Abandoning the Full Meaning of Marriage

The case for Same Sex Civil Contracts for Sexual Services (SSCCSS, abbreviated as SCS and pronounced as one word, “sex”) rests on the theft of the term “marriage” in order to strip it of any reference to true marriage. No defense of real marriage can be sustained when it accepts this identity theft as definitive for both civil discourse and rational dialogue.

The central element or primary meaning of marriage is spousal love between husband and wife. It has been identified in Humanae vitae as the unitive meaning of marriage and of the conjugal act that both consummates and embodies spousal love. The teaching of Humanae vitae is itself a development explicitly based on the “new and deeper” understanding of marriage in Gaudium et spes as a mutual gift of selves on the part of husband and wife.

This central core that gives meaning to all other elements or aspects of marriage is surrendered when the burden of its defense in the public order is shifted to the right of the child to a “Mommy and Daddy,” for example. Such a shift gives the appearance of affirming the procreative meaning of the conjugal act as primary. As a matter of fact, it does not even do that. For the emphasis has shifted also from procreation—as act of subjects prior to its eventual fruition in conception—to the claims or rights of the child after it has been conceived (or, more precisely, as already born).

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Clearly, such a shift to the rights of the child in its claim on the state for legislative provision of a “Mommy and Daddy” constitutes the abandonment of a normative role in the public order of both the unitive and the procreative meanings of the conjugal act as consummation and embodiment of spousal love. All three, union, procreation and spousal love are denied any presence in the public order and displaced into the “sphere of privacy” under the rubric of morality and religion. This is confirmed by a Committee of the USCCB in the affirmation that the “contraceptive mandate” is about religious freedom, not about contraception, which has been taken off the table by the Griswold decision.

Evidently, with a twist of Kennedy’s sophistic wrist, marriage has become another experimental failure, fragmented and rejected onto the growing field of ruins, another failed experiment of evolution towards a new definition of man … and woman … both of whom have been finally liberated from the poverty of gender and the tyranny of procreation. One fragment, one element of marriage, stripped of its humanity, has been salvaged: “sex” (spelled SCS, as defined above).

The genuine development, the new and deeper understanding of marriage “in itself” as a mutual gift of selves, motivated by spousal love on the part of husband and wife, is irreducible to the rights of possible future children. The invocation of the latter neither explains nor entails the rights of the spouses with regard to each other and of both as a “unity” with regard to the broader society.

The novelty and depth of the Church’s genuine development in the personalist understanding of marriage lies in her explicit theoretical re-discovery of the gift as an essential mark of both the individual person and of every genuine human community as a communio personarum. We find a new and explicit terminology of marriage in the Second Vatican Council’s Gaudium et spes:

As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them. (#48; emphases added)

Such love, merging the human with the divine, leads the spouses to a free and mutual gift of themselves, a gift providing itself by gentle affection and by deed, such love pervades the whole of their lives: indeed by its busy generosity it grows better and grows greater. Therefore it far excels mere erotic inclination, which, selfishly pursued, soon enough fades wretchedly away. (#49; emphases added)

Marriage to be sure is not instituted solely for procreation; rather, its very nature as an unbreakable compact between persons, and the welfare of the children, both demand that the mutual love of the spouses be embodied in a rightly ordered manner, that it grow and ripen. Therefore, marriage persists as a whole manner and communion of life, and maintains its value and indissolubility, even when despite the often intense desire of the couple, offspring are lacking. (#50; emphases added)

This theoretical explicitness is itself grounded in an older pre-theoretical faith tradition, newly reformulated as a general anthropological truth in Gaudium et spes #24: the human being discovers (or finds) itself when it makes of itself a sincere (or pure) gift to another person.

Such development of doctrine should not be sacrificed to the gods of pluralism … or to SCOTUS.


  • Damian P. Fedoryka

    Damian P. Fedoryka is currently active at the Center for Personalistic Anthropology and Ethics in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He has taught philosophy at Ave Maria College and at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He also served as president of Christendom College. Dr. Fedoryka holds degrees from the University of Louvain, Fordham University and the University of Salzburg.

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