God’s Law / Human Law
As we attempt to understand what it is the Church teaches on human sexuality and therefore why she has such a commitment to the proper definition of marriage and the relationship of people with God and with one another, we must begin with a focus on the Church’s primary teaching that all people are to be treated with respect and dignity.
The starting point for the Church’s teaching on human sexuality – from the beginning – is revealed in the human body. By their very nature, man and woman are made to complement one another in the totality of their being. Specifically, a man and woman are oriented toward one-flesh joinder with each other in a unitive and fruitful way so that, among other things, humanity may continue. The sex organs are intrinsically reproductive. A same-sex physical union, on the other hand, is lacking in the conjugal dimension by its very nature – it is not and cannot be either unitive or fruitful no matter how much the individuals involved may insist they love each other. This law of nature cannot be changed any more than one can change the law of gravity.
This truth of the meaning of the human person is confirmed and further revealed in scripture, where we read that God created man, male and female, and in their complementary nature, told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:27, 2:23-24; Matthew 19:4; see generally, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body).
There is also an objective truth to marriage; it has an inherent meaning consistent with right reason, regardless of the enactments of legislatures or the decrees of courts. Marriage existed prior to any and all human government. And since government did not create marriage, it is not within the province of government to arbitrarily recreate it into something else. Rather, human nature, with this complementarity of man and woman, is the foundation of marriage. This is true regardless of one’s religious beliefs and thus is applicable to all. For this reason, it cannot be legitimately or rationally argued that the Church is imposing its faith on people who do not share that faith. Rather, the Church merely points to that truth which is available to anyone who will but look at it.
Cultures throughout time have recognized that marriage is the faithful union of man and woman, joined in a permanent relationship of self-giving love and an openness to creating new life, for the good of each other and their children. The Church’s efforts to affirm marriage flow from this profoundly human and beautiful vision of fruitful love. And every person, regardless of sexual preference, has an equal right to enter into such genuine marriage, properly understood as the union of a man and woman.
Even though natural marriage is not dependent upon religion, scripture does confirm this reality. In addition, beyond marriage in this natural state, the marital union of man and woman has been elevated by Jesus to the dignity of a sacrament, an image of the covenant between Christ the Bridegroom and his Holy Bride the Church, thereby confirming and strengthening the human value of marriage.
A same-sex union is intrinsically contrary to this order of things, natural or sacramental. The word “matrimony” comes from the Latin for mother and condition, that is, the state of openness to motherhood, to creating and nurturing the next generation. Two persons of the same sex simply cannot, by their very nature, be open to producing children. As natural law and biology dictate, this requires both a man and a woman. Whatever else same-sex unions might be, they are not a marriage, just it would be irrational to decree that henceforth adoptions by men are to be called “childbirth” lest someone feel that he is the object of discrimination or a “second class citizen.”
Every humanly-created law is legitimate insofar as it is consistent with the natural law, recognized by right reason. Thus, where the civil law of courts and legislatures contradicts right reason with respect to marriage, it loses its binding force on conscience (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, n. 6 (2003) (citing John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, n. 71 (1995)).
For those who have a same-sex attraction, these truths about human sexuality and marriage may be difficult, but please know that you have the love and support of the Church as you make your journey through life. No one needs to face life’s challenges separated from the grace of the Lord and his Church, which seeks only the highest good for her children. May all of us remember that the message of Christ is always one of hope, peace and love.
This is the sixth in a series.