Friday, June 10

'Duking' it out with Archbishop Nienstedt on the issue of gay marriage

A preemptive apology is in order.  I try not to focus on such things, but there times when, as the Duke would say, 'a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do'.

Archbishop Nienstedt (Minneapolis/St. Paul) recently published an article in his local house organ, The Catholic Spirit, which defends the support of the Minnesotan gay-marriage ban as not being anti-gay.  He states that "The Minnesota Catholic Conference, made up of the seven Catholic bishops from the state, support this amendment not for prejudicial or political reasons, but rather for reasons that are theological, biological and pastoral."

Very well, let us examine each in turn, starting with the pastoral.

"Pastorally, children flourish best in the context of having both a mother and a father. Every scientific study confirms this reality. We know that many single parents strive mightily to raise children in as normal a context as possible — and many do an excellent job at this.  Nevertheless, it is a proven fact that boys and girls develop better with the influence of a mother and a father, living in the same home."

Actually, no, scientific studies do not 'confirm this reality'. In fact, a five year examination of 81 separate studies concluded  that "no research supports the widely held conviction that the gender of parents matters for child well-being," (cite)  As Cambridge University psychologist Michael Lamb put so succinctly, "Nothing about a person's sex determines the capacity to be a good parent.  It is well-established that children do not need parents of each gender to adjust healthily." (cite)

"In addition, the very biological, not to mention spiritual, complementarity of the two sexes defines the reproductive nature of their relationship which, in turn, enhances the well-being and joy of that union. The enfleshed oneness of a man and a woman is indeed a communion of life and love."

There are several things to parse here.  First off, if we are speaking of biology, then let us leave out spirituality for the time being.  Secondly, the Archbishop is specifically saying is that heterosexuality defines being able to procreate, that that definition enhances the relationship and, separately that sex enhances a relationship (many studies support this last part).  This whole thought train is based upon the concept that a social/legal construct (marriage) is founded on a biological function (procreation), which can be easily proven false (celibate marriages, same sex marriage, etc.).  Further, it bases the happiness of a marriage on the ability, desire or reality to procreate.  Harvard University psychologist Daniel Gilbert points out that having children actually significantly harms the happiness of a marriage.  "Figures show that married people are in almost every way happier than unmarried people – whether they are single, divorced, cohabiting...People are extremely happy before they have children and then their happiness goes down, and it takes another big hit when kids reach adolescence. When does it come back to its original baseline? Oh, about the time the children grow up and go away." (cite)

"Theologically, the definition of marriage predates any government or religious denomination. As we read in the Bible, it reflects God’s plan for man and woman to share in his creative power of bringing new life into the world (Genesis 1:27-28). This is ratified by Jesus himself in Matthew 19:8-9. It is a truth that is also evident in light of the natural moral law, which grounds our understanding of the dignity that belongs to each human person."

Just a bit of semantics, but if you are looking to a text written by a theocratic monarchy for a definition of marriage, that would mean that, prima fascia, it does not predate any government or religious denomination.As to the Matthew 19 quote, it is directly referencing divorce (The pharisee's asked Christ why Moses allowed divorce if God didn't want it.)

"He said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 'And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.'” (Mt. 19:8-9)

It is instructive to continue the scripture.

"The disciples said to Him, 'If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.'But He said to them, 'Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given.'" (Mt. 19:10-11)

If we understand that natural moral law demonstrates the dignity of each human person, then to prevent certain humans (due to , for instance, race, class, sexual orientation or creed) from participating in the union of marriage and, thus, the fullness of joy and unity mentioned above, would be contrary to the natural moral law.

 Archbishop Neinstedt quotes Archbishop Timothy Dolan for support, saying his argument is hard to refute.   

"To tamper with that definition, or to engage in some Orwellian social engineering about the nature and purpose of marriage, is perilous to all of us. If the definition of marriage is continually being altered, could it not in the future be morphed again to include multiple spouses or even family members?"

Perhaps Tradition is no longer part of the Deposit of Faith or church history isn't a strong suit for the president of the USCCB, but the idea that marriage is a static institution (both within and exterior to the Church) couldn't be further from the truth.  The RC church's current positions on inter-class, same-sex, and inter-racial marriages (as well as procreation within marriage) are all radically at odds with the position taken at some point in the history of the Catholic church. 

Multiple spouses?  I would recommend a perusal of the Old Testament in general.  David, Solomon, Jacob, Esau, Gideon and a plethora of others all had multiple wives.

Family members?  Though generally this is true, one must not forget Levirate marriage, where a man is required to marry the wife of his dead brother, (Deut. 25:5) as well as a man being able to marry the sister of his wife after the wife has died (Lev. 18:18).

This doesn't even begin to cover concubinage (ask Solomon about his 300 concubines), forced marriage of prisoners of war (Deut. 21:11-14), female slaves as sex objects (Gen. 16), single women forced to marry their rapists (Deut. 22:28-29), or female slaves being 'assigned' a short-term slave husband (Exodus 21:4).

The concept that marriage is a static institution is a farce and the arguments made against expanding the legal, secular definition of the term to reflect the social changes in the nation are as wrongheaded today as they were when Loving v. Virginia allowed inter-racial couples 44 years ago.  The difference is that a generation ago, the Roman Church stood with Loving and today they stand against loving.

1 comment:

  1. Dippy the DiplodocusJuly 24, 2011 at 10:17 PM

    "Theologically, the definition of marriage predates any government or religious denomination. As we read in the Bible, it reflects God’s plan for man and woman to share in his creative power of bringing new life into the world (Genesis 1:27-28). This is ratified by Jesus himself in Matthew 19:8-9.

    ## So why does the Church teach that the Mother of God brought only one new [L]ife into the world - & that, without her husband's involvement ? The Holy Family does not fit the above description, based on Genesis 1, at all well. In fact, the Holy Family is much closer to being like a gay family, than it is to the usual Catholic family.

    "It is a truth that is also evident in light of the natural moral law, which grounds our understanding of the dignity that belongs to each human person."

    ## Coming from the Church that castrated Italian boys for their singing voices, seeing females (yucky things, menstruating left and right - eughhh) weren't eligible to sing in the Sistine Chapel choir, that is a bit rich. But just seventy years after Leo XIII banned the practice, Pius XII adopted the theological ideas that made such a practice theologically impossible; a bit late for all those boys. "[T]he natural moral law" did not help *them*.

    BTW - theology cannot do duty for history. If the facts of history say otherwise than the theology of the case being made requires, then so be it; the historical facts must be accepted, whether this convenient for the argument or not. Otherwise, theology becomes a device for ignoring inconvenient or challenging or difficult realities. And that dishonours history and theology together.

    "To tamper with that definition, or to engage in some Orwellian social engineering about the nature and purpose of marriage, is perilous to all of us. If the definition of marriage is continually being altered, could it not in the future be morphed again to include multiple spouses or even family members?"

    Isn't messing around with the content of Christianity so that the ideology suits the Papacy - and not the other way about - the whole purpose of having Party ideologues, (sorry: theologians) ? First usury was wrong - them it became lawful. Likewise slavery. And castrating boys. And executing heretics. And the morality of copulation. And the necessity for salvation of communion with Rome. And the rightness of torture.

    Sorry to be cynical, but really...

    "...could it not in the future be morphed again to include multiple spouses..."

    As in the marriages of Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon & others ? Historically, marriage has often been polygamous; and some of those polygamists just named are honoured as Saints. Later came the teaching of Jesus, which requires monogamy. That looks like a change, and quite a big one.

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