Friday, September 14, 2012

Marriage And The Good Of Society

Marriage and the Good of Society is the title of the latest anti-Referendum 74 missive posted on the Washington State Catholic Conference site. It leads off with an interesting premise.

This public policy debate is due in part to historic patterns of injustice toward persons with same-sex attraction. Thus, for many, the desire to redefine marriage has its origins in compassion for friends and family members who have experienced bias, unjust discrimination and personal rejection for their sexual orientation.  As pastors and the bishops of Washington State, we are sensitive to this suffering and reaffirm our commitment to protect and defend the dignity of every human person.  We also affirm the Church’s consistent teaching that marriage can only be the union of one man and one woman.

In other words, those with same-sex attraction have suffered. Washington state pastors and bishops are sensitive to this suffering. But they also want it to continue. The reason? Because the purpose of marriage is procreation.

Marriage is the foundational unit of  human society, because it exists for the good of husband and wife and the strengthening of their unique,  permanent, and faithful bond of love.  In addition, because human sexuality orders the transmission of  human life through man and woman, children “are part of the glory of marriage,” as St. Augustine wrote many centuries ago. Marriage is founded on sexual difference and ordered toward the fulfillment of  husband and wife and the procreation and rearing of children. This basic understanding of marriage and  family is “built in” to the very nature of man and woman. 

Like I mentioned before, to describe marriage as a foundational unit of human society denies the stability of our society when the marriage failure rate is 50%. But the key here is the focus on having children. This position not only excludes same-sex marriage, but those who never marry, single parents, and married couples who either cannot or choose not to have children. Are they not part of society's foundation? Must society only rely on the 50% of marriages that succeed?

Approval of Referendum 74 would subordinate the union of children with their mother and  father to a legal entitlement for adults. By separating marriage from procreation and the responsibility of  men and women to raise children that result from their sexual union, the new marriage law would  abandon the state’s principal interest in this time-honored institution.

Again, trying to establish the singular relationship between marriage and having children. The state's principal interest is presumably the opposite-sex marriage resulting in children as a foundational unit. I have yet to hear that claim from Washington State. Nor have I seen the state follow up on marriages. "Are you having children? Why not?"

Faithful, monogamous marriages between one man and one woman will cease to be the legally-established social standard for uniting children with their parents, even though social science has established that children do best when raised in homes with married  mothers and fathers.

Opposite-sex marriages resulting in children will not be affected in any way. The approval of Referendum 74 will not suddenly cause Catholics across Washington state to abandon their opposite-sex marriages, call off their engagements, or break it off with their steadies. And a sly reference to a debunked study is disingenuous of the bishops.

Once marriage is redefined as a genderless contract, it will become  legally discriminatory for public and private institutions such as schools to promote the unique value of  children being raised by their biological mothers and fathers. No institution or individual could propose  that married mothers and fathers provide a singular benefit to children without being accused of  discrimination.

How ironic that the Catholic church wants to legally discriminate against same-sex marriage because it's afraid it's passage will result in a legal discrimination of those who promote opposite-sex marriage. Such logic is like saying outlawing slavery caused people the loss of freedom to own slaves. If Referendum 74 passes, the church may legally continue to refuse to acknowledge, conduct, or bless same-sex marriages just as it does for other marriages.

Our support for traditional marriage is not born of bias or intolerance toward anyone. Instead, our purpose is  to support the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman in order to promote  the common good. We therefore urge Catholic people to uphold our consistent teaching on marriage for  the good of the Church, society, spouses and their children. Finally, we reject the redefinition of  marriage as a “civil contract between two persons.”

They may not intend to be intolerant, but the result is that they are being so. The church has always drawn a line between marriage in the church and a civil marriage. You can be legally married by the state or another religion and yet not be considered married by the Catholic church. The church can continue to do so for same-sex couples. Referendum 74 will have no effect on that.

The church fears that same-sex marriage will weaken society and is blind to the fact that society's reaction to their fight against same-sex marriage shows just how strong it is. Society is recognizing that it strengthens itself by including same-sex couples and granting them the same rights as opposite-sex couples. And the church is free to distance itself from the society it claims will falter if same-sex marriage becomes the law--with liberty and justice for all.

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