I’m spending a few days on the blog talking about marriage, sex, the Church’s teachings, and the whole difficult issue of same-sex marriage (ssm) and its civil recognition. My effort here is to establish a dialogue that is respectful and charitable, and to present the anti-ssm argument and the Church’s teachings on the moral meaning of human sexuality in a clear respectful manner.
Yesterday I presented a short and simple argument against the civil extension of marriage to same sex couples. It was essentially a soft libertarian argument, that the government can only extend its authority into the private lives of its citizens for a reason, and the more intrusive or significant the government’s intervention is, the more serious the reason is. Marriage only is a concern of the state because of that pesky reality of fertility, that opposite-sex couples routinely produce children, and that children’s interests need to be protected by at the very least encouraging men and women to commit to one another in marriage and family life and offering various incentives (tax breaks, etc.) for them if they do so.
I would say that that is strictly it. The government—the full coercive power of the modern bureaucratic state—has absolutely no business sticking its oar in on the personal domestic arrangements and emotional bonds of its citizens. And I must say I am truly surprised at how few people seem perturbed by that. Even if you have no moral objection whatsoever to homosexual intercourse, surely the notion that the state has some role in adjudicating the legitimacy and value of your personal life is troubling, isn’t it?
And if it is a question of promoting social acceptance of homosexuality, then I consider that a morally noxious project. There are many of us—millions of us, actually—who still consider homosexual intercourse to be a moral evil. This is grounded in a moral view of reality that has endured for three thousand years and that has produced the whole of Western Civilization, To use the power of the state and all its resources to bully people into silence or enact various penalties upon them for dissenting from state-sanctioned ideology is simply wrong and smacks of fascism, the exalting of the power of the State to the exclusion of all other powers.
OK, objections. I said yesterday I would address the objections. What about infertile/elderly couples? The Church and the State have always married these. I would answer that sexual complementariness is nonetheless ordered towards pro-creation, even if incidental physical factors make it unlikely at best.
Also, once the principle is established that marriage exists for the purpose of having a stable family structure surround the creation and nurturing of new human beings, and hence is a stable lasting bond between a man and a woman, I would prefer the government to wash its hands of the matter. Less government intrusion into personal arrangements—that’s my motto.
What about the same sex couples who have children, either by adoption or by a previous heterosexual relationship or by some kind of assisted technology? Well, I realize in a morally pluralistic society it is hard to frame an argument that same-sex couples should not be allowed to adopt. Personally, aside from my own moral convictions, I believe there is specific developmental value in a child having a mother and a father, but I realize that many people just don’t see that point.
It seems to me that it has always been the case that children, while normally raised by mother and father in a committed family structure, have always found themselves being raised in other circumstances due to various happenstances: generally the death of one or both parents or the incapacity of one or both parents to provide for them. This is hardly a new situation, and surely the long-standing civil law around adoption/wardship suffices to protect the interests of the child without state intrusion into our private lives?
What about the fact that there are lots of lousy parents out there, who may be married as all get out and are abusive and neglectful of their children? Well, yes. And the state already has a whole bureaucratic structure in place (imperfect as it may be) to address the issue of child abuse and neglect. But surely we don’t mean to suggest that because a small percentage of parents abuse their children, the whole norm of mother-father-baby is thereby negated and discarded?
The norm of life remains, and continues to remain, that man and woman come together in sexual union, and that is how a new human being comes into existence. The norm remains that this new human being is best served if mother and father are in a stable, committed relationship in which they provide and protect the nascent life of this small person. Same sex marriage, by declaring that there is no connection whatsoever between commitment and love and the creation and preservation of human life, weakens our social commitment to our most vulnerable members and reduces the whole reality of marriage to a matter of personal private affection, which is oddly overseen and maintained by the force of the bureaucratic state.
That’s all I have to say about the political and civil side of things. Tomorrow, God willing, I will write in a more spiritual and religious vein, about the vision of sexuality the Church provides, and our need to love and care for those for whom this vision comes with a heavy price. See you tomorrow.