Family, SSM, and the State

[Posted previously at Catholic Vote, Summer 2011]

For what it’s worth–and, given my level of ignorance, perhaps not much–I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the discussion and posts regarding same-sex marriage and the state of New York.

Frankly, my fellow bloggers and those responding have made a number of fine points on what is, to be sure, a delicate issue.  From the perspective of Catholic teaching as well as the Natural Law, marriage serves to promote and protect the most fundamental social unit of a society; in Catholic social teaching, the family precedes even the state or community.  Marriage, ultimately, serves the purpose of procreation.

That written, I am probably left with more questions than answers regarding this issue, even after reading the numerous posts and comments here at CatholicVote.

First, as Catholics, why do we really care–at a philosophical and theological level–what a government, be it legitimately elected or not, thinks about the issue of marriage?

Why, that is, is marriage even regarded as a political issue?  Marriage, fundamentally, is of natural and divine origin, while any given government is merely the creation of some group of persons (or, perhaps, a person) at a given time, claiming some legitimacy with longevity.

I realize there are many issues involved with homosexual unions in terms of practicality and logistics, such as a company, a school, or a voluntary association being forced by law to provide insurance benefits for partners, etc.  And, in America, according to Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, one state must recognize the legitimate acts of another through comity.

But, these are material concerns, and they will pass, just as all man-made laws and governments pass.  As St. Augustine warned, we should never attach our fortunes to a government.  Governments and politics rise and fall, but the Church remains a constant.

Second, as Roman Catholics, should we spend our time worrying about issues such as same-sex marriage when other issues–such as the continuing issue of abortion, or the fact we now are waging three simultaneous wars (none with the consent of the one war-making branch under the Constitution–Congress).  These issues are matters of life and death, and we continue each at our own peril as a culture and as a people.

Third, shouldn’t the real response come from the priests, rather than the laypersons?  A priest can, with certainty, deny the sacraments to someone involved in a situation acting counter to the spiritual health of the person, the couple, or the community.

Admittedly, my strong libertarian side is probably reacting to some of this, but I still think the best solution to cultural issues such as this is, almost always, cultural persuasion rather than legal and political coercion.  Again, the issues of abortion and war are different, as lives are at stake.

Regardless, this is meant to be a “thinking out loud” post.  Thanks for reading.

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