Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Calling all Catholics of the Worcester Diocese....let's rally behind Bishop McManus

I have just submitted the following piece to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. I'm hoping that it sees the light of day there:


At the 51st annual Red Mass held recently at St. Paul Cathedral, His Excellency The Most Reverend Robert J. McManus reminded those present that the greatest act of compassion which those in the legal and judicial fields can show is trying to ensure that the laws and statutes of the United States always protect the dignity of the human person. Sadly, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has not shown such compassion in recent years.

On November 18, 2003, the SJC ruled, in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, that two members of the same sex have a right to marriage under the constitution of the Bay State. Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, writing for the majority, wrote that the state’s constitution "affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals" and "forbids the creation of second-class citizens" and that the state had no constitutionally adequate reason for denying marriage to same-sex couples.

While this decision of the SJC is long on emotional appeal, it is short on substance. Article VII of the Constitution of the State of Massachusetts (1780) states clearly that, "Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people.." According to this same article, government is not instituted for the "private interest" of individuals and certain classes of men. And what do we mean by the "common good"? The Catechism of the Catholic Church, citing the Letter of Barnabas, a Christian document which dates to the first or early second century, provides an answer: "In keeping with the social nature of man, the good of each individual is necessarily related to the common good, which in turn can be defined only in reference to the human person: ‘Do not live entirely isolated, having retreated into yourselves, as if you were already justified, but gather instead to seek the common good together’ CCC, 1905). The Catechism then provides us with a precise definition in paragraphs 1906 to 1909: "By common good is to be understood ‘the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.’ The common good concerns the life of all. It calls for prudence from each, and even more from those who exercise the office of authority. It consists of three essential elements: First, the common good presupposes respect for the person as such...Second, the common good requires the social well-being and development of the group itself...Finally, the common good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order."

In Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the SJC failed to uphold the common good and to acknowledge that government is instituted for the very purpose of promoting and defending the common good. With all due respect to Chief Justice Marshall, there is "constitutionally adequate reason" for denying marriage to same-sex couples. Same-sex "marriage" violates the common good. It does this on both the individual and social plane. On the individual plane, as Dr. Germain Grisez explains, "...although it is true that partners in sodomy also could conceivably share in a committed relationship with sincere mutual affection and express their feelings in ways that would be appropriate in any friendship, the coupling of two bodies of the same sex cannot form one complete organism and so cannot contribute to a bodily communion of persons. Hence, the experience of intimacy of the partners in sodomy cannot be the experience of any real unity between them. Rather, each one’s experience of intimacy is private and incommunicable, and is no more a common good than is the mere experience of sexual arousal and orgasm. Therefore, the choice to engage in sodomy for the sake of that experience of intimacy in no way contributes to the partners’ real common good as committed friends."

On the social plane, as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained in a document entitled Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, "The inevitable consequences of legal recognition of homosexual unions would be the redefinition of marriage, which would become, in its legal status, an institution devoid of essential reference to factors linked to homosexuality; for example, procreation and raising children. If, from the legal standpoint, marriage between a man and a woman were to be considered just one possible form of marriage, the concept of marriage would undergo a radical transformation, with grave detriment to the common good. By putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage and the family, the State acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties." (No. 8).

Our forefathers, the very men who made this Commonwealth and who crafted its Constitution, understood that government exists to serve the common good and that all society, both religious and civil, and every legal tradition of both authority and liberty, exist for the protection and perfection of the human person. Moreover, our forefathers (and this includes former Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court) recognized the ends and the purposes of marriage. They understood that matrimony is the creative cause of the social unit, the family.

For example, Justice Charles Ambrose DeCourcy (1857-1924) interpreted the special dignity of marriage with these rational words, "By the law of the Commonwealth marriage is regarded as more than a civil contract. After cohabitation, at least, it ripens into a status which affects the parties thereto, their posterity and the whole community...it is a change which, for important reasons, the law recognizes, and it inaugurates conditions and relations which the law takes under its protection." (Richardson v. Richardson, 246 Mass. 353, 354, 104. N.E. 73 (1923), quoting from Smith v. Smith, 171 Mass. 404, 407, 50 N.E. 933, 934 (1898).

Justice George Tyler Bigelow (1810-1878) said that, "The great object of marriage in a civilized and Christian community, is to secure the existence and permanence of the family relation, and to ensure the legitimacy of offspring..." (Reynolds v. Reynolds, 85 Mass.(3 Allen) 605-607 (1862).

For these Justices, marriage was something "more than a civil contract." They would have understood the teaching of Pope Pius XI in his Encyclical On Christian Marriage that, "Matrimony was neither established nor restored by man but by God. It has been protected, strengthened, and elevated not by the laws of men, but by those of God, the Author of human nature, and of Christ who restored that same nature. Consequently, these laws cannot be changed according to men’s pleasure." They would have understood this great Pontiff’s teaching that marriage has its origin "in God." They would have respected the Author of marriage, the common good and the dignity of the human person.

What a shame that we cannot say the same about the Justices who decided it was their prerogative to redefine marriage.

6 comments:

Ted Loiseau said...

Goodridge was sheer judicial fabrication. Your article shows this brilliantly. God bless you sir!

Samantha said...

Paul, that is so powerful. I am speechless. The current SJC is not remaining faithful to that legal interpretation of marriage which the SJC traditionally held. They have ruptured continuity with the legal precedents set by previous Justices of that Court. Incredible.

Michael Cole said...

Chief Justice Marshall and her associate Justices failed to explain how denying marriage to same-sex couples would make them "second-class citizens." Your article highlights this fact. Their decision is nothing less than an assault on the common good. I do stand with Bishop McManus.

Stewart said...

Fantastic presentation. Bishop McManus on the Natural Law at this link:
http://www.tfp.org/TFPForum/
catholic_perspective/moral
_law.htm

Robert Paine, Esq said...

same-sex "marriage" is not legal in Massachusetts . . . even today . . . see http://robertpaine.blogspot.com/

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Of course it isn't. The doctrine on the necessary conformity of civil law with the moral law is in continuity with the whole tradition of the Church. This is clear from John XXIII's Encyclical: "Authority is a postulate of the moral order and derives from God. Consequently, laws and decrees enacted in contravention of the moral order, and hence of the divine will, can have no binding force in conscience...; indeed, the passing of such laws undermines the very nature of authority and results in shameful abuse". This is the clear teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who writes that "human law is law inasmuch as it is in conformity with right reason and thus derives from the eternal law. But when a law is contrary to reason, it is called an unjust law; but in this case it ceases to be a law and becomes instead an act of violence". And again: "Every law made by man can be called a law insofar as it derives from the natural law. But if it is somehow opposed to the natural law, then it is not really a law but rather a corruption of the law".

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