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He Asks If You Are Single
To understand what marriage is, the best place to start is with the human person. After all, marriage is a unique relationship between two specific persons, one man and one woman. This means that they have great dignity and worth. Second, men and women are body-persons. The body — male or female — is an essential part of being human. Gender is not an afterthought or a mere social construct. The body shapes what it means to love as a human person. To sum up, when we think about marriage, we must think about who the human person is — created with great dignity, and called to love as a body-person, male or female. When God created human persons in his own image, as male and female, he placed in their hearts the desire, and the task, to love — to give themselves totally to another person. Marriage is one of two ways someone can make a total self-gift the other is virginity, devoting oneself entirely to God see FC , no. Marriage is not something thought up by human society or by any religion — rather, it springs from who the human person is, as male and female, and society and religion affirm and reinforce it. The truth of marriage is therefore accessible to everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof. Both faith and reason speak to the true meaning of marriage. Marriage is the lifelong partnership of mutual and exclusive fidelity between a man and a woman ordered by its very nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children see CCC , no. Marriage between a baptized man and a baptized woman is a sacrament. This means that the bond between husband and wife is a visible sign of the sacrificial love of Christ for his Church. As a sacrament, marriage gives spouses the grace they need to love each other generously, in imitation of Christ. Just as oxygen and hydrogen are essential to water, sexual difference is essential to marriage. Sexual difference is the difference of man to woman and woman to man. It affects a person at every level of his or her existence: Sexual difference is an irreducible difference. It is unlike any other difference we experience, because it — and only it — allows for the total personal union between husband and wife that is at the heart of marriage. The difference between men and women is for the sake of their union with each other. It is what makes spousal union possible. Of course love and commitment are important for marriage — as they are for many relationships. No other relationship, no matter how loving or committed, can have this unique form of commitment — communion — that exists in marriage, between a husband and a wife. Gender matters for marriage because the body matters for love. As John Paul II said, the body reveals the person. It is a deeply personal reality, not just a biological fact see TOB , sec. Loving as a human person means loving as a man or as a woman. Marriage is intrinsically opposite-sex. Such a write-off would ignore the very essence of what marriage is. The love between a husband and a wife involves a free, total, and faithful mutual gift of self that not only expresses love, but also opens the spouses to receive the gift of a child. No other human interaction on earth is like this. This is why sexual intimacy is reserved for married love — marriage is the only context wherein sex between a man and a woman can speak the true language of self-gift. On the other hand, sexual behavior between two men or two women can never arrive at the oneness experienced between husband and wife, nor can these acts be life-giving. In fact, it is impossible for two persons of the same sex to make a total gift of self to each other as a husband and a wife do, bodily and personally. For this reason, such sexual behavior is harmful and always wrong, as it is incapable of authentically expressing conjugal love — love which by its nature includes the capacity to give oneself fully to the other and to receive the other precisely as gift in a total communion of mind, body and spirit. Therefore, no relationship between two persons of the same sex can ever be held up as equal or analogous to the relationship between husband and wife. Both men and women are created in the image of God. Both have great dignity and worth. In marriage, the complementarity of husband and wife is expressed very clearly in the act of conjugal love, having children, and fathering and mothering —actions that call for the collaboration — and unique gifts — of husband and wife. The Catholic Church cares about marriage because marriage is a fundamental good in itself and foundational to human existence and flourishing. Following the example of Jesus, the Church cares about the whole person, and all people. Marriage or the lack thereof affects everyone. Today, people all over the world are suffering because of the breakdown of the family — divorce, out-of-wedlock childbearing, and so on. One only has to think of the connection between fatherless families and young men in jail to know that this is true. This is a basic injustice to men and women, children, and fathers and mothers. Marriage is truly one of the most important social justice issues of our time. For a list of relevant Church documents on marriage, click here. For more information on strengthening marriage, visit foryourmarriage. The Gift of Children What does marriage have to do with children? Children are at the very heart of marriage. It is only because of their sexual difference that spouses are able to cooperate with God in the awesome adventure of welcoming a child into the world. Marriage is not just about satisfying adult desires, but is a pro-child institution. The community of the family is built upon the communion of the spouses see LF , no. A child is neither a product nor a trophy, but a gift - a human person with great dignity and worth. Spouses are not the ultimate source of their children, but are called to receive them lovingly from God by exercising responsible parenthood which can mean welcoming many children, as well as postponing pregnancy for serious reasons. Only a man and a woman, as husband and wife, can enter into the two-in-one-flesh communion of persons. Only a man and a woman are able to conceive a child through each other. That is to say, only a man and a woman can be joined so intimately that their bodies work together in the common task of procreation. Even when a husband and wife do not in fact conceive a child due to infertility, age, and so on , their sexual acts are still the kind of acts by which children are naturally conceived. In contrast, two persons of the same sex may be perfectly healthy, but will never be able to enter a one-flesh communion and thus unite in such a way that a child is conceived. The fact is, every single child, without exception, does have a mother and a father. Sexual difference between a husband and wife is necessary to conceive a child. But its importance does not end there. Men and women bring unique gifts to the shared task of parenting, that is, of fathering and mothering. Only a woman can be a mother. Only a man can be a father. Each contributes in a distinct and unique way to the formation of children, helping them to understand their identity as male or female. These families lack a father or a mother, just like households headed by two men or two women. A child is meant to be raised by his or her own, married father and mother. But there are times when, due to family tragedies or other unfortunate circumstances, this ideal cannot be realized. The Church acknowledges the difficulties faced by single parents and seeks to support them in their often heroic response to meet the needs of their children. Undesired single parenthood can still witness to the importance of sexual difference by acknowledging the challenges faced by single parents and their children due to the lack of a father or mother. In contrast, arrangements of two men or two women are incapable of such witness and present motherhood and fatherhood as disposable. These arrangements of themselves contradict the conjugal and generative reality of marriage and are never acceptable. Children deserve to have their need for a father and a mother respected and protected in law. Various studies have demonstrated that children suffer from divorce and from lacking a father or a mother. Moms and dads matter, and the needs of children must not take a backseat to the satisfaction of adult desires. Actually, the conclusions of studies that look at children raised by two men or two women are mixed, at best. It is also important to remember that social science is not equipped to capture the whole of reality. The truths of human nature should be illumined by good science and the Church enthusiastically encourages this , but such truths do not stand trial to social science, as if they will be disproved. At the end of the day, no study should ignore the dignity of the child and the right of every child to a mother and a father. Adoption is a generous response to a child who is in need or abandoned. Mothers and fathers who adopt children witness to the truth that every child is a gift. In other words, fathers and mothers matter to adopted kids, too. Placing a child in the care of two men or two women may be well-intentioned, but ultimately deprives the child of that which best serves his or her interests — a mother and a father. Why does the Church teach that this is unacceptable? No matter how powerful reproductive technology becomes, the fact will always remain that two men or two women can never become parents through each other. No child should be treated as a product. The Church firmly teaches that each and every human being is a unique and irreplaceable person, created in the image of God see Gen 1: Because of this, every man, woman, and child has great dignity and worth, a dignity that can never be taken away i. It also means helping them to flourish as a human being. The intrinsic dignity of the human person should be the starting point for all moral principles. Marriage protects and promotes the dignity of men and women, the dignity of children, and the dignity of all persons in society. Only within marriage can sexual relations mean what they are supposed to mean as an expression of self-giving love between a man and a woman not selfish use. The promises of a husband and a wife speak a high level of mutual trust and invite the confidence that sex will not be exploitative but will manifest true union and life-giving love. Second, marriage provides a context within which the rights of children to a mother and a father are legally protected.
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