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Marriage Has Nothing to Do with Religion?

by Christopher A. Ferrara
January 9, 2013

The principal reason the Catholic Church today finds herself reduced to impotence before the power of the secular State is the timid refusal of contemporary churchmen to preach to power, and defend with courage, the revealed truths of their own religion.

In the wake of Vatican II’s vaunted “opening to the contemporary world” — a total debacle for the Church — Catholic churchmen have seemingly accepted a pact of silence concerning the Law of the Gospel. The result is that they feel themselves constrained to limit their public pronouncements on social and moral issues to lowest common denominator arguments that will not offend non-believers.

This retreat from the revealed truth of the Gospel is in keeping with a great lie promoted relentlessly by the philosophes of the so-called Enlightenment in their great project of overthrowing the Church’s influence over the body politic. That lie is the claim that “natural law” alone is a sufficient prop for morality and that there is no need for the “systems” of “organized religion.”

A sad but typical example of this development is the recent statement by Francis Cardinal George concerning the abomination of “gay marriage.” According to Cardinal George, “the nature of marriage is not a religious question. Marriage comes to us from nature.”

No, no, no. Marriage, which is indeed ordained by the law of nature, has everything to do with religion, for marriage comes to us from God, the very Author of nature, not merely from nature alone. And in both the Gospel and the Decalogue, God has revealed His will in the matter of matrimony.

The natural law, as Saint Thomas teaches, is man’s rational participation in the eternal law, which is God’s plan for the whole universe and every part of it. Indeed, one cannot even speak coherently of a law of nature absent a lawgiver who endows what pertains to man’s nature with the force of a true and proper law with penalties for disobedience — that is, the divine punishment for sin.

If one removes God from nature, then who is to say that nature imposes upon man any true obligation to respect the nature of marriage or any other element of human existence? The question becomes eminently debatable, and the argument for morality based on “nature” alone will ultimately fail to sustain the moral order. This is precisely what we have seen since the ascendancy of the lie that morality does not require religion.

Moreover, it is nonsense even to speak of “nature” as such if there is no Creator to determine the natures of things, but only a godless universe of endlessly evolving beings without fixed natures.

Finally, the Church has always taught that man’s understanding of the natural law is obscured by the effects of Original Sin and the Fall, so that without the guidance of the Church’s infallible teaching authority, her revealed Truth, together with the operation of divine grace via the sacraments — grace being above nature, perfecting it — man must lose his way and fall into sin and corruption.

For this very reason Our Lord came to reveal the truth about marriage as an indissoluble sacramental bond between man and woman, the two becoming one flesh, and to condemn the corruption of the institution into which men had fallen, so that Moses had tolerated the evil of divorce under the Old Dispensation. Thus when the Pharisees asked: “Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorce, and to put away?” Our Lord replied: “Because Moses by reason of the hardness of your heart permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matt. 19:3)

Even the Cardinal’s glancing reference to God reduces God to nature, precisely in the manner of Thomas Jefferson, the “enlightened” infidel who mocked Christian dogma, denied the divinity of Christ, and gave us the “Nature’s God” of the Declaration of Independence. Said the Cardinal: “When the ways of nature and nature’s God conflict with civil law, society is in danger. ...” Who — or what — is this “nature’s God”? A god who belongs to nature, as the possessive apostrophe would indicate? But then God would be nature, which is exactly the heresy promoted by the radical Enlightenment philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1631-1677), prompting his excommunication even by the synagogues of Holland.

When will Catholic churchmen recover the courage to preach the Gospel they were commissioned to preach instead of playing by the rules of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment liberalism, thus limiting themselves to the natural order or to vague references to an amorphous deity who is not the Word Incarnate? Only if Catholic prelates once again heed the command to preach the Gospel to all nations can the death of the West, and much worse, be averted.

Meanwhile, as Pope Benedict himself has warned, “the very future of the world is at stake.” Our Lady of Fatima, intercede for us, that Catholic prelates might preach the Catholic Faith once again!