The Fight for Traditional Marriage Isn’t Over

During the Season of Advent, as we approach the celebration of the Nativity of Our Savior, we should stop to consider that “the first witnesses of Christ’s birth, the shepherds, found themselves not only before the Infant Jesus but also before a small family: mother, father and newborn Son. God had chosen to reveal himself by being born into a human family and the human family thus became an icon of God!” So were the words of Benedict XVI in 2009, recalling as he later did that just as

the Church… is called to be the image of One God in Three Persons [Father, Son and Holy Spirit], so too is the family, which is based on marriage between man and woman. “In the beginning, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ (Gen 1:27-28).” God created us male and female, equal in dignity, but also with respective and complementary characteristics, so that the two might be a gift for each other, might value each other and might bring into being a community of love and life. It is love that makes the human person the authentic image of the Blessed Trinity, image of God.

Unfortunately, the indissolubility and unity of marriage that can only exist between male and female—with the end of having and raising children—are being threatened, perhaps even to the point of extinction. Part of this is because of the LGBT and environmental movements (and the politicians who support them); the former has redefined marriage, while the latter is seeking to strip away its fruition.

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The pretense of the state deeming same-sex “marriage” a human right is what has ultimately misled so many—both homosexuals and heterosexuals—into believing that such legalized unions are equal to those between a man and a woman, and that therefore they must be equally protected under law; the rationale is that if two consenting adults love each other, they have a right to contract a marriage. Some emperors, for example, had male lovers and yet they had no intention of marrying them—and some of them even wedded in order to procreate!

First and foremost, love in itself does not give one the juridical right to marry—under the same argument, a man can file for divorce if he wakes up one day and no longer loves his wife.  Naturally, without the mutual love between man and woman marriage would be more of a union of convenience. Yet marriage, as explained by canon 1055 §1 of the Code of Canon Law, is a “covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring,” with the understanding that its properties “are unity and indissolubility” (canon 1056). Contextually speaking, what gives me as a male the natural right to marry a woman is the existence of a mutual understanding and acceptance of the matrimonial obligations between us (providing I am not bound by a vow to a religious institution or to another woman, and vice versa). This right must not only be protected but promoted by the state; it cannot be infringed upon or altered. Regrettably, because marriage has been redefined by most Western legislatures and judicial bodies, two people of the same sex can now contract a “marriage.”

Let us keep in mind that while the state may proclaim same-sex unions as a human right, that does not make it so. As Catholics, we know that human rights—if the phrase is to have any meaning at all—are the same as natural rights.. Natural rights are distinct in that they are permanent and continuous since they are grounded in nature. What the world calls “human rights,” however, can be arbitrary and revocable, for they are not always rooted in nature.

The Creator designed sexual intimacy solely and exclusively to exist in the union of man and woman with the end of generating the human species. God said, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). The natural structure of human sexuality makes man and woman complementary partners for the transmission of human life. This is why only a union of male and female can express the sexual complementarity willed by God for marriage.

The other misguided idea being used against the family, as notable Democrat politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have suggested, is that couples should stop having children altogether in order to save the planet—as if we need to abolish child-rearing in order to meet the environmental challenges of our time.

As Gracy Olmstead wrote recently in The New York Times, “the act of creation is opposed to the act of consumption,” and the practice of raising children helps to inculcate the virtues needed to be good stewards of the environment. Moreover, practicing conservation is a tradition that must be handed down from generation to generation. The best way to ensure that future generations care about the climate is for people who care about the climate to have children. If anything, in our self-indulgent Instagram and throwaway culture, society should be promoting family formation instead of opposing it.

Incidentally, this last idea has only further encouraged the artificial contraceptive and abortion mentality in which the sexual act between man and woman no longer aims to procreate. Instead, the couple seeks only a carnal gratification, indirectly helping annihilate our future generations. Like Herod who believed but refused to accept the newborn king and then ordered the killing of every male child under the age of two—with the hope of killing the Christ child (Matthew 2: 16-18)—we tend to eliminate anything or anyone that invites us to live out the fullness of the covenant God created between man and woman.

What is to be done about this? How can we reinvigorate the traditional concept of the family, which is the foundation of civilization?

As John A. Burtka IV executive director of The American Conservative stated, it is time for Republicans to think anew about the family. For the past thirty years, a conscious decision was made to prioritize financialization, cronyism, and globalization over social cohesion and broad prosperity. If conservatives believe that the family is the foundation for a healthy civilization, it is time that they protect the institution from external forces unleashed not by creativity but by deliberate policy choices promoted by elites on Wall Street and in our nation’s capital.

This, however, will only go so far. Yes, the state needs to promote and safeguard the notion that marriage can only be between male and female for the procreation and formation of progeny. Ultimately, it is not human law that will change people’s minds on this but the natural law, which is the divine precept written in the human heart.

Let us not forget that when we contemplate the Nativity of Our Lord, we must also contemplate the Holy Family. How can this be accomplished? Benedict XVI answered, “Today more than ever, the Christian family has a very noble mission that it cannot shirk: the transmission of the faith, which involves the gift of self to Jesus Christ who died and rose, and insertion into the Ecclesial Community. Parents are the first evangelizers of children, a precious gift from the Creator (cf. Gaudium et Spes n. 50), and begin by teaching them to say their first prayers. In this way a moral universe is built up, rooted in the will of God, where the child grows in the human and Christian values that give life its full meaning.”

Photo credit: Shutterstock


  • Fr. Mario Alexis Portella

    Fr. Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He was born in New York and holds a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. He is the author of Islam: Religion of Peace?—The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up (Westbow Press, 2018).

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