Q. I was curious about how the Church might react to The New York Times’s Page 1 article with the head, "Male Couples Face Pressure to Fill Cradles." The article quotes one man in a gay relationship as defending their having children with the sentence: "It’s another way that I feel like what we have is valid in the eyes of other people." Another manner in which gay marrieds are attempting to defend themselves in this area is – to cite another man interviewed – the claim that "the definition of family is unquestionably evolving." What about all this?
A. The New York Times article (Page 1, Friday, 10 Aug.) does indeed seem strange. However, to read it in the context of Catholicism, a solid, consistent perspective is provided by the Church’s ancient and perennial Biblical data, as well as the application of reason illuminated by the Sacred Scriptures. This perspective should be known about by adult Catholics, and should be taught in Catholic colleges, in adult education classes and, of course first and foremost, in catechesis and sermons.
Even if it is possible, in the eyes of the secular world, to discuss same-sex unions in a context somewhat comparable to the marriage covenant which was established by God, the secular world’s view essentially differs from the rich, sacred and permanent nature with which the Creator has invested the institution.
Fundamentally, marriage is rooted in the Biblical narrative of the creation of the human being as a person who is either masculine or feminine – man and woman. The equality of man and woman is also set forth in the Book of Genesis. At the same time, man and woman are complementary; i.e., one completes the other. (Didn’t the Greek philosopher Plato come remarkably close to arguing this same point by virtue of reason alone – without reference, therefore, to the pages of Revelation which first advantaged the Hebrews (and through Israel, the whole world) so much?
While the holy Tradition of marriage, understood as a union of a man and a woman, constitutes the rock on which the family is built – see the Book of Tobit or the Song of Songs for two examples – Christ our Lord elevated Christian marriage to a Sacrament; namely, one of the seven most sacred events in life, and a veritable ocean of divine graces. See, for example, Ephesians 5:21-32.
To my mind, one of the strongest orthodox and succinct arguments relevant to the problem cited above is Professor William E. May’s phrase, "Children are meant to be begotten, not made." This means, of course, begotten in love. And "love" here means marital love, spousal communion. Such is God’s plan, derived from the Bible as read within the Church; and reason, illumined by Revelation.
In other words, Catholics begin this entire discussion by referring to God’s word, and reason refined by God’s word. God is the author of human sexuality and of the family. Not psychologists; not sociologists; not the media; not academia; not the State or a governmental decree.
Furthermore, the moment one is ready to acknowledge the divine plan for procreation here, one is ready to dismiss any theory about human sexuality or marriage that is inconsonant with the divine plan, so clearly set forth in Sacred Scripture and in reason.
Moreover, conjugal communion needs to be seen in the manner in which it was instituted by God. There are clearly two aspects to such communion: (1) the life giving dimension, and (2) the love-giving dimension – procreative and unitive.
Pope John Paul II used to speak of the "language" of human sexuality – a word signaling his grasp of phenomenology as a descriptive of human acts. Human beings cannot deliberately alter this "language," he argued, without turning conjugal union into something it was never meant to be; he even suggested that such a distortion constitutes an attempt to "play God" (as the saying goes.)
To carry this discussion a bit further, one could emphasize that the family is also instituted by God – not by the State or by social contract. As Church, we stake our lives on the family as a holy unit in which marrieds exercise, in a sense, almost priestly responsibilities toward each other as well as offspring.
The bottom line to the Times story: Catholics think differently, and are not fearful of expressing their convictions.