For the past few weeks I have been using this column to present the Catholic understanding of Marriage as ordained by God, and some of the background as to why the recent Supreme Court ruling betrays that intrinsic significance. Indeed, our entire existence depends on the proper understanding of what Marriage is and thus, particularly as Catholics, we must stand against the constant erosion of the meaning of Marriage. As noted last week sexual sin in general has been multiplying at an astronomical rate, and has contributed to the overall deterioration in the correct understanding of Marriage. This is so because many today have fallen prey to the dictatorship of relativism. It is under this dictatorship that secularists have essentially separated sex from marriage, disconnected the sex act from procreation, and, as will be discussed below, created confusion regarding sexual differentiation and complementarity. These distortions are now a common view held by most people, even Catholics. The spread of these distortions has been aided through the use of the education system and social media.
In addition to the redefinition of Marriage caused by the reduction of human sexuality to base animal instincts, there has also been a great deal of confusion caused by various gender theories. For some reason, the social sciences have developed and been promoting a form of androgyny in a stated effort to achieve equality and affirm the psyche of confused gender persons. Pope Francis spoke about this trend in April of this year where he noted:
Sexual difference is present in so many forms of life, on the great scale of living beings. But man and woman alone are made in the image and likeness of God: the biblical text repeats it three times in two passages (26-27): man and woman are the image and likeness of God. This tells us that it is not man alone who is the image of God or woman alone who is the image of God, but man and woman as a couple who are the image of God. The difference between man and woman is not meant to stand in opposition, or to subordinate, but is for the sake of communion and generation, always in the image and likeness of God.
With the advancement of these errant theories, the intrinsic and revelatory significance of masculinity and femininity, a complementarity which is ordered to communion and procreation in Marriage, has been obscured to the point where most no longer acknowledge a real sexual difference exists. While these theories may be well intentioned in their effort to achieve an equality between men and women, or to affirm those who are gender confused, in order to achieve their goal they have effectively reduced gender difference to qualities and roles, and have proceeded to attribute these to both men and women alike. Yet we know that man and woman are constitutively different at the level of being. They are, however, equal in human dignity. This understanding is essential in order to grasp the proper significance of Marriage. The mistaken thinking is that equal means identical and tolerance allows for human flourishing. Through the process of social engineering, there has been a growing gender confusion as men are taking on feminine qualities and women are taking on masculine ones. Among the error now being spread, gender is a subjective state and thus a person can even choose which gender he or she wants to be. All a person needs to do to live out that choice is change some body parts and act a certain way. In such a worldview, marriage also becomes a subjective and malleable reality.
It is no wonder so many people are confused as to what constitutes the “matter” for Marriage. The Church and society have always accepted the “matter” as being one man and one woman. When it comes to the Sacraments, and do keep in mind that Marriage is a Sacrament created by God, the Church recognizes the need for both proper matter and form, that is, what is needed and how it is done in order to be a valid sacrament. In the Sacrament of Marriage, the matter is a Baptized man and woman who are free from any impediments, and the form is the recitation of vows before a priest or deacon and two witnesses. In a worldview in which gender is subjective and a choice one makes, the only conclusion that can be drawn with regard to marriage is that it can be between any two persons who care for and love one another. Yet when God created Man and Woman, He blessed their existence with Marriage and established that the marital bond was ordered toward procreation. It is through Biblical revelation that the Church is able to discern the objective reality, that is, the Truth, and maintain the position that Marriage is a revelation of God established before the Fall. God has determined what Marriage is, and no human being can change it.
This reflection will be continued next week.