On Unjust Rulings and Marriage

Many people are familiar with the signs that hang on restaurant doors that read “no shoes, no shirt, no service”. It is a sign that we do not take much notice of nor think about. It would seem many people essentially agree with the tenets of the sign for the sake of eating in a sanitary environment. No person wants to get sick or be offended by something that may even be perceived as unsightly or unclean. No one questions the prudence of this policy. But what happens when a business is forced to act contrary to the teachings of God? What if it is forced to become unclean spiritually?

This is a question being faced by Jack Phillips, a maker of wedding cakes in Colorado.He was handed a ruling by Judge Robert N. Spence ordering him to stop discriminating against gay couples by refusing to make them wedding cakes. However, Judge Spence’s ruling begs some deeper questions for consideration. First, why exactly is this an unjust ruling? Page 9 of the ruling offers something significant for the reader to consider. Judge Spence simply states, “The question presented by this case, however, does not involve an effort by the government to regulate what Respondents believe. Rather, it involves the state’s regulation of conduct…” It is at this point that Judge Spence fails to realize exactly what law is meant to do. While he seems to grasp that law is to direct good actions, what he fails to grasp is how this is a contradiction of sorts. Law itself is directed toward virtuous behavior. As St. Thomas Aquinas states, “Virtue is twofold, as explained above, acquired and infused. Now the fact of being accustomed to an action contributes to both, but in different ways; for it causes the acquired virtue; while it disposes to infused virtue, and preserves and fosters it when it already exists. And since law is given for the purpose of directing human acts; as far as human acts conduce to virtue, so far does law make men good” (Summa Theologica I-II, 92, 1).

It is at this point that sexual virtue ought to be mentioned. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out” (see no. 2333). The Church simply acknowledges that sex itself is something to be practiced within marriage. However, notice the key words used within the Church’s description: difference and complementarity. What does the Church mean here? The Catechism gives a little more insight a few paragraphs later when it says, “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity” (see no. 2357). In essence, something that is disordered cannot lead to the ordering of virtue. Here, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame is correct when he quoted 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10 in his GQ interview on the subject of the virtue of chastity. Simply put, sexual vice is not virtuous behavior.

Here, practicing Christians of all denominations stand in stark contrast to cultural elites as Judge Spence. As Catholics, we are to believe that sex has a purpose and that purpose is to bond the husband and wife together and for it to be open to the possibility of life. Bodies have to compliment one another in order to achieve this purpose. Otherwise, sex becomes merely a sterile act, one that is meant primarily for recreation, because it is not a total self-giving of one gender to the opposite gender. Sex is meant to not only reflect the creative aspect of God, but to participate in the creative aspect of God—that is why he “created man in his image, in the divine image he created them; male and female he created them” (see Genesis 1: 27). To practice sex outside of the order that God made it is to deform it and to practice a vice.

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Vice when practiced on a grand scale leads to the destabilization of society. It is here that Judge Spence misses the point. Only good action can lead to morally appropriate behavior. The question becomes: was Mr. Phillips acting inappropriately? The answer to this is a simple “no”. There was no injustice perpetrated by him. It is obvious that he understood what God’s plan for sex when he stated, “My decision not to participate in gay weddings is not motivated by politics or hatred of gays, though I’ve been accused of that. My decision is based solely on a desire to live my life in obedience to God and His word.” The same-sex couple who originally wanted to buy a wedding cake from him actually needed to hear his refusal even if they did not want to.

Judge Spence has essentially given Mr. Phillips an unjust ultimatum: violate your Christian belief or be prepared to face even further injustice. Although this should not be surprising given the mystery passage of the infamous Planned Parenthood v Casey decision, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Judge Spence is merely applying the logic of the Casey decision. However, this philosophy holds a host of problems as well. One of which is a quick road to totalitarianism and the dissolving of religious liberty.

Joe Kral has been involved in the pro-life movement since he has been in college.  His MA in Theology was completed at the University of St. Thomas where he specialized in bioethics.  From 1996-2003 he was the Legislative Director for Texas Right to Life.  During that time he was also a lobbyist for the Department of Medical Ethics at National Right to Life.  From 2004-2007 he consulted the Texas Catholic Conference on pro-life legislative initiatives.   In 2006 he was awarded the “Bishop’s Pro-Life Award for Civic Action” from the Respect Life Ministry in the Diocese of Dallas.  He currently serves as a voluntary legislative advisor to Texas Alliance for Life, is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, taught as an adjunct professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas, teaches as a Forward Toward Christian Ministry instructor for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, is a member of the Knights of Columbus, and is doing doctoral studies at Harrison Middleton University where he is specializing in the ethical and legal theory of St. Thomas Aquinas. He has been married to his wife, Melissa, since 2004 and they have 2 children together. They attend St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Sugar Land.
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