Friday, February 27, 2004

The U.S. Bishops on Marriage

The USCCB issued a FAQ on marriage back in November of last year. It is worth reading as the battle to amend the Constitution begins.

Across times, cultures, and very different religious beliefs, marriage is the foundation of the family. The family, in turn, is the basic unit of society. Thus, marriage is a personal relationship with public significance.

Marriage is the fundamental pattern for male-female relationships. It contributes to society because it models the way in which women and men live interdependently and commit, for the whole of life, to seek the good of each other.

The marital union also provides the best conditions for raising children: namely, the stable, loving relationship of a mother and father present only in marriage. The state rightly recognizes this relationship as a public institution in its laws because the relationship makes a unique and essential contribution to the common good.

Laws play an educational role insofar as they shape patterns of thought and behavior, particularly about what is socially permissible and acceptable. In effect, giving same-sex unions the legal status of marriage would grant official public approval to homosexual activity and would treat it as if it were morally neutral.

When marriage is redefined so as to make other relationships equivalent to it, the institution of marriage is devalued and further weakened. The weakening of this basic institution at all levels and by various forces has already exacted too high a social cost.

The state has an obligation to promote the family, which is rooted in marriage. Therefore, it can justly give married couples rights and benefits it does not extend to others. Ultimately, the stability and flourishing of society is dependent on the stability and flourishing of healthy family life.

The legal recognition of marriage, including the benefits associated with it, is not only about personal commitment, but also about the social commitment that husband and wife make to the well-being of society. It would be wrong to redefine marriage for the sake of providing benefits to those who cannot rightfully enter into marriage.

Some benefits currently sought by persons in homosexual unions can already be obtained without regard to marital status. For example, individuals can agree to own property jointly with another, and they can generally designate anyone they choose to be a beneficiary of their will or to make health care decisions in case they become incompetent.

One person's idea which springs from this last paragraph is that in order to address the issues that homosexual persons are raising, efforts should be made to make benefits for single people easier to obtain. In other words, allow single people an easier method to designate a "next of kin".

This "next of kin" designation avoids any insinuation that
there is a "marriage" or even a publicly recognized
"union" of the individuals. Yet at the same time, it
gives single persons the right to establish a "family"
connection in a manner that is closely analogous to adoption.
One might even characterize the "next of kin" designation
as the adoption of a brother or sister to whom the legal
rights of next-of-kin attach. The law could also provide
for "next of kin" certificates and "kinship severed"

It is probably a good idea. However, the issue is not really about the ability to designate a "next of kin". The issue is whether there are universal truths which cannot be thrown out simply because a number of people do not like them. Is marriage simply something that the state grants or is it part of the natural law which cannot be ignored without serious consequences? Keep us Lord from straying further from you.

Posted by David at 6:08 PM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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