More Than Love
Regarding the Register’s coverage of the redefinition of marriage:
The debate over same-sex "marriage" is a much needed one in our country because it is not an isolated issue. In many ways, this debate is taking place in the public square precisely because heterosexuals have already redefined marriage by their own actions.
Over the past 40 years, we have seen children removed from the definition of marriage, with couples making every effort to sterilize their union and have as few children as possible, if at all. Sex has been removed; it is no longer considered an act reserved for the marital union, and it is promoted as acceptable between any adults, under any pretense, as long as they consent.
Finally, lifelong commitment has been removed; with a divorce rate of 50% and the rise of "no fault" divorce, the oath "until death do us part" has lost its meaning.
When you remove children, sex and lifelong commitment from marriage, what is left? The feeling of being loved.
Marriage has been reduced to the feeling of being loved, and anyone can feel loved by anybody or anything. This is why some are also now calling for polygamy — and a man in Japan petitioned the government to allow marriage with a fictional manga character.
The reduction of marriage to a degree of love, as opposed to a type of love with function and purpose, is a significant reason why the divorce rate has skyrocketed and every metric of relationship stability and satisfaction has declined over that same amount of time. "Love" is too nebulous a concept to be the firm basis of any institution. Certainly, the emotive experience of love is a component of marriage, but there are myriad types of human relationships that possess love without constituting a marriage.
So, before we begin the conversation about who can and can’t marry, both sides of this debate need to first define marriage. What act is specifically and uniquely "marital" and cannot be found in any other type of relationship?
Proponents of marriage have an answer to that question, which also offers the primary justification for the government’s involvement in redefining it. The only reason why the government has a vested interest in marriage is because it is the only relationship capable of creating another citizen. The new life this unique relationship creates possesses his/her own rights, which warrant protection, and, until a certain age, they are incapable of defending these rights in the face of neglect, abuse or even the dissolution of their family.
Furthermore, all sociological data continues to support the fact that the best environment for children’s development is to be in a loving household comprised of their mother and their father. It is true that children are very resilient and can flourish in other arrangements, but not a single alternative arrangement has been proven to be more beneficial to a child than that of their natural family.
Love is the very foundation of life; every single one of us is designed to exist as the fruit of love, and we need not look any further than the emotional harm and emptiness people wrestle with when they are denied this design — most especially children of divorce. Why would we not focus more on what’s best for our children instead of how many different arrangements they can survive through?
So, lest we get lost in heated rhetoric and emotional red herrings that only serve as distractions, we must begin with that fundamental question: What is marriage?
This is not a question of who loves whom more or who is more committed than whom, because "love" and "commitment" are virtuous traits to be expected in all human relationships.
What makes marriage uniquely different? This is a question both sides of the debate need to take more seriously, especially with an unacceptable divorce rate of 50%, and I believe the answer will ultimately benefit us all.
Mike Day, director
Diocesan Center for Family Life
St. Augustine, Florida
Unfitting Power Play
The article, "Nuns on the Bus 2" (page one, June 16 issue) raised two huge questions in my mind (again). What responsibility do we have as Catholics to follow the lead of our bishops, priests and nuns on political issues (i.e., issues which a good Catholic can be for or against and remain a good and obedient Catholic either way)? And what right do these same people have to use the Catholic Church’s assets and/or name to advocate political issues like affirmative action, entitlement programs like food stamps, national gun control, the Gang of Eight immigration bill, national health care, so-called social-justice programs, etc.?
All these and more are areas in which Church leaders and I are in great disagreement. For example, these "Nuns on the Bus" apparently believe in — and I’ve gotten the impression that the bishops would agree — "the shared responsibility of Americans to care for their neighbors through federal programs," to quote your article. That idea (the "federal programs" part) is absolutely abhorrent to me. This affects my attitude toward the clergy and nuns in many ways, sometimes negatively.
I want to respect bishops, priests and nuns, but taking advantage of religious and spiritual authority in this way is more than I can take. It is political activism with a club, and, in my opinion, the club they use is the crucifix. It is entirely unfitting to them. What’s a good Catholic to do?
Relative to "Obama Wants to Eliminate Catholic Education?" (June 21, NCRegister.com):
I think we ought to try and understand what he meant. I do not think the president is saying that Catholic schools or Protestant schools — everywhere — are divisive. I think he is speaking directly to Northern Ireland society while alluding to their history of division and turmoil these last hundred or so years.
The president believes that if peace is to exist between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, religious education will only antagonize the chance of peace for which a modern sensibility like Obama’s proclaims. Is this comment of his, however, applicable to contemporary America?
Though I do not think the president intended his words to apply to all situations, it is necessary, I think, that we read further into his comment than he probably meant us to. It reveals, I wager, a certain habit of his mind. I do not think the president grasps by half the nature of religious education anywhere.
In America, Catholic schools are generally united to a parish or parish church. I believe the same is true for these parochial schools in Northern Ireland as well as in Ireland. The true division is not in a demographic structure in a curricular scenery, but in religion itself. Obama has the idea that a church of any kind is a private, not a public, place and that a school of any kind is a public, not a private, place. Because he understands education to be an essential aspect of the public square, and because the president believes that discrimination of any kind ought not to poke its ugly head in any public setting, Obama believes religious education does more harm than good in regard to promoting unity and peace in society.
But I think these constructs — "public" and "private" — are obscure. Is it that a public place is only public if there are varying views and ideas? And to what extent may we allow views to be varied?
In even one Catholic parish in America, it is seldom felt that the political opinions of its congregation are uniform. It is seldom felt, in fact, that the religious or theological opinions of its congregation are uniform.
The other day, for example, I was told by a churchgoing Catholic that there is no room for a belief in hell in Catholic theology, which, of course, is a statement that is contradicted everywhere by Catholic dogma. The questions, "What makes a public square public, and what makes a private location private?" are a matter that has not been explained effectively by the Obama administration or by any American political administration.
The public square and the private one have never — perhaps we can say, fortunately — been defined. If forced to provide his citizens with a useful definition, I think the president, in order to remain consistent with his views, will have to become a great deal more unpopular in religious circles — these circles, of course, which will find themselves confined to the perimeter of a local residence.
P.B. McCaffery Jr.
Body of Christ’s Duties
Archbishop Charles Chaput, in his Register interview (page 9, June 30 issue) states, "Religious Liberty Depends on Lay Faithful, Not Bishops." However, many Catholics in virtually all walks of life have, over the past 40 years, already experienced the loss of religious liberties, but often their plight was ignored.
In 1979, I learned the meaning of "pro-choice." At that time, I was a physician in Wilmington, Del., and when I made my "choice" — not to participate in an abortion — it became the sole reason I lost my medical practice, necessitating that my wife, our five children and I move out of state to start a new life.
A more complete statement on religious liberty is that it depends on everyone, both laity and bishops, responsibly fulfilling their duty.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan recently said he has not preached on the Sixth Commandment for 40 years (and this at a time when our culture was going ballistic over sex).
In 1968, public dissent against Humanae Vitae was led not by the laity, but by many bishops and theologians. This episcopal dissent on faith and morals has continued unabated for 40-plus years and tells the laity that they also can "pick and choose." Not surprisingly, it was the Catholic vote that placed the current anti-Christian in the White House.
The moral teachings of the Catholic Church are beautiful, powerful and prophetic. Yet the great majority of Catholics, while attending Sunday Mass, have never heard a homily on the profound truths of Humanae Vitae, nor on the irrationality of citing "equality and freedom of choice" as justification for abortion, artificial contraception and same-sex "marriage."
Our bishops and priests need to preach and teach on why our culture’s sexual immorality is the ultimate destruction of marriage, the family and society. Unfortunately, however, their decades-long silence on the Sixth Commandment has effectively marginalized and ghettoized the Church. Is anyone surprised that HHS now mandates artificial contraceptives?
Among the gravest scandals within the Church is that, for decades, "Catholic" political leaders have remained in good public standing within the Church while leading the legislative assaults against her.
In September 2011, Pope Benedict was publicly rebuked by 11 of his fellow cardinals and bishops, who refused to shake the Holy Father’s extended hand during a formal reception in Berlin. (This may be viewed on "YouTube"; type "Pope Benedict Berlin handshake" in the search box.) This 90-second video is one of the most profound, as well as disgusting, explanations of what has gone wrong in our Church and in our world.
If cardinals and bishops do not have to obey the Holy Father on faith and morals, then who does?
Who is most hurt by these habitual scandals and "filth" within the heart of the Church? The answer is those who are most vulnerable, starting with our Catholic children and families — in other words, the Catholic Church of the future.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2285) says, "Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted Our Lord to utter this curse: ‘Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.’"
Religious liberty — like every good in the Church — depends on laity and bishops, and the entire body of Christ, responsibly fulfilling their respective duties.
Ronald G. Connolly, M.D.
Walnut Creek, California