The Definition of a Word: Marriage

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There were a few brights spots in the recent election cycle in regard to the issues of Life and Family.  Although we elected a very socially liberal president in Barack Obama, this does not at all seem to indicate any kind of major social shift in actual American values.

In other words, he was not elected for his social policy.  He was elected despite it.  All of the exits polls are indicating people voted overwhelmingly on economic issues.  And some of the other votes around the country should give us great hope that a large majority of Americans (even in California) have not abandoned traditional morality.  Here – I am talking about Proposition 8 in California.  This is a state amendment that would codify marriage as being between a man and a woman.  And it passed overwhelmingly.  This is a great win for America.

But now we have thousands of people in an uproar against the passing of Prop 8 and are protesting in numerous places in California – mostly outside of churches.

I totally respect the right of anyone to peacefully protest in America, so I am not objecting to that.  What I am objecting to is a continued assault on the institution of Marriage in the name of “equality.”  I wanted to examine it further and get everyone’s thoughts on the matter.

First, let’s talk about what this protest is not about.

This is not about a “right” being taken away.  Many, including much of the news media, are framing this entire episode in California as the taking away of an existing right.  This is false.  First, Marriage is not a constitutional right – it’s a privilege.  Second, marriage has always been defined as between a man and a woman.  Just because a few individuals who happen to be sitting on a supreme court in California decided they can just change the definition of a word it does not make it so.

This is not about substantive benefits, fairness, or anything practical like that.  In California, same-sex couples are afforded all of the same benefits as married couples.  And their relationship is legally recognized as a civil union.  And of course we must work vehemently against any unjust discrimination or hatred shown towards a person because they are homosexual.  That kind of abuse is unacceptable and must be stopped.  And we should be proud of the progress our society has made in this regard.  But this is not about that either.

This is not about happiness.  I keep hearing ridiculous statements like, “Don’t homosexuals deserve to be happy just like heterosexuals do?”  Of course they do.  But this is a straw-man argument that has nothing to do with the definition of marriage.  It just injects an unprovoked emotion into the debate and confuses the issue.  Again, Prop 8 simply protects the definition of Marriage.  It does not keep homosexuals from being happy together in any way.  It’s a bogus argument and intellectually dishonest to suggest that someone’s happiness in this world hangs on the definition of a word – especially a word which they believe can just change definitions whenever they want it to.

So what is this about then?  The only thing left would seem to be semantics.  Could all of this protest really be about semantics?  That a minority of people in this country think it should say one thing in the dictionary next to marriage and the rest of us think it should say something else?

I always get the argument when talking about this redefinition of marriage of, “How will it affect you if we let others redefine our definition of marriage?  You can still get married all the same and hold your personal beliefs.  It would just let homosexuals do the same.”

And it’s because of that argument right there that I believe many have shifted to a position that believes same-sex couples should be able to get married.  They don’t know how to defend it.  I suppose it sounds convincing.  And it just makes you look like a big meany if you would oppose it.  That’s the trap.  Nobody wants to be a meany.  I certainly don’t.

There are a number of problems with this statement, though.  As we’ve shown, this is not about substantive benefits, the taking away of rights, or the pursuit of happiness.  It’s about changing the definition of a word.  So let me get this straight…we all should adopt an entirely different definition of the word because a small minority of people want to change it?  Oh, but don’t worry, I can still believe it’s something different on my own if I want?  That makes no sense.  Why not keep the same definition it’s had for thousands of years and if you want to have a different definition on your own you go right ahead?  That makes far more sense to me.  Doesn’t that make you just as mean if you want to change my definition of marriage?

I’m tired of being portrayed as a bigoted, mindless, homophobe just because I support a very logical, natural, and theological form of marriage that has been the foundation of every human society for thousands of years.

And there seems to be this belief that all opposition to so-called same-sex “marriage” is based on people blindly following some religious dogma or scripture passage that happens to say that homosexuality is wrong.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Unfortunately, we do in fact have many Christians in our country that do not understand the principles that traditional Christian teaching is built upon.  I believe that is exactly what contributes most to 1) the many insufficient and inconsistent explanations put forth to support traditional marriage and 2) the way many proponents of same-sex “marriage” disregard any opposition to their belief as ignorant, hateful and fearful.  But that is ignorance on both sides.

The Catholic Church has always based its understanding of human sexuality, marriage, and procreation on reason and Natural Law.  It has consistently held this understanding since the beginning.  And it is continually called upon to apply these same principles to new advances in science and culture.

We need to remember the reason for marriage in the first place.  It is not because humans happen to enjoy sticking together in groups of two that marriage is considered such an important part of society.  Marriage is an important part of our society – any society – because it is the vehicle within which new life is brought into this world.

And maybe that doesn’t seem like that big of a deal anymore because our culture is so bent on separating procreation, marriage, and sex in so many different ways.  But if we view this scientifically and naturally, it’s the most fundamental building block of our existence.  And it is there in its natural form – the way things were meant to be – that we find procreation, sex, and marriage all coexisting together in their proper place.

Whether you agree with that or not is another discussion entirely (here’s some additional reading explaining the basic theology of marriage).  But let’s be clear:  Marriage is unique in that it is this particular bond of relationship that creates the means of bringing about new life into this world.  And it is the foundation of the family.  At the most basic of all levels, this is our means of survival.  So it involves procreation and therefore sexual complementarity.

This is absolutely and fundamentally different from anything a so-called same-sex “marriage” could ever be.  In fact that’s why marriage can not actually exist between two people of the same sex.  It’s impossible.

This is what the word marriage means.  To redefine it to include same-sex unions is not to simply broaden the definition to include more people, be nice, or not discriminate.  It is to fundamentally change the meaning of the word.  It makes no sense to do that.

On one hand we have a union that is necessary to our existence as a species – it brings about new life.  On the other hand we have two people of the same sex that love each other and want to be in a relationship.  Should these two totally different things not be referred to as two separate, distinct words?  Why would we want one word to refer to both of these things?

Language has to mean something.  When it stops meaning something then it has stopped being language.  If we are supposed to allow the definition of every word to continue to expand to include every single person’s own personal feelings of what a word shall mean – then language will eventually mean nothing.

We’ve already allowed our society to try and redefine marriage in this way too much already.  That is much of our problem.  Many people are inconsistent in their beliefs – Christians included.  Our society says marriage is no longer a life-long commitment, it’s til whenever you break up.  Sex is OK with anyone at anytime, instead of saved for marriage.  And we can artificially create life in ourselves, in other people, in laboratories or wherever it is most convenient.

Marriage, sex, and procreation are all tied together by their very nature – not by religious dogma.  Any time we separate any one of the three from the others we run into problems.  And thank goodness we’ve had the Catholic Church around to keep them straight for us for so long.  It is the one consistent voice that has not allowed the culture of the present day to sway what it proclaims as truth.

But no matter what you believe, why can’t people respect a word that has a very special and unique meaning to a large majority of people in this country?  Why would they insist on changing it?  After all, each person is free to ultimately believe what they want about it anyway?

The answer is that it is not only about semantics.  It is about intolerance.  There are some that simply do not respect and are not tolerant of others’ views with whom they disagree.  They already protested the government, and the government gave them equal treatment under the law.  So now they are protesting outside of churches.  They are protesting anyone with which they disagree.  And even more dangerously, they want to use the courts to change the meaning of a word that has been defined for thousands of years in order to try and shove their own ideology down the throats of those that hold a different definition.

All in the name of tolerance and love.

44 comments Add comment

L November 11, 2008 at 3:52 pm

Speaking of the happiness argument, here is a very compelling, yet misguided argument by Keith Olbermann:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27650743/

Matthew Warner November 11, 2008 at 4:24 pm

L – That is the perfect example of the kind of argument that made me want to write this post. He uses emotion to try and make us feel like horrible people about something that is nowhere near an accurate reflection of reality. Thanks for sharing!

Jim B November 11, 2008 at 5:16 pm

Sorry to avoid reading most of what was posted, but I did a quick search for two keywords that I prefer to use in my argument: matrimony and motherhood.

The definition of matrimony is:
The act or state of being married; marriage.

So they are the same thing. But if you think of the root word, you find the origin of matrimony is the term “motherhood”.

So for anyone seeking gay marriage, I ask how two guys accomplish motherhood. Even among two women, this is not possible without artificial means.

What people are asking for doesn’t fit the definition.
If they want certain legal benefits, marriage is still not the solution. Consider a single person with no living family members. Can’t they designate a next-of-kin for hospitals or inheritance reasons? If not, then this still leaves a serious gap in legal code. If they can, then the argument that marriage is needed to accomplish this is false.

Marriage/Matrimony was instituted by God or at least within religion. Governments choose to acknowledge it as families benefit society.

Phil November 11, 2008 at 6:28 pm

“On one hand we have a union that is necessary to our existence as a species – it brings about new life. On the other hand we have two people of the same sex that love each other and want to be in a relationship.”

So is a woman who cannot physically bear children due to an abnoramlity or potential health issue not entitled to the ‘priviledge’ of getting married because she can not procreate? And should she and her husband then be forced into mandated divorce once they discover this?

If not, why should other couples who can not pro-create be treated any differently? Isn’t saying a man and a woman who can’t procreate should be allowed to get married but same sex couples who can’t procreate should not be allowed to the textbook definition of bigotry?

No offense meant – I understand your point and I know you are no biggot. But it seems to me that the procreation argument would disqualify many of the so called ‘legal’ marriages that exist today and perhaps this may be why some folks view similar arguments as a form of bigotry…if it is truly about procreation then woman who can not bear children should not be allowed to wed…just as same sex couples who can not bear children aren’t. It can not be both ways…well it can but then it’s bigotry I guess…

Jim B November 11, 2008 at 6:32 pm

Actually, in marriage, the key is to be open to having children.

It’s possible to be infertile or otherwise unable to have children and marry. You may even marry if you don’t plan to have children, but are able, as long as you are open to having children should the situation arise.

Phil November 11, 2008 at 7:13 pm

Ah, so the magic words to obtaining the ‘tolerance’ to engage in the institutuon of marriage is “we are open to having children”.

So what if you know before you get married that you are infertile? Should a man and a woman still reasonably allowed to wed by that argument? And if they lie about their ability to bear children and it’s discovered they did so before they wed should they be forced to divorce?

And if the arguement is based solely on intent, aren’t gays and lesbians who adopt “open to having children?” Is the intent not the same?

Phil November 11, 2008 at 7:22 pm

And furthermore, if it is possible to be infertile and marry, then the pro-creation argument holds no water. What is the difference between an infertile man-woman relationship and an infertile woman-woman relationship? Neither can reasonably expect to ever procreate so why would the respective relationships be treated any differently? Why the double standard?

Cathy Adamkiewicz November 11, 2008 at 8:11 pm

An interesting discussion here….
Here’s another idea to throw into the mix —
My eighty-year-old mother got me thinking about this one. Currently, marriages can be annulled if they have not been consummated. Clearly, sexual union is a necessary component of the marriage bond.

How would we determine that a gay marriage has been consummated? Would this be redefined somehow? Would annulments or divorces be possible for gays? How would we know that they were married? Because they said so?

I think there lies the problem — in redefining that which does not require redefinition.

Jim B November 11, 2008 at 9:28 pm

In the Bible, there were many instances of wives that were considered infertile, including Abraham’s wife. However, they still managed to have children, because a man and woman are capable, under the right conditions.

Gays still fail to have the right conditions.

Matthew Warner November 11, 2008 at 10:18 pm

Phil – you raise some good questions. Let me explain a little further if I can.

First – Bigot: a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.

So just because somebody’s personally held belief may seem to be contradictory on the surface does not make them a bigot. Actually, even if their belief actually IS contradictory it doesn’t make them a bigot. It would just make them wrong.

But this is not the case here anyway. I wasn’t explaining the entire theology of marriage. That would take much more time and space and many others have done it far better than I ever could. I also don’t mean to imply that what I’ve said here is a full representation of the Catholic teaching on marriage – which we would need if we are to go into some of the details of your questions. Perhaps I’ll do another full post on that where we can focus on that discussion. It’s a good conversation. If you truly want to learn more about the Catholic teaching on marriage check this link: http://www.christopherwest.com/article2.asp

My point here was to point out, that even on a natural and reasonable level, marriage between a man and a woman represents an IDEAL of the fundamental building block of our existence. Same-sex unions don’t even compare. Therefore, the idea that we should use the same word (“marriage”) to refer to both does not make sense. Additionally, changing the meaning of the word marriage to include same-sex unions would render the word virtually useless in terms of its traditional usage and understanding. There is no reason to do that. Language is supposed to bring clarity and help us to describe real things. Changing the definition would only make things MORE confusing.

As to your questions of infertility. They are good questions. But I never said each individual marriage had to have the full ability to create life. And that has never been the understanding of marriage.

The difference is that every true heterosexual marriage is ORDERED towards the creation of life: at the most basic of levels in sexual complementarity and then at a bigger level in that each of us biologically come from a MOTHER and a FATHER.

The IDEAL that marriage represents is what I’m using in my argument above. A heterosexual marriage is ordered towards that ideal. That a particular marriage may fall short of that ideal because of reasons outside of their control(natural infertility) does not affect the validity of the marriage. None of us are perfect.

On the other hand, a same sex union is not ORDERED towards the procreation of life from the very beginning. It does not represent that ideal in anyway at all. That’s what makes it something entirely different than true heterosexual marriage.

I know that doesn’t answer all your questions. But I think it’s enough of a response to at least bring us back to the point of this article which was that calling any kind of same-sex union a “marriage” does not make sense.

And I suspect that many who would like to redefine it are more interested in destroying the current definition than including a new definition.

We can talk more about some of the specifics of what constitutes valid heterosexual marriages, etc. in another post sometime soon!

L November 11, 2008 at 10:19 pm

Phil,

Great questions. And some that, on the surface, seem completely reasonable. So reasonable, in fact, that much of our society seems to think the same way.

The problem with taking what seems reasonable on the surface as “truth” is that there is often much more to it when we look beneath the surface. Just like an iceberg, we can only see a small part of it at first glace – the majority of the substance is revealed when we search beneath the water.

The Catholic Church’s beautiful Theology of the Body is a rich body of work and thought that is developed from a bigger truth of what it means to be human. Therefore, we can’t simply say, “Homosexual marriage is wrong because the parts don’t fit.” Because, as you said, there are many heterosexual couples who are infertile – procreation, though an important part, is not the one, defining factor of marriage.

The defining factor of marriage is sexual compatibility and openness to life. (Just to clarify, you can still be “open to life” and be infertile – it simply means that sexual acts are done in the natural means of procreation. Infertility is a natural physical disorder and not a purposeful obstruction of this act.)

Sexual compatibility doesn’t mean getting along, feeling a “connection with each other,” enjoying a partnership, or even being in love.

It means that emotionally, physically and spiritually, two people can become one – and that through this, the deepest form of union is possible. The parts fit here – not just on a physical level – but in the delicate balance between man and woman.

The unity between two men or two women (though, perhaps full of romantic love) are still lopsided, both spiritually and anatomically.

Perhaps Catholic Answers explains it best:

Two men together cannot capture the fullness of human personhood, and neither can two women; for that, you need one man and one woman. However exclusive, unconditional and permanent same-sex relationships may aspire to be, they lack the complementarity that the deepest fulfillment requires.

Sexual complementarity between man and woman makes possible another feature of marriage: the giving of life. The love between man and woman is designed to call new human life into existence and in so doing make the shared life of the couple more abundantly fulfilling. It does not always produce new life, but that is what it is designed to do. So marriage, to succeed, must be exclusive, permanent, unconditional, and open to new life.

With that said, how does an infertile marriage differ from a homosexual marriage?

Simply put, the heterosexual couple enjoys sexual complementarity, and the fullness that brings into their relationship, even if they cannot have children. Meaning, even in an infertile relationship, there is still an orientation to procreation and an openness to life. This is something unique – and that must be protected. This is definition of marriage.

Homosexuals can still be in love, can still have unions and proclaim their love publicly, and can still receive the same benefits – but they will never have an orientation to procreation or an openness to life.

Therefore, they can never be “married.”

Marriage is about more than a public commitment or lifelong devotion. Just like red can’t be blue – and up can’t be down – we cannot redefine a word. As Matt so simply and profoundly stated, “It is to fundamentally change the meaning of the word. It makes no sense to do that.”

Theologically, Pope John Paul says it best:

The body has a “nuptial meaning” because it reveals man and woman’s call to become a gift for one another, a gift fully realized in their “one flesh” union. The body also has a “generative meaning,” which (God willing) brings a “third” into the world through the couple’s communion. In this way, marriage constitutes a “primordial sacrament” understood as a sign that truly communicates the mystery of God’s Trinitarian life and love to husband and wife, and through them to their children, and through the family to the whole world.

This is what marital spirituality is all about: participating in God’s life and love and sharing it with the world. While this is certainly a sublime calling, it’s not ethereal. It’s tangible. God’s love is meant to be lived and felt in daily life as a married couple and as a family. How? By living according to the full truth of the body.

Phil November 11, 2008 at 11:37 pm

Matt, you say “My point here was to point out, that even on a natural and reasonable level, marriage between a man and a woman represents an IDEAL of the fundamental building block of our existence.”

I presume the “IDEAL of the fundemental building block of our existence” is a fancy way of saying procreation, right? So if a couple is knowingly infertile, and they clearly lack the ability to practice the “IDEAL of the fundemental building block of our existence” then by that rationale they should not be allowed to wed, no?

Also, you go on to say “The IDEAL that marriage represents is what I’m using in my argument above. A heterosexual marriage is ordered towards that ideal. That a particular marriage may fall short of that ideal because of reasons outside of their control(natural infertility) does not affect the validity of the marriage. None of us are perfect.”

But is homosexuality not “outside of their control” also? So why are homosexuals not privy to your rules as well? Seems like a double standard to me. Many studies have shown that homosexuality is as much a choice as the color of your skin. But that’s a whole different discussion.

Aside from that, what if a man and woman choosing to wed decide they don’t want kids before marriage, i.e. by default they don’t believe in the ‘IDEAL’ of marriage? By that rationale since they do not intend to practice the ‘IDEAL’ that marriage represents they therefore should not be granted the priviledge of marriage. Maybe we should give people polygraph tests to find out where they stand on childbirth prior to allowing them to get married!

And for infertile woman, they can not possibly follow the IDEAL of marriage so why would they be allowed to engage in it? Seems like another double standard to me. When it is convenient for man A and woman B to marry, regardless of their intentions to procreate even or their ability to do so, they are allowed. However, when two woman who share the same views on the ‘IDEAL’ of marriage as man A and woman B, who share the exact same anatomical shortcomings that prohibit them from procreating (nobody is perfect) they are not allowed. And the argument of “well, a man and a woman who are adamently against having kids can still get married because they CAN still potentially procreate” does not hold water because then by definition it would nullify the legal right of those who can not, i.e. the infertile woman.

There are two different arguments and it seems that most anti-same sex marriage advocates play both sides. Either you believe that procreation is the fundemental backbone of the institution of marriage or you don’t. If one believes procreation is the basis for marriage then one can not create a double standard for two sets of human beings living in the United States of America, when both sets believe in the same IDEAL (or the anti-IDEAL in this case) and are capable of the same result (no procreation). If it’s about procreation then inferitle woman everywhere must be immediately banned from marriage and if it’s discovered during a marriage, that marriage must be immediately nullified. There should be no exceptions.

If you believe that procreation is not the basis of marriage, then that is a whole different conversation. The problem is that without the argument of procreation there is very little left to stand behind.

Phil November 11, 2008 at 11:54 pm

L, thanks for the response.

You say “It means that emotionally, physically and spiritually, two people can become one – and that through this, the deepest form of union is possible. The parts fit here – not just on a physical level – but in the delicate balance between man and woman.”

Are you implying that when a woman is in love with another woman the emotional and spiritual parts don’t fit? “The parts fit here (hetrosexual)- not just on the physical level”.

I’d be willing to wager that because we are all human beings, homosexuals enjoy the same emotional and spiritual gratification that hetrosexuals do.

Earlier you state “Therefore, we can’t simply say, “Homosexual marriage is wrong because the parts don’t fit.” It seems, as you stated in the paragraph above, you are saying EXACTLY this. These two statements seem contradictory to me.

Here you again suggest that two woman can not share the same spiritual bond. “The unity between two men or two women (though, perhaps full of romantic love) are still lopsided, both spiritually and anatomically.”

Is spirituality shared between humans or between genders?

“This is what marital spirituality is all about: participating in God’s life and love and sharing it with the world.”

Seems to me that in nullifying one’s fundemental, human right to the institution of marriage, and thus disallowing them the pursuit of happiness, is poor way of ‘sharing God’s love’.

Phil November 12, 2008 at 12:18 am

And Matt, you may want to re-read your blog. About half of it IS about the theology of marriage! It’s not just about dissecting the word ‘marriage’, at least that’s not how I viewed it.

“I wasn’t explaining the entire theology of marriage.”

And if you truly believe that homosexuals are REALLY out to redefine the word marriage and it has nothing to do with their right to pursue happiness, their right to fit in, their right to feel human like the rest of us, if you really think it’s JUST about the word ‘marriage’ and redifing it…and not all of these other things…then you may want to revisit the real issue here and revisit what is truly important to those folks. I honestly think they could give a rats a** what the institution is called…or how it’s defined…they just want to share in the right that all humans deserve to share in. Just as race should not determine one’s right to vote, gender should not determine one’s right to marry.

Matthew Warner November 12, 2008 at 12:43 am

Phil – your presumption is wrong. The ideal is much more than only the ability to procreate. Therefore, the rest of your argument is pretty much moot.

If you can’t see the difference naturally between how a man and a woman fit together (and how nature – and therefore the creator – meant for it to be that way) and how a same-sex union goes against that ideal then I don’t know how else to explain it.

Homosexuals are “privy” to the same exact rules. Homosexuals have the same privilege in this country to marry somebody of the opposite sex as anybody else – hence taking part in a marriage.

And the only thing that a homosexual orientation and fertility problems have in common is that they are both irrelevant to whether or not two people have a sexual complementarity necessary for marriage.

And your questions on whether marriages are valid based on their openness to procreation hits on one of the existing differences between a Catholic sacramental marriage and what our State recognizes. I never said the State had the definition exactly right as it is. And that part of where they get it wrong is a reflection of many of the ways our society has already skewed the definition of marriage.

Issues like what exactly is marriage, should the state even recognize it, and should it recognize same-sex unions are all separate debates. All good ones too.

But we don’t need to answer those questions to at the very least see that marriage has always been something very fundamentally different than a same-sex union. That’s why I left them largely out of this discussion and post. But redefining the word makes no sense and is actually counter-productive.

you say:
—————————–
Seems to me that in nullifying one’s fundemental, human right to the institution of marriage, and thus disallowing them the pursuit of happiness, is poor way of ’sharing God’s love’.
—————————–

– You have presented no basis for claiming that marriage is a fundamental human right.

– If it is a fundamental human right, you have made no case why the definition we’ve had for 5000 years should be changed to be fundamentally different now?

– Marriage is between a man and a woman. Homosexuals have the same rights to make that union as anyone else. What they can not do is change the definition to be between two people of the same sex. Homosexuals can marry each other no more than I can visit Australia while being in the northern hemisphere. It is an impossibility by its very definition and nature.

– You’ve shown no evidence that by not redefining the word marriage we are denying anyone the “pursuit of happiness”. That is a fallacious argument.

– In order to determine if this is a “poor way to share God’s love” we must first determine what God’s love would say about this situation. I largely left talk of God and spirituality intentionally out of the post because I believe the case can be made without it and therefore avoiding any potential disagreements on religion. But I find it ironic that many who claim that “God’s love” would surely approve of same sex “marriage” are many times the first ones to reject any hint of religion(how we know God) in the discussion. I’m not saying YOU did that. But many do.

But you’ve presented no evidence as to what God’s love would choose on this issue. Unfortunately, God’s love seems to get translated anymore into “tolerating anything as long as people have good intentions.” All the evidence that I have of what God would think about the issue suggests no such thing. I believe that it suggests that the loving thing to do is to respect the natural order of the way that God himself created things – not to go against it. And that God doesn’t believe we should accept our faults or shortcomings as “good intentions we must tolerate” but instead to embrace the people that we become through the process of working to overcome them.

Matthew Warner November 12, 2008 at 12:49 am

Phil, read the post. Homosexuals in california – who are protesting about prop 8…what this post was about – have the same rights and benefits as heterosexuals do. Tell me what the difference is besides it not being called “marriage”? I’m interested to know.

you say:
“Just as race should not determine one’s right to vote, gender should not determine one’s right to marry.”

That’s nonsensical. Race has nothing to do with voting. So yes, it should not determine if somebody can vote.

GENDER DOES HAVE EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THE DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE. It doesn’t keep anyone from marrying. It just keeps people who are the same sex from marrying. THE DEFINITION is that it is between a man and a woman.

Your logic is faulty.

And again, read what I said. I didn’t say I wasn’t talking about theology. I said I wasn’t trying to explain the ENTIRE theology. Read my words.

Phil November 12, 2008 at 11:09 am

“Phil – your presumption is wrong. The ideal is much more than only the ability to procreate. Therefore, the rest of your argument is pretty much mute.”

My presumption is wrong? If marriage is about so much more than procreation then why do you push the ability to procreate so frequently in the article? It certainly seems as if it’s the most defining part of the institution of marriage – even by your standards.

You say here “Marriage is an important part of our society – any society – because it is the vehicle within which new life is brought into this world.”

And here you say “But if we view this scientifically and naturally, it’s the most fundamental building block of our existence.” Procreation?

And here you even use the word procreate “And maybe that doesn’t seem like that big of a deal anymore because our culture is so bent on separating procreation, marriage, and sex in so many different ways.”

And here “Marriage is unique in that it is this particular bond of relationship that creates the means of bringing about new life into this world.” Procreation again?

And here “So it involves procreation and therefore sexual complementarity.”

Need I go on? Calling my arguments about procreation moot seems more non-sensical then the alternative, given that above ideas came mostly from your own pen.

So the next question is, what do you truly believe? In the article you hammer away at the “creation of our “existence” and “procreation” arguments but when asked if it is the backbone of any marriage you suggest it is not? And if it is not primarily about procreation then what is it about? More specifically, if it is not about procreation, what is it exactly that limits marriage to opposite sex participants? Is it just cause the parts don’t fit?

Conversely, if it is not primarily based on procreation, does marriage exist primarily because the ‘parts’ fit? Is that a sensical reason to form the institution of marriage? Now I am confused!

“If you can’t see the difference naturally between how a man and a woman fit together (and how nature – and therefore the creator – meant for it to be that way) and how a same-sex union goes against that ideal then I don’t know how else to explain it.”

Hardly a sensical way to persuade someone of your view on marriage. But one you envoke quite frequently nonetheless! Saying “if you don’t get it I can’t help you”…it certainly doesn’t make you more right…if anything it makes the argument less convincing.

Okay, back to what you say is the real subject on the blog – words and definitions.

“If it is a fundamental human right, you have made no case why the definition we’ve had for 5000 years should be changed to be fundamentally different now?”

Geez, forget the darn definition. That is a cop out for what you are really trying to prevent. To say “well we don’t think it’s fair to change the definition of marriage because it has stood for 5000 years and blah blah blah”. Just say what you really mean – you do not accept gays into the institution of marriage. That is no different than saying “well we don’t think it’s fair to change the definition of land-owners because it has stood for 100 years blah blah blah and blacks should not be allowed to own land” or how about this one “we don’t want to change the definition of voting because woman should not be allowed to vote based on their gender and that has been the definition for 100 years and that’s how it should stay blah blah blah”…it should have nothing to do with what is sensical? A definition is a definition and that’s the end of it? Thank god that history has disproven your ideal over and over again. And I hope for the sake of this world it continues to happen otherwise we would be stuck in an intolerant, unevolving, static, crappy place we call life.

It really has nothing to do with a definition – it has to do with a belief. That is a way to hide…stand behind the word rather than standing against the acts…and it’s just so you don’t look like a meanie. It’s pure crap to suggest that an institution can not evolve and become better because it was ‘named’ and ‘defined’ many years ago. As noted above, we have quite a few word that we use to describe institutions from long ago that have since been redefined.

What is the goal? Are you worried about what appears in the webster dictionary or gays getting married? What if we let them marry and we use the word ‘garriage’? This way your definition is intact – are they then entitled to the same rights under the definition of marriage, only with a footnote? Sort of like a generic drug? They get the same exact ingredients under a different name?

To write an article on why a word that describes an institution should not be redefined to allow for a certain group of human beings is no different than writing an aricle on why gays should not be allowed to marry. You can spin it all you want and say it’s just about the WORD marriage, but truthfully what you are saying is you have no problem with gays getting married, they just can’t get ‘married’ in my institution of ‘marriage’. And you are entitled to this belief.

Phil November 12, 2008 at 11:16 am

“That’s nonsensical. Race has nothing to do with voting. So yes, it should not determine if somebody can vote.”

I was trying to make the analogy that sometimes definitions need to evolve, sort of like the word ‘voters’ and who is allowed to do so. Many years ago, as youa re well aware, certain folks were not allowed to vote because of something that was out of their control – the color of their skin. This, in my opinion, is a similar analogy to homosexuals who are not allowed to marry because of something out of their control – their sexuality.

“GENDER DOES HAVE EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THE DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE.”

Ah, so the real issue is whether or not the parts fit. But I thought the Church said this is not the case?

“The Catholic Church’s beautiful Theology of the Body is a rich body of work and thought that is developed from a bigger truth of what it means to be human. Therefore, we can’t simply say, “Homosexual marriage is wrong because the parts don’t fit.”

Matthew Warner November 12, 2008 at 11:45 am

Phil, there is a very fine but important distinction you are missing. I am distinguishing between the “ability” to procreate and being ordered naturally towards procreation. My emphasis has been always on the latter and the being open to the creation of life. And it has never been based on whether or not something biologically wrong with you keeps you from having that full ability.

So when you then proceed with your argument based on the presumption that one must have the full ability to procreate, your arguments that follow are moot for this discussion. You are basing your arguments on something I did not claim.

And YES, you are finally getting it. Part of the definition of marriage is that “the parts fit” – if we can put it that way. It’s always been based on that.

My point is that if this is about a pursuit of happiness (which you have not shown yet how) or certain legal rights, then those protesters in california have nothing to protest about. However, This is about shoving a new definition of an old word down the throats of the majority.

Again, the current definition of marriage includes ALL people. EVERYONE has the ability to marry somebody else. It is not about including more people. That is why your analogies of other words don’t fit.

They further do not fit because, for example, the act of voting was never defined as something that only a man could do. Gender was not part of the definition. Yes, certain governments only allowed men to participate in voting in governmental elections. BUt that is entirely different. To actually “vote” was not tied to any specific genders. Women could still vote (on what’s for dinner, who the leader of their women’s group would be, whatever they were allowed to vote on) and it did not affect the meaning of the word “vote”. See the difference? Governments just progressed to allow voting in elections to be should rightfully extended to all adults regardless of gender. But the definition of voting had no gender specification.

Marriage is entirely different. It involves the union of a man and a woman. it represents the way nature obviously intended for humans to come together and for the species to survive. A same-sex union is not that at all.

TO change the definition is not to simply include more people as I already noted – and therefore it represents no “progression” and does not result in an “intolerant, unevolving crappy place.” It is to actually change the entire meaning of what the word means.

Here is an equivalent analogy for you: It would be like a bunch of people wanting to change what the word “woman” meant so that it included males. Afterall, it is only supporting a “fundamental right of people to be women” right? We are only trying to include more people in this definition and not be intolerant. Isn’t that what God’s love would tell us to do? I mean, that’s progress right?

Of course not! That would basically make the word “woman” meaningless and would redefine the fundamental definition of what it has always meant. That is not intolerant. That’s just using common sense. It’s not about including or excluding anybody – it’s about describing a reality. That’s what language is for.

And I never said that I had no problem with gays getting married. I said it was impossible for them to do so. Just as it is impossible for a man to be a woman.

Phil November 12, 2008 at 12:01 pm

“And YES, you are finally getting it. Part of the definition of marriage is that “the parts fit” – if we can put it that way. It’s always been based on that.”

So this is a fallicy?

“The Catholic Church’s beautiful Theology of the Body is a rich body of work and thought that is developed from a bigger truth of what it means to be human. Therefore, we can’t simply say, “Homosexual marriage is wrong because the parts don’t fit.” ”

“My point is that if this is about a pursuit of happiness (which you have not shown yet how) or certain legal rights, then those protesters in california have nothing to protest about.”

I would suggest you ask someone in the gay community if they think this affects their pursuit of happiness. Personally, if I was gay and in love and wanted to share the ultimate intimacy with someone else my pursuit of happiness would be affected by being disallowed to pursue to the fullest extent, this ultimate intimacy. But that is just me.

“They further do not fit because, for example, the act of voting was never defined as something that only a man could do.”

Huh? It wasn’t first defined as
something man could only do? I thought it was?

Here is an equivalent analogy for you: It would be like a bunch of people wanting to change what the word “woman” meant so that it included males.”

It’s not that cut and dried Matt and you know it. Man and woman are defined clearly based on present day anatomy. IF, through evolution, a man someday starts growing breasts, we may have to revist this definition. Just as we now have to revist the definition of ‘marriage’ due to the prevelant evolution of homosexuality. That is a more fitting analogy. You are using an old definition that is based on old ideals. Similar to the old definitions of land-owners and voters in my opinion. Ideals can and do evolve. And they must be embraced with open arms. At least in this country they must. Let me ask you this – and I may be naive in thinking so given my limited knowledge of the history of the Church and the beliefs therein. Was man not at one time allowed to have more than one wife? Did certain Kings not have more than one wife in the bible?

Has the defintion of marriage not evolved and changed to restrict this? If so, then why can it not evolve and change to allow for the evolution of homosexuality?

Matthew Warner November 12, 2008 at 12:16 pm

Phil – In regard to your final comment that I believe “L” said and the parts not fitting. You have to actually read exactly what it says.

L says that we can’t SIMPLY say that homosexuality marriage is wrong because the parts don’t fit. That just means there is more to the entire teaching as to why homosexual marriage is wrong. In other words, the parts not fitting is just a consequence of a more fundamental concept of what it means to be human in the (entire) theology of marriage in the Catholic Church.

I was making a point (and trying to do so without relying on a theology that not everyone understands or has come to agree with) that an essential difference of how true marriage is fundamentally different than a same-sex union is that the parts don’t fit.

These do not contradict. We are approaching the answer from different perspectives for the sake of our arguments. It is necessary to keep that perspective when trying to understand them.

Phil November 12, 2008 at 12:25 pm

And what are your thoughts on this?

“Let me ask you this – and I may be naive in thinking so given my limited knowledge of the history of the Church and the beliefs therein. Was man not at one time allowed to have more than one wife? Did certain Kings not have more than one wife in the bible?

Has the defintion of marriage not evolved and changed to restrict this? If so, then why can it not evolve and change to allow for the evolution of homosexuality?”

Matthew Warner November 12, 2008 at 7:24 pm

Because homosexuality is not ordered towards the procreation of life and goes against nature in way that is inconsistent with marriage.

Phil November 12, 2008 at 7:59 pm

Ok. That sums up what you believe. This makes logical, resonable sense to me.

Now we are getting somewhere. Let’s start back at square one. We have come full circle from where we started and now perhaps we can readdress some questions.

Given that when one is “not ordered towards the procreation of life and goes against nature in a way that is inconsistent with marriage”:

1. Is an infertile woman still ordered towards the procreation of life? If so, why?

2. If homosexuality is a product of nature, how can it be unnatural?

Matthew Warner November 12, 2008 at 9:38 pm

1. Yes. Nature itself has established that man was made for woman.

2. Just because a particular thing occurs within nature does not mean it is the way nature is ideally ordered. Some whales accidentally beach themselves in “nature.” Does this mean then that it is “natural” for a whale to live on a beach? Of course not. Nature has made them to live in the water – that is the natural ideal. The fact that we may sometimes find them on a beach does not change that. It is still unnatural in that sense.

Phil November 12, 2008 at 10:51 pm

1. Alternatively, it can be argued that BECAUSE nature produced homosexuals nature by definition has NOT established man was made for woman.

Nature is ever evolving. Fish once had wings. That was what nature had ‘established’ at one time. Now they don’t. Nature changed what it had once defined as established to something different. So how can you be so sure that nature has established that man was made for woman?

2. See 1. Nature is ever evolving rather than ideally ordered. Those whales are on the beach for a reason. It is nature’s way. Just as lemmings jump off a cliff. Nature’s way. To argue that nature itself establishes certain aspects of life (man being made for a woman) and not others (beached whales) is contradictory. Either nature rules all or it is an irrevelent sequence of random events. It can not be both.

Matthew Warner November 13, 2008 at 12:01 am

Phil – nature evolves to survive. Evolutionary variations in living things either contribute to their survival (marriage between a man and a woman) and hence bring continued life or those variations contribute to its demise (the beached whale…if you will). I’ll let you decide which scenario homosexual unions fall into.

Cathy Adamkiewicz November 14, 2008 at 7:06 am

Snap!

Jane F November 17, 2008 at 8:00 pm

You see, in my view, the problem with the argument you present, Matt, is that it’s largely based on one key argument: That the definition of an institution that has meant one thing for millenia should not be changed based on a minority group who is excluded.

I find this to be a faulty argument, for this reason: I can dig up many, many examples of laws, institutions, definitions that have “stood the test of time” for millenia, but were clearly wrong and unfair. Case in point: Women were not allowed to vote for centuries, because they were not considered “persons” (same with African Americans, if we’re looking for a minority example). Yes, it was a long-standing legal definition of the word ‘person’. But it was only long-standing because of the deep-rooted prejudice that managed to prevail in society for THAT long.

So, the definition of the word was EVENTUALLY changed, and rightfully so…because it was blatantly unfair. EVEN if there had been no laws or rights associated with being excluded from the official definition of the word ‘person’, I believe it would have been worth fighting long and hard to include women and minorities in that definition anyway. “It’s just semantics” doesn’t do the issue justice. It’s a matter of fairness and equality.

Given this, the whole ‘changing the definition of a word for a minority is absurd’ argument alone becomes a little bit weaker. How is this situation different? Seriously? I am a heterosexual woman who has no relatives or even close friends who are homosexual, so mine is not a defensive or biased viewpoint. I just don’t understand why a homosexual couple who share an equally deep love, connection and commitment to one another, cannot get married. To me, connection and commitment are far more important to a marriage than the sex of the individuals who are entering into it.

Just my opinion.

Matthew Warner November 18, 2008 at 12:25 am

Jane,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! But I disagree that my argument is based simply on the fact that a word has meant one thing for so long and therefore we shouldn’t change it.

My argument is not based on whether or not a word can or should ever legally change over time. As you noted, there are plenty of examples where this was a positive thing. My argument is based on the fundamental meaning of the word (not to mention many scientific and logical distinctions that make marriage unique from a same-sex union). Those trying to redefine marriage are not simply asking to include more people. AS I noted and further explained in my follow-up post to this article, marriage already includes everybody. Everyone has the right to form a marriage with a member of the opposite sex. That’s what a marriage is. What some want to do now is totally change what marriage fundamentally is – not just who has a right to it.

So your analogy to the changing of the word “person” to include people of different sexes or races is misapplied. The definition of a person was never changed – just who governments recognized as persons.

A better analogy would be if I decided that the word person should now be redefined to include monkeys. This would not simply be “including a minority group who is currently excluded.” This would be fundamentally changing the definition of what a person is.

I’m actually doing more posts on this topic this week – if you’re interested. Would love to hear your further thoughts on it. God bless!

Bill November 18, 2008 at 10:07 am

Here’s a modest proposal: Ask the state to get out of the church’s business. It is my belief that everyone is focused on redefining the wrong thing. It’s the state’s role that needs redefining, not the definition of “marriage.”

Marriage has always, and I do mean always, been a religious institution. For whatever reason, around the time of the French Enlightenment, the state decided that it had to be the institution to “license” marriage (IIRC, this was an idea from the French Revolution, which wanted to do away with the church entirely by co-opting or outlawing religious institutions). So we have “marriage licenses,” judges and j.p.’s performing marriages, and so on.

But actually, the state has NO BUSINESS attempting to regulate any religious institution. If the state has to “license” the union of two people, let it issue them a “License for Civil Union.” Let judges and j.p.’s officiate over “Celebrations of Civil Union” for those who do not wish to be married in any church. (N.B. This does not mean, as it apparently does in some countries, that a couple MUST be united civilly before a judge or j.p. before they can be married in the church.)

Fair is fair. If the Church is to keep out of Government, then the Government is to keep out of Church. By simply redefining the role of the state and the name of the civil institution, we no longer have a problem. Gays who want “to be married” will have no problem finding churches willing to “marry” them, and churches that do not recognize homosexual unions as marriage will not have to defend their practice in court or lobby for constitutional amendments to protect a sacred institution.

Incidentally, Jane and Phil and others, you might want to re-read what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about homosexuals and marriage (homosexuals, like many heterosexuals, are called to a life of continence, and we are all called to a life of chastity — continence and chastity are not bad things, and they do not exclude loving relationships). And I repeat what I said in another comment — the real issue is sin. Sex outside of sacramental marriage is a serious sin, for homosexuals and heterosexuals alike.

jc November 18, 2008 at 8:44 pm

The simple fact that religion is even a part of your argument defiles the validity of it.

“Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than on our opinions in physics and geometry.”
Thomas Jefferson

It’s called separation of church and state.

Matthew Warner November 18, 2008 at 9:58 pm

JC – I would suggest that it is wrong to assume that simply because somebody’s position is “religious” that it is not true.

Also, the origin of Marriage is as a religious institution. So if we are to understand the definition of it, religion must be a part of the argument. To leave out the “religious” part of it is to take the word we are trying to define out of it’s entire historical context.

And you hold a commonly mistaken understanding of the “separation of Church and State.” I wrote a little bit on this in an old post here if you are interested.

Ashley April 14, 2009 at 11:04 pm

I agree that marriage should include the union of same sex couple. However, I also agree that it should not include the union of a believing man to a non-believing woman, or of a believing woman to a non-believing man. And I don’t think that marriage should be allowed for those who do not plan on procreating. Marriage in itself is, most certainly, a term for the Abrahamic religions.

I think that the word marriage should be removed from our state laws entirely. It has as much of a place there as would a religious law banning the consumption of beef.

I supported wedlock rights, not just the rights of marriage.

Catholic debating pro-life April 24, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Wedlock rights is a bad term, because it still makes it sound as if it’s connected to marriage by virtue of weddings.

If homosexual couples want join civil unions, whatever, it’s their life. But it’s impossible for them to get married, as surely as it’s impossible for an equialteral triangle to NOT be equiangular.

Ashley April 14, 2009 at 11:05 pm

I’m sorry, I meant to say should NOT include the union of same sex couples. I didn’t catch that in my proof-reading. I’m too tired.

Catholic debating pro-life April 22, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Question, though: You make good points, but this confused me. If the purpose of marriage is procreation, why is it okay for infertile couples or couples who don’t want children to get married?

Ernest April 19, 2011 at 9:57 am

What is your position on IV fertilization?

As a Catholic, I realize the church’s stance, but as for me I would be o.k. with it if it was for say 1 woman and 1 man who are married, and trying to have children, but for whatever reason it is not naturally occuring. I am okay w/ a doctor assisting in this way if they are using THAT man and woman’s egg and sperm. But, when you get into starting to assist same-sex couples for example who can’t otherwise naturally procreate have kids by use of surrogate mothers, etc that’s when I think the ethical boundaries have been crossed.

Thoughts?

-Ernest

Matthew Warner April 19, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Ernest,

While I understand the urge by many people to be accepting of the use of IVF by couples who desperately want to have a child (but for some reason can not), I am definitely against it. And for the same reasons the Church is against it. Primarily, married couples do not have a right to a child – as if a child is an object to be owned or demanded at will. A child is a gift. The child has a right to be conceived out of the conjugal act – an act of love. Not to be conceived by a scientist in a petri dish in a laboratory. The doctor just doesn’t “assist” as you put it. The doctor or scientist here actually conceives the child. The human life is created in the lab…not by the parents.

For anyone struggling to conceive, I would suggest looking into napro-technology and other fertility treatments that truly DO assist in the natural, God-designed process for creating human life. IVF does not do this. IVF abuses our procreative gifts and privilege and goes around the process. It is destructive to the process. These are some of the core reasons the Church is against IVF.

Here’s a snippet of a good answer that might help further:

While the Church’s judgment concerning in-vitro fertilization treatments may appear cruel and unfair, it is not. Children are a gift, not an entitlement. The Church teaches that – [M]arriage does not confer upon the spouses the right to have a child, but only the right to perform those natural acts which are per se ordered to procreation. A true and proper right to a child would be contrary to the child’s dignity and nature. The child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered as an object of ownership: rather, a child is a gift, “the supreme gift” (58) and the most gratuitous gift of marriage, and is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents. For this reason, the child has the right, as already mentioned, to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception. (Instruction on Respect for Human Life 8)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also reminds us that – Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization). . . dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that “entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children.” (CCC 2377)

Additionally, the methods used for IVF currently are very problematic anyway. They almost always involve implanting multiple embryos and then actually aborting all but one of them…which of course is immoral all by itself.

Timothy Townsend April 21, 2011 at 3:22 am

What part of Christian religion and the word marriage do people not understand ? The joining of man and women together as one, in the eyes of God. The word Marriage or Holy Matrimony is a religious term used in The Holy Bible to describe an act between a man & women and was so way before Same sex marriage issuse came about. The fact is we need to respect the Religion’s and their use of the word. I dont see any one trying to take the word Hanukkah from the Jewish religion. I still think they should respect Christian’s and use the word Union instead of marriage and have Webster’s change the definition of union to include joining of couple in the legal sense. Cant we all just get along?

Julia June 16, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Actually…the word ‘marriage’ originates from 1297, from Old French mariage, from Vulgar Latin *maritaticum, from Latin maritatus, pp. of maritatre “to wed, marry, give in marriage”.

This does not mean that the concept was not in existence prior to that. Whatever it was called in the Bible, the word ‘marriage’ was not used. Remember that the Bible was translated using the available language of the time. Just because the Bible uses a word, it doesn’t mean it has ownership of that word.

Also, please stop using the “marriage is defined as…” argument. It isn’t the least bit valid. I can give you hundreds of examples of words where the definitions have completely changed. The word “gay” itself is a good example.

Timothy Townsend June 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm

After reading the post from Julia I have to agree that a word use and definition can change overtime and the word GAY keep’s coming to mind after reading her post! As you can see I used the word GAY as this Generation slang for the word GAY A.K.A. “Lame”. So as you can see a words use and meaning can change overtime as per generations, The meaning of God’s Word does not change and remains the same no matter what generation we are in. I think Julia does not understand the Religious use of the word Marriage as a Christian belief, I think she should read the Holy Bible to understand it is a religious term defining a Union between a Man and Woman before GOD in holy Matrimony/Marriage, and give respect to the Christians who hold the Bible and all it’s words and meanings sacred.

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