Monday, May 17, 2004

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy?

With apologies to former President Roosevelt, and all those who experienced the shock and horror of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, as I sought a “headline” for the events of this day in Massachusetts, that quote came to mind once more. Unlike the situations in many places earlier this year, most notably in San Francisco, where local officials decided to defy state law and issue marriage licenses to persons who were not eligible to receive them under law – in a word, same-sex couples – the State of Massachusetts, by reason of judicial fiat, will begin today to issue licenses that are legally valid to these persons previously denied these documents, and the rights and responsibilities associated with them.

While doing some reading on another topic, I ran across this quotation from an article by St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, which I find particularly pertinent:
Not able to satisfy all the demands of their lust by marriage in the Church, some ignore all Church and moral laws and do not bother to trouble themselves by asking the Church for a blessing. In countries where the civil law does not demand a church wedding, we very often see people living together without the blessing of the Church, or obtaining a divorce without the consent of the Church, even if the marriage was performed in the Church. One easily forgets that there is no less a sin because an official, 'proper' name is given to something sinful and that a bond, not sanctified by the Church, is nonetheless, fornication or adultery.(Emphasis added.) Many openly live together without the slightest concern about hiding their open dissipation. Some are joined together out of passion, others for the advantage gained from the marriage and without the slightest shame appear everywhere in society together with their "live in" and dare to introduce them as their spouse. It is especially pathetic that people have begun to look at such occurrences with indifference, not expressing any negative opinions about them. Thus, the number of such cases increases, since there is nothing holding them back. According to Church rules people who fall into this category should be refused Communion for seven years or more; according to civil laws they should be restricted in their civil rights. Not long ago, this behavior was despised by society, now has become commonplace among people who attend church regularly. They also desire to take part in Church functions, but in such cases, it is forbidden by Church rules. What can we say of those who are even less influenced by the Church! How low has the morality fallen among our countrymen? On one hand, coming to church out of habit and the other hand, turning into the dwelling place of lower passions. They have given in to a life-style worse than the animals.

As the debate about the legalization of same-sex unions under the name of “marriage” has proceeded over the last few months, I have repeatedly found myself questioning those who take the position that this somehow threatens the institution of marriage, and of the family. Even as I disagree with the proponents of this change, I can admit the logic of some of their questions about this position. Will my wife and I be any less married if the state decides to call same-sex unions a marriage? Does the substance and nature of our family change because Adam and Steve, or Lois and Lana, call themselves “husband” and “wife?”

There is no question in my mind that there is a threat to the institutions of marriage and the family when the state makes legal what was formerly prohibited; and children too young today to grapple with the issues this raises begin to live in a society which allows, if not openly accepts, what is contrary to the will of God. But, on the other hand, we should not look to the state to be the last resort in teaching our children what is morally right – this is our responsibility. The time may well come when we will need to oppose the state in matters of morality: to say, “This is wrong, and we will not accept it.”

Much of the wrestling with my inability to agree with those who see the legalization as a threat to marriage and the family has been resolved with the phrase emphasized in the quotation above. Just because “an official, 'proper' name is given to something sinful” doesn’t make it so. Only God can create a union that is truly marriage. As the state has accepted our understanding, we can be thankful for that support. Now, as the state appears to be on the verge of abandoning this position for another one, our position is unchanged. Sin is still sin. Obedience to the precepts of the Lord is still necessary, no matter what the state may or may not allow.

And what about love? What do we say to those who believe and teach that “God is love,” and what these same-sex couples share is love; and that those who would deny them the opportunity to express this emotion, and “sanctify” it with the “bonds of marriage” are bigots who do not understand the love of God? Here’s one response: If I allow you to do something that I know is harmful to you, do I love you? Or am I merely indulging you in your passion by being silent?