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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Illinois.

2012-DEC: Roman Catholic opposition to SSM, based
on the hierarchy's interpretation of natural law.

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This topic is continued from a previous essay.

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2012-DEC-29: Cardinal George of the Roman Catholic Church modifies its reason for rejecting SSM:

During 2011, when the Catholic Church and other conservative faith groups in Illinois opposed government recognition of loving, committed same-sex relationships with civil unions, the Catholic Church argued against unions on the basis of historical church teachings, and the Church's interpretation of various biblical passages -- particularly the famous six "clobber passages" that have traditionally been interpreted as anti-gay.

They lost the argument. The government eventually introduced civil unions in Illinois.

Civil Unions have not worked well in practice. In theory same-sex couples in civil unions are supposed to receive the same rights, protections, and benefits as opposite-sex married couples do. However, separate but equal arrangements are always separate but never equal. One reason is that many people do not understand that "civil unionized" couples should receive the same benefits as married couples. A second reason is that same-sex couples in civil unions are missing what is to many the most important right of all: the right to call their relationship a marriage.

During 2012 a new battle has surfaced, involving modifying the definition of marriage so that it would no longer be a special privilege restricted to opposite-sex couples. The proposed new marriage bill, to be introduced into the Illinois Senate in early 2013-JAN, would create marriage equality in the state if signed into law. Loving, committed couples -- either of opposite-sex or of the same-sex -- would then be able to apply for, pay for, and receive a marriage license. The only exclusions would be the usual restrictions based on age or genetic closeness.

Passage of the bill into law would result in a net increase in religious freedom and liberty througout the state because:

  • Conservative clergy, congregations and denominations would continue to be free to discriminate against same-sex couples with impunity. As always, none could be sued for refusing to marry couples of the same-sex, or for any other reason.

  • The religious freedom of progressive, liberal, and some mainline faith groups would increase. For the first time, they would have the option to marry same-sex couples and treat all of their members equally.

However, at least some Catholic bishops have adopted a new argument for depriving loving, committed same-sex couples of access to marriage. They are now arguing that same-sex marriage violates natural law.

During a newspaper interview with Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, he said:

"Marriage comes to us from nature. That's based on the complementarity of the two sexes in such a way that the love of a man and a woman joined in a marital union is open to life, and that's how families are created and society goes along. … It's not in our doctrine. It's not a matter of faith. It's a matter of reason and understanding the way nature operates." 1

Reporter Manya A. Brachear of the Chicago Tribune comments:

"According to the tradition of natural law, every human being must seek a fundamental 'good' that corresponds to the natural order to flourish. Natural-law proponents say heterosexual intercourse between a married man and a woman serves two intertwined good purposes: to procreate and to express a deep, abiding love." 1

Cardinal George said:

"You want to be sure that everybody has a chance at happiness. That's a very persuasive argument. But we all want that, and nobody should be disdained or persecuted because of their sexual orientation. ... But when we get behind the church and behind the state, you've got a natural reality that two men or two women ... cannot consummate a marriage. It's a physical impossibility." 1

Rev. Robert John Araujo, a law professor at Loyola University Chicago, said that same-sex and opposite-sex couples are not equal. Only the latter may have, by themselves, the ability to reproduce. He said:

"It is this very intelligence that is at the core of the natural law upon which the cardinal is relying when he asserts that the marriage question is not restricted to religious concerns but is also of concern to the natural-law legal reasoning that gave us the American republic." 1

On 2013-JAN-02, the Catholic bishop of Springfield, IL, Thomas John Paprocki, issued a pastoral letter. He agreed with Cardinal Francis George and other local Catholic leaders, by condemned same-sex marriage as against natural law.

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Implications of making the validity of a marriage dependent on the unassisted fertility of the couple:

To consistently making a valid marriage dependent on the fertility of a couple to conceive and give birth by themselves would throw doubt on the validity of many types of marriages. Consider:

  1. A marriage between two lesbians. Unless prevented by age or infertility, either spouse could undergo artificial insemination, conceive, and bear a child. Alternately, they can probably adopt. But left only to their own resources, they cannot procreate.

  2. A marriage between two gay males. Unless prevented by age or infertility, either spouse could supply sperm to cause a surrogate mother to conceive and bear a child. Alternately, they can probably adopt. But left to their own resources, the men cannot procreate.

  3. A marriage between a man and a woman in which the man was a paraplegic and thus unable to engage in sexual intercourse. Again, they would be unable by themselves to procreate.

  4. A marriage between a man and a woman in which the man was infertile because he has undergone a vasectomy, or perhaps because he experiences an untreatable form of erectile dysfunction. Again, they may be unable by themselves to procreate.

  5. A marriage between a man and a woman in which the woman was infertile because of a medical condition, because she has undergone a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), or an oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) or removal of the fallopian tubes, or has experienced menopause. Again, they would be unable by themselves to procreate.

In each of the five cases, the couple would be unable -- by themselves -- to conceive a child and procreate. If one were to make a valid marriage conditional on a couple conceiving a child whose DNA is a mixture of the two spouses, then all five couples could not have a valid marriage. Again, they would be unable by themselves to procreate.

However, the Church:

  • Would consider couples 1 & 2 to be ineligible to have a valid marriage simply because of their gender.

  • Has sometimes refused to marry a man and woman who meet the third description.

  • Would readily marry couples 4 and 5. Even though the two spouses are equally unable to conceive and bear a child by themselves as couples 1 & 2, their marriage would be considered "natural" by the Church.

Some people would find it difficult to understand the Church's interpretation and application of natural law in these cases.

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This topic continues in the next essay, which contains
responses to Cardinal George's Natural Law argument.

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Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Manya A. Brachear, "Gay marriage vs. natural law," Chicago Tribune, 2012-DEC-30, read on DEC-29, at:

Copyright © 2012 & 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted: 2012-DEC-30
Latest update: 2013-JAN-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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