The Institution Formerly Known as Marriage

The Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, finding that same-sex so called marriage is the right of every American citizen, is another example of the kind of confused reasoning, false analogies and equivocation that has seemed to plague the courts since the late 20th century. Because its reasoning and conclusions are now part of the official doctrine of the Supreme Court, it will effect a transformation of marriage for future generations. The fundamental trajectory of the argument in Obergefell will, over time (perhaps a very short time), result in marriage in the United States being virtually unrecognizable as the marriage instutution on which Western civilization was built.

The decision's reasoning radically modifies the meaning of marriage from its traditional understanding. It proposes a continued modification of our societal understanding of marriage, and completely fails to deliniate the limits or parameters of that modification. Indeed, the decision completely fails to define marriage, even for purposes of its own argument.

But this would seem to be the point. The argument highlights a number of features of marriage, asserting for each one, without any supporting reasoning, that the application of those benefits must attend to same-sex couples, as well. The only argument actually made, for extending marriage to same-sex couples, boils down to a claim that, as a society, we are continuing to evolve in our understanding of both freedom and marriage, and that as our understanding changes, the protections of the Constitution as applicable to the legal institution of marriage need to evolve with it.

Those who take the time to read the opinion will note that there is nothing in the opinion that limits this evolution. For example, even though the opinion refers to "two persons" several times in the context of its argument, there is nothing in any part of the argument itself that would limit its applicability to two-person unions. Every part of the argument would apply equally to unions of more than two people.

Furthermore, while playing to emotions about the human context of marriage and its source of meaning and connection for the married individuals, the opinion in Obergefell doesn't establish any boundaries for the exercise of the civil privileges that marriage entails. For example, there is no appeal to an expectation of permanence, raising children, etc. The marriage depicted in Obergefell is nothing more than a legal recognition of two people's determination to be together for whatever purposes each seeks within his or her own autonomy.

There is not even a tacit recognition that marriage has anything to do with sexual relations. Even though the opinion recognizes that marriage, among its other benefits, can provide a situation of stability for the rearing of children, this is presented as an outgrowth of the legal protections afforded marriage and is not offered, in any way, as part of the essential nature of marriage. Nothing is established or acknowledged about marriage, which would prevent the Constitutional protections claimed for same-sex couples from being claimed also for couples that are closely releated, even siblings or biological parent-child.

Once this understanding of marriage is extended to more than two parties (which it will), a whole new era of marriage as a legal "tool" will emerge. One example that seems rather obvious is use by crime families. They will marry each other in order to be able to invoke spousal privilege in court, as well as to allow the transfer of assets, on the death of one to the other, without going through testate in states where this would apply. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "married to the mob."

The sacred institution once known as "marriage" will need a new term, to distinguish it from the mess that is being opened up for marriage in the United States. Say "goodbye" to marriage; say "hello" to marriage.

Let the Mass Infect your Life

Every time I attend Mass, I contemplate the reality that Jesus is offering me: Receiving Him wholly while being present at the Eternal Mass in Heaven, where He is offering Himself to the Father. This reality is so overwelming that it makes all of my life's problems--indeed, all of the world's problems--seem small. A life of the greatest suffering is worth going through, to ultimately join that vision of eternal union. This realization instills a spirit of wanting to approach every task with serentity and diligence, giving my entire life over to that vision. When filled with the contemplation of what awaits us, even the most unpleasant tasks are a source of joy; the unpleasant tasks even moreso, because it was through suffering that Jesus, in His human nature, won this reality for us. So, while at Mass, I resolve that this spirit of fervor for our final destiny and of serentity in life's big and small sufferings will remain with me as we are dismissed and go back into the world. Each time, it holds a little longer. I think in a decade or so it might actually last until the end of dinner that evening.

I jest slightly, but the truth is that it is a struggle. Yet, there are those who seem to carry with them a sense of God's presence and a focus on our eternal destiny wherever they go. Whether they realize it or not (and I suspect they generally more realize it than not), the Mass is the greatest source of this sense they carry. It's the highest source of the sense of God's presence that we're all meant to carry into the world.

Would that the Mass were allowed to infect every part of all of our lives.

Christmas is an Evangelistic Solemnity and Season

Let us remember during this Christmas season that we are not merely celebrating the event of God becoming man. Yes, we are celebrating that, but that event itself would have happened nine months earlier, and we celebrate that on the Solemnity of the Annunciation.

In the Birth of Christ, we are celebrating the revelation to the world of God's having become man. Prior to the Nativity, only a few knew of this momentous truth: Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, and (then still in the womb himself) John the Baptist. When Jesus was born, however, it was time to proclaim it (briefly, before being hidden again until His public ministry) to the whole world. The Angels proclaimed it to shepherds while the stars themselves proclaimed it to men of the East, who would soon be making their journey to the house where the Holy Family would settle in Bethlehem. The prophets Simeon and Anna would be given a revealed knowledge of Who the Christ Child is at Candlemas, when Mary presents Him in the Temple. Through the men called from the East, the local king, Herod, would also learn of the birth of Jesus.

More to the point, the born Christ Child is someone we (if we were there) can see and hold. He's visible. He's no longer hidden.

During this Christmas Season, let us renew our commitment to proclaim Christ to the World, and to not keep Him hidden.

Has the media's disaffection with the Pope started?

Some time ago, I wrote that Pope Francis is on a course to become one of the most hated, reviled modern popes, at least by those who presume to stand in judgement over the moral teachings of the Church. His easy-going style and willingness to make himself vulnerable to the media have allowed certain camps to think that this pontiff is going to change, or at least soften, the Church's position on some of the key obsessions of the modern world. There is an expectation that the Pope is going to get the Church to back off on things like contraception, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, and even (some have speculated) abortion.

Of course, as I've pointed out before, no such change is coming. Not only because it can't come, given the nature of the Church, but also because Pope Francis is of one mind with the Church on all of these things. If Pope Francis has been calling for any change, it's to remind Church leaders, especially bishops, to engage a style of evangelization that shows people the whole picture of God's plan for humanity, including human sexuality, so that the beauty and truth of the Church's teachings on sexuality are made more clear. That's it.

When the Pope made comments, therefore, in support of traditional marriage as a norm at the recent colloquium on the complementarity of men and women, his comments were completely in line with his pontificate so far. At least, to anyone in the Church, that should have been clear. But what about the various media outlets? How have the various news sources been spinning it?

Interestingly enough, there hasn't been much reporting of it, not nearly the amount that was generated over the juicy tidbits that seemed to be coming from the earlier extraordinary synod--tidbits that didn't represent anything except the frank internal discussion that often takes place inside the Church's magisterial body, but that is usually hidden from the public. A quick google search of the words "pope francis complementarity" yielded a page of links, five of which were Catholic sources and five of which were secular news outlets. The next page had a couple more Catholic sources but were mainly blog-o-sphere links.

Of the five secular outlets represented on the first page of results, there are: The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Time Magazine, The Independent, and The Daily Beast. Nothing from most of the bigger, more traditional news outlets (CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, USA Today, New York Times), and nothing from the cyber-age news outlets (Yahoo! News, MSNBC, etc.).

Of those that did have reports with enough readership to show up on Google's front page, here are excerpts from each:

The Washington Post:

A month after convening a major meeting meant to welcome non­traditional families, Pope Francis told a gathering of global religious conservatives Monday that “children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother.”

The Independent:

Francis' comments seem to represent a shift towards placating conservatives in the Church from a Pope who once asked “who am I to judge gay people” and whom Elton John described as “my hero”.

The Washington Times (the only example, among the sampled papers, that successfully avoided editorializing within the article):

Pope Francis said Tuesday that the union of a man and a woman is “at the root of marriage,” dashing hopes among gay rights supporters that he might open the door to acceptance of same-sex unions by the Catholic Church.

Time Magazine:

(Headline:) Pope Francis says Children Have a Right to a Father and a Mother

The statement seems at odds with the Vatican leader's push to make the church more accepting of nontraditional families.

Pope Francis caused quite a stir on Monday with a statement that was criticized as a rolling back of his much lauded attempts to make the Catholic Church more inclusive of the LGBT community.

The Daily Beast link is really to an editorial, and not a report, as seen in the opening statement:

The Vatican’s cheery-sounding ‘complementarity’ symposium’ is really an attack on sex outside of marriage—gay sex, single sex, divorced sex, and all 50 shades of grey in between.

So, there it is: When the Pope proves to be Catholic after all, the story is that he's somehow letting people down, back-pedaling, dashing hopes. The truth is that, while some in the Church may question the prudence of some of his encounters with the media, Pope Francis is as solidly Catholic as any preceding Pope. He has never shown any hint of being anything else.

My annual lament on Christ the King Sunday

Every year, when observing the Solemnity of Christ the King, I can't help feeling just little sadness at the modification of the name of the feast by Pope Pius VI, from "Our Lord Jesus Christ the King" to "Our Lord Jesus Christ the King of the Universe." Even though "universe" is the word we use to encompass all of creation, the phrase "of the Universe," gramatically and semantically speaking, is a qualifier on Christ's kingship; whereas the original title proclaimed an unqualified kingship in our Lord.