I think it a waste of time to fight the institutionalization of homosexual unions. That is the clear direction that this society is moving in, and while in many ways that is tragic, and a mark of how far our culture has strayed from its Christian heritage, in other ways it is not all bad. Surely it is better for both the individuals involved and for the common good for same-sex couples to live in some sort of recognized, faithful and loving relationship than for them to live their lives in secrecy, furtively pursuing promiscuous encounters. And I don’t have a problem with legal rights attending these unions, even ones similar or identical to spousal rights. One need not admit the morality of their acts to recognize that certain rights adhere in humans, merely as humans. Nor to recognize, as the Church does, that even in an objectively disordered relationship there can exist human goods: affection, mutual support, fidelity.
Just don’t call it marriage.
Marriage is by nature a life-giving sacramental union between one man and one woman. There can never be such a thing as “gay marriage”.
But that is what civil society is going to call it, no matter how we protest. That can be traced to the Protestant roots of the United States: Protestantism views marriage not as a sacrament, a spiritual mystery, but as a contract. If it is a merely human construct, why limit it to heterosexuals?
So what to do?
It is time for the Christian Churches and other faith communities to disengage from civil society. The Churches should cease requiring civil marriage licenses for Church weddings. This would emphatically communicate that the State has no authority concerning marriage with the Churches. Marriage would be clearly seen as an ecclesial reality, not a civil one. There would clearly exist two kinds of “marriage”, civil and religious, and never the twain shall meet.
And really, isn’t it time for the Churches to disengage in other ways from civil society? I think of that photo recently of Cardinal Dolan, yukking it up with Obama and Romney at the Alfred Smith Dinner, and it just seemed so…wrong.
It is really time to disengage.