19th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2010

August 8, 2010 Father De Celles Homily

Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church,
Springfield, Va.

Last Wednesday, Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

Of course, he is not the first public official to attempt to make so-called “gay-marriage” legal. But he is the first federal judge to find a US constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry each other. And while his decision will be appealed, probably eventually to the Supreme Court, it nevertheless signals the most important attack on marriage, family and American society in the history of our nation.

His ruling largely rests on one key phrase that he uses over and over and over again in his opinion: “rational basis.” And he concludes that that reserving the right to marry to heterosexual couples only has no “rational basis”—no basis in reason.

Is it really irrational and without reason to say only male-female couples can marry? Of course not.

Think about it. The judge explained his opinion in light of the 14th amendment to the Constitution, and it.s “equal protection clause,” but the basic principle underlying his ruling was first laid out in the Declaration of Independence. That is the principle that “all men are created equal”

But ask yourself: what “rational basis” exists to make that claim? In reality, aren.t all men actually quite different, and aren.t there many ways that you can objectively or rationally measure those differences to rationally argue that, clearly, not all men begin life, live life or end life, equal to one another. Not all men are equal physically to LeBron James or Lindsey Vonn. Not all men are equal in intelligence to Albert Einstein. And not all can even compare to the talent of Michelangelo.

Who is really equal to anyone else? Is there a rational basis to say “all men are create equal”?

The only way this can make sense is if we look way beyond things like performance or intellect, etc, and see that there is something innate in just being human, if we discern a truth of the very nature of man. Of course this requires a moral judgment, and a reliance on what the founding fathers called “the laws of
nature and of nature’s God.” Or what the tradition has called the “natural moral law.”

So the rational argument supporting “all men are created equal” is simply based on the natural moral law. Yet Judge Walker.s opinion explicitly rejects moral judgments as the basis for law. He rejects natural moral law arguments in defense of male-female marriage, even as he says he is upholding the equality provisions of constitution, which themselves are based on the natural moral law. Who has no rational basis for his position now?

Is it rational to reserve marriage to male-female couples? Well, for as far back in human history as we can go almost everybody and every society thought it was.

Why did all those people think male-female marriage made sense? Because of what they observed in the natural law.

You see, people like Walker see marriage as something the state has constructed, or invented, by the laws that they.ve passed. But that.s not the way people have historically understood marriage.

Think about it. The very first society in history is the marriage one man and one woman. Go back as far as you can: marriage grew up and existed well before there were any written laws, or even tribal customs —as long as there have been men and women they have come together to love each other and to have children, and so formed marriages and families. And as children were born from the married couple these families learned to live together in a stable, loving environment. And from that core understanding, developed in that most basic society called the family, they went on to relate to other families and so created other larger societies: tribes, and then cities, and then nations. And those societies formed governments and states. So in reality, marriage-centered family invented the state and government, not vice versa.

In fact, society.s laws of marriage sprung up not so much to define it or make marriage into something, but to protect it as it was naturally understood and experienced by people. The state never has had the authority to change the definition of marriage, only the responsibility to protect it.

Have there ever been variables from society to society in defining marriage? Yes, of course. The most common might be polygamy—a man having multiple wives. Or maybe the various societies. rules about divorce. But even in these cases, marriage was still always male and female. Oh sure, some might point to some small group or tribe in some remote area or in some century long ago and say, “see they had same sex marriage.” So, the very rare exception overrides the rest
of humanity.s common understanding of marriage? Again, who.s being irrational now?

There are just certain fundamental principles that our society is founded on, based on the way things naturally are. One of those is equality—that we are created equal. But long before that equality was clearly and fully understood by everyone, everyone understood the natural law of the family rooted in the marriage of male and female.

Should the government find that it is rational to reserve marriage to male-female unions? Yes, of course it should. But the thing is, it.s none of the government’s business if it is or not! No more that it is the government.s business to determine if it.s reasonable to say “all men created equal.”

Some today, even some Catholics, say: “what.s the big deal? live and let live—it doesn.t effect us.”

Oh, but it does. First of all, think of the effect it has on legitimizing homosexuality, and the effect that will have on society. Some say, “if you don.t approve, don.t do it.” But the thing is, you can.t separate law from society: laws effect all of us. So, while you might teach your children at home the moral truth about marriage, family and sexuality, the government will force your children to learn the exact opposite of that in public school: your children will be officially considered bigots and irrational, and so become targets of all sorts of attacks from both students and teachers alike; they will not only be coerced to accept other people.s strange morality, but they will be told that they are not normal if they don.t also try those strange things themselves.

But beyond that, if it becomes established law that it is irrational and unconstitutional to deny marriage to same sex couples, how can the courts stop there? If this is true, isn.t it irrational and unconstitutional to say that only 2 people can get married together: why not 3 or 4 or 10? And if you can.t deny same-sex couples, what about same-family couples –incest?

You think I.m exaggerating. Think about this: right now over 1 billion people around the world belong to a culture and religion that thinks polygamy is perfectly acceptable–Islam. I would think that a whole bunch of them might think that America.s fixation on monogamous marriage is….irrational. What rational argument can Judge Walker and his like find to reject their arguments in court?
So polygamy.s in, and incest is in. And so is every other ungodly inhuman combination any malcontent can imagine.

But that.s just the beginning. For example, what rational argument would a judge like Walker find to say that the traditional understanding of parental rights is rational? Americans overwhelmingly believe, and the law has historically held, that the relationship between parents and their children is, by it.s very nature—by the natural law— unique. So that parents are almost always the primary and even sole decision makers for the their children. This idea is as old as the principle of male-female marriage, and rooted in that principle: like marriage, the parent-child relationship pre-dates human laws and is the source of human society.

But really, does it make sense: isn.t it irrational? Think of all the bad parents out there. The parents who can.t feed their own children. Parents who aren.t well educated, or educated in the right schools: are they really qualified to know what their children need to learn? Think of all the parents who teach their children “incorrect” values, like parents who teach “bigotry and “irrational hatred” by telling that same-sex marriage is wrong, and homosexual acts are sinful!

What rational basis is there to arbitrarily give parents control of their children.s lives just because they gave birth to them?

So let.s redefine the meaning of “parent.” And “family.” Maybe a social worker or teacher or doctor who thinks a real parent is doing a bad job should be able to go to a judge and get themselves appointed “legal parent.” Or maybe we should let the state appoint a professionally trained expert to make decisions for each child, and leave the parents out of it, except to maybe to play with the child.

Think that.s far fetched? Its. already started—by government officials and bureaucrats that think exactly like Judge Walker does. Think about obvious things like: “surrogate mothers,” “egg donors, “sperm donors.” Think about the lack of control you have over what your children learn in school —or even what school you can send them to! Remember the Virginia woman who took her own biological daughter and left her lesbian partner, but the judge gave custody of the daughter to the ex-partner? The real mother is still a fugitive from the law because she won.t hand-over her daughter to the government, and her ex-lover.

Some say, we can.t impose our Christian morals on other people. First of all, who’s imposing whose morals on whom? For millennia, everyone knows what marriage is, and then suddenly a very small group, representing less than 2% of the population, comes along and says, “no, let.s change it…. we don.t care if everybody thinks our way is wrong, we think it.s good, and you have to agree with us.” Who.s imposing whose morality?

In any case, this is not the imposition of Christian morals, but simply a commitment to moral truth found in the natural law. True, Scripture does clearly define marriage as between male and female only, and absolutely condemns homosexual acts. But this only helps us to understand more clearly and profoundly what we already observe to be in nature, and to correct ourselves when we ignore the truth discernable in nature. For example, while the natural law led our founding fathers to discern the truth that “all men are created equal”, many of them failed to see the necessary contradiction between that equality and existence of slavery. But in the end it was Christian morality, embodied first in the Christian Abolitionist Movement and later in Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement, that led Americans to see clearly the truth of the natural law —that blacks were also men created equal to whites.

And it is in this same natural moral law that all Americans —Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or atheists— can clearly see the truth that marriage is only possible between a male and a female.

Despite this terrible ruling from Judge Walker, and all the other irrational ideas of folks who think like he does, I still think we live in the greatest country on earth. The good Lord has blessed us in so many ways. And the most important blessing is freedom —freedom that is rooted in the equality of men.

The problem, though, is that we.ve lost sight of what it means to be free. True freedom, the freedom this nation was founded on and that has made this nation great, is NOT the freedom to do whatever we want, as many believe today, but the freedom to do and be the best we can. And it means not being bound to what tyrants decree is best for us —what they think is good or bad— whether those elite tyrants are dressed in a royal crown or in judicial robes.

In today.s gospel, Jesus reminds us: “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” Is our treasure in doing whatever we want, or doing good and being the best we can?

Unfortunately too many Americans take the former as their treasure. Like the servant in today.s Gospel parable, who “says to himself, „My master is delayed in coming,. and begins to beat the …servants, to eat and drink and get drunk,” too many Americans abuse the gifts given to us, and get drunk on the gift of freedom. And in their drunkenness they do not see clearly the truth of the natural law.

But it cannot be that way with us. As both Catholics and as Americans we are indeed the most blessed people in the world: we have been given not only the
truth of the natural law embraced by our nation.s founders, but also the truth of Christ.s revelation and all the power of his the grace.

And as the Lord reminds us today: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much.”

Much will be required from us, who have been given so much. So, as Christ exhorts us today: “Do not be afraid any longer,” but rather, “Gird your loins and light your lamps.” Get ready to do battle for our families, our children and our country. A battle fought not with swords, knives, guns, bombs or tanks, but with grace, charity, truth, freedom, and yes, Judge Walker and Company, with rational argument. The rational argument embraced by our founding fathers, and by clear thinking human beings since the creation of man: the reason so simply but so sublimely explained in “the law of nature and nature.s God.”