"If anything is marriage, nothing is marriage…"

"If anything is marriage, nothing is marriage…" June 30, 2011

“We ought to care that traditional marriage is in crisis. It is clear that children thrive best under the care of a mother and a father, and that removing this fixture from our culture is devastating to children and to our culture.  If we do not fix marriage and family, we are doomed.

Legislators defining marriage out of existence is going to make any restoration of it quite difficult. Some may argue that the phrase “defining marriage out of existence”  is too strong, and that judges and legislators are merely widening its scope. But at some point, if anything is marriage, nothing is marriage.

This juggernaut will not stop. The polygamists are next (just google polygamy and see that the steam is building). After them come the incest crowd and other odd combinations.  And there will be little legal basis to resist them. And in a secular culture that has lost any basis to morally reason, or determine right from wrong, who among the secularists will be able to say “nay?” Yes, in the end, if anything is marriage, nothing is marriage…”

— Msgr. Charles Pope

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24 responses to “"If anything is marriage, nothing is marriage…"”

  1. Well put. Reminds me of Mother Theresa’s stark but accurate comment: if abortion is not wrong, nothing is wrong.

  2. In my opinion, we can talk about this until the cow’s come home. There is a crisis in “traditional” marriages (between a man and woman, can’t believe we have to qualify this nowadays). The rate of shacking up, divorce, and broken homes is atrocious.

    That is a bigger crisis, and I think that the cavalier attitude about marriage for traditional couples was the start to this whole mess.

    When anyone is going to state that marriage is in crisis, I think it is important to start out by saying that the crisis began in traditional marriage and moved out from there.

    The solution to this problem is fixing traditional marriages first. The rest can only come after that crisis has been addressed.

  3. The Monsignor in that piece quotes the Robert George interview. I read that interview this morning. It’s an absolutely must read. And so is Maggie Ghallager’s Wall Street Journal piece today. Must reads all.

    The anger in me over this law has not quieted with the week’s passage. I am now committed to defeating the four Republicans who voted for this law, and even Dean Skellos, the Republican Senate majority leader who allowed the law to be voted on. This was a disgrace all around. It’s one thing for a fake catholic like Andrew Cuomo to support it. It’s practically Judas-like for these republicans who actually ran opposing this and then betrayed their constituents.

    The National Organization for Marriage has not been on my politidcal contribution list, but it will be now. This has become almost as big as abortion for me.

  4. In some people’s minds, I’m sure Monsignor Pope will be lumped with the “haters” who are allegedly trying to keep their differently-clued neighbors down. But he makes it very clear why the demise of real marriage is a tragedy for those who are truly committed to the welfare of people in need. After citing Robert George on the harm the loss of a culture of mariage does to the poor, Msgr. Pope adds this note:

    “I have personally experienced what he is describing about the poor being the first to be hit with the effects. Having lived, as I did, in the one of the poorest sections of Washington DC, the breakdown of marriage and its effects were very clear.”

    It is dismaying and frightening to see what happens to communities where children are no longer raised in households with both a father and a mother, like the majority of children who grow up in DC. The “expansion” of marriage to the gay community there trivializes their suffering.

  5. I agree that the breakdown in marriage has terrible effect throughout society. But I have seen no evidence that gay relationships are the cause of this breakdown. And as far as I can see all reliable studies (they are few and far between) show that children raised in dedicated same-sex relationships do as well or better than children raised in heterosexual relationships.

    I am beginning to suspect that same-sex marriage is being used as a scape goat so that our spiritual leaders can escape responsibility for what has happened in marriage.

    I think that if the time and money spent on fighting same-sex marriage had been spent supporting and helping traditional marriage we might not see such a disaster. It seems that the Church has become an organization that fights what it doesn’t like, but fails to promote what is good.

    Mike L

  6. Mike L,

    If marriage can mean anything then it means nothing. That’s a great phrase that truly sums things up.

    I believe studies show children raised by homosexual parents are more likely to become homosexual themselves, but I don’t have a citation at hand. At any rate, in the archdiocese of Boston at the time Catholic Charities was forced out of the adoption business, Cardinal O’Malley said adoption of children by gay couples constituted violence against children, depriving them of a chance of having two parents and putting them into an environment dangerous to their souls.

    At any rate, it’s known that the homosexual population has higher rates of mental and physical illness, and homosexual men certainly have a shorter life expectancy than average. That cannot be healthful for family life.

  7. There is no such thing as ‘gay marriage’, what you have is two men or women pretending they are married so that they can justify performing whatever acts they posit as marital relation. In the case of men sodomy, in the case of women am not sure, certainly not natural life giving union. To equate that charade with marriage is a great evil.

  8. Mike L, gay relationships are not the CAUSE of family breakdown in America. However, as Msgr. Pope explains very clearly (to all but the heavily agendized), recognizing gay relationships as the equivalent of real marriage is a sign that we have simply given up on saving marriage. Will young people read this sign and act on it? If they sit through enough “Who’s to say what’s right?” discussions in public school, I think the point will be clear enough.

  9. “If marriage can mean anything then it means nothing.” It is a great phrase, but like many great phrases its meaning is something questionable. The understanding of what marriage is varies throughout the world enough that given that statement I would have to agree that it means nothing.

    In fact, the state decides who can get married and controls that with the requirement for a marriage license. Just try getting married without that license. I do understand that there are ways in which you can enter into the sacrament so that the Church might recognize your relationship, but the state will not.

    Chris, I have not seen any results that say children raised by homosexuals are more likely to become such. In fact the few studies I have seen show that there is no difference. The Vatican’s statement that Cardinal O’Malley quoted is not the result of any study.

    Further, if the problem is not having a mother and a father, then there are a lot more of us at risk from having lost a father to warfare then there ever will be from homosexual parents. I also agree with Dan S., until the Church finds a way of supporting traditional marriage and making it more desirable the problem will not go away. Attack same-sex marriage is a red herring.

    Mike L

    I am diabetic, that means I have a shorter life expectancy, does that mean I should get married or have children???

    Ron, “(to all but the heavily agendized”. Ah so anyone who disagrees with you are heavily agendized and not to be listened to? Does the same apply to you? How much of an argument will you put up against divorce and remarriage?

    I would really like to hear some solid arguments against same-sex marriages rather than just opinions.

  10. . . . Ah so anyone who disagrees with you are heavily agendized . . .

    This is a Catholic blog. Insofar as there is an agenda here, it ought to be reflective of Church teaching. In its magisterial documents, the Church does not contend that gay relationships are the cause of heterosexual family breakdown, nor does Msgr. Pope make that claim in the article posted here. To say so is to miss the point of his argument and of the Church’s warnings about the dangers of redefining marriage in the way NY has done.

    Not only that, but the claim is not original with you. It is often found right alongside the assertion that those who oppose gay marriage are “haters” and/or religious fanatics, as in “Those fundie haters make it sound like we’re causing all the problems they have with their marriages.” It’s part of an agenda, and the agenda is not a Catholic one.

  11. Interestingly, David Frum (hardly “heavily agendized”), who used to make many of the same arguments against same-sex marriage, has changed his mind:

    Since 1997, same-sex marriage has evolved from talk to fact.

    If people like me had been right, we should have seen the American family become radically more unstable over the subsequent decade and a half.

    Instead — while American family stability has continued to deteriorate — it has deteriorated much more slowly than it did in the 1970s and 1980s before same-sex marriage was ever seriously thought of.

    By the numbers, in fact, the 2000s were the least bad decade for American family stability since the fabled 1950s. And when you take a closer look at the American family, the facts have become even tougher for the anti-gay marriage position.

    Full article avaliable at http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/06/27/frum.gay.marriage/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

    Shorter version: there is no empirical, factual evidence that any adverse effects accrue from allowing people of the same sex to marry one another.

  12. Makarios, David Frum is the “house conservative” for the New York Times. On this topic at least, that suggests to me that his agenda is radically different from that of the Catholic Church.

    Frum left National Review as his positions on issues like this “evolved” in directions compatible with those of his editors at the Times, who no doubt think the argument you cited here (a variant of the one about “the morning after the NY vote, the sun is still shining”) makes perfect sense.

    In reality, America generally resisted efforts to redefine marriage during the period Frum discusses, even to the point of passing constitutional amendments forbidding it. Meanwhile, countries with an actual history of redefined marriage have seen a decline in real marriage, as Frum’s former NR colleague Stanley Kurtz points out here:


  13. Mike L,

    Here is one study and it’s to be published in November:

    This seems like a common-sense finding. There is no universal agreement on this, of course.

    Another interesting article was in Newsweek:
    It’s interesting because it discusses the notion that many gay couples who adopt children from other countries do so in a way to sidestep those countries rules against same-sex adoption. In other words, these couples employ deceit to obtain their children.

  14. Cris, thank you for the URL’s of those articles, I read them with interest as well as some of the comments to them. The first one is most interesting and might point to an answer as to whether or not homosexuality is hardwired or learned. There is an implication in the study that all of the children were adopted, which would mean that genetics played no part in the result. I wonder if this was true.

    The Times article was also interesting. Countries often apply special conditions for foreign adoption. Many only allow the adoption of mentally or physically handicapted Children. I also wonder how this squares with Britian’s requirement for “non-discrimination”.

    I also think this article has a mistake. I believe that Catholic organizations can refuse same-sex parents, but only if they are not supported by state funds. I find that a lot of programs are being dropped, not because the law forces them out, but because they are not willing to spend money not provided by the state. A truly sad state of affairs.

    Mike L

  15. Mike L said:
    “I also think this article has a mistake. I believe that Catholic organizations can refuse same-sex parents, but only if they are not supported by state funds. I find that a lot of programs are being dropped, not because the law forces them out, but because they are not willing to spend money not provided by the state.”

    You may not be aware that most Catholic adoption agencies receive state funds because they are helping foster children find adoptive parents. Foster children are the state’s responsibility and it is entirely appropriate that state funds should be used to help them.

    I object to the laws preventing Catholic adoption agencies from doing their job as they see fit because they have done a remarkably good job and society will be much worse off without them. They do not have to be the only agencies out there. There is nothing stopping secular or other religious affiliated agencies who are willing to let same sex couples adopt. Same sex couples can always find agencies (or private lawyers) to fit their needs and it should not be a requirement that EVERY agency has to accept them.

  16. Chris @ 14:

    The Schumm “study” reported in the CNA link has been thoroughly debunked. Example: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wayne-besen/dangerous-new-antigay-sha_b_767507.html

    It flies flatly in the face of actual research, which you can look up for yourself.

    momor @ 16:

    Are there laws that prevent Catholic adoption agencies from doing their job? As Mike L @ 15 suggested, Catholic adoption agencies can be as discriminatory as they like, but they can’t discriminate on the taxpayers’ dime. As a taxpayer, that seems fair enough to me.

  17. I’m not sure I take the Huffington Post as credible on this issue. The article itself seems light on facts/stats. “Box Turtle”? Actual research means… anything?

  18. Traditional marriage was in trouble once the “you can have it all” materialism of the late 70’s and 80’s took hold. Couples needed the income of two workers to sustain the Master Card/Visa lifestyle, and the stay at home mom became an endangered species. Add in the effects of broadened divorce laws, the pill and a slow decline in religious practice. Other factors could also be named. This was long before the issue at hand.

    By any fair-minded measure, the lesbian couple living three blocks over is very far down the list of blame if marriages fail on my block. Moreover, the upper-classes and titled aristocrats always made their own rules on marriage with concubines and royal mistresses aplenty. Your church’s hierarchy almost never excommunicated them (Even Henry VIII wasn’t excommunicated for divorcing Catherine but for other reasons). Some of this “blame the gays” seems very similar to the abominable “blame the Jew” rhetoric of your church’s earlier history. It is equally bigoted and offensive. It also neatly allows clergy to avoid ticking off hetero parishioners by blame transferal to an easily despised group.

  19. Jack B Nimble

    The argument that marriages of men and women will fail as a direct result of calling same-s*x relationships “marriages” is not the point the opponents of same-s*x marriage make. It is a “straw man,” and when you demolish it, you are not refuting your opponents’ position, which is far more subtle and complex. The point is that same-s*x marriage can only be entertained based on a misunderstanding of what the fullness of marriage is — including the aptitude for procreation which only opposite-s*x couples possess — and the importance of that aptitude for procreation as a reason for society to recognize marriages and to encourage them. But when society, by redefining marriage to allow same-s*x relationships to be called by the same name, it is teaching all couples that procreation is not even one of the purposes of marriage. It thereby devalues the marriages of heterosexuals, and takes the degradation one step further along the path which previously included the step of no-fault divorce.

    The long-term effects of this particular step, of course can’t be precisely known, but one can’t airily wave away the suggestion that this further devaluation of the meaning of marriage will strengthen the trend of past decades for people to refrain from marriage, which will tend to lead to depopulation as well as to increased proportions of single-parent households.

    No, the condition of marriage has not been perfect up to now, and same-s*x marriage will not make existing heterosexual marriages automatically collapse. But it’s still a step in the wrong direction for society, one made possible because of previous missteps.

    (* — fooling the spam filter)

  20. #20
    Sir or Madam, there is nothing “subtle” or “complex” about scapegoating. Suggesting that a development of very recent origin (same-gender marriage) is some sort of tipping point for a legal and/or sacramental relationship already on life support is simply nonsense. At best it’s an unverifiable assertion since it’s far too soon to judge the effect. But let’s not be naive. There’s another agenda at play here and marriage is simply the excuse to bash that community, raise political donations, and play the hot-button social issues card.

    It’s a lot harder to actually address the problems that trouble traditional marriages ( traditional marriages make up 98 percent of married couples). That would require priests/ministers/rabbis to tell hard truths from the pulpit or bima. Best not to risk the damage to the pledge and plate collection. Cowardice/laziness in addressing the issues when scapegoating is so easy.

  21. Chris @ 18, I don’t consider the Catholic News Agency to be credible, so I suppose we’re even.

    Jack B., you’re spot-on in all of your observations. In a larger sense, however, the issue is moot. By the time that our children are the age that we are now, marriage equality will be in place from sea to sea, and people will wonder what the fuss was all about.

    Something to think about:

    In fact, rank-and-file Catholics are generally more supportive of legal recognitions of same-s*x relationships than Americans overall. A May 2011 survey by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found 56 percent of Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian people to marry, compared to 51 percent in the general population. These numbers are not anomalies. Survey after survey show majority support for legal recognition of same-s*x relationships among Catholics. A March 2011 ABC/Washington Post poll found 60 percent of Catholics support marriage for same-s*x couples, compared to 53 percent of the general population. A January 2011 Quinnipiac University survey found 52 percent of New York Catholic voters support allowing same-s*x couples to marry, compared to 56 percent of all New York voters.

    That’s from the Washington Post, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/figuring-faith/post/elected-officials-catholic-dilemma-on-same-sex-marriage/2011/06/30/AGOMgtsH_blog.html

    Presumably Chris will not consider this a credible source either. Oh, well. . . .

  22. Makarios,

    The study cited in the CNA article is to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. But that’s not the point. The point is that you are here on a Catholic blog to debunk Catholic beliefs to the best of your ability, and to argue, argue, argue. You ignore human history, tradition, natural law and moral law. You refuse to accept any standards except your own feelings. What fuels this? Why spend Friday nights at home writing missives to a blog that represents a religion you reject and despise? I suspect it’s because in your heart you know the Truth, and you reject that.

  23. Good point Chris. I think most of the naysayers on Catholic blogs and forums know deep down something is missing in their understanding and they are hoping to be convinced of the Truth even as they argue against it. A true atheist or believer in other ‘truths’ has no need to go looking for a fight.

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