Irish Marriage Referendum: sacrifice is always at the heart of true love


by Deacon Nick Donnelly
Last time I wrote about Enda Kenny’s same-sex ‘marriage’ referendum for Catholic Voice, a reporter for the Irish Sun newspaper contacted me. He told me my article proved controversial among ‘Yes’ supporters and asked me how I felt about them posting angry messages about me. The issue seemed to centre around my quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church which describes homosexual sex ‘as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”’ (CCC 2357). 
I don’t like being at the receiving end of other peoples’ anger, but I’d rather this than deny the truths about man and sexuality contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. To me, the Catechism is not a dry academic book but loving truth that has saved me from committing grave evil.
How the Catechism saved me from committing a grave evilMy wife and I had been married for five years and not conceived, so our GP referred us to the hospital. From the very first appointment the consultants wanted us to sign up for IVF. We said ‘no’ because we knew that the Church said it was wrong. But we didn’t know why the Church taught that IVF was wrong. We underwent tests, and nothing else was said about IVF. Then one day a big envelope dropped through the letter box containing a letter and information pack informing us that – without our agreement – we had been enrolled on an IVF programme in London, with a date for starting the first cycle of IVF treatment.This was a great temptation because we both longed with every cell of our bodies to have children and we were being offered that possibility. To help us think it through I got out the Catechism of the Catholic Church which sets out the moral reasons why IVF is wrong. The following section helped us:

‘A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The “supreme gift of marriage” is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged “right to a child” would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents,” and “the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.” (CCC 2378).

We contacted the IVF clinic and declined the appointment. Fifteen years later we naturally conceived Gabriel and three years afterwards Ariel was conceived. Tragically both our babies died before birth. After each death our consultants again advised that we undergo IVF treatment. After all these years, and despite times of bitter grief, I am convinced that we came to the right decision with the moral guidance of the Church.

The doctrines of the Church save us from harm

Since reading that paragraph in the Catechism we have discovered that every year 100,000’s of embryonic human beings are killed, even experimented on, as the by-product of IVF treatments. Every word of that paragraph of the Catechism on IVF has been proven true – embryonic human beings are ‘considered a piece of property’, their rights as persons disregarded and violated from the moment of conception.

If it hadn’t been for the moral truths presented so clearly in the Catechism we would now be living with the unbearable grief of knowing that we were responsible for the deaths of our own children because we had used IVF. We couldn’t bear paying that price to hold babies in our arms.

This experience has taught me that the doctrines of the Church are not abstract or theoretical propositions thought up by academics and intellectuals remote from life. The Church’s doctrines on man’s nature and sexuality are merciful truths given us by God to save us from inflicting grave evils on ourselves and others.

The dignity of the homosexual person

In the same way, the doctrines on homosexuality and homosexual sex are intended to save men and women with homosexual inclinations from inflicting grave evils on themselves and others. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following about homosexual sex acts:

‘Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.’ (CCC 2357).

It’s important to be clear what this paragraph is saying and what it’s not saying. The Catechism is definitely not saying that men or women with homosexual inclinations are depraved or ‘intrinsically disordered’. The Church’s sexual morality makes an emphatic distinction between the person and his or her acts. The Catholic understanding of the intrinsic dignity of the human person means that we are more than our moral acts and we are more than our sexual orientation. This emphasis on the intrinsic dignity of the person is at the heart of the Church’s approach to the pastoral care of the homosexual person. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote:

‘The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation… Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a “heterosexual” or a “homosexual” and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.’ (CDF, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons).

Why are homosexual sex acts gravely depraved and intrinsically disordered?

The Catechism’s description of the immoral nature of homosexual sex acts is set within its examination of ‘offences against chastity’. It’s common for people to mistakenly think that only virgins, priests and religious are called to practice chastity, when the Church actually teaches that all people, single and married, have a vocation to chastity. The Catechism defines chastity as an ‘apprenticeship in self-mastery’ and ‘training in freedom’ required by all people:

‘Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman. The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift. (CCC, 2337).

Adultery, fornication, masturbation, pornography, and homosexual sex acts are ‘offences against chastity’ because they are ‘gravely contrary’ to the dignity, integrity and meaning that God has given to sexuality.

The nuptial meaning of the body

This dignity and purpose given to sexuality by God is called the ‘nuptial meaning of the body’. Simply put, revelation and natural law tell us that God created human beings in His image as the complementarity of maleness and femaleness:

‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.’ ‘Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.’ (Genesis 1:27; 2:24).

Sexual intercourse between husband and wife expresses this God-given complementarity: the husband’s body, which expresses his person as male, has a ‘nuptial significance’, for he is so biologically structured to give himself to his wife by entering into her body-person, and so give himself to her. The wife’s body which expresses her person as female, has a ‘nuptial significance’ for she is so biologically structured to receive his body-person into herself, and in so receiving him, to give herself to him. (Paraphrased from Dr. William May).

It is called ‘nuptial’ because only through the Sacrament of Marriage are the conditions established for the total, unreserved giving of self between husband and wife – personal unity, fidelity, indissolubility, and openness to children.

Furthermore, the nuptial meaning of the complementarity of maleness and femaleness has as its purpose the procreation and upbringing of children. In becoming ‘one flesh’, husband and wife also become one complete organism capable of generating human life. This ‘nuptial meaning of the body is also expressed by the fact that the husband and the wife possess the two half’s of the one human reproductive organ. Precisely because husbands and wives are married, they have capacitated themselves – according to Revelation – to be co-creators of other human beings with God in a way that responds to the dignity of persons – self-giving love that is faithful, permanent and open to children.

Consequently, God’s purpose for sex and sexual love insists that genital sexual acts are exclusive to marriage between a woman and a man. It is only within marriage between a man and a woman that sex fulfils its intrinsic meaning. Therefore, any sexual acts outside marriage are not only nonsensical, but also damaging to the meaning and language of sexual love.

Homosexual sex acts, and masturbation, possess no ‘nuptial meaning’ because they reject, and contradict, the complementarity of maleness and femaleness and openness to the procreation of children. This is why the Church’s moral doctrine refers to these two types of sexual behaviour as ‘intrinsically disordered’. Even more so, anal sex or sodomy, committed by homosexual or heterosexual couples, are ‘acts of grave depravity’ because they simulate, and thereby mock, the sexual complementarity of maleness and femaleness, and are definitively opposed to the procreation of children. As the Catechism puts it, ‘They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.’ (CCC 2357).

If Enda Kenny and the ruling elite of Ireland succeed in legalising so called same-sex marriage, they will damage the God-given meaning and language of sexual love, inflicting untold harm on countless homosexual persons by encouraging them to live a lie.

The seeming good of possibly having a child from IVF is a harmful illusion highlighted by the death of the other children. The seeming good of sexual acts other than between a married man and woman is a harmful illusion highlighted by the reality of sexual complementarity. God does not ask the impossible but he does ask for sacrifice. Sacrifice is always at the heart of true love.

 

About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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9 Responses to Irish Marriage Referendum: sacrifice is always at the heart of true love

  1. johnhenrycn says:

    Looking at the California referendum six years ago when the majority voted against same-sex marriage (largely because of the black vote, ironically), only to have their wishes binned by a judge two years later, what does it matter , except symbolically, what the people say? Is the Irish jurocracy any less powerful than the American one?

  2. Mimi says:

    johnhenry: The Irish constitution can only be changed by referendum. Judges can’t alter it, although they are well capable of muddying its interpretation.

  3. johnhenrycn says:

    Good point, Mimi (22:39) about constitutions being, theoretically, more sacrosanct than ordinary legislation. Sadly, as you point out, the fig leaf of inviolability can still be stripped away by judicial fiat, and that’s exactly what’s happened with the American Constitution, a most noble document, which has been twisted out of all recognizable shape by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Consider Article 41.3.1 of the existing Irish one:
    “The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded, and to protect it against attack.”

    Nowhere in that Constitution is the word “Marriage” defined. Nowhere in that Constitution is the word “Family” defined. Nor, in any sane world would they have to be defined, because the wisdom of the ages makes such definitions redundant. But contemporary judicial interpretations of constitutional law in North America, and I’d guess in the British Isles as well, are based on the principle that constitutions are “living documents”. They are not written in stone, wisdom of the ages be damned, and they can be massaged when, like the “Spirit of Vatican II”, the zeitgeist of the age so demands. (I’d be interested to know if there are Irish law precedents about the meaning of “marriage” and “family” in the Constitution, because that might bind the hands of the current bench to some extent, although I doubt it).

    So, whatever the outcome of the Irish referendum next month may be, if I was a betting man, I’d place a bet with Paddy Power that, in the fullness of time, no matter the outcome thereof, same-sex marriage is a foregone conclusion in Ireland as it is just about everywhere else in the modern world

  4. johnhenrycn says:

    btw: I’m aware that the UK doesn’t have a written constitution in the same way Ireland and the States do, but judges in the UK are just as prone to getting all high and mighty.

  5. toadspittle says:

    “f it hadn’t been for the moral truths presented so clearly in the Catechism we would now be living with the unbearable grief of knowing that we were responsible for the deaths of our own children because we had used IVF.”
    As I understand it, had the author used IVF, the babies would probably not have died. That was why the doctors were suggesting it. It’s not easy to follow.
    But if that was the case, what then?

    “‘A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The “supreme gift of marriage” is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged “right to a child” would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents,” and “the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.” (CCC 2378).”
    To Me, this doesn’t explain why IVF is considered sinful Doesn’t the child possess the right to be the product of the parents’ love?
    More generally, the article clearly and lucidly states the Catholic position on sex. Fair enough. Just as long as we bear in mind that the vast majority of humans don’t subscribe to this viewpoint and reserve “the right” to lead their own lives in their own fashion according to their own consciences, etc. etc. – then there will be no problem.
    If people wish to “sin” we can advise them against it, if asked for our opinion, but do we have the “right” to impose our views on them by law? And it works both ways, or should. They can make “gay marriage” legal if they like, but they can’t make it compulsory.

    “‘The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation…”
    How about a reductionist reference to his/her religious orientation? OK to call somebody a Catholic, or a Calvinist?

    “Looking at the California referendum six years ago when the majority voted against same-sex marriage (largely because of the black vote, ironically)”
    What was “ironic” about it, JH?

  6. TerryC says:

    Toad,
    It’s not so much the babies that are produced and given to the parents that this applies to, but to the dozens of babies, fetuses in this case, which are not implanted in the mother, but are passes on to researchers, biomedical companies, or even just sent to the furnace once they are no longer needed. These children are still the children of the parents from whom they received their DNA.
    People are indeed allowed to live their own lives, however no one lives their life in a vacuum. No sin is private it effects the whole community, not just the Christian community, but the whole community. A society which endorses immoral behavior is a society which will eventually collapse due to its own lack of morality. This extends not only to sexuality but to all of the moral virtues, like honor, integrity, forthrightness and respectability.
    Case in point, Humanae Vitae predicted certain societal ills which would result from the wide spread use of contraception. These were not predictions of what would happen to Christians, but what would happen to society as a whole. They were a rise in infidelity and moral decline, a lost of respect for women, abuse of power by public authorities and unlimited dominion (the belief that man has a right to control aspects of human life which are beyond human capacity.) One need only look at modern society to see the ills caused by the fulfillment of all of these predictions. Indeed the attempts to redefine marriage and normalize perverted sexual activities are an example the the final prediction, as is support abortion and euthanasia.

  7. toadspittle says:

    I do see that, Terry C, and you put it very well. The whole business of IVF is technically beyond me, so I’ll leave it alone. However,
    “A society which endorses immoral behavior is a society which will eventually collapse due to its own lack of morality. ”
    ….raises the usual issues, largely what is “immoral” – Contraception? Divorce? Some things clearly are, by almost any standards – pornography, adultery, surely – but homosexuality? Not my problem I’m relieved to say, but it appears many excellent people, including several friends, honestly don’t think it immoral. Should they be jailed for their behaviour, as they were quite recently? I’m sure not, though the whole topic makes my head ache a bit, I admit. Ultimately, all we can do is follow our individual consciences, and allow others to do likewise.
    And, so what if an “immoral society” collapses? What will happen thereafter? A moral society? If so, the sooner this one collapses the better, surely?
    But enough.
    And I haven’t even started on contraception or divorce.

    But I’m getting far too preachy. Not my job. Toad is the resident idiot.

  8. johnhenrycn says:

    Toad (15:36) says: “Some things clearly are [immoral], by almost any standards – pornography, adultery, surely – but homosexuality? Not my problem I’m relieved to say…”

    Denmark has approved a law banning bestiality, in a move to tackle animal-sex tourism. Those found guilty of engaging in sexual relations with an animal will now face fines and prison terms.
    Danish lawmakers approved the ban in a 91-75 vote on Tuesday. Five abstained from voting. Talk about Great Danes.
    http://rt.com/news/252065-denmark-bans-animal-sex/

  9. johnhenrycn says:

    …but the funniest (not) part about that report is why 16 lawmakers voted against the law and another 5 abstained from voting? Toad is probably an abstainer.

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