Marriage and the New Morality

Two men wearing tennis whites walk out on the court. Opening a folding table and chairs, they sit down and start to play chess. An attendant rushes up and says, “Sorry, gentlemen, this place is for tennis. You can’t do that here.” Looking up with a scowl, one of the men snaps, “This is how we play tennis. We have a right.”

This is a parable of same-sex marriage and the controversy that accompanies it. On one side: Whatever else it is, it just isn’t marriage. On the other: To us it’s marriage, and we have a right.

Traditionalists not uncommonly see here the collapse of morality. That’s wrong. The advocacy of gay marriage doesn’t reflect a collapse of morality; it represents emergence of a new version of morality that is now locked in a fierce struggle — in courts, in legislatures, and in the court of public opinion — with the older version.

This new morality is a form of libertarianism (people have a right to do as they please) whose fundamental principle is a simplistic idea of fairness (if you can do it, so can I). I learned about libertarian fairness many years ago as a father of small children, whose ultimate argument upon being denied something they wanted invariably was, “It isn’t fair.”

Childish it may be, but it resonates with baby-boomers and members of Generation X, to say nothing of today’s kids. Nearly all of them have been steeped in the conviction that fairness is the all-but-exclusive norm of morality, and fairness means giving everybody what he or she wants — especially if it’s something that somebody else already has.

A federal district judge in San Francisco has recently ruled that California’s Proposition 8, defining legal marriage in that state as a relationship between a man and a woman, violates the constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Proposition 8, adopted by California voters two years ago after the state supreme court had legalized same-sex marriage, clashes with “the state’s interest in equality,” said Judge Vaughn Walker. In other words, it isn’t fair.


The case now goes to the liberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Regardless of what happens there, the ruling almost certainly will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. With its present membership, the Supreme Court probably divides 4-4-1 on same-sex marriage — four justices in favor of legalization, four justices opposed, and, as so often, Anthony Kennedy the swing vote.

It’s not unreasonable to suppose that President Barack Obama’s two Supreme Court picks, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, are among the four justices in favor. People who oppose same-sex marriage would be well advised to pray for long life and good health for Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito.

On the other hand, proponents of same-sex marriage are said to fear that too sweeping a victory too soon — such as a decision on the order of Judge Walker’s hubristic reading of the Constitution — could produce results like those of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision in which the Supreme Court abruptly imposed legalized abortion on the entire country.

As matters now stand, 30 states limit legal marriage to man-woman unions; five states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex unions as marriages. Across-the-board legalization of gay marriage by the Supreme Court in one swoop might generate a lasting backlash and energize the culture war.

One often hears it said that public opinion is shifting in favor of same-sex marriage, and there’s evidence that it is. Although 52 percent of California voters two years ago backed Proposition 8, a recent poll found that 51 percent of Californians support gay marriage now.

But this is hardly surprising, in view of the intense propagandizing for same-sex marriage in media and the academic world, and the squishiness in liberal religious sectors. Indeed, all things considered, it’s remarkable that that opposition remains as strong as it does in the face of constant repetition of the libertarian “fairness” argument combined with the firestorm of verbal abuse directed at those who disagree.


Since the rules of engagement in a pluralistic secular democracy don’t permit one to say simply that gay sex is a sin which the law shouldn’t encourage, the best argument against legalizing same-sex marriage is the harm done to traditional marriage.

No-fault divorce provides a precedent here. Changing the meaning of marriage to accommodate libertarian morality — which essentially is what happened in this case — contributed to the weakening of traditional marriage visible in statistics of recent decades.

Declaring “the trend lines are not healthy,” Allan Carlson, a scholar and advocate of traditional marriage, points out that between 1980 and 2007 the marriage rate (per 1,000 unmarried women) fell from 61.4 to 39.2 — a decline of 36 percent — while the absolute number of marriages fell from 2.39 million in 1980 to 2.16 million in 2008. Allowing same-sex couples to marry might nudge these figures up a bit, but no one imagines it will have that result for traditional marriage.

Approval of no-fault divorce didn’t produce these declines all by itself, any more than legalization of same-sex marriage would do. But in combination with other cultural factors, such experiments in redefining marriage plainly contribute to that result.

In his splendid new study of the thinking of John Paul II, Theology of the Body in Context (Pauline Books & Media), theologian William E. May writes that civil society “must respect the dignity of marriage and the family and refuse to dignify as ‘marriage’ and accord the same rights to nonmarital unions.” And because no society can afford to be permissive about something as fundamental as marriage and family, he insists, the Church is obliged to speak up in their defense.

Indeed yes. But in speaking up, expect to hear someone on the other side growl, “It isn’t fair.” Think of those guys playing chess on the tennis court.

Russell Shaw


Russell Shaw is the author of Catholic Laity in the Mission of the Church (Requiem Press), Nothing to Hide: Secrecy, Communication, and Communion in the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press), and other works.

  • Austin

    I am not sure that you can blame Libertarians for gay marriage. My view is that most “Libertarians” that I know are mainly for less government, especially less Federal Government, sensible laws, and citizens living responsible live without government on their backs. Yes, I think that some Libertarians are for Gay Marriage, but to blame the philosophy for this I don’t believe is accurate.

    I am not for Gay Marriage [which is an oxymoron], but you cannot blame the disintegration of traditional marriage on Gay Marriage. I think that no fault divorce, which you do bring up is more to blame.

  • Kathryn

    The word ultimately comes from mater, Latin for mother.

    Contraception/sterlization has a great deal to do with what we are currently seeing.

    The following link isn’t the best article I’ve seen on the subject, but the one I was looking for (A Prophacy Fulfilled) has broken link.

  • joe bissonnette

    I don’t think the heart of the issue is “fairness”. Fairness implies a desire for something being denied and I don’t think those advocating for same sex marriage actually care about the institution of marriage. Instead their foundational motive is to slap down an objectivist definition of marriage.

    It’s not that homosexuals advocating for same sex marriage want in on marriage, rather they want to dethrone this last representative insitution of Judeo-Christian objectivist morality with a plastic, post modern subjectivist “marriage” which means everything, anything and nothing.

    Joe Bissonnette

  • Cord Hamrick


    I think the problem is that “Libertarian” has far too many definitions, and one ought not use it without defining the sense in which one means it.

    Shaw here says that he is describing…

    …a form of libertarianism (people have a right to do as they please) whose fundamental principle is a simplistic idea of fairness (if you can do it, so can I).

    …which is about as fair as describing those health-and-wealth preachers like Osteen as practicing “a form of Christianity (God loves you and wants only to express it by making you healthy and wealthy) whose fundamental principle is using outward buy-in to express inward faith (by sending money to the televangelist in question).”

    It’s fair (there’s that word again) in that people practicing the first travesty really do call themselves libertarians while doing so, and people practicing the second really do call themselves Christians. But it’s unfair inasmuch as they’re both describing corruptions and deconstructions of the authentic items.

  • Bob Scalise

    It’s very discouraging for long-term single Catholics to see such hoopla over “non-marital unions.” We just want to get married the old fashioned way and no one seems to care.

  • Matthew

    In a free market everybody should have equal access to goods and services. That is a fine libertarian principle. The error is the treatment of marriage as a good, in the economic sense. It is not.

    Legal marriage is a serious intrusion by the state into the private lives of citizens. There are valid arguments for state power, but I cannot think of any which I would classify as libertarian. To me the state interest is directly related to the orderly production and transition of society from one generation to another. Once we strip the procreative function from marriage,, what is the reason that the state has the power to redistribute income between ex-lovers?

  • Austin

    The term “Libertarian” has been hijacked to a degree, by people who would excuse any behavior, so long as it doesn’t affect them. Perhaps I should use the term “classic conservative” to describe people who want less government, less regulations, etc. This is not the same thing as hedonistic, out of control behavior, but more in line with what people regarded as the ideal back in say, the 1950’s.

    I don’t want a “Nanny Government” run by the Left to be sure, but I am also wary of a Nanny Government run by the Right. I think people atending Church on Sunday ia a very good thing, however, it should never be so required by government at any level.

    Osteen is a snake oil salesman, who is making a very nice living from his brand of “Christianity.” Perhaps this is his right, but of course, it is our right to ignore him.

  • Jane

    Thank you for these thoughts. I think you are right that the discussion about marriage currently focuses on issues of “fairness.” But as your telling opening example makes clear, it is foolish to debate about “what’s fair” before determining the content of the good purportedly “denied” – in other words, What is tennis? And more to the point, What is marriage? This is the question that either goes unspoken or is answered in such a minimalistic way that almost any relationship can “count” for marriage, effectively emptying marriage of all meaning.

    Because of this, I think it is important that we refrain from using the qualifier “traditional” in front of marriage. This makes it seem as if there are several varieties of marriage – and we happen to prefer the “traditional” kind. Instead, marriage is the one-flesh union of man and woman is marriage. Period. Language – esp. that of “marriage,” “parents,” “justice” – plays such an important role in this discussion, that we should be as precise as possible.

  • Todd

    “Two men wearing tennis whites walk out on the court.”

    The analogy is perfect if you mention one of the men owns the court.

  • Ann

    I just can’t get all riled up about gay marriage, when I look around at the absolute horrors that traditional divorce causes.

    We destroyed marriage all on our own, without any help from gay people.

  • sibyl

    After reading and thinking about this a lot, I have to agree with Ann. Countenancing no-fault, unilateral divorce is what really drove that last nail in the coffin of traditional marriage. If you can end marriage with a piece of paper and a judge’s OK, then marriage must be simply an at-will contract between two consenting adults. Children can have nothing fundamental to do with it. (If they did, then even no-fault divorce would have to be out of the question if the couple had minor children at home.) And if marriage is an at-will contract between two consenting adults, who may or may not have children (who in turn have no essential right to be raised by both a mother and father), then what difference does it make what sex or sexual orientation those adults might be?

    This isn’t my opinion, I’m just saying that is the inescapable logic.

    I wasn’t born when no-fault divorce was legalized. Did our bishops speak out against it? Were there protests in the streets outside courthouses?

    Really I’m saddened by the idea of homosexual “marriage” but I don’t see, barring a radical return to a traditional approach to marriage and child-rearing, how we conservatives have a leg to stand on.

  • Natalie

    Why have we given the government the power to grant or deny permission for, or otherwise meddle in, marriage in the first place? Catholics believe that marriage is a sacrament. We get married before God and our community in church. If we left this subject up to the Church where it belongs, gay “marriage” would be a non-issue.

    The government should be restricted to enforcing contracts. If homosexuals want to draw up a contract saying they want to leave each other their stuff when they die, or anything else they claim they cannot do without “marriage,” then that takes care of that.

  • Kathryn

    I vaguely remember reading an article about one of the Pope’s speaking out about the State granting marriage licenses. I think this occurred in the mid-1800s after the Civil War. As I recall, licenses started to become required by the various State governments in order to prevent the whites and the blacks from getting married. My memory isn’t that great though, and I have no idea is this information is correct, but surely there is someone on the list who can verify this?

  • Kathryn

    isn’t that great either it seems. “Mememory” should be “memory”.

    There are probably other words wrong as well.

  • M. B.

    Natalie — Catholics believe that marriage is a sacrament, but it is not only a sacrament. It is a natural human institution, not something instituted by the Church. We get married before God and the Church, yes, but we also get married before our surrounding human society, which we are building with our families.

    As such it is right and proper for marriage to be recognized and regulated by the state (in a way that other sacraments should not be) and it is also right and proper for us to insist that the state act in accordance with natural law. We’re not opposed to gay marriage only because we are Catholic and it is against Catholic teaching; we are opposed to gay marriage because we are human and it is against human social nature.

  • M. B.

    Oops. That should be “building with our families” not “building with out famiiles.”

  • DCH

    Why have we given the government the power to grant or deny permission for, or otherwise meddle in, marriage in the first place? Catholics believe that marriage is a sacrament. We get married before God and our community in church. If we left this subject up to the Church where it belongs, gay “marriage” would be a non-issue.

    The government should be restricted to enforcing contracts. If homosexuals want to draw up a contract saying they want to leave each other their stuff when they die, or anything else they claim they cannot do without “marriage,” then that takes care of that. ”
    Sorry, but NON-church members do not seek or need the approval of other people’s churches. Do Roman Catholics care what the Mormon church says about anything? No, and hey don’t have to. Atheists and other non-religious individuals ignore the whole religious angle and have civil weddings.

    On the contrcat aspect: Actually marriage is a CIVIL matter and automatically includes a series of rights and responsibilities on the two individual – drawing up such a contrcat that would be vaild in all states and all matters would be next to impossible.

    Would any married couple accept a down grade to civi union?
    The RCC has NOTHING to do with the civil and legal part of this it and has NO ROLE in the civil legal affairs of non-members. We do not live in a theocracy. Nobody is asking the RCC or any other religious body to bless or condone marriages that the church does not approve of. That is a private matter up to individuals and their churches.

  • M. B.

    Nobody is asking the RCC or any other religious body to bless or condone marriages that the church does not approve of.

    Yes, but they are asking fellow members of society to condone marriages that human natural law cannot accommodate. Religion doesn’t have to have anything to do with it.

  • mike gunderson

    so, if male-male , female-female, or God forbid male-female partnerships are acceptable then is not sexuality totally removed from the marriage equation? Then was is to prevent polygamy in a marriage down the road? Financial or health coverage surely cannot be used in deciding the validity of a marriage. The number of partners in a marriage can’t be important to those who the belief that marriage is nonsacramental in nature.

  • mike gunderson

    sorry for the mistake, should say “—-who believe marriage is—“

  • Cord Hamrick

    This is, all things being considered, a topic on which we the faithful could really benefit from an infallible Church teaching:

    Does the state have a moral right (and if so, a moral duty) to give legal sanction and economic advantages to married persons over the unmarried?

    I can see easily that there is a right (and perhaps a duty) to economically advantage parents. After all, parents perform an indispensable service for the society, producing and correctly training up the citizens of the future. This service is slightly more important even than that of the soldiery of the state — who are paid for their service.

    But, sadly, there is a difference between parenthood and marriage. (I say “sadly” because, in the case of the unintentionally childless, it is sad for them and thus for us if we love them; in the case of the contracepting, it is sad for God and thus for us if we love Him.)

    Since there is that difference, and since it is difficult to see why the state should legislatively intrude in matters related to a sacrament (one certainly doesn’t want them certifying baptisms, confirmations, and ordinations!), perhaps the best public-policy approach is for the state to grant economic advantage to sexually-exclusive, property-sharing, cohabiting, natural-or-adoptive parents. (Said advantage being granted to only one parent of a given gender per family.)

    That can be justified on the basis of the good to society of well-raised children, which is certainly a valid state interest.

    But, to return to my original thought, all this is moot if the Church ultimately decides differently. Maybe what I’m proposing falls afoul of some deep understanding of government’s role, of which I myself am unaware?

    At any rate, I’d feel far more confident proposing policy ideas like this if I knew that the Church had already taught, in some definitive way, what the just authority and specific duties of the state were with respect to marriage.

    How about it? Does anyone know of some obscure passage in an encyclical which might educate me on this topic?

  • Natalie

    “Sorry, but NON-church members do not seek or need the approval of other people’s churches.”

    DCH – I think you misunderstood. I was speaking from a Catholic point of view. I was not suggesting that non-Catholics seek approval from the RCC, but from whatever church they belong to, or from no church at all, if they are so inclined.

    “Would any married couple accept a down grade to civi union?”

    Frankly, I don’t give a hoot if my marriage is government-approved. I got married in my church. My marriage’s seal of approval came from a higher authority, as far as I’m concerned.

    M.B., I agree with most of what you’re saying, except for the part about gov’t regulating marriage. Like Kathryn above, my understanding is that they started issuing marriage licenses after the Civil War because they didn’t want any interracial marriages to occur. Too much gov’t power inevitably leads to abuse and injustice. Maybe this is all just the libertarian in me talking, though. smilies/wink.gif

  • M. B.

    Natalie — I agree, believe me. I am very wary of government power and am a strong backer of limited government. In a fallen world, power leads to abuse, and so power should be limited. On the other hand, though, a society cannot flourish in defiance of basic natural law, either in the legal or the de facto social order. The problem with the strict libertarian approach, in my view, is that it surrenders the field to those who would claim that there is in fact no natural law — and they won’t stop with gay marriage. It seems to me that social order and legal order are inextricably intertwined. They both influence the other. I’m no political philosopher, but I don’t see how willingly divorcing our legal structure from natural law any further can help the social order problem get any better.

  • M. B.


    Here’s somewhere to start, at least:


    From the document:

    “Because married couples ensure the succession of generations and are therefore eminently within the public interest, civil law grants them institutional recognition. Homosexual unions, on the other hand, do not need specific attention from the legal standpoint since they do not exercise this function for the common good.”

  • M. B.

    Ah, and another quote from the conclusion of the same document above:

    “The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society.”

  • Augustine

    I’ve read this entire thread, and one thing I am still unable to understand, is exactly what is wrong with gay marriage? As in, why it is considered to defy social order. I don’t see any defiance in allowing two people of equal gender getting married.

  • Paul Jacob

    Calling immorality the “new morality” is simply a spiritual, intellectual, and moral capitulation to aberrant and psychotic people who believe what they think and do is quite normal and moral.

  • K.V.


    The problem with the quoted document is that same sex couples began years ago to “ensure the succession of generations” using artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, surrogate mothers and
    adoption. A subset of the current generation of children are being raised by same sex couples and often one of the two people acting in loco parentis is in fact the biological parent of the child. Except for adopted children, all these children are created by means that are clinical and artificial and outside natural law because they are fundamentally unnatural means of creating children.

    Many people would now say that the ends (the children) justify the means, and that it’s only fair to allow anyone who wishes to have a child to use any means he or she chooses to obtain a child. It’s not fair to be denied the means to have a child that shares one’s genes.

    Do we think it follows that same sex couples acting in loco parentis “ensure the succession of generations and are therefore eminently within the public interest”? If we do, then it follows that “civil law [does not] grant them institutional recognition” — but it should. To be fair. To be fair, we have to allow the chess players to use the tennis court for their game.

    We can’t use the ability to “ensure the succession of generations” to argue that “Homosexual unions, on the other hand, do not need specific attention from the legal standpoint since they do not exercise this function for the common good.” The only argument we can use from this statement, as I see it, is to say that only unions between men and women “exercise this function for the common good.” Marriage is for the common good if children raised by men and women are more likely to become productive, law-abiding members of society than children raised by two parents of the same sex.

    The problem is in proving that this is the case. We are now engaged in a huge social experiment in which innocent children are the equivalent of lab rats. It’s not fair to the children, who are not short-lived rodents without souls, but young human beings with immortal souls, but people don’t seem to care too much about the children today. Stories of animal abuse cause more indignation than stories of child abuse. I suppose that’s only logical after all these years of legalized abortion on demand.

  • Marjorie Murphy Campell

    Civil marriage is not Roman Catholic marriage. Civil marriage departed from Catholic marriage long ago, and, now, as this author rightly points out, has evoled to calling chess, tennis. True, this is a departure from canon law and from “natural law” of marriage. But I understand Shaw to be saying, once no source can tell us what “marriage” is but our own emotion of what marrige “should be”, then the government, and what government is persuaded to do or not to do, is the final arbiter of the rights and obligations of the take-over of marriage. Thus, we become creatures bound in rules of unity set by the state – and such rules are easily settled upon same sex couples, multiple spouses, siblings … there is no bound upon the thing called marriage but what the government declares – and that, ultimately, is a child’s game to win because … it is fair to have everybody, on their day, a winner.

  • Cord Hamrick (a.k.a. R.C.)


    That document is certainly a good start. (Thanks!)

    I note that it mentions a particular “duty” of Catholic politicians serving in their capacity as policy makers (though also of all Catholics), to wit:

    In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.

    Not much gray area there — which is always a relief.

    K.V. correctly notes that it is now difficult to use the “ensure the succession of generations” argument in the public sphere because

    A subset of the current generation of children are being raised by same sex couples and often one of the two people acting in loco parentis is in fact the biological parent of the child.

    And I’m afraid it’s actually worse than K.V. indicates. K.V. goes on to say…

    Except for adopted children, all these children are created by means that are clinical and artificial and outside natural law because they are fundamentally unnatural means of creating children.

    …which I’m afraid is NOT correct, as I can attest from experience. You see, prior to becoming Catholic, I was an evangelical Christian and worship-music bandleader. In this capacity I had a woman, and then later also her daughter, assist the band by signing out the words of the songs in sign-language. It was some months after this began that, during a conversation among the band about topics related to homosexuals and adoption, the woman pointed out that she was divorced from her husband (and father of her daughter) and that she and her daughter were now living with the woman’s lesbian lover. This was in Georgia, but in a state which permitted homosexual civil unions, they presumably would have contracted one.

    My point in recounting this story is that not all of the children being raised by two women are the result of artificial insemination or adoption. Here, as K.V. notes, we have a child raised by one biological parent…but the biological parentage came about in the normal way, and the parenting situation changed only through a divorce and a new, morally illicit sexual partnering.

    It’s also worth noting that in the case I just described, the daughter still had exactly as much access to her father as the child of any divorced couple who lives with her mother would have. One cannot argue that she is being deprived of the right to a father without simultaneously arguing that all children of divorced parents who implement normal shared-custody or visitation schemes are being deprived of the right to one or more parents. Of course, the latter is actually true in many senses!! …but I doubt anyone who is not already a Christian will be swayed by that argument into changing public policy vis-a-vis parental rights.

    So, while it is quite easy to know what Catholics are to support and oppose with respect to morality, it is rather more complicated to know what Catholics should support as a matter of just laws in these areas.

    We know that…

    As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons. They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood.

    …which is fine. But does that mean that the mother I described who was assisting the worship band at my former church should be denied her parental rights on the basis of her post-divorce illicit sexual acts?

    Instinctively, my gut reaction is “No.”

    But let us say that we succeed in outlawing artificial insemination. Let us say that we succeed in outlawing adoption by homosexual couples, or indeed single parents — assuming that that’s an obligatory political duty of Catholics, which seems likely but I’m not entirely sure.

    If we succeed in all that, we shall still have the problem of divorce from actual marriages followed by adoption of a homosexual lifestyle thereafter to contend with. If that is considered a legal impediment to custody, that’d be one thing. But if it isn’t, then we shall have homosexual parents of biological children suing for whatever political rights and economic benefits accrue to married persons and to married parents of children. And once a judge was finished with it, this obscure, “hard case” would end up producing “bad law” as such cases always do.

    So where does that leave us?

    In a pagan and corrupted society, for starters. But that’s not news.

    Where does that leave the average Catholic voter, who wants to know which public policies to advocate to his representatives? Where does it leave the average Catholic lawmaker, who wants to know what laws he should create which would be just and in accord with the teaching of the Church? (Okay, okay, the rare Catholic lawmaker.)

    I really don’t know.

  • Kevin McCormick

    To those who have advocated leaving the government out of the question of marriage, I would suggest that it is important to remember the ultimate ramifications of the acceptance of homosexual unions by default. If such unions become normalized in any way, the courts will consider any rejection of those unions as discriminatory. This has vast implications for all Church’s, Catholic and Protestant, for social service organizations and even services which have tangential relationship to the issue.

    Already this is happening. There is the case of the photographer in the southwest who declined her services to a same-sex ceremony citing a conflict with her faith. She was fined thousands of dollars when the courts found this to be a civil rights violation. At the beginning this might affect florists, musicians, caterers and others connected to the ceremony itself. But logically there is really no end to it.

    If you remove the traditional legal recognition of one-man-one-woman marriage, you open the door for the courts to define what marriage is. Whether you accept this privately or not, we all will be forced to accept and approve same-sex unions. They will be legally protected.

  • Tom

    Actually marriage is a CIVIL matter and automatically includes a series of rights and responsibilities on the two individual

    What are the responsibilities to the husband that the civil matter requires of the wife? With no-fault divorce, all the responsibilities fall on him, and the rights to his paycheck at the expense of his and his children’s well-being are hers. He has NO ability to contest it even if he has committed no fault. This is the issue that is destroying marriage, and it pre-existed “gay marriage.”

    More importantly, we must entirely separate the question of marriage from the State. To use modern terminoogy, let traditional Catholic marriage be a “brand” that competes in the marketplace with other marriage brands. Its provision of a stable place for children to grow and become a part of the community means that it will outperform other brands (as the original Church overawed the Roman empire by gradually outbreeding it); this requires, of course, a community that will take every step to shame the men who initiate 30% of divorces, and the women who initiate 70% of them. Do not permit the state to order the breakup of a family where no declaration of nullity exists, and defend the rights of children and husbands. It might be necessary for the Church to hold marital property for the use of the family to prevent State intrusion into the family.

    On a practical basis, married people are penalized vis a vis single people on income taxes, so we could end the subsidization of the current Saturnalia. The bigger issue involves cutting off the supply of recruits into the cult of death; separating Catholic marriage from that dying institution, the State, will go a long way to accomplish this.

  • J.J. Jackson

    To say that libertarians believe, “people have a right to do as they please,” is a misunderstanding of libertarianism. And it is fairly common among people who have not delved too deeply into the ideology. What you are describing is actually libertinism (practiced by libertines). Libertines believe in the motto if it feels good do it. Libertarians and Libertines are not the same thing by a long shot as Libertarians believe that one has the right to do as one pleases so long as they do not interfere with the rights of others. Society defining what is marriage and is not marriage would not be a libertarian ideal at all because it violates good governance. And when good and limited governance is violated all people are harmed.

    Libertarians generally think that it is not in the realm of good government to define what is and is not essentially a religious institution. They believe that the church makes that decision not politicians.

  • Thinking-outloud

    Although marriage obviously has physical components, marriage actually is a spiritual union, happening in the spiritual realm. It is an absolute; absolutes cannot be altered by human hands. The courts can manage a civil contract, but not a spiritual union. It’s rather like the courts repealing the law of gravity.

  • JF McKenna

    This is a good article; however, gay marriage is indeed a collapse of morality. The whole idea of it has received enough support to be taken seriously at the legal level, and that couldn’t have taken place had there not been decades of collapse about the various heterosexual deviations from the moral standard. Collapse really comes down to the question of public opinion and the inability of people to voice objections out of fear of appearing intolerant or judgmental

  • Jesurgislac

    In the late 18th century, marriage began to undergo a revolutionary change, which Jane Austen documents in many of her novels. Marriage was, once, the transfer of a daughter from her father to another man, her husband: her function as a wife was to produce children who would be the property of her husband, and she could be divorced if she failed in her function as a wife, to be fertile.

    This is the concept of marriage which Russell Shaw defends as tennis: that marriage is not (as it was to Jane Austen and her heroines) a lifelong pledge to love, honor, and cherish your chosen partner, but a committment between an interfertile pair that they will have children with each other.

    To people for whom marriage is all about the interfertility, and for whom the introduction of the idea that marriage is the mutual and loving vow to honor and cherish one another lifelong is like playing chess on a tennis court, I can understand that this is confusing.

    But I still stand with Jane Austen, and her heirs.

    Jane went to Paradise:
    That was only fair.
    Good Sir Walter followed her,
    And armed her up the stair.
    Henry and Tobias,
    And Miguel of Spain,
    Stood with Shakespeare at the top
    To welcome Jane –

    Then the Three Archangels
    Offered out of hand
    Anything in Heaven’s gift
    That she might command.
    Azrael’s eyes upon her,
    Raphael’s wings above,
    Michael’s sword against her heart,
    Jane said: “Love.”