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 Is the Pope Square? 

August 5, 2003

Speaking as a Catholic, I wish the Vatican would say nothing about same-sex “marriage.” It’s beneath its dignity to enter into debate with a sick joke, and when it does so it only allows progressive-minded fools to change the subject.

Such fools, some of them nominal Catholics, argue that the Church is a bunch of hypocritical old men nervously obsessed with sex and Jesus told us to be nice to each other and refusing to let homosexuals marry isn’t very nice because they don’t bother anyone and anyway what about all those pedophile priests so let the Pope mind his own business and look to his own house. You get the idea. Like, if the Church doesn’t enforce its own rules, those rules must be invalid.

Some people have the ineradicable impression that Catholics regard the Pope as an absolute dictator who can change the moral rules at his own whim. On this view, he could approve of abortion, contraception, and sodomy if he wanted to. Unfortunately, he won’t change his rigid opinions because he is out of touch with the modern world. Not only is the Pope a religious tyrant; worse yet, he is hopelessly square.

Even some Catholics hold this view. They are always eager to let you know they are Catholics, albeit nicer than the Pope and, of course, more in touch with the modern world. Unfortunately, these Catholics aren’t in touch with their own Church. They appear to have been dozing off during catechism.

The Catholic Church doesn’t teach that the Pope can change God’s moral law. On the contrary, it teaches that he can’t, because that law is eternal.

For example, the Pope can’t declare that murder is good. God has made man in his own image, and it is evil to kill human beings. It may sometimes be justified, but only in rare circumstances. The act itself is intrinsically evil. It would remain so even if all priests and bishops were exposed as murderers; in fact, that would only increase its horror.

[Breaker quote: The latest thing in (yawn) advanced thinking]Those who are in touch with the modern world may take a more flexible view. They usually do. Advanced modern thinking keeps finding more and more reasons in favor of things that used to be considered murder, such as abortion, mercy killing, and preemptive war.

In the same way, the Pope can’t change the nature of marriage. It existed, by necessity of human nature, long before Jesus or even Abraham. Every society has had some version of it, but none has ever seen fit to establish marriage between members of the same sex — or more precisely, to call homosexual unions “marriages.”

This has nothing to do with mere disapproval of sodomy. Even societies that were indifferent to sodomy saw no reason to treat same-sex domestic partnerships as marriages. Why not? Because such unions don’t produce children.

Imagine a society in which homosexuality was considered normal and healthy, while heterosexuals were considered perverted. It would still be necessary to have heterosexual marriage as an institution, even if it was a sort of penal institution, for the sake of taking care of the children these “perverts” produced. Marriage might have no sanctity, but it would still have the same reason. To put it as unromantically as possible, people who have children should be stuck with each other, sharing the responsibility.

Again, what society has ever seen any point in “married” homosexuals? Set Jews, Christians, and Muslims aside. The Chinese? The Japanese? The Aztecs? The Vikings? The Apaches? The ancient Greeks and Romans? The list could be lengthened indefinitely, and the answer would always be the same. Marriage might be regarded as a mere necessity, even a regrettable necessity, but it was always for men and women.

If same-sex “marriage” were anything but a sudden modern fad, we’d surely have heard of it before. But it was never even a fad; it was merely a contradiction in terms, not worth considering. So even homosexuals never considered it.

Christianity took a more elevated and uncompromising view of marriage than the businesslike pagans did, raising it to the level of a sacrament; later the West mixed marriage with the charming but extraneous idea of romantic love. But it was always assumed to make sense only as a relation between men and women.

Today the contradiction in terms has become the latest thing. And as always, the most absurdly provincial idea is being accepted as the most advanced thinking, as long as it can be passed off as “modern.”

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2003 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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