Make no mistake: civil unions a major step in radically redefining marriage

This week, the Colorado State Senate will begin hearings on this year’s civil union legislation.  The Colorado Civil Unions Act, SB 11, continues the debate Colorado undertook last summer regarding the definitions of family and marriage.

Make no mistake, the Colorado Civil Unions Act, and all civil union legislation, is an attempt to redefine marriage—to undercut the long-standing human understanding that the stable, fruitful partnerships between men and women should be promoted and protected.  In every state where civil union legislation has passed, its proponents have pushed to redefine marriage itself.

The fact is that we need to protect marriage.  We need men and women who commit to raising children in stable relationships.  Marriages form families, and families form the basis of our communities, and our nation.  Marriage forms healthy children, who build healthy communities.

Civil union legislation is a major step in the radical redefinition of marriage, family and community.  It is important and fair to recognize that the social redefinition began with the sexual revolution, and the rejection of the idea that children were a part of the purpose of marriage.  Before that, even, the romantic idea that marriage is a kind of self-defined personal fulfillment radically crippled any hope for a reasoned understanding of marriage.

Our contemporary notion of marriage divorces the procreative aspects of sexuality from the unity of sexual partnership. This separation opens the door for the social support and endorsement of any type of sexual behavior—whether solitary, same-sex, adulterous, polygamous, promiscuous, or in any other way one might imagine the sexual act.  We need only look at widespread use and normalization of pornography and the use of sexual innuendo in advertising to see that the sexual act has become mere recreation—and for most, recreation without meaning.

Marriage can be deeply fulfilling.  But that isn’t a good reason to legally protect it.  Our civil interest in protecting and promoting marriage comes from our need to maintain stable families, where children can benefit from one mother and one father.  All children deserve that chance.

Proponents of civil unions argue that their interest is not in redefining family life.  They say they want to ensure that their legal rights are protected.  But in Colorado, there are no clear legal benefits same-sex couples can’t achieve without civil unions.  The real goal of civil union legislation is social endorsement of same-sex unions, and, soon enough, the redefinition of marriage.

A poll from USA Today recently indicated that 53 percent of Americans support a legal redefinition of marriage that includes same-sex couples.  The biggest reason for support is the notion of “equality.”  Same-sex marriage proponents argue that redefining marriage is a requirement to establish social equality.  But marriage—the committed relationship of mothers and fathers raising children—deserves more than equal protection.  Mothers and fathers raising children together deserve special recognition, and special assistance, because their role is essential for a strong society.  From a legal standpoint, marriage is that special recognition.

Of course, marriage is more than just legal endorsement of a vital social relationship.  Marriage is established by natural law—the union of man and woman, as the cornerstone of family, is written on our hearts.  If we abandon the natural law, we simply can’t predict the consequences our culture will face.  Marriage recognizes the complementarity of male and female, and the gift of procreation in their nuptial union.

Among the ironies of civil union legislation is that, for all its talk of equality, the Colorado Civil Unions Act infringes on the rights of others.  The law will require social service agencies—including Catholic Charities—to partner with same-sex couples for adoption and foster care.  The partnership between foster or adoptive parents and their agencies is forged through mutual trust and common purpose.  But the Colorado Civil Unions Act will force some agencies to work with families who don’t share goals.  Catholic Charities works to find homes with a mother and father for children.  The Colorado Civil Unions Act will hinder that work.  Unless a substantial religious liberty exemption is added to the bill, foster care and adoptive services in Colorado will be a casualty of “equality.”  Without a religious liberty exemption, Catholic Charities, and many other institutions, will be hindered in their adoption work—impeded from helping children find homes.

Marriage, defined in natural law and long protected, is for something—the creation of families.  Family is vital to stable social order.  In the name of equality, and “personal fulfillment,” the state of Colorado is sadly preparing to abandon that stability, and to sacrifice children in need in the process.  I pray that we will be able to endure what may happen next.

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.

Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash