Realizing what we are affects our view of marriage


I should not have been taken aback, given the current, highly publicized demands apparently by many in the United Methodist Church to accept same-gender marriage, but even still, I had not expected a practicing Catholic to ask me this question: “Will the Catholic Church ever permit same-gender marriages in its theology or practice?” I answered with an emphatic “No.”

Some will hear of my answer and charge me with an unwillingness to change, or with heartlessness, or with a wish to deny people their “rights.” I pray that I shall never be heartless, and I would never withhold from anyone their legitimate rights.

What about change? We may and must change some things, but we can never change, no matter our wishes, the fact of what human beings are. From this fact, genuine rights proceed.

So what are human beings? How does the answer affect the question about same-gender marriage and same-gender intimacy?

The old Baltimore Catechism, which some remember, said that “God made us.” Before this creation, we simply did not exist. “Why did God make us?” The catechism taught that God made us to know, love and serve him in this life and to be happy with him in the next.

Written for very young children, just beginning their formal education, the catechism used simple, direct, short, declarative sentences, but its lesson was deeply profound and exact.

God created us for a purpose. How do we know this purpose? We know, first of all, by realizing what we are. God created us as human beings, with a human nature common to all, wherever we are, whenever we live, whatever may be our own peculiar circumstances.

As human beings, we possess bodies as well as souls. The processes of our bodies do not essentially differ among people. Basically, all human beings grow and eventually decline. All need nourishment. All need air and water. All are subject to disease. All die.

All have the emotional ability to love, even heroically. All are inclined to relate, very personally and perhaps exclusively, with others. At least potentially, all can procreate new life, but only in personal conjunction with another human of the opposite gender.

Here is where the ancient Christian concept of marriage enters the picture. Marriage, honored by the Church as a sacrament within which true believers can pursue the purpose for which God created them, is about human beings. It exists to enable and enhance the human inclination to love unselfishly and without qualification.

Casual intimacy, and polygamy, detour perfectly unselfish love. As we are humans, with human bodies capable of uniting with others in creating new life, marriage also is about procreation, the natural consequence of such relationships.

Practically speaking, this is where arguments arise. Less than a century ago, all major Christian denominations, not just the Catholic Church, taught that any effort to frustrate or interrupt procreation upset the essence of marriage.

This reality, of course, changed. Artificial birth control today is not only accepted but expected by many people and denominations.

The Catholic Church still maintains that procreation is a power within each human being, unless amended by some other force, such as illness or age, and since we are created by God and are meant to be with God, procreation must occur in a loving relationship, in marriage. It is all about our nature, about what we are.

Pope St. Paul VI addressed this thought in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, reaffirming the ancient Catholic belief that marriage integrally involves bringing new life into the world.

What specifically about “gay” marriage? After all the justified appeals for kindness toward others, and realizing that the civil laws in this country and in many other countries now see same-gender marriage as a “right,” the Catholic Church still supports traditional marriage, because marriage is part of a much, much larger equation about what we are — and about why God created us.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Opening the Word: John’s confession of faith

Friday, January 17, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley During Advent, the Church listened to John’s the Baptist’s inquiry from prison. As John suffered in prison, he... Read More

A resolution: Renewing Catholic family life in 2020

Wednesday, January 15, 2020
By: Dr. Greg Popcak Pope Francis has said that “the Church is a family of families” (Amoris Laetitia, No. 87). More than a statement of... Read More

Realizing what we are affects our view of marriage

Monday, January 13, 2020
By:  Msgr. Owen Campion I should not have been taken aback, given the current, highly publicized demands apparently by many in the United... Read More

Opening the Word: Sharing in Divine Sonship

Friday, January 10, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley In Matthew, John protests the baptism of Jesus, suggesting that it is Jesus who should be the one who baptizes John. Yet... Read More

What’s the state of the pro-life movement?

Wednesday, January 8, 2020
By: Russell Shaw As thousands of pro-life demonstrators fill the streets of downtown Washington on Jan. 24 for the annual March for Life, optimism... Read More

The uncomfortable history of Catholics and slavery

Monday, January 6, 2020
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion The birds are coming home to roost. Georgetown University, this country’s first Catholic college, and first Jesuit... Read More

Opening the Word: The gift of ourselves

Friday, January 3, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Church-going Catholics know the major themes of the feast of the Epiphany. We know the Wise Men represent the Gentiles... Read More

Throwing ‘prayer darts’ at God: How to make short, intentional prayers a part of our everyday lives

Wednesday, January 1, 2020
By: Father Peter Schineller “Pray without ceasing” urges St. Paul (1 Thes 5:17). This doesn’t mean we should be on our knees or... Read More

Parents are called to be the primary teachers of the Faith to their children

Monday, December 30, 2019
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion On a recent, rainy Saturday afternoon, in a sudden fit to rid myself of things unneeded, I found a treasure in a long... Read More

Opening the Word: The Incarnation of the real

Friday, December 27, 2019
By:Timothy P. O'Malley Secular critics of religion often offer the following assessment. They presume that religious people embrace their doctrines... Read More