A square is a shape. That statement is undoubtedly true, and it might be necessary to say it when there are geometric revolutionaries marching in the streets proclaiming that a square is a color, but squares are more than just shapes. They're a particular type of shape. They have four sides of equal length and include four right angles. If we define a square as simply a shape we open the door to rectangles, triangles, and circles all appropriating squareness to themselves. Ignore the details of defining a square long enough, and eventually some folks start wondering if maybe a square can be a color after all.
The other day I stopped at a restaurant. The waitress took my order, served my food, and cleared my place when I finished. For my part, I ordered, ate, and paid. It was a wonderful relationship between one man and one woman, but nobody got married. Clearly the definition of “traditional” marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman needs work. Just as a square is a shape, marriage is indeed a relationship between one man and one woman, but what kind of relationship? Three distinctive qualities of marriage are indissolubility, exclusivity, and fecundity.
Marriage is indissoluble. As chastity requires different things of those who are married and those who are not, it's important to be able to tell who is in which camp. Here is a quick test to see if you're married. Did you get married to somebody? Is that somebody still alive? Are you still alive? If you answered yes, yes, and yes, then you're married to that original somebody. A valid, consummated, sacramental marriage ends when one of the spouses dies (natural causes are preferred but not required.) That's it, and no divorce court, annulment tribunal, pope or president can make it otherwise, because they didn't establish the terms of the marriage. Neither did the spouses. God did. (An annulment is a recognition that a marriage was invalid, or in other words that it never existed, not that it ended.)
Marriage is exclusive. When Archbishop Sheen said that it takes three to get married, he wasn't writing a pilot for a new reality TV series. “The basic error of mankind has been to assume that only two are needed for love: you and me, or society and me, or humanity and me. Really it takes three: self, other selves, and God; you, and me, and God.” In marriage, those three roles are filled by God, husband, and wife.
Marriage is fecund. The first commandment from God to mankind recorded in the Scriptures was not, “Take some time to enjoy life, just the two of you, and then have one or two kids if you really feel the need, and then one of you get sterilized.” On the contrary, God told the first married couple, “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth...” Gen 1:28. To quote Archbishop Sheen once more, “Sex love is not meant for death: rather, Eros is for Bios; love is for life.”
These three qualities by no means give a complete picture of marriage, which is a Divine Mystery, but they are essential. Mess with one, and in very short order the others are likely to be trampled on as well. For example, contraception is a direct attack on the fecundity of marriage. It's also an attack on its exclusivity. The love that by right belongs to the spouse and to God is stolen away and redirected into selfishness. Finally, the selfishness drives a wedge between the spouses, as shown by the dramatically higher divorce rate among contracepting couples.
When the indissolubility, exclusivity, and fecundity of marriage are properly understood, the fiction of calling homosexual relationships “marriage” is exposed for the impossible fraud that it is. So why aren’t these three qualities featured prominently in most arguments for “traditional” marriage? The question is answered by asking another one, whose tradition is “traditional” marriage based on anyway?
Culturally speaking, before the United States became a pagan country, it was a protestant country. What is the protestant tradition of marriage? The question presents some difficulty because in some sense there are as many protestantisms as there are protestants. However, there is one position that protestants all agree upon. They are not Catholics. An examination of protestant thought on marriage reveals that it isn't Catholic either. While Catholic Tradition recognizes the indissolubility, exclusivity, and fecundity of marriage, the protestant tradition rejects all three of these features of God's design. Christ said, “Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery.” Luke 16:18. Henry VIII broke with Rome so that he could do exactly that. God said, “They shall be two in one flesh.” Gen 2:24. Luther and other leading “reformers” amended that to “two or more” and officially sanctioned polygamy when their ally Philip of Hesse wanted a 2nd wife. Finally, in the 20th century almost all protestant sects decided that what they had previously taught was evil was now good, and approved of contraception.
One aspect of the campaign for “homosexual rights” that hasn't been thoroughly discussed is the question of where the apparent rise in homosexual behavior is coming from. To the extent this question is examined, indoctrination by the schools and media are blamed. There is certainly a good bit of truth in that answer, but I think there is something more. Fr. Paul Check, who ministers to men and women suffering from same-sex attraction (SSA), points out several recurring factors in the lives of those suffering from the disorder: broken homes, alienation from the same sex parent (e.g. boy from father), difficulty integrating with same sex peers, and sexual trauma. In other words, Fr. Check is describing the consequences of divorce. Just as contraception is the foundation of the empire of infanticide, the divorce culture gave birth to the sodomite culture. The sexual revolutions of the 1500s and early 20th century laid the groundwork for the sexual revolutions of the 1960s and today. The public debate on marriage does present an opportunity for Catholics and other Christians to work together, but as long as Catholics are content to follow the lead of protestants without clearly articulating the serious defects in the protestant tradition, we misrepresent the true Tradition of marriage as established by God.