By Mark Tooley @markdtooley
We Protestants and Evangelicals often could learn a lot from Catholic prelates addressing public policy issues relating to marriage and life. Certainly it is true for Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s Washington Post column yesterday reacting to the Supreme Court marriage rulings. His arguments are tightly succinct. Here is one quote.
Marriage is the word used in many translations across human history to signify the permanent, faithful and fruitful union of one man and one woman. It is the only institution that brings a man and a woman together in a partnership for life directed toward their mutual support and the generation and education of children. This is a human community that predates government. Its meaning is something to be recognized and protected, not reconstructed. Its simplicity is compelling. Its significance, both personal and public, is immeasurable. What promise between two people holds the same weight and consequence as that of a man and a woman who give themselves to each other for life with a view toward creating new life so that humanity might continue?
Marriage goes to the nature of the human person. Even if individual men and women are unable to have children for some reason, still it is the nature of man and woman to complement each other in such a way that is fruitful and capable of children. Two persons of the same sex, on the other hand, can never have children by the very nature of such a union.
No matter what a court, legislator, president or voter may claim to the contrary, the essence of marriage cannot be redefined. Its meaning is intrinsic, grounded in human nature and discoverable by human reason with or without the aid of faith. A culture based on the truth of marriage affirms that men and women are equally important, that they have equal dignity but are not the same. The recognition of the difference between a man and a woman is neither discrimination nor bigotry. It is a statement of reality, of fact.
Cardinal Wuerl concluded:
Far from settling the debate over the meaning of marriage, the Supreme Court decisions have simply reminded all of us that there is a great difference between what a law can decree and what God has created.
The Archbishop of Washington, DC didn’t quote the Bible but essentially relied on natural law. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, in his response to the court ruling on behalf of the Catholic bishops, did cite scripture, including Jesus’ defense of “an unpopular truth that everyone could understand,” which in secular modernity now includes the definition of marriage. Read it here.
Recently writer Rod Dreher, who’s Eastern Orthodox, warned that same sex marriage “signifies the final triumph of the Sexual Revolution and the dethroning of Christianity because it denies the core concept of Christian anthropology,” premised on the “divinely sanctioned union of male and female [as] an icon of the relationship of Christ to His church and ultimately of God to His creation.” He wondered if “our modern concept of human rights and other fundamental goods of modernity” based on a “Christian cosmology” can survive. He also wrote:
Too many…think that same-sex marriage is merely a question of sexual ethics. They fail to see that gay marriage, and the concomitant collapse of marriage among poor and working-class heterosexuals, makes perfect sense given the autonomous individualism sacralized by modernity and embraced by contemporary culture—indeed, by many who call themselves Christians.
Defending a Christian cosmology, and deploying natural law, sometimes seem beyond the comfortable range of even many of the best orthodox Protestant and Evangelical thinkers. Of course, liberal Protestants fully embrace “autonomous individualism” and whatever it brings. And squishy neo-orthodox Protestants, typically devotees of Karl Barth, often reject or minimize natural law, full scriptural authority, and the robust witness of the universal church, leaving them few tools to withstand the prevailing zeitgeist.
The battles ahead, political, cultural and spiritual, hopefully will refine the voices of the best minds, Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical, on behalf of Christian cosmology and reasoned order.