Anytime the subject of marriage comes up in a conversation, the questions are always the same. Why is the Church so adamantly opposed to “gay marriages” and civil unions? Doesn’t the Church’s stance discriminate against homosexuals? What harm is done if homosexual activity is between consenting adults? How does it affect my marriage and family? Why does the Church care if in fact the Church won’t be required to witness such unions?
These are just some of the questions debated today over gay marriage and civil unions. For the sake of the record, there is no difference between the two: just different terminology for the same thing. It seems however, that some advocates use civil unions as a stepping stone to legitimize gay marriage.
As the debate continues, it’s really important that Catholics understand why this is such a critical moral issue and why the Church is involved. And we begin with a review of the Church’s fundamental teaching about marriage. As Catholics we believe that matrimony is a sacred institution, designed by God and raised to a level of a sacrament by Jesus Christ. The Bible clearly sets forth God’s plan for the human race: “God created man in His image, in the divine image He created him, male and female He created them. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fertile and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Gn 1,27-28).
The teaching of the Church explains: the intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by Him with its own proper laws. God Himself is the author of marriage.
The two divinely established purposes of marriage are obvious: to promote life and love and to be creative and unifying. “This life giving complementarity between the sexes is natural and normative. Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another.” (Catechism, #1604). A statement of the Pontifical Council for the family explains it this way: “We can also see how incongruous the demand is to grant marital status to unions between persons of the same sex. It is opposed, first of all, by the objective impossibility of making the partnership fruitful through the transmission of life according to the plan inscribed by God… Marriage cannot be reduced to a condition similar to that of a homosexual relationship: this is contrary to common sense.” (#23).
The statement refers to “common sense and I think that’s important. When we learned about the birds and the bees, it was always male and female; it was always male and female birds and bees, wasn’t it? Some advocates of homosexuality point to the fact that there is evidence of homosexual behavior in the animal kingdom, and I suppose that’s true. But it always emerges as an exception to the norm.
Finally, even from a biological standpoint, the “facts of life” are obvious: man and woman are physically designated for union with each other. In short, from the evidence of the Bible, the teaching of the Church, common sense and biology, so called gay marriages and civil unions are contrary to God’s plan, morally objectionable, and an unacceptable substitute for marriage.
By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC
Vatluru – During the months of May and June people in Andhra Pradesh begin to think of weddings. They are often arranged marriages; events in the family where a lot of money is spent. Many were not getting married because they were lacking in finances. Following local customs, many ceremonies are included which all the relatives attend. A blessing with rice and yellow power turmeric is common here and gifts are exchanged. Let us pray for the unity of families and for successful married life.
By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC
In a landmark document, Pope Francis has called for the Catholic Church to revamp its response to modern family life, striking a delicate balance between a more accepting tone towards homosexual people and the defense of traditional church teachings on issues such as abortion.
In the document entitled The Joy of Love, Pope Francis outlined his vision for the church on family issues, urging priests to respond to their communities without mercilessly enforcing church rules. He wrote, “Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs”.
The apostolic exhortation concludes a two-year consultation that saw bishops gather twice in Rome to debate issues affecting the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
In comments likely to be welcomed by some organizations, Francis urged the church to “reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while every sign of unjust discrimination is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence.”
But the pope stopped short of pushing for a change in church doctrine. Same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage. Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives.
Following lengthy debate about the role in the church for remarried divorcees, who are not allowed to take Holy Communion, Francis did not call for the rules to be changed but said such parishioners must be made to feel part of the church. They should not be confined into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment. Divorce was described as an evil that priests should help Catholics avoid, while being understanding towards those whose marriages have broken down.
This document shows something has changed in the church discourse. Pope Francis speaks about families with a clarity that is not easy to find in the magisterial documents of the church. In an era of global crisis in which families often suffer, the exhortation takes a positive look at the beauty of married love and the family.
The broader document saw Pope Francis recognize the Catholic Church’s waning appeal to young people, urging churchmen to present a more appealing view of marriage. I think of St. Valentine’s Day. In some countries, commercial interests are quicker to see the potential of this celebration than the leaders of the church. When I was a kid in Sicily, I used to bring flowers to all the girls of the neighborhood, whether I liked them or not. It was just a sign of respect and admiration
The Pope also dedicated two pages to the erotic dimension of love within marriage, promoting a positive vision of sexuality which must be seen as a gift from God that enriches the relationship of the spouses.
The Pope voiced the Church’s opposition to abortion in all circumstances. No alleged right to one’s own body can justify a decision to terminate that life. He also showed no opening towards fertility treatment, describing creation as something which must be received as a gift and suggested infertile couples to adopt babies or children who need parents.
Much hurt and many problems result when we stop looking at one another, listing a string of common complains of family members feeling invisible or uncared for. Technology affects relationships, such as when people stay on their mobile phones during meal times. The fast pace of the online world is impacting people’s approach to relationships. They believe, along the lines of social networks, that love can be connected or disconnected at the whim of the consumer, and the relationship quickly blocked.
Dear Confreres, we were loved even before our parents dreamed of us. This love fills us with joy. The joy of being loved by God, family and friends. The joy of belonging to a Church that accompanies us with the Sacraments from birth to death. The joy of one day being called by God and seeing Him face to face as He is and do the same with our beloved who have gone ahead of us or will join us later on. Sometimes joy is mixed with tears: in this way we imitate Christ who suffered, died and rose from the dead to restore our real joy. In this beautiful month of May, I pray that we all experience the joy of love while pondering how much we love and how much we are loved whether it is human love or divine love.
Saigon – Mr. Thai lost 60% of his eye sight and Miss Loan has a problem with one of her legs. Both of them came to the shelter home because no one in their family would care for them. Mr. Thai is 35 and Miss Loan is 39 years old and they both are from different provinces. They fell in love over a year ago and expressed to the director, Br. Ngoc, their desire to get married. Br. Ngoc got permission from the local parish priest and made the arrangements. Fr. Felicks blessed the marriage; and Fr. Thuan, a Redemptorist, brought a choir to make the function grand. Some generous people helped to provide a small party. The vibration of Christ’s love moved everyone as they wished the couple well. “God is nothing but love,” for they thought everything was lost when they were thrown from their homes, but God has given them a new life. May He bless this very poor new couple with richness of love in their hearts every moment as they journey through their married life.
Cuddalore – Two souls are joined and a history is begun as in the life of Mr. John Bosco and Irudhya Marry, our Benefactors, who celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary February 4th at St. Joseph Seminary. The couple brought their family members to celebrate this important event with the boys from Don Guanella Boys Home and brothers from the seminary. The Eucharist was celebrated by Fr. Sebastian for the intentions of the couple. During Mass, they renewed their marital vows and exchanged garlands and rings as a token of their love and loyalty for one another and God. After Mass, a program honoring the couple was presented by the Cuddalore community; dinner was provided for all by Mr. John Bosco.