About Me, Catholics Do What?, Contraception, Culture of Death, Evangelization, Homosexuality, Marriage, Sex, Theology of the Body

Maybe it’s just love

June 29, 2015

I can list off at least 5 critically-essential relationships in my life, relationships that are soul-feeding, deeply connected, and will hopefully stand the test of time. I am blessed beyond all measure to call these four women and one man my friends: dear, beloved friends with whom I share hopes and fears, dreams and aspirations…but there is one thing that I cannot share with them, even if I wanted to.

I cannot share my very self with them, body and soul, because I have already given that essential gift of my “otherness” to my husband, irrevocably, and for the remainder of his natural life or mine (whoever goes first gets out first, I guess).

And I cannot, no matter how much I might desire to do so, create new life with them.

In the case of the male friend, because it would be a violation of my wedding vows and of the exclusivity of my sexual union with my husband. In the case of my female friends, because it is fundamentally incompatible with human nature. Because it doesn’t work. Egg + egg do not = zygote.

(This has nothing to do with adoption or fostering. That’s a separate conversation that I’m consciously choosing to set aside while we hash out the fundamentals of human nature and our sexual complementarity, so stand by.)

As much as I love these women, reality still stands between our bodies and souls – our similar sexual makeup and fundamental nature render our relationships fundamentally fruitless, from a reproductive perspective.

This isn’t bigotry or bias, it’s basic biology.

And my love for them isn’t cheapened by our inability to contract and consummate a sexual union, it’s simply differentiated.

“Love is love,” according to Twitter and every celebrity on the planet this past weekend…but not all love is marriage. Not all love is fundamentally, at it’s core, ordered to the creation of new human life.

And not all love is sexual.

But, but, they sputter on social media, God made us all and God made gays and lesbians and trans and everyone else, so that means He approves of gay “marriage” because love. And tolerance, you bigot, you.

Super coherent argument, right?

But let’s pick at it a little and see if it stands.

First off, does God have anything to say about marriage? Namely, is He invested in marriage functioning a certain way because He created it?

If you’re operating from a biblical perspective, then yes, from Genesis through Jesus, God has offered repeated input on the man and woman He created, ordering them to be fruitful and to multiply and to let no man divide what He had joined, to point out a few instances of His interest in the institution.

But let’s put aside creed or belief system and come at it from a biological and sociological perspective, since we are now assuredly living in a post-Christian epoch in human history. (By this I mean the law – human law – no longer has recourse to God’s law. We are operating entirely outside of the framework of natural law and divine influence as a society.)

So let’s be secularly frank in this discussion.

Marriage is essentially ordered to the good of … wait for it … the children who may result from it. 

Not just the spouses.

Sure, there are myriad benefits and bonuses that married people enjoy including better health, longer life, greater social support. But the primary purpose of marriage as a secular institution is to protect and guarantee the rights of the weakest and most helpless members of society: children.

And wouldn’t you know it? When we unhitched babies from bonding years ago with widespread acceptance and use of contraceptives, that was the first blow against marriage as a social institution. Married couples could now enjoy sterile, momentary physical pleasure and label it “sex.”

And guess what?

So could non-married people. And people who were married to other people but maybe wanting to experiment a bit with each other just the same.

Pretty soon people who experienced sexual attraction to members of the same sex looked around and realized, huh, marriage doesn’t seem to mean anything about babies anymore, but rather, about adult sexual satisfaction and companionship. And we want that too! 

And who can blame them?

When you trace the beginnings of the decline of the institution of marriage back throughout the past century of human history, you can see clearly the advent of contraceptive use, the rise in extramarital, premarital, anything-other-than-marital sex, and society’s gradual and then (recently) breakneck acceptance of “anything goes, so long as it’s between consenting (for now) adults.”

Because sex, unhinged from the fundamental purpose of bringing forth new life and bonding husband and wife in the sacred and irrevocable role of parenthood, has little consequence beyond the moment. It can still feel good, but then, so can masturbation. So can a one-night stand. So can an affair.

So why not?

Why not, indeed.

That’s why we’re here, today, brave new world in the summer of 2015, shattering the last (and admittedly, in this cultural climate, laughably ridiculous, to hear the reports on most major networks) sexual norm regarding marriage.

Because if divorce is possible, if contraception is a given, if abortion is permitted, if permanent fidelity and the begetting of new human life have nothing to do with marriage, then why the hell not call all bets off?

I think that’s the part we’re going to see a lot of in the next several years. The hell part. We’ll find out, as a culture, whether marriage was a dead and antiquated vestige of the past open to innovative interpretation, or if it really meant something, both to individual lives and to society as a whole.

But the real victims of our little social experiment are going to be the same as always: the weak, the helpless, and the vulnerable: the children.

SCOTUS may have violated jurisprudence, nature, and the Constitution in the laughable logic underpinning Friday’s decision, but we did this to ourselves, as a society, when we rendered sex sterile, profane, and mundane.

Is it any wonder that anyone would question the existence of a sacred institution of marriage when they’re not seeing holy, lasting marriages lived out as an example in real life?

It is particularly telling that the most supportive demographic in the movement for gay “marriage” has been the generation or two of children who’ve come of age in the era of no-fault divorce.

“The sanctity of marriage?” they rightly scoff, “I don’t know anything about that. But I know happiness when I see it, and those guys look happy, so power to them. I sure as hell didn’t see that in my house growing up.”

So that’s our job now, fellow Christians. Parents. People of good will. We must show them what love looks like, in action.

Not saccharine, 140-character professions of devotion or popular opinion. Real, soul-sharing, life-begetting sacrificial love. The cross-shaped kind.

Now the culture war shifts, from broad campaigns to hand-to-hand combat. One marriage, one family, one encounter with Christ at a time.

That’s how we change the world. And that’s how we win eternity.

I begrudge no one the right nor the reality to love who they love. And I will defend to the death your right to believe that.

The Cross is wide enough and the Church is big enough to accommodate all of us sinners, on whatever stage of the journey we find ourselves.

But I will defend to the death the reality of marriage as a different love, a fruitful love, a love bigger than my body or my sexual appetite alone. And I will labor until my last breath to show you that love, His love, made visible through the reality of the invisible grace which sustains our Sacrament.

I hope you’ll defend me too, even in our differing opinions. I hope your tolerance is wide enough for that.

just love

28 Comments

  • Reply Ally | A Home Called Shalom June 29, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    This is wonderful. So wonderful.

    After the announcement of the Supreme Court decision, I was disappointed for a few hours… and then went home and told my husband, “We need to have people over. We need to pour into the young people in our lives. We need to SHOW THEM.” Because you’re right- we need to be that light to the world, that true, biblical marriage is hard, but it’s so good and so worth it.

  • Reply Maureen June 29, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    “When you trace the beginnings of the decline of the institution of marriage back throughout the past century of human history, you can see clearly the advent of contraceptive use, the rise in extramarital, premarital, anything-other-than-marital sex, and society’s gradual and then (recently) breakneck acceptance of ‘anything goes, so long as it’s between consenting (for now) adults.'”

    I’ve heard this a lot these past few days but I believe the decline of marriage, as you or I would define it, traces all the way back to the Protestant Reformation when marriage was desacramentalized.

  • Reply Natalie June 29, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    I might respectfully disagree with you, Jenny, but this is a very thought-provoking and insightful piece of writing — thank you for sharing it. I came across the following quote from Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin and reflected on it after reading what you wrote here. I thought it was interesting enough to share. He says:

    “No issue brings out so much hatred from so many Catholics as homosexuality. Even after over 25 years as a Jesuit, the level of hatred around homosexuality is nearly unbelievable to me, especially when I think of all of the wonderful LGBT friends I have.

    The Catholic church must do a much better job of teaching what the Catechism says: that we should treat our LGBT brothers and sisters with “respect, sensitivity and compassion.”
    But God wants more. God wants us to love. And not a twisted, crabbed, narrow tolerance, which often comes in the guise of condemnations, instructions and admonitions that try to masquerade as love, but actual love.

    Love means: getting to know LGBT men and women, spending time with them, listening to them, being challenged by them, hoping the best for them, and wanting them to be a part of your lives, every bit as much as straight friends are part of your lives.

    Love first. Everything else later. In fact, everything else is meaningless without love.”

    I like reading your posts because they challenge me. I’ve been away from the church on and off in my life. Anyway, thanks for sharing your views. Peace be with you.

    • Reply Carol June 29, 2015 at 4:53 pm

      Natalie-
      I suppose the biggest difference between what you say here (what this priest says) and what I believe the Church teaches about homosexuals et al and how we should deal with them is a definition of love and what we look at as sin. If you don’t believe that these lifestyles are sinful then what you have said is perfectly accurate. If on the other hand, as the Church teaches, you believe that these lifestyles are sinful and can rob the persons soul of eternal life with Christ, then there is at least one inaccuracy.. I treat my homosexual et al friends exactly as you have described with one exception. Instead of just “hoping the best for them” I talk to them about their lifestyle and how it conflicts with the Churches teachings and what that means for their eternal soul. Once that conversation takes place, then I can hope for the best for them. In my opinion, and I believe the Church’s opinion, the greatest love we can have for any fellow human is to desire for them salvation and help each other find the way there.

      • Reply Cami June 30, 2015 at 9:04 am

        Well put, Carol. I agree. It isn’t truly loving our neighbor if we don’t wish for them and try to encourage them along to eternal life with Christ. We are called to love but that includes sharing the truth. Because truth offers God’s love too. Even as parents we can see this. We can tell our children we love them everyday, hugs and kisses and all. But are we really loving them wholly if we don’t provide boundaries, guidance, and share with them how to live forever in the arms of Jesus?

  • Reply Catherine June 29, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    God Bless you, Jenny. Your voice and eloquence are so very needed.

  • Reply Kim June 29, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    Wonderfully written! Since we don’t make the laws and have very control over them, I completely agree that the best thing we can do is to be the example of what marriage was truly meant to be. God Bless!

  • Reply Susan Anderson June 29, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    I couldn’t let the day pass without writing about it, Jenny. I haven’t posted my draft on my blog yet, because I’m just not sure. I have so many liberal friends, and frankly I’m trying to retreat into my little prayer closet, and submit them all to Mary and her seven pierced sorrowful heart. I agree wholeheartedly with you. As for a priest who says we don’t know how to love our gay and lesbian friends, I think that is not something he can judge. Forgive me but bearing and raising children grows us up and shows us what sacrificial love is all about. I can love my friends whom I don’t agree with by living my faith and praying for them. Souls are at stake.

    • Reply Susan Anderson July 1, 2015 at 2:00 pm

      Hi, It’s me again. I’ve thought a lot about this. Just adding more 2 cents, which I guess means a total of 4 cents. Ha, ha. It probably has been said throughout the existing comments, but I really feel strongly about this: 2 Chronicles 7:14 (RSVCE): If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

      In light of this scripture and as a former evangelical protestant and Catholic convert, I tend to believe that as each of us has a part in the crucifixion of Christ, so we all have a part in the tragedy of the downward slide of our society. We must take responsibility for our own sins and as the Divine Mercy prayer so mercifully says, “Eternal Father, I offer you the body, blood, soul, and divinity of your dearly beloved son, Jesus Christ, in atonement FOR OUR SINS, and those of the whole world…for the sake of His sorrowful passion, Have MERCY ON US, and on the whole world. Amen.

      In isn’t just about souls of the world who don’t follow Christ, it is about the purification of souls existing in the body of Christ, right now.
      I tend to sit in the sorrowful condition: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.

      And then, I darn well have a responsibility to teach my children the truth. I will have to answer to God for their souls too. Thanks for letting me rant. Prayers for all…

  • Reply Lara June 29, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Salt and light, we try to be, in an evangelical filled part of the country. “Is that your last?!”, I hear weekly. I try to offer it up and show joy to those who do not understand life-giving Holy Matrimony. I need support. Not from like minded friends or family. I have that. I need support from my priests. I was so saddened to hear nothing about true Catholic marriage. If not from them, then why and how do we expect the flock to know, live and love like Christ with marriage and authentic love only shown in life-giving marriage? I pray and keep smiling and loving.

  • Reply Holly June 29, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    This is amazing.

  • Reply Joseph June 30, 2015 at 8:52 am

    People need to know this- you don’t sin with your struggles, you don’t sin with your feelings. God never said in His 10 commandments “you are forbidden to feel..”, but He has forbidden certain actions.

    • Reply Cami June 30, 2015 at 11:11 am

      Good point! A really good video explains this.
      https://vimeo.com/93079367/comments

    • Reply Ari June 30, 2015 at 1:01 pm

      Yes, I have heard it explained that we must differentiate between person, attraction, and action. The person is always first and foremost. The person is ALWAYS beloved of God. The attraction is something that may or may not be chosen, due to deep-seated issues, but it can be tempered and disciplined with grace. Action is what can be determined as right or wrong, and that which we can choose to do or not to do. Action can be judged.

  • Reply chrisr June 30, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Wonderful piece, Jenny. Our calling in this day and age is to show the world what sacramental marriage is and challenge secular humanists to define it. Their definition of feelings of love doesn’t hold up. About ten years ago marriage was just a piece of paper and meant nothing to them but now it means something very different. I’m not ever sure what that something is. I’m confused by their logic. I have found such joy and peace in the Church’s definition of marriage. I don’t think I would have ascertained that on my own. We need Her wisdom and guidance.

  • Reply Amy June 30, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Excellent. Just excellent. Very well written and logical. Thank you for saying these truths.

  • Reply Anne June 30, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Absolutely outstanding. Wow. Well done.

  • Reply Ari June 30, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Right on, Jenny. This is why I feel that Protestants who accept gay marriage will eventually also be defeated. They rely on Sola Scriptura, and many (if not most) have no problem with contraception. We Catholics take the WHOLE picture – Scripture, tradition, theology of the body, natural law, anthropology – and taking all of that into account, we have possibly the highest standard of marital love, of the sacrament of matrimony, of sexual ethics. It is also the only one that makes sense, both in part and on the whole. (Thank God for Pope Paul VI.) I also heard on Catholic radio yesterday that we have put up boundaries and limits – THIS is what marriage is (man, woman, for life, open to life, etc.). Whereas the other side has opened the floodgates, and nothing is stopping them from opening marriage to 3 people, to relatives, etc. There is no logical reason to limit marriage now. And insomuch as it is currently limited to 2 consenting adults, it is because it is mimicking nature – marriage between 1 man and 1 woman.

  • Reply Jamie July 1, 2015 at 7:24 am

    I disagree with your views but I do respect your opinion and beliefs. I feel, however, that this whole debate focuses too much around sex and procreation. First of all, there’s more to marriage and relationships than sex. Marriage laws allow same-sex couples to have basic rights, for example, visiting their spouse in the hospital, that have been unfairly denied to them, which is just plain wrong. Second of all, I don’t think you can adequately debate this topic without even mentioning the concept of adoption. Third, and related to the second point, there are way too many people on this planet – do we really need to be so concerned about reproduction? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about placing unwanted children into loving homes, which a married gay or lesbian couple can provide? That’s a HUGE part of this story and so your argument fails by completely ignoring it.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing July 1, 2015 at 8:14 am

      Some good points here, but I disagree with each of them.
      1. Visitation rights, legal protections, and tax laws could have been restructured to allow for anyone to name whomever as their next of kin/sig other/beneficiary without dismantling marriage. You’re correct that marriage is about more than children, as I stated in my post, but it is also primarily ordered to the good and protection of the family and of the children that issue forth from that couple’s union. That is the only reason the State has ever been in the marriage business to begin with: to safeguard the rights of the child. Since same sex couples are fundamentally unable to procreate, they have no natural capacity to contract marriages to begin with. Partnerships? Sure. Life-long commitments? Ok. But not marriages.

      2. Children – even adopted children – deserve a mother and a father. To intentionally deprive them of one or the other is a poverty and a withholding of a fundamental human right. Gay couples preemptively deprive (and this is a Pope Francis quote) children of the right to a mother and a father. Is it better than being left in an orphanage? Well sure, but it’s far from ideal. To put it on par with biological parents raising their own children in a stable home is absurd. We live in a a broken, fallen world, so of course there are many, many children being raised in less than ideal and even heinous circumstances, but to point to those and say “at least these kids are in a loving home” denies them the basic human right to parents: a father and a mother. It’s holding up a lesser poverty and saying “better than nothing, kid.”

      3. The point on overpopulation is a myth, and one whose popularity is waning. Every developed country on the planet has a collapsing birthrate, thanks to contraception, abortion, and the decline of marriage as a social institution, and is facing a profound demographic crisis as an enlarged aging population creeps towards retirement. The economic, social, and political impact of our underpopulation crisis is going to be profound. It’s baffling to me that anyone could look at the numbers, globally, and still make some kind of claim re: overpopulation. You might find some interesting food for thought by watching the excellent documentary “Demographic Winter”

      Thanks for the respectful and intelligent comments!

  • Reply Jamie July 1, 2015 at 8:30 am

    Thanks for your reply, great food for thought, especially re: declining birth rates. However, I don’t think producing more people than the previous generation is the solution to our problems, because that’s how overpopulation will really get out of control. Yes it will be a hard road to provide for the baby boomers who are retiring in huge numbers, but I believe there has to be another solution out there.

    I think we will never see eye-to-eye on this issue because I simply don’t understand why having two moms or two dads is a “less than ideal” situation. What is so important about having both a mom and a dad? You say it is a fundamental human right, but you don’t explain what a mother and father provide that’s different from what two moms or two dads provide. Is it not more important that the child should witness a loving relationship and partnership between his/her parents? Plus, it’s not like children with two moms don’t have any exposure to male family members who could serve as father figures.

    I really appreciate your response and willingness to discuss these issues – I wish more people were open to an honest conversation about these topics without getting defensive and angry!

  • Reply Laura July 1, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    I’m interested in the back in forth between you and Jamie. Just commenting so I can get comment updates. Maybe I’ll weigh in later, but it can be hard to be charitable towards people with differing viewpoints on this topic, I think you’ll agree Jenny. Nice to see you and Jamie corresponding respectfully.

  • Reply Lauren July 2, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    Jamie,
    As a nation, we have just recently celebrated both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. A day that has been set aside- by Congressional proclamation, if I remember correctly- to honor all that mothers and fathers do for our families, our communities, and our nation as a whole. I wonder if you considered your question of what a mother and father provide that 2 mothers or 2 fathers can’t, in the context of those holidays. It seems odd to me that our country clearly values the unique contributions of both mothers and fathers by dedicating a holiday in their honor, but then turns around and says that mothers (or fathers, depending on whether we are talking about a homosexual male or female couple) are irrelevant; that 2 mothers or 2 fathers are the same thing. Maybe consider your own parents when asking what can a mother and father provide that a same sex couple can’t. Did your father teach you, or model for you anything that your mother didn’t? How is his personality different from that of your mother? Men and women are profoundly different. I think everyone in a relationship, whether heterosexual or homosexual, agrees on that. It’s that difference that I think is the answer to your question. Men and women are complimentary in nature–in body, mind, and emotion. They each have unique strengths and weaknesses that they bring to the table. It is that complimentary aspect that provides the ideal situation for raising a child.
    And sure, there will always be outlying cases where a child in a home with a mother and a father suffers neglect or abuse, but as a whole, it is, and always has been best for a child to be raised by both a mother and father.
    And lastly, if you are still reading this long-winded comment, consider the case of my friend, recently and unexpectedly a widower at 38, raising 3 children without his wife. His brother, beloved uncle to his children, because of his life circumstances and generosity, has moved into his home to help with the children and the daily running of the house. If you consider them… (This is admittedly not a perfect analogy because the children knew and loved their mother and they grieve her death.)… Are these children just as well off and just as content being raised by their father and uncle? I would say unequivocally no.
    I, too, appreciate the charitable conversations. I think they are so important to have. I hope you read my comments in the calm and kind manner in which I have tried to write them.

  • Reply Lauren July 2, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    Jamie,

    I feel like my point about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day wasn’t clear. I was aiming to point out that Americans clearly value both mothers and fathers. The prevailing public opinion overwhelmingly supports their unique value… until now, which I think is a bit of a double standard.

    It’s interesting that you pointed out in your comment that it is likely that children being raised by two mothers have a man in their lives who could act as a father figure. I think that is an acknowledgement of the intrinsic value of being raised by a male and a female. It seems that without meaning to, you perhaps hit the nail right on the head. (Though secondarily, I would guess that by their very union and adoption of a child, two women might disagree and in turn, not seek out a father figure for their child.)

    But let’s do a little exercise for a moment. Let’s consider a fictitious lesbian couple who has married and adopted a child. They have a close friend or family member who is able on some level to be a father figure to their child. They have sought him out to be this figure for their child. In doing so, they have acknowledged that this man can provide something for their child which they cannot, despite their love for each other and their child. So what does this say about this family unit? This marriage? What seems fairly obvious to me is that this hypothetical marriage I just described is more about self-fulfillment than about what is best for their child. Their desire to be unified in marriage outweighed what is best for the children that they would go on to adopt. I feel like this goes in circles: seeking out an opposite-sex figure for your child, which acknowledges that this family unit is inherently flawed because it can’t provide fully for the children, which acknowledges that a same-sex marriage is less-than-ideal, which acknowledges that the desires of the parents outweigh the needs of the child. And it goes round and round in a never-winning circle. OR a same-sex couple doesn’t acknowledge that there is any benefit to having an adult of the opposite sex as a role model for their child, rendering either motherhood or fatherhood wholly irrelevant. What will happen when their child grows up? How will he learn to be a husband or wife, mother or father, when he never knew one intimately to draw on the experience of?

    Your questions are good and I commend you for asking them. God bless!

  • Reply LILLIAN July 7, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Thanks for these dicussions. I wandered into this blog today and I found the few things I have read here very insightful. I am most delighted to fine lay Catholics leading this. I am wrtiting form Ghana and I am so very inspired. This particular discussion is very relevant to me in relating the issues with fellow Catholics. I could not have commented on these issues that Jamie brings up logically without emotions. But Lauren and Jenny are wonderful in their discussion. Jamie thanks for bring up the issues. I look forward to more sharing. God bless you all.

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