Richard Fitzgibbons

Marriage, essentially

Richard Fitzgibbons
By Richard Fitzgibbons
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August 10, 2012 (Mercatornet.com) - I have been an active debater on blogs in which the topic of same-sex “marriage” is discussed and contested. Recently I received a comment that might benefit from a reply that is sent far and wide, beyond the one blog. The issue raised is common and the answer clarifies in a philosophical sense why same-sex “marriage” should never be defended. Good-hearted people with no philosophical training are being taken in by the rhetoric that homosexuals have a “right” to marriage. The intent of this essay is to show unambiguously that not only is this untrue but also the granting of that supposed right will logically lead to harm to children and to social chaos.

Here is the comment from the advocate for same-sex “marriage”:

“I’d like to see you be more precise in your language. You use words like essence, purpose, and endpoint as if they meant the same thing. The purpose of marriage is to create a new, separate family that ends loneliness and provides a helpmate. Most of these new families produce children, but marriage doesn’t exist solely to create children.”

Now to my open letter to all who have an interest in the subject of same-sex “marriage”.

The essence of something tells us what it is. A children’s ball for play has an essence because of the substance of which it is made, its shape, and its intended purpose. A ball like this is made of a substance that allows it to be bounced. It is round. And the intent of making the ball is play. The ball has an endpoint or purpose, that of enjoyment, play or fun. So, essence (what a thing is) differs from, but is connected to, its purpose or its function. If a person says that a square block of wood is a ball (what it is or it’s essence) this just will not do because a square block of wood cannot achieve the purpose for a child that a true ball can. To give a child a square block of wood and then to tell that child it is a ball and to create the expectation that the child should now play with it in a way that he or she does with a true ball is to invite confusion. If we persisted in insisting that the wooden square was a round ball, this will bring frustration and unhappiness to the child.

Now to our discussion of same-sex “marriage”. The essence of marriage (what it is) has always and without exception been this: man and woman in a loving, committed relationship. The endpoint or purpose of marriage has always and without exception been this: mutual loving support of each other and—and—the creation and support of children. Just as a particular children’s play-ball can have defects in structure, so too can any given marriage. These defects for particular play-balls or marriages do not change the fact of what the ball or the marriage are in their essence. If a particular man and woman choose not to have children, they are not availing themselves of the full purpose of marriage. The parent who puts the ball on a shelf and refuses to let the child play with the ball is not fulfilling for the child the full purpose of the ball. In either of these particular cases, the essence of marriage and the essence of the play-ball are not altered by particular uses or purposes that are idiosyncratic to these particular circumstances. The particular does not alter the universal essence of a thing.

You are asking society to change the essence of marriage, what it is at its core.

So what? you may be asking.

This. As you change the essence of marriage, you invariably change its purpose because essence and purpose are closely connected. You inevitably remove from the purpose of marriage this: the creation and support of children. Note carefully that you have done precisely that in your comment.

You then are left only with this as the purpose of marriage: mutual loving support of those entering into marriage.

How does the new purpose (it is new because part of the traditional purpose of marriage is deliberately eliminated) affect the essence of marriage (what it is at its core)?

Here is the punchline, so please read very carefully: If the purpose of marriage is only mutual loving support, it follows clearly and unambiguously that the essence of marriage can and must include polygamy, polyandry, and man-boy “love”. Why? Because each of these social structures fits within the definition of your purpose for marriage with no contradictions whatsoever. By defining the purpose of marriage as you have, you have changed its essence and allowed for some very strange social structures, such as man-boy “love”, of which you probably do not approve, but must logically accept.

What if you then say that you will alter the essence again and restrict the mutual love to only two adult people? You cannot do that logically.

Let us first discuss the issue of “two” and then turn to the issue of “adults”. Once you have reduced the purpose of marriage to the mutual loving support of those entering into marriage, “two” becomes what philosophers call an “accident” of a thing, something not necessary to the essence. It is like insisting that a ball always be red. Redness is an accident of the ball, not part of its essence because a blue or yellow ball still retains all of the essence of what a ball is. Similarly, 19 men and 5 women who come together willingly in mutual loving support completely fulfill your made-up essence and your made-up endpoint: what a marriage is and its purpose.

Now let us turn to the issue of “adults”. If you claim that any adults (man-man or woman-woman) have a right to marriage—and you must accept any combination of adults by your own definition of marriage as we have seen in the above paragraph—there is nothing to stop society from extending that “right” to consenting adolescents and children. After all, what right does anyone have to block the “wants” of children and adolescents who choose as their “right”, the “right to marry”? It is arbitrary to block their wants-as-rights if the wants of two men or two women or 19 men and 5 women are not blocked by society. You would be depriving them, based on your own words, of creating “a new, separate family that ends loneliness and provides a helpmate.” A 10-year-old fits this definition of your own making.

You might then say this: Well, the limitation of two persons must be arbitrary for heterosexual marriage also. No, it is not. Recall a vital purpose of marriage: to create and nurture children. Notwithstanding the methods of today’s reproductive technology, ultimately only one man and one woman can create a child. Research shows that the child is nurtured best with the mother and the father. The union of two is part of the essence of true marriage.

You might then say this: Well, the idea of only adults must be arbitrary for heterosexual marriages, too. No, it is not. Recall a vital purpose of marriage: to nurture the children. Only adults can do that because part of the essence of “adult” is maturity—greater maturity than children or adolescents have. Please recall that if particular adults lack maturity, this defect does not take away from the universal meaning of the word “adult”. Only one man and one woman can both create and nurture children in a reliable way. “Adults and adults alone” is part of the essence of true marriage.

Whoever was confused about the “rights” of two men to marry or two women to marry, I ask: Are you still confused? If you are not, then what is the logical next step to protecting the essence of marriage and the clear purpose of nurturing and protecting children in that context? As you can see, and this is the logic of it, not my opinion only of it, the alternative is to invite social chaos. The alternative is a failure to protect children, as marriage has traditionally had as one of it’s purposes.

Richard Fitzgibbons is the director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in West Conshohocken, PA. He has practiced psychiatry for 34 years with a specialty in the treatment of excessive anger. He co-authored Helping Clients Forgive: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope, 2000, for American Psychological Association Books.

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Obama remakes the nation’s courts in his image

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By Dustin Siggins
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It has often been said that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is President Obama's greatest achievement as president. However, that claim may soon take second place to his judicial nominees, and especially their effect on marriage in the United States.

In a new graphic, The Daily Signal notes that while President George W. Bush was able to get 50 nominees approved by this time in his second term, Obama has gotten more than 100 approved. According to The Houston Chronicle, "Democratic appointees who hear cases full time now hold a majority of seats on nine of the 13 U.S. Courts of Appeals. When Obama took office, only one of those courts had more full-time judges nominated by a Democrat."

Three of the five judges who struck down state marriage laws between February 2014 and the Supreme Court's Windsor decision in 2013 were Obama appointees, according to a CBS affiliate in the Washington, D.C. area. Likewise, the Windsor majority that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act included two Obama appointees, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Obama has nominated 11 homosexual judges, the most of any president by far, says the National Law Journal.

Only one federal judge has opposed same-sex "marriage" since the Supreme Court's Windsor decision. He was appointed under the Reagan administration.

This accomplishment, aided by the elimination of Senate filibusters on judicial nominees, could affect how laws and regulations are interpreted by various courts, especially as marriage heads to a probable Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of state laws.

Democrats eliminated the filibuster for all judicial nominees except for Supreme Court candidates last year, saying Republicans were blocking qualified candidates for the bench. However, the filibuster was part of the reason Democrats were able to keep the number of approved Bush appointees so low.

The Supreme Court may hear multiple marriage questions in its 2015 cycle. 

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Lisa Bourne

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Cardinal Dolan: Debate on denying Communion to pro-abortion pols ‘in the past’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

As America heads into its 2014 midterm elections, a leading U.S. prelate says the nation’s bishops believe debate over whether to deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians is “in the past.”

The Church’s Code of Canon Law states in Canon 915 that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Leading Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI himself, have said this canon ought to be applied in the case of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. However, prelates in the West have widely ignored it, and some have openly disagreed.

John Allen, Jr. of the new website Crux, launched as a Catholic initiative under the auspices of the Boston Globe, asked New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan about the issue earlier this month.

“In a way, I like to think it’s an issue that served us well in forcing us to do a serious examination of conscience about how we can best teach our people about their political responsibilities,” the cardinal responded, “but by now that inflammatory issue is in the past.”

“I don’t hear too many bishops saying it’s something that we need to debate nationally, or that we have to decide collegially,” he continued. “I think most bishops have said, ‘We trust individual bishops in individual cases.’ Most don’t think it’s something for which we have to go to the mat.”

Cardinal Dolan expressed personal disinterest in upholding Canon 915 publicly in 2010 when he told an Albany TV station he was not in favor of denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. He said at the time that he preferred “to follow the lead of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who said it was better to try to persuade them than to impose sanctions.”

However, in 2004 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI the following year, wrote the U.S. Bishops a letter stating that a Catholic politician who would vote for "permissive abortion and euthanasia laws" after being duly instructed and warned, "must" be denied Communion. 

Cardinal Ratzinger sent the document to the U.S. Bishops in 2004 to help inform their debate on the issue. However, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then-chair of the USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, who received the letter, withheld the full text from the bishops, and used it instead to suggest ambiguity on the issue from the Vatican.

A couple of weeks after Cardinal McCarrick’s June 2004 address to the USCCB, the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger was leaked to well-known Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, who published the full document. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office later confirmed the leaked document as authentic.

Since the debate in 2004, numerous U.S. prelates have openly opposed denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

In 2008, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley suggested the Church had yet to formally pronounce on the issue, and that until it does, “I don’t think we’re going to be denying Communion to the people.”

In 2009, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. in 2009 said that upholding of Canon 915 would turn the Eucharist into a political “weapon,” refusing to employ the law in the case of abortion supporter Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, said in a 2009 newspaper interview that pro-abortion politicians should be granted communion because Jesus Christ gave Holy Communion to Judas Iscariot.

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However, one of the Church’s leading proponents of the practice, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, insists that denying Communion is not a punishment.

“The Church’s discipline from the time of Saint Paul has admonished those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not to present themselves for Holy Communion,” he said at LifeSiteNews’ first annual Rome Life Forum in Vatican City in early May. "The discipline is not a punishment but the recognition of the objective condition of the soul of the person involved in such sin."  

Only days earlier, Cardinal Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told LifeSiteNews that he has no patience for politicians who say that they are “personally” opposed to abortion, but are unwilling to “impose” their views on others.

On the question of Communion, he said, “Do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?”

Cardinal Christian Tumi, archbishop emeritus of Douala, told LifeSiteNews around the same time that ministers of Holy Communion are “bound not to” give the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Pro-life organizations across the world have said they share the pastoral concern for pro-abortion politicians. Fifty-two pro-life leaders from 16 nations at the recent Rome Life Forum called on the bishops of the Catholic Church to honor Canon 915 and withhold Communion from pro-abortion politicians as an act of love and mercy.

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Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
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Sources confirm Cardinal Burke will be removed. But will he attend the Synod?

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By John-Henry Westen

Sources in Rome have confirmed to LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, is to be removed from his post as head of the Vatican dicastery and given a non-curial assignment as patron of the Order of Malta.

The timing of the move is key since Cardinal Burke is currently on the list to attend October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family. He is attending in his capacity as head of one of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, so if he is removed prior to the Synod it could mean he would not be able to attend.

Burke has been one of the key defenders in the lead-up to the Synod of the Church's traditional practice of withholding Communion from Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried.

Most of the Catholic world first learned of the shocking development through Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, whose post ‘Exile to Malta for Cardinal Burke’ went out late last night.

If Burke’s removal from the Signatura is confirmed, said Magister, the cardinal “would not be promoted - as some are fantasizing in the blogosphere - to the difficult but prestigious see of Chicago, but rather demoted to the pompous - but ecclesiastically very modest - title of ‘cardinal patron’ of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, replacing the current head, Paolo Sardi, who recently turned 80.”

At 66, Cardinal Burke is still in his Episcopal prime.

The prominent traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli goes as far as to say, “It would be the greatest humiliation of a Curial Cardinal in living memory, truly unprecedented in modern times: considering the reasonably young age of the Cardinal, such a move would be, in terms of the modern Church, nothing short than a complete degradation and a clear punishment.”

On Tuesday, American traditionalist priest-blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf also hinted he had heard the move was underway. “I’ve been biting the inside of my mouth for a while now,” he wrote. “The optimist in me was saying that the official announcement would not be made until after the Synod of Bishops, or at least the beginning of the Synod. Or at all.”

“It’s not good news,” he added.

Both Magister and Zuhlsdorf predicted that the controversial move would unleash a wave of simultaneous jubilation from dissident Catholics and criticism from faithful Catholics. The decision to remove Cardinal Burke from his position on the Congregation for Bishops last December caused a public outpouring of concern and dismay from Catholic and pro-life leaders across the globe.

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Both men speculated on the reasons for the ouster. 

Magister pointed out that Burke is the latest in a line of ‘Ratzingerian’ prelates to undergo the axe.

“In his first months as bishop of Rome, pope Bergoglio immediately provided for the transfer to lower-ranking positions of three prominent curial figures: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, considered for their theological and liturgical sensibilities among the most ‘Ratzingerian’ of the Roman curia,” said Magister.

He added: “Another whose fate appears to be sealed is the Spanish archbishop of Opus Dei Celso Morga Iruzubieta.”

Fr. Zuhlsdorf observed that Pope Francis may also be shrinking the Curial offices and thus reducing the number of Cardinals needed to fill those posts. He adds however, “It would be naïve in the extreme to think that there are lacking near Francis’s elbows those who have been sharpening their knives for Card. Burke and for anyone else associated closely with Pope Benedict.” 

“This is millennial, clerical blood sport.”

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