Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Question About Homosexual Marriage

I was doing some cleaning in one of my old (2009) attempts at blogging and I found an answer I gave to one of our very inquisitive cathecumens. I thought my answer was worth posting, so I added to my old blog. Since I feel it is still relevant, here it is. First is the e-mail I received followed by my answer:

2) My second question is about homosexuality and gay marriage. This is not just related to Catholics, but is an issue being dealt with in many Christian churches. Coming from the Episcopal Church I am very aware of how deeply divisive the issue is, but I can't help but see it as a human rights issue. I understand the biblical arguments, particularly those from the Old Testament, but following the argument of St. Paul when dealing with the Jerusalem Church, those laws, especially from Leviticus no longer apply. Christian men do not have to be circumcised; we are allowed to eat pork, lobster, shark, rabbit and ostrich; modern Christian's do not believe that it is OK to hold slaves.

I also understand that St. Paul himself addresses and condemns this issue in one of his letters. The problem is he was not talking about two consenting adults entering into a mutually supportive consenting relationship. Rather he was talking about the very unequal ancient Greek practice of older men having relationships with young boys, as well as the practice of cult prostitution.

... The point is more that I don't think this statement from Paul applies to the current situation and so we are left without much scriptural guidance on a very controversial issue.

There are a number of points in your question. I hope I can cover them all! First it seems to me that you have 3 ideas in your mind:
1) Scripture’s and Church stance on homosexuality
2) Scripture’s and Church stance on Gay marriage
3) The place of Scripture on solving moral questions

Let me see if I can address them all. The claim that Christians are against gay marriage because of what scripture says can be attributed to the many evangelicals which use the scriptural passages you mentioned to justify their stance against the relaxation of the definition of marriage from “one man and one woman” to just “two people”. Now here let me first make an observation. This might surprise you but: The Bible never speaks directly against gay marriage. It directly speaks against homosexual acts, but it never even mentions the case of a marriage between two people of the same sex. This is not to say that scripture condones gay marriage since every time it refers to marriage it assumes the reader knows that what is meant is the covenantal union of one man and one woman. The reason for this is because natural law is implicit in scripture. The order God placed in creation existed before scripture. Since this law is written in our hearts there is no need to be specific on matters of natural law, although sometimes scripture IS very specific in these matters.

Now for our Protestant brothers and sisters, (Especially those who believe in “Sola Scripturae”) this is problematic. Since their argument falls flat on the face when confronted with the reasons you presented. For the Catholic Church it is a different story all together. Like in scripture, the Church condemns the homosexual act, but it does not condemn homosexuals. The moniker “Hate the sin but love the sinner” applies in this case. People with homosexual tendencies are called to live a life of chastity (in the same way all heterosexuals are called to live this life.) The CCC teaches:

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Having established this… What about homosexual marriage? If scripture is silent about this issue what to do? Why does the Church advocate a ban on the so called “Homosexual Marriage.” Like you said isn’t this a matter of just human rights? To answer this, the Catholic Church turns first to natural law. Starting from the simple question “What is the natural order of creation?” The CCC teaches that:

1603 "The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws. . . . God himself is the author of marriage."The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics. Although the dignity of this institution is not transparent everywhere with the same clarity, some sense of the greatness of the matrimonial union exists in all cultures. "The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life."

This natural order is affirmed in scripture, to quote the CCC again:

1605 Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: "It is not good that the man should be alone." The woman, "flesh of his flesh," his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a "helpmate"; she thus represents God from whom comes our help. "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been "in the beginning": "So they are no longer two, but one flesh."

So as you can see if we look at the order of creation and what God has revealed we can conclude that the union between one man and one woman is ontological. It is part of who we are.

Once this is established we can make the argument that in fact gay marriage IS a human rights issue. Because any attempt to alter the order of creation will have a negative effect in the rights of the human person, and society (take for example paternity, children have the right to a one father and one mother. Anything else would be a violation of their rights as members of the human species). The common good demands that the marriage between one man and one woman be protected since it is a fundamental element of who we are as creatures and as a society.

I hope this helps


Anonymous said...

Deacon Harbey,

This is a wonderfully articulate treatment on the question of homosexuality. I was not aware that Scripture did not directly speak against gay marriage, and I liked the appeal to natural law.

I often feel my peers and teenagers are for gay marriage because of a strong sense of justice (albeit misguided). In other words, they are coming from a strong sense of compassion, a good place. A fellow parent, for example, challenged me on how I'd feel if my own two daughters were gay (reflection here: I concluded that I could not change God's law, but I could do what Christ did and live a life of holiness to make up for my own daughter's unrepentant ways.

God bless you, Deacon Harbey! I am trying to discern whether I should join the diaconate later in life. Pray for me. :)

Brothers in Christ,