At time of this writing, the prospect of so-called marriage between same-sex couples is being hotly debated in the state’s legislature, in the press, and on the Internet.
In response to compromise legislation being offered regarding couples who were joined elsewhere being divorced in Rhode Island, I sent an e-mail to various elected officials arguing that marriage does not admit any compromise.
One man, one woman, in a permanent and exclusive bond, open to new life, has defined marriage since Western Civilization’s inception. Polygamy, concubinage, cohabitation and divorce notwithstanding, there has been universal agreement about the nature of marriage since time immemorial. Even the occasional 19th or 20th century liberal who argued in favor of free love or open marriage knew that he or she was arguing against the permanent bond of one man, one woman. The matter had been culturally resolved millennia ago.
One R.I. state legislator took the time to respond to my e-mail. Noticing my address as St. Francis Rectory, he observed, “I am curious to know whether you believe St. Francis would be so adamant?” Of course I responded in the affirmative: “Thank you for your prompt and personal reply. I am absolutely certain that St. Francis would oppose any compromise on the meaning of marriage first of all for religious reasons but also, as a clever and insightful man, for sociological and familial reasons. Innovative in some ways, he was a great lover of tradition and respectful of authority, always seeking papal approval for his ventures. He hardly would have compromised 6000 years of Western Civilization for a notion that sprang up in San Francisco (irony!) a decade or two ago.
People choose to recall St. Francis as the brown-robed mendicant who loved birds and bunnies and maybe even barracudas. They forget the defiant young man who stripped naked in the public square to announce his conversion to a new way of life. They ignore the bold preacher who risked life and limb to confront the sultan in Egypt. They disregard the determined friar who steeled his will to embrace a leper against all his natural instincts. There was nothing sentimental about St. Francis.
This is precisely the issue in the same sex marriage debate. Sentimentality has replaced truth. Subjectivity stifles objectivity. Partisanship has replaced facts.
Science, given the chance, would clearly vote in favor of the traditional meaning of marriage. Same-sex marriage proponents must overlook the clear evidence of biology as well as universal culture – to say nothing of common sense. Same-sex activities actually do violence to both the individuals, denying their basic physical structure while encouraging disordered instincts. To legitimize same-sex attraction in law is to fly in the face of reproductive and genetic truth. Consequently, same- sex attraction is a moral issue precisely because it is first of all a physical issue. Same-sex attraction subverts the clear design of the Creator and it ignores the obvious language of the human body. Homosexuality is the triumph of feelings over facts and fantasy over truth.
Jesus speaks memorably in this Sunday’s Gospel of the need for Christians to love one another. “This I command you: that you love one another.” Some would take these words as a mandate to tolerate any inclination, tendency or preference. Love is too easily reduced to feelings, emotions and sentiment. On the contrary, love without truth is the triumph of the romantic over the rational and fantasy over reality. Love without truth is mere sentimentality. Certainly, Jesus was a man with feeling. He wept over Jerusalem. He sighed over the leaderless crowds, but he also demanded the adulterous woman sin no more and that the Samaritan woman amend her love life. Love never diluted the truth in Jesus’ mind.
The state of Rhode Island has an obligation to the truth. Law must not be based on inclination, fashion or trends. To legalize error is never the loving thing to do. To defend the truth might hurt some feelings now but it will serve posterity more authentically in the future.