Dealing with Darkened Intellects on Marriage

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Sep 12, 2013

When the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) earlier this year, it ruled that it is unconstitutional for Congress to interpret “marriage” and “spouse” as applying only to heterosexual unions. The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy (nominally a Catholic), asserted that the only possible motivation for restricting marriage to heterosexual unions is a “bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group.”

This echoed the decisions of some lower court judges, especially the famous ruling of Judge Vaughn Walker against Proposition 8 in California. Walker declared the restriction of marriage to heterosexual unions as “irrational”.

Many have noted how we have paved the way in our culture for the separation of marriage from natural reproduction and family, tracing the progressive diminishment of marriage through materialism, divorce, contraception, cohabitation, and homosexuality. That path is fairly clear. But I wish to call attention to a different path, the path which has eliminated the capacity of so many to recognize the rational claims of the opposite view, even if on balance they disagree.

After all, it is easy enough to understand how the conception of marriage has shifted until it is based on the idea of an intense personal mutual satisfaction between spouses. It is easy enough to understand how a society could want such an understanding of marriage, however deficient it may be, to serve as the basis for its marriage laws.

But it is not at all easy to understand how anyone who knows anything about the human tradition of marriage, or even anything about the importance of marriage to the social order, could possibly dismiss as irrational the previous understanding of marriage, which is rooted in the protection of our natural powers of procreation and family development. It is also difficult to understand how anyone remotely in touch with reality can assert that the only possible motivation for laws based on this traditional understanding is a desire to harm homosexuals.

Of course what I mean here is that it is difficult to understand the logic. It is not at all difficult to understand the cause. The cause is the darkening of the intellect due to sin. It would be hard to find a clearer case. We very much need to use marriage as an illustration of this serious danger, for all those who have not yet lost their minds.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: rjdobie9424 - Sep. 16, 2013 10:00 AM ET USA

    When I first read Judge Kennedy's opinion, I laughed when I read that oppostion to ssm is simply animus against an "unpopular political group." Knowing and having been around people in our "educated" elite, I can safely assert that nothing is more guaranteed to win you popularity among them than being gay. Indeed, such people trip over themselves in lavishing praise upon any aspect of "gay culture" (though a heavily sanitized version thereof).

  • Posted by: nix898049 - Sep. 14, 2013 11:51 AM ET USA

    You are so right. When I see the dithering that goes on daily, especially on matters pertaining to our Constitution. We pile law after law on the books while I fear we have become a people who no longer know right from wrong. Our minds seem blocked from grasping the concept even when it's presented so simply (as in the truth of marriage) a child could understand. Truly, sin clouds the intellect. O, Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

  • Posted by: bnewman - Sep. 13, 2013 10:59 PM ET USA

    What does Justice Kennedy mean when he remarks that an opinion other than his own on this issue must be motivated by a “desire to harm a politically unpopular group”? I would hope that this simply a rhetorical device: although it seems more injudicious than one might find in an ill-tempered undergraduate debate. Is there a connection today between “intellectual darkness” and an incapacity to grasp an issue except through a political lens: politics is about power not the truth.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Sep. 12, 2013 1:44 PM ET USA

    Thank you for using 'nominally' in relation to Kennedy's Catholicism. When we speak of rational thought today, it is clear that our use of language itself is a stumbling block. These days, things are whatever simply because we say they're whatever. Marriage is any arrangement we dub "marriage," and Catholics are people like this judge Kennedy or like the many soi-disant "Catholics" in the infamous family of the same name. It's impossible any longer to know who is what without a detailed program.