Marriage is a sacred institution. So sacred, in fact, that the Catholic Church treasures it as one of her seven sacraments. This sacrament, made holy from the beginning of creation, is the union of one man and one woman. Remember Adam and Eve? (Not Adam and Steve, by the way.) God commanded them to be fertile and multiply. So what’s the big deal with an attempt to redefine marriage? If we as Catholics know what it means to us, why should we bother with how the rest of society defines it?
First of all, a definition is an important feature of any word. It is only by defining a term that we give it value. If I were to make up a word, it would be meaningless until someone came along and defined it. And this definition, affixed to my new word, is how everyone will come to understand what I mean when I use my word.
Returning back to the topic of marriage, we need to see how marriage has been distinguished from other unions or relationships. Marriage, by definition is “the formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife”. Any dictionary will have a definition similar to this. But something has changed today. Married heterosexual couples (one man, one woman) are no longer seen as a unique entity, protected by DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). The USCCB (headed by Cardinal Dolan) called this a, “tragic day for marriage and our nation”, and indeed it is. When definitions are changed, people suffer confusion and, ultimately, they lose sight of truth.
Many of us have heard the famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. In one sense, marriage, regardless of what it is called, is still marriage. However, when we try to redefine marriage, the beautiful perfume is lost, since we are no longer speaking of marriage. This would be similar to holding up a dandelion and calling it a rose. It just doesn’t work. Everyone knows what a rose looks and smells like. But our children many not know what marriage looks like, if we passively stand by and allow others to silence our freedom of religion and of speech.
The union of one man to one woman requires love. But love is not reason enough to get married. Love can be selfish, or it can be self-less. The choice lies in the level of commitment a couple is willing to embark upon. For many couples, their relationship ends simply because of selfishness (e.g. cheating, using the other, etc). But true love, the love which mirrors that of the Holy Trinity, requires permanence. This love is not selfish, but completely self-less. When two people of the same gender fall in love, the relationship cannot end in selflessness, since they cannot offer their self fully to the other. Men and women were created differently, even just on an anatomical level, so that they could give themselves to each other. This, in turn, is a life-giving act. By coming together as husband and wife, a married couple is able to share the fruit of selfless love with another human being—a child. Selfishness takes something away from the other, whereas selflessness gives everything to the beloved.
In the sexual union of spouses, a husband and wife come together as one. By trying to redefine marriage as the union between two partners (regardless of gender), society is creating a monstrosity of this God-given gift. Two men or two women cannot become one. We see this in Genesis, where God creates “man” as male and female. It takes both sexes to define the mystery of what it means to be a human. Interestingly, this is even true for those who live a celibate vocation (e.g. Nuns, priests, etc), although on a different level. Men and women learn from each other what it means to be a human. What a wonderful mystery and complimentarity!
A society without families is impossible. How can I make such a bold statement? Well, the family is the essential cell of society. Think of your body. If you are missing a certain type of cell you will cease to function. But each cell, within its tiny contours, must have all the necessary components. Remove one of the components and the cell either fails, or turns into something else. The same is true of families. Research has shown that children do best in families with a mother and a father. This is because, as I mentioned earlier, they are able to learn what it means to be human through the example and mannerisms of both parents. The mother and the father teach a child different things both by word and by example. Furthermore, each child has a right to be born of love. This love takes form from the sexual intimacy of the husband and wife. This is how babies are made. It’s basic biology people! Yes, eggs can be fertilized in a test tube, but that removes the Trinitarian image of love, poured out and completely given, for the sake of the beloved. Children are not an entity to be produced in a lab. They are precious gifts from God, created uniquely, and given as a result of the loving embrace of husband and wife. Face it—two homosexual persons, regardless of how much they love each other, cannot create a human being by themselves! Again, its basic biology! Even if they are the most loving persons in the world, they still do not have this ability.
Without families, there will be no society. Without society we return to a “survival of the fittest” mentality, in which each person only looks out for his/her own interests, even at the expense of others. Families teach children to love, care and respect the dignity and mystery of others. Families produce future citizens who are armed with a deep knowledge and understanding of what it means to be a human being. If we allow marriage to be “redefined”, we allow society to collapse. Do you follow me?
Years from now, when our children look back on this day in history books, will they know what marriage truly is? Or will the true meaning of marriage be completely lost from their purview due to our silence? It doesn’t take much to “go with the flow”, but it sure takes a lot to swim against a current. This issue appears as a tidal wave, but it is really a tsunami waiting to wash away the very core of what it means to be a human being. Love requires a proper response, but this response will be different depending on the persons involved. I cannot love my job in the same way that I love my soon-to-be husband. I cannot love my soon-to-be-husband in the same way I love my parents. Each relationship is different, but only one has the privilege of becoming a marriage. One man, one woman. The definition cannot be torn away without destroying a civilization. Marriage is unique, and requires the selfless love of a man and a woman, who are willing to give everything for the other, including their fertility. A marriage is an image of God, for man (as male and female) was created in His Divine Image. Without traditional marriage, a society has no lifeline to grasp, no anchor to cast into the sea of uncertainty, and no way to understand the complex mystery of what it means to be a human being. Marriage cannot be redefined without putting the culture in jeopardy. Are we willing to gamble away our children’s future? Are you willing to let them live in a “dog-eat-dog” society, or do you want them to grow up in a civilization that can lead them discover the mystery of God more deeply, and to long for Heaven? Today is the day to make that choice.