Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Real Meaning of Marriage

It’s only the second issue of the semester for the Boston College newspaper The Heights and already the paper has printed an opinion’s column by Matt Hamilton in support of a same-sex marriages. The article, The Real Meaning of Marriage advocates that since marriage is about love, and same-sex couples do love each other, this is equivalent to marriage. The article refers to Dr. John McDargh. I have no doubts that Dr. McDargh loves his partner. The question is whether or not his actions are one that communicate love.

There is a mistaken notion running around in the moral theology field these days, and it can be found in the works of Boston College professor Father James Keenan SJ who has a large impact on the Boston College campus. Virtue ethics is the traditional ethics of the Catholic Church, and it is found in Aristotle and Saint Thomas Aquinas. Whereas deontology focuses on acts themselves and consequentialism focuses on consequences, virtue ethics focuses on the seven virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope and love. The one who is truly ethical acts with these virtues.

However, the problem arises when these virtues are used to justify acts that are not loving by claiming that they are loving. Let’s use a basic example that everyone would understand. Imagine that a child is asking his or her parents for a cookie, but the cookie contains nuts to which the child is allergic. Giving the child the cookie and killing him or her is never an act of love. Similarly, some acts are always wrong, like adultery. As Servant of God Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, “Only God, the Supreme Good, constitutes the unshakable foundation and essential condition of morality, and thus of the commandments, particularly those negative commandments which always and in every case prohibit behaviour and actions incompatible with the personal dignity of every man. The Supreme Good and the moral good meet in truth: the truth of God, the Creator and Redeemer, and the truth of man, created and redeemed by him” (99).

Returning to Hamilton’s article, it can be said that there is nothing wrong with a man loving another man. I love my dad, I love my roommate, I love my cousins, and I love my parish priest. None of this is wrong. In fact, even if the love of one man toward another involved an erotic desire, he still would not be at fault for doing anything wrong, Just like a married man cannot control that he finds physically attractive a woman other than his wife, the same can be said for a man who experiences same-sex desires. However, both can be faulted if they encourage these desires by lustfully dwelling on them or acting upon them. This is not to say that Dr. McDargh’s love for his partner is the same as adultery. It is to say they share this one similarity.

On the contrary, the problem lies in how Dr. McDargh and his partner express their love. While no knowledge is given of their private life, it is clear that they advocate that their relationship is one equal to that of marriage. This is not the case. No matter how much revisionist theologians try, they cannot erase the clear command of God against the homogenital act found in Genesis, that God made woman for man. If they want to sin, that’s their business, but they should give up trying to convince others to follow them. Leading others to sin is never an act of love seeing as it separates man from God.

A more thorough explanation can be found in the book The Truth About Homosexuality by Father John Harvey OSFS.