Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 24, 2005
Same-sex marriage just evolved
Eroded Christian teaching weakens social foundation
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
The push for same-sex marriage is the latest consequence of the weakening of Christian teaching, says a priest from Kingston, Ont.
Father Raymond de Souza told a local conference, "The weakening of our culture, at least in part, has followed the weakening of the Christian Church's teaching and practice.
Long time coming
"This has weakened the foundations, legal and otherwise, for marriage and family life long before the question of homosexuality arrived," said de Souza, campus chaplain at Queen's University and a contributor to the National Post and other publications.
"It is important for the Church to realize that we have arrived at homosexuality in marriage at the end of a very long road."
De Souza spoke on the public consequences of the Church's teaching on sexuality at a Jan. 14-15 ecumenical conference on marriage at St. Joseph's Basilica.
Gospel values and traditional Christian teaching regard marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. They have largely been ignored in recent years, leading to secular society's recognition of same-sex unions as equivalent to marriage.
De Souza said the abandonment by some Christians of the traditional teaching on sexuality has had major consequences for society.
"It is not an exaggeration to say that our public life is dominated by questions related to sexual behaviour," he said. "Besides the issue of terrorism and security, almost every other issue is related to this change in sexual behaviour and attitude."
The "troubling number" of women and children living in poverty in an affluent society is directly related to the increase in divorce and illegitimacy.
Countries, like Canada, have an emerging population too old to support itself, he noted. Some European countries are experiencing major social issues due to large, Islamic populations within their borders.
The debate over homosexuality and other sexual issues is not a matter of private morality at all, he said. "Sexual behaviour has major public consequences. Therefore, the Church's teaching has major public consequences because the Church is an agent of cultural change."
De Souza said until recently gay marriage was something "totally unthinkable in the entire history of civilization." Now it is not only permitted in several provinces, but is being advocated by some in the Christian community.
"How is it that something that was always and everywhere considered to be greatly sinful by the Church regarding homosexual acts, is now being proposed in some of those communities as the consummation of a sacrament?
"I suggest that part of that preparation of public opinion has been the abandonment of traditional sexual teaching by the Christian community," he said.
De Souza outlined the three aspects of sexuality seen in traditional Christian teaching - the intense pleasure and power of the sexual act, the uniting of the couple through sex and the role of sex in procreation.
All three dimensions must be respected, he said. To isolate one from the others is not respecting Christ's intentions. "The Christian sexual ethic is rooted in human nature but illuminated and deepened by divine grace.
"Only in marriage can the true unitive purpose of sexual activity be lived out with total giving of spouses to each other in a consummation of the total self-giving professed in the marriage vows," he said. "Only in marriage can the gift of children be welcomed in a manner that respects the child's right to a mother and father and the education they can provide."
De Souza said the first of many offences against a chaste life is lust, a disordered desire for sexual pleasure. It is a vice, isolating sexual pleasure from its unifying and procreative functions.
Lust animates much of our popular culture. It is beginning to dominate teenage life, in part by way of music videos and the Internet, he said.
"Today in Canadian law, unmarried cohabitating couples are heeded as married, for all intents and purposes. The message could not be clearer - that marriage is optional and not essential. It is possible to have the benefits of marriage without the commitment," he said.
De Souza noted that Pope Paul VI in his 1968 encyclical, On Human Life, "said that all faithful must work ardently for the safeguarding and holiness of a marriage, so that it might always be lived in its entire human and Christian fullness."
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