On Wednesday, Adelaide Blanchard’s column called for a revision of the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexual marriage, claiming, “From a theological standpoint, it is nonsense the Catholic Church … would actively want to get in the way of two consenting adults getting married in what is supposed to be a bond of faith and love.” I seek to point out to Blanchard it is exactly from a theological standpoint that the Church’s position on homosexual marriage actually does make sense.
“Gaudium et Spes,” one of the documents to come out of Vatican II, defines marriage as “the institution … ordered to the procreation and education of … offspring. ….” In other words, the prime goals of Catholic marriage are to bear and raise a child.
Note that this does not mean a couple must bear a child, but that a child must remain a viable and open possibility for the couple and ideally the goal of the marriage —- this is why contraceptives are also forbidden for use by Catholics. Note too that neither love nor sexual intercourse is the prime goal of marriage for Catholics. Love — in the words of theologian Thomas Aquinas, “.. to will the good of another,” — provides the optimal environment in which to raise a child. Sexual intercourse provides the means for bearing a child. However, neither of these is the prime goal of marriage in Catholic theology, and thus using love or sexual viability as the main argument to justify marriage of any kind will not be valid in terms of Catholic theology.
Now, as an aside, it should be noted that the Church is not stupid — obviously two men or two women who love each other could raise a child well. But marriage in Catholic theology has as its goals not only raising, but also bearing the child in the first place. Raising a child without conceiving it — e.g. bearing a child in order to put it up for adoption — seems to be doable. Bearing a child without raising it has also been shown to be possible, but setting out solely do so would likely be frowned upon in society. So, even though both are feasible options, that does not mean they should be made the norm. Within Catholic theology this goes for same-sex couples raising children as well.
I understand the church’s stance on homosexual marriage finds little support on campus at the University of Wisconsin, and pick-and-choose Catholics such as Blanchard and readers of other religious persuasions are free to disagree. But if you find yourself disagreeing with the Vatican, make sure you also realize that within Catholic theology and under its own definition of marriage, the Church’s stance is justified.
Tom Jensen ([email protected]) is a religious studies major.