The Tablet, not to be confused with the Jewish magazine of the same name, said in a March 5 editorial that the Church has lost the battle over same-sex marriage, and that there is “no more mileage” in the issue of “gay marriage.” (For link to magazine, click here. Subscription required.)
Pointing out that more than half of the Catholic members of the British House of Commons voted in favor of a same-sex marriage bill, and that polls in the U.S. h show that a majority of Catholics are no longer opposed to same-sex marriage, the editors concluded that “there is no more mileage in this issue for the Catholic Church” and called on Catholic bishops in England and in the U.S. to concede defeat.
“(T)he sensible course would be to put it on the back burner with the heat turned low – to make peace with the gay world and move on,” the editorial said.
But other Catholics say the British magazine has it all wrong.
Maureen Ferguson of The Catholic Association, told CNSNews.com that the “conversation” over marriage isn’t ending, it is just beginning.
“Every person deserves dignity and respect,” she said. “But with respect to the conversation on marriage, I think this conversation is really just beginning and I think it is incumbent upon the Church to continue to proclaim its vision for marriage and family, and the rearing of children.”
Marriage is a unique institution which is linked to the survival of our species, according to Ferguson.
“People need to ask themselves: ’Why does the government recognize marriage at all?’ The government doesn’t re cognize baptism, for example,” she said.
“The government recognizes marriage, not to validate love between two people, as nice as love between two people is, but rather the government gets involved in marriage to foster stability for the next generation of its citizens,” Ferguson told CNSNews.com.
“I think the Church needs to continue to speak out about marriage and the family, but along with the rest of us, it needs to be able to articulate why marriage and the family is so important.”
In the United States, the Supreme Court is poised to decide if California’s Proposition 8, which defines marriage to be the union of a man and a woman, is constitutional. But Ferguson pointed out that when the question has been put to the test at the ballot box, Americans have overwhelmingly supported the “one man & one woman” definition of marriage.
“There are 34 states that have voted to affirm that marriage is the union of a man and a woman – only four states have voted by relatively slim margins to change the definition,” she told CNSNews.com. “So if you look at that – when the vote has gone to the people, the people have voted to affirm opposite-sex unions.
The Catholic policy analyst warned of what might happen to religious liberty if marriage is redefined.
“The religious liberty concerns are very grave if we redefine marriage,” she said.
“There will be an onslaught of lawsuits affecting religious liberty if marriage is redefined in the United States.”
Already, in places that have legalized same-sex marriage, such as Canada, there have been multiple law suits against those holding to marriage as traditionally conceived.
“In the United States, there was a Christian photographer who very politely declined to take the job of photographing a same-sex ceremony in New Mexico. That photographer was sued,” she said
British Bishops Stand Firm
Ferguson also pointed to the fact that British Catholic bishops have themselves issued a strong statement in defense of marriage and in opposition to the same-sex marriage law which is currently before the British Parliament, and which is being spurred on by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Legislation for same sex marriage, should it be enacted, would have “profound consequences” – including “severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship,” the bishops said in the letter and briefing (“Speak Out for Marriage”) they sent Jan. 28 to members of Parliament (MPs).
“It is meaningless to argue that Catholics and others may still teach their beliefs about marriage in schools and other arenas if they are also expected to uphold the opposite view at the same time,” the bishops wrote.
The British prelates warned that by altering marriage in this way, Parliament would overthrow “the foundation and basic building block of our society.”
“The law helps to shape and form social and cultural values,” they wrote. “A change in the law would gradually and inevitably transform society’s understanding of the purpose of marriage. It would reduce it just to the commitment of the two people involved. There would be no recognition of the complementarity of male and female or that marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children.”
An assault on one-man, one-woman marriage is an assault on nature itself, the English bishops pointed out. Parliament can change the civil law – but it cannot change the laws of nature.
“The roots of the institution of marriage lie in our nature. Male and female we have been created, and written into our nature is this pattern of complementarity and fertility. This pattern is, of course, affirmed by many other religious traditions. Christian teaching fills out this pattern and reveals its deepest meaning, but neither the Church nor the State has the power to change this fundamental understanding of marriage itself.”
Redefining marriage would “break the existing legal link between the institution of marriage and sexual exclusivity, loyalty and responsibility for the children of the marriage.”
The briefing noted: “It is through children alone that sexual relations become of importance to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution.”
The British bishops also argued that there is no mandate for “this fundamental change” to the definition of marriage and that redefining marriage “will have profound implications for the future architecture of relations between Church and State.”
The bishops urged MPs “not to be afraid to reject this legislation now that its consequences are more clear.”
“We have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations,” they wrote.