Taking Back Marriage

Taking Back Marriage

The Village Wedding


The only thing surprising about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5–4 decision requiring all 50 states and the District of Columbia to perform gay “marriages,” and to recognize such unions contracted in other states, is that it took so long. The writing was on the wall 11 years ago, when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the George W. Bush administration refused to get behind a bill in the House of Representatives that would have removed cases challenging state marriage laws from consideration by the federal courts. There was an election to win in 2004, and the threat of gay “marriage” (like the continual promise to curtail abortion) was a great way to turn out social conservatives to vote for Republican candidates. By the time President Bush was reelected, the first cases to force states to recognize gay “marriages” contracted in other states had been filed in federal court. As I predicted in the January 2005 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, short-term political gain has led to long-term cultural pain.

Fast-forward nine years, and we were discussing on this very website an earlier 5–4 decision (United States v. Windsor) on gay “marriage.” Also written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee and a putative Catholic, that decision gutted the Defense of Marriage Act and paved the legal way to the outcome in Obergefell v. Hodges, released on June 26—just in time for the “gay pride” celebrations held around the country on June 28.

In my article for Crisis in 2013, I proposed a way forward for defenders of marriage that many commenters thought too radical. (When I had proposed it earlier in bothChronicles and on the Catholicism site for About.com, a significant number of readers had reacted the same way.) The Catholic Church in the United States, I argued, should divorce (no pun intended) marriage within the Church entirely from what the state deems to be marriage.

The chief opposition to my proposal arose from the fact that, at the time, many still clung to the hope that a political solution was possible. After all, only three states—Maine, Maryland, and Washington—had legalized gay “marriage” through popular vote; all the rest of the states where gay “marriage” was legal had had it imposed by state or federal courts.

As I warned back then, that optimism has proved misguided. There are no political solutions to cultural problems, and at its heart, the attempted redefinition of marriage is a cultural problem. Restore the culture, and politics will follow. And no institution in the world is better positioned to restore the culture than the Catholic Church.

In the wake of the latest decision, more people are independently arriving at a version of my proposal, but I am also seeing, particularly among Catholics, calls for digging in for a long political fight, with explicit comparisons to the pro-life movement that developed in the wake of Roe v. Wade.

Yet, 42 years on, the pro-life movement is a near-perfect example of why attempting to find cultural solutions to cultural problems is more effective in the long run than trying to find political ones. At the national level, abortion plays a role in virtually every election, but even when the presumed party of life controls both houses of Congress and the presidency (as the Republicans did from 2001 through 2005), no real effort is made to advance the pro-life cause. Indeed, the opposite is too often true; in his first term, George W. Bush approved by executive order federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, something that the pro-abortion Democrat Bill Clinton hadn’t done.

Meanwhile, at the local level, hundreds of abortuaries have been prayed out of business, and hundreds of thousands of babies have been saved through the efforts of vast networks of crisis-pregnancy centers, which make a real difference in the lives of the mothers and fathers of those children by welcoming them into the culture of life.

A more significant objection to my proposal was the fear that it would mean that the Church would not be living up to her mission to preach the truth to all men. Sacramental marriage—the union of two baptized Christians—is not the only type of marriage with which the Church must be concerned. As the chief exponent of natural law, she has a witness to bear regarding natural marriage as well—and that truth cannot be confined only to baptized Catholics. When I proposed that the Church no longer require those who wish to be married within the Church to seek a marriage license from the state, it appeared to some (admittedly, not unreasonably) that I was ceding natural marriage to the state.

What I had in mind, however, was the separation of both sacramental marriage and natural marriage from what President Obama calls “civil marriage”—that is, those state-licensed unions whose definition depends neither on natural law nor on history and tradition but on Justice Kennedy’s specious reasoning. The Church could and should continue to teach about natural marriage as well as sacramental marriage, and perhaps she might even consider expanding her practice of performing purely natural marriages beyond the limited case where a baptized Catholic wishes to marry a non-Christian. A pragmatic willingness to perform natural marriages for those who cannot be sacramentally married in the Church but who want no part of “civil marriage,” as defined by Justice Kennedy and President Obama, would itself be a potentially productive tool for evangelization, just as the Church’s consistent pro-life witness has led to many conversions since Roe v. Wade.

For the Christian, of course, evangelization is the ultimate solution to cultural problems. And evangelization is not the calling simply of popes and bishops, priests and deacons, but of all Christians. Each of us needs to gain a better understanding of the Church’s teaching on both natural and sacramental marriage, so that we can explain it to others, within the context of natural law and the Gospel. Given the abysmal state of catechesis within the Church for several decades now, the hierarchy will need to lead the way, and that will require our bishops and priests to quit worrying so much about the possibility of causing “offense” (which in secular terms means simply “saying something that someone else doesn’t want to hear”) and start worrying more about philosophical and theological clarity. But parents need to play their God-given role as well. The sheer number of practicing Catholics of my generation (I am 47) and younger who have embraced the attempted redefinition of marriage bears witness not only to the failure of our shepherds to teach their flocks well but of mothers and fathers both to teach the truth about marriage and to live it in their own lives. The embrace of contraception and pornography, the easy recourse to divorce, and the pursuit of wealth and “self-fulfillment” at the expense of spouse and children all speak louder than any platitudes parents may utter about the necessity and beauty of marriage.

Obergefell v. Hodges was not the end of the assault on marriage; it is much closer to the beginning. Every argument that Justice Kennedy made for gay “marriage” applies equally to polygamous relationships and even to incestuous ones. (This is not hyperbole or paranoia; read his opinion, and try to find a single argument that does not apply.) In the wake of the decision, numerous proponents of gay “marriage” have simultaneously claimed that churches will never be required to perform gay “marriages” and argued that there’s no reason why they shouldn’t perform them; that in itself is evidence that those who, like the Catholic Church, refuse to do so will find themselves sooner rather than later tarred with the brush of hate, and perhaps only shortly after that actively persecuted for defending the truth.

While it seems on the surface that those who have fought for “marriage equality” have done so primarily at the ballot box and through the courts, the reality is that they triumphed on June 26 because for decades they have been reshaping the culture. We defenders of marriage have been the ones who have largely confined our efforts to the political arena, but it’s not too late to make up for our mistake. We have two tools at hand that the other side does not: truth and grace. It’s time to begin acting like we believe in both.

Editor’s note: The image above titled “The Village Wedding” was painted by Sir Samuel Luke Fildes.

Scott P. Richert


Scott P. Richert is the executive editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and writes the Guide to Catholicism for About.com.

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Here-under are some articles about marriage for you to read or watch: 

  1. Getting to know you, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=284
  2. Be Positive, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=288
  3. Love and Marriage, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=292
  4. Endless Love – Marriage after all, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=294
  5. Say it with love, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=298
  6. Quality family moments, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=300
  7. Secret of successful marriage, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=302
  8. The vocation of marriage, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=1968
  9. Marriage as Covenant, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=1974
  10. Humility: Foundation for Marital Happiness, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=1986
  11. Gratitude: Foundation for marriage, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=1980
  12. True Meaning of marriage, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=1972
  13. Marriage and incompatibility, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=2112
  14. Love is a garden, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=2116
  15. Three kinds of love, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=2095

“God himself is the author of marriage” (GS 48:1). The vocation of marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes (CCC:1603)

FBI Homosexuality. Many believe the Freemasons are simply a centuries-old charitable fraternity. However, the Catholic Church has consistently condemned Freemasonry more than any other error in its history because it promotes indifferentism, naturalism, communism, and other dangerous philosophies.

Please click this link to watch the video on FBI Homosexuality by Michael Voris

Homosexuality, the Grave Evil Presented as Good, Part 1

Please click this link to watch the video on Homosexuality: Grave Evil Presented as Good, Part 1

Homosexuality, Question and Answer Part 2

Please click this link to watch the video on Homosexuality, Q & A

Homosexuals and Freemasons inside the Church

Please click this link to watch the video on Homosexual and Freemasons inside the Church by Michael Voris

“The Rite of Sodomy” Homosexuality in the Roman Catholic Church

Please click this link to watch the video on “The Rite of Sodomy” Homosexuality in the Roman Catholic Church

Mic’d Up “Pink Money and the Homosexual Mafia” 

Please click this link to watch the video on Mic’d Up “Pink Money and the Homosexual Mafia”

Michael Voris gives a series of short talks, answering questions coming in response to his talk on homosexuality in Nigeria.

In this talk from Nigeria, Michael Voris speaks about the grave evil presented as good – homosexuality. “Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity (cf. Gen 19:1-29; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10), tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intinsically disordered” (CDF, Persona humana 8). They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” (CCC: 2357).