Daze and Confuse Over Supreme-Court News

Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII, entombed in the Lateran Basilica in Rome

Given the state of public discourse (at least what I have heard of it), I think a thoughtful Christian might find him- or herself thoroughly confused by the “gay-marriage” cases which the Supreme Court will hear this week.

Some preliminary observations:

1. No true Christian would ever think it acceptable to abuse or mistreat anyone–including, certainly, any homosexual person. 2. Any member of any generation prior to ours, upon hearing that the Supreme Court of a major nation would consider the possibility of “gay marriage,” would laugh out loud, because it must be some kind of joke. 3. This problem which we have at hand is, in fact, enormously profound; it cannot be settled without simultaneously questioning whether or not divorce should–or even can–be legal; it requires a Christian to put American patriotism in its proper place in the hierarchy of loyalty, namely, under religion and allegiance to the Church.

If there were two fishbowls in which people could live, the one being “secular” and the other “Christian,” then we Christians could say to the state: You have your laws of marriage, and we have ours, and let’s just leave each other alone.

council_of_trent
The Council of Trent

But there aren’t two fishbowls. There’s just one, in which God calls people into His Church at different points in their lives, in which men and women with different priorities meet each other and fall in love with each other and have children together, in which the Church fulfills Her sacred mission for the good of every human being.

If you will permit me, I would like to say first that I think the key fact, the fundamentally decisive reality, is this:

Every individual human being has a mother and a father. There is no way to come into existence as a human being without a mother and a father.

It seems to me that all sound doctrine in the fields of marriage law, sociology, social work, psychology, child care, marriage counseling, religion, home economics, education, developmental psychiatry, neonatology, pediatrics, addictions counseling, even interior design: all theories and teaching must be based on the fact that every human being ever (except for Adam, Eve, and Jesus Christ) has had, has, and will have a human mother and a human father. In other words: without my mother and my father, I simply would not exist. Any person of love and decency thinks of all people (and especially children) in this light: every person has a mother and a father.

When anyone experiences sexual attraction towards someone whom he or she cannot think of marrying, this is a cross, a burden, a trial, a difficulty. We owe it to our neighbors to help each other struggle through these challenges. The more purely we love each other in Christ, the more we can help homosexual people to be chaste–and all people to be chaste. Because all of us, at some point or another, experience sexual attraction towards people we cannot think of marrying.

Now, to what the Church has taught in the past:

Council of Trent:

It is something singularly execrable to violate the freedom of matrimony.

In the beginning, Adam and Eve were free to marry. If someone had tried to tell them that they weren’t, the world might never have known the need for diapers. But no one told them not to. So they did it.

Before sin entered the world, I think we can say, there was no need whatsoever for external laws of marriage. But sin did enter. So the Savior had to come.

wedding cakeNow: We hold that the Savior restored marriage to its original state of permanence and exclusivity.

Christ made marriage a sacrament of His grace.

Marriage, indeed, has, from the beginning, been a sign of the union of God and man, destined to last forever in heaven. By the power of Christ, Who shed His blood on the cross for His beloved Bride, marriage is now such a sign again.

The sacred sign has been entrusted to the Church.

Hopefully, dear reader, you have noticed that this means that there is no such thing as “civil marriage.” Never has been and never will be. Marriage is inherently sacred, inherently religious, inherently Godly. God made Adam and Eve out of elements that only He could fashion into human persons, and He endowed them with the power to bring new human persons into the world–through marriage. Spouses co-operate with the Creator in bringing new people into the world and into the Church.

Marriage and child-bearing, therefore, establish the situation in which a state or nation can exist. The fundamental fact, when it comes to this week’s Supreme Court cases, is this: The state has the prerogative to establish laws pertaining to certain practical exigencies of married life. But civil authority does not have the power to establish any laws regarding what marriage is, or whether or not a particular marriage bond can or does exist.

A state might be a tranquil and beautiful republican democracy; it might be a repressive dictatorship; it might be a monarchy—doesn’t matter. Under no circumstances whatsoever does any civil authority have the prerogative to establish what marriage is, or to determine who is married and who isn’t, or who can marry and who can’t. That prerogative belongs solely to God, and the only competent judges in such matters are those who have been designated as such by the proper authorities in God’s Church.

Canon 12 of Session 12 of the Council of Trent:

If anyone says that matrimonial causes do not belong to ecclesiastical judges, let him be anathema.

Pope Leo XIII:

Marriage was not instituted by the will of man, but, from the very beginning, by the authority and command of God; it does not admit of plurality of wives or husbands; Christ, the Author of the New Covenant, raised it from a rite of nature to be a sacrament, and gave to His Church legislative and judicial power with regard to the bond of union.

So, please, dear brothers and sisters, let us not be confused. We certainly hope that the Supreme Court will not make a decision which, in the long run, will prove to be utterly laughable. But they might make such a decision.

If and when the time comes when the laughable decision could cause me and other priests, deacons, and bishops, to have to pay fines and/or go to jail, we’ll let you know. For now, the people who need our advocacy and prayers are a) anyone involved in health care who, reasonably, refuses to have anything to do with in vitro fertilization and other similar child abuses, and b) case workers confronted with “married” couples who have no legitimate claim to be considered as potential adoptive parents.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that painful things will happen to the Church if the Court makes the wrong decisions on this week’s cases. Time, however, will tell. The fact of the matter is that we really cannot agree with either side’s arguments. Both positions concede to the government an authority which it does not possess.

So I think we should persevere in peace and tranquility. If any of us have marriage cases pending before ecclesiastical tribunals, let’s put it all in God’s hands and trust that the matter will be resolved according to the divine plan.

Where we really need to focus, I think, is in supporting each other in living chaste lives. A poor soul has to be very far estranged from the friendship of Christ to find him- or herself in such a situation that he or she would a) marry and/or have a child with someone whom he or she cannot realistically look forward to living with until death, or b) think of “marrying” someone of the same sex.

Let’s strive to stay close to the chaste and celibate Christ, Who reigns in heaven as the fulfillment of all our desires, and Who shares His life with us in the sacraments and prayers of the Church.

By staying close to Him, each of us does his or her part to help others stay close to Him. “Same-sex marriages,” or second or third “marriages” (with former spouses still living), are not really the concern of anyone who lives daily in the friendship of Jesus Christ.

Let’s hope and pray for the day that no one gives a thought to same-sex marriage or divorce, and let’s be kind and understanding toward everyone who does—and offer them the friendship of Christ, which is the only real answer to their problems.

President Brad Pitt?

Your faith has saved you. (Mark 10:52)

Last Sunday we began to discuss the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church.

Actually, it’s not true.

I mean, that we started discussing Vatican II’s portrait of the Church last week. In fact, we began to discuss it two weeks ago, when we reflected on the conversation the Lord Jesus had with the rich young man.

We wondered how we camels will get ourselves through the eye of the needle and into the kingdom of heaven. Chapter V of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church teaches the means by which every Christian person can seek holiness. Intentionally to choose poverty, chastity, and obedience ranks high among those means. And the Council taught that yet a higher means of attaining holiness beckons the chosen few, namely martyrdom.

In the spring, we talked about the federal Affordable Care Act, and how we would love it, were it not for the parts of it that we hate. I hope all of us grasp the responsibility we have as Christians to consider the politics of our country from the point-of-view of the weakest and most defenseless people, the people who have no voice, no money, no power, especially the thousands of innocent unborn children who die by violence every day.

So we covered our pro-life principles back in the spring. Now let’s consider something else…

The history of our nation has seen admirable civil-rights movements. Inspiring leaders have helped us to perceive the fundamental dignity of every individual human being. Thanks to these movements, we wonder now: How could any of our ancestors have held our other ancestors as slaves? And how could our forefathers have regarded our excellent foremothers as anything but perfectly capable and intelligent?

Crusades for justice fought by earlier generations have given us liberating clarity and insight. But we also have to acknowledge that such crusades tend to oversimplify things. Social movements paint the world with a very broad brush, dividing it into two forces: the noble, aggrieved class and their advocates on one side, and the villainous enemies of change on the other.

Now, let’s consider: Do you or I sin against justice by saying to a homosexual person: Dear homosexual brother, dear homosexual sister, God wills something better for you than to do unnatural and unfruitful things with your body?

Is this statement oppressive and unjust? We disciples of the chaste and pure Christ freely acknowledge that the “something better” God has in mind for homosexual people is also something harder. God wills something harder for the homosexual person, just like He wills something harder for anyone who has cancer, or for a young widow or widower, or for a handicapped person.

Getting sick is hard, losing a spouse before their time is hard, being celibate is hard. All involve carrying a cross heavier than what anyone wants to have to carry. But when we carry our crosses in faith, we become the people God made us to be.

We Catholics say to any person with homosexual desires: God wills something better for you than to give in. Stand right here beside us. We will carry our crosses together, with the help of Christ’s grace. We do not consider you to be “gay.” We call you a brother or a sister Christian. Let’s fight the good fight for chastity together.

Does saying this make us the enemies of a human right? We call it love to try to inspire people to have noble aspirations and seek God’s help in rising above the concupiscence of the flesh. But we have to face the sobering facts: A strong and self-assured social movement, with tons of money and prestige, calls what we say not love, but hate.

Let’s ask ourselves: If things continue to move in the direction in which they are headed, will there be room left for the Catholic Church as a mainstream institution in los Estados Unidos in twenty years? Or will the administration of President Brad Pitt have gotten our official teaching on homosexuality declared illegal by Chief Justice Ted Olson’s Supreme Court?

If we do not have the guts to think clearly now about the meaning of marriage, and find a way to stand our ground—if we do not offer our contemporaries a strong and loving answer to the Same-Sex Marriage Movement, an answer that springs from what we know about the sacredness of the human body, made male and female, and the beauty of lifetime marital fidelity—if we do not paint a picture of something better and truer than what the captains of our culture peddle these days, and then give ourselves over completely to the truth we believe in—if we fail to shine the light, in other words, then if we find ourselves outlawed and operating clandestinely and ineffectively out of someone’s basement in twenty years, we will have only ourselves to blame.

Being against “gay marriage” means defending the interests of children. But even more important is that we know, understand, and love what we are for. We are for Christian chastity, faithfulness, and fruitfulness.

If it becomes illegal to be for what Jesus Christ is for, then bring on the handcuffs! We will sing in our jail cells. For the sake of all the confused and misguided souls who have never heard of Christian chastity, we cannot afford to be wimps about this. We are living through a decisive time, and we have to be ready and willing to be fed to the lions—if that’s what it takes to stand with the chaste, loving Christ.

Same-Sex “Marriage” Compendium

A Vademecum: Good People Oppose Same-Sex Marriage

Summary of the Vatican Doctrinal Note in honor of the Ugandan Martyrs

The absurdity of Olivia and Viola in “Twelfth Night”

The battle we lost in Washington, D.C.:

1. Homily Encouraging my Peeps to Stand up and be Counted

2. Homily about the Church’s Authority to Govern Marriage

3. The District Building: Setting the Scene

4. The Hearing: Why Are We Here? Approval for the Unapprovable.

5. My Letter to Councilmember Marion Barry on the day the new law went into effect (written in the spring of 2010; I don’t think I could write the same letter now)

Explanation for Why I Went a Couple Years without Mentioning This

Why Exactly Can’t I Go to the Wedding?

Of course we’re against it. Let’s focus on what we are for:

Part I

Part II

The Young Hipster, the Indians, the Pope, and the Best Streetmap

The Church, Not the Supreme Court

Something We Can Learn from Timon’s Curse

DOMA Dies on the Marriage-Law Titanic

Virginia and Impending Jail Time

Ugandan Martyrs 12 Years Later

Obergefell Day: Nature, Sterility, and How Love Really Wins

Marrying Well

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. (I Cor 13:1)

All Christians clearly must take a stand for a few things in our day and age. Among these, “traditional marriage” has a nice ring to it. And we can take heart from the fact that statewide referenda have thus far defeated the idea of “same-sex marriage” 32 out of 32 times.

But if we really want to bear witness to divine love–the divine love we read about in St. Paul’s letter at practically every wedding–we have to dig deeper.

It’s not just that marriage is between one man and one woman. There’s also the fact that it involves a bond that only death can break. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

Still we have to keep digging. Why get married? According to God, the reason is clear enough: Be fruitful and multiply. Onan wasted his seed on the ground; what he did greatly displeased God (Genesis 38:10).

So: Marriage is not just between a man and a woman. It is between a man and a woman for life; for richer, for poorer, sickness, health, as long as we both shall live. And marriage is a partnership of the whole of life, in which the man and woman become one flesh, without impediments of any kind (barrier, chemical) being admitted to the marriage of true minds.

Forgive me; I can’t help it: the idea of “gay marriage” strikes me as simply ridiculous. How can anyone take it seriously? Maybe one reason is because there is so much divorce these days. Some people have gotten the idea that marriage is nothing but an arrangement for my enjoyment which I make at will and control at will. A false idea indeed. But can we doubt that a lot of people have come by this idea honestly, because that’s what they see when they look around?

Morose delectation: Three INTs in a row!
So we have to keep digging. Why are there so many divorces? Is it because the marrying public these days is so much more wicked than in the old days? Maybe. But such an explanation does not altogether satisfy. The Church Herself has granted annulments in many of these cases, which means that the spouses involved are not in fact bound by the vows they rashly made, and neither of them is necessarily wicked.

It seems to me that the whole contemporary “marriage problem” lies at the beginning of marriages. The perennial fact is: it is not easy to marry the right person. To enter prudently into marriage requires prayerful discernment over a significant period of time; it requires the discipline of chastity; it requires mature faith in God.

Thanks be to God, the Church possesses this art, the art of marrying wisely and well. It really isn’t anything too complicated. It’s just a matter of following our rules, living a life of prayer, staying out of potentially dangerous situations, and—above all—nourishing and strengthening oneself with the sacraments, especially the sacrament of Penance. The faithful lives of countless married Christians bear witness to the successful application of the Christian method of marrying.

So I guess what I am saying is: I don’t think the world needs us just to be opposed to “same-sex marriage,” which of course we are. The world needs us to give freely one of the gifts that has freely been given to us: the humble and quiet art of knowing how to get married.

Two Attempts to Clarify Some Things

If you have grown tired of reading about the “hot-button” controversies, skip this one. Ignatius Reilly probably could have written what follows, but I take full credit for it.

Continue reading “Two Attempts to Clarify Some Things”

Unoffensive S. Word

Let’s take a break and talk some politics. Just read the following interesting statement:

There are some arguments no reasonable person makes anymore. A person arguing that consensual gay sex is intrinsically immoral and perverse has disqualified themselves from reasonable debate. In mainstream society this is a settled question, and there’s no longer any need to answer such arguments anymore (except perhaps with a raised finger). –Barry Deutsch [Click HERE for the entire essay.]

In many circles, he’s right–that is, that this is considered a closed question.

…People with delicate sensibilities generally do not choose to study the question of what precisely distinguishes marriage as marriage.

Is it love? No. Love widely obtains between unmarried people, too—friends, relatives, etc.

Stable commitment? No. Stable commitment, too, obtains in many other relationships as well.

Legally binding contracts exist to ensure stable relationships. People commit to stable relationships in business, recreation, and other areas of social life. My credit-card company made a lifetime commitment to me over twenty years ago: “No membership fee for life.”

Discrete and modest people don’t like to think about the essence of marriage too much because: What actually does distinguish marriage as the stable commitment of love which it uniquely is…namely, S-E-X.

Marriage = exclusive lifetime commitment to having sex together.

No need to blush, really. Christ made this very thing a sign of heaven. But we do blush, because: Holy as it could have been in Eden, sex for fallen man prowls as a great monster that never sleeps.

Now, my point. A great temptation lies at hand, namely to greet the “same-sex marriage” battle cry with arguments that will never fully ring true, arguments that can easily be answered and nullified.

“For 3,000 years of recorded human history, marriage has been an institution between a man and a woman!” True enough.

But do these years of history present a flattering picture of the institution? Not always. And do they bind a particular young person of this generation to accept the tradition without question? No.

“Gay marriage demeans the institution! It’s bad for children!”

More so than divorce? More than infidelity, pornography, abandonment, or abuse?

The sacrament of Holy Matrimony shines with divine glory. The dappled history of human marriage sparkles with a lot of this beauty. But, upon inspection, it also offends the eye, a complicated mess. Holding up a placard with a picture of the Cleavers on it does not make a convincing argument against same-sex marriage.

Now, a reasonable, calm person with designs on living an admirable life can produce a pretty long list of sexual deeds that should never be done. It all comes down to this: God made making babies beautiful. Opening that particular door for any other purpose…well, the ugly selfishness of it depletes the soul of vigor.

The virtue of chastity perceives this, lives from it–thrives in this truth. A good life is a chaste life. Un-chastity causes pathetic slavery, dims the mind, lowers the horizons.

…For two men or two women to live together in the same house until death–this does not appear on any reputable list of sins. If someone wants to name a non-blood relation as an heir, or as a financial beneficiary of any kind—not a sin. We could even imagine circumstances in which two men or two women might take into their home a child whose parents could not care for him/her.

In other words, many of the trappings of “gay marriage” sit right alongside the trappings of mainstream married family life–as perfectly un-objectionable arrangements of love and friendship. Against true love and friendship there can never be a just law.

Which is why we have no choice but patiently and discreetly to risk the raised middle finger.

Marriage is beautiful, difficult, and checkered. Sex is holy and altogether complicated. Sodomy is a grave sin.

If an old friend invited me to his or her “gay wedding,” I could only in good conscience decline on these grounds: You are publicly declaring that you will commit sodomy. Of that I cannot approve.

You-Can’t-Do-It-ville

More deluded state legislatures have enacted laws permitting “same-sex marriage.”

Faithful souls may long to hear from their shepherds a resounding condemnation.

If I might, I would like to take a few moments to explain my personal point-of-view on this matter.

Marriage between two men or two women falls into the category of impossible. For two people to marry, they must act (in the distinctive way) as husband and wife, following their verbal commitment to each other. Two men cannot do this; two women cannot do this. This is bird-and-bees stuff of the most basic kind.

No one enjoys a civil right to do the impossible. Legislatures which try to make the impossible possible only succeed in rendering themselves laughingstocks. But that hardly seems unusual or even particularly remarkable.

That said, it is our bounden duty to oppose such legislative nonsense. A vademecum about opposing ‘same-sex marriage’ can be found by clicking here.

A summary of Vatican teaching on this matter can be found by clicking here.

Click here for a homily I gave shortly before the District of Columbia legalized ‘gay marriage.’ Click here for a homily explaining the Church’s authority to govern marriage.

Here are my ruminations after I sat through hours of testimony at the District building.

‘Gay marriage’ lives in fantasy-world. In the realm of the possible, we find such things as…friendship, sincerity, kindness, creativity…The Lord never laid down a law against any of these things. All are encouraged.

Also in the realm of the possible, we find…sodomy. Even though sodomy so obviously offends everything that is good and dignified about mankind, some people nonetheless experience an inclination to it. The existence of such an inclination shows us that our human nature has been handed down to us in a confused and broken state. Same-sex attraction is a particularly vivid sign of original sin. The inclination is not, however, in and of itself, a personal sin.

My sense is that actually performing acts of sodomy falls deep within the city limits of You-Really-Cannot-Do-It (Ever!)-ville in the minds of everyone who hears any homily I ever give. Therefore, it would serve no purpose for me to give a severe “Gay Marriage is an Abomination” Sermon.

People who might avail themselves of “Gay Marriage” in New York, Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., or anywhere else, are our misguided brothers and sisters. We should do everything we lovingly can to help them come to their senses, do the good (kindness, love, friendship) and avoid the bad (sodomy, lesbianism).

That said, I find the whole ‘same-sex marriage’ business to be less an abomination and more a regrettably silly sideshow, best ignored. Give me an earful if you disagree!

Happy Days

God is good to me.

I say this not just because the Geogetown Hoyas are 5-0, having trounced the Mount last night, even more thoroughly than they did a year ago.

I say it not just because He makes the sun rise in the morning and the moon at night.

I say it not just because maybe some day I will be able to go to jail for refusing to let two grooms use our church hall for their “reception.”

(By the by, our old friend had the guts to vote against the madness today).

No. The reason I praise God is that He has brought together two events in my life in such a way that I could never have asked for something so wonderful.

For me, there are two kinds of days on the calendar. There is December 8, and then there are all the other days.

December 8 is the day when the Garden of Eden was restored to the earth, the day when the flower of mankind bloomed again.

I am the happy slave of the Lady conceived on December 8.

For me, the days leading up to December 8 are special holy days of prayer and closeness to the Immaculata.

It just so happens that during the Immaculate Conception Novena this year, Archbishop Wuerl is going to come to my church and renew my consecration as a priest, when he installs me as the parish pastor this Sunday.

I am unworthy of such good timing–to be able to give myself again to the priesthood during the days when I first gave myself to the Blessed Mother as a slave.

May our Lady make good use of me. She is a gentle mistress.

Approval-Seeking Missiles

As I sat listening to testimony about the D.C. Council’s “Same-Sex Marriage” Act, the key question that emerged in my mind is: Why is this happening?

To listen to all of the Council members and most of the witnesses at the hearing, the answer would be: It is happening became this is a matter of justice and human rights. “Marriage equality” is the civil-rights cause of our era. It is something that “obviously makes sense.” (Mary Cheh)

Mary Cheh
Councilmember Cheh

All of this, however, is manifestly untrue. Most of the witnesses who testified against the bill objected to the exclusion of District voters from the debate. The powers that be in the city government refuse to refer the same-sex marriage question to the ballot box. Councilmember Catania took it upon himself to lecture Bishop Jackson about 19th-century voter referendae.

It certainly would make sense to refer the question to the voters. But even if every citizen of the District insisted that someone was suffering an injustice over who can get a marriage license these days, there still wouldn’t actually be any injustice.

Continue reading “Approval-Seeking Missiles”