March 23, 2000
volume 11, no. 59

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    Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

    Today Pat illustrates so clearly why same-sex unions are wrong. He doesn't use the emotional approach as so many are wont to do with this controversy; no name calling, only a logistic approach based on both the truths of Catholic teaching, Sacred Scripture, and common sense in respect to the overall sensitivity of balancing the scales of sanity or insanity, morality or immorality. societal laws or anarchy, normal or abnormal, protection of the family structure or a dysfunctional miasma of individuals. By this argument he points out how the advocation of the homosexual lifestyle is systematically destroying the foundation of marriage as both an institution and a sacrament.

    For past columns by Pat Ludwa, click on VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives   If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at

The Death Knell of Marriage?

       We personify a lot of things. Wisdom was personified in the Old Testament as Sophia, derived from the Greek word for wisdom. The United States is personified as Uncle Sam, and if the country is not going well, we see political cartoons of an ailing Uncle Sam. If marriage could be personified, we'd see it as in distress, bedridden, and near death. And it seems some want to pull the life support from it.

       But what is marriage? As Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote:"No natural human good has been exalted so high in the New Testament. No other good has been chosen to become one of the seven Sacraments. No other has been endowed with the honor of participating directly in the Kingdom of God. This in itself suggests the infinitely precious value already attached to marriage in the realm of nature, the richness and grandeur it unfolds." (Marriage: the mystery of faithful love) Yet today, nothing seems so low or as irrelevant as marriage.

       When I visited friends in Las Vegas, I noted the number of 'wedding chapels' around the town. "Get married in Vegas, divorced in Reno" was their quip. How simple, how utilitarian, how wrong. Tom Arnold, an actor and comedian, quipped on the "Today Show" how ridiculous it was that someone could get married to someone they knew only 35 seconds, yet homosexuals who've been together 20 years can't get married. How typical, using an error to justify a wrong, and all in the name of fairness?

       Von Hildebrand says that marriage "has been endowed with the honor of participating directly in the Kingdom of God." How is that? The Father, with the words "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3) begot the Son Who is the Word of God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:1-3). The love the Father has for the Son and the Son for the Father brings the Spirit of Love, the Holy Spirit, and through Him, life. And that life, is loved by God because it comes from His love.

       Now, let's look at what happens in a marriage. "He (Christ) answered, 'Have you not read that He Who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one?' So they are no longer two but one'" (Matthew 19: 4-6).

       The two shall become one. Not two separate people. Both, in a way, die to themselves and begin to live for the other. Mutual love and support, since to love and support the one is to love and support themselves. This love is only partially expressed in the marital act, the sexual act. This is the total giving of oneself to the other. It isn't the center piece of the marriage. It isn't a conquest but a surrender, on the part of both. From this expression of love comes life, children. And since the children come from love, they too are loved. Can you see a sort of earthly trinity here?
    God the Father and God the Son plus God the Holy Spirit = the Trinity.
    Husband and Wife plus Children = an earthly trinity.

       Recall the words of Dietrich von Hildebrand? "No other good has been chosen to become one of the seven Sacraments. No other has been endowed with the honor of participating directly in the Kingdom of God." (Marriage: the mystery of faithful love)

       This creates a cycle of love, true love. The children, seeing their parents love each other, and them, seek this love themselves. A healthy, true love. "The love of husband and wife is perfected as it becomes triune; now there is the lover, the beloved, and love--the love being something distinct from both, and yet in both. If there is only the mine and thine, there is impenetrability and separateness. Not until there is a third acting element, as the soil in which the two vines intertwine, is there oneness. Then is the impotence of the I to completely possess the Thou overcome in the realization that there is a bond outside pulling them together, hovering over them as the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, turning the I and Thou into a We. It is this that lovers mean when, without knowing it, they speak of "our love" as something distinct from each." (THREE TO GET MARRIED;by Fulton J. Sheen, Ph.D., D.D.).

       Now, we know that, for every good God does, for every action God makes, the devil, the enemy, makes a counterfeit, or acts to destroy what God has established. How to do that here? Remove the sacredness of marriage. Refer to it as only an institution, a political/social institution. We hear some say that marriage is only the legalization of what they already feel. That there's no reason to go through the 'formality' of marriage if they are already married in their heart. The problem here is that marriage without God is not a true marriage. The marriage is the Church's witness of their love, and God being a part of it. As Bishop Sheen wrote, it takes three to truly get married. The man, the woman, and God. We even hear some say marriage is nothing more than the institutionalized oppression of men over women. Again, this shows, not just a lack of knowledge or understanding of what marriage is, but an open attack on it. And who would that serve?

       If marriage is nothing more than a socio-political institution, then it can be entered into with little thought. Love, true love, no longer is the basis of the marriage. The cycle we spoke of before, is broken. A man and a woman get married for other reasons. Some, living in poverty, abuse, etc, may see marriage as an escape. Marrying the first person they can find who will remove them from that life. The marriage is not founded on love, so any life that may come from it will most likely not be loved. In fact, we see that often, the children of these marriages are forced to relive the pains of their parents, and are likely to continue it themselves. Another, self centered cycle, begun.

       Maybe the children's life isn't poor or abusive, but the love isn't there. So...they seek out love, any love. Which society has distorted into sex. Again, we see sex, not as a surrender of one to another, but a selfish act of escape or personal pleasure. The other, for one reason or another, isn't cherished, but used. Here, we see that a possible marriage is founded, not on love, but sex. In fact, it seems that society tells us that that's all marriage is, sex.

       We have books extolling the virtues of 'spicing' up your sex life. Viagra, etc. is seen as a necessity. "Love is primarily in the will, not in the emotions or the glands. The will is like the voice; the emotions are like the echo. The pleasure associated with love, or what is today called 'sex,' is the frosting on the cake; its purpose is to make us love the cake, not ignore it. The greatest illusion of lovers is to believe that the intensity of their sexual attraction is the guarantee of the perpetuity of their love. It is because of this failure to distinguish between the glandular and spiritual--or between sex which we have in common with animals, and love which we have in common with God--that marriages are so full of deception. What some people love is not a person, but the experience of being in love. The first is irreplaceable; the second is not. As soon as the glands cease to react with their pristine force, couples who identified emotionalism and love claim they no longer love one another" (Ibid).

       Over the years, due to this distortion and abuse of marriage, due to the replacement of love with sex, we have marriages failing. We see dysfunctional and abusive families. Children are not seen as gifts from God, as living expressions of a couple's love, but as a burden.

       Now, with marriage under such attacks, with it as belittled in our society as it is, we're supposed to turn around and hold it up as something everyone has a right to? Again, an expression of marriage as nothing more than an socio-political institution. "The sexual revolution gradually brought us to the point where the complex fabric of laws and mores which together supported and sustained marriage and the family has largely been unravelled. We are beginning to see the effects on social behavior. More to the point, these changes have gradually eroded our understanding of what marriage is. No longer is marriage considered universally in the public mind as a permanent union; no longer is it considered to have any necessary connection to children; no longer does it universally bind to fidelity; and that sex should be reserved for it is today's unthinkable thought. Marriage has become a mere diaphanous thing. To Murray (Karen Murray of the Northern Virginia Journal), for example, it means a public declaration of 'the mutual devotion between any pair of adults,' a pledge of 'support, loyalty protection of the partner's privacy' which 'others are expected to honor and reinforce'" (Homosexual Marriage: Much to Fear; by Burman Skrable).

       Hence, marriage is no longer the sacred union of a man and a woman from which life comes, not from duty but from love, to a means of social acceptance. Even though society generally doesn't hold marriage in the same esteem as it once did. "The evolutionary emptying of the concept of marriage, and the concomitant acceptance of homosexual relations - both products of the same revolutionary forces - largely explain the drive for homosexual 'marriage.' Who, homosexual or heterosexual, could conceive of same-sex 'marriage' if marriage meant more than it does today? More than anything else, our increasing technical ability to sever the biological link between sex and children, and the contraceptive mentality that grew from it - the belief that to separate sex from its natural consequences was not only natural but a right - probably paved the way for tolerating homosexual relations. But tolerance is not the same thing as acceptance. And even though marriage may now be but a shadow of its former self, it still retains some power to make sexual activity legitimate. So, same-sex couples grasp at it even when so many heterosexual couples find it superfluous. They may not believe society needs the institution of marriage, but it would salve their consciences and help them hold their heads high in public" (Ibid).

       This concept, now evidently embraced by the Vermont State legislature, could not have occurred if the true concept of marriage was maintained. In order for this to occur, marriage had to be all but destroyed. In order for this to be accepted, it had to go from the notion of if it's right to if it's fair. "To Murray, same-sex marriage is a simple issue of justice to gays, will promote a more stable lifestyle among gays, and will redound to the advantage of any children being raised in gay households" (Ibid).

       I can't imagine what kind of 'advantage' a child would have living in a gay household? Except that they would be raised under the erroneous misconception that this is an acceptable and 'natural' lifestyle. What would the consequences be to marriage? It would essentially kill it.
    "1) It would remove marriages sole original defining characteristic, that it is a union of one man and one woman.
    2) Although it would not change much of what is left of marriage-because not much is left today-it would lock in the 'gains" of the sexual revolution. That, by itself is extremely serious: what society really needs is the restoration of marriage; same-sex marriage would continue marriage on its present search for the bottom. That would further solidify the notions that sex need not have a necessary connection to procreation, nor marriage to children. Similarly, it is hard to imagine that same-sex couples-especially males-would want to see marriage restored to being a permanent and exclusive union. Male homosexual relations are inherently so transitory that many gay activists opposed same-sex marriage on the grounds that it would be so restrictive of the gay lifestyle that failure would be virtually guaranteed. In short, marriage would be further solidified as a meaningless institution in which society has no inherent interest, unless one makes the leap (not uncommonly implied today) of saying that society's real interest is in making us all feel good by legitimating every conceivable choice.

       Allowing homosexual marriage would further dilute the uniqueness of marriage by opening it to all who want it, regardless of their potential to fulfill an essential societal function. If a privilege is open to all, it is no longer a privilege. This great leveling process would further diminish the incentives to bear and raise children. Homosexual marriage is a chimera of the real thing on which society depends for its continuation and health. It would further reinforce the sexual revolution's notion-which is too strong already-that any connection between sex and children is purely optional. It sends the subliminal message that everything should be a matter of choice, that nothing is a given or need be permanent, and that sexual differences are imaginative fictions imposed through socialization. I believe that these effects are enough to fear from extending marriage to same-sex couples" (Ibid)

       Before anyone says that there are many homosexual couples who remain together and faithful for years, they are the exception rather than the rule, as is true of unmarried heterosexual couples living together. If we were to accept that, then we'd still have to reject the notion of same sex marriages since approximately 50% of heterosexual marriages do the same. But to justify the 'new' socio-political order, the exceptions are emphasized in both cases.

       "There are two reasons for the primacy of sex over love in a decadent civilization. One is the decline of reason. As humans give up reason, they resort to their imaginations. That is why motion pictures and picture magazines enjoy such popularity. As thinking fades, unrestrained desires come to the fore. Since physical and erotic desires are among the easiest to dwell upon, because they require no effort and because they are powerfully aided by bodily passions, sex begins to be all-important. It is by no historical accident that an age of anti-intellectualism and irrationalism, such as our own, is also an age of carnal license" (THREE TO GET MARRIED;by Fulton J. Sheen, Ph.D., D.D.).

       The only reason why anyone would advocate the marriage of homosexuals, when marriage is so little regarded today, is to legitimize the lifestyle. And it would serve only to not just further lessen marriage, but ultimately destroy it.

    Pax Christi, Pat


March 23, 2000
volume 11, no. 59

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