Monday, June 29, 2015

What's the big deal about re-defining marriage?

We cannot neatly separate personal morality from social morality. I believe the word we use is "compartmentalize." We can't because the reality is our lives are too integrated for us to even make such a separation possible, even should we desire to do it. In other words, we're just not built that way. Just as Wittgenstein questioned whether it was possible to have a wholly private language, we should question whether there could ever be a truly and wholly private morality. Hence, as Catholics, we cannot separate the Church's moral teaching from her social teaching.

There are Catholics who seek to give priority to personal morality at the expense of the Church's social teaching, who often dismiss the call of Christ to sacrificially assist those in need as "the social Gospel," preferring instead to practice a "Jesus and me" spirituality. Other Catholics seek to minimize personal morality in favor of the Church's social teaching. To give one relevant example of the latter type, they often decry the Church's teaching on sexual morality as an unhealthy obsession with "pelvic issues." What it means to be Catholic is to embrace both at the same time in the recognition that the two are inextricably connected and intermingled as well as mutually reinforcing. It is, therefore, noteworthy and far from coincidental that Bl Paul VI wrote and promulgated the encyclical Populorum progresso and the encyclical Humanae vitae.

This is why in light of last Friday's Supreme Court ruling that conferred state recognition on same-sex "marriage" the Church in the United States has to steer a course between irrational apocalyptic dystopianism and utter indifference, pretending that the ruling is no big whoop.

Prior to Friday's decision 19 other countries already recognized same-sex unions as "marriages." Any idiot can see that the Church is still present, still active in all of those countries. But it's fair to ask, even after accounting for the differences in cultural context, whether the Church in those countries has handled the aftermath of this radical change well or poorly. It's important to note that this is not the first radical redefinition of marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court, just the latest. The blow dealt to marriage by no-fault divorce was at least as deleterious, if not more so, than last Friday's ruling. It was really the court's decision in Griswold vs Connecticut that the court, on a 7-2 vote, devised the "right to marital privacy" that the unhealthy and destructive privatization of marriage set sail.

So, why get worked up about marriage? Is it fear that the Church will be destroyed? Heavens no- the gate of hell shall not prevail. Because in reality many, if not most, Christians are homophobes (whatever that transient and useless term means today) whose greatest wish is to see people who are homosexual burn in eternal hellfire? A million times no. Is it anger and resentment over how much worldly power the Church has lost? Nope. Then what is it?

I think Mark Shea captured "what it is" very well when he noted that radically redefining marriage by making it include what is not only foreign, but contradictory to it is but one more way that Western society forces "the weak [to] carry the burden of the strong’s selfishness." As Mark is wont to do, he states his case in very strong terms, which is why I encourage you to read his post "What Gay 'Marriage' Does..." There can be no doubt that concern for the overall welfare of the divorced wife and perhaps for her children constitutes part of the rationale underlying Jesus' strong condemnation of divorce. All of this is more than enough reason not to remain silent. In short, the Church cares deeply about marriage because she would that all her children endeavor to love their neighbors as they love themselves.

But how we speak up matters. Dr Chad Pecknold, professor of theology at the Catholic University of America, asked, "Could it be any more obvious that what we need now is not simply monasteries but missionaries to a lost people?" That brings us to back to #MissionofJoy. Our mission of joy seems something fitting for us to reflect on today, which is the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul.

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