What is marriage?

By Tom Quiner

Marriage is …

“a covenant or partnership of life between a man and woman, which is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children. When validly contracted between two baptized people, marriage is a sacrament.”

The above citation is how the second edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines marriage.

“Well, the state should never have gotten involved with licensing marriage in the first place. It should be left up to churches for those people who feel they need marriage.”

This was the argument I heard from a twenty-something law student in a friendly debate we had over a beer during a Monday Night Football game.

As I’ve pointed out in previous posts, our governments very much have a vested interest in marriage: to protect our children. Our communities are healthier and more vibrant when children are raised in an intact family bound together by the security of the marriage covenant.

As we have seen the marriage covenant frayed by no-fault divorce legislation and social experimentation on the very definition of marriage, our society has weakened whether you measure using economic or social pathology yardsticks.

A Quiner’s Diner reader in Illinois recently argued that …

” … gay partners are capable of love and of raising happy children. I don’t see what is remotely inhumane about that, and increasing the number of loving couples — couples to adopt unwanted children — seems like a pretty humane thing.”

Can gay partners love? Of course. Wouldn’t it be healthier for children to be raised by a mother and father in a traditional family?  Common sense says yes.

But that’s not even the point.  The point is all about definition.  Society defined marriage accordingly to protect women and their children from commitment-wary men.  It was in the best interests of society.  Marriage was not defined on the basis of the “relationship” between the partners.

Why would we launch a radical social experiment at a time when we have married heterosexual couples standing in line to adopt?

Catholics along with other Christians, Muslims, and Jews believe the environment of traditional marriage is the best way raise children. The current social experiment underway imposes the  will of the state on faith-based adoption agencies, such as Catholic Charities, and impels them to either disregard their religious beliefs and adopt to gay couples, or get out of the adoption business. This just happened again in Illinois (as it did in Massachusetts and San Francisco) where Catholic Charities had to do just that: get out of the adoption business, despite the availability of non-Catholic adoption agencies that will adopt to same-sex couples.

To Catholics, marriage is a sacrament:

” … an efficacious sign of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us through the work of the Holy Spirit.”

New definitions of marriage which carry the imprimatur of the state are setting up clashes with our religious liberties, as demonstrated by the one example above.

Some resort to characterizing believers in traditional marriage as being gay-bashers and homophobes. This is a tactic commonly used to halt the debate. It is nonsense, of course.

The Catholic Church, for example, believes that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” because they are contrary to the natural law. But they go on to say people with same-sex attractions must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”

This respect, compassion, and sensitivity does not extend to redefining marriage.




  1. joesix on November 19, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Your definition of marriage is based solely on religious faith. You see homosexuality as unnatural and not conducive to raising children. Scientific fact shows that being gay is not a choice and that children are happy and healthy when raised in any home with two loving adults.

    • quinersdiner on November 19, 2011 at 1:04 pm

      Thanks for your comment.