The Personalist Project

Accessed on July 10, 2020 - 3:10:41

A Problem and a Fear about SSM

Michael Healy, May 29, 2012

In regard to Katie’s question, “To speak or not to speak” about same sex marriage, it does seem to me that we have to speak up despite the delicacies—and crudities—involved.  Otherwise, we abandon the field to the propagandists who are already veritably overrunning us.  As was mentioned in the article, we can hardly shield our children (at least not for very long) from these realities in our culture—and even home-schoolers are part of mass society.  Eventually, by the teen-age years at the least if not before, they will be exposed to all that goes on in America despite restrictions on TV, movies, etc. 

It takes real heroism to speak up against the homosexual lobby.  People who do so and forcefully argue for the classic teaching on marriage as one man-one woman for life are subject to ridicule and vilification, even charges of hate speech, e.g., Robert George and Patrick Lee.  However, if we remain silent in the face of this, will it be construed by our children (and others) as a holy modesty or will it be seen as a cowardice and lack of conviction on our own part?  I fear the latter.  If we really believe these truths, and not just by faith alone but with a foundation in the things themselves available to insight and reason, we have to push back against the flood of doxa--and not just for our own good or the good of society as a whole but also for the good of our opponents who support and live the homosexual lifestyle.  If we love them, we must share sincerely our understanding of the truth about human nature, happiness, and fulfillment, even at the risk of being condemned as judgmental, self-righteous, or hypocritical. 

But it is complicated.  One problem, as Katie mentions, is that the other side of the argument seems so clear and simple.  Why not live and let live?  If homosexuals want to commit their lives to one another in marriage, isn’t this better than free-lancing?  Why hinder them from making a solemn commitment to one another in a long-term relationship?  What harm does that do to anyone?  (Of course, even the way those questions are phrased assumes a great deal.)

And the problem is that the answers given to what seems to be this simple request usually have to involve several steps—and this is where we often lose people.  Many do not want to sit and think about it or be led through a number of foundational points and then draw conclusions; they want simple and direct answers on the level of immediate intuitions.  Now, I believe that such intuitions in fact are available in the context of SSM and homosexual relations, i.e., that there is something unnatural and morally wrong about this kind of sexual act, that this was not what sex was made for, that the human race was made male and female for a reason, but our culture has now pressured us into regarding these immediate insights as despicable prejudices left-over from the “dark ages” of only few years ago.  (Remember, the Defense of Marriage act passed both houses of Congress by large majorities and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996.)  Yet, we have to defend the fact that there is a valid and immediate moral insight here, not just an emotional prejudice.  Then we have to try to explain it. 

For instance, it is a question of fact, not prejudice, that for a marriage to take place a union of minds, hearts, wills, and bodies has to take place.  This is the point about annulment—even if a union of mind, heart, and will is present, the marriage is not there if the bodily union is impossible.  This is the meaning of becoming “one flesh” by the union of the clearly incomplete-by-themselves-and ordained-toward-one-another sexual organs of male and female.  Every other bodily system, meant to regulate and further life, is complete in itself (circulatory, skeletal, nervous system, muscles, skin, etc.) and makes sense in itself, but the sexual system only makes sense in the “in-between” of man and woman, only there does its purpose and end become apparent.  Thus a couple cannot become “one flesh” just by desiring such union and then attempting it through other forms of bodily penetration—mouth, anus, etc.—any more than I can become “one flesh” with you by sucking on your toes or nibbling on your ear lobe.  This is why homosexual and lesbian couples simply cannot attain to marriage. It has an objective component that includes the fullness of our embodied being and intimate union of the sexual organs. 

But my fear is that the “live and let live” argument is really anything but that from the other side.  The homosexual advocates ask us to be more open-minded and allow them the freedom to take marriage vows, but as events have shown, the other side does not intend to let the defenders of traditional marriage continue to live in peace.  Rather, we must be singled out as prejudiced and hate-filled.  Our protestations that what we really want is the true good and true happiness of all concerned and that we have a right and a duty to present our case for consideration, for the salvation of lives and of souls—all this is summarily dismissed as hypocrisy. 

So the homosexual position is not so simple—nor is it so harmless.  There is a serious threat in the homosexual movement to religious and moral freedom, since the intent is to impose on us all an affirmation, not just an allowance, of their approach.  The result will not be far distant from the current attempt on the part of the Obama administration to make religious institutions accept and pay for things they hold to be morally abhorrent—abortifacients disguised as birth control.