Monday, July 15, 2013

Replies to "gay marriage" arguments 2

Read the original Replies to "gay marriage" arguments here.

The Marriage of Tobias and Sarah by Havickszoon (1673)

Following are two additional arguments set forth by proponents of gay "marriage" and thoughts on each.

God loves everyone, including gay people. Therefore if you want to be godly, you should endorse gay "marriage." If you don't, you are a "hater."
The premise of this argument may be tricky to spot because there is a subtle switch from the premise to the conclusion. To rephrase the above argument, it claims: God loves everyone, therefore, God condones anyone's behavior because to love includes condoning behavior. However, this is clearly fallacious thinking. It is perhaps a breed of the fallacy of equivocation in which two different concepts, a person and the morality of a behavior, are wrongly equated. In fact, in the above argument, the arguer himself does not condone anyone who does not endorse gay "marriage," which ironically suggests that arguer himself does not love everyone according to the standard of the very argument he proposes. It is also extremely easy to find the label "hater" thrown about in forums or comboxes by supporters of gay "marriage."

Additionally, a reasonable person can see that condoning behavior is not always an act of love. If a child steals cookies from another child's lunch bag, his mother would not exhibit love to that child if she condoned his theft as acceptable. If she disapproved of his behavior, would that mean she did not love her child? Would it mean she hated her child? Of course not. By telling the child it is not okay to steal, the mother exhibits love. In other words, it is not an act of love to confirm someone in a lie or illicit act.

The teaching that God loves everyone is considered a teaching of Christian scripture and often used by proponents of gay "marriage" in the above context. Yet even in Scripture, we can see God condemning, say, idolatrous behavior in ancient Israel, even if that practice was popular and widespread.

The Catechism teaches the following about persons who are confronted by same-sex attraction:
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. ... They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. (CCC#2358)
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is aware of the sense of rejection that may be experienced by some with homosexual tendencies:
Essential to the success of ministry to persons with a homosexual inclination will be the support and leadership of the bishop and other pastoral leaders. A welcoming stance of Christian love by the leadership and the community as a whole is essential for this important work. This is particularly important because more than a few persons with a homosexual inclination feel themselves to be unwelcome and rejected. (USCCB, Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination, 2006)
So when it comes to matters of love, the Church is aware and should be given due credit for emphasizing the love that should be given to those who face same-sex attraction. Christians and non-Christians should be able to agree as a principle that human beings possess the dignity to be treated with love. However, as established, love is not defined by the approval of any behavior.

As well, the above argument does not confront whether or not a marriage can even occur without one man and one woman exchanging vows. It is the Church's position that it is impossible for a marriage to even occur without the proper ingredients.

It should also be noted that the Church does not condemn someone simply for being confronted with same-sex attraction. Just as the Church exhorts a single person, clergyman, or religious celibate, the Church exhorts those facing same-sex attraction to chastity and acknowledges their capacity to approach Christian perfection!
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (CCC#2359)
Those who dismiss the Church's position without confronting the Church's theology on the dignity of persons and the communal complementarity of the created genders do a disservice. As radio host Al Kresta has been known to say, "A mark of intellectual maturity is to be able to represent your opponent's position in a way that your opponent would recognize as fair and accurate." Blurting out things like "bigot!", "you just follow a two-thousand year old book!", or similar interjections are unworthy arguments.

People are "born" homosexual. Therefore, gay "marriage" should be condoned.
This argument is related to the other buzz-phrase, "marriage equality," which claims homosexual "marriage" is the same thing as marriage between complementary genders. The thinking seems to be that since people are born heterosexual and are allowed to marry, therefore people who are "born" homosexual should be allowed to marry a person of their same gender.

There are at least a couple problems with this reasoning. The first is the lack of conclusive evidence that persons with homosexual tendencies are "born" with those tendencies. There are a number of scientific studies refuting the idea that genetics is the reason for homosexual tendencies, including the fact that many identical twins do not share the same sexual attractions.

Consider also the principle espoused in the above argument. It says, if a person is born with Tendency X, then society should condone any enterprise which allows them to perform Tendency X. But what if a person is born with a tendency that all or most of society recognizes as disordered? Some scientific studies show that the brains of criminals exhibit abnormalities in certain areas. Hypothesize for a moment that someone is born with a certain brain abnormality that tends that person toward some violent, criminal behavior. Now apply the above argument. It would say something like: If a person is born with violent, criminal tendencies, society should condone their behavior as acceptable.

In other words, whether or not a person is born with a certain tendency, does not tell us whether or not that tendency is beneficial for society, much less moral.

Consider also what such proponents of gay "marriage" are asking: that the union of two same-gendered people be recognized as marriage, on the grounds that the individuals are "born" that way. But if, as the Church argues, marriage is only possible with one man and one woman, it is irrelevant what sexual tendencies any individual is born with because marriage does not depend on that. To give an analogy similar to my Estonia analogy last post, let's say there is a full-grown adult, Skippy, who would like to be recognized as six-feet tall. However, Skippy is, in reality, five-feet tall. No matter what a court or legislature may say, they cannot "write" Skippy's height at six-feet and make it a reality. In the same way, neither the way a person is born, nor a government declaration can alter marriage as anything but the union of one man and one woman.

Related reading:
How redefining marriage harms society by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Monday, July 1, 2013

Replies to "gay marriage" arguments

Following are common arguments in favor of so-called "gay marriage" and some thoughts on each. There are indeed many other arguments and replies one could consider on this issue besides what is covered below, but in the interest of brevity, I will limit this post to these.

First, let me caution against a knee-jerk response: none of this should be interpreted as some sort of "hatred" for persons who assert homosexuality. Rather, consider this: if marriage can only "occur" if the ingredients of one man committed to one woman are joined, then it is not "love" to confirm one's peers in a lie by endorsing something as marriage which is not marriage. The sensitivity of this issue among families and friends demands that people avoid a strictly "emotional" response to arguments presented rationally and in good faith. One can still be a proponent of marriage as it has been known for centuries and still exhibit love for anyone, regardless of opinions or behaviors.

If two people love each other, they should be allowed the same rights and benefits no matter their genders.
First off, everyone does have the same rights. All persons desiring to enter the institution of marriage must do so with a member of the opposite sex. That's what a marriage is. Proponents of marriage are not granting themselves any privilege for themselves that they would deny to anyone else.

Additionally, if special federal benefits should be granted to "two people who love each other," then any two people who love each other, platonically or otherwise, deserve those benefits. Two brothers, a brother and sister, a daughter and father, two cousins, two friends, etc... Any two people who "love each other" fit the criteria argued by many proponents of "gay marriage."

As a radio caller Christine from Indiana said on the June 27 Catholic Connection show with Teresa Tomeo: "When I was listening to a lawyer on CNN who was so excited about the ruling, and he said, 'Now this means that two people who love each other can, you know, get married and are equal.' And I said, well, I love my mother."

As many have also pointed out, the legal precedent at hand is establishing a basis for state-recognized polygamy, concubines, incest, "temporary" marriages, situational or contractual marriages, etc... Although one can find "gay marriage" supporters scoff at this slippery slope, we have already seen advocates for these kinds of "marriages" attempt to springboard on the current legal precedents. The principles advanced by "gay marriage" proponents are transplantable to these arrangements without needing revision.

It is discrimination to bar any class of people from receiving the same benefits of other married people.
Again, no one has special privileges regarding marriage denied to anyone else (see previous answer). Additionally, why is there no movement demanding that single people receive the same benefits demanded for "gay couples"? In refusing single people, all of whom "love" someone, such benefits, proponents of "gay marriage" by their own definitions are advocating for discrimination against a "class of people." The arguments set forth do not show cause for why "two people who love each other AND share genital activity" merit benefits verses two people who love each other and are otherwise still committed to that love for life.

Also, the above argument is essentially, "If person X wants Y, and someone else has Y, it's discrimination to deprive X of Y." Consider, for example, if I want to be recognized as a naturally born citizen of Estonia. However, I was not born in Estonia. Yet there are others who were born there. If I demanded a law to recognize me as a natural born citizen of Estonia, and if that law were enacted, it would not make me a naturally born citizen of Estonia because some realities are not affected by the stroke of a pen. Ultimately, it is faulty to automatically assume that any enterprise had by one person is automatically discrimination against someone else who does not possess the same enterprise.

If marriage must be open to procreation, then why are infertile or elderly couples of the opposite sex allowed to marry? Since they are, then procreation is not "necessary" for a marriage and therefore "gay couples" are no different than those couples.
There are a number of problems with this argument as well. Sometimes couples who were diagnosed or thought to be infertile due to a defect or old age are surprised to find themselves pregnant. Absolute infertility is not an infallible thing to diagnose. Just last month a woman went to the hospital with "back pain" to find herself giving birth to a baby she did not know she was carrying––and her husband had had a vasectomy besides.

Secondly, the opposite genders, by their nature, have procreative qualities. Any infertility is a degradation or malfunction of the body. For civil society to embrace the marriage of such a couple is not to say "marriage does not involve procreation." For reasons in the previous paragraph, fertility may still exist. That alone is reason to continue support for marriage between one man and one woman. And also, by still recognizing marriage only in male-female relationships, the entire idea of a procreative union is fortified culturally whether or not the couple themselves are ever able to conceive. They retain their share of maleness and femaleness in which fertility resides in the complementarity of genders. That children are conceived by a man and woman is a statement not requiring any specific couple to exemplify. It is the basic, natural structure of a generational society. The complementarity they embody does not escape their genders if one or both of them should have a physical insufficiency. The recognition of their union fosters an environment of other male-female marriages which would be fertile. Same-sex "marriages" do not represent the fertility of maleness and femaleness because one or the other is lacking. By their very nature, the union of the same gender is always impotent.

As well, no one seems to argue that a married couple that was once fertile is suddenly not married once they reach old age simply because they are diagnosed as infertile. Yet, like a newly wed elderly couple, they still represent the male-female union that is elsewhere fertile and encouraged. And in this way, the figure of their gender complementarity fortifies the normative fertility associated with the genders they represent. In fortifying the idea that marriage is between one man and one woman, the idea of the fertility associated with the complementary genders is likewise fortified.

Children raised by "married" gay couples do just as well or better as children raised by their mothers and fathers.
In theory, even if this was true, it would not make the union of any two of the same genders "a marriage." But this is not true. History and social science have produced much evidence that children end up more prone to broken homes or other problems when raised apart from one of their parents. (Examples: citizenlink, Univ. of Texas-Austin study and here, Crisis Magazine, etc. See below for more thoughts on faulty male-female marriages.

Concluding thoughts
Now, of course there are a number of broken male-female marriages resulting in plenty of children raised in poverty or prone to crime, etc... In Catholic circles, you will have found for many years, criticism of the breakdown of marriage preceding all this talk of "gay marriage." In May, TCV reviewed the 1880 encyclical Arcanum by Pope Leo XIII who warned against straying from committed male-female marriages and facilitating divorce or concubines. The boom of contraception in marriage has also led to the further objectification of spouses, as predicted by Pope Paul VI, and hyper physically-sexualized the institution of marriage while championing infertility.

As I said in that May post, marriage has not degraded because the culture listened to the Church, but because the culture has scoffed at and failed to heed the warnings of the Church. A point being that support for "gay marriage" is not a remedy for the poisoned well of marriage. Rather, a number of arguments for "gay marriage" are founded on many of the decayed attributes of marriage in the last centuries, which are themselves repeats of ancient marital troubles in various times and cultures.

From a civil perspective alone, it is in the best interest for the state to recognize and foster a citizenry in which children have the best chance to be raised, in the order of nature, by both their mother and father. Regarding marriage, that is what the goal of a society seeking stability should be.

And finally, this is not heard much in the media, but I have not heard many people consider whether or not proponents of "gay marriage" are advancing a particular religious belief. Marriage is not an observable, quantifiable thing you can contain in a beaker in a laboratory. Proponents of marriage throughout the centuries recognize it as a divine institution because one can observe and verify the complementarity and potency of the genders that have been created. Proponents of "gay marriage," as we have observed, often base their arguments as reflections on the existing institution of male-female marriage. Is it fair to bring to the table whether or not proponents of "gay marriage" are imposing a state-sanctioned religion of sorts on the public?

(Added July 15, 2013: Read Replies to "gay marriage" arguments 2 here)

Image at top of post is Simon de Vos' Wedding at Cana, from Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Media falsely represents Pope on atheism

What was said
It is reactions such as those in response to the Pope's recent homily that lead me to believe the Catholic Church is the most consistently misrepresented institution in the world. What did Pope Francis I say to result in headlines from secular media like:
Pope Francis: 'Even the atheists' can go to heaven (New York Daily News)
Pope Francis: Being an atheist is alright as long as you do good (The Independent)
Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics (Huffington Post)
Pope lets atheists off the hook, saying Lord redeems us all (
Here is what the Pope said during the March 22 homily in question (Recap at Vatican Radio; emphasis mine):
[T]he Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil...The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there. ... Today is [the feast of] Santa Rita, Patron Saint of impossible things – but this seems impossible: let us ask of her this grace, this grace that all, all, all people would do good and that we would encounter one another in this work, which is a work of creation, like the creation of the Father.
If you are asking yourself where the Pope said atheists are "off the hook" or that atheism is "alright," you are not alone. Part of the problem may begin with the term "redeemed."

Source of confusion?
It seems some believe the term "redeemed" means one will necessarily go to heaven. In fact, that confusion is articulated in the msn headline, which equates being redeemed with being "off the hook." The Huffington Post article states:
Of course, not all Christians believe that those who don't believe will be redeemed, and the Pope's words may spark memories of the deep divisions from the Protestant reformation over the belief in redemption through grace versus redemption through works.
The article confuses "redemption" with assuredness of going to heaven (not to mention that the issue was grace "versus" works, but that's another post). Let's look quickly at the Church's understanding of the term "redemption":
CCC#432 The name "Jesus" signifies that the very name of God is present in the person of his Son, made man for the universal and definitive redemption from sins. It is the divine name that alone brings salvation, and henceforth all can invoke his name, for Jesus united himself to all men through his Incarnation, so that "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
In Catholic teaching, there is no novelty in pointing out that Christ's redemptive Passion includes all souls, whether atheist or otherwise. Having come incarnate as a human, he is united with the human race.
Hebrews 2:9-17 9But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for every one. 10For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12saying, "I will proclaim thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee." 13And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again, "Here am I, and the children God has given me." 14Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. 16For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham. 17Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people
Prior to Christ's work, mankind remained in a futile position separated from God, exiled from the "Garden of Eden," in which God dwells. If I might propose this concept in simple terms, Christ's "redemption" reverses the futile position of mankind in Adam, and makes open for mankind the way to heaven. It is as if a door had been locked and was finally opened by Christ. He welcomes all to enter the door, even though not all will do so. The door is open to all, even through all don't enter. The media has confused an open door with everyone having passed through it.

To reiterate, universal "redemption" does not mean everyone will go to heaven. When Pope Francis says Christ "redeemed" atheists, it is incorrect to interpret that as him saying atheists are "off the hook." The media behaved as if the Church did not previously believe Christ's redemption was universal. To hold the position that Christ's work effects only a select group of persons and that all others are "passed over" is the concept of "limited atonement," native only to a few Christian traditions, such as Calvinism.

The MSN post went so far as to claim Pope Francis has parted ways with Pope Benedict on the matter, which is likewise nonsensical, but may represent a lingering resentment toward Pope Benedict whom the media often misrepresented or derided.

Doing good is a place for believers and non-believers to "meet"
If one simply reads what the Pope actually said, the place believers and atheists can "meet" by "doing good," is simply a place where good is done together, which can lead to a "path toward peace." Again, it would be to add to the Pope's words to say this statement lets atheists "off the hook." Rather, the Pope is merely identifying a common ground where believers and non-believers can "meet" because doing good is written on everyone's heart. It's a starting point. From there, the Church's hope, as we will see further below, is that all souls unite with the Church.

So can an atheist go to heaven?
In Catholic theology, anyone who goes to heaven goes there because they belong to Christ's Church. That is a consistently taught dogma of the faith. Three paragraphs in the Catechism shed light on the matter (emphasis mine):

846 How are we to understand ["Outside the church there is no salvation"] often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body: Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.
847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.
848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."
So the answer to can an atheist go to heaven "may" only be affirmative if such atheists "through no fault of their own" are ignorant of the Gospel, but "seek God with a sincere heart," trying to do God's will to the best of their ability. This means their heart is so disposed that if they properly received the Gospel, they would embrace Christ. Remember, this particular teaching is presuming a person is innocently ignorant of the Gospel. Only to such souls would this apply. The Church says that such persons "may" attain salvation if they are of the disposition to receive Christ and thus "may" be in an extenuating way united to that body of Christ apart from which there is no salvation. Ultimately, the Church does not know, concluding "in ways known to [God]" might such salvation through Christ occur.

Not in doubt is that the Church teaches no salvation apart from Christ. If the media cited intentionally misrepresented the Pope's words in order to make it appear as if he teaches that salvation exists apart from Christ, their action is condemnable and even disgraceful.

Getting back to the question at hand, one may ask how an "atheist" can "seek God with a sincere heart" since atheism by definition declares there is no God. I suppose the declaration of atheism would itself have to be a product of that soul's innocent ignorance of the Gospel or even of the existence of God. It may be impossible for there to be such a person who genuinely denies the existence of God yet seeks Him with a sincere heart. I say this because it would seem merely the act of "seeking" would disqualify the person as a genuine atheist. Rather, such a person is probably more fittingly called "agnostic," or uncertain of whether there is a God, yet still seeks.

Ultimately, as paragraph 848 concludes, Catholics must present the truth of the Gospel to all souls and not depend on some unknown, extenuating way God "may" unite them to the Church.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What did the Church teach about marriage, men and women in 1880?

Gioacchino Vincenzo Raffaele Luigi Pecci became Pope Leo XIII and served from 1878-1903. His encyclical, Arcanum, was delivered to the Church on February 10, 1880. The content of the encyclical reveals certain difficulties confronting the Church at that time with regard to the institution of marriage. Many of his comments remain remarkably pertinent in 2013 as the institution of marriage faces consistent opposition from the secular culture. Following is an examination of several paragraphs in the encyclical. (bold subheads are mine, bold emphasis is mine; paragraph numbers follow each)
We record what is to all known, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth, and having breathed into his face the breath of life, gave him a companion... [Christ] bore witness to the Jews and to His Apostles that marriage, from its institution, should exist between two only, that is, between one man and one woman; that of two they are made, so to say, one flesh; and that the marriage bond is by the will of God so closely and strongly made fast that no man may dissolve it or render it asunder. ... This form of marriage, however, so excellent and so pre-eminent, began to be corrupted by degrees, and to disappear among the heathen; and became even among the Jewish race clouded in a measure and obscured. For in their midst a common custom was gradually introduced, by which it was accounted as lawful for a man to have more than one wife; and eventually when "by reason of the hardness of their heart," Moses indulgently permitted them to put away their wives, the way was open to divorce. (#5-6)
Early in the encyclical, the Pope points out how the original pedigree of marriage occurred between "one man and one woman." The phrase echoes unto today. Anyone who would claim that the Church  attempted to impose this definition only in light of current challenges to marriage would be mistaken.

Where history attempted to justify multiple wives, for example, the Church was there to point out the proper order for the institution of marriage as between one man and one woman.

It seems the natural law, to which biology itself speaks, is signal to the proper quality of a single male-single female relationship. All persons are the fruit of one man and one woman, which points to the natural order of a child raised by his or her parents, a family unit, a natural foundation for humanity. Properly functioning biology admits to no exceptions to this reality. In fact, once the female egg is fertilized by a sperm, a "cortical reaction" occurs which ensures only one sperm fertilizes the egg. Biology itself is a signpost to the order of one man and one woman, to its potency, that it is only this arrangement which "bears fruit." Nothing other than one man and woman in a marital act is capable of such potency.

This is not to exclude the religious aspect to the Church's teaching on marriage. The natural order merely fortifies that which the Church teaches, and serves as a signpost that this sort of union is unique. The evidence we can observe empirically supports the Church's teaching. The Catechism reflects continuity with Pope Leo in the following:
"The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws. . . . God himself is the author of marriage."The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics. Although the dignity of this institution is not transparent everywhere with the same clarity, some sense of the greatness of the matrimonial union exists in all cultures. "The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life." (CCC#1603)
Elsewhere in the encyclical Arcanum, Pope Leo speaks of the divine pedigree of marriage itself. He writes: "marriage was not instituted by the will of man, but, from the very beginning, by the authority and command of God." (#39) As throughout the centuries, unto today, the divine origins of marriage are denied, and the religious background of marriage, particularly in western culture, is rejected. Thus marriage is considered a malleable institution, changeable at the whim of man, a law to be rewritten if so voted, no more or less special, not more or less permanent than any other vote of a senate. One could expound a lengthy treatise on the religious foundation of marriage, and its strength in the Church. Suffice it to say for the purposes of this analysis, and as we will see further below, the Church's teaching on marriage remains the empirically superior foundation for society.

One of the arguments set forth by proponents of same-gendered unions to be called "marriages" goes something like this: marriage is already in such shambles, with over 50% divorce rate, etc.,  thus, why not give same-gendered couples a chance. The argument, of course, fails to confront what a marriage actually is. The reason the Church cannot call any non-one man-one woman union a marriage is because it cannot. The example above from Pope Leo regarding concubines exemplifies that. The matter, despite the many derogatory names thrown at the Church, is not one related to any sort bigotry, but one of reality. Defending reality, defending the truth, done with due respect and humility, is an act of love toward another, especially when emotions run high.

The "divorce" argument set forth also highlights the prophetic accuracy of the Church, such as Pope Leo XIII when he spoke out against divorce. Yes, marriage in society is poisoned, but it is because various powers have fought to deviate its characteristics from that which the Church and natural law and reason have taught. In other words, marriage did not become a sick institution because modern society listened to the Church. Marriage became a sick institution because society didn't listen to the Church. Even unto today, modern society seeks to deviate from that which the Church exhorts. One wonders how many times the Church has to be right before the masses listen to her.

Let us examine another paragraph from Pope Leo's Arcanum:
Truly, it is hardly possible to describe how great are the evils that flow from divorce. Matrimonial contracts are by it made variable; mutual kindness is weakened; deplorable inducements to unfaithfulness are supplied; harm is done to the education and training of children; occasion is afforded for the breaking up of homes; the seeds of dissension are sown among families. (#29)
Here the Pope reflects on some of the harms of divorce, including the seemingly often forgotten victims of divorce: the children. Again, the empirical consequences of divorce demonstrate its inferiority, and thus support the Gospels' teaching that divorce severs something holy. And I would exhort pause to any reader hurt by divorce either directly or indirectly, as if hope is beyond their reach, or as if the Church does not grieve for such suffering in this fallen, temporal world. The general purpose of this blog post relates to moral doctrines. Assistance for those hurt by divorce or other harms relating to imperfect marriage or sinful relationships is a pastoral matter. There are many resources online and at local parishes for such souls (here are several resources from

On a related note, the Pope also criticized cohabitation as immoral (44). Not only is this considered immoral because it invariably interjects the marital act outside the commitment in which it is belongs, but the the empirical evidence against cohabitation indicates it may be even more harmful to families, children, and society than divorce. There is also science lending evidence to support the idea that sexual activity belongs to a committed relationship. For instance, a University of California-San Francisco study concluded that during such activity, the body releases chemicals like oxytocin, vasopressin, and endorphines that tend toward fortifying monogamous relationships. A non-committed, sexual relationship may be prone to a variety of problems, perhaps due in part from the confusion of a committed activity in a non-committed environment.

Continuing the preceding paragraph on divorce, the Pope next wrote that with divorce
the dignity of womanhood is lessened and brought low, and women run the risk of being deserted after having ministered to the pleasures of men. (29)
The Pope seeks to protect the "dignity of womanhood." He also implies the problem of men uniting with women for purposes of physical pleasure, and departing from them once gratified. Whether such an act occurs in the context of divorce or in an extra-marital action, either is a violation of her dignity, to sin against her and the divine. In 1880, a culture that frowned upon extra-marital relations far more than 2013's culture, if a man sought to use a woman for sexual gratification, he may have been more prone to delude himself into marriage and then rid himself of her once the fleeting auspices under which he entered the sacrament disintegrated. Since today's culture condones and even promotes extra-marital sexual activity, the Pope's warning about the objectification of women runs all the greater risk.

What makes such a statement in the encyclical the more profound is how much it contradicts modern stereotypes of misogyny in the Church today and yesterday. Vocal, modern feminists have been known even in recent days to belittlingly brand the Church as "octogenarian men" or use the media buzz-phrase that the Church wages "war on women." The tragedy of the matter is that the Church seeks to protect and provide that which is best for all genders, and yet a number of souls, including women, do not recognize the protection fought for them by the Church. Nor do they acknowledge those occasions when the Church was a leading voice for the cause of women.

Against a modern culture which does not hesitate to make the claim that the Church's views on women are "outdated," the 19th century Pope, a little shy of 70 years at the time of Arcanum, here was the Pope of the Catholic Church, condemning not only divorce, but affronts to women, including mistreatment by men, and objectification by men. How can this "'old man,' this 'Church' man, be concerned with women? How does he not condone whatever men want to the detriment of women?" the modern skeptic might cry. Yet the cry belies the reality.

The Church's voice today remains one of a few striving for women's best interests. The current U.S. government openly admits to requiring health care plans, including those of religious entities, provide for chemical drugs that increase the risk of several cancers in women. Although the Church's ultimate caution against such drugs relates to spiritual health, it has been the Church, and members of the Church that have been the most vocal about informing the public of the physical risks involved with these chemicals. Proponents of such drugs have been consistently silent on the drugs' harmful side effects. Additionally, it is sometimes pointed out that approximately half of aborted children are female. And yet it is the Church striving to protect these females as well. Other examples could be given. Fortunately, there are a number of current female researchers and authors striving to communicate the message that the Church's teaching is for the best interests of women and men alike. (see links at bottom)

Earlier in the encyclical, Pope Leo states:
All nations seem, more or less, to have forgotten the true notion and origin of marriage; and thus everywhere laws were enacted with reference to marriage, prompted to all appearance by State reasons, but not such as nature required. Solemn rites, invented at will of the law-givers, brought about that women should, as might be, bear either the honorable name of wife or the disgraceful name of concubine; and things came to such a pitch that permission to marry, or the refusal of the permission, depended on the will of the heads of the State, whose laws were greatly against equity or even to the highest degree unjust. Moreover, plurality of wives and husbands, as well as divorce, caused the nuptial bond to be relaxed exceedingly. Hence, too, sprang up the greatest confusion as to the mutual rights and duties of husbands and wives, inasmuch as a man assumed right of dominion over his wife, ordering her to go about her business, often without any just cause; while he was himself at liberty "to run headlong with impunity into lust, unbridled and unrestrained, in houses of ill-fame and amongst his female slaves, as if the dignity of the persons sinned with, and not the will of the sinner, made the guilt." When the licentiousness of a husband thus showed itself, nothing could be more piteous than the wife, sunk so low as to be all but reckoned as a means for the gratification of passion, or for the production of offspring. (7)
For someone who is familiar with various blogs or media voices claiming the Church is against women or just wants women to manufacture babies (it is not hard to find exactly that claim), the above quote, from the 19th century, should steer them into shock. Here is the Pope from 1880, warning against women being used for gratification or merely "for the production of offspring."

The Pope here also warns against husbands who abuse what are "mutual rights and duties of husbands and wives." The Church is sometimes negatively deemed "patriarchal" because the ordained clergy, who by necessity as participants in a sacrament representing the male Christ, are exclusively male. The critique is to suggest males will not treat women fairly (e.g. see "war on women" link above). Often, those who hear the Scripture on wives called to be submissive to their husbands (Eph. 5:22, 1 Pet. 3:1) have difficulty with the passage because they understand the passages to suggest men are to give orders to be carried out by women who are merely servants. One can find lengthy discussions of the topic among friends or even on forums such those at However, here the Pope criticizes men who "order her to go about her business"  in violation of their "mutual rights." The Pope develops more on this concept a few paragraphs later:
[T]he mutual duties of husband and wife have been defined, and their several rights accurately established. They are bound, namely, to have such feelings for one another as to cherish always very great mutual love, to be ever faithful to their marriage vow, and to give one another an unfailing and unselfish help. The husband is the chief of the family and the head of the wife. The woman, because she is flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, must be subject to her husband and obey him; not, indeed, as a servant, but as a companion, so that her obedience shall be wanting in neither honor nor dignity. (11)
You see here the Pope addressing the concept of a wife being "subject to her husband." And he explicitly rejects the idea that this arrangement means a wife is a "servant." Rather, she is subject in the order of "companion." Modern ears may have trouble with this, for it may be automatic to presume the Pope's use of "obedience" just means taking orders. Yet the comparison is to Christ and the Church. The Church is subject to Christ, yet Christ's leadership entails the sign of dying for his bride and even suggests serving her as Christ served his Church. There is a mutual exchange of, as the Pope says, "unfailing and unselfish help."

The man's part of loving his wife as Christ loved the Church is vital to the functionality of the equation. Pope Leo explicitly affirms this call of husbands when he says
[M]arriage [is the] example of the mystical union between Himself and His Church, He not only perfected that love which is according to nature, but also made the naturally indivisible union of one man with one woman far more perfect through the bond of heavenly love. Paul says to the Ephesians: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it, that He might sanctify it. (9)
The entire dimension of wives being "subject to" their husbands as a "companion" must be understood in concert with the idea that the husband must, as head, grant her "unselfish help," and love her as Christ loved the Church. When one meditates on the bloodiness of the crucifixion, which was the ultimate expression of Christ's love as head of his bride, the context of the role of husband becomes profound. Although both spouses are called to an unselfish giving to the other, it is Christ the bridegroom who leads the way, who initiates the pattern. The husband can do this in a variety of ways, whether it be protecting the household from various evils, or even sacrificing some leisure activity when his wife needs him to take out the trash, or watch the children, or listen to her, or whatever may entail his "dying to self" for the sanctification of his bride.

Undoubtedly, husbands who have not represented Christ in this regard have repelled many women from the very thought of subjecting themselves to such headship of a man. But if a man loved his wife like Christ loved the Church, what reasonable woman would not clamor for such love. If she should give herself as a companion to such a husband, to submit to such love as the Church is called to receive Christ's love, what strength such a marriage would possess.

Pope Leo goes on to quote the 4th/5th century's St. Jerome:
[A] law of marriage just to all, and the same for all, was enacted by the abolition of the old distinction between slaves and free-born men and women; 'and thus the rights of husbands and wives were made equal: for, as St. Jerome says, "with us that which is unlawful for women is unlawful for men also, and the same restraint is imposed on equal conditions." The self-same rights also were firmly established for reciprocal affection and for the interchange of duties. (14)
This is, of course, not to belittle the parts of Scripture exhorting the husband to a theological headship of the family. Pope Leo does speak of the husband as "chief of the family and the head of the wife."  The pendulum should not swing too far and reach a point of some modern feminists who believe gender equality means some dilution of gifts between men and women. As Catholic blogger and author Melinda Selmys wrote in a 3-part essay: "Perhaps the greatest mistake of mainstream feminism is the assumption that difference equals inequality. ... while God has created us as equals, we reflect his image in different ways."

The purview of Pope Leo's encyclical, as we have seen, emphasizes the contributions of husband and wife as analogous to Christ and the Church. Such theology has been since developed, keeping with Pope Leo all the way back to St. Paul. For example, Pope Pius XI spoke of the husband as "head" and wife as "heart," and if the husband should fail in his leadership duties, the wife must assume responsibility of "directing the family" (Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii, 27-28, December 31, 1930). In Bl. Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, he emphasized a certain responsibility of husbands relative to Christ and the Church: "The love of Christ for the Church has essentially her sanctification as its scope." (Theology of the Body, St Paul's Analogy of Union of Head and Body Does Not Destroy Individuality of the Person, 6, August 25, 1982) The following week, he spoke of the husband's emphasis to love. When he speaks of the bride's "submission," he refers to the bride submitting to this love, to "experience" this love. (Theology of the Body, Sacredness of Human Body and Marriage, 6, September 1, 1982).

What I think Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Arcanum demonstrates is at least two-fold. First, the evidence proves that modern society's stereotype of a misogynistic Church is off the mark. Second, 143 years removed from this encyclical, we can see the consequences of not heeding the warnings of the Church with regard to marriage and its inherent qualities. Such evidence speaks of the divine assistance promised to the Church. If modernists continue dismissing the Church's wisdom, the disordered consequences in society will persist.

Additional resources:
How Abortion Hurts Women, CNA
Physicians for Life stats on harms of abortion on women
Women Speak for Themselves.
EWTN's The Catholic View for Women
Catholic Womanhood section at
Important background information about the CDF-LCWR situation
Life Site News
Radio show A Closer Look with Sheila Liaugminas
Radio show Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo
Bloggers Jill Stanek, Jennifer Fulwiler, Kathryn Jean LopezMelinda Selmyz
Dr. Jennifer Robak Morse
Dr. Alice von Hildebrand
There are so many other great resources out there on Catholic women's issues and issues on marriage. If you have a favorite not mentioned here, please share in the comment section.