Marriage & Same Sex Attraction (8)

(Frequently Asked Questions Part 8 of 11: Questions 45 to 49)

Marriage – What’s in a Name?
A Rose by Any Other Name Will Smell the Same


45. Same-sex partners now have almost all of the same social benefits of married couples; so aren’t people really just fighting over a word? What is so important about the word, “marriage”?

46. Would allowing same-sex partners to marry devalue marriage?

47. If some aspects of marriage resemble other relationships, does that mean that marriage is not distinct from other relationships?

48. What about civil unions for same-sex partners?

49. Same-sex partners take the position that creating civil unions for them would be treating them as second-class citizens. Would that be so?


 

 


 

45. SAME-SEX PARTNERS NOW HAVE ALMOST ALL OF THE SAME SOCIAL BENEFITS OF MARRIED COUPLES; SO AREN’T PEOPLE REALLY JUST FIGHTING OVER A WORD? WHAT IS SO IMPORTANT ABOUT THE WORD, “MARRIAGE”?

 

Words are important. For example, our personal names, our family names are “just words”. Words signify who and what we are and the meaning of institutions. Marriage has enormous significance because it has existed across all cultures, faiths, and political systems since recorded history. Marriage is a word that is full of history, meaning and symbolism, and one which should be kept for this unique reality.

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46. WOULD ALLOWING SAME-SEX PARTNERS TO MARRY DEVALUE MARRIAGE?

 

Granting same-sex partners the legal right to marry would change the definition of marriage so it would no longer be marriage. In essence, it would demean, in societal terms, the relationship of all heterosexual marriages, the 99% of marriages. The 99% of heterosexual married couples could no longer state their married identity with a single word “married”, but would have to include the qualifier “married to a man/woman”.

This is not about making judgments about the worth and value of individuals in different types of relationships. All human beings have inherent human dignity because they come from God and are loved by God. It is appropriate to make distinctions between marriage and other relationships because for centuries it has been and continues to be the framework through which society perpetuates itself. Statistics prove overwhelmingly that marriage is the best environment in which to raise children. As Mr Justice Pitfield said in a decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in October 2001, “The only issue is whether marriage must be made something it is not in order to embrace other relationships.”

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47. IF SOME ASPECTS OF MARRIAGE RESEMBLE OTHER RELATIONSHIPS, DOES THAT MEAN THAT MARRIAGE IS NOT DISTINCT FROM OTHER RELATIONSHIPS?

 

It is true that some common-law relationships produce children, some marriages break up, and some same-sex partners have children either from previous relationships or with the assistance of new technologies. What is important is not to fragment marriage into different components but to look at its larger purpose which is deeply rooted in our history, culture and religious traditions.

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48. WHAT ABOUT CIVIL UNIONS FOR SAME-SEX PARTNERS?

 

There are other relationships between adults that involve commitment, caring and emotional and financial interdependence, whether or not these may involve a sexual component. Should the government see fit to address their concerns through civil unions or registered partnerships, it should be done in a way that does not radically redefine marriage. Marriage must be maintained as an opposite-sex institution.

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49. SAME-SEX PARTNERS TAKE THE POSITION THAT CREATING CIVIL UNIONS FOR THEM WOULD BE TREATING THEM AS SECOND-CLASS CITIZENS. WOULD THAT BE SO?

 

Treating marriage differently is not a judgment on the worth or human dignity of individuals in different types of relationships. The distinction is made because of the generally different role that marriage has played in the perpetuation and stability of society.

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List of Abbreviations

CA – Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Centesimus Annus (1991)

CCC – Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (2000)

CDF 1986 – Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual persons (1986)

CDF 1992 – Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons (1992)

CV – Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Caritas in Veritate (2009)

CSDC – Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004)

DH – Second Vatican Council, Declaration Dignitatis Humanae (1965)

FC – Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (1982)

GS – Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes (1965)

LF – Pope John Paul II, Letter to Families (1994)

LL – USCCB, Pastoral Letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan (2009)

PP – Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio (1967)

RN – Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891)

TOB – Pope John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006). Other English versions are available online at EWTN’s website and at the Vatican website.

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Key References

The official (Magisterial) teaching of the Catholic Church on Homosexuality and Marriage is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1993) , and in three documents of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Sacrament of Matrimony
Download from link: CCC – The Sacrament of Matrimony

Catechism of the Catholic Church:  The Sixth Commandment (Especially Paragraphs 2357-2359)
Download from link: CCC – The Sixth Commandment

Declaration on Certain Questions of Sexual Ethics: (CDF, 1975)
Download from link: Declaration on Sexual Ethics

Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of the Homosexual Person (CDF, 1986):
Download from link: Pastoral Care of Homosexual persons

Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons (CDF, 2003)
Download from link: Legal Recognition of Homosexual Unions

 

In May 2015, the Catholic Bishops of Australia issued a Pastoral Letter “to all Australians” on the ‘Same-sex Marriage’ Debate, entitled “Don’t mess with Marriage”. This summarises why the Catholic Church opposes moves to broaden the legal definition of marriage to include ‘same-sex’ relationships.

A Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops of Australia to all Australians on the ‘Same-sex Marriage’ Debate
Download from link: ‘Same-sex’ Marriage Pastoral Letter

 

The following submissions by the Catholic Church in Australia to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 also elaborate on Catholic Church teaching on marriage and same-sex attraction.

Submission 113: His Eminence Cardinal George Pell AC, Archbishop of Sydney
Download from link: (PDF 4791KB)

Submission 5: Opening Statement tabled by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference at public hearing on Thursday 3 May 2012
Download from link: (PDF 1073KB)

Submission 234: Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
>Download from link: (PDF 113KB)

 

Catholic Teaching on Marriage is summarised in the following “Frequently Asked Questions” Booklet.

Marriage in the Catholic Church: Frequently Asked Questions Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life, 2006.
Download from link: Marriage in the Catholic Church

 
Other Non Catholic Church References

Regnerus, Mark: How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study. Social Science Research 41 (2012) 752–770.

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