Why is the Catholic Church Defending Marriage as between a Man and a Woman?

by. Fr Brennan Sia

First and foremost, the Catholic Church’s position that marriage is between a man and a woman is not based on homophobia, bigotry, or intolerance. The Catholic Church has taken the side of defending the current definition of marriage out of Love: Love for the dignity of marriage (as it is currently defined) and also Love for the dignity of every single person. The Catholic Church believes that holding onto the current definition of marriage best maintains the balance between the dignity of each person and also the dignity of marriage in this current issue. This is not based on solely religious beliefs but on universal values and principles that people of all religious and no religious backgrounds can agree on. Moreover, because this is a major social issue, there is a need to respond, contribute and speak on behalf of those defending the current definition of marriage.

 

 Significance of Marriage as “union of one man and one woman”

The proposal for same-sex couples to have the possibility of their relationships being legally recognised as marriage requires a redefinition of marriage such that the union of a man and a woman as part of marriage is now downgraded and no longer regarded as significant. The meaning of marriage is then reduced to a purely emotional level where marriage is there only to serve the emotional needs of the spouses and not also as an importantly particular contributor to society in its own unique way which is the propagation of children through the unique nature of the love between a man and a woman.

Just married couple, holding hands and walking in nature

Just married couple, holding hands and walking in nature

While not every married couple will live out their marriage in this ideal way, society can and should give special recognition, support and status for every man and woman in marriage so that, should any children issue forth from their love for each other, their children will have the best possible environment to be raised and so become the best members of society they can be which society itself benefits from. Society, then, stands to lose more than it hopes to gain in no longer valuing the unique and potentially great contribution every union of a man and a woman in marriage can make to society especially in regards to future generations of society.

The meaning of marriage is then reduced to a purely emotional level where marriage is there only to serve the emotional needs of the spouses and not also as an importantly particular contributor to society in its own unique way which is the propagation of children through the unique nature of the love between a man and a woman.

Getting Real on the terms “Discrimination” and “Legalisation”

The Marriage Act, then, can be understood primarily as a means to give special recognition to certain unions because of their special role to society rather than as a tool for discrimination against others. However, the Marriage Act does discriminate but, to be more precise, it does not discriminate based on sexuality but rather on the choice of spouse (as well as number of spouses which will continue to be discriminated against regardless of the outcome of the debate). This means that, under the current definition of marriage, a person who has sexual attraction for the same gender is not excluded from entering into marriage provided it is with a member of the opposite sex which can and does happen without either party needing to conceal the nature of their sexual attractions. Conversely, changing the definition of marriage as proposed also gives two heterosexual persons the possibility of having their own relationship recognised as marriage under the law. While a homosexual person is more likely to choose a spouse of the same gender, the current definition of marriage discriminates more on the choice of spouse rather than sexuality and does not exclude people with same sex attraction from entering into marriage as marriage is currently defined.

Those advocating for a change of the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples have to honestly acknowledge that, if this does happen, there will still be discrimination and exclusion of some relationships from being recognised as marriage and that not every relationship will be able to be recognised as marriage as it will continue to be restricted to relationships of two people, for example.

LIving-with-Divorce Moreover, in using the term “legalization” in this debate, it has to be understood that same sex marriage is not illegal but, rather, non-legal. Bigamy is illegal and carries a prison sentence but same sex marriage doesn’t; it’s simply not recognised in law. Currently in Australia, same sex couples can have a public ceremony to commit themselves to each other and not have to worry about being prosecuted for it. Yes, the commitment is not recognised in law as marriage but, as already discussed, to do so requires a redefinition of marriage and so the debate should first focus on whether or not there is something unique about a relationship between a man and a woman as compared to two people of the same gender.

Those advocating for a change of the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples have to honestly acknowledge that, if this does happen, there will still be discrimination and exclusion of some relationships from being recognised as marriage and that not every relationship will be able to be recognised as marriage as it will continue to be restricted to relationships of two people, for example.

Respect and Sensitivity in the Debate

Perth Catholic Archbishop Timothy Costelloe wrote in his Pastoral Letter on the ‘Same-Sex Marriage’ Debate that the manner in which this debate is carried out will be a measure of our society’s maturity. A debate is an opportunity to evaluate and judge the value of statements and arguments and not individuals or groups. Just because one person disagrees with another does not necessarily mean that they hate the person or anything else the other person stands for. That is why it is not fair or just to demonise, ostracise or condemn anyone for holding any opinion in the same-sex marriage debate. For this reason, it is undeserving to marginalize or gag those who defend the current definition of marriage by labeling them as homophobic, bigoted or unintelligent. Moreover, openly gay people have been among those who have publicly stated support for defending the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman including those involved in the video “I’m Gay and I’m Voting No” (available on YouTube) which featured during the Irish referendum on the issue as well as fashion designers Dolce and Gabbana.

None of the comments made in this article are meant to be directed at any particular group or individual but rather to discuss the merits of the current definition and the limitations of the proposed redefinition of marriage.

WeddingKneelingBeforeEucharist

Conclusion

The Catholic Church’s position on this issue has been taken seeking to be fair to the dignity of marriage while also respecting the dignity of every person of every background, gender and sexuality. Changing the definition of marriage as proposed compromises the value of union of a man and a woman in marriage more than any perceived unjust discrimination it hopes to overcome. Moreover, it is naïve to believe that the proposed redefinition removes all form of discrimination in the understanding of marriage. When this debate is over, one definition of marriage will be imposed upon all in our society and the Catholic Church believes that the current definition is the fairer definition as it does justice to marriage while also not discriminating persons based on sexuality. It is a position shared not only by Catholics but also by people of other and no religious backgrounds including people who are openly gay.

Fr Brennan Sia is the Youth Chaplain for the Archdiocese of Perth.

Fr Brennan Sia is the Youth Chaplain for the Archdiocese of Perth.