When I began writing this bulletin column some time ago, my intention was to take my pastoral responsibility to preach and to teach seriously. Hopefully, I can help to shed some insight on particular topics in a simple, straightforward manner. I realize, of course, that that the final authority on all Church matters is the magisterium or teaching authority of the Church (essentially the pope united with his bishops), and I try to be completely faithful to it.
I think that Catholics need to be kept up-to-date on various matters concerning our faith and morality. One such hot button issue today is the definition of marriage. I have used the following working definition of marriage in the past in my classroom: Marriage is a covenant of love and of life, made by a man and a woman, that is permanent, exclusive and open to the possibility of children. Allow me to take this definition apart:
1. By saying that marriage is a covenant, it means that this pact or agreement goes beyond a legal contract mentality because God is involved in the process. Besides the priest (or deacon) and congregation, the vows exchanged in a marriage ceremony by the couple have God as a witness. The couple comes before God freely to promise their lives to each other. They should be aware of God’s presence in this process. For Catholics, the ordinary place where this sacred covenant is made is in a church building (a sacred consecrated place) rather than some other secular place.
2. The covenant is between one man and one woman. The Church, following Christ’s instruction (
19: 4-6), teaches that this covenant is between a monogamous, opposite sex couple. Directly stated, multiple partners and same sex partners are not part of God’s plan for marriage. Multiple partners go beyond the Scriptural “two shall become one flesh” experience. Same sex partners, while they may have love for each other, cannot reproduce with each other through any genital expression of their love. This is a disordered activity that may be pleasurable to them but it is definitely not life giving. Any homosexual genital act is always sterile. see Mt.
3. Marriage is permanent—“until death do us part.” Part of the marriage vow includes the couple’s promise to each other to remain with each other “all the days of my life.” The Church holds couples to this promise.
4. Marriage is exclusive meaning that there should be no infidelity or adultery. Monogamy is expressed in a “two shall become one flesh” experience.
5. Finally, marriage needs to be open to children. The contraceptive mentality in our culture tries to separate the love making act from any life giving possibility. It takes God’s design for human sexuality and tries to re-establish it as a pleasurable, sterile act. God gives the married couple the possibility of creating new life—a new human being with an immortal soul—and eliminating this possibility directly through artificial contraception is seen as immoral.
As the traditional definition of marriage is under the threat of being redefined, we need to understand the many implications of such an attempted change.
Fr. Ed Namiotka