Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

For the Grooms

Okay, I have not done this in the past but today has been one of those days. I am just re-posting an article I wrote for a different blog. Sorry everyone…just tired

The Complementary Language of Love

Weddings are a joyous occasion to celebrate the mystery of a couple’s love and communion. My wife and I have the privilege of going to them regularly since we are involved in our parish’s marriage preparation program. Of course, that also means we have the occasion to purchase wedding cards frequently.

When you think of greeting cards, what company comes to mind first? Hallmark is what enters my mind. You know…that seasoned company that has a card for any occasion. They are the Mecca for all things poetic and romantic; it is the natural “go-to” retailer to pick the perfect card.

About two weeks ago, my wife went to pick up a wedding card. I find it hilarious to see some of the wacky sentimental poetry that is supposed to pass as the “perfect card” for the perfect occasion. This time, though, I received a text from my wife saying we had entered a new season in our country. Now, for some of you reading this blog what I am about to say is not news to you, Northern Virginia, though, – not so much.

I am sure you have guessed by now that the card was for, well, the picture that accompanies this blog tells the story. Scripture tells us that God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve – no matter what the nightly news tells you.

I bring this up not only because of the greeting card my wife found, but it was a topic of great discussion at the USCCB’s annual meeting this week.   Archbishop Kurtz, Chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage and Family Life, stated that if Proposition 8 is struck down in California, the impact of defeating a traditional marriage initiative would be “akin to Roe vs. Wade.” The cultural impact would be devastating.

Over the past 20 years, I have had the opportunity to work with and get to know a number of gay and lesbian individuals. It has been a privilege and a pleasure discussing the truths of our faith and sharing the love that Jesus has shared with me. My decision to discuss this is not to say any of them are bad people. They are not sons and daughters of anarchy waiting to overthrow the Church and her minions. These individuals who I call my friends and family, though, are many times deeply wounded and confused.

At the heart of those who struggle with same-sex attraction is the desire for communion. This is the desire of all our hearts. The challenge, of course, is two-fold: boundaries and expression.

Love, by its very nature, must have boundaries. It is what defines every human relationship. The depth and expression of love for my wife is not the same expression or type of love I have for my sons and daughters. Everyone would agree these boundaries are reasonable and certain. If I crossed those lines we would immediately, and rightfully so, observe that I have wrenched those relationships out of order. How do we know, though, what the boundaries are? Is it civil law that determines them?

Christianity has always recognized the right of the state to mediate social relationships and contracts of which marriage is the foremost. That being said, Christianity has also recognized that civil law proceeds from the Divine Law. The result – no civil law can contradict the Divine Law.

Divine Law, and its reasoned expression Natural Law, provides a good starting point. The most influential philosopher on natural law was St. Thomas Aquinas. While he did not write much about same-sex boundaries, he was quite prolific concerning sexual sins. For St. Thomas, the marital act always takes place within the bounds of marriage and helps to further the distinctive goods of marriage first elucidated by St. Augustine. Namely: love, companionship, and legitimate offspring (as in a child within wedlock). He did not argue that procreation was necessary to the marital embrace but that every encounter must be open to it. An innovation to his thought was that every marital act must be potentially of a generative kind meaning that the union of a husband and wife must be always be oriented to natural relations which will potentially result in natural reproduction even if a given embrace does not lead to pregnancy, and even if it is impossible due to infertility.

Until most recently, marriage and family law has also reflected this. The rights of marriage (historically conjugal rights have only been acknowledged within marriage) have been most closely guarded by every society and group. Reasoning? Family is the most essential building block of any society. Natural marriage has always had a place of primacy within societies for the following three reasons: 1. Unity of the couple provides a stable boundary for relationships in a society; 2. The procreative nature of the marriage is necessary for the continuation and economic viability of the community if not the human race in general; and 3. The education of youth in order to further the economic demands of the society – whether agrarian or industrial. That being said, natural law is being attacked and reasonable civil laws are being dismantled on a daily basis.

This, of course, brings us to expression. As we have discussed before, the body has a language all to itself. It is a language based on communion. This communion, while expressed through the body, is not a mere biological function or chemical reaction. One must admit, though, that there is a profound connection that exists between the bodily senses and the sexual vitality of the human body. This, however, is the domain of the biologist, physiologist or physician to research and explain this in detail. These professionals, though, must recognize where their expertise end.

The expression of communion is not within their purview.  At the heart of communion is an act of the will which is specifically personal and unique to the human being. It is a personal act which no other creature can make. A doe cannot be in communion with a buck. The natural urge the two animals experience is instinctual to ensure its survival. While we may choose to act like animals…we are not.

The language of communion is that of giving and receiving. Those expressions are stamped physically into our bodies. At the core of a man, beyond the flesh and bones is a person whose sexuality speaks the language of giving. At the core of a woman is a person who speaks the language receiving. Their languages are sexually complimentary and it is communicated most profoundly in the marital embrace. And, this is because the most intimate communion for a married couple is that one-flesh communion of love where the man gives himself to his wife and his wife reciprocates through the loving reception of her husband. “Deep calls unto deep.” (Ps 42:7) That creative love is so profound at times that is must be named. This is not possible within a same-sex relationship.

It is not that the love that two men or two women have for each other is wrong. Their love though is a chaste love because that is how best to communicate their love. We encourage loving, chaste relationships – it is a sign of future glory. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church places friendship within the virtue of chastity when it says,

2347 The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality.

Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion.

Same-sex relationships find their natural expression in friendship which, too, can be life-changing.  Friendship is an end, and a good end, in itself. Whether you are family, friend, married or consecrated to the Lord, friendship must be the basis of all relationships. I am happy that Adam and Steve are friends. I would like to be their friends as well. But unlike the message that Hallmark is attempting to propagate, Adam and Steve can never be a married couple – they just don’t speak the same language.

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