The death of traditional marriage, part two.

To summarize the thesis of the last post we can say:

1) The argument that being opposed to marriage “equity” is bigotry is false because marriage equity makes no sense. It is a marketing word game. The entity that has traditionally been called “marriage” consists of a male and female. The proponents of gay marriage suggest creating a new entity (same sex unions) that lacks the same historical reasons for being recognized and redefining marriage to include the traditional unions and these additional kinds of unions.  It is not bigotry to say ask “Why should we do this?”. If your answer is solely to make gay people happy, I ask why is it the states job to make people happy?  Now one may argue that heterosexual unions no longer have a link to original reasons traditional marriage was recognized, such as the fact it was the relationship through which new children came into the world and such. ( See a discussion of marriage in antiquity here)  Fine, This I can understand, then maybe the state should not recognized any personal unions, since perhaps “real” marriages are now relatively rare. Very well then, but the issue is not one of “equity” which would be about treating two fundamentally similar entities alike out of fairness. Unions of heterosexuals are not fundamentally similar to same sex unions because one is linked to the natural biologic propensity to make new human beings and the other is not. So the two types of unions are different. One could be perfectly consistent in thinking homosexuals should be allowed to do whatever they want, with whomever they want and commemorate any relationships they enter into in any manner they choose but also think the state has no particular interest in commemorating it or recognizing it as well.


2) It should be clear there is no particular animus toward homosexuals with this attitude. In fact it is tolerance by definition. Gay people are being left alone to do as they please.


3) It is simply a fact that historically the entity defined as marriage involved the union of a male and female. This union was of its nature bound up with reproduction. The real issue is the redefinition of a different kind of union as marriage. Since no one suggests any kind of union is a marriage, (no one would say a man could marry a tree or his suitcase) some definition is necessary, so the issues are not prohibition, but the question of “What is a marriage?”


As we proceed we should recall a few major points:1) To be consistent we should recognize the entity the state now recognizes as “marriage” is not real marriage at all, ( at least not on the terms the state recognizes it ) and therefore it is not obvious whether the state should continue to recognize the typical heterosexual relationship. We will also touch on the argument that the “ bigotry” charge sticks to those opposed to redefining marriage to include same sex unions is partially because of the failure to recognize that real marriage has been mostly dead for a long time. 2) It’s time for the sacramental relationship that Catholics enter to receive a new name, since the term ” marriage” no longer conveys the traditional meaning. This idea was originally as far as I can tell, proposed by Monsignor Pope on his blog . He suggested the term “Holy Matrimony”. This seems reasonable. We will discuss why. Finally we will discuss a little bit about why same sex marriage is really not about equity or love or any of that sentimental nonsense but suggest it is really about forging a weapon.


OK.. So why does the bigotry charge stick to opponents of same sex marriage? Well perhaps that’s because in Western culture we have long ago abandoned traditional marriage, even leaving aside the same sex marriage issue. By this I mean that society no longer defines marriage in a way consistent with how marriage has been defined since the time of Christ. A nice definition of marriage as historically understood by the Church can be found on the Catholic Telegraph web site and is given in a short article by Fr. Paul Keller Assistant professor of Sacred Theology at the Athenaeum in Ohio. He writes the following

“…in its most basic form, marriage is the life-long union of one man and one woman for the good of each other and for having children and raising them to be upstanding members of the human community.”

You can read his entire piece about marriage here . As such this relationship is oriented both to permanence and openness to having children. Because it is linked through its nature to the willingness to have children it must be heterosexual. There was a time when the state saw one of its roles as conforming the civil law at least to a degree to the natural law known through reason. Given the understanding of marriage throughout society at large was similar to the understanding of the Church’s as described above, it’s not a surprise that the State began to recognize and support marriage as the particular and permanent union of men and women. This is not an arbitrary choice but is bound up with what a marriage of its nature really is.

Now for the present purpose I do not want to delve into the detailed response to the usual questions (What about sterile couples or old people who get married, and so forth..) In fact you can read some of these responses here . There are additional replies to these questions but I want to focus on two other things at the moment.
First our culture long ago recognized some relationships and called them “marriage” that are not marriages at all. Perhaps the correct understanding of marriage first began to erode at the time of the Protestant reformation; When Henry VIII broke from the Church solely to enable his divorce of Catherine of Aragon and remarriage to Anne Boleyn. In any case a heterosexual union that is not ordered to permanence is not a “marriage” (So if you sign a prenuptial agreement anticipating divorce, you are not “married”, at least not in the eyes of the Church. ) The state however recognizes such entities as marriages. One can conclude the state is in the business of recognizing non marriages as marriages now, even in the case of heterosexual unions. Similarly if you do not believe in monogamy and you enter into some kind of ersatz “open” marriage you are not really married at all. It is this logic that makes annulment possible, an annulment really only being the declaration by the Church that something that looked like a marriage externally was not a real marriage. As the entity that the state calls marriage has ceased to definitely intend permanence or even monogamy , and is certainly not necessarily open to having children, the current entity recognized by the state is often not “marriage” at all. At least not in the sense the Church understands the term. This is not to say that no “marriages” recognized by the state as marriages are “real” ones as defined historically and understood by the Church. Many such marriages are intended to be permanent etc… Nor is it the case that every marriage that ends in divorce was not a true marriage. I merely assert that the state no longer defines marriage as something that of its nature must intend permanence as is clear from the fact that society has widely accepted easy “no fault” divorce and remarriage, prenuptial agreements and so forth.  Similarly it does not seem to expect monogamy or that the couple is open to children. So marriage has been redefined already into some sort of long term relationship that is aimed at… Well its not clear, it appears that its aimed at the personal gratification of the couple in some way. One must ask why this kind of relationship merits any particular recognition?


The modern version of “marriage” is a far cry from the permanent life long vow that joined not only two people but sometimes whole nations in the case of marriages involving monarchies, and simultaneously witnessed and reinforced by community with the intent that it seen as more or less as “Till Death do us Part”.  It was into this kind of union new human beings were to be brought into the world. Such a dramatic life changing event was clearly something that required a witnessed ceremony, followed by festivity and celebration. Its not a surprise that the law would be use to make such a union not just morally binding but legally binding in some sense as well. Compare this to the pathetic shadow that is modern marriage. Here we have two people engaged more or less in a promise of long lasted dating and sexual companionship, perhaps shared bank and email accounts ( or not) and the ability to file taxes jointly, that they promise to maintain so long as “love endures” whatever that means. We celebrate that? Why?

So ultimately we come to the union of two men. Well… it should be obvious that this cannot be made to fit into the definition of what constitutes a marriage as the Church understands the term regardless of what anyone might like. It can no more be defined as a marriage that a man proclaiming a special bond with a lampshade can be defined as a “marriage”. It cannot be presumed to be a real marriage since unlike the situation were a couple can be presumed to intend permanence; the same sex marriage cannot be open to having ( in the sense of making) children, since this is not biologically possible. A union of same sex partners cannot be a marriage. It has nothing to do with the love of the couple. A man may legitimately love his Seeing Eye dog, or his brother, but we would not consider these kinds of unions marriages.  At some point one supposes that we can alter the word “marriage” to include other kinds or any kind of relationship, but this is simply arbitrary. It is not unlike calling apples, tomatoes. At some level we can arbitrarily define terms, but calling an apple a tomato no more makes the apple into a tomato than calling a same sex union a marriage makes it into a marriage. Now while marriage has been virtually redefined for a long time, this is a much more obvious and radical redefinition.

Nonetheless it may be too late.  It is clear that the rest of society largely has accepted the redefinition of marriage to mean any kind of consensual relationship that involves sexual union and is aimed at lasting a relatively long time. For a long time Christians have seemed to accept this definition , having made peace with easy divorce and remarriage, multiple sexual partners, serial monogamy, and child “free” marriages with contraception. This is true even among liberal Catholics. In this case gay rights activists can make a case suggesting that to oppose same sex marriage simply because their choice of the kind of sex they have seems “bigoted” or at least arbitrary. Hence the bigotry charge has some legs. Of course it gets more legs because of the monolithic force of the secular culture in supporting anything that can be used to attack the Church, and as we will see, same sex marriage is a readily available club. I think it is obvious the acceptance of same sex marriage owes less to the cogency of the argument, then the fear that one will be a target of the club. in fact there is an interesting article written by a gay man about just this idea in this piece at the American thinker.  In any case having long ago abandoned defending marriage from its secular redefinition into sort of more involved dating (see our earlier discussion here ) , it is less convincing when we try to defend marriage from this latest redefinition. No one can understand why we are so concerned. True, in an ideal world the state  would support and recognize the institution of traditional marriage since it is the source of the family and the family is the basic cell of civil society. We are not living in an ideal world.

So why not just give up, let’s let men marry men and say the hell with it. Who cares? I think there is a temptation to do this on the part of many, after all this is the overall trend in society. Wouldn’t this be tolerant? The thing is while we might tolerate them.. they have no intention of tolerating us. More in our final post on this topic.

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