Last year a court, as happens so often these days, unilaterally imposed ‘same-sex marriage’ on Bermuda. That judicial fiat has now been legislatively reversed and, while “domestic partnerships” are recognized in Bermuda, some of which partnerships will make it legally easier for same-sex partners to carry on their common life, only one man and one woman can enter marriage in Bermuda. In short, Bermuda law again respects reality.
I have often said that, although “domestic partnerships”, even between persons of the same sex, are a proposition that could be considered on the merits (or lack thereof), the idea that marriage is a union other than one between a man and a woman cannot even be debated, let alone conceded. Ever.
Thus I have also argued that overly-scrupulous language in the otherwise sound Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith 2003 declaration discouraged Catholics from considering the legal recognition of domestic partnerships (or “civil unions” to use CDF’s term), making the contest a winner-take-all wager that, especially in the face of massive main stream media bias, marriage was destined to lose.
To be sure, Catholics can, of course, disagree with my views here (that domestic partnership legislation could be considered), chiefly by arguing that recognition of even domestic partnerships between persons of the same sex has the effect of indirectly encouraging objectively immoral behavior. And they are right. It does.
My question is, so?
A thousand, no, make that a million, things allowed under law have the effect of encouraging immoral behavior. This is so obvious that I don’t think it needs demonstration.
The real question is, whether the activity allowed under law is itself (a) objectively immoral (which would be a deal-breaker); and, assuming it is not immoral per se, (b) is a net contributor to or detractor from the common good. The first question here, then, is one of morality and I hold that domestic partnerships are not per se immoral. I need only demonstrate the goodness of one domestic partnership to carry that point and I can think of a dozen.
But the second question is, I think, one of prudence (practicality or politics, if one prefers) and hence, I hold that, precisely as a matter of practicality, recognition of domestic partnerships is eligible for debate. But to treat a matter of prudence (domestic partnerships) as if it were a matter of principle is a serious mistake. Among other things, that kind of thinking has, I suggest, helped reduce a matter of principle(the definition of marriage) to a matter of politics.
And look where that approach has gotten us.
A last thought. I don’t know if this will help, but what comes to my mind here is that great (and historically accurate) scene in A Man for All Seasons where Sir Thomas More is asked whether he recognizes, and will swear that he recognizes, the children of Anne Boleyn as heirs to the throne. Such recognition would have the obvious effect of encouraging Henry VIII in his adultery against Catherine of Aragon and his repudiation of the Church’s authority over marriage.
Thomas More answers ‘Yes, and I will so swear, because the king in parliament tell me they are the heirs’. This is a crucial point.
Making the children of Anne heirs to the throne might have been a terrible idea but it was not per se an immoral idea (the king and parliament could have made the children of Bob Your Uncle heirs to the throne if they had felt like it) and so More could accept it even if he deeply disagreed with it.
But when a matter of principle arose (say, honoring the Church’s teaching on matrimonial indissolubility), More flatly refused to concede. That refusal cost him head, of course, and he now reigns with the angels and saints in heaven. But More went to his death for a point of principle and not over a matter of prudence.
A Catholic (well, any human being, but one audience at a time) can never agree that marriage is other than the union of one man and one woman. But a Catholic could support domestic partnerships per se, or not, as his or her prudential judgment directs.
Anyway, congrats again to Bermuda.
(This post originally appeared on the “In the Light of the Law” site and is reposted here by kind permission of Dr. Peters.)