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Preserving Church and U.S. law

Lauren Galgano | Monday, November 24, 2003

In his Nov. 20 letter, “A Call for Equality,” Lucas Sayre made several assertions defending the rights of gay marriage as a civil institution. However, Mr. Sayre failed to realize how his opinion is not only literally contrary to the laws of this country, but also to the very nature of our laws.Like it or not, the United States was founded on a combination of natural law described by Enlightenment thought and the Judeo-Christian belief system. Thus, the nature of our laws, stemming from freedom of the individual with the realization of responsibility toward the common good, can be best illuminated by these two philosophies. With regards to marriage, then, we most clearly understand why our laws define marriage as they do by understanding the union between two people as the Founding Fathers understood it.Marriage is a partnership valued as a life-long commitment, which is ordered toward the good of both the spouses and the procreation and education of children. (If you are Catholic, and most of you reading this article are, you ought to be in accordance with this statement.) In his letter, Mr. Sayre asked for convincing evidence that homosexual marriage would endanger the sanctity of marriage itself. Clearly, no one could rationally argue that that “homosexuals are incapable of the love, respect, loyalty, honesty and other qualifications necessary for a successful and fulfilling marriage,” as Mr. Sayre suggests. Every Christian ought to know that all humans are capable of expressing these virtues because they are created in the image and likeness of God.However, attempting to live out these virtues in the context of a homosexual relationship is a manifestation of disordered affections. (To be clear, I am not suggesting that homosexuals have a disorder; I am stating that their affections, which were meant to be ordered toward the good, are disordered. There is a difference.)Moreover, the covenant of marriage goes beyond the simple practice of these virtues in a relationship. Marriage must also be open to the possibility of creating natural children, which is the key element to understanding marriage as a mirror image of God’s own love. When two are married they become “one flesh” (Eph. 5:31-32), and in this mystery where one plus one equals one, by the love of the Father, they are allowed to become three, a direct parallel to the image of the Trinity. Homosexual relations lack all physical possibility of this aspect of marriage, which would prove such a union somewhat less than completely fulfilling. I hope this brief explanation provides a starting place for Mr. Sayre and others to explore exactly why marriage must be between a man and a woman.For many, the question now becomes, “Well, maybe that’s the way Christians view marriage, but how could the United States employ this definition in light of the First Amendment Establishment Clause?” I would like to suggest that this clause may be viewed in more than one way. Popular interpretation suggests this clause protects the state from religion. The original intent, however, may have been something closer to protecting religion from interference of the state, as well. Drawing on the writings of the Founding Fathers and our nation’s history of seeking freedom from religious tyranny, our history seems to suggest that perhaps this latter interpretation is also part of the Establishment Clause. Thus, it may be incorrect to invoke the Establishment Clause at all in this debate.Instead, we should focus on the roots of how this nation came to define marriage as it does. Our laws have an inherently Christian flavor to them, which is probably why we find images of the Ten Commandments in courthouses all over the country, not just in Alabama. Undermining the values recognized in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, we are only left to question all assumptions underlying any law of the United States. For example, when is it OK to take a life? In “Roe v. Wade”, the Supreme Court acted contrary to the nature of the United States laws, and, as a result, we waited through 30 years of legislation to finally ban infanticide. Likewise, it takes a major risk by a high-powered politician to prevent a single case of euthanasia. Our laws have an underlying morality because, without a common understanding of societal standards, we have nothing on which to base any laws. In addition, I find Mr. Sayre’s delineation of conservatives as defenders of the status quo and liberals as the champions for change problematic. First, many conservatives support “radical” ideologies on a variety of current issues ranging from abortion laws to school vouchers. Secondly, the act of calling for a major change in a state-recognized institution just for the “sake of change” does not make such an act right. Perhaps on this issue conservatives are defending the status quo, but have you ever stopped to think that it might be for a well-thought-out, legitimate reason? Regarding homosexual marriage, those opposed to it are not scared of change, especially not just because it is something different; they are not homophobic. Instead, they are courageously defending what they know to be right by careful study of natural and moral law. In conclusion, please consider that Dante’s “Inferno” reserves the hottest places in Hell for those who in a time of moral crisis maintain a position of neutrality. Justice Antonin Scalia is correct; we are in the midst of a “culture war.” Recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has propelled this nation into deeper moral questioning. I would like to challenge each and every member of the Notre Dame community to decide in your hearts the correct course of action for our nation in this case, and to stand up for what you know to be right.

Lauren GalganojuniorCavanaugh HallNov. 24