Thursday, 16 August 2012 13:19
By Christopher M. Riggs
A couple of weeks ago the issue of so-called same-sex marriage was brought to the forefront of many news outlets after the head of a fast food restaurant chain made a statement in defense of traditional marriage.
The chief operating officer’s statement shouldn’t have surprised anyone because his company is well-known for having strong, traditional Christian mindset. In fact, the chain’s stores do not open on Sunday in respect of the Biblical admonition against servile work on that day.
The story is a little stale today, but the idea of same-sex marriage seems to be gaining support – most likely because the debate has become one about “equality,” rather than a discussion of what constitutes marriage.
Some who support same-sex marriage will argue that the matter is related to the civil rights debate of the 1960s, and that by demanding same-sex marriage they are demanding to be treated equally.
The argument sounds good at first glance, but when we begin juggling beliefs, ideals, and principles in our minds, it’s easy to drop one or two. Yes, the U.S. Constitution guarantees equal rights to the fine citizens of this country, but that does not mean that the guarantee of equal rights applies to marriage.
Properly understood, the debate is not about equality or rights, it’s about a fundamental understanding of marriage.
Throughout recorded history marriage has been understood as a covenant between a man and a woman that – with God’s blessing – will result in children. That relationship, that family, has been the foundation of cultures for millennia.
If two men want to change an institution of thousands of years and be recognized not as two single men but as a married couple, shouldn’t they establish how marriage law – not civil rights law – has neglected something that they believe we should now recognize? What is different today about two men marrying than was different a millennium ago?
The bishops of Kansas issued a statement earlier this summer that discussed, in part, God’s intent for marriage, which the bishops describe as a life-long partnership between a man and a woman for the good of the couple and for the procreation of offspring. (The statement may be read on Bishop Jackels’ page at cdowk.org.)
The four shepherds said the purpose of marriage is two-fold: the unity of spouses and the procreation of children. To put it in an easy-to-remember sound-bite, marriage is for bonding and for babies. A man and a woman in marriage are called by God in Genesis 1 to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.”
Marriage is designed for a man and a woman. It is part of our nature as creatures of God. As such, a man and a woman confer upon each other the Sacrament of Matrimony before the witness of the church.
The church teaches that marriage is a covenant, a permanent relationship between the couple and with God, that lasts until death.
The challenge for the bishops and the faithful who are engaged in the same-sex marriage debate is to educate our culture that marriage is an institution of God, not of man.
“God Himself is the author of matrimony,” Pope Paul VI writes in Gaudium et Spes.
We are born with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but we are not born with the right to marry. Marriage was instituted and designed by God to bond a man and a woman.
Riggs is editor of the Catholic Advance.
(For more about the issue go to usccb.org > Issues and Action > Marriage and Family.)