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Kmiec on Gay Marriage

March 16, 2009

Along with a colleague, he comes up with the following proposal:

 “Give gay and straight couples alike the same license, a certificate confirming them as a family, and call it a civil union — anything, really, other than marriage. For people who feel the word marriage is important, the next stop after the courthouse could be the church, where they could bless their union with all the religious ceremony they wanted. Religions would lose nothing of their role in sanctioning the kinds of unions that they find in keeping with their tenets. And for nonbelievers and those who find the word marriage less important, the civil-union license issued by the state would be all they needed to unlock the benefits reserved in most states and in federal law for married couples.”

This is not a new idea, but I think its merit increases over time. It’s certainly not first best, which is a situation where the civil authorities specifically acknowledge and favor an institution that acts as the foundation of society — permanent marriage between one man and one woman geared toward the bearing and rearing of children. The problem is, this is no longer the social standard and we fool ourselves to think otherwise. First, serial monogamy is considered the norm, and the incidence of divorce is actually greatest in those parts of the country supposedly most religious. And, second, we have long passed the point of thinking about marriage as the bearing and rearing of children — instead, it is seen in exclusive romantic terms, the fulfilment of individual needs and desires. With these two pillars collapsed, is it any wonder that the third– the one pertaining to man and woman– would be the next to go? Where were all those supposed defenders of traditional marriage when heterosexuals were busy redefining it over the years?

Let’s face reality: gay marriage has almost universal appeal among the younger generations. It is not like abortion where divisions remain sharp. And this is because marriage is seen solely in terms of individual rights, something with a very American flavor (and here, as with so many other things, false divisions into “liberal” and “conservative” camps fall flat). So, what do we do? Well, we do all we can to sharpen the distinction between the civil arrangement and the sacrament of marriage. No longer should the privilege of Catholic marriage be available on demand, where nothing is demanded beyond a perfunctory pre-Cana weekend. No, the standards would be much higher. Want your Church wedding? Well, how about actually believing what the Church teaches! This strategy has the added benefit of avoiding any accusations of homophobia – and let’s face it, much of the attack on gay marriage is an attack more the “gay” part than the “marriage” part!

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57 Comments
  1. Serena permalink
    March 16, 2009 7:15 pm

    I agree with this post. I couldn’t quite understand why Catholics were/are upset with gay marriage. Sure it may be an assault on traditional secular marriage but defintley not Catholic marriages. If I were to marry in courthouse ceremony yes, in the eyes of the state I would be married but it would not be sacramental. Civil Divorce and Catholic prohibition on divorce exists just fine in our society.

  2. TeutonicTim permalink
    March 16, 2009 7:47 pm

    So paper thin, with a complete lack of an understanding of the point.

  3. March 16, 2009 7:50 pm

    Good post, MM.

    Tim, how about a specific objection?

  4. jonathanjones02 permalink
    March 16, 2009 8:32 pm

    Gay marriage has one important parallel to abortion: judicial fiat. In a pluralistic republic with democratic processes, this is deeply destructive to the body politic and to discourse in general.

    It may well be the case that the children and grandchildren of baby boomers bring about civil benefits and eventually “marriage” (I use the quotations because I view marriage as a sacrament between man, woman, and God), and it may well be the case that these things are a natural product of liberal autonomy.

    Even so, society needs marriage as so many civilizations have understood the term, just as men and women need each other. It is the very foundation of a good society. Catholics should oppose all attempts to define it any other way, given what the Church teaches about its function to us and our communities.

    You know who has shifted the discussion and political action from ideals to “compromise” and “don’t deny us our rights?” “Gay rights” activists, and they will use any means necessary…..the courts being a powerful ally. In our system of government, that’s fine – argue your case. But do it democratically. They have not been doing so, and its odious, as the recent California vote amply demonstrated….hopefully the courts there and elsewhere will stay out of it all.

  5. TeutonicTim permalink
    March 16, 2009 8:46 pm

    Well said Jonathan.

    Michael J. – What’s wrong is wrong. It doesn’t matter what you call it, the end goal is the same. Call it “civil unions” now and in twenty years when everyone is acclimated to that idea, they will become “marriages”. In the meantime, all the damage the Church explicitly speaks about will be rampant.

    Do you really need an explanation as to why MM’s post is admitting defeat at the hands of “activists” that will stop at nothing to defeat the solid ground the Church has held forever?

  6. March 16, 2009 8:51 pm

    This would, in my view, be an acceptable compromise.

    It’ll never happen, though.

  7. March 16, 2009 8:56 pm

    The problem is, this is no longer the social standard and we fool ourselves to think otherwise.

    So because we’ve lost an immense amount of ground to the culture of death, we must give up the rest?

  8. M.Z. permalink
    March 16, 2009 9:00 pm

    While I appreciate the sacramentality talk of marriage, I think the more important point is that marriage precedes civil society. The treatment of marriage outside the Church by Catholics as null is not necessary theologically, but a matter of canon law. (Such is not to claim the theological justification is lacking, just that it isn’t necessary.) The acknowledgement from society (and the Church for that matter) is a recognition of what is, not the creation thereof.

    From the political standpoint, I think the argument needs to be that the dissolution of a gay union does not result in a grievance necessitating the intervention of society. In the current debate, we have what amounts to welfare grievances: a gay partner isn’t entitled to another’s social security benefits or pension benefits at death; a gay person is not compelled by law to be offered health benefits that a heterosexual spouse is offered. It is all quite frankly silly, and in the end there are probably larger issues facing the gay community today. Ironically, many of the same places clamoring for gay marriage don’t recognize common law marriage, a situation that would seem to at least have as great of a claim. (As a matter of curiosity, I do wonder how many supporters of gay marriage oppose common law marriage. I would speculate it is north of 80%.)

  9. March 16, 2009 9:01 pm

    In the meantime, all the damage the Church explicitly speaks about will be rampant.

    Yes, homosexual couples in loving union with one another will probably cause all sorts of “damage,” won’t it?

  10. Serena permalink
    March 16, 2009 9:05 pm

    But civil unions are not sacramental be it gay or straight civil unions. Leave the term marriage to be defined by religious instituions, for those who are non-religious couples gay and straight, they can have the state recognize their contracutal agreement.

  11. jonathanjones02 permalink
    March 16, 2009 9:10 pm

    http://www.cbn.com/CBNnews/558119.aspx

    More of this, much less (as in zero) court decisions.

    I have a hunch that advocates of traditional / Catholic concepts of marriage will lose in the court of public opinion. Each generation is more “gay friendly.” Fine. I like living in a republic with democratic processes. But two things should be recognized here:

    - marriage as an ubreakable sacrament between one man and one woman is Catholic teaching because it is right accord with our created natures, and the most fulfilling end to our desires
    - this view should be advocated, loudly and coherently, by all Catholics in the public sphere
    -the proper place to negiotate this is in the legislative

  12. TeutonicTim permalink
    March 16, 2009 9:14 pm

    Yes, homosexual couples in loving union with one another will probably cause all sorts of “damage,” won’t it?

    Yes.

  13. TeutonicTim permalink
    March 16, 2009 9:17 pm

    Toss in some other immoral items like IVF, surrogates, etc. and you’ll have (do have) some really nuclear families.

    And a whole generation of people that know nothing of a traditional (and Church supported) family structure.

    Take that, and layer every single item the Church says on the importance of marriage and family and there’s your answer. To pretend otherwise is ignorance in the name of “acceptance”, not to mention against Church teaching.

  14. jonathanjones02 permalink
    March 16, 2009 9:39 pm

    Leave the term marriage to be defined by religious instituions, for those who are non-religious couples gay and straight, they can have the state recognize their contracutal agreement.

    “Gay rights” activists are unwilling to allow religious institutions, and even civil authorities, to do this. They tend to want the judicial branch, through concepts of rights, to define marriage.

  15. March 16, 2009 9:41 pm

    I think the idea is fine in theory, but, as BA notes, it’s just not going to happen. It appeals to moderates in the current landscape, but most people aren’t moderate on this issue. Practically, there’s no reason for either side to embrace it. The traditional marriage side currently has a slight voting advantage (even in CA apparently), and so they are unlikely to compromise. And, as MM notes, those who support same sex marriage know that time and demographics are on their side, so they have no incentive to accept this.

  16. March 16, 2009 10:39 pm

    - marriage as an ubreakable sacrament between one man and one woman is Catholic teaching because it is right accord with our created natures, and the most fulfilling end to our desires
    - this view should be advocated, loudly and coherently, by all Catholics in the public sphere
    -the proper place to negiotate this is in the legislative

    Please. The existing conception of heterosexual marriage in the united states is NOT “sacrament” or even “covenant” but “contract.” The calls to protect the “sanctity” of marriage ring hollow when you realize this.

    And a whole generation of people that know nothing of a traditional (and Church supported) family structure.

    Riiiiiiiight. Because if gay unions are allowed, EVERYONE’s going to turn gay, right?

  17. jonathanjones02 permalink
    March 16, 2009 11:54 pm

    Please. The existing conception of heterosexual marriage in the united states is NOT “sacrament” or even “covenant” but “contract.” The calls to protect the “sanctity” of marriage ring hollow when you realize this.

    “Please” what? Your response is irrelevant to the point. The Catholic teachings of marriage – which I assume you are in agreement with – should be advocated by Catholics, and especially by Catholics in positions of legislative responsibility who wish to claim the label. Its contractural conception by many citizens, and unfortunately by many Catholics, does not change that imperative. Nor the notion that these arguments should be advanced free of judicial fiat in our system of governance.

    Marriage is sacred, a sacrament, and it is the very foundation of a healthy community. It is also a reflection of the Trinity. No matter how “hollow” such an argument may “ring,” it should be made – frequently, respectfully, forcefully.

  18. Serena permalink
    March 17, 2009 12:13 am

    Jonathan, how can a civil marriage ever be sacramental and/or a reflection of the trinity?

  19. March 17, 2009 12:30 am

    Horrible Idea

    First it goes pretty against the teaching of the Church in many facets

    Second it legitmatizes sin

    The law is a teacher and such an action would be a disaster

  20. digbydolben permalink
    March 17, 2009 1:00 am

    In the current debate, we have what amounts to welfare grievances: a gay partner isn’t entitled to another’s social security benefits or pension benefits at death; a gay person is not compelled by law to be offered health benefits that a heterosexual spouse is offered. It is all quite frankly silly, and in the end there are probably larger issues facing the gay community today.

    What is “silly,” “MZ,” is your comment, because it reflects total ignorance of the fact that a large number of “gay” couples have adopted children and are right now being denied such normal custodial rights as that to have part of their income sheltered as a means of providing college tuition-savings for those children. “Gay marriages” or “civil unions” or whatever you want to call them are actually, in very many cases, providing shelter and emotional support for a great many children who’d otherwise have nothing.

    I am in complete support of Kmiec’s proposal and would, as a matter of fact, strengthen it, by adding that all tax benefits for “married” or “civilly-united” “couples” should be done away with, unless those unions are supporting “dependents” (of whatever age–your octogenarian, disabled lesbian great-aunt or your school-age children are BOTH obvious candidates) who rely on the folks in the “union” for material support.

    In an obviously pagan, totally secularized society in which “marriage” IS only defined in the context of “romance” and “rights,” the CHURCH is best served by having her “sacramental marriage” totally separated from the “serial monogamy” the masses participate in, and by having the GOVERNMENT totally removed from the “marriage business.”

  21. March 17, 2009 1:12 am

    For a refresher course why this is a non starter

    CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH

    CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING PROPOSALS
    TO GIVE LEGAL RECOGNITION
    TO UNIONS
    BETWEEN HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20030731_homosexual-unions_en.html

    Also the Compendium of Social Doctine (which I see is linked to the right)

    “Faced with theories that consider gender identity as merely the cultural and social product of the interaction between the community and the individual, independent of personal sexual identity without any reference to the true meaning of sexuality, the Church does not tire of repeating her teaching: “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarities, needs and mutual support between the sexes are lived out”[496]. According to this perspective, it is obligatory that positive law be conformed to the natural law, according to which sexual identity is indispensable, because it is the objective condition for forming a couple in marriage.”

    and

    “If, from the legal standpoint, marriage between a man and a woman were to be considered just one possible form of marriage, the concept of marriage would undergo a radical transformation, with grave detriment to the common good. By putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage and the family, the State acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties”[508].

    229. The solidity of the family nucleus is a decisive resource for the quality of life in society, therefore the civil community cannot remain indifferent to the destabilizing tendencies that threaten its foundations at their very roots. Although legislation may sometimes tolerate morally unacceptable behaviour[509], it must never weaken the recognition of indissoluble monogamous marriage as the only authentic form of the family. It is therefore necessary that the public authorities “resist these tendencies which divide society and are harmful to the dignity, security and welfare of the citizens as individuals, and they must try to ensure that public opinion is not led to undervalue the institutional importance of marriage and the family”[510].

    It is the task of the Christian community and of all who have the good of society at heart to reaffirm that “the family constitutes, much more than a mere juridical, social and economic unit, a community of love and solidarity, which is uniquely suited to teach and transmit cultural, ethical, social, spiritual and religious values, essential for the development and well-being of its own members and of society”[511].”

  22. digbydolben permalink
    March 17, 2009 1:50 am

    …It must never weaken the recognition of indissoluble monogamous marriage as the only authentic form of the family.

    What a blindly arrogant, culturally unsophisticated statement! It could only be produced by theologians pontificating from ivory towers in a bubble like the Vatican!

    I won’t mention the polygamous Muslims, or the polygamous ancient Jewish prophets and kings, but tell it to Henry VIII, for God’s sake, trying to put aside his barren Spanish wife for the sake of the Tudor succession and the “decent order” of his kingdom. Tell it to John Milton, writing his pamphlet “On Divorce.” Tell it to Martin Luther, marrying a NUN, to PROVE that a nun’s vows constitute no sort of “marriage” at all to her Saviour.

    When will you realize that the Americans’ exuberant embrace of divorce and serial monogamy as a LIFESTYLE proves that they are not and never have been a part of Roman Catholic Christendom?

  23. March 17, 2009 2:05 am

    “When will you realize that the Americans’ exuberant embrace of divorce and serial monogamy as a LIFESTYLE proves that they are not and never have been a part of Roman Catholic Christendom?”

    What does this have to do with the Churches clear statements. I admit I don’t read everything that issues from our Mother but I don’t think I have heard of an “AMerican” exception to the above

  24. March 17, 2009 2:37 am

    Further from the Pope sort of State of the Church address just months ago

    “Since faith in the Creator is an essential part of the Christian creed, the Church cannot and must not limit herself to passing on to the faithful the message of salvation alone. She has a responsibility towards creation, and must also publicly assert this responsibility. In so doing, she must not only defend earth, water and air as gifts of creation belonging to all. She must also protect man from self-destruction. What is needed is something like a human ecology, correctly understood.

    If the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected, this is not some antiquated metaphysics. What is involved here is faith in the Creator and a readiness to listen to the “language” of creation. To disregard this would be the self-destruction of man himself, and hence the destruction of God’s own work.

    What is often expressed and understood by the term “gender” ultimately ends up being man’s attempt at self-emancipation from creation and the Creator. Man wants to be his own master, and alone – always and exclusively – to determine everything that concerns him. Yet in this way he lives in opposition to the truth, in opposition to the Creator Spirit.

    Rain forests deserve indeed to be protected, but no less so does man, as a creature having an innate “message” which does not contradict our freedom, but is instead its very premise.

    The great scholastic theologians described marriage, understood as the life-long bond between a man and a woman, as a sacrament of creation, which the Creator himself instituted and which Christ – without modifying the “message” of creation – then made part of the history of his covenant with humanity.

    An integral part of the Church proclamation must be a witness to the Creator Spirit present in nature as a whole, and, in a special way, in the human person, created in God’s image.”

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2008/december/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20081222_curia-romana_en.html

    I could talk about the folly of thinking the Govt can get out the marriage business. In fact we have not talked about what happens to the people that oppose this new outlook under a new reigime of laws

    But it appears we can’t exactly get out of the marriage business and the Church is in fact telling the State it has in fact obligations. Just calling it something else will not do the tricl

  25. M.Z. permalink
    March 17, 2009 8:38 am

    What is “silly,” “MZ,” is your comment, because it reflects total ignorance of the fact that a large number of “gay” couples have adopted children and are right now being denied such normal custodial rights as that to have part of their income sheltered as a means of providing college tuition-savings for those children.

    A percentage of 3% is not a “large number”. Among children living in households absent their birth mother and father, children of gay couples are still a tiny minority. For California, the estimate is there are some 26,000 gay couples raising children. Comparatively, a much smaller state Utah has an estimated 40,000 people living in polygamous households. If Utah were California, there would be over a half million living in polygamous households. Of course you’re really not interested in the children, so you aren’t concerned about making sure polygamous marriages are recognized just like you really don’t care about all the divorced children stuck in gay households because their Mom or Dad decided they wouldn’t be faithful anymore.

    “Gay marriages” or “civil unions” or whatever you want to call them are actually, in very many cases, providing shelter and emotional support for a great many children who’d otherwise have nothing.

    Once again great and many are ridiculous terms to be using.

    I am in complete support of Kmiec’s proposal and would, as a matter of fact, strengthen it, by adding that all tax benefits for “married” or “civilly-united” “couples” should be done away with, unless those unions are supporting “dependents” (of whatever age–your octogenarian, disabled lesbian great-aunt or your school-age children are BOTH obvious candidates) who rely on the folks in the “union” for material support.

    How individualistic of you.

    In an obviously pagan, totally secularized society in which “marriage” IS only defined in the context of “romance” and “rights,” the CHURCH is best served by having her “sacramental marriage” totally separated from the “serial monogamy” the masses participate in, and by having the GOVERNMENT totally removed from the “marriage business.”

    This is like saying in a society a society in which all meat is called a T-Bone we should abandon the notion that there is such a thing as a T-Bone. It’s positivism hiding as toleration. The only thing denying calling all meat T-Bones does is obfuscate what a T-Bone is.

  26. digbydolben permalink
    March 17, 2009 9:52 am

    Of course you’re really not interested in the children…just like you really don’t care about all the divorced children stuck in Gay households because their Mom or Dad decided they wouldn’t be faithful any more.

    Look, you jerk, I am a teacher and I have actually taught, in Connecticut, a few of the children you’re referring to so dismissively.

    Like many of the other “wing-nuts” writing here, you’re a typical piece of bigoted work who’d sacrifice children’s happiness for the sake of a definition–and a definition which is passe in this culture, to boot.

    And on top of your other noxious qualities, you’re illiterate; I’m sure you MEANT to write “the children of divorced parents.”

  27. M.Z. permalink
    March 17, 2009 10:03 am

    Are you going to write something intelligent or just throw a tantrum?

  28. March 17, 2009 2:12 pm

    A proper discussion of the definition of the institution of marriage within society and its effect on the common good should not be avoided. As Catholics, we are to work toward the common good, not only toward the Catholic common good.

  29. March 17, 2009 3:44 pm

    The current generation of American Catholics has a greater difficulty adjusting to the exigencies of pluralism than any I can recall. It’s as though a fundamentalist mindset has infected them on so many levels.

    Perhaps this is an unintended consequence of the unhealthy marriage uniting Evangelicals and Catholics in the cultural wars. Perhaps it is due to the failure of Catholic universities to offer students a sound philosophical basis to enable them to critically evaluate and analogically examine the relevance of Faith in the world. Perhaps it is due to a radical confusion between the necessarily distinct methodologies of theology, metaphysics, and the practical disciplines of ethics and politics.

    Whatever it is, there is a disturbing anti-intellectualism that now erodes the ground, the structures, and the dynamics of American Catholicism. The public presence of the Catholic Church in America is at once embarrassing and troubling. it is disconcerting because so much of it is distortion. It is disturbing because so much of the future is being shaped by its tortured offering.

    At a time of great need, the American Catholic hierarchy behaves like any other Lilliputian, tying the Church’s future to the reductionist tendencies in American politics. They have allowed opinion and emotion amongst the flock to substitute for insight, intelligent analysis, and prudential acts. Amidst prevailing religious fervor, there is great apostasy.

    Having seen better, it’s hard not to judge this predicament as simply appalling.

  30. March 17, 2009 3:54 pm

    Whatever it is, there is a disturbing anti-intellectualism that now erodes the ground, the structures, and the dynamics of American Catholicism.

    My guess is this is largely a reaction against the disturbing intellectualism that has already eroded the ground, the structures, and the dynamics of American Catholicism.

  31. M.Z. permalink
    March 17, 2009 3:56 pm

    Do tell how all those previous societies addressed gay coupling, let alone gay marriage. I suppose you are going to claim the Soviets (and most of communism for that matter) were unduly influenced by “fundamentalism” (an American creation) and “American Evangelicalism.” Asian and African cultures are not overly tolerant of gay coupling. Perhaps you need to re-examine your analogical construct. It is very much the cultures that have most embraced the American variant of modernism with its roots in the Enlightment that have embraced homosexual culture and coupling.

  32. digbydolben permalink
    March 17, 2009 3:59 pm

    Gerald, I agree with your first paragraph, but there’s one factor you left out as a cause: the “restoration” of pre-Vatican II norms of secrecy and non-collegiality by a charismatic but extremely reactionary, authoritarian and somewhat sexist pontiff whose political agenda at the beginning of his pontificate (but NOT at the end–although this was not noticed in America) aligned so precisely with Reagan-Bush foreign policy.

  33. March 17, 2009 4:06 pm

    “My guess is this is largely a reaction against the disturbing intellectualism that has already eroded the ground, the structures, and the dynamics of American Catholicism.”

    You either do not know the place of intellect and the intellectual order in Catholicism or you have rejected it.

  34. March 17, 2009 4:16 pm

    Digby, you may be correct here. I have Catholic conservative friends who, like me, were highly placed in the Reagan foreign policy establishment and they frequently allude to what you say here. Personally, I’ve never pursued this line of reasoning so I’m not able to affirm or deny what you say. But something has to account for what is going on in the American Church. I am open to what you say here.

  35. David Nickol permalink
    March 17, 2009 4:41 pm

    John L. McKenzie, in Dictionary of the Bible says:

    Marriage in Israel was neither a religious nor a public concern; it was a private contract, and it is this conception which leaves so little room for it in Hb law, which deals only with the exceptional cases. The contracting parties were not the bride and groom but the families, i.e., the fathers of the spouses; the brothers of the bride had the disposal of the girl if the father were dead.

    That was the kind of marriage Jesus knew and spoke of. It’s certainly not our idea of marriage today.

    People talk about marriage today as if it were an institution that hadn’t changed since prehistory. I am no expert here, but marriage as something authorized and regulated by the state, and even marriage within the Church, is relatively recent (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries).

  36. March 17, 2009 5:00 pm

    “Perhaps you need to re-examine your analogical construct.”

    You’ve given me no reason to do so.

    “It is very much the cultures that have most embraced the American variant of modernism with its roots in the Enlightment that have embraced homosexual culture and coupling.”

    So what? What is the relevance of this statement to what I said above?

  37. M.Z. permalink
    March 17, 2009 5:43 pm

    Your argument was held American culture in contradistinction. If the arguments against recognition of homosexual argument is not routinely accomodated in foreign cultures, your argument is a non sequitur.

  38. March 17, 2009 6:03 pm

    …how can a civil marriage ever be sacramental and/or a reflection of the trinity?

    For baptized non-Catholic Christians, civil marriage is valid, sacramental and indissoluable. (For non-baptized non-Christians marriage is not sacramental).

    The only reason civil marriage isn’t sacramental for Catholics is because of the juridical requirements of canon law: a Catholic who attempts marriage outside of the canonical form (or with a disparity of cult for that matter) without a dispensation from his bishop attempts marriage invalidly.

    But all those non-Catholic baptized Christians who enter into marriage with the usual requirements met – openness to children, permanence, and fidelity – marry validly, sacramentally, and indissoluably, even if they do so before a justice of the peace in a civil ceremony.

    Just FYI.

  39. grega permalink
    March 17, 2009 6:18 pm

    LOL We have our hands full these days keeping the hordes of rather questionable and yes morally very objectionable heterosexual “couplings” in check.
    Frankly a significant reason why our homosexual brothers and sisters were able to inch rather rapidly their way out of the ‘closet’ – a “closet” that most societies and religions around the globe had built pretty firm actually-was the breakdown of heterosexual norms and the significant increased value of personal freedom.
    Those of us who welcome such increase in personal freedom most certainly are not exactly in position for many of the Yes – But’s that would be required to indeed prevent our homosexual brothers and sisters from such deeply appreciated freedoms.
    I actually very much welcome particularly those homosexual couples that desire to contribute to our society by raising adopted and biological children.
    I see every Sunday some of the finest examples of this within my parish actually.

    Same goes for ‘gay marriage’ in my view – I find it very good that homosexuals desire to commit in this way and attempt to built similar stable relationships that responsible adults are suppose to built.

    For me the hetero and homosexual swingers are the actual issue – not us ‘boring’ responsible commited and married adult folks.
    You can be assured that plenty of folks in the gay movement will actually long for the ‘good’ old days were one was not expected to shoulder some responsibility.

  40. David Nickol permalink
    March 17, 2009 6:30 pm

    Jonathan, how can a civil marriage ever be sacramental and/or a reflection of the trinity?

    Before 1545 and the Council of Trent, Catholics were not required to be “married in the Church” — that is, marriage by a priest was not necessary.

    Interestingly, and I just found this out, sex before marriage (or before a wedding, in any case) was permitted:

    In the 12th century, Gratian, the master of the school of law at the Catholic University of Bologna, introduced a compromise in the debate between the Romans and the northern Europeans over what brought about marriage. That compromise, still embodied in the Code of Canon Law (canon 1061), is that mutual consent makes a marriage ratified and valid, and sexual intercourse makes it ratified and consummated and, therefore, indissoluble.

    Consent could be given in either the future tense or the present tense. When it was given in the future tense, the result was called betrothal or sponsalia, that is, the couple became spouses. When it was given in the present tense, the result was called marriage or nuptialia, that is, the couple became wedded. The first sexual intercourse between the spouses usually followed the betrothal—a fact of the Catholic tradition that has been obscured by the now-taken-for-granted sequence of wedding, marriage, sexual intercourse.

    It was not, however, until the Council of Trent in the 16th century that the Catholic Church prescribed that sequence and decreed that marriage resulted from the nuptials or ceremonial wedding. But for over half of Catholic couples in the modern West, the sequence has reverted to the pre-Tridentine sequence: cohabitation and sexual intercourse, then the wedding.

    The parallel between the pre-Tridentine and the modern practices is striking. Pre-Tridentine betrothal led to full sexual relations and pregnancy, which then led to indissoluble marriage. Modern nuptial cohabitation leads to full sexual relations then to indissoluble marriage, with or without pregnancy.

    We underscore again that we are focused only on nuptial cohabitation, cohabitation grounded in the commitment to marry. Nothing we say applies to non-nuptial cohabitation. The sexual intercourse practiced by betrothed couples in pre-Tridentine times was firmly grounded in the intention to marry. It is only those nuptial cohabitors with an equally firm intention to marry who are our concern here.

  41. March 17, 2009 9:37 pm

    You either do not know the place of intellect and the intellectual order in Catholicism or you have rejected it.

    What an odd thing to say!

  42. March 17, 2009 10:07 pm

    “Yes, homosexual couples in loving union with one another will probably cause all sorts of “damage,” won’t it?”

    Hmmmm…this line of reasoning starts to smack of the canard that was floated around a awhile back by some minor pundits in the MSM …that “Homosexuals will bring dignity, monogamy, and commitment to the institution of marriages”. Uh Huh. I can’t believe people are giving ground on this issue. I guess when it comes to knee-jerk emotionalistic militant homosexual activism the only thing a Christian should do is run for cover lest they too be labeled….”A Bigot”. Disgusting…I gave $100 bucks to Prop 8 and I run a High-Tech Company and I am in…”The Database of Hate..fully named” Stand up wimps…the social-engineering family-hating bullies aren’t stopping here. Its going to get worse better start punching back now

  43. March 17, 2009 10:18 pm

    “Whatever it is, there is a disturbing anti-intellectualism that now erodes the ground, the structures, and the dynamics of American Catholicism.”

    What is that famous maxim by Chesterton? “Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.”

    I am enjoying how our “Liberal” Catholic brothers and sisters continue to make excuses for their pals and their secular social-engineering experiments in both the church and in law. It is especially fun to watch them defend their positions in light of the historical facts starting at about 1958 onwards and the after effects within the church and society at large.

    These guys are like the best 3 Card Monty acts you have ever seen. Its worth playing just to see them do their “Bit”.

  44. March 17, 2009 10:36 pm

    M.Z.,

    I fail to see how your criticism bears on my comment. My point had nothing to do with “analogical constructs.” Nor did it depend on comparisons to other states, cultures, or traditions. I made no such references.

    My remarks had to do with the growing inability of American Catholics to deal intelligently and prudently with the ongoing challenges posed by American pluralism. Pluralism has been a long-standing dilemma for Catholics in the U.S. but in recent decades it has become an acute problem.

    I gave possible explanations of this and digbydolben added another.

    No matter what the cause, however, the Church is clearly moving from a position of solid leadership to one that is increasingly reactionary. Little good can come from this change. In the eyes of many thoughtful people, the American Church has already become, in the words of Macaulay, “a grotesque caricature of virtue.” This saddens me deeply.

  45. March 17, 2009 10:38 pm

    Tom, it wouldn’t be so odd if you understood what it meant. Apparently, you don’t.

  46. March 18, 2009 6:47 am

    Tom, it wouldn’t be so odd if you understood what it meant. Apparently, you don’t.

    I know that it means you aren’t as good at drawing logical inferences as you think you are, and I know that this response means you are here to declaim, not discuss. I also know that the best thing to do with an Internet bully is to ignore him.

  47. David Nickol permalink
    March 18, 2009 7:49 am

    I don’t see why the United States, having a secular government and separation of Church and state, should be expected to adhere to the Catholic conception of marriage.

    Did you know the divorce rate is about 21 percent among Catholics, atheists and agnostics, and Lutherans, and higher for other Protestants and Jews?

  48. M.Z. permalink
    March 18, 2009 8:36 am

    There are plenty of secular arguments against gay marriage. For those paying close attention, the typical argument for gay marriage is anti-social, focusing on the autonomous individual. The Soviet Union did not persecute homosexuals out of adherence to Church doctrine.

  49. March 18, 2009 8:52 am

    Tom,

    If you want to know something of this, trace the rise of nominalism and voluntarism from Duns Scotus through Ockham and then look at how that impacted Luther and Calvin — essentially all Protestantism.

    Balthasar’s book on Karl Barth discusses the Protestant rejection of the analogy of being. Balthasar unmasks the dangers and limitations of this rejection.

    These trends set the stage for all modern philosophy. Central to this development you will discover a radical denial of the veracity of the intellect and the intellectual order.

    The most fundamental difference between Catholicism and Protestantism lies in how they view the intellect and the intellect’s capacity to know truth. Whereas Catholicism maintains the integrity of the intellectual order, even after the Fall, Protestantism denies the intellect’s veracity. Underpinning this difference lurks the assumptions of nominalism/voluntarism.

    This is the background for the anti-iintellectualism of which I speak.

  50. March 18, 2009 9:52 am

    This is the background for the anti-intellectualism of which I speak.

    It’s also the background for the intellectualism of which I speak, since to the (considerable) extent nominalism and its descendants have entered into Catholic intellectual circles, they have eroded American Catholicism.

  51. David Nickol permalink
    March 18, 2009 9:55 am

    For those paying close attention, the typical argument for gay marriage is anti-social, focusing on the autonomous individual.

    M.Z.,

    From my perspective, at least, the argument for same-sex marriage is not “anti-social.” One of the principal criticisms of homosexuals going back decades (prior to which people generally did not discuss the subject) was that gay people were promiscuous. Now the criticism is that they want in on a societal institution that is monogamous. Every now and then someone makes the “conservative” case for same-sex marriage, and it is not based on the concept of the autonomous individual, but rather on the idea that gay marriage is good for gay people and for society as a whole.

    There are strange arguments that same-sex marriage put society on a slippery slope to incestuous marriages, marriages of humans and animals, and a lot of other nonsense on the belief that allowing same-sex marriage is permitting certain people to have anything they want just because they say they want it. But it seems to me that in pushing for same-sex marriage, gay people are asking to get in on an arrangement that, while it does have benefits, also actually imposes constraints and limits freedom.

    Interestingly, about ten years ago France instituted a kind of civil union that was meant (without it being explicitly written into law) for same-sex couples. Since its inception, it has increasingly been used by heterosexual couples as a form of “marriage lite.” It can be dissolved by either or both parties by making a written statement, so there is no divorce and nothing like community property. It seems to me if you are interested in keeping marriage strong, you don’t set up a weak alternative, and indeed gay people are not asking for this in the United States. Nor is anyone asking to marry a chimpanzee or a close relative. They are asking to marry because (to paraphrase) it is not good for a gay man or a lesbian to be alone. They need suitable partners.

  52. March 18, 2009 9:59 am

    You are correct then.

    Where do American Catholics go from here? Is a continued descent inevitable?

  53. March 18, 2009 11:31 am

    “There are plenty of secular arguments against gay marriage….The Soviet Union did not persecute homosexuals out of adherence to Church doctrine.”

    That statement warrants becoming the pinata at the next Dykes on Bikes birthday party.

  54. grega permalink
    March 18, 2009 11:47 am

    Mr. Campbell,
    I have to admit that my lack of philosophical training and knowledge of important facts and concepts does not permit me to understand and appreciate the full depth of many of your great posts.
    One of the prior post in this tread fits that bill – I sense that I read something very profound and worth understanding when you write: “The most fundamental difference between Catholicism and Protestantism lies in how they view the intellect and the intellect’s capacity to know truth. Whereas Catholicism maintains the integrity of the intellectual order, even after the Fall, Protestantism denies the intellect’s veracity. Underpinning this difference lurks the assumptions of nominalism/voluntarism. ” yet I do not quite get it.
    Chances are the average Catholic or Protestant
    is equally blissfully unaware of such profound philosophical underpinnings.

    I certainly imagine it will not be easy to defend the
    claim that “Catholicism maintains the integrity of the intellectual order” in light of the rather spotty
    church history in relation to the leading minds and scientists of the day.
    Yes as a religion we perhaps benefit at times from not overly relying on scripture alone – on the other hand it seems to me we had our fair share of rather anti-intellectual and cloudy minds.
    “Where do American Catholics go from here?”
    This is not rocket science – the more traditional and orthodox Catholics will dominate many parishes – The pope mad his intention quite clear that he would like to see more of ‘beloved’ catholic religion practices of his youth revitalized. The inflow and rise of Hispanics will emotionally flavor the average parish quite differently than this disconnected somewhat cold German ‘intellectual’can imagine.
    More liberal minded Catholics and folks that attempt to merge the reality of our time with a joyful take on religious practice will fizzle away or find congregations that are a better fit.

  55. March 20, 2009 4:04 pm

    Gerald A. Naus Says:
    March 18, 2009 at 11:31 am

    “There are plenty of secular arguments against gay marriage….The Soviet Union did not persecute homosexuals out of adherence to Church doctrine.”

    That statement warrants becoming the pinata at the next Dykes on Bikes birthday party.

    It does? So apparently the U.S and western Europe are getting secularism “Right” this time? How many times must we try Marxism before we all agree it doesn’t work.

  56. May 7, 2009 11:32 am

    JonathanJones02 wrote: “Gay marriage has one important parallel to abortion: judicial fiat. ”

    Except just yesterday, in Maine, the governor signed a gay marriage bill that was passed by the legislature.

    There was no court decision that forced it, or that even got the ball rolling. No judges were involved.

    http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2009/05/maine.php

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