A local politician explained his stance on same-sex marriage by saying, "If two people love one another, who am I to stand in the way of their marrying?"
The truth is that marriage is about much more than love. Marriage is first and foremost about sexuality. Sexuality is not sexual activity. Anyone can participate in sex - alone or with others, as the old confession manuals used to read. On the contrary, the heart of marriage is sexuality - a man acting as a man toward a woman and a woman acting as a woman toward a man. When a man summons up all that is noble in his masculine nature, both physically and emotionally, and shares this with a woman in an exclusive and committed relationship that is marriage. When a woman summons up all that is noble in her feminine nature, both physically and emotionally, and shares this with a man in an exclusive and committed relationship that is marriage.
Accordingly, when a man offers a woman the fullness of his masculinity, he will awaken her best feminine instincts; he will make her a true woman. And when a woman offers a man the fullness of her femininity, she allows him to become fully a man. Marriage is the mutual effort of man and woman to complete one another, to fulfill one another's noblest and native instincts, sharing this effort, God willing, with their offspring.
Talk of inclusion, equal rights, bigotry, and homophobia notwithstanding, marriage at its core focuses on complementary sexuality, on the sexual fulfillment of the spouses, on the manhood of the male and the womanhood of the female. Together male and female complete one another; they enhance one another; they bring one another to the fullness of their respective personalities. What older theologies called "the consolation of the spouses" is actually the sense of well being that pervades when a couple has done right toward one another.
From this perspective, same-sex unions are actually acts of dishonesty of one partner toward the other. In a same-sex union a man must necessarily deny his own masculinity, mocks his pro-creative role, and involve another man in denying his masculinity as well. In a same-sex union, women mutually deride their natural receptiveness rejecting the very essence of their feminine being. In the end, same-sex unions and homosexual activity of any kind are a lie, a cheat and disappointment. Such unions mimic marriage; and, even more sadly, they distract the rest of society from the true nature of marriage, exalting the rights of an individual over the purpose of a couple.
In 1936, King Edward VIII of England abdicated the British throne to marry the twice-divorced Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson. His brother ascended the throne amid much personal timidity and anxiety. George VI never expected to be king, was frail of health, slow of speech, quick of temper, and fond of his cigarettes and drinks. His wife, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who died just recently at the age of 104, had faith in her husband, encouraging him to work to his greatest potential. Together they sustained England through the Second World War. One biographer commented that Elizabeth made George "strong enough so that she could lean on him." This is the quintessence of marriage: the wife promoting her husband's hidden masculine qualities so that she could then rely on him to enhance her feminine qualities. In a true marriage, the finer aspects of both spouses are mutually elevated. Same-sex unions on the other hand deny and defy basic human nature; they actually frustrate it.
In this Sunday's Gospel, religious leaders bring a woman caught in adultery before Jesus and ask his opinion on her fate. Actually the leaders were not at all interested in the woman, or adultery, or stoning, or the Mosaic Law. Their agenda was to embarrass Jesus in public and diminish his public esteem. about the civil rights controversy that has been introduced to the question of same-sex unions is a similar subterfuge that muddies the water and distracts from the facts. Marriage is not about individual rights. Marriage is about male and female complementarity. Anything else is a distortion of the natural law and certainly the divine plan.
(This column originally published in The Providence Visitor)