Dr. Mark Lowery is a Catholic moral theologian at the University of Dallas. In this article, which originally appeared in Envoy Magazine. I hope you find it helpful in your own efforts to understand and explain this issue.
The Knot That Can’t Be Tied: Secular, Natural, and Sacramental Marriage
By Mark Lowery, Ph.D.
MAN’S SEXUAL ENERGIES are of extraordinary power and complexity. Is this energy something we can use however we wish, or is there some objective standard to which this energy should be conformed?
The Western tradition, like many other traditions, has consistently held that there is such an objective standard, and it is the reality called “marriage.” Today, however, many think that marriage can be whatever they want it to be. Instead of seeing marriage as an objective reality to which we align ourselves, it is seen as something that must conform to our notions and desires. Let’s call this perspective on marriage “secular marriage.”
Here’s an example of the “secular marriage” mindset. Jessie Bernard, in The Future of Marriage, describes marriage as follows:
“Both of us commit ourselves to: 1) continue to grow, each in his or her unique way; 2) retain future choices about our relationship, recognizing that the risks of growth include the risks of growing apart; 3) give room for the process of growing; 4) provide a climate that stimulates and invites growing; 5) take risks; 6) respect differences of belief or viewpoint. . . .”
According to this scheme, marriage is what one wishes it to be. All the criteria Bernard lists are subjective, and there is no hint that, by marrying, the spouses are entering into a permanent reality. It’s exactly this type of subjective misunderstanding of marriage that sets the stage for recent political and legislative efforts to legitimize homosexual relationships under the guise of marriage.
How can we effectively respond to those who promote the notion of “secular marriage,” and how can we demonstrate that marriage is an objective reality? One method is to rely on the evidence we see in God’s divine revelation. As important as such a method is, however, because of the separation of church and state we cannot base civil laws on any particular religion’s understanding of God’s revelation.
There are many people these days who deny that there are any objective truths at all, whether knowable by reason or revelation, so using religious explanations alone isn’t always sufficient to make your case.
The purpose of this article is to lay out a five-step argument about the nature of marriage, with the specific aim of showing why homosexuality (and homosexual “marriage”) is incompatible with that objective reality. . . (continue reading this article at www.envoymagazine.com; all rights reserved. If you wish to post a link to this article, please include a live link to Envoy‘s site).