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The institution of marriage

| Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Joshua Whitaker (“Keep your ‘traditional marriage,'” April 15) faults The Observer for failing to guide the debate on marriage to the legal institution of marriage, rather than Catholicism’s sweeping disregard for homosexual love.

He then goes on to offer neither a discussion of the legal institution of marriage nor of homosexual love, but rants about the problems of the Catholic view of marriage and the oppression of the gay community by society. Neither of these positions enlightens the debate nor solves the problem. As a Catholic priest, my views on marriage are shaped by Catholic teaching and by my attempts to understand the meaning of marriage as an institution.

To this end, I found the book, “What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense,” by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George most illuminating. They argue marriage has three essential elements that cannot be applied to any other situation except to the relationship between man and woman. They discuss comprehensive union of body, mind and heart, union of pursuit of common good directed at procreation and the raising of family, and a commitment to exclusivity and permanence. If Mr. Whitaker thinks about these three elements, he will find no matter how hard he trys to argue for gay and lesbian marriage, these three elements are not and cannot be present in their totality except in the relationship between a man and a woman. Furthermore, it seems the most outstanding characteristic embodied in these three elements is complementarity.

Complementarity says to me that marriage is a relationship in which two people are able to give of themselves to each other totally, and, through giving, are able to establish favorable conditions for the forming of families and the raising of children. Complementarity says there is a unity of purpose in pursuit of common goods; this unity of purpose comes as a result of both persons seeking the same thing – a shared life and the establishment of a family.

As a priest, I live in a community of religious life whose members vow poverty, obedience and chastity. Aside from these vows, it is rather difficult to get a group of men to live together with a common purpose and a truly shared life. Really sharing in all responsibilities and decisions on an equal level seems possible only between a man and a woman bound together in marriage.

And in a complementary relationship there is a desire and likelihood for a permanent and exclusive relationship. Sometimes these relationships end in divorce, but where there is genuine mutuality in the relationship, the possibility of permanence and exclusivity is present.

This is not to say relationships of two men and two women cannot be valid relationships in and of themselves and open to the same legal process as marriages are. It is just to equate them to marriage, and to demand this right equally for all relationships seems to be somewhat far-fetched and liable to destroy what society has for ages regarded as a bedrock for the formation of good society.

Rev. David Kashangaki, C.S.C.


Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House, Indianapolis

April 29