Given the Church’s position on decriminalising buggery does it mean the Church will endorse
In a 2015 statement, the AEC bishops defined marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman for the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. We will always oppose using the word marriage to define any other form of union.
In this matter, as in all contentious matters of human endeavour, we are faced with a paradox. On the one hand I believe with the Church that marriage is the load-bearing wall of civilisation. To destroy marriage is to destroy civilisation: to legalise same-sex unions and call them marriage is to damage the institution of marriage and change fundamentally the meaning of the word. On the other, as Christians, it is our calling to love everyone, befriend everyone and invite everyone into a loving relationship with God.
When, as Church, we reflect on challenging moral issues, we need to teach clearly the truth of our position and why we believe it to be a superior way and best for humanity, the individual and civilisation. But, we also need to be the face of mercy and compassion to all, especially those who do not agree with us. Our opponents must find strong moral argument and experience mercy at the same time.
Teaching on marriage
Genesis 1:26–28 lays the foundation: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…’”
This first account of creation contains many incredible pearls of wisdom. I will dwell only on a few. All humans are created to reflect the Imago Dei—the Image of God. Creation has a purpose and a destiny. Nothing we do will distort this image or cause us, in fundamental ways, to lose this image.
This is why we need to engage the LGBT+ as brothers and sisters and enter into a fruitful dialogue with them, treating them as brothers and sisters. Hate speech, discriminating attitudes or prejudice is not becoming of a disciple of Jesus Christ.
The Imago Dei is male and female! Not one or the other—both! This is central to the Jewish, Christian traditions. It is in the complementarity of the sexes that we begin to peak into the fullness of who God is. Sex in terms of male and female is not just in our external appearance. Scientists now understand through genetics that the XY and XX chromosomes in the male and female, respectively, are not just about determining sex. They determine all aspects of the male and female body. Even if someone were surgically to remodel his or her body to the opposite sex, the genetic structure will still witness to the person’s sex as male or female. These are not socially constructed roles: they are biologically given. They cannot be changed.
Our second biblical passage, Gen 2:18–25, gives us the purpose of marriage: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ …and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
‘This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.’
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
Only the female is a suitable helpmate of the male, only the male is a suitable helpmate for the female. No other created being can fill this role. To be bone of bone and flesh of flesh speaks to a radical union. This union culminates in the man leaving his father and mother to cleave to his wife. They become one flesh, united in a bond that is inseparable. This is central to the Jewish and Christian position. Because God created us this way it is a covenant that originates with God, not a man-made or sociological rule. Christ raised the dignity of marriage to a sacrament
As such, marriage has always had two ends—the unification of the spouses (some say the good of the spouses) and the procreation of children. Here is a principle for all Catholic sexual morality: Does the act fulfil the two ends? If it does, it is moral; if it does not it is not moral. Fornication, adultery, pre-marital sex lack one of the ends and so is imperfect or temporary. Such a union may produce children but is impaired. Masturbation, anal sex, oral sex, etc. are also lacking: they cannot produce children. To live a moral life, the sexual act needs to fulfil both ends.
Whether you look at the Code of Canon Law or the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the same clear teaching is given: ‘The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of their whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptised” (Can 1055, 1).
“Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realised in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death” (CCC 2361).
The job of the Catholic Church is to produce saints, people of radical holiness, people who give themselves to God completely. We are to hold out for humanity the highest values that are human. As such, we do not pander to the trends of the time but to the eternal laws of God. The human did not make the institution of marriage. We cannot simply change it.
Key Message: All difficult teaching is paradoxical. We need to teach with clarity and show love and mercy to all.
Next Step: Identify where you are in the two-fold demand of discipleship. Ask the Lord to move you closer to His heart on this: Either, to accept the clarity of the Church’s teaching or the depth of mercy to be offered. Read the AEC statement on Marriage as a Covenant.
Scripture: Genesis 1: 26–28; Gen 2:18–25