Sunday, November 25, 2012

RECANT, REPENT, AND RETURN

Printed in the U Matuna, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Agana, Guam

The Left is all aflutter with the news that on November 6 three states voted to legalize same-sex marriage in popular referendums. The victories are significant because the legalization of same-sex marriage had heretofore been defeated at the ballot box and had only gained ground through the courts and state legislatures.


In response, the Vatican immediately vowed to step up its fight against same-sex marriage and evangelical pastors said the same. The chairman of the USCCB subcommittee on marriage said “it was a sad day for marriage” and urged Catholics “not to give up.”

While we may not “give up”, the reality is that the nation’s march towards same-sex marriage is growing stronger and traditional marriage is fast becoming nothing more than that: a tradition.

So, why are we losing? It comes down to this: we have neutered our own argument.

Traditional marriage advocates argue that children are the central purpose of marriage. In the 2010 California case in which a federal judge overturned a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between one man and one woman, the defense argued: “the central purpose of marriage...(is to) promote naturally procreative sexual relationships and to channel them into stable, enduring unions for the sake of producing and raising the next generation.”

The problem is that the argument is hollow, perhaps even a lie. Christians have long since declared technological sovereignty over the womb. At Lambeth in 1930, Anglicans became the first major Christian religion to allow for contraceptive sex, and they were followed by every other major religion, except Catholics, soon thereafter.

The intent was not to remove children as the central purpose of marriage, but the net effect was that it did. Contraception allowed couples to engage in sex at will without the consequences of fertility. The good of the couple became the central purpose of marriage and children became optional.

This is the core argument for same-sex marriage. In the California case, the judge ruled that gender no longer mattered and that marriage was simply a “union of equals”. It’s all about the couple. Children are optional.

In 1965, the Supreme Court joined the Christians in claiming the same by striking down a ban on the sale of contraceptives to married couples in Griswold v Connecticut. One might think it curious that such a ban was still on the books as late as 1965, but it is evidence (whether or not it was enforced) of just how seriously the state, once upon a time, took marriage.

If the state was going to codify, regulate, incentivize, and otherwise protect the institution of marriage, it wanted something in return: children - “the survival of society” as the Supreme Court put it in Skinner v Oklahoma (1944) and Loving v Virginia (1967).

In striking down the ban, the Griswold court joined the bulk of the nation’s Christians in granting a married couple complete sovereignty over their fertility. This sounds rather liberating and quite commonsensical, but bear in mind, this is the exact same argument for same-sex marriage: the couple is sovereign, fertility is optional.

By 1968, the Catholic Church stood alone in defense of “children as the central purpose of marriage”, a position that was hammered home by Paul VI in Humanae Vitae in which the Pope warned married couples that they are “not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life as if it were wholly up to them”.

Coming as it did at a time when the western world was already salivating like Pavlov’s dog with the mere thought of returning to the fleshpots of Egypt, the Pope’s words landed like a baseball bat to the face.

In response, six hundred theologians immediately signed a joint statement of dissent. The NCCB was a bit more careful. Issuing “Human Life in Our Day”, the nation’s bishops reaffirmed the message of Humanae Vitae but laid out a path for dissent, and dissent we did.

Whether or not dissent from Catholic teaching on birth control can be considered legitimate is another matter. For our purposes we are only concerned with the net effect of that dissent, which was the same as that which resulted from the decisions at Lambeth and in Griswold: the couple is primary, children are secondary, and we’ll do whatever the blank we want with our bodies, so stay the blank out of our bedrooms.”

Same-sex marriage advocates have only said the same. And no amount of feel-good videos posted on the USCCB’s ForYourMarriage website is going make up for the fact that we have long since declared ourselves to be arbiters of the womb. Our only recourse is to recant, repent, and return - return to the reason we were made male and female in the first place.

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