Question received: Quite often we hear about the importance of loving one another and being loyal to one’s partner in marriage, but less often about the complementarity of the sexual difference which Catholic marriage is based upon. With the introduction of gay marriage in my country I wondered how important is this aspect in marriage and why?
Fr Paul Galea replies…
This is indeed a thorny question which requires an urgent theological response. My present understanding is that heterosexual (male-female) marriage is the ultimate model for friendship and intimacy as it offers the challenge of unity in diversity. That ideal cannot and should not be changed.
This however, does not exclude other forms of intimate and loving relationships that “mimic” or try to get as close as possible to this model but with obvious limitations. The equality between heterosexual and same sex marriage is a forced legal attempt to make it equal by law, but it can never make it the same. It is precisely because of the nobility of heterosexual marriage that all the rest are trying to imitate it, and if not possible to make it available to others. If it were not so nobody would bother to fight for it. Besides, if one were to abstract the values that are at the basis of marriage, and to apply them to other relationships, that is not a bad thing in itself.
The other obvious theological limitation is if we were to stick too much to the biological. This presents a chasm between Christianity on the one hand, which basis a lot on biology and “natural law”, and the contemporary culture which sees everything as a social construct, that is culturally bound.
I think we should find a common ground between these two positions without going into extremes.