Kim Davis, the beleaguered county clerk from Frankfort, K.Y., stopped issuing all marriage licenses in June after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively re-defined marriage for the nation. Two homosexual couples and two heterosexual couples sued her.
A federal judge ordered Mrs. Davis to issue the licenses, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that order. It is difficult to believe that Mrs. Davis is the only town, county or city clerk in the entire country who has difficult accepting the Supreme Court’s re-definition of marriage. The Kentucky clerk is an Evangelical Christian who finds the Supreme Court’s recent decree to be in violation of a higher law, specifically God’s Law, as outlined very directly in this coming Sunday’s first reading from Genesis and affirmed resoundingly by Christ himself in this Sunday’s Gospel reading. The Book of Genesis clearly teaches, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.” Jesus for his part boldly answers the Pharisees’ testing question about divorce with several phrases from Genesis: “God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Some will argue, of course, that Mrs. Davis is perfectly correct in her interpretation of Sacred Scripture but as an employee of the secular state her religious convictions should not enter into her business transactions as a county clerk. But, whether Mrs. Davis is aware of it or not, her authentic convictions about marriage do not rest solely on Scripture. Marriage is not the indissoluble union of one man and one woman open to new life because the Bible says so. With all due respect for Sacred Scripture, the foundation of marriage goes beyond the Bible to the natural law itself, to the very core of what marriage in any society at any time has always meant.
Jesus did not make marriage indissoluble or sexually complementary or life-giving. Marriage had these three humanly necessary qualities from the beginning. The Book of Genesis simply confirms the priority of marriage as a natural institution that is inherently indissoluble, sexually complementary and life-giving. The loving conjugal embrace of Adam and Eve in Eden depicts graphically what human nature already possessed. Marriage goes right back to very beginning of humanity. It is as natural as mankind, as natural as the vegetation that adorned Eden, as natural as the animals that Adam named. Often a young person’s education about sexual intimacy is labeled as learning about “the birds and the bees.” What could be more natural?
Mrs. Davis’ rightful objection to the Supreme Court’s re-definition of marriage actually rests upon much more than her religious convictions. And frankly, given the nature of marriage as intrinsically permanent, sexually complementary and life-giving, conscientious county clerks throughout the nation should be just as concerned about couples who approach their desks with previous valid marital bonds or with no intention of having children. Divorce and contraception strike a blow to the authenticity of marriage perhaps even more than the random same-sex couple who might apply for a license. Let’s be honest. The institution of marriage has been in decay long before the Supreme Court handed down Obergefell vs. Hodges declaring a constitutional right to marry regardless of sexual orientation. Divorce surged to fifty percent in the last half of the twentieth century and only three percent of married couples attempt to employ any form of natural family planning during marital intimacies. The legal re-definition of marriage by the Supreme Court sadly just confirms a cultural re-definition of marriage that has been evolving since the Second World War.
Canonically and theoretically, American Roman Catholics maintain the indissolubility, the sexual complementarity and life-giving nature of marriage. But, unhappily, practical Catholic statistics on these issues are no more impressive than those of their fellow citizens. Matrimony is universally in sad decline and society is already paying the price in family upheaval. All Americans must learn that marital disarray is not only an affront to Mother Church; it is equally an affront to Mother Nature.