Building on Rock: No Matter What Some Judges Think, They Cannot Change the Truth About Marriage
The words of Jesus taken from the Gospel of Thursday’s Holy Mass certainly seemed very apropos in light of the actions taken by Federal Courts in Utah and Indiana on June 25, 2014.
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” (Matt. 7)
The irony of the date should not go unnoticed.
These federal court opinions came almost exactly one year after the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Windsor v. U.S. – decided 6/26/2013- eviscerated the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
In that case, the Justices of the Supreme Court determined, on their own authority, that individual states can now decide for themselves what constitutes a marriage – and no other authority can interfere with such a decision.
That includes the expressed will of the people, reflected in the civil or positive law, as well as the truth as revealed in the natural moral law.
They opined that the civil or positive law of the nation is simply malleable. It also does not have to recognize the natural moral law. Legislators and state court judges can now somehow change objective truth by calling something a marriage which can never be a marriage.
That opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court was just that, the opinion of Justices on a bench in Washington, D.C. It did not change the structure of reality. So too, the opinions of these individual federal judges in Utah and Indiana, were simply opinions of judges.
Judges simply cannot change the structure of reality.
These opinions do help to only further expose the sand upon which our current culture is built. I know, the verbal engineers of the homosexual equivalency movement have all but persuaded most folks that this whole thing is about people discriminating against homosexual and lesbian couples.
It is not. It is about redefining marriage.
The Catholic bishops of Indiana spoke to the issue of the ontological truth about the nature of marriage with clarity and compassion in responding to the action of the federal court in Indiana. Here is an excerpt:
“The dignity of the human person, rooted in his or her creation in the image and likeness of God, is a fundamental principle of Catholic social teaching. The Church upholds the dignity of every human person, including persons with same-sex attraction, whom we accept and love as our brothers and sisters.
At the same time, the Church upholds the dignity and sanctity of marriage as a natural union established by God between one man and one woman, intended towards the establishment of a family in which children are born, raised, and nurtured. This is not simply a matter of belief. It is at the very heart of the nature of marriage. Thus, it is not within the power of any institution, religious or secular, to redefine marriage since it is God who is its author.
Today’s decision by Richard L. Young, Chief Judge, United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, to redefine the institution of marriage as an emotional partnership between two consenting adults regardless of gender ignores this fundamental and natural truth of marriage and opens its definition to the whims of public opinion.
With deep respect for all our brothers and sisters, we nevertheless see no basis in law or in nature for any definition of marriage that seeks to expand it beyond that of a covenant between one man and one woman. Our position on this matter seeks only the common good of all men and women as well as the health and well being of families.
As pastors, we will continue to preach and teach the truth of marriage as it is ordered by God, encouraging all people to embrace the fullness of that truth, while upholding the dignity of all persons. We will continue to work through the Indiana Catholic Conference to encourage our legislators and judges to uphold this truth as well. We urge all involved in this issue to conduct themselves with mutual respect and civility in public discourse.”
Thank God for the clarity and courage of those Catholic bishops in Indiana. They are doing what they are called to do. Now, we must also do the same. We need to grow a movement for marriage which is ready for the long haul. We also need to be a vibrant witness in our own lives to the truth about marriage and the family and social order founded upon it.
Civil institutions did not create marriage, nor can they create a right to marry for those who are incapable of marriage. Marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of creation. Marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family.
Family is the first vital cell of society; the first church, first school, first hospital, first economy, first government and first mediating institution of our social order. Heterosexual marriage, procreation, and the nurturing of children form the foundation for the family, and the family forms the foundation of civil society.
Marriage as existing solely between one man and one woman was not an idea manufactured by the Christian church. It precedes Christianity. Though affirmed, fulfilled, and elevated by Christian teaching, the truth that marriage can exist only between one man and one woman is not based on religion or revelation alone, but on the natural moral law, written on the human heart and discernible through the exercise of reason.
In light of the implications of these court decisions, the opinions of judges, we should ask a question, “On what foundation are we building our own house?” The prevailing opinion now paints all of us who stand for the unchangeable truth about marriage as a danger to the perceived march of “progress.”
In the circles of the new verbal, cultural and social engineers, Christians (at least orthodox, faithful ones) are increasingly considered to be unenlightened, somehow forcing “our view” on others. When, in fact, our positions on marriage, family, authentic freedom, the dignity of every human person, and the very existence of objective truth are what frees people – and cultures – from the bondage of disordered appetites and anarchy.
The task we face is, at root, a spiritual struggle that will first be won in prayer, and then stepped into a new Christian missionary movement by the compelling witness of a vibrant, orthodox, faithful Christianity that is culturally engaging, relevant and compelling to the new pagans of our age who, while thinking they are progressive are, in reality, regressive.
In addition, we must not underestimate the work of evil behind the scenes in this entire struggle over truth.
On Monday, May 21, 2012, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI held a luncheon with members of the College of Cardinals. He told them “The Church, the Mystical Body, exists on this earth, and is called the Church militant, because its members struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil.”
“We see evil wants to rule the world and it is necessary to go into battle against evil. We see it does in so many ways, bloody, with various forms of violence, but also disguised with good and thus destroying the moral foundations of society.”
The use of the phrase Church Militant for the Church on earth used to be common. However, it fell out of use since the Second Vatican Council. It needs to be revived. In 1953, the Pope Pius XII, who had led the Church through two decades of darkness in a world besieged by war, stated “We belong to the Church militant; and she is militant because on earth the powers of darkness are ever restless to encompass her destruction.”
As we face growing hostility it is important to hear the words the Apostle Paul spoke to the Ephesians: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood; but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:11,12)
In 1969, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote “Faith and the Future.” In it he spoke of what might be ahead for the Church. Little did he realize then that he would occupy the Chair of Peter. Now, he prays for all of us daily in a monastic enclosure in the Vatican. What a prophetic symbol. Here are a few excerpts for reflection today:
“The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, she will lose many of her social privileges. As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members.”
“It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution – when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain. But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church.”
“Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.”
“And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”
“But in all of the changes at which one might guess the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world.”
Let us build our lives on Rock and keep our doors open to the men and women of our age who will seek stability as the world is shaken around them. The struggle we face in a declining western culture involves a clash of worldviews, personal and corporate, and competing definitions of human freedom, human dignity, and human flourishing.
It is a contest over the foundations of a truly human and just social order. We insist that true marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of the universe. Truth does not change, people and cultures do; sometimes for good and sometimes for evil.
Our claims concerning life and marriage are not outdated notions of a past era but provide the path to the future. Nor is our position simply religious. We insist upon the existence of a natural moral law which can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason.
This is not only a Christian position. It is the ground upon which every great civilization has been built. It is the source for every great and authentic human and civil rights movement. The natural moral law gives us the moral norms we need to build societies and govern ourselves. It should also inform our positive law or we will become lawless and devolve into anarchy.
Homosexual or lesbian couples cannot bring into existence what marriage intends by its very definition. To insist with the police power of the state that we pretend otherwise is a dangerous social experiment and unjust.
To confer by governmental fiat the benefits that have been conferred in the past only to stable married couples and families to homosexual paramours is bad public policy and cannot serve the common good. To state this is not to be anti-gay. It is to defend marriage and the family. It is to serve the common good.
As for the position of the Catholic Church, it is clear and will never change. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Catholic Church explained it well in 2003:
“The Church’s teaching on marriage and on the complementarity of the sexes reiterates a truth that is evident to right reason and recognized as such by all the major cultures of the world. Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings. It was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties and purpose.”
“No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives.”
Because of that, we will face increasing and intense opposition. Stand Strong, increase your prayer, and remain faithful. Our Christian friends in other churches and communities particularly need us to stand form. Many of them do not find the strength we have in a magisterium, a teaching office, which will not change the truth about marriage because it cannot change the truth about marriage.
We also need to find new ways to stand together. Not simply to defend ourselves, though that will be increasingly necessary, but to serve the true common good.
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