Jun
7
2013

From Gay Sex to Marriage Equality

When I was growing up (I’m almost 50 years old now), there were few more hurtful and shameful insults that could be hurled at oneself than “gay” or “homo.” Moreover, the visceral reaction against homosexuality was so strong at the time, the thought that the terms “gay” and “marriage” would be used in the same sentence would have seemed preposterous – even to many people with a same-sex attraction.

Now, I know it’s hard to believe for many young people today that homosexual activity was once looked at with repugnance. They have grown up in a popular culture where homosexuality is largely accepted and even celebrated at times. However cruel the insults may have been for the persons, whether they were homosexual or heterosexual, the culture I grew up in did not view homosexuality favorably.

While emotional repugnance as an argument against homosexual activity worked for many decades, to a certain degree it also inhibited the articulation of a more rational approach to showing why homosexual acts are morally wrong. Subsequently, people did not see the need to explain why same-sex “marriage” is a metaphysical impossibility. There were such arguments available (e.g., truths drawn from the natural moral law), but they were not often relied on, at least not on a popular level, to make the moral case against homosexual sex acts.

The recent shift in public support for same-sex “marriage” has been, in many ways, swift and sweeping – at least among the elites – surprising its opponents and forcing them to articulate old arguments in new language.

Proponents for the redefinition of marriage, with the mainstream media, Hollywood, and various activist groups on their side, have used language that hasn’t so much debated and defeated the arguments against same-sex “marriage.” Instead, the rhetoric has simply appealed to the American peoples’ sense of fairness, justice, and tolerance.

For the most part, the proponents for the redefinition of marriage have not addressed the morality of same-sex “marriage.” Instead, what we get are questions such as: Who can be against “marriage equality”?  Isn’t all love “equal”?  Shouldn’t we call someone a “bigot” if he or she opposes same-sex “marriage” “rights”?

The advocates of same-sex “marriage” have cleverly used language, often with overtones of the arguments used against racial prejudice by the civil rights movement, to shift the focus from the nature of marriage to equal rights.

Yet, it must be observed, the sexual acts themselves that homosexuals perform and want legitimated have no bearing on the realization of the fundamental human goods traditionally understood to make marriage a public and legal arrangement central to the common good of society: children, chaste fidelity, and sexual complementarity. Hence, same-sex “marriage” is not something society should or can in fact countenance. It can be “marriage” in name only.

What about “gay unions”? From a moral, anthropological, social, and legal perspective, even homosexual civil unions – which some states have – would be extremely problematic.

In 2003, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a document which addresses the issue of various kinds of gay unions titled, “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Couples.” The Congregation argues:

In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection (no. 5).

The conclusion is equally unambiguous in its moral assessment of homosexual unions/marriage:

The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself (no. 11).

Thus, the Congregation reminds us that we may not approve or support either homosexual unions or homosexual “marriage” (formal cooperation). We must also limit, as far as possible, any kind of assistance to the passing or carrying out of such laws (material cooperation).

Indeed, we have an obligation to oppose these laws, one reason being the duty to uphold the goodness of natural marriage. One can respect persons with same-sex attraction without having to give in to the demands of the gay rights movement.

Let it also be noted that heterosexuals do not think of their personal identity primarily in terms of what they do sexually in the bedroom, but people with a same-sex attraction often do. At least it seems this way to me. Maybe that’s because they have not been able to take their sexuality for granted in the way that heterosexuals have been able to: i.e., homosexual acts have rightly been viewed as taboo, perverted, unnatural, and as a transgression in society and in many religious traditions.

But I have a hunch that even if homosexual “marriage” were fully legitimized in our legal culture, those who consider themselves as gay and lesbian would still identify themselves largely in terms of their same-sex sexual orientation. That’s good neither for them nor for society and their future children who find themselves as members of that society.

True compassion for persons who struggle with same-sex desires helps them to lead chaste lives. Authentic compassion does not acquiesce to the culture’s full-court press for the “normalization” of homosexual activity and same-sex unions.

Mark S. Latkovic, S.T.D. is a Professor of Moral Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary (Detroit, MI), where he has taught for over 23 years. He is co-editor of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Natural Law Tradition: Contemporary Perspectives (The Catholic University of America Press, 2004), as well as author of What’s a Person to Do? Everyday Decisions that Matter (Our Sunday Visitor, 2013) and numerous articles in scholarly and popular journals.
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  • paul francis

    “Their future children.” Such an expression begs the question: whence the offspring, for surely they cannot be the fruit of mutual masturbation teams. The saddest reality of the push for “equality” is that children are reduced to a “commodity” which can be had at the whim of those who seek to “manufacture” them according to whatever venue other than authentic marriage available. Natural law has its contributions to make in this argument; including that theodicy moves toward recognition of the sacred. In this vein, it becomes clear that marriage is the first priesthood bestowed upon man: the attempt to escape the reality that parenthood is granted by the Creator Who alone gives the human soul will end in much grave harm to the body public.

    • Mark Latkovic

      Thanks for the comment, Paul. Just a few points: (1) There’s no begging the question here. Same-sex couples are producing children in the laboratory via IVF-embryo transfer with surrogacy. They are legally adopting them. And so on, as you note. This is not good — for them or for society (2) Of course natural law makes a “contribution”; my argument here is indeed one based on natural law! I hope that was clear (3) “…theodicy moves toward recognition of the sacred.” Not sure what that means in this context… (4) Yes, both marriage and parenthood (That is, fatherhood and motherhood) are created by God. We are in fundamental agreement.

  • Valerie Foltz

    Hello, I’ll have to say as the daughter of a very good and kind father who also came out the closet and divorced my mother when my brother and I came of age. I can speak to the confusion I still feel about this subject. I am also in your age group so when my father did this it was in 1983. Many people tell me love the sinner hate the sin but it is not that simple. To act with love toward the sinner, your parent, to be in a peaceful relationship again, there is an underlying pressure to accept, condone and finally bless the sin. A truly difficult place to be and remain a faithful Catholic. What did I do but accept fully his partner because to do any less would have been a rejection of someone I loved.
    When dad was dying from cancer in the late 90’s I was the DPOA who made decisions but I always included and supported his grieving partner. His partner was an excellent care giver and I was thankful for his help because I could not of done it alone. Because of being “Bobs Daughter” I still have friends in the LGBT community who have children. I am torn about this because I know they are doing their best within their world view but I also know the confusion and pain being the daughter of a gay man caused me. The few times I have attempted to communicate this I have been met with “Your father would be ashamed”
    I don’t openly oppose gay marriage because if dad was alive he would of asked me to plan the wedding. He saw my discomfort, my disagreement with the whole thing as an uneducated backward response to what he saw as a loving relationship that should be blessed. How do you respond to your parent that’s a question the church should be asking,
    I’m asking you even though at this point both dad and Larry have passed away. Answering the question what is a faithful catholic response to your gay parent is something the church needs to deal with now. I could of used some help 30 years ago and there are a lot of men and women just like me out there.
    To give you some idea I will put some of the more peaceful arguments I recall having with dad. I don’t think the church has even thought of addressing these questions:
    1. Marriage should be fruitful: Response from Dad and Larry: I raised you and your brother and my only mistake there was deceiving your mother about my feelings because I wanted a family. But things were different then. As for fruitfulness Larry and I raise a lot of money for the sick in our community (they did this by putting on drag shows) That’s fruitful and caring for the sick. Its no different then if I had married a woman who was unable to have kids.
    2. Marriage should be between a man and woman: Dad: marriage has taken many forms over the centuries and its a social contract that changes depending on the surrounding society. The Bible itself has multiple forms, and you can argue as long as it is a faithful and fruitful social contract where all partners are treated well its fine.
    Me: But Dad isn’t Christ the fulfillment of the law and doesn’t he say marriage is between a man and a woman and a one time thing at that?? Dad: yes he does and he does so in the context of the society he is a part of.
    I love the church, I continue to attempt to be faithful but I also love my father and to do both is difficult. It is the children that you need to be able to address, with love.
    Thank you,
    Valerie Foltz
    foltz.valerie@shms.edu

    • Mark Latkovic

      Thanks for this heartfelt comment, Valerie. I think that all we can do (as children or at least older children of gay parents) is continue to be steadfast in our beliefs all the while preaching the truth in love to them. Is it yet another way of saying “hate the sin, love the sinner”? Yes, probably. But I think it adds the idea that Pope Francis has been speaking of: demonstrating this love to the person! Gaining their trust by showing them, in true humility, that you have only their true happiness and best interests in mind — not winning an argument or proving moral superiority. God bless you!