of coping with it. But transposing their terminology into modern psychological terms did not provide any easy answers. P 197

    “Although successful in my studies, I cannot say the same about acquiring a deeper understanding of myself, psychological or sexual. I lived very much in my head, and my only emotional outlet was my music.” He often talks about feeling inferior to others in his childhood and attributes it to poverty. As previously mentioned, homosexuality is higher among the poor.

    Nicolosi devotes three chapters to “the importance of the father-son relationship”, “formation of the father-son bond”, and “failure of the father-son relationship” in “Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality.” Weakland lost his father in early childhood and writes: “How often it has come to me that much of my life was spent seeking the father-figure that had been there so briefly” and does not have significant friends in his childhood, perhaps due to “being exceptionally sensitive to the teasing of other kids” (due to being on relief for poverty – 29).

    Spitzer, who was a recipient of a Thomas William Salmon Medal from the New York Academy of Medicine, showed that the very religious did have some degree of remission for homosexuality in his presentation Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? at the 2001 annual APA meeting. Since failure of fatherhood is also linked to other failures in life, (Footnote 3 ) this psychological/ theological research would also help with poverty reduction.

    Anyways, compare these relationships with the letters between St. Gianna Molla and her husband. No comparison between the pinnacle of gay relationship and pinnacle of heterosexual relationship! You are right not to favor heterosexual marriages that (intentionally) have nothing to do with procreation, but love is the goal of marriage over and above procreation. These “gay marriages” are the opposite of loving. The issue with “bad” heterosexual marriages has always been there – just read Chapter 26 of Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden about the difference between bad/good heterosexual marriages and is no excuse for favoring gay marriage.


  6. marianroses:

    Thanks for your comment, but I’m pretty sure you’re missing my point. I agree that homosexual activities are immoral. But that’s not what the post was about. My point was that civil “marriage” in this country long ago stopped being marriage according to the Catholic understanding. When Americans acquiesced in disassociating marriage from procreation, and allowing no-fault divorce, it stopped being marriage in the authentic sense. Civil marriage in this country has, for a long time now, been nothing more than government recognition of people’s temporary romantic inclinations.

    I agree that it would be a sacrilege for two men or two women to try to get married by a priest in a Catholic church, and any sexual relations that took place within such a “marriage” would also be intrinsically immoral (though I doubt that one gay couple in a thousand waits until civil “marriage” to start having sex). But what people do in a civil marriage has only a surface resemblance to the Catholic understanding of marriage. In which case, it’s not really marriage at all, and therefore I’m not sure that there is any point in Catholics worrying themselves over the state of civil marriage any longer.

    The time for Catholics (and other Christians) to concern themselves over the state of civil marriage was 50 years ago, when contraception became widely accepted and divorce became quick and easy. But we let those things happen with nary a whimper. Gay marriage is just taking these things to their logical conclusions. If marriage is not essentially about procreation, then why shouldn’t two men or two women get married? It follows from the premises. We conceded the premises and now we’re reaping the harvest.


  7. Pingback: Will gay marriage ruin marriage? | Agellius's Blog

  8. Hi! Thank you for your thoughtful reply and awesome to know that you see it as sacrilege. Very sorry for replying so late – I initially came online to edit/condense the previous post and don’t have email notification for replies set up. Ok, so you are saying that there was a time, around 50 years ago, when there was a break in America (?) between civil marriage in accord with the Catholic understanding versus government’s recognition of people’s temporary romantic inclinations. We agree that the full depth of the authentic sense/Catholic understanding can never be recognized in civil marriage anyways, even in a country like Malta. Chap 26 of St. Bridget of Sweden considers “the perversion of bodily matrimony in this age” contrasting 7 goods of spiritual marriage versus 7 evils of marriage in her day, and no one is trying to codify these 7 goods/evils into law. However, prior to 50 years ago, civil marriage was not in accord with the Catholic understanding. That is one of the reasons why Venerable Henriette DeLille is on the way to sainthood for condemning the legal placage system that formed her parents’ union that she was pressured to follow. She lived 1813-1862. So how is apathy on the civil recognition of gay marriage because of the existence of no-fault divorce today different from apathy on no-fault divorce 50 years ago because of the legal placage system?

    It is hard to stop the public opinion tide towards gay marriage given no-fault divorce, etc. However, legal recognition of gay marriage would have negative effects on society over and above where things currently stand. There are advances in reparative therapy that have worked for some people, and legal acceptance of gay marriage threatens further scientific advance/treatment. Dawn Stefanowicz in the book, “Out from Under: The Impact of Homosexual Parenting” explains her hellish childhood experience. Here’s a catholic review of the book: Civil recognition makes advocating for children harder, if more therapists begin encouraging homosexuality instead of seeing it as a possible sign of childhood abuse/unhealthy family dynamics, deny the possibility of treatment, or foster-care children (etc.) no longer receive preferential placement into normal biological families as gay parents receive equal legal adoptive privileges.

    About 300 years BCE, when Plato wrote his Symposium, publically sanctioned homosexuality was a social reality in Greece. N.T. Wright controversially argues that it was this social milieu that St. Paul was attacking in Romans 1:26-32. I looked into the history of “no-fault divorce” and realized it started in Russia around 1918. That’s interesting, because in 1920, Russia also became the first country to allow unlimited abortion. Here’s an article on Russia that says that abortion went from being the highest in the world at a ratio of almost 3 to 1 to now (Feb 6, 2015) swing the other way with both the government and Russian Orthodox Church working together to pass anti-abortion legislation so that now there are roughly 2 births for every abortion. Hopefully, we won’t have to get to Russia’s extreme before the tide turns here.


  9. Note that this comment follows-up on the above comment but also responds to your last two posts on gay marriage and transgenderism posted as recently as yesterday. We haven’t abandoned regulating heterosexual conduct of men and women – the pro-life movement also concerns the biological connection between sex and childbearing. Anyways, Baars/Terruwe work comes in part from Father/Prof. Willem Duynstee (Terruwe’s mentor during school) who almost became a Cardinal (he died suddenly). Terruwe is thought to have influenced Pope Paul VI’s Humane Vitae.

    Following Eden, we constitute a human identity based in part on our eventual death. I think a gender identity should at least partially be based based on the different curses to man/woman. Genesis 3:16-17 “To the woman he said: I will intensify your toil in childbearing; in pain* you shall bring forth children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.

    17To the man he said: Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, You shall not eat from it, Cursed is the ground* because of you!In toil you shall eat its yield all the days of your life.” [bringing home the bacon]


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