More on Same-Sex Unions

Same-sex marriage may be the new third rail in the culture wars: Touch it at your peril. Emotions, understandably, get worked up very quickly on all sides. It is difficult to tell someone who is in a long-term, committed same-sex relationship that you value their relationship differently from the way you value a heterosexual marriage. But, for us Catholics, getting the correct analogy matters.

In this instance, the correct analogy is not between a gay marriage and a straight one. It is between a same-sex union and other types of non-marital relationships. Human friendship takes many forms, and all of them can be a source of blessing. But, marriage is not like other forms of friendship, it stands alone within the Christian tradition for whom its bonds of love have themselves become an analogy for the relationship which exists between Christ and His Church. Those who wish to advocate for same-sex marriage within a Catholic context must cite theological, not legal or sociological, arguments and, so far, those arguments do not exist.


This notion of finding the correct analogy is important because it is not enough for us Catholics to oppose same-sex marriage. One of the consequences of legislation permitting civil unions or same-sex marriage is that more people have access to health care and other social benefits. The Church supports extending such benefits. So, if we merely say "No" on same-sex marriage we are, in effect, opposing our own teaching about the need to extend social benefits as widely as possible.

This is where the Levada solution comes in and the proper analogy makes sense. In this complex society of ours, there are all sorts of relationships other than marriage in which it would highly benefit those involved to receive social benefits like health care. It could be an unemployed cousin or friend, a retired parent, a same-sex partner, or, for that matter, a heterosexual couple who for whatever reasons choose not to get married. The Church has no problem if such "joint habitation" partnerships receive social benefits. This was first proposed in San Francisco by then-Archbishop William Levada, now the Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was followed recently in Puerto Rico when their legislature revised the civil code for that nation and has served as a model for other Latin American countries. It is an example of casuistry at its best.

If I may introduce yet another analogy, one of my problems with the response of some bishops to the Notre Dame controversy was that their statements, however well intended and designed to articulate the Church’s undying commitment to the dignity of the unborn, nonetheless could so easily be manipulated for partisan purposes. In the debate about same-sex unions, we need not apologize to anyone for our belief that marriage was ordained by God and that the way our current laws enshrine the marriage of one man and one woman is a cultural achievement of the first order. But, we Catholics also need to make sure that our statements are not serviceable for homophobic bigots.


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9 years 7 months ago
In my view, arguments about "correct" analogies around which "we Catholics" must rally as the center point of our identity frequently betray the richness of our catholic tradition.  That tradition comprises many analogies, and it works best (in my view) when these are held in tension and one is not allowed to rule out all others as incorrect. In the richly analogical, diverse, multi-textured tradition of catholicism, what happens when we elevate a single analogy to the status of the "correct" analogy that "we Catholics" must all claim if we expect to be called Catholic is a literalization of that single analogy that betrays its theological meaning. In recent years, the theology of the body, with its unilateral stress on male-female complementarity as a core component of revealed truth, has so literalized the gender analogy that some other significant analogies within our tradition no longer work. If the church has to be female because Christ is (and has to be )male,  because the marriage of Christ and the church requires male-female symbols in order to work, what do we do with the insights of people like Julian of Norwich that there is maternal dimension to Christ, so that we can speak of Mother Jesus?  Julian and the tradition her theology represents make nonsense of the literalization of male-female complementarity and the attempt to elevate that single analogy to the level of revealed truth necessary for salvation.  An attempt that, I suspect, is really about assuring the continuation of male domination in church and society . . . . If we literalize the male-female analogy and make it central to what it means to be cCatholic, what do we do with all the analogies in scripture that depict God in feminine terms? Wouldn't it be better to admit that there can be diverse Catholic identities and diverse analogies enriching those identities, and that we all benefit when we hold them in tension and don't try to exclude each other by literalizing the "correct" analogies we've chosen to treat as non-negotiable and as the sine qua non of Catholic identity?  From my standpoint, it is all about excluding, weeding some of us out, casting aspersions on our right to claim a place in the tradition and in the Catholic community.  And that process makes me doubt that this is really all about retrieving or maintaining Catholic identity.  In fact, to a great extent, the process belies everything I understand about catholicism.
9 years 7 months ago
Mr Winters- I'm not quite sure why you think that we should be making a theological argument to the people of Washington DC on the civil issue of marriage.  Obviously there are theological arguments and considerations (which you are apparently unfamiliar with, but it's a vast literature with Mark Jordan's Blessing Same Sex Unions and Myers and Scanzoni's What God Has Joined Together: A Christian Case for Gay Marraige being but two of the works that jump to mind), but why these play a significant role in a discussion of civil rights is unclear to me.  On the Christian side, I agree that we need to look at the analogies, but we also have to critique them.  You say that marriage is meant to model the relationship of Christ and the Church, and this is so.  Yet, already, the analogy is problematic.  Christ and the Church are not equals.  The easy equation in this analogy of Chirst=Man, Church=Woman has been used for centuries to make marriage an often oppressive force against many women.  If anything, same-sex unions, by not having these gender dymanics, may be in a unique position to model this same loving relationship (why you insist on it being necessarily gendered is unclear to me) in a way yet unseen within heterosexual marriage.  Karl Rahner even wrote that the Ephesians passage that forms the basis of this analogy should not be read today as necessarily gendered, so we could read "Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church" just as easily as "Wives love your husbands as Christ loved the Church."  If this is so, the absolute necessity of the gender duality is troubled, if not undone.  If nothing else, I can assure that plenty of people are trying to form this argument theologically, whether you've found those arguments convincing or not.
9 years 7 months ago
As the [size= 12pt; line-height: 115%; mso-bidi-font-size: 11.0pt]laws currently exist, religious proscriptions masquerading as cultural or traditional norms impose restrictions on a portion of society that does not agree with nor observe these proscriptions. I have yet to hear a compelling argument why my 37-year relationship with my partner in any way diminishes the value of anyone’s marriage or family stability to the point of justifying the denial to us of equal protection under the law.  [/size]We have survived as a couple for these many years without the slightest encouragement or support from the Catholic Church and, quite frankly, could care less about that. [size= 12pt; line-height: 115%; mso-bidi-font-size: 11.0pt]It is time to get the State out of the marriage business, and to get religious organizations out of the business of determining who may and may not have SECULAR benefits provided by the State and the State alone. The time has come: anyone who wants to get married must obtain a State-granted civil license  [/size]which confers all of the legal rights, privileges and obligations that currently come with marriage. Thereafter, anyone who wants a religious ceremony or the equivalent can do so with the religious group of their choice. That has been done in most of Europe for many years and life as we or they know it has not ended.
9 years 7 months ago
[size= 12pt; color: red; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif"] [color=#000000]Catholics and other Christians tend to conveniently overlook/forget their church history.[/color] [color=#000000]Sacramental marriage was not part of the Christian religion until it was adopted per se in 1545 at the Council of Trent. There was no sacrament of matrimony before that. In 1200 there first came the concept of marriage for love. Prior to that women were given to men as part of a business arrangement between families. Nothing holy about it. [/color] [color=#000000]If you do not want to redefine marriage, then we should go back to having fathers arrange who men should marry.  [/size]Women …. accept your fate![/color] [color=#000000]All in favor, raise your hands now …[/color] [color=#000000]I thought so.[/color]    


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