On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued two rulings: one which, in effect, struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and the other which allowed the rejection of Proposition 8, by which a majority of voters in California wished to define marriage as a union of a man and a woman.
By these two actions, authentic marriage was thrust out onto the slippery slope and became unprotected fair game in our country. While some may have hope that true marriage will be safeguarded by individual states, the Court signaled its competence and its determination to see that laws passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by the President (DOMA), may be overturned by the judiciary; so also that the will of the citizenry is insufficient to establish the meaning of marriage within the State constitution. It is difficult to identify a future safe harbor for marriage outside of individual families, and, I pray, within the Church.
Dear friends, here is the unchanging teaching of the Church on Marriage: God is the author of marriage, “by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, ##1601 ff.) The complementarity of the two genders is the natural foundation for the procreation of the species and thus, for marriage.
“The covenant [of marriage] between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a Sacrament.” (ccc. #1601) Matrimonial consent (ccc. ##1625 ff.) requires a free, mutual choice of both a man and a woman. It is exclusive between the partners and permanent. This union of the man and the woman, which is intrinsically (by its nature) ordered to and open to children, is a means of grace and a path to holiness.
The mutually fulfilling, intimate union of the man and the woman and the openness to children are always kept together: this mutual fidelity and fruitfulness is what makes the family “work.” Artificial contraception, or sterilization, which is used or intended to render the marriage act infertile and to rob the act of its procreative potential, is gravely wrong (objective mortal sin) because it intentionally places a block against the most significant purpose of married love.
On the other hand, when there is an effort to create human life outside of the expression of marital intimacy between married couples — though artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, or cloning, — this also gravely contradicts and casts aside the necessary connection between married love and the creation of children. It is gravely evil (mortal sin).
What can we say concerning the sexual inclination of persons of the same sex toward one another? The Church, while she must teach that these tendencies are objectively disordered, nonetheless acknowledges that they are often an unwanted trial and challenge against chastity for those who experience them. Still, homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered (ccc. #2357). They are contrary to the natural law, and we can never pretend that such unnatural intercourse is acceptable; even less that these attempted unions between same-sex partners are in any way equal to marriage. We cannot call “virtue” what is objectively a grave sin.
We can and must always support persons of whatever inclination – homosexual or heterosexual – to live chastity. Married couples, or persons not yet married, also must not have intimacies outside marriage. Priests and Religious men and women, who have solemnly promised celibacy, also can be tempted against chastity. We must encourage and challenge each other to live out our promises faithfully according to our particular state in life.
While we face serious challenges in this culture, you and I, dear friends, weak and sinful as we are, must be apostles for purity and chastity. We must be defenders of true marriage. Two martyrs come to mind: St. John the Baptist and St. Thomas More. John was imprisoned by Herod when he spoke out against the Governor’s violation of marriage. (Mk 6:17ff.) Herod had him killed in prison. St. Thomas More (d. 1535), was likewise imprisoned for not accepting the validity of the King’s divorce and remarriage. For this he ultimately gave his head.
Despite persecutions, true marriage survives, and remains the very core of society and the central building block of the Church community. We can never forfeit or lose sight of the truth of the Sacrament and its power to inspire and strengthen us when it is well lived in great love. Despite the darkness of our times, we keep a strong hope in God, who established a vocation and path to holiness through married love. Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, poured out grace upon natural marriage, instituting it among the seven Sacraments.
Let us look to Mary and Joseph and ask them, through their prayers, to ask Jesus to strengthen our own fidelity to the truth of marriage, its indissolubility, and its vital and irreplaceable role in the vocation of family life.
P.S. I hope you will read the Letter of Archbishop William Lori in today’s Key. The Archbishop addresses another powerful threat facing us today in the United States – in this instance the Administrations’ attack against Religious Freedom and human conscience. God be with us all in these turbulent days.