Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category


Augustine on the Appetites 4 – G. Meilaender

July 12, 2013
What Augustine did see, and what his emphasis on procreation might remind us also to see, is that sexuality is more than a personally fulfilling undertaking intended to make us happy and give us pleasure. Of course, the unitive good of marriage is not properly understood when thought of in so self-serving a way, but perhaps it lends itself readily to such distortion. The notion that sexuality is a profound but very private and personal form of play is quite strong in our culture - and that "necessity" becomes sweet to us. By contrast, Augustine saw in the exercise of our sexuality a task -- of begetting and rearing children -- that God sets before human beings. If in correcting or supplementing his views we lose or ignore that insight, we may ourselves turn out to need correction.

What Augustine did see, and what his emphasis on procreation might remind us also to see, is that sexuality is more than a personally fulfilling undertaking intended to make us happy and give us pleasure. Of course, the unitive good of marriage is not properly understood when thought of in so self-serving a way, but perhaps it lends itself readily to such distortion. The notion that sexuality is a profound but very private and personal form of play is quite strong in our culture – and that “necessity” becomes sweet to us. By contrast, Augustine saw in the exercise of our sexuality a task — of begetting and rearing children — that God sets before human beings. If in correcting or supplementing his views we lose or ignore that insight, we may ourselves turn out to need correction.

Saint Augustine formulated the classic Christian understanding of desire, that “our hearts are restless until they rest in God.” Gilbert Meilaender maintains that this frustrated desire lies at the heart of our existence. In The Way That Leads There he takes Augustine as a “conversation partner” for exploring subjects that human beings have wrestled with for centuries — desire, duty, politics, sex, and grief. Meilaender’s carefully reasoned insightful work rescues Augustine from many of our misperceptions and interacts meaningfully with both C. S. Lewis and Catholic moral theology, generating insights on difficult topics. The picture of life that emerges in these pages is one of incompleteness, of our inability to perfect and unify our moral lives. Yet this inability is not a cause for despair; it is rather a call to look, with Augustine, to God as the source and object of our greatest desire.


The final part of Meilaender’s exposition of Augustinian thought on the appetites combines the observations on food and sex:

Food and Sex
When thinking with Augustine about the pleasures and dangers of food, we found it necessary in the end to move toward a richer and deeper understanding than his of the good of eating as a human activity. We must do the same in the case of sex. Indeed, Roman Catholic thought itself — though its condemnation of contraceptive intercourse had roots in the Augustinian contention that the pleasure of sex and the good of offspring are not to be separated — has not been able to rest entirely content with his analysis.

Having thought with Augustine about the place of food and of sex in human life, we need to bring these together and see what can be learned from the one for the other. Even in Augustine’s day the monk Jovinian, who was condemned (whether rightly or wrongly has been disputed) for teaching that virginity and marriage were equally worthy states of life, extended his critique to the use of food, teaching that “[t]here is no difference between abstinence from food and receiving it with thanksgiving.” [David G. Hunter, "Resistance to the Virginal Ideal in Late-FourthCentury Rome: The Case of Jovinian," Theological Studies 48 (March 1987):] And, of course, Augustine’s experience as a Manichee would have suggested an ascetic practice that connected abstinence from sex with abstinence from food. [Hunter, p. 53] Insight gained in the one case (food) may help in the other (sex).

In his instructive assessment of Augustine’s understanding of human sexuality in the history of redemption, Paul Ramsey suggested that Augustine had “the problem of saying why only one tumult of the soul — that which springs from fallen sexuality — causes shame.” [Ramsey, p. 63] Ramsey was of course right to note that Augustine placed great argumentative emphasis on man’s inability to control his generative organ and the shame that inability created. Nevertheless, the kind of description Augustine gives of sin’s effect on sexuality is not unlike language he uses in other contexts. For example, he sees in the unruliness of the sexual organ an apt punishment for man’s disobedience to God. In City of God (16.4) he uses similar language to describe the scattering of the peoples at the Tower of Babel:

“Since a ruler’s power of domination is wielded by his tongue, it was in that organ that his pride was condemned to punishment. And the consequence was that he who refused to understand God’s bidding so as to obey it, was himself not understood when he gave orders to men.” Closer still to my concern, when Augustine speaks of the need to discipline the body by fasting, he says: “Your flesh is below you; above you is your God. When you wish your flesh to serve you, you are reminded of how it is fitting for you to serve your God.”
[Augustine, The Usefulness of Fasting, in Saint Augustine: Treatises on Various Subjects, Fathers of the Church, vol. 16 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1952), p. 4.]

Other desires — in particular, our desire for food — are, like sex, necessities that may in our bondage to sin become sweet to us. To consider together these two necessities, sex and food, offers an occasion to do for sex what we did for food — namely, to find in if another good beyond the obvious biological one.

I suggested above that Augustine’s analysis of our desire for food was incomplete in an important way. Eating serves, in his view, only one good: nourishment of life and health. Any legitimate pleasure we have in eating may not therefore be separated from and pursued apart from that good. We should eat only to sustain life.

What Augustine missed, I suggested, was another good that eating serves — the human conversation and community that a shared meal constitutes. Perhaps we should wonder whether something similar is not missing from his analysis of sexual desire. He supposed that in paradise the bond joining Adam and Eve would have been essentially a bond of concord or friendship. “Their married intercourse, had it occurred, would have been [merely and no more than] a physical concretization of their pre-existing concord.”

Hence, he “never found away… of articulating the possibility that sexual pleasure might, in itself, enrich the relations between husband and wife.” [Brown, p. 402] Desire for coitus may be put in service of the good of procreation, and we should affirm Augustine’s belief — shared generally by Christians — that such procreation is an important good or purpose of sexual union.

But sexual desire also embodies, nurtures, and enriches the good of carnal conversation and community — the complete sharing of life — between husband and wife. To seek such community, therefore, even when children are not planned, wanted, or desired, is not mere grasping for a repeated pleasure separated from the good of marriage. On the contrary, it is one of the goods of marriage. Thus, contraceptive intercourse for the expression and enjoyment of such community cannot separate the pleasure from the good of marriage; for it is one of the goods of marriage.

This brings us, of course, to where Catholic thought itself has in recent years come — to speaking of two goods, procreative and unitive, that marriage serves. For Augustine there was (in paradise) one good of marriage, and the pleasure of the sexual act was not to be separated from that good. Other goods of marriage (fidelity and sacrament) come into the picture only within a fallen world, and they do not alter the basic structure of his thought.

To suggest, as I now have, that we should think of sexual union within marriage as itself one of the goods of marriage (rather than simply as a pleasure that must be enjoyed only as part of an act aimed at procreation) is to speak of both a procreative and a unitive good of marriage. So the question we found in Augustine must be reformulated. We now have to ask not about the relation between the pleasure of coitus and the good of offspring, but rather about the relation between two goods: children and fleshly communion.

Might contraceptive intercourse wrongly separate not a pleasure from a good but the good of procreation from the good of communion in love between spouses? The claim that these two goods must be “inseparable” in the sexual act is essentially the claim that contraceptive intercourse makes impossible the full communion in love that the act of coitus between husband and wife intends.

When pondering this claim, we should not forget what we learned from thinking about the goods of eating. A meal is both medicine for the body and the expression of human community. In any proposed separation of these goods we must simply try to see whether the resulting moral reality involves distortion or harm. To express marital communion in the sexual act while using contraceptives is not unlike sharing in a festive meal when one is not hungry and eats little.

Precisely in order to share fully in the good of community on that occasion one does not do what one does on the occasion of some other meals. Although the species-sustaining, biological purpose of food is not served by such eating, neither of the goods of eating seems distorted by doing so.

Thus, thinking along with Augustine, we move beyond and in some respects “correct” his understanding of the place of both food and sex in human life. We may share in a meal not to sustain life or health but simply as an embodiment of human community — a kind of “ecstatic” experience in which we set to the side our aim of self-preservation and simply enter into the fellowship the meal constitutes.

The good not served in such participation in the meal is not the only good of eating, and one might well eat even when nourishment is not at all needed. Likewise, husband and wife may share in the act of love not to produce a child but simply as the most intimate incarnation of their mutual self-giving — a kind of ecstatic experience in which they set aside their procreative potential and simply share the fellowship their bodily union constitutes.

The good not served in their coitus is not the only good the sexual act serves, and they might well make love even when they neither need nor desire children. To be sure, deliberately avoiding children indefinitely could be expected to have a subtle but deformative effect on the character of their love. Were this to happen, then, clearly the several goods of marriage would have been separated too greatly.

The implications of such a correction of Augustine’s understanding go far beyond a consideration of contraception alone. Indeed, correcting Augustine in this way is necessary if we are to make sense of the deepest reasons for concern about new reproductive technologies — a concern clearly reflected in Catholic teaching. When the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published Donum Vitae, central to its rejection of laboratory fertilization was the belief that the child must be understood as gift, not product — equal in dignity to his parents:

“[T]he origin of a human person is the result of an act of giving. The one conceived must be the fruit of his parents’ love. He cannot be desired or conceived as the product of an intervention of medical or biological techniques.”
[Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin, and on the Dignity of Procreation (Boston: St. Paul Books and Media, 1987), p. 28.]

It is not unusual to see a link between this reasoning, which condemns assisted reproduction, and the reasoning that disapproves of contraception. Certainly the Congregation thought it saw a connection. “Contraception deliberately deprives the conjugal act of its openness to procreation and in this way brings about a voluntary dissociation of the ends of marriage. Homologous artificial fertilization, in seeking a procreation which is not the fruit of a specific act of conjugal union, objectively effects an analogous separation.” [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, p. 27] More colloquially put, contraception makes possible sex without babies; assisted reproduction makes possible babies without sex. In either case the goods of marriage are separated.

But are the moral realities reflected in these two separations really so similar? Kim Power has claimed that “Augustine implicitly legitimated a split between love and sex which facilitates the depersonalisation of sexual intercourse. ” [Power, p. 161] This does not, I think, put the matter quite rightly, but she has pointed to a serious problem.

Augustine’s mistake, as Paul Ramsey noted with characteristic insight, was not that he depersonalized sexual intercourse; it was that he could think of personal presence in only one way. He thought of the person as present in coitus only if the act was undertaken at the command of the rational will (for, presumably, the purpose of procreation). [Ramsey, pp. 60, 62, 65]

Thus, rightly ordered sexual intercourse would not be depersonalized, but the person present in it would be characterized not in terms of passion but in terms only of reason and will. Even in paradise, says Augustine, “the man would have sowed the seed and the woman would have conceived the child when their sexual organs had been aroused by the will, at the appropriate time and in the necessary degree.” [City of God 14.24]

Hence, by his own lights and in terms of his own understanding of the human person, Augustine did not depersonalize sexual activity. Nevertheless, by driving a wedge between the desire to give oneself lovingly and passionately in the sexual act and the (rationally willed) purpose of producing a child, he invites us to think of the child as a product. Adam and Eve would, rationally and deliberately, have set to work to produce children as needed, and they would not have consummated their sexual union for any other reason.

This is precisely the separation of babies from sexual love, the understanding of the child as product, that new reproductive technologies express. It is just such a separation — what Power calls the “split between love and sex” — that makes many of the new reproductive technologies seem quite reasonable to their advocates. And the case against such forms of reproduction will depend, finally, on a view of personal presence in coitus that Augustine — acknowledging only the good of procreation and not also the good of communion in the sexual act — was unable to develop.

But once, unlike Augustine, we acknowledge both procreative and unitive goods in marriage, we are freed to consider the relation — and the separation — of these goods in new ways. Thinking along with Augustine, of the desire for sex as rather like the desire for food, we were able earlier to see why contraception does not necessarily distort or deform the meaning of our sexuality. The separation effected by new reproductive technologies is a different moral reality, however, and we will see what is problematic about it most clearly when we correct Augustine’s vision of coitus as nothing more than a rational activity aimed at offspring.

The act of love is not simply a rational, willed undertaking. Of course, a man and a woman might decide to make love. They might choose to do it for certain reasons — for example, because they hope for a child. But in the act itself, passion, not reason or will, is central. We speak of lovers experiencing “ecstasy” — a word that describes a going out of oneself, a relinquishing of control, a setting aside of one’s projects and purposes.

Even if spouses make love because they want a child, the act itself requires a letting go of such plans and projects in mutual self-giving. We might even say then, as Ramsey did in his discussion of Augustine, that “bodily powers and precisely the spontaneous and rationally insubordinate movements of sexuality are, for the purpose of accessibility or presence to another being in this world, superior to the means the soul has for the deliberate communication of itself to the other.” [Ramsey, p. 65]

Thus, married intercourse is not merely the concretization of an already existing concord, which concretization might then also be put in service of the production of children. On the contrary, it is a mode of presence to the spouse unlike any other.

From this act, in the doing of which lovers have set aside all plans and projects, a child may result. That child — begotten, not made — springs from their embrace but is not the product of a purposive act. Such a child may properly be thought of as a gift. Love-giving has been life-giving, not because the lovers willed it, but because God has so blessed it. In this instance, unlike the instance of contraception, the moral reality — our understanding of the relation of parents and child — does seem to be distorted if we separate unitive and procreative goods; the presence of the child then results from our will and choice. By contrast, the child is a gift precisely because he or she results from an act and embrace in which we set aside our intentions and purposes, in which we step out of ourselves and cease attempting to be productive.

We can begin to see this only as we think our way into Augustine’s view and beyond it, recognizing that the act of love need not be sought or desired for any reason other than the communion it expresses and embodies. “Producing” a child in other ways seems to distort the moral meaning of the child; it removes the procreative good of marriage from the context in which it is personalized and humanized (and is rather like taking in nourishment entirely apart from the fellowship of the meal).

By contrast, within a marriage that is genuinely open to children, embodying the communion of marital love in contraceptive intercourse (rather like sharing in a festive meal while actually eating little and taking in little nourishment) does not in and of itself depersonalize or dehumanize either that act or the child who may be given through it.

All this said, however, we should not fail to give Augustine his due. What he did see, and what his emphasis on procreation might remind us also to see, is that sexuality is more than a personally fulfilling undertaking intended to make us happy and give us pleasure. Of course, the unitive good of marriage is not properly understood when thought of in so self-serving a way, but perhaps it lends itself readily to such distortion. The notion that sexuality is a profound but very private and personal form of play is quite strong in our culture – and that “necessity” becomes sweet to us. By contrast, Augustine saw in the exercise of our sexuality a task — of begetting and rearing children — that God sets before human beings. If in correcting or supplementing his views we lose or ignore that insight, we may ourselves turn out to need correction.


Marriage and the Just State — George Weigel

October 9, 2012

This engraving accompanies the astrological chart for Benjamin Brownsell, married 29th November 1784. A man and a woman face one another and clasp hands, as they stand between two pillars. Two naked cherubs (a boy and a girl) are about to place laurel wreaths on them, symbols of victory for the bride and groom. The two children are the zodiacal symbol for Gemini, the twins; they have stepped out of the ring of the zodiac, and other signs are visible to each side. Between and in front of the couple another cherub is ready to lift a garland to the woman. In the foreground, musical instruments, including a harp, a trumpet and a violin; baskets of roses; urns of incense; above the pillars a domed roof culminating in a fruit basket, and two doves embracing. The temple bears symbols of the heart pierced by arrows. All very symbolic. There is a caption: “Marriage is Honorable in all.”                        Hebrews, Chapter 13. Verse 4

Back in the day, altar boys loved to serve weddings because it involved ready cash: minimally, $5 (which in those days meant something), often a ten-spot.  Once in a great while an exceptionally generous best man would slip each server an envelope with $25 — a small fortune to a boy in the early 1960s.

Serving weddings should have enlarged more than the youthful exchequer, however. For wedding servers were exposed, time and again, to the prescribed “exhortation” the priest read to the couple before they pronounced their vows. That exhortation is worth recalling, now that the very idea of “marriage” is being contested on four state ballots, and in the national election, on Nov. 6:

“My dear friends: You are about to enter upon a union which is most sacred and most serious. It is most sacred, because established by God himself. By it, he gave to man a share in the greatest work of creation, the work of the continuation of the human race. And in this way he sanctified human love and enabled man and woman to help each other live as children of God, by sharing a common life under his fatherly care.

“Because God himself is thus its author, marriage is of its very nature a holy institution, requiring of those who enter into it a complete and unreserved giving of self. But Christ our Lord added to the holiness of marriage an even deeper meaning and a higher beauty. He referred to the love of marriage to describe his own love for his Church, that is, for the people of God whom he redeemed by his own blood. …

It is for this reason that his apostle, St. Paul, clearly states that marriage is now and for all time to be considered a great mystery, intimately bound up with the supernatural union of Christ and the Church, which union is also to be its pattern.

“No greater blessing can come to your married life than pure conjugal love, loyal and true to the end. …”

It’s impossible to imagine a Catholic priest pronouncing those words at a gay “wedding.” And that impossibility illustrates several Catholic theological objections to the notion that same-sex couples can “marry.” “Gay marriage” is opposed to the divine order built into creation and to the Gospel: for “gay marriage,” by its very nature, cannot be a fruitful one-flesh union, and “gay marriage,” which by definition involves grave sin, cannot be an image of Christ’s spousal love for the Church. Thus Catholics who support “gay marriage” are deeply confused about both Word and Sacrament, the twin pillars of Catholic life.

In public policy terms, the Catholic critique of “gay marriage” reflects the Catholic idea of the just state. Rightly understood, marriage is one of those social institutions that exist “prior” to the state: prior in terms of time (marriage existed before the state), and prior in terms of the deep truths embedded in the human condition. A just state thus recognizes the givenness of marriage and seeks to protect and nurture this basic social institution.

By contrast, a state that asserts the authority to redefine “marriage” has stepped beyond the boundaries of its competence. And if that boundary-crossing is set in constitutional or legal concrete, it opens up a Pandora’s box of undesirable results. For if the state can decree that two men or two women can make a “marriage,” why not one man and two women? Two women and two men? These are not paranoid fantasies; the case for polyandry and polygamy is now being mounted in prestigious law journals.

And if the state can define “marriage” by diktat, why not other basic human relationships, like the parent-child relationship, the doctor-patient relationship, the lawyer-client relationship, or the priest-penitent relationship? There is no principled reason why not.  Thus “gay marriage” is another expression of that soft totalitarianism that Benedict XVI aptly calls the “dictatorship of relativism.”

Conscientious voters will keep this — and the Democratic Party platform’s endorsement of “gay marriage” — in mind on Nov. 6.

A short addendum here:

A Light Unto My Path — Father Robert Barron
G.K. Chesterton observed that secular society regularly complains about the Church’s imposition of laws and regulations, especially in the arena of sex. What was true in Chesterton’s time is even truer today: contemporary secularism criticizes the Church as finger-wagging in matters sexual. Whereas the non-religious world says, “Do what you want,” the Christian world says, “No!”

Chesterton turned this conventional wisdom on its head. When two young people fall in love, they don’t say things like, “I’m rather fond of you” or “I’ll stay with you as long as things work out.” They become poets and make the most extravagant statements: “I will give my very life for you!” and “You are everything to me; I will never love another the way I love you.” Young lovers would want those sentiments written across the sky for all the world to see.

In insisting on the indissolubility of marriage, he concluded, the Church wasn’t imposing a burden; it was ratifying the natural exuberance and intensity of true love. In the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus teaches, “What God has joined together, no human being must separate.” The natural intensity of love is strengthened and elevated through association with the supernatural love of God. If without reference to God, young lovers naturally pledge their undying fidelity to one another, how much more when they realize that their love is ordained by God and ordered to his purposes.

The indissolubility of marriage is a liberating law of both nature and grace.


MadMen And The Sociological Reasons For Marriage – Derek Jeter

June 6, 2012

MadMen has made the moods and social mores of the 50’s and early 60s part of its story. It has received numerous awards and cirtical acclaim for its historical authenticity and visual style:

MadMen depicts parts of American society and culture of the 1960s, highlighting cigarette smoking, drinking, sexism, feminism, adultery, homophobia, and racism. There are hints of the future and the radical changes of the 1960s. Themes of alienation, social mobility and ruthlessness also underpin the tone of the show. MSNBC noted that the series “mostly remains disconnected from the outside world, so the politics and cultural trends of the time are illustrated through people and their lives, not broad, sweeping arguments.” Creator Matthew Weiner called the series science fiction in the past, reasoning that just as science fiction uses a future world to discuss issues that concern us today, Mad Men uses the past to discuss issues that concern us today that we don’t discuss openly., Mad Men

Of course these issues are dear to the hearts of the Hollywood liberal community so best of luck for seeing anything that reflects the state of marriage or the so-called 60s sexual revolution. We are all on the losing side of that piece of cultural history but it’s doubtful you will ever see it truthfully portrayed on TV or in the movies.

Let me give you a little 50’s report. Most of this comes from a talk by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, of the Ruth Institute, which I took notes on. Despite all the 50s sexism the oppression of women and confinement of men to dreary jobs (how much has that really changed?), mothers and fathers were there. Fathers went to work came home at night mostly sober. And they slept in same bed. Only one home – mom’s house was dad’s house. So there was no problem for kids to figure out how to behave with Dad’s girlfriends or mom’s new guy. 

We played in safe neighborhoods. And we were allowed to roam about at our own will. If I played on a school team or in the PAL (Police Athletic League), I got there on my own, because it was right there at my neighborhood playground or the next neighborhood over.

It was unthinkable that parents would present us with new lovers with whom we would be forced to have a relationship. Mom and Dad argued but we never worried that those arguments would be the end of our lives together. We had brothers and sisters – real brothers and sisters not these hothouse varieties of half-brothers and half-sisters who might come and go out of our lives again.

New babies were never symbols of our parent’s new relationships, an unmistakable sign that our parents would never get back together again.  Sure we were upset by the new baby taking time from us but we never dealt with the new baby as symbol who solidified the new relationship with us being relegated to being the remains of an unwanted past.  We didn’t worry that new siblings would disappear if an adult relationship broke up. We grew up together with the same set of brothers and sisters who had the same parents.  The kids I grew up with never had judges deciding where they would go to church or go to school. We spent Christmas and Thanksgiving with both parents, not to mention the rest of the time. None of this every-other-weekend with my Dad shit, pardon my French.

Which is not to say that childhood or adolescence was easy but compared to kids these days bearing their backpacks and shuttling between houses per court orders, I guess I’m forced to say it must have been a picnic. Part of the shift to no-fault divorce made marriage more of an adult centered institution. It used to be that marriage was for the children — that it was a gender-based institution ordered towards the procreation, rearing and protection of children. No longer.

The sociological reason for marriage is rather simple: to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another. Why is that important? Because kids are entitled to a relationship with both of their parents.  Imagine if we didn’t reproduce the way that we do? Say that like amoeba we sub-divided and gave birth that way. Or, say that like snakes we hatched as adults out of eggs. No reason for marriage then and it would be doubtful that anyone had ever thought of it. But we don’t give birth that way, so we attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another for the benefit of society because it is essential and it is fundamental to the kind of beings we are. We are mothers and fathers, parents, and we came up with, on a world-wide basis and across thousands of years, MARRIAGE. Marriage is who we are.

If you believe that kids are entitled to a relationship with both of their parents that means, ipso facto, you acknowledge that the child has an interest in the stability of their parent’s union. Because that union is essential to the child HAVING THAT RELATIONSHIP. That’s why you need something that will protect the child’s interest and that something, once again, is the institution of marriage. To protect the child’s interest as well as to protect both parents’ interests and their common interest in raising the child so that one parent doesn’t dash off with child and neglect the other party’s interest.  This is why marriage exists as a universal human institution and this is why it is important that we start with an understanding of traditional marriage as JUSTICE FOR THE CHILD.

Same sex marriage undermines those fundamental principles that uphold the essential public purpose of marriage that I have stated above.

1.  Children are ordinarily entitled to a relationship with their mothers and fathers.

Now we know this doesn’t always happen.  There are reasons why the biological mothers and fathers cannot be with their children to make this happen but we have a special solution to that problem. It’s called adoption. This is a child centered institution. Or it used to be when adoption existed to give children the parents they need NOT to give adults the kids they want. The way we deal with adoptions does not undermine the basic principle that kids are still entitled to a relationship with their biological parents.

Same sex marriage claims that kids don’t need a mother and a father that they don’t need both parents. Two separate court cases now on record where judges have found for same sex marriage and have specifically said it’s a myth that children need a mother and a father. . .The supreme court of the state of Iowa specifically said that. It is what you have to say if you are to maintain that a same sex union is the equivalence of marriage between a man and a woman. Where same-sex adoption occurs is where this principle has now been recognized.

2. The next key principle of law and social practice and a consequence of number one is that is that mothers and fathers are not interchangeable, that they are not substitutes for each other. Same sex marriage advocates have to argue that a mom and a dad is the equivalent of two moms or two dads.

Dr. Jennifer Morse tells a joke about crashing the family car and she asks her audience when they called home asking if they cared if it was thier father on the line or their mother. Some audiences laugh in appreciation instantly getting the point of the father as an authority figure but back east at law schools there is no laughter because they don’ t get the point of a difference in gender. They can think of some family somewhere where that was not the case and hence invalidated the general principle for them.

If you don’t get the point of gender differences – and young people these days are trained to reject differences between men and women — they don’t see the differences between mother s and fathers. If  you don’t get the point of gender in the first place you are not going to get the point of gendered marriage. This is part of the reason younger generation is being drawn to the idea that same sex marriage is an acceptable thing or even a good thing. There is a lot of sociological evidence out there that gender matters but same sex marriage proponents are undermining it.

For example there remains a lot of evidence about fatherlessness. Fatherlessness has a serious impact on the development of children and that it has a different impact on boys that it has on girls. When you look at childhood development boys and girls are always looked at differently because for every childhood milestone development boys and girls and different; boys and girls are different from the very beginning. With boys there is a heightened probability of a fatherless boy getting into trouble: juvenile delinquency , violence, gangs, getting incarcerated, going to jail –70% of guys in jail are fatherless. It’s a very serious risk factor for boys.

But this is something that same-sex marriage asks us to look past for to say that moms and dads are interchangeable hides that fact from us, renders it moot in a way. The Father’s authority is not something easily measured or calculated but for most it is a reality that can’t be ignored and in countless ways we can see it affirmed in the experiences of children who grew up with moms and dads.

The absence of fathers for girls is a totally different thing. For girls the risk is early sexualization. If you become sexually active at an earlier age there are a whole bunch of risks associated with that obviously: teen pregnancies, STDs etc. It turns out that getting your period earlier (earlier onset of menses) is often the consequence of a girl growing up fatherless. Having your biological father in the home delays the onset of menses. Having an unrelated male in the home has the opposite effect: girls get their periods earlier. Why is that? No one knows, but the facts are known. You can’t just say it is culturally determined and you can get rid of it with education or something. The very mystery of this shows that there are a lot of things going on with families that we simply don’t know about. It is mysterious and it should caution us not to go mucking about. Same-sex marriage undermines the basic social principle that mothers and fathers are not interchangeable.

3.   Same sex marriage will undermine the biological principal that mothers are female and fathers are male.

The institution of marriage as currently understood contains a “presumption for paternity.” When a woman gives birth it is presumed that the man she is married to is the father.  Establishing who the mother is not that complex, when a baby is born there is usually a mother around. The father is more of a problem. The institution of marriage is designed to attach the father to the baby. In 95% of the cases the man who is married to the woman is, in fact, the father of the child. Marriage is supposed to be a sexually exclusive relationship between a ma n and a woman — and if in fact it is, then the husband will be the father of all of  the woman’s babies. You thereby attach the father to the child just as firmly as the mother. That is what marriage is supposed to do. It gives the same degree of permanence and security to your attachment with the father as you do with the mother.

The advocates of same sex marriage are trying to transform this presumption of paternity into a presumption of parentage.  The presumption of parentage is that if I give birth to a child and I am in a same sex union then the other woman is presumed to be the other parent of that child. In a hundred percent of the cases this is of course NOT TRUE. To make this sleight of hand, the presumption of paternity becomes the presumption of parentage and it will all be the same, so it has to undermine the principle that biology is how we determine who is a mother and who is a father.

4. The fourth principle of law and social practice is that the law recognizes parenthood, but does not determine what it is. 

The ordinary case is that if you give birth to a baby in a hospital, say, a little old lady comes around with a clipboard and  you fill out a form and register the facts of who the mother and who the father is . You don’t ask the little old lady for permission to be the mother or father, you just ARE the mother and father.  You tell the state, the state doesn’t come to you and say you count and you don’t – the state recognizes you as the mother and father. 

Now the state is evolving on how to deal with a woman who has a same sex partner.  There are more than a few cases where a woman has a lesbian lover and they break up. The former partner goes to court to maintain her relationship and have herself declared as a de facto parent of the child. Courts are now beginning to recognize that claim — particularly in the states who have some same-sex statute or one who has recognized these marriages. In these cases these states have begun to reinvent parenthood. So for example in the state of Washington the state came up with a four part test to determine parenthood (For example 1. Do you hold yourself out as the parent? 2. Do you contribute to the support of the child blah blah blah. )

Instead of a nice bright line on who is the parent or not we have the state getting involved trying to figure out whether some one has changed enough diapers or wiped enough noses to become a parent of a child. The whole gay legal establishment is working on establishing  gay parenting rights. They go around the country looking for cases where the woman is not the adoptive mother nor the biological mother and LAMDA legal, a ga legal organization, is trying to get them parental rights – these people are NOT parents (they are not the adoptive nor the biological parent).  This is not a wholesome development because if you think this is going to be confined to the 3% gay community it wouldn’t be so bad but there is no reason to believe that this will be confined to lesbian couples.

If you think we will have one set of rules for lesbian couples and another for traditional couples you will find that to be not a stable position. Dr. Jennifer Morse flat out predicts that this will start to bleed into other areas — the whole world of step-parenting, cohabitation parenting and all kinds of issues are now going to be up for grabs and the state will be deciding who counts as a parent rather than registering parents.

The last thing Dr. Morse covers is a peek into the future that attempts to reveal the problems that will be caused by undermining these 4 principles I’ve listed above. I can see same-sex marriage advocates going nutz here because there is no proof to any of this but a simple and powerful observation that says this is where we are now and it will probably get worse.

  1. Marriage will separate children from their parents. Rather than children having an entitlement for being in relationship with their parents. Marriage will become the vehicle for separating them from one of their parents.

How does a lesbian have a baby? Usually with an anonymous sperm donor. If the child’s other parent is a woman then that means the male sperm donor is being pushed out of the way. Marriage is the union that will be doing the separating. So instead of marriage attaching children to their parents, marriage will separate them from their parents. This is not a wholesome development.

2.  If the law is going to be saying that mothers and fathers are interchangeable, it will probably not have the same impact on mothers as it it will on fathers. The impact will be to further marginalize fathers from the family. Same sex marriage will finally become the vehicle that pushes men out of the family for good. We have already said that the father’s attachment is the one that is more problematic and if they (mothers and fathers) are going to be equal it will be the father’s attachment, the weaker, that will be sacrificed.

I heartily concur with this. When people see two women raising a child the reaction more often than not is who needs a father. But when people see two men raising a child no one says who needs a mother.

The UK and Canada have same-sex marriage. In the UK when a woman came forth to be artificially inseminated there used to be (prior to same-sex marriage being recognized) a requirement/a rule that an affidavit be signed stating that the child’s need for a father figure would be satisfied. Wasn’t much of a requirement but it was a gesture towards fatherhood.  When same-sex marriage was passed this requirement was abolished for fear that it was offensive to lesbian couples.

More ominously, when same-sex marriage was passed in Canada they also changed the birth certificate. Mother’s info on the top and on the bottom “Father Or Co-Parent’s Information.” Fatherhood was diminished to a check box.

3.   One of the negative results of undoing biology,undermining the biological principal that mothers are female and fathers are male will be the rise of triple or multiple parenting.  When you throw out the mom is female and dad is male understanding of marriage, the more natural grouping will become the two lesbian couples and the male sperm donor, whoever he may be. If the sperm donor is in fact a gay man with a partner you could wind up with four. There have been cases in PA and in Canada where three parents have been assigned by a court. 

The same sex union cannot produce a child. It has to have a third party so the problem becomes what about that third party. If we throw them out completely then the child has no relationship with a father. And if we don’t throw them out completely, we have a much more complex configuration of parenthood and quite frankly we have no idea what we are walking into. There is no reason to assume that because the parents are happy that everything is going to be wonderful.  Remember that was the thinking in no-fault divorce and look where that got us. Divorce was not harmful to children as long as the parents were happy – that’s what the studies said.  Same studies exist today – very minimal evidence and HUGE conclusions on how great gay parents are.

4.  The scope of the state’s power over society will be expanded greatly by the introduction of same sex marriage.

When the state takes it upon itself to decide who counts as a parent (principle four) the state is interfering with a natural order. There is a natural order to a mother and a father and the state is going to take over that little realm to itself, substituting a naturally existing thing something it has invented itself.  Defacto parent is something no one has ever heard of (mommy and daddy are fine). So the state is solving a problem it itself has caused. Just as the state is intrusive now deciding where kids spend Thanksgiving and Christmas etc , how much money dad spends whether he is allowed to attend little league games – all because of the breakdown of traditional marriage from no-dault divorce.

Same sex marriage is fundamentally an artificial creation of the state.  Natural marriage has a depth and integrity of its own. Natural marriage can sustain itself whereas same sex marriage is a creation of the state and has to be sustained by the state.  The state has to come and intervene to make sure that you are teaching children that same sex couples are the same as opposite sex couples. The state gets involved in education, it gets involved n civil society. A wedding photographer in New Mexico where they don’t even have same sex marriage – a lesbian coupled comes in and says we would like you to take photos of our commitment ceremony and the photographer says I’d rather not do that. The lesbian couple hauls him up in front of a civil rights commission and he lost.

There are cases where the Knights of Columbus are asked to rent their hall for a wedding ceremony and they said no.  They were fined by the provincial government of Canada.

The last example is a beauty. The Quebec Policy Against Homophobia  states that the government of Quebec should wipe out all evidence of heteronormativity. When the government of Quebec gives itself a blank check to wipe out all evidence that heterosexuality is normal they have gotten a blank check to intervene in every aspect of human life. Their goal is to wipe out heteronormativity in the school, in the workplace, in the family and on the sporting field. Quite simply this is none of the government’s business to be dealing with what people are thinking on the sporting field. Peruse the government white paper in the link above if you don’t believe me.

I have two take-aways from Dr. Morse’s talk. One is that DOMAs (Defense of Marriage Acts) need to do much more than one-man-one-woman. We need to put something of the “for life” ending to that back in our understanding of marriage. We really need to send a signal to young people that their parents’ idea of marriage was not only crappy but wrong. We need to start rolling back no-fault divorce. And same-sex marriage opponents need to stop focusing on the suitability of gays for the marriage of institution. The issue is MARRIAGE and Dr. Morse needs to be quoted more often in any discussion of same-sex marriage and its effects on marriage. This is about kids and their rights to a stable relationship with their mothers and fathers.


“One Man One Woman For Life” – Derek Jeter

June 5, 2012

If you tried to summarize canon law, scripture and Catholic Teaching into a bumper sticker, you couldn’t do worse with the title of this post. One of the ironies of the slogan is that if you lop off the last two words you may see the current slogan that defenders of traditional marriage use; “one man, one woman.” But if you want Matthew 19 in there, you need to add the “For Life.”

No one would be as audacious as to add those last two words today. In fact it might provoke some laughter at your sheer naïveté or lack of awareness of the state of the institution of marriage in American society. The facts are:

Married adults now divorce two-and-a-half times as often as adults did 20 years ago and four times as often as they did 50 years ago… between 40% and 60% of new marriages will eventually end in divorce. The probability within… the first five years is 20%, and the probability of its ending within the first 10 years is 33%… Perhaps 25% of children ages 16 and under live with a stepparent.
Brian K. Williams, Stacy C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom, Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships, 2005

The first comparison is to 40 years ago for this is when the first blow against traditional marriage occurred and it was a devastating one. They called it “No Fault Divorce” and within twenty years it had transformed the idea of traditional marriage, perhaps eliminating the concept of “Together Forever” outside of a few pop ballads. It took away the idea that marriage would be a permanent relationship.  Instead of the law having a presumption of permanence and society siding with the partner who sought that, the law now had a presumption of impermanence siding with the party who wants to end the marriage. The old law accommodated exceptions in certain situations to the rule of permanence but never supported the idea of impermanence. 

When you are up to your ass in alligators, goes the old proverb, it is difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp. In this case it is more than instructional to recall the initial objectives in initiating no-fault divorce…

No-Fault was supposed to lower the cost for a “very small number of people” whose marriages had broken down. Divorce originally meant a long and involved process to prove abandonment, cruelty, incurable mental illness, or adultery. By the 1960s this had encouraged the use of collusive or deceptive practices to bypass the fault system and there was widespread agreement that something had to change.

The no-fault divorce “revolution” began in Oklahoma in 1953, but gained national impetus in 1969 in California, and was nearly completed in 1985 in South Dakota. In August 2010, New York’s governor, David Paterson, signed a bill removing mutual-consent requirements for “no-fault” divorce into law. One form or another of no-fault divorce has long been legal in all 50 U.S. states, and the District of Columbia.
Wikipedia, Divorce

As it rolled out across the country the main impetus to its growth was the virtual boon in employment and income it provided to divorce lawyers and family courts, so there became a groundswell for support of no-fault.  You would have had to have been brain dead to wish No-Fault Divorce on your fellow citizens in South Dakota in 1985 but the next best thing would have been a campaign of deception and misinformation brought by the folks who stood to gain from it. No-fault was deemed “good for kids” because it eliminated the difficulty and anguish of divorce or living in a loveless marriage. Happy parents, it was disastrously reasoned, make for happy kids, we were assured.

One of the dubious claims of the same-sex marriage crowd is that it will point to a state that has passed a gay marriage statute and then claim, “See, nothing has changed in that state.” Changes to traditional institutions such as marriage take years to work their ways out in social structures and the culture at large. The notion that no-fault divorce turned out to be “good for kids” is pretty much indefensible. The sheer misery that this change has meant for kids should be a sober reminder to anyone looking at the next set of proposals to change marriage that is being advanced by the same sex marriage crowd.

Much of the arguments against gay marriage proceed from discussions of homosexuality and the suitability of gays to be deemed worthy of the institution. Most of those criticisms are religious in nature and while those who make the arguments may be sincere and genuine in their critiques of homosexual acts (not homosexuality as is widely perceived) there remain some serious objections to same-sex marriage based entirely on its conception of marriage and how it will change traditional marriage.

Instead of marriage being a gender based institution ordered towards the procreation, rearing and protection of children, marriage will become a gender neutral institution with concern for children moved completely to the side. It will become an adult centered institution.  The redefinition of marriage will change the incentives about what kind of  unions to form and whether to get married at all. 

Legalizing same sex marriage is part of the movement to make same-sex marriage and opposite sex relationships equally acceptable. There are many things that are going to change when we redefine marriage to be the union of any two persons instead of being the union of a man and a woman. Much the way it was a big mistake to think that no-fault divorce was going to change one little thing it is similarly a big mistake to think that same sex marriage will change just one little thing. Opposition to same sex marriage has almost nothing to do with what you think about people in same sex marriages – quite unlike what Judge Walker in San Francisco  or what the city of San Francisco alleged in its brief in the 9th circuit court recently. It has to do with what we think of marriage. The issue is MARRIAGE, not GAYS.

My arguments here are based upon those made by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, she of the Ruth Institute. Check this out: This powerful video captures her testimony to the Rhode Island House Judiciary on March 1, 2011. Reportedly, silence followed her testimony in our nation’s most Catholic state. See if she doesn’t blow you away, too.


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