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Gay Marriage and the Fully Formed Conscience

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Sep 12, 2012

Tina Beattie’s scheduled talk on Mary in the English Diocese of Clifton was cancelled because she signed a letter defending gay marriage. Beattie, a theologian, wrote that it was “perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.”

The cancellation is another indication of a trend toward the enforcement of orthodoxy in official Catholic functions, and that is a very good trend indeed. But it is also important to note that Beattie is just plain wrong in her assessment of what Catholics can do “using fully informed consciences.”

Consider: If government decides it sees an advantage to the social order in recognizing gay couples as constituting a “household” for tax purposes, any such proposal would have to be argued on its merits with respect to the common good. There would certainly be a strong tendency by those who recognize the natural law to oppose the recognition of gay alliances as households, but the assignment of household status to gay couples is not intrinsically evil.

Therefore, a decision pro or con would depend on the circumstances. It is at least conceivable that there could be some social benefit to recognizing “households” of various types, perhaps (for example) for the purpose of encouraging a more efficient use of certain resources. I don’t pretend to think that this is likely under present circumstances, but it is not inconceivable.

But for government to extend anything called “marriage” to same-sex couples is intrinsically evil. In the first place, it is a lie. Such a measure denies the very nature of marriage as a potentially fruitful union between one man and one woman. It also arrogates to the State the right to redefine reality, undermining and replacing an immense spiritual, moral and social good with a counterfeit which mocks that good. And of course it is also a distortion of language to provide a political benefit which reality itself otherwise denies. Every aspect of this is intrinsically wrong.

And that is why, as any theologian ought to know, it is not possible for Catholics “to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples” by “using fully informed consciences”. Rather, this can be accomplished only by resisting, denying and contradicting what a fully informed conscience will invariably guide us to do.

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: seewig - Sep. 16, 2012 9:26 PM ET USA

    Great post. It gets more to the center of the issue and doesn't beat around the periphery. Ditto the comments. How can I get my pastor to read that. :)

  • Posted by: Jeff Mirus - Sep. 14, 2012 2:33 PM ET USA

    To clarify (see comment by jamesbell431857), I did not mean to propose the possible morality of civil unions, and I apologize for a lack of clarity. I had in mind the recognition of non-married groups of people as "households" for tax purposes (the example given was to provide a tax benefit for reducing the consumption of resources through sharing of a domicile). Such a law would have to be decided on its merits, though gay "couples" could use it to get a desired benefit.

  • Posted by: jamesbell431857 - Sep. 14, 2012 10:58 AM ET USA

    You are giving too much credit to the possibility of homosexual Civil Unions. It is forbidden under the Natural Law, as articulated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20030731_homosexual-unions_en.html

  • Posted by: Justin8110 - Sep. 12, 2012 9:01 PM ET USA

    One of the early Church Fathers once said that one must really pray to be a theologian; as in one must really hold to the Faith and have a deep interior life to actually be a theologian. It's sad that people can actually get degrees in theology as if a few years at a trendy university and a piece of paper makes one able to fathom the mysteries of God and perhaps even spout heresy and get away with it.

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