Sunday, January 25, 2009

Smith's Clarity of Mind - Service to the Church: Facientes Veritatem in Charitate (Eph. 4, 15)

Smith was asked this question in HPR, January 2004:

Is Same Sex Union "Marriage"?

“Same-sex union is not `marriage’ and should not be called such. The present Code of Canon Law correctly defines marriage as a `matrimonial covenant’ by which `a man and woman’ establish a partnership of their whole life which of its nature is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children (cf. Canon 1055, #1 and also CCC, #2362).

“Obviously, same-sex union has nothing to do with procreation; same-sex human procreation is a physical and human impossibility.

“Similarly, same-sex union is not truly unitive sex `ordered to the well-being of the spouses’ (here partners) because the exercise of sexuality here is not a `gift of self’ to the other but rather and simply masturbatory sex, a gift (if you will) of self to same self. Thus, the use of words here; `love’ (love that is not marital) or `lovers’ is quite misleading and simply not true.

“Same-sex expression – be it oral, anal or manual – is not and cannot be marital love since the complementary unitive dimension of human sexuality is absent. Masturbatory sex is not self-giving. It is, perhaps, self-getting and, in truth, it is self-indulgent lust. Galatians 5, 24 is addressed to all Christians: `How those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passion and desires’ (cum vitiis et concupiscentiis in the Vulgate).

“Now, either St. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has it right or, the whole of Christian tradition has it wrong. Masturbatory sex is not truly unitive nor is it at all procreative and that is what the Catechism teaches about Chastity and Homosexuality (CCC, #2357).

“This fundamental teaching of the Church `is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning’ (Humanae Vitae [1968] n. 12; cf. CCC, #2366).

“This unitive-procreative connection is the very meaning of human sexuality. Every misuse of human sexuality somehow tries, most often artificially, to separate and/or suppress one of these goods allegedly for the sake of the other. Artificial reproduction separates the unitive good for the procreative; whereas, contraception and sterilization chemically suppress or surgically remove the procreative good for the unitive. However, masturbation is neither unitive nor procreative and thus can never be marital. Any love that does not transcend itself is not worthy of the name love.

“To advance legal claims, legal benefits or arrangements to make same-sex unions supposedly stable does not change in nature or reality what this activity is. It is what it is; indeed, it cannot help but be what it is, and surely it is not marital!”[1]

[1] Homiletic & Pastoral Review January 2004, 62.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Some feeble attempts to fill in some blanks.

What is involved here is the very development that took place in and after Vatican II. Before Vatican II, the Church was working with a nature-based ethic to explain morality, sexual and social. When working with “nature,” which is an abstraction of “person,” one works with ends. In the case of sexual ethics, the terms of explanation were “ends.” For matrimony, the moral account was primary and secondary ends: the primary was the procreation of children; the secondary was mutual love. After GS “48, the Church moved from an objectivized explanation by ends to the ontological subject who “found self by the sincere gift of self” (GS #24). It was not that “ends” was false, but ends leaves out the existential and ontological subject, the “I.” And the dynamic of the “I” as imaging the Trinitarian “I’s” is relationality.

Hence, instead of children as the primary “end” of matrimony, it is the “gift of self” as tending toward the procreation of children. This seems to open the door to a possible interpretation of matrimony where any two persons, say, of homosexual orientation could fill the bill, now that children are not primary, and the union of homosexuals is necessarily sterile. But the terms of understanding the reality matrimony are much deeper now. Those terms are the “person,” the “I.” Persons of homosexual orientation simply cannot make the gift of self to the other, because as enfleshed persons they are not capable of self-gift as donation or reception. Since the body is the person – and only a Gnostic abstractionism will hold to the contrary – the genital complementarity of male and female make them the only suitable protagonists of the one flesh union that is proper to spousal union. Only this squares with the experience of history, with the peace and health of societies, and with the Judeo-Christian revelation. And even deeper. Only this squares with the subjective experience of men and women. The experience of falling in love as only a male and female can “fall in love,” always speaks the language of the gift that is the language of life, both in themselves and open to the child.

The point on which our discussion turns – I think – is whether there can be such a thing as a “valid” gay marriage where the protagonists have the intention of making the gift of self to each other as homosexuals

. The Church understands marital or “conjugal” union as reciprocal and complementary self-gift in the flesh which must be open to the procreation of children. The reciprocal and complementary in-flesh exercise of self-gift is called “consummation.” If a couple has not “consummated” the marriage which is valid without it, is nevertheless annullable by the Roman Pontiff.

Let me weigh in with Canon 1061 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law: “A valid marriage between baptized persons is said to be merely ratified, if it is not consummated; ratified and consummated, if the spouses have in a human matter engaged together in a conjugal act in itself apt for the generation of offspring: to this act marriage is by its nature ordered and by it the spouses become one flesh.”

Although it seems to indicate that a valid marriage is one that is de facto ratified and consummated (by an act in itself apt for the generation of offspring) and therefore would imply that the failure to consummate the marriage would render it invalid, the following canon (1697) reads that one of the parties – in a ratified but non-consummated marriage – can appeal to the Pope for a dispensation from the marriage, which he alone could give (Canon1698.1). Therefore, there can be a bond (ratified) of marriage without consummation, but it is breakable.

These texts in a positivistic exegesis would not preclude homosexual union as marriage, except that the meaning of 1697 and 1698 clearly indicate the ability to consummate marriage in a one flesh union demands genital complementarity.

The Texts:
Canon 1697: The parties alone, or indeed one of them even if the other is unwilling, have the right to seek the favor of a dispensation from a ratified and non­consummated marriage.
Canon 1698.1 Only the Apostolic See gives judgment on the fact of the non­consummation of a marriage and on the existence of a just reason for granting the dispensation.
Canon 1698.2 The dispensation, however, is given by the Roman Pontiff alone.

The Deeper Anthropology of Sex as Consummation:

The male and the female are not equal as similar. They are equal as dissimilar, and by “dissimilar,” I mean “relational.” They are relational as vectors pointing in opposing directions. They are equal as vectors and dissimilar as opposing vectors. They are not individual substances in-themselves but created constitutive relations imaging the pure relationality of the divine Persons. They are not pure relation in act, but a process of becoming relation as self-gift that is a work of conversion. They must exercise the freedom of mastering themselves, gaining possession of themselves so as to be able to make the gift of themselves (hence, relation) to the other, and thus to become one. Note that they are not simply “united.” They become “one” in an imaging of the Trinity of Persons.

Dietrich von Hildebrand, doing a phenomenology of the relation of spouses, wrote: “There is a widespread error, even in Catholic circles, that conjugal love is distinguished from love of friends or love of parents and children merely by its connection with the sensual sphere. Quite independent of sensuality, conjugal love in itself constitutes a completely new kind of love. It involves a unique mutual giving of oneself, which is the outstanding characteristic of this type of love. It is true that in every kind of love one gives oneself in one way or another. But here the giving is literally complete and ultimate. Not only the heart but the entire personality is given up to the other. When a man and a woman love each other in this way, they give themselves to each other at the very moment they begin to love.”

Von Hildebrand wants to argue – as did John Paul II – that the marriage act is not “for” the procreation of children, but “for” the giving of the self which must always be “open” to the procreation of children. One cannot close off the openness to children because the conjugal act in the flesh (which is the very person himself and herself) must be the gift of the whole self (soul and body). The deep reason for that is the reality that divine Persons as Act-Relations are Love, and that Love is their very Life. Love and Life cannot be separated in God , the Prototype, nor in us, the images. Hence, for us, love-making cannot be separated from life-giving. It contradicts the very meaning of person as revealed to us by Jesus Christ.

But, the man and woman “are the only earthly beings God has willed for themselves” (Gaudium et spes #24), and therefore they cannot be used, not even by God the Creator. He has endowed them with reason and free will to decide for themselves about themselves, according to the truth of their ontological constitution as images.

But that is precisely the point. As persons in relation, heterosexual persons are called to make the complete gift of themselves to each other in spirit and body. Persons with a homosexual orientation cannot execute the total gift of self in spirit and body because the total gift of sexuality as body can neither be given nor received, and hence cannot be open to procreation, and hence not open to valid marriage as understood by the Church. The only use they can make of genital sexuality is masturbatory, which is a turning back into the self, and hence, non-imaging and non-self-fulfilling.

[1] Dietrich von Hildebrand, “Marriage, the Mystery of Fatihful Love,” Sophia Institute Press, (1984) 5.

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