Traditional marriage can’t be redefined by alternative lifestyles

Father John A. Kiley

A few years ago, maybe 15 years ago, two young men moved into a neighborhood. They replaced a sagging gutter in the front of their home.

They kept their lawn mowed. Their dog did not foul any other yard. A backyard basketball hoop left by the former owners did not get much use. Although other people on the street offered little comment, it was quietly acknowledged that a same-sex couple had moved into the area. A “live and let live” attitude prevailed. No harm was done. After about three years one young man moved to upstate New York and the other young fellow went home to his mother in Burrillville. Their sojourn in the neighborhood was singularly uneventful.

Now just suppose one of these young men had knocked on each neighbor’s door to announce that he and his housemate were thinking about getting married and to inquire if the neighbor had any objection. He would have assured the people living in the neighborhood that nothing would change. They would still be the same good neighbors but a lawful marriage would permit them unhassled access to one another’s finances, health records and personal interests including the collection of Hummel figurines in the family room. Again, nothing would change. Marriage would simply confirm their individual rights.

Ah, but something would change. And what would change is the ancient and universal definition of marriage. In spite of any suggestion to the contrary, marriage is not fundamentally the guarantor of individual civil rights. Long before governments and even long before churches, marriage was, and remains, the unique, social institution for the birthing and education of children in a familial context. No matter how old-fashioned or even outlandish it might appear in this 21st century, marriage is for the raising of children and not merely for the mutual consolation and comfort of the spouses, sexual preference notwithstanding.

The modern separation of sexual relations from parenting is certainly not the fault of the same-sex population. Homosexual couples are simply allowing heterosexual chickens to come home to roost. It was the heterosexual world that first discarded reproduction as integral to marriage. Nineteenth century feminists thought women freed from reproduction could better pursue education and employment. The Lambeth Conference in the 1930s put the final Protestant seal on the legitimacy of the childless marriage. Some American Catholics theologians and their European fellows weakened the Catholic population’s perennial appreciation of marital pro-creation by their resistance to Humanae Vitae in 1968. Most recently, artificial insemination and “reproductive surrogacy” have completely dissociated children from marriage and even from sex. Society itself lamentably redefined marriage. The same-sex world is simply taking advantage of the heterosexual world’s prior disdain for marital authenticity.

In the contemporary world in which sex connotes recreation and romance much more than reproduction and responsibility, those who would restore a culture of life have a seemingly insurmountable task. The media, the entertainment world, today’s celebrities, many politicians, much of academia, and – let’s be frank – many an average person considers marriage solely in terms of personal fulfillment and individual satisfaction. This frame of mind has been growing apace for over 100 years. Yet, only when men and women of good will have the insight and courage to include mom, dad and kids in their definition of marriage can they truly argue that marriage must not be used to legitimize alternate lifestyles.

All citizens are free and encouraged to pursue their legitimate civil rights. But to erase pro-creation from the definition of marriage in order to legitimize another lifestyle is deceptive, dishonest, and worse, dishonorable. Those nice guys with the trimmed hedges might not be as neighborly as they appear if they attempt to re-define the very basis of civilized society.