WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 28, 2015)—The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments April 28, on the constitutionality of states defining and recognizing marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
“[Jesus] said in reply, ‘Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator “made them male and female” and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”?'” (Matthew 19:4).
The Catholic Church in the Diocese of Duluth will continue to uphold and propose to the world what we know, through sound reason and through divine revelation, to be the authentic nature of marriage: a permanent union between one man and one woman, uniting a mother and a father with any children produced by their union. Legislation that appears poised to become law in Minnesota attempts to revise and redefine this natural institution, an institution written into our nature by our Creator. But no civil government has the authority or competence to redefine marriage. Civil authorities have the obligation to protect and defend true marriage for the sake of justice and the common good.
A Statement from Most Rev. John M. Quinn, Bishop of Winona, Regarding the Redefinition of Marriage in Minnesota
WINONA, MN – May 15, 2013 – The Governor of Minnesota, on May 14, 2013 signed into law legislation, that redefined the legal definition of marriage. It is very disappointing that Minnesota law will now put the desires of adults ahead of the best interests of children, and ignore the importance of families that are founded on the marriage of one man and one woman as the foundation of society. The Diocese of Winona remains grateful for the elected officials who demonstrated great courage in defending marriage and voted against this legislation.
In our parishes, Catholic schools, and in all catechetical programs, every effort will be made to promote the true meaning of marriage. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and is a natural institution found in every culture throughout human history. It is also a gift from our Creator.
Statement of the Most Reverend John M. LeVoir On the Passage of Same-Sex Marriage Legislation in Minnesota May 23, 2013
Same-Sex Marriage Law is Deeply Disturbing
Same-sex marriage is now legal in Minnesota. I am deeply disturbed by this new law. Nature, reason, and Divine Revelation all tell us that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, who promise to love each other in a faithful and permanent way, which is open to the conception of children. Same-sex marriage is something totally other than this. How can two realities, so essentially different from one another, be viewed as the same according to the law?
As chaplain for Courage in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for ten years, I have spoken with hundreds of men and women with same-sex attraction, and with parents of sons and daughters who have same-sex attraction. Having listened to them and having learned from their experiences, I find myself deeply concerned for couples with same-sex attraction who enter into same-sex marriages. There are few who question whether or not such relationships are good for couples who have same-sex attraction. It is assumed that same-sex marriage is good for them.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ST. PAUL, Minn. (Nov. 7, 2012)— The Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, is disappointed that Amendment 1 did not pass. Despite this setback, our efforts to promote and defend the cornerstone social institution of marriage will continue.
MCC’s support of Amendment 1 was rooted in the complementarity of the sexes, the public significance of their ability to procreate, and the fundamental right of all children to be born into an intact family with a married mother and a father, even though this is not always possible. These basic human truths remain with or without the passage of this amendment.
As efforts to legalize same-sex marriage advanced in Washington state, New Jersey and Maryland, Archbishop Nienstedt addressed the issue with National Catholic Register correspondent Barb Ernster. Following are some highlights from the article in which the Archbishop shares backgrounds on why the Catholic Church in Minnesota supports the Minnesota Marriage Amendment is encouraging Catholics to vote “yes” in November. Read More…
In a 2007 Angelus address on the relationship between faith and reason, Pope Benedict XVI said, “When man limits his thoughts to only material objects … he closes himself to the great questions about life, himself, and God … While modern science has granted mankind numerous benefits, it has also led many to believe that the only real things are those which can be experimented with.”
For Catholic Christians, scientific truths can reveal theological truths. The Catholic understanding of “sexual complementarity,” for example, is a theological explanation of sexuality and biology. My current favorite blogger Steve Gershom, of Catholic, Gay and Feeling Fine, Thanks, wrote, “The Church believes, and I believe, in a universe that means something, and in a God who made the universe—made men and women, designed sex and marriage from the ground up.” Yep, you got it.
When we talk about the theology behind our bodies, we’re not merely talking about who is sexually attracted to whom and whether it is wrong or right. We are talking about the fact that both men and women have distinct and irreplaceable roles in our world. If you believe that God played a role in designing the universe, it’s really not all that far-fetched to think that God had a design strategy, is it? C’mon.
Because, as Christians, we think that God loves every one of us and that we are equally important to Him, we can reasonably conclude that He designed us with an idea of what would best lead to our individual, ultimate fulfillment. No one on this blog is saying that God doesn’t love people with same-sex attraction or doesn’t want them to be happy, or that they shouldn’t be afforded their basic human rights, love and respect. That’s just plain hooey. There simply comes a point when we need to honestly ask what the material (our bodies) tells us about the immaterial (our ultimate purpose).
But that’s just theology talk. So, here’s a little science talk from a RealClearPolitics article that points to the idea that both men and women—moms and dads—play complementary, irreplaceable roles in keeping humanity moving along. Frankly, it’s pretty unsurprising, but for some reason, we need to keep remind ourselves of this:
In an intriguing set of empirical studies just published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, a team of social scientists led by professor Sanne Nauts shows that the mere prospect of speaking with an unknown woman reduces men’s (but not women’s) performance on cognitive tasks.
In the first study, 71 college students at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands were asked to complete a “lip-reading task” while supposedly being observed on a webcam by an unseen researcher who would instant message them. When the alleged researcher messaging them was named “Lisa,” the men performed worse than when the purported observer messaging them had a male name.
In a second study—this one involving 90 students—the researchers decided to create even more distance between actual interaction with a woman to see if merely imagining that they were about to interact with a woman could affect men’s cognitive performance.
As in the first study, participants were escorted to a cubicle by an experimenter of their own sex, ostensibly to collect stimulus materials for a study on lip reading.
Then the students were merely told they were being observed by a researcher named either Danielle or Daan, who would turn on the webcam and send them an instant message. That never happened. Nonetheless, the mere idea they might soon be messaging with an unknown woman whose attractiveness they could not evaluate caused in the men what the researchers call “cognitive impairment.”
The authors attribute this to the cognitively costly effect of impression management, which leaves less brain energy for other tasks:
“Men seem so strongly attuned to mating opportunities that they were influenced by rather subtle cues to a woman, even in the absence of clear information about her,” they note. “Casually mentioning a female instead of a male name was sufficient to impair men’s cognitive performance.”
It may just be that firing up the reward systems of the brain makes men less focused on the task at hand. The authors cite a 2004 study led by Bram Van den Bergh, intriguingly titled “Bikinis Instigate Generalized Impatience in Intertemporal Choice.” After men were shown photos of women in lingerie or swimsuits, they became generally more impulsive—e.g., they tended to prefer a little cash now to more cash down the road.
The author then observes that:
The most interesting thing is that the inverse is not true for women. On average, women who were told they would interact with men did not perform any differently on cognitive tasks than women who were told they would be interacting with women.
Gender simply matters less to women.
Unlike men, women have a category called “human” in which gender (while recognized) is relatively unimportant. As a hypothesis for future busy research scientists, I offer the suggestion that this may be due to the primacy of maternity in women’s evolutionarily adapted brain structure. The category “my baby” is way more important than the gender of a child to the mother.
And then surmises:
Men and women really are different. Not only our bodies, but our brains react differently.
Suppressing reality in the interests of ideology doesn’t help women—it just makes us all act in dumber and dumber ways.
Why do people get married? Usually because they’re in love, right? Even today, with high rates of divorce and cohabitation, men and women in love have some internal pull that draws them to the altar. In lovedness is an erotic passion that lovers seem to have very little control over, and its only outlet and fulfillment is apparently marriage.
And why do people get divorced? Often, because they’re no longer in love. Or maybe they are, just not with their spouse. It must be hard to stay married to someone with whom you are no longer in love. When the passion fades and all that is left are the annoyances and petty personality flaws plaguing every passing moment, the natural inclination is to turn and run.
My grandmother married my grandfather 65 years ago. After a year of marriage, she told him that she was not, and in fact never was, in love with him. Last year she died. That’s 63 passionless years of marriage.
That must have been difficult. I wonder who it was harder for—my grandmother, not being in love with her husband, or my grandfather, not having a wife who was in love with him.
So what do couples like that do? Today, most of them just get divorced, but not my grandparents. They had six kids. They did mission work in Mexico. They regularly prayed together and had Bible studies and prayer groups in their home. They did pro-life work together. They regularly opened their home to strangers in need of a place to lay their heads. And in their elder years they spent a lot of time reading together, as well as playing cards—their favorite activity and the one passed down to the grandkids.
That list makes it sound like they had the perfect marriage, doesn’t it? Not quite. I left out the squabbling, disagreements, and petty arguments.
So how did they stay married all those years? Love. The true definition of love is willing the good of another person. My grandparents loved each other so much. I said that they weren’t mutually in love, but I never said they didn’t have love for one another.
The most beautiful example of this love I witnessed in the last couple weeks of my grandmother’s exile on this earth. Over Christmas I was staying at their home, and sleeping in the room next to Grandma. A little before five in the morning I heard her gasping for air and eventually calling out for help. I quickly got up and went to her side and asked if there was anything I could do for her. All she said was “Get your grandfather.” I went next door, shook my grandpa, and said, “Gramps, Grandma needs you.” Without a moment’s hesitation, he got up and went to his wife’s side. I went back to bed, but he stayed up making sure that the woman he had pledged his fidelity to “in sickness and in health” was comfortable, checking her oxygen machine was working correctly, and rubbing her feet with lotion.
Later that day grandma needed to go to the hospital, and after the ambulance zipped her away I saw my grandfather heading out the door and asked him where he was going. “To the hospital,” he said, the of course was implied, but I heard it. That’s where his wife was, so that’s where he was going to be. In fact, my 89-year-old grandfather slept in a chair (!) in her hospital room two nights in a row to be close to his wife; not because he was passionately and madly in love with her, but because he loved her, and that’s what love does; not because he couldn’t get enough of her, but because he pledged to love her the way Christ loved the Church and lay down his life for her.
I’m not holding up my grandparents’ marriage one for which we should all aim. But I am holding up their love for each other and their commitment to their marriage as ideals for which we should strive. Marriage isn’t about being in love; it’s about loving like Jesus did.
The term “sexual complementarity” is thrown around a lot in debates on marriage and sexuality, but it seems to be explained rarely. Thus, misunderstandings abound as to what “sexual complementarity” refers. Is it about anatomical complementarity? About just hormones or personalities complementing one another?
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you hear the term “sexual complementarity”:
Sexual complementarity does not mean merely psychological or behavioral complementarity (i.e., what a compatibility test or personality assessment evaluates), nor does it mean merely physical complementarity (i.e. having the right “parts” that fit together).
Sexual complementarity refers to something deeper. It certainly is biological (i.e. psychological and physical), but at its root it has a more personal component.
This personal component refers to that part of you that is the heart of your personal identity—what makes you, you. This “personhood” that each individual human being has is something more than merely the material stuff of your body. This is obvious because if your identity was simply dependent on the material stuff that composes your body, you wouldn’t be the same ‘you’ for very long; the actual atomic material of your body is not the same stuff throughout your whole life (just think of the hair and skin you shed and grow).
No, your personal identity is an immaterial principle of continuity—this is why you can be responsible for something you did in the past or why you can plan to do something in the future and then actually do it.
A person is not merely a body, but a person is not merely a spirit, either.
Our bodies are not machines. Our bodies are physical manifestations and expressions of the immaterial aspects of ourselves. Personhood encompasses both the immaterial (mind) and the material (body). Who you are as a person necessarily includes not only your mind but your very genetic and physical makeup. This means that every man or woman is a man or woman in the very core of his or her identity. It is an essential aspect of who he or she is and what he or she does—such as being in relationship with others.
Manifesting our maleness and femaleness
Sex (maleness or femaleness) is deeper than having certain body parts. If a man loses a certain part of himself because of an accident, he remains a man. Nonetheless, one key way that sex (maleness or femaleness) is manifested is physically—in the body.
We know that there are two kinds of human beings: man and woman. Sure, each individual might differ in their combination of masculine or feminine traits physically or psychologically, but that doesn’t make any man less male or woman less female. Those traits are just particular details about one’s maleness, for a man, and femaleness, for a woman. Biologically, man and woman fit together in a way that can result in the creation of new human beings. This “fit” is not only biological (psycho-physical). With sexual complementarity, the “fit” is even more so at the level of their personhood.
An embodiment of these universal principles
This is not to say that men or women aren’t compatible with members of their own sex. On the contrary, we have relationships with members of our own sex that are often strong, deep, committed, and loving. Nonetheless, by their nature, these relationships are not marriage. They are not necessarily better or worse than marriage; they are just different.
Only man and woman can engage in sexual intercourse (properly speaking), which is the physical expression of inward, unique reality about their personhood. Man and woman together are a microcosm of broader humanity in a way that no relationship exclusively male or female is ever able to be.
Man and woman together exemplify the actual embodiment of the universal principles of masculine and feminine. A single-sex relationship simply cannot have this embodiment. A man’s and a woman’s bodies—who they are as persons—come together each as male or female, and so by its very nature the union between a man and woman is unlike any other relationship.
We live in a time and place of unprecedented claims of the right to privacy. Typically included in this notion of privacy is the idea that sexual acts are purely private matters, the business of nobody but the people who mutually consent to engage in them.
However, though it is proper that our sexual acts are done in private, the results are anything but private. Sexual intercourse leads most naturally, and frequently, to children. The resulting children, and the family life engendered, are the very public consequences of our sexual behavior, affecting the entire community. The community, therefore, has a huge stake in what people do sexually. At the same time, the man and woman who have found themselves with responsibility for children due to their sexual acts will quickly find that it is very difficult to carry on alone. We need the help of our extended families; we need the community at large.
Thus, it has never been sufficient that the couple’s promise to one another be simply a private pledge between two people. It is a public declaration, a promise to each other before the community (or its representatives), of lifelong self-gift and fidelity to one another. The community assumes the couple will take responsibility for the offspring who may result, bringing them up according to the parents’ best lights (within the bounds of justice). At the same time, the couple receives the support of that community, often in the form of specific legally mandated benefits conducive to the strengthening of family life.
There is a name for this very important social arrangement: Marriage. It is a state and a social institution, anchored in the reality of what is proper and fitting for human beings in terms of our anatomical sexual design (i.e. sex makes babies). Indeed, if sex did not lead to children, it is quite impossible to imagine why anyone would have come up with the idea of marriage in the first place. Come to think of it, it is quite impossible to imagine why we would have sex organs at all. Imagine a world in which children sprouted from the ground. To what end would those things we know as sex organs have evolved?
Imagine a world in which we used some part of our bodies to express affection and even give a certain level of pleasure to another—for example, using your hands to scratch someone’s back. Would it have occurred to anyone to commit, before the community, to a lifetime of backscratching, forgoing all other backscratching partners, combining all of their worldly goods to the common backscratching project? If it had occurred to someone, wouldn’t everyone have asked what the point was of such a commitment? Do we find it necessary to commit for life to our friendships, or to regulate and limit through law and custom our use of handshakes and hugs?
For the entirety of human history, every society has had marriage, and every society has held it to be a unique relationship by which a man and a woman are joined for the main purpose of bringing children into the world, and then maintaining these families. Marriage is universally acknowledged as the most fundamental social institution. It has been variously celebrated; the number of spouses one man or woman may have has not been consistently accepted across cultures. People have married for good reasons, and bad reasons. But it is always a sexual union, a joining of lives for the sake of the children they may beget.