July 20, 2010

The Essential Difference Between Marriage And Same Sex Unions

Sexual difference is not like any other kind of difference. It’s a primordial difference. It allows for and opens the entire human person to a true and authentic communion of persons.

The heart of marriage, the good that marriage consists of, is the bond that arises from the vows of husband and wife to give one’s self in love fully to the other who is similar yet different. The sexual difference between man and woman, that is, husband and wife, opens love to an utterly unique reciprocity and communion. “It is not good that the man should be alone; I want to make him a help similar to himself” (cf. Gn 2:18).25 Because marriage is a union that essentially includes the gift of the entire “body-person,” it inherently and necessarily is a union of male and female, of husband and wife. 

The Church has always and everywhere taught that sexual relationships between people of the same sex, as well as any sexual relationships or activity outside of marriage, are morally wrong, contrary to the true good of the human person. For one thing, such activity harms the persons involved, ignoring the true meaning of one’s sexuality. There are greater consequences for society as well. This is no secret. Sex has public consequences. Both the Church and societies across the ages have acknowledged this.

But same-sex “marriage” is not merely wrong; it is impossible. When a government claims that two people of the same sex can be “married,” it is founding the law on a lie. Civil authorities have an obligation to protect marriage because it is so central to the common good, but no one has a right to redefine it. Rights exist because of truth and MARRIAGE: UNIQUE FOR A REASON 12 corresponding responsibilities. Truth matters. 

For example, if a government — by a legislative decision, court ruling, or even by a people’s vote — were to pass a law saying that a cat is a dog, that would not make it true. But it would make it very difficult, once the government assumed control over the very word, to teach the truth about cats to the next generation. Cultural power is the power to “name reality.” With same-sex “marriage,” civil authorities and others are proposing to change the very nature, meaning and purpose of marriage in the public square. 

Let’s make sure we’re clear: Friendship is a great good, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex (see CCC, no. 2347). The Church calls persons who experience same-sex attraction, as she does all people, to a life of holy fulfillment, that is, to a deeper and fuller union with Jesus Christ. As support along the way in a life of chastity and virtue, the Church speaks to the importance and great good of healthy and holy friendships, family and community support, prayer and sacramental grace. 

Unlike two persons of the same sex, only a man and a woman can commit to a true marital bond as husband and wife and create a one-flesh union. A man and a woman’s “body-persons” (their whole person) are ordered to one another. A husband and a wife are able to speak a unique and authentic language of love through their bodies (i.e., through the “language of the body” 26). A current false assumption is that one has a personal, autonomous “right” to decide the meaning and purpose of one’s body, of the sexual act, to separate deliberately sex from procreation and procreation from sex, as well as the child from a mother and a father. It’s falsely presumed that there is a “right” to separate sex from the only context in which it can be truly unitive as well as procreative, hence the only context where it can be a true expression of love. 

Marriage is not merely an appearance of union. It is not a temporary joining of the affections that can be withdrawn, or a partial 50/50 commitment. Nor is it simply friendship — as great a good as healthy and holy friendships are. Marriage involves the unique sharing of the whole person, man to woman and woman to man—not just the heart and the mind, but body and soul as well.

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