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Friday, November 27, 2009

Gay Marriage as a Natural Law Question

Advocates of gay marriage have long stated that they do not wish to undermine religious freedom by forcing churches with moral objections to gay marriage to perform ceremonies uniting same-sex couples. In fact, when the Illinois General Assembly introduced civil unions legislation in the spring of 2009, they named the legislation the Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act for this very reason: the legislation explicitly protected religious institutions from being compelled to "solemnize or officiate" civil unions.

In the heat of that legislative session, State Rep. Greg Harris, lead sponsor of this controversial bill, even told me that as strongly as he felt about gay marriage, he felt just as strongly about religious freedom - and that's why he made sure that this opt-out clause for churches was included.

Even a couple of self-described orthodox Catholics once told me that even though they accept the Church's teaching on this, they think it's okay to have gay marriage legislation as long as the Church doesn't have to participate in these marriage ceremonies.

What is going on here?

I think it's the same phenomenon that happens with so-called "pro-choice Catholic" politicians. While saying they accept Church teaching - or, failing that, that the Church at least has a right to believe and teach what she does - they show absolutely no understanding of WHY the Church believes and teaches what she does.

WHY does the Church teach against gay marriage?

In short, the Church teaches against gay marriage because it is not what human beings were made for. It goes against our nature and ultimately harms those who practice it, in both body and spirit.

Therefore, how could it ever be enough to simply grant that those who disagree with gay marriage shouldn't have to be involved in the ceremonies? What about down the road, when such couples want to adopt children? Should Church-based adoption agencies be compelled to release children to couples whose unions they believe are intrinsically harmful to those couples, any children in their care, and the wider society? What about when it comes time for Church-affiliated institutions to choose the benefit packages that they will offer to their employees? Should they be compelled to grant marriage-like benefits to employees to protect and strengthen unions they recognize as harmful to all involved? Should Church-affiliated grade schools be compelled to hire employees who openly live a gay lifestyle that they recognize as harmful to that person and to society?

No matter where a person stands on the gay marriage question, these are issues that everyone should consider. The Church does not teach against gay marriage for an arbitrary, obscure "religious" reason. This is about much more than a ceremony. Ultimately it is about two competing worldviews. It is about the relationships between people and how they affect those people and the world they live in. As always, the Church's teaching is rooted in natural law which can reveal to everyone, even the non-believer, the self-evident truth about how human beings are supposed to function in the world.

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