ProLife & Family Issues

A primer on Church teaching regarding ‘same-sex marriage’

by Dr. Edward Peters

STEVE RAY’S INTRODUCTORY COMMENT: This article was written by Canon Lawyer Ed Peters around the time the US Supreme Court foolishingly and arrogantly decided that homosexuals could marry and it was a valid and legal marriage. Now that we have lived with this egregious ruling for several years, I thought it good to remind ourselves of the issue and the teaching of the Church. We will no doubt be persecuted for our stand against “Same-sex marriage.”

Remember that John the Baptist was not beheaded for preaching Jesus Christ, but for speaking out against the government, particularly on the issue of marriage.

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No matter which way the US Supreme Court rules in the “gay marriage” cases before it the international debate over the definition of marriage will continue because that debate is, at root, about matters beyond a civil court’s competence, things like the nature of human beings and the fundamental good of society. Because we Catholics are and will surely remain major participants in such a debate we should be clear among ourselves as to what our Church teaches in this area. I offer as a primer (I stress, primer) toward such better understanding my position on following points.

1. The Catholic Church teaches, though its ordinary magisterium and with infallible certainty, that marriage exists only between one man and one woman. CDF, “Considerations” (2003) passim; CCC 1601-1608; CCEO (1990) 776; 1983 CIC 1055 § 1; Rite of Marriage (1969) n. 2; Vatican II, Gaudium et spes (1965) 48; Pius XI, Casti connubii (1930) 6, 20, 23; Leo XIII, Arcanum (1880) 5, 24; Matthew XIX: 4-6; and Genesis II: 21-24. There is no evidence of ecclesiastical authority ever supporting any other definition of marriage.

1. Note. It is possible that this teaching is proposed as an object of belief (credenda, per Canon 750 § 1, doubt or denial of which assertion would be heresy under Canon 751 and thus sanctionable under Canon 1364 § 1); at a minimum, however, the Church proposes the man-woman assertion as necessarily to be held (tenenda) in order “to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the same deposit of faith” (Canon 750 § 2), rendering those who “obstinately reject” the assertion liable to “a just penalty” if, having been duly admonished, they refuse to retract (Canon 1371, 2º).

2. The Catholic Church has the right and duty “always and everywhere to announce moral principles, even about the social order, and to render judgment concerning any human affairs insofar as the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls requires it.” 1983 CIC 747 § 2; CCC 2246.

3. Catholics who promote “same-sex marriage” act contrary to Canon 209 § 1 and should not approach for holy Communion per Canon 916. Depending on the facts of the case, they also risk having holy Communion withheld from them under Canon 915, being rebuked under Canon 1339 § 2, and/or being sanctioned under Canon 1369 for gravely injuring good morals.

3. Note. The situation of Catholic politicians lending support to “same-sex marriage” is to be assessed as above, with special attention being paid to the heightened responsibility that civil servants have to protect the common good. CDF, “Considerations” (2003) 10; CCC 2235-2237, 2244; 1983 CIC 1326 § 1, 2.

4. The Catholic Church would regard any attempt by persons of the same sex to marry, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof, as null. CCC 1603; 1983 CIC 1055 § 1.

5. Catholics who attempt a “same-sex marriage” act contrary to Canon 209 § 1 and should not approach for holy Communion per Canon 916. Depending on the facts of the case, they also risk having holy Communion withheld from them under Canon 915, being rebuked under Canon 1339 § 2, and/or being sanctioned under Canon 1379 for simulation of a sacrament. Morevoer, Catholics who assist others toward attempting a “same-sex marriage” cooperate in the bad act of those others, which cooperation is liable to moral assessment in accord with the usual principles applicable to cooperation with evil and, under certain facts, according to the canonical principles applying to cooperation in crime per Canon 1329 and/or scandal per Canon 1339 § 2, etc.

5. Note. Catholics who have attempted a “same-sex marriage” or who have assisted another toward a “same-sex marriage” can be reconciled morally under the usual conditions by sacramental Confession (Canon 959) or by a ‘perfect act of contrition’ per CCC 1452; they can be reconciled canonically, if necessary, in accord with applicable law.

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I have added a 7th rule – Be patient.

Six Rules for Dealing with Non-Catholic Family and Friends (especially over the holidays)

“I can’t believe you are thinking about being Catholic. Have you lost your mind? Why in the world would you leave biblical Christianity to follow a religion based on men’s tradition? How in the world did you fall for a religion like that?”

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“Listen, Mom and Dad, I appreciate the education you gave me at Catholic school, but I just don’t believe it anymore. I have found Jesus now, and I don’t need your religion anymore. I’ve learned so much since joining the Bible church, and they are much friendlier than the Catholics at Mass.”

*  *   *

Then the arguments begin, the hostilities and the senses of betrayal and loss arise. One grabs a Bible and begins quoting newly discovered verses out of context while the other tries to recall why he believes Catholic teaching but, alas, discovers he believes but doesn’t know why. It goes from bad to worse, and the lines of communication and trust collapse.

With multiple variations, this scenario plays itself out in families across America. Sometimes it is an Evangelical Protestant wife who finds out her husband has been studying in secret and is now deciding to join the dreaded Catholic Church. In another home it is heartbroken parents who’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on their children’s Catholic education only to have tears well up in their eyes when they watch their children leave the faith for secularism, a Baptist church, or another religion.

Not peace but a sword

There is no question that many families are split over religion. My wife and I know this from own experience. We were ostracized by our families and friends when we converted to the Catholic Church. Family refused to talk to us or visit our home for almost a year, and we lost all of our Evangelical friends—which were the only kind we had at the time—in less than a month.

 Religious arguments and split families are as old as time. The New Testament is full of conflict as Jews discovered the Messiah and were “divorced” by their Jewish families and communities.

Jesus knew the gospel would bring strife and division in families and warned of these ruptures: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household” (Matt. 10:34–36).

Of course, for those who heard him, the immediate conflict was between Jews—those who rejected Jesus as Messiah and those who followed him. But similar conflicts continue to rip through families even to this day. It is especially common among Christians of different denominations, but most pronounced with conversions to the Catholic Church and those who fall away or choose another religion.

The religious division and pain within families is especially highlighted for me as I travel across the country and around the world speaking at conferences and parishes and leading pilgrimages. Of all the questions I am asked, there is no question more frequent than: “What should I do about my son or daughter who has left the Catholic Faith? It is tearing us apart. What can I do to get them back? What is the No. 1 argument to get them to listen and return?”

At this point, whether family members have left, or a coworker is relentless in his attacks on the Faith, or a wife is unable to get his husband to understand her newfound love for Catholicism, people look for a silver bullet. Unhappily, there is no silver bullet or special Bible verse that will turn back the clock, convert the heart, change the mind, convince the opponent, or drag back the child. What is done is done; we have to accept the situation as it is and take a long-term approach.

Anger and pain

Our first inclination, when confronted by an anti-Catholic or a fallen-away Catholic, is to argue or withdraw, often displaying our anger and pain. If it is a family member or friend at work, we are inclined to think it is our job to quickly retrieve them from their error. With good intentions, we press the issue by confronting them and using emotionally charged comments such as “I can’t believe this!” or “You’d do this even though you know how much it hurts us?”

The result is often the opposite of the intention. The loved one is usually pushed further away and more deeply entrenched in his resolve to resist. Bridges are burned, and discussion shuts down. After a few heated confrontations or silent treatments, the doors to conversation close shut. It is usually too late when we realize we’ve only made matters worse.

It is a rare and a blessed family that does not experience the personal grief of these problems and trials. Learned through the fires of my own experience and with a desire to help so many hurting brothers and sister in Christ, I came up with my Six Rules for Dealing with Non-Catholics. Watching people practice them over the years has proved to me that these rules work.

They do not always bring the wanderer back into the fold or convert the entrenched Protestant. But they help repair damaged relations and set the stage for future reconciliation and peace—even a full acceptance of the Catholic Faith.

The rules are not in any necessary order, although I do think the last one is revolutionary.

Rule No 1: Don’t argue….

For all the 6 Rules, click here.

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Hope you can join us. We will be discussing, “Steve Ray’s 7 Rules for Dealing with Non-Catholic Family & Friends.

December 19th, 11-12 AM Eastern time. You can listen to this webinar anytime at http://teresatomeo.com/webcasts/

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