ROME, November 2, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Prof. Jane Adolphe, an Associate Professor of Law at Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida. recently commented on a New York Times article on “Gay marriage.” Professor Adolphe shared her response with ZENIT.
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My comment addresses the argument of Anne Dohrenwend, Ann Arbor, Mich. Oct. 22, 2012, when she contended that: “There is an obvious solution to the Marriage debate. ‘Marriage should be returned to its original state as a religious sacrament.’”
In response, it is worth noting that the Catholic Church has always maintained that the sacrament of marriage perfects natural marriage, the “original state.” According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 1601: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”
Natural marriage is formed at the moment of consent, traditionally publically manifested because of the unique human and social significance integrally related to the good of the spouses, the good of children and the common good of society.
The marriage contract has always been sui generis because it transcends the couple. It is not founded on having sexual intercourse or living together or upon mere instinct and sentiment.
Instead, it is founded on something more profoundly related to what it means to be human, a free act of intelligence and will. Spouses consent to the reciprocal and mutual exchange of each other as persons in their respective masculinity and femininity. This exchange creates a bond in justice, whereby spouses owe a duty to love, a love that is conjugal – precisely because it is the result of a commitment by a man as man and a woman as woman. Since there is an actual exchange of persons or self-gift of persons in his or her totality as a man and a woman, respectively, the marriage created is permanent, monogamous and open to life.
In other words, permanence, exclusivity and procreative orientation are fundamental to natural marriage, the “original state.” They are goods that make marriage attractive to human understanding. It is indissoluble because the object of man’s and woman’s consent is the donation of their masculine and feminine being, namely the gift of self, which thereby implies a permanent donation, rather than a loan, which would be dehumanizing. It is exclusive because the same gift cannot be made to more than one person at the same time. It is open to life because marriage inherently implies a sexual relationship (engaging in reproductive-like acts).
In sum, marriage does not exist, then, if any of these fundamental goods are excluded by either of the spouses. This would be contrary to the spousal gift of self.