A few of the skirmishes continue, perhaps, but isn’t the war against so-called “same-sex marriage” effectively over? Aren’t we Catholics on the losing side of a social and cultural shift in which the meaning of marriage is now irrevocably altered? Why continue the fight?
Why? Three little words: “Consent makes marriage.”
This simple and ancient truth is worth fighting for.
As I see it, there is a huge distinction to be made between the same-sex ‘marriage’ issue and any other previous historic or legal challenges to marriage, such as civil divorce or laws regarding other aspects of sexual behavior among citizens. In many of the other instances in which Catholics no longer forcefully try to engage the state directly in changing public policy and law regarding marriage (whether it’s divorce, contraception, sterilization, adultery, etc.), the truth is that these are areas that might cloud the meaning and sanctity of marriage, but they do not, from the beginning, immediately and unreservedly negate the fact of marriage as arising from the valid consent of a man and a woman who wish to become husband and wife.
Such valid consent between a man and a woman is precisely what makes a marriage a reality. And no amount of wishing or hoping can make an exchange of consent between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, the same God-given reality properly called “marriage.”
To surrender the issue of same-sex ‘marriage’ to the state goes well beyond anything heretofore recorded in the complex history of marriage as a single reality with twofold tentacles—one rightly attached to Church, one grudgingly but necessarily attached to state. Stepping out of the legal and public-policy battle over same-sex ‘marriage’ will merely make it even harder to maintain the singular reality that marriage not only is, but also must continue to be. It would be an unprecedented concession to the state for the Catholic Church to concede what the state is asking the Church to concede—that the Church gets to have her version of marriage while the state is now going to have its version, no longer based on the reality of consent between man and woman, but instead based on the erroneous innovation that homosexual relationships can actually be “spousal” or “marital.”
Not only will this sever the essential thread that must and should link Church and state’s understanding of a singular reality, but surrendering on this issue will only continue weakening the culture’s access to a truth, so desperately needing to be voiced, in what already is a pitched battle against it. Already it is hard for people to understand that marriage is and always has been a divinely instituted vocation for the human family (and not some creation of culture or government)—if we Catholics set aside the fight to keep this truth enshrined in law, we will ultimately pay a greater and more devastating price down the road, a price much bigger than merely “losing” this legal battle. We will come face to face with the “dictatorship of relativism,” applied directly to Catholic truths about marriage as divine institution and as Sacrament.
The clock already is ticking on this—lawsuits are being filed that challenge the rights of people of conscience to run businesses that will not participate in the unreality of a same-sex ‘marriage’. The issues associated with child-rearing by same-sex couples, whether via adoption or other means, are now coming to the fore in Catholic agencies and services. Catholic schools and parishes are confronting the many dilemmas of baptizing and educating children being raised by same-sex “married” couples. The discrimination against Catholic teaching on marriage is likely to get much worse before it gets better.
So, is the solution to all this really to simply disengage from the defense of marriage as state after state legalizes homosexual unions as so-called ‘marriages’? When we Catholics already know that only the freely offered consent of one man and one woman actually makes marriage?
Simply put, I say no. I say no to silently succumbing to state laws that defy God’s law regarding the one and only true thing that marriage is: a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman that, for the baptized, forms the core of the “domestic church”—the “ecclesia domestica”—the very mirror of the Mystical Union of Christ the Bridegroom and His Bride, the Church. If there is one thing we Catholics must rediscover and stand shoulder-to-shoulder to defend, it’s the great “yes” of a man and woman to God’s plan for marriage.
And if there is one thing the state ought to get right, it’s the authentic meaning of marital consent. Let’s not permit our culture to sacrifice the authentic “I do” with a false consent that really doesn’t say “I do” but only says “I really can’t, but I’ll pretend ‘I do’ anyway.” This is what is at stake, and this is why we Catholics cannot walk away from this crisis.