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John Paul II: Prophet of Freedom, by Harold Fickett
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Gay Marriage and the Collective Lie

We are called to love one another, but real love must be grounded in truth. What I would say to Andrew Sullivan then is, I love you, but don't ask me to lie.

Harold Fickett


The writer Andrew Sullivan sits across the table from you on Chris Matthews' Hardball praising gay-marriage as a symbol of the homosexual community's desire to join the mainstream. He is a Catholic, conservative in many things, and a highly articulate spokesman for his point-of-view. What do you say?

The requisite conservative on pundit panels usually falls back on citing heterosexual marriage's 5,000 year history as society's basic building block. Marriage has always been between a man and a woman. 65% of the American people are against homosexual unions. Etc.

That's not going to get it. It's a way of brushing off the Andrew Sullivans of the world, and if nothing else Mr. Sullivan and the homosexual community have shown that they will not be dismissed.

The reality of a concrete person, of a friend who is gay, makes claims upon us.
First, I think it's necessary to deal with how uncomfortable the whole discussion makes heterosexuals feel. Not because of homophobia, either. The reality of a concrete person, whether it's Andrew Sullivan or my friend who is gay, makes claims upon us. There he is with his desire to be accepted, to be loved, to enjoy the comforts of home, family, and community. Why should he be denied these things? More particularly, how can I justify putting legal obstacles in his way?

So many conversations that have gone on in the last forty years have seemingly boiled down to a person before us, who says, Here I am in this predicament—a marriage that's not working, an unwanted pregnancy, a sexual orientation that's not the norm. Here I am. See me. Why should I have to suffer unnecessarily when a suitable remedy is close at hand?

In this situation, anyone's first response is, "No problem. Be well and God bless!" The person before us elicits our empathy and should.

Unfortunately, there's a vast difference between love and the merely nice response that empathy often inspires. We are called to love our neighbors, and love can only be real when it's grounded in truth.

What the advocates of gay marriage are asking society to agree to is a lie. They are asking us to say that homosexual unions and heterosexual ones are morally equal.

Gay marriage advocates want us to pretend that heterosexual marriages and gay relationships are the same thing.
Gay marriage is not a civil rights issue, it's a moral issue. Certainly homosexual people have been treated unfairly in the past in certain contexts—housing, health care, rights of inheritance. All of these areas admit straightforward remedies that do not involve marriage. The dissatisfaction of gay activists with this approach speaks to something that's even more important than civil rights: blessing. Gays want their relationships blessed. They want society to honor their relationships as fitting, purposeful, and happy expressions of their identities.

That's why hundreds are rushing to San Francisco's court house to receive marriage licenses. The joy of an authority's recognition and validation. Your relationships are OK! They are just as good as anyone else's!

Catholics and all other faithful Christians know that as much as we might like to agree in this (Be well and God bless!), we would be agreeing with something manifestly untrue. I could speak theologically about these things, but that's not necessary. A man and a woman possess complementary sexualities whose differences make heterosexual relationships unique both in their affective and material dimensions. The two sexes’ complementary natures join together to make new human beings. Babies are the love of the couple incarnate. This sets the union of a man and woman apart-hallows that union, makes it sacred by virtue of its participation in the life-giving process itself-in a way that all non-procreative relationships never can be. This is not an emotive statement. It is factual—the nature of the case.

When societies accept collective lies, devastation always follows.
To enter into the mystery of life-giving, in all senses from the biological to the affective, is the reason for marriage. Entering into relationships that do not possess heterosexual marriage's life-giving potential makes these relationships something else besides marriage, whether they are friendships or same-sex relationships that entail sexual-gratification. So, let's just not pretend.

But that's what gay marriage advocates want us to do—pretend that heterosexual marriages and gay relationships are the same thing.

When societies accept collective lies, devastation always follows. The only hope for cultures—how often do we have to learn this lesson?—is to live in the truth.

What I would say to Andrew Sullivan then is, I love you, but don't ask me to lie.

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February 25, 2004

Harold Fickett is the author of "The Living Christ" and other books. He
is a Godspy Contributing Editor.

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READER COMMENTS
07.19.04   martin21 says:
I appreciate your effort in finding a truth on which to base an objection to gay unions but if your statement that "sacred by virtue of its participation in the life-giving process" is the core of it, don't you endanger the morality of many marriages where procreation is not possible due to age, infertility or choice?Isn't there a moral value in encouraging a committed faithfulness betwen couples who are going to be sexaully active. I understand that Marriage is there to protect the childen that may come from the union but it is also meant to protect the union. Marriage is a statemtent to the community by the couple that their sexual activity has become exclusive. Shouldn't we find a way to encourage sexual fidelity. I think these couples are trying to be has holy as they can given their circumstances, by asking for some kind of blessing. I am sure they want to distinguish their life choice from behaviour tipified by the gay mardigras. Find a name for a union that will encourage moral behaviour and protect the produce of their union.

05.20.04   alexander caughey says:
A very recent state court decision might well involve all of us in taking another look at the prospect of having to focus on the whole subject of debating the sexual person, as opposed to the universally accepted practise of allocating labels to those of us who fit the label, imposed upon us for daring to be who we are or are becoming. That the heterosexual person appears to dictate the description creating process of consigning people to a variety of pigeon holes, would suggest that the age of appealing to the human in all of God's creation, is still waiting to offer its services as a way of expressing its appreciation for all that God has made attractive in the human person. That the human race sees what its perceives as lacking God's perfection, might well suggest that either God is getting his creation plan wrong or we are viewing God's creation, from a perspective, other than Gods'. That we continue to sight the Old Testament and the New Testament, as our supports for judging another human beings right to be free to express its sexual identity as opposed to God's law, must make us wonder why slavery is now regarded as contrary to God's law, when it clearly appears all over The Bible, without a quibble, even from that paragon of virtue of all that is perfect, Paul of Tarsus. Perhaps Paul was still being burdened by being unable to shake off some of the Saul of Tarsus, hindering his view of sight of all that the future would change, in the slow unfolding of God's plan for His creation of all that He made perfect, in His glorious image of who He will make us be, when we cooperate with Him in His work of perfecting the imperfect, alive in all who are created.

04.13.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:
CT:Oops! the first sentence of the second paragraph should read "one without rules, regulations and government." Sorry.

04.13.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:
CT:As to the 'victimless crimes' issue: If society exists solely to allow freedom of will by its members, then those activities which are consensual will not be regulated. Our society is not such a one. If it is the understanding of 'personhood' that whatever one decides to do is not something which should be denied or regulated, unless another person's life is put in peril, then even suicide should be allowed. Our society does not see 'personhood' [or citizenship, or personal rights] this way.A truly secular society would be an anarchy: one with rules, regulations or government. It would depend upon the 'good will' (how others will treat you and you will treat others) of its members.A society that is truly anarchic is God. There is no need to regulate Himself or His actions. He is All.Any human society which would seek to imitate this Ideal would have to choose His Way, His laws, His terms and conditions for membership. And since we are fallible (in the sacred and secular sense) I do not foresee any group of men and women becoming Idealists-Anarchists-Libertarians and thriving in the real world. Superman is fine if you are the Superman. Plato thought so, Nietzsche expounded as much. There cannot be a differentiation between some sexual acts and others. It is fine between men and women in marriage because our Faith (through our Tradition) believes God wills it so. It is not fine, it is a sin, between men and men or women and women because it is 'disordered,' not in agreement with God's will.Free will is will directed towards God. It is God's will we seek. I will not make an argument upon "love, perverted," because to my way of thinking (and I could be wrong and the only one who thinks this) it is not love at all. I would call it lust. Lust is for self-gratification, not for (here I hazard my definition) desire-to-be-as-one-in-spirit-purpose-and-timespace. Sex in this context mimics the desire to have love, it is not love itself.If we follow God's will, then there are no victimless crimes. We are seeking to be in union with God, to join in His will and be bathed in His love. Sure, I know, our mystics, poets and painters have all used the sexual metaphors of Lover-Beloved to speak of this desire, but it is more intense than that. That is why Paul speaks of celibacy and our Church demands it from unmarried members and the religious. It is a powerful expression of our humanity and our desire for the Ineffable. It is also (God reminds us in His illuminatingly humorous way) through the organs we use for expelling body waste. But we misplace the real with the Ideal. And so the phallus and vagina figures in so much pagan and atheistic art (including contemporary American homosexual art).As I see it, it is not an exploitation issue, but rather, it is an issue of what is allowed (and thus good) and what is to be avoided (because it is sinful). Virtues and talents are myriad, but Love in the Catholic view is One. As Flannery O'Connor wrote, "all that rises must converge," and I contend that convergence is with God.Thanks for your patience, CT.God bless you,Jonathan

04.09.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:
A quick reply to coda: my old parish (a Newman Center and 'personal' parish in southern California) has the annual seder dinner. The Dominicans down there incorporate in their sermons (they are the Order of Preachers, you know!) background on the adoption of Jewish customs and traditions into Catholicism (as well as the pagan customs).I have to think about your other fine points. Very thoughtful.Jonathan

04.09.04   CTBaffle says:
Speaking of mocking traditional Jewish ritual and law, whatever happened to Passover? New and everlasting covenant notwithstanding, what's wrong with the seder? I for one am still pretty thankful that the Jews were freed from Egypt.

04.09.04   CTBaffle says:
Aha! You've hit upon something interesting, and I'll now indulge in a Socratic turn by tackling a wholly different question.While it's certainly wrong to think hateful things about other people, I suspect the only real thought crime is a failure to think.I know far too many fellow Catholics who go to Mass and feel secure in their faith. In many ways I pity them. Our faith and our values should be put to the test every day. There are those who say we shouldn't question God, when really we're called upon to constantly challenge our beliefs and our God. That's how we grow in faith and understanding.We've been given living scriptures and a Church with the power to be a dynamic force. If we ever stop asking why; stop seeking answers--well, that will be quite a sad occasion (or it means we've all left this life).And that's why I appreciate this forum.Of course, I've in actuality gone very tangential.I will address the "victimless" crimes argument. I'd suggest that however we see homosexual activity, it doesn't create the same relationships of exploitation that porn, prostitution or even drug abuse do. As for abortion, well, I think there's a wide gulf between termination of a pregnancy and sexual intercourse. At heart, a relationship is based on love (even if it's considered sinful), while the other crimes you have mentioned clearly are not. While I'll anticipate a retort based on "love, perverted", I doubt a convincing case can be made using these examples. Thus, I'm quite comfortable that we don't have a slippery-slope at work here. Besides, what people never say about the slippery slope is that it is quite possible to stop sliding at any point on the way down. Don't let the Chicken Littles of the world fool you.

04.05.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:
You are correct, the Bill of Rights question was sub rosa for purposes of ratification (cf the Federalist Papers). So was the question of the structure and scope of the Judicial Branch (cf the Judiciary Act of 1789). But my question is this: whatever happened to the original reason for meeting? you know, fishing rights in Chesapeake Bay?It is funny (peculiar and sometimes, ha ha) how history moves and causes morph to effects not planned.As to gay marriage, your views are (to my reading) in line with Catholic intellectuals (an excellent company to be associated with!) but there looms a larger question: shall we be across-the-board libertarian in all aspects of society?Think of the "victimless" crimes of drug usage, pornography and prostitution. Why should government concern itself with regulating, policing and prosecuting men and women who are not "hurting" others.I know you're with me on this ( I hope and pray you are!) but the issue remains: is not the argument for abortion rights and same sex marriage cut from the same cloth? My body, my life. My life partner, my wife/husband/spouse. Prostitution was legal until 1958 in many areas of Italy. Yet, divorce law followed Catholic teachings. (No civil divorce without Church annulment). The Church and the government(s) of Italy were always at loggerheads after WWII on the Church's social teachings and society's social desires.Where do we draw the line?Malum in se or malum prohibitum, either designation connotes error and sin. Thinking hateful things towards another is tantamount to speaking hateful things and doing hateful acts. But many of us forget that it is not only from us but towards all (my brother's keeper) that these thoughts, words and deeds are regulated.We thrive in Free Will but we abuse ourselves and others with the very same gift which makes us God-like. We choose sin, others don't victimize us, we victimize ourselves.If we Americans choose same sex marriage, then fine, the Will of the People have spoken. Yet, if the People speak and deny the PRIVILEGE of state sanctioned (and thus mainstream Denomination sanctioned) marriage to same sex couples, well, what 'rights' have they been denied? Hospital visitation rights? No. Retirement or Inheritance rights? No. Adoption rights? No. If no property rights are at issue, then Figgett must be correct: it is 'acceptance' and moral equivalence to heterosexual marriages.God may be concerned with Tyranny more than this issue, but is it not tyrannous to mock traditional Jewish law (Old Testament), Jesus's teachings and the will of the Electorate?An aside on Adams, et al. The People were not trusted in the early years of our Republic. You had to be white, over 21 years of age and a property owner to vote and votes were made in public (in front of your peers and attendant with peer pressure). Senators were elected by state legislatures until the early 20th century.We've come a long way, baby.Jonathan

04.05.04   CTBaffle says:
Thanks. I just hope I've helped clarify that civil marriage and religious marriage are in fact separate entities and that we need to deal with them as such.Though, rather than be outdone, I will point out that the Bill of Rights was a compromise made under the table to assure ratification during the convention. Thus, I think you'd have a hard time saying that the sensibilities of the First Amendment were absent at the convention. And in fact, my important point is that a tyranny of the majority was recognized as a danger at the time. Thus, I'll hope you forgive any rhetorical flourish I may have engaged in.Regardless of my views on gay marriage, I suspect God is far more concerned with tyranny, whether it has the backing of the majority or not. Or perhaps I simply hope so.

04.05.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:
CT Baffle:John Martin was merely rephrasing the article: "What the advocates of gay marriage are asking society to agree to is a lie. They are asking us to say that Homosexual unions and Heterosexual ones are morally equal. [new paragraph] Gay marriage is not a civil rights issue, it's a moral issue."It is similar to arguing that abortion is not a moral issue, it is a civil rights issue.Where does society (who makes the rules) draw the line? Our Faith draws it boldly: you cannot practice homosexual sex, nor can you have your 'union' recognized as a marriage. That's it: no spin, no cafeteria approach to situational ethics here.The Bill of Rights came after the Constituional convention. It was to limit the Federal government, not the states. However, post 1865 and the 14th Amendment, we have had incorporation of most of the first Ten Amendments. The rights reserved to the states have been what was customarily viewed as Common Law rights. Our legal tradition is bound up in Chrisitanity based in Judaic law. What we lawyers call Remedies (or Equity) is the Catholic Church of England's Chancery Court contribution to Jurisprudence: enforcing promises (to marry, to sell property, to mitigate damages under a contract, etc.). If we separate what society wants from what our tradition or Faith requires, then fine. But we must agree that even under current Supreme Court decisions, a state (through the vote of its majority, the statutes of its legislature) may create public policy on those matters traditionally the province of the People: insurance, contracts, criminal law and procedure, family law, probate (with rights of inheritance), etc.).If the People will it, then fine. But be prepared to disagree on religious grounds with what the People will. The 2nd Amendment is very clear, yet we have trimmed (on Federal and State grounds) its seeming wholesale permission of the right to bear arms.If the People will it that marriage in California (my state) is between a man and a woman, then the legislative finding will give guidance and reason why this is so. And I guarantee that the reasons will creep into the consuetudenary areas of Judeo-Christian traditions and Common Law use.Heck, I'd love to be a Deacon but I can't. My wife is Jewish. But I am not so incensed that I leave the Church and become a Presbyterian to attain a clerical postion. We're Christians, we're supposed to suffer. Our crosses may be homosexualilty, pedophilia, greed, gluttony, pride, Democratic Party membership, whatever. (a little levity there). The point is that we bear it, we do not give in to our fallen nature, but seek to "converge" (love that Flannery O'Connor!) to the risen Christ. In other words, don't mistake sympathy for the sinner with approval for the sin.Remember, first it was medical benefits, retirement benefits, hospital visitation rights. Now it's 'marriage' as man and wife. I guess the slippery slope argument only works against conservative concerns, not those of the liberal-ilk.NOTE TO ALL: On the day(11 Mar 04) Mayor Newsom began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, an article appeared in the SF Guardian (sfbg.com) exposing "Newsom's Slush Fund" and the fact that "City Attorney Dennis Herrera is refusing to step in and sort things out." Interesting. This is the same City Attorney who called same-sex marriages "sanctified."Follow the money, follow the money.All of you bring up good points, but I think it is important to remember the crux of the article: it's a moral issue.Pax Christi,Jonathan

04.05.04   CTBaffle says:
John Martin,In many ways, I feel you've been a bit unfair and mean-spirited in your response to Lindadic. In fact, I feel that Harold Fickett has ignored the important and necessary distinction between civil marriage and marriage as a sacrament. I don't think the Catholic Church should recognize or perform gay marriages. The government, however, seems to be Constitutionally bound to recognize gay marriages, and in fact should be bound to respect those civil rights.Why? Because a government that oppresses minority rights, or that sponsors a religious view, is too dangerous to be allowed sovereignty. Haven't we learned from Jim Crow? Haven't we learned from Nazi Germany?Generally speaking, gay couples care as much about society's validation as heterosexual ones do. Not one bit. What they want are their civil rights. And because the Constitutional Convention delegates were wise enough to separate church from state and place safeguards for minority rights, they have every right to be angered at those of us who don't want to see them get married.John Martin, you seem to think civil marriage will necessarily make gay marriages equivalent to straight marriages in moral terms. I'm not convinced.On the other hand, I thank you for your insightful point that the dominant class can't determine the values assigned to phenomena. That's very true. I just wish you had parsed out your argument more clearly such that it dealt with both civil and religious marriage, rather than focusing so much on the sacramental side. It seems as if your logic and mine are quite consistent, which encourages me.My one real complaint with both your argument and that of Mr. Fickett is the reliance on political buzzwords that don't have the same significance when you bring them into this sacramental context and sensibility. When Newsom and others talk about "blessing" or "sanctified", those words lose much of their religious connotation. Accuse politicians of semantic violations all you wish, but be a bit more wary when you try to build your own argument on such a shaky foundation. Imputing the motives of a segment of the population from the mayor of San Francisco or the talking heads on TV isn't exactly fair.And Mr. Martin, I'd simply ask that you moderate your tone, lest you stifle the kind of discussion this forum is intended to inspire (unless I've missed the point of this site).

02.26.04   John Martin says:
Dear Lindadic, I, in turn, disagree. You tried to side-step the main point of the article by making a distinction between civil marriage and marriage as a sacrament. The point of the article is that gays want society to agree in the lie that heterosexual and homosexual relationships are morally equivalent. You obviously want this as well, both in terms of public policy and religious sanction. So does the Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, who said about one of his opponents, "I challenge him [President Bush] to learn a little about the extraordinary partnerships that have now been recognized, that have now been finally sanctified." ("S.F. Sues State Over Gay Marriage Ban," AP, February 20, 2004) Newsom said "sanctified," and that's what the battle is over, not civil liberties, which can be insured in other ways. This is such an emotional issue on both sides because it's all about blessing. Whether the government's blessing or the blessing of a religious authority. The way in which you use the word "privilege" comes from a class-analysis approach, as if the dominant class of a culture decided absolutely on what values were to be assigned to biological and other phenomena. This belongs to the strange gnosticsm that grows out of supposedly material analysis. Gender differences are "privileged" not by virtue of what we think but by biology--the created order. God is the author of these differences whether society (or a particular class or community in society) chooses to recognize them or not. A wise recognition of the created order leads to public policy that works in accord with God's intention rather than against it. It leads to public policy grounded in truth and reality rather than the type of ideological over-rides practiced with such devastating results in the past century by the proponents of class analysis. At the end of your post, you switch philosophical models, transitioning from class-analysis to the created order, claiming that God makes people gay. Despite what the pyschological establishment may say (whose own models of analysis have been shown to be fraudulent--see the Godspy link on Freud's utter bankruptcy), homosexuality is a disordered condition--a sign of the fallenness of the created order in the same way as birth defects and disease. The Scriptures teach this was the result of humankind's sin, not God's action. The disordered nature of homosexuality can be clearly seen in the role-playing of homosexual couples--how the complementary nature of male and female comes to be mimicked. In the midst of the disorder of homosexuality this is a poignant sign of homosexuals' desire to live in accord with the created order. To do so, however, they have to renounce their disordered desires--a difficult thing no doubt, even a living crucifixion. But then the renunciation of all our disordered desires, whether we are heterosexual or homosexual, is God's calling to us, not for God's sake but for ours. While any particular homosexual marriage may not effect any particular heterosexual marriage, the recognition of homosexual marriage by society would no doubt encourage the false view that heterosexuality and homosexuality are morally equivalent. The untruthfulness of this proposition would have a cascading effect, from what we tell young people in the present to how we deal with bio-engineering in the future. Many many young people go through a time of sexual confusion. It is in these peoples' interests that we encourage them to live fully in accord with the true created order. That we tell ourselves the truth and promote the truth as the basis of social relationships, as nature and nature's God reveal that truth to us. As the Scriptures underline. It is sadly the nature of sacred things--such as the creation of a child by a man and a woman--that they can be desecrated through human violence, as in the case of rape. Rape changes the character of the couples' relationship, as does, to a lesser extent, adultery, or sex prior to marriage. The rapist sins against himself and the woman; adulterers and those engaging in pre-marital relations sin against themselves, as St. Paul says. Still, the sacred character of the creation of life remains when it results from these instances, as well as when it results from a married union. (Babies are God's part and God's part is always good.) This is analogous to how partaking of the Eucharist unworthily brings death, while to have God's life within us we must partake of the body and blood. The ontological status of sacred things is not changed by their usage, but their mis-use certainly changes those who do so, in relation both to others and to God. What advocates of homosexual marriage such as yourself want to argue is that emotions (the loving commitment of two people) are capable of hallowing behavior. But we cannot "privilege" sexual acts by virtue of feeling one way or another about them, even if those feelings are extended over years and are consistent in their character. Simply because a racist feels righteous about his practice or racism over years and years and may be committed to it in league with others does not change the nature of actions such as cross-burning. It's the nature of the action itself that establishes its moral significance, not how people feel about it. Finally, as St. Thomas pointed out, the nature of evil lies in what's lacking, not what's there. The friendship of two people of the same sex, be it as close as it possibly can be, is not wrong. See "Finding The Straight Path," by David Morrison. But when two people of the same sex engage in sexual acts (or even when married heterosexual couples engage in sexual acts with no procreative potential) they are unable to participate in the full reality of what God made sex to be--the loving union of male and female that always looks toward (or reflects back upon, in the case of older married couples) the creation of a new human being. Homosexual acts can never be the same as this. They will always be lacking. No wishing can change this--not even the collective wishing of society.

02.26.04   John Martin says:

02.25.04   lindadic says:
I disagree. First of all, civil marriage isn't a sacrament, it's a legal status with lots of rights and privileges not accorded those denied the status. Granting that status to any one couple (regardless of gender) does not impair the status of any others who are granted the status; bad marriages do not invalidate good ones.Whether gay unions can be sacramental is a religious issue, not a civil issue.The idea that creating a baby makes a union "sacred by virtue of its participation in the life-giving process itself" sanctifies a rape that ends in conception—which is a hideous idea. What makes a union sanctified is the willing and permanent commitment of the couple to each other as an expression of the love of God. I see no reason why that sanctity should be denied to same-sex couples. The physical complementarity of man and woman is, in my view, less important than the commitment and love between the partners, whose similarity psychologically may be great. Gender difference is only one kind of difference; why privilege it above the others?In His infinite wisdom and goodness, God creates some people gay. Who are we to deny them the right to sanctified unions?

02.25.04   Godspy says:
Real love must be grounded in truth. What I would say to Andrew Sullivan then is, I love you, but don't ask me to lie.

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