The news is filled with the oxymoron "gay marriage" as the United States Senate begins to debate the "Federal Marriage Protection Amendment".
Those who support marriage as a lifelong committed relationship between one man and one woman are being pilloried in the press. No matter where one stands on other issues, if you support marriage - as marriage - you are being brushed with all the disparaging terms thrown at people who insist that there is any such a thing as objective truth in an age of moral relativism. As a convinced and committed Catholic Christian, I know that there are immense social implications to living the truth as revealed in the Natural Law. This is an age deluded by the siren song of moral relativism.
I have fought for decades in the noble fight to restore the fundamental human right to life for all men and women from conception to natural death. I have been labeled a "conservative" because of my absolute insistence that the womb is the first home of the whole human race and that every child has a right to life and a freedom to be born. Yet, I insist that I am not a "conservative". I openly opposed the initial incursion into Iraq, insisting that it could not be justified under the classical "just war" analysis. I have long opposed capital punishment - as no longer necessary to protect society. I have raised deep concerns about the insistence that we build walls to prevent people from following their hopes for freedom on our Nations borders.
However, I long ago gave up any hope that either major political party had a place for me. I am pro-life, pro-marriage and family, pro-freedom, pro-peace and pro-poor. I am neither liberal -nor conservative, neither right nor left. I support the Federal Marriage Amendment because it is essential to authentic human freedom. Marriage matters. It serves the common good. Monogamous Marriage, and the family founded upon it, is the first society, the first school, the first economy, the first hospital, the first church and the foundation of a just social order. The oxymoron, "gay marriage", once used by only the fringe elements of the extreme homosexualist movement, has quickly become an acceptable expression. It is being wielded by the media - "conservative", "liberal" and "mainstream" - as it reports on efforts to defend and promote marriage. In an Orwellian spin, those who support marriage as marriage are being called "narrow minded" and accused of trying to push our "values" or, even worse, "religion" on others.
The efforts of the homosexualist movement to force legal recognition for homosexual relationships has gained great momentum through a sophisticated, intelligent and well funded and multi-faceted effort. The goal was clear - the total re-ordering of civil society in a new cultural revolution. Proponents had a clear verbal, social, legal, cultural and political strategy. On the legal front they were led by the "Human Rights Campaign", a well funded public interest legal group dedicated to convincing the public that there is some kind of "civil" or "human right" to engage in homosexual sexual practices. They have very able lawyers.
The "Human Rights Campaign" has succeeded in reframing this entire issue. They speak of "the freedom to marry", as though the efforts to protect authentic marriage as marriage is to somehow deny homosexual practitioners from "freedom" or to refuse them a "right" to marry. This was a smart and calculated move. I understand the approach very well. I practiced public interest law for years. They simply recast the effort and redefined the word. Now, it is the proponents of true marriage who are on the defensive. In short, some of our difficulties are of our own doing.
I understand public interest law because, as a practicing Catholic, I helped to establish and lead the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a predominantly evangelical public interest legal group, for seven years. This was long before many of my fellow Catholics either knew that the battle for marriage had been engaged, or accepted the idea that Christians could come together, in an authentic ecumenical effort, to engage the cultural struggle.
In 1990 I wrote a book entitled "Evangelical Catholics: A Call for Christian Cooperation" with a forward by Chuck Colson. One year after I began the ACLJ I hired Jay Sekulow, who now continues the struggle.
I note that the new public interest legal efforts, including the "Thomas More Law Center", a Catholic effort funded by Thomas Monahan, are continuing the fight in the public interest legal fray. I have had many people ask me whether they should give to the ACLJ or the Thomas More Center. It is a hard question for me to answer. I actually came up with this name, Thomas More Law Center, years before while I was a Dean at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
I proposed the idea to Tom Monahan and Dick Thompson, the Chief Counsel, years later in a cabin in Michigan after I had left the ACLJ. They took the idea. Sadly, I now feel like much of the fundraising in these legal efforts, Catholic and evangelical Protestant, is duplicative.
In addition, well intended "orthodox" (by which I mean classically faithful) Christians and Jews, in trying to defend marriage, have sadly used expressions such as "traditional marriage". They might as well walk around with a huge bull's eye on. The expression has become fuel for the homosexual activist war machine which is intent on redefining "marriage" to include those who engage in homosexual sex with one another for a protracted period of time. The proponents of equal status for homosexual paramours with authentically married heterosexual couples can now simply ask the question "whose tradition"?
They can also argue that we Christians are trying to force our "religious" views on the Nation. They follow this by painting the effort to defend authentic marriage as a "religious" bigotry. Philosophers speak of ontology as the science or philosophy of being, the essence of a thing. For example, a rock is a rock and not a cabbage; a man is a man and a woman is a woman. Marriage is ontologically between a man and a woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to life through the conjugal act in procreation. It also forms the foundation of family. There can be no such thing as "marriage" between two same sex people engaging in sexual acts, even if they engage in such acts only with one another and for a protracted period of time. This is true no matter what a Court or legislature may try to impose to the contrary.
The late great C. S. Lewis coined the phrase, "verbicide" in his Book entitled "Studies in Words". The term referred to the murder of a word. In the past, when I wrote concerning the fundamental human rights issue of our age, the right to life, I referred to the current assault against words as "verbal engineering" and maintained that it is always the first step in social, legal, political, and cultural engineering.
Remember, it was by using the word "choice" to describe the killing of a child in the womb that advocates of legalized child killing paved the way for abortion on demand, once universally opposed, and opened the door for it to be heralded as a "right" in America - and throughout the West. The same deluded revolutionary trajectory has been at work in marriage.
Monogamous Marriage between a man and a woman is the first cell of civil society. Monogamous two parent marriages form the healthiest framework for the rearing of children. This fact was once widely accepted by the overwhelming majority of sane people. Marriage between a man and a woman was not seen as simply a "religious" idea but a human understanding, a natural institution. Monogamous heterosexual marriages and in tact families formed the basis of civil society. Even those who broke their marriage vows and divorced did not call for scrapping the institution. Marriage and the institution of family were viewed as promoting the common good of society. Stable marriage between a man and a woman was seen as a "good" that promoted human flourishing. Marriage was viewed as a "good" of persons which promoted and protected the "common good" of the society as a whole by forming the foundation of family, the first society.
Let me be clear. To defend marriage - as what it is and not what cultural revolutionaries seek to redefine it to be - must never be used to justify discrimination against those with homosexual tendencies, desires - or even those who choose to live in homosexual relations. However, genuine tolerance does not mean the re-ordering of civil society to accommodate these "alternative" lifestyles and the use of the police power of the State to enforce them. There is a difference between freedom liberty and libertinism. Yet, that is what the "Human Rights Campaign" seeks to do with their carefully orchestrated legal campaign.
In order to help us to comprehend what is occurring let me borrow a Property Rights Analogy. It does not even come close in terms of the magnitude of the danger we now face because persons and their flourishing are so much more vitally important than the ownership of property. However, it may help to unmask the tactics being used. In order to comprehend what is occurring let me borrow a Property Rights Analogy. It does not even come close in terms of the magnitude of the danger we now face because persons and their flourishing are so much more vitally important than the ownership of property.
However, it will help to unmask the tactics being used.
We still accept a uniform definition of "private property." We defend the private ownership of property as a "right". It forms a basis for our social, economic and political order. Let's say that next year; a group among us had decided that "private property" should mean that our land also belongs to the neighbors on adjoining land. Why? Because they decided that approach was better and they changed the definition, first among themselves, and then they had decided to enforce that private opinion upon the broader society. Next, they insisted that the law recognize their new definition by giving it an equivalent status to the "traditional" notion of private property. Well, we can see where this is headed. You simply cannot have two distinctly different things being called the same thing. One has to yield to the other.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, speaking on behalf of the "Magisterium" (teaching office) of the Catholic Church, released a definitive document in 2003 concerning the defense of marriage. It unequivocally addressed growing efforts in some Western nations to redefine the word marriage and thereby eliminate the institution of the family.
In it they said:
The Church's teaching on marriage and on the complementarity of the sexes, reiterates a truth that is evident to right reason and recognized as such by all the major cultures of the world. Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings. It was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties and purpose. No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives.
True marriage is the most fundamental of all human social institutions. It is a relationship defined by nature itself and protected by the natural law that binds all men and women. It finds its foundation in the order of creation. Civil institutions do not create marriage nor confer upon anyone a "right" to marry. The institutions of government should, when acting properly, defend marriage against those who would redefine it. As a Catholic, I am seriously embarrassed by some of my fellow Catholics, such as Senators Biden and Kennedy, who errantly lead the efforts to grant legal equivalency between homosexual paramours and married couples. They should be ashamed of themselves! They are wrong in their policy position. They are also unfaithful to the teaching of their Church. Government has long regulated marriage for the common good.
For example, the ban on polygamy and age requirements were enforced in order to ensure that there was a mature decision at the basis of the Marriage contract. Heterosexual marriage, procreation, and the nurturing of children form the foundation for the family, and the family forms the foundation of civil society. In now "redefining" marriage, these renegade Justices and their complicit public officials have imperiled the stability of our society and struck a blow against the common good. To confine marriage to heterosexual couples is not discriminatory. Homosexual couples cannot bring into existence what marriage intends by its very definition.
To "confer" the legal benefits that have been conferred in the past to stable married couples and families to homosexual paramours is very bad public policy. Sadly, those who claim that this is simply a matter of "tolerance" are often the most intolerant. They insist on forcing their brave new world on the rest of us. Notice how intolerant they are of those who, though respecting the dignity of every person, including homosexuals, also insist that marriage is what it is.
The current cultural situation we face as Christians in America is not unfamiliar. We need to consider it in terms of our 2000 year Christian history. I do not care how "scientifically advanced" the contemporary West thinks it has become, or how "modern" the issues of the modern cultural revolutionaries purport to be, there is nothing new about it. The struggle we are engaged in as Christians in contemporary western culture concerns a clash of worldviews, personal and corporate, and competing definitions of freedom. In the circles of contemporary cultural and social revolutionaries, Christians (at least orthodox, faithful ones) are once again being presented as unenlightened, forcing "our view" on others.
Yet, our position on marriage and family, the nature of authentic human freedom, the dignity of every human person, the right to life and the reality of objective moral truth, are what brought freedom to those in bondage to disordered appetites and enslaved to totalitarian regimes, left and right, for centuries. Truth is. It exists. It is not a matter of "my truth" and "your truth". There is an objective truth for all men and women that can be known, having been revealed by the Natural Law.
As Christians, we need to reassess the political terrain and our role in it. Many of my fellow Catholics succumbed to a delusion, hoping that following a politically "conservative" line would effect true change. They either never understood the social teaching of our Church or failed to critically think through the implications of its claims. Now, they are seriously disillusioned.
There is now a "Compendium of the Social teaching of the Catholic Church", which should place the Catholic issues in perspective. Catholic Christians cannot be first "conservative" or "liberal" or "neo-conservative" . We must first be Catholic.
Some of the strongest voices insisting on legal equivalency between homosexual paramours and married couples are self professed "libertarians". Libertarians are often characterized as being "on the right".
I remember when I served the Presidential campaign of Steve Forbes as an advisor on pro-life, pro-family and faith based issues. I saw the "alliance" between libertarian groups such as the "Cato Institute" and evangelical and Catholic activists, in its infancy. I knew then that the implosion of the Republican coalition was inevitable.
One morning, a self professed "libertarian Catholic" (another oxymoron) engaged me at a meeting of the advisors of the campaign. I told her, with as much sincerity and kindness as I could muster, that libertarianism and Catholicism were antithetical. Libertarianism exalted an atomistic individualism as the measure of freedom while Catholic Christian faith insisted that we are by nature and grace social creatures, made for family and called to find authentic freedom only through serving the common good.
Years later, as a graduate student of the early Church, I truly want Christians to know that it was Christianity that taught such novel concepts as the dignity of every person and their equality before the One God. Christians proclaimed the dignity of women, the dignity of chaste marriage and the sanctity of the family. It was Christianity that introduced the understanding of freedom not simply as a freedom from, but as a freedom for living responsibly and with integrity.
In 1996, a professor of Sociology and comparative religion named Rodney Stark wrote a compelling book entitled "The Rise of Christianity." Rich in sociological and empirical data it details the growth of Christianity at the beginning of the first millennium. The book chronicles the rise of the Christian faith from a small Jewish sect in the first century to extraordinary cultural dominance 300 years later. Using historical documents, the author demonstrated how the early Christians lived in faithful, heterosexual, monogamous marriages in the midst of a pagan culture, claiming to be "enlightened" while they decayed from within. The lifestyle of the Christians had an extraordinary affect over time on that debased culture.
Christians insisted that freedom must be exercised with reference to an objective moral code, a law higher than the emperor, or the sifting sands of public opinion. It was Christians who understood that choice, rightly exercised, meant always choosing what was right and that the freedom to exercise that choice brought with it an obligation and concern for the other. The Christian faith presented a coherent and compelling answer to the existential questions that plagued the ancients, such as why we existed and how we got here.
What was the purpose of life? Questions like how evil came into the world and why we could not always make right choices? What force seemed to move us toward evil and how we could be set free from its power? Christian philosophy began to flourish and the arts also flourished under the Christian worldview.
Philosophies of government and economic theory began to be influenced by these principles derived from a Christian world view. The Christian understanding of marriage and family is not some outdated notion of a past era but the framework for a future of true freedom. We are now living in a new missionary age. The mission field is our own Nation.
During the first millennium, in the pagan culture of ancient Rome, fidelity between a husband and wife was uncommon. Sexual promiscuity, reflected in "hetero" and "homo" sexual aberrant behaviors were common. Women (and some men) were considered to be property - and used as sexual objects. Abortion, infanticide, and exposure (placing children on rocks to die by the elements or be picked up by slave traders) were not only commonplace practices but proclaimed to be "lawful" by an arrogant and misguided government.
Epidemics began to multiply among the promiscuous Romans, apparently related to the lifestyle of sexual excess, causing civic and (Pagan) religious leaders to flee the cities, leaving the sick to die.
In contrast to this ancient pagan culture, the Christian way of life stood out as an alternative. The emphasis of those ancient Christians was upon marrying once.
Husbands and wives remained faithful to one another. Children were welcomed, cherished and seen as both gifts from - and the means of - serving the God whom they proclaimed in both word and lifestyle. Christians did not abandon the sick, but cared for them, even the sick pagans, to the point of sacrificing their own health. According to Stark, Christianity helped to answer the question "why bad things happen to good people"? It was answered through understanding the implications of the suffering and Cross of Christ.
In addition, the Christian faith answered the existential questions that were unanswered in classical paganism. The Christians lived the love they proclaimed and had a strong family system that was increasingly attractive to the pagans. This lifestyle also allowed the Christians to live longer. The author writes: "Christian values of love and charity, from the beginning, had been translated into norms of social service and community solidarity. When disasters struck, the Christians were better able to cope, and this resulted in substantially higher rates of survival. This meant that in the aftermath of each epidemic, Christians made up a larger and larger percentage of the population even without new converts."
Stark noted that Christianity in the first millennium brought about the formation of a new culture: "To cities filled with homeless and the impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachments. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced with epidemics, fires, and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services."
In short, the Christian Way of Life transformed Christianity from a sect into the major dominating faith. It also transformed the world of the First Millennium.and the Second. It can and it will do the same in the Third Millennium, even in this contemporary Rome. A new missionary moment has come with this assault on Marriage.
Let us put our hands to the plow, for the fields are ready. This afternoon, President Bush, a man with whom I have had many disagreements, had the courage to speak the truth concerning marriage. I call upon all Senators, indeed all Americans, to support The Federal Marriage Amendment.
Deacon Keith A Fournier is a Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia serving St Benedict Catholic Church in Richmond, a dynamically orthodox Catholic Parish committed to living the fullness of the Catholic Christian faith - and transforming contemporary culture with the values informed by that faith. A graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, the John Paul II Institute for the Study of Marriage and Family and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law, Deacon Fournier is currently a PHD student in theology at the Catholic University of America.
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