This past weekend we celebrated our freedom to be called Americans! We live in one of the greatest nations on this beautiful earth. We are blessed with so much here, but above all, we are blessed with the freedom for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
On July 4th, 1776, our nation declared our freedom from the tyrannical rule of England. England, as we know through history, was forcing its laws, policies, and taxes upon the people of the American colonies. However, did you know, two hundred years prior to the American Revolution, the King of England was forcing unjust laws upon its own people in their own country.
If you go to the city of London today, you probably will visit the great sights such as Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and Big Ben. You may even visit the enormous 625-acre Hyde Park. Opposite of the park between Park Lane and Oxford Street is a little monument in the ground which states, “The site of the Tyburn Tree.” This was the site of the gallows where 105 English martyrs were hung, drawn, and quartered for standing up to unjust laws.
Did these heroic saints die because they were forced to worship pagan gods like the ancient Roman martyrs? No. Were their guts torn out while still alive because they fell victim to the Barbarian tribes of northern Europe? Not exactly. Did they lose their lives at the hands of Muslim invaders? Nope.
The heroic Catholic martyrs lost their lives because they stood for the dignity and indissolubility of the great sacrament of marriage. We know, as history tells us, that King Henry VIII desired to break his marital bond with Catherine in order to take Anne Boleyn as his new wife. When the Church refused to buckle into the commands of King Henry, he issued the Supremacy Act of 1534. This act stated that the government of England was the head of the Catholic Church in England and any citizen who did not recognize his new ‘marriage’ was considered a traitor.
The faithful Catholics would not allow the Supremacy Act to violate their freedom of religion and conscience nor the great dignity of the sacrament of marriage. One of these martyrs was St. Henry Heath. His last words before the gallows were, “Jesus, convert England. Jesus, have mercy on this country. O England, be converted to the Lord thy God.”
My brothers and sisters the American culture in which we are living is strikingly similar to 16th century England, the very country from whom we fought independence. Like King Henry VIII, our Supreme Court has redefined the very meaning of marriage.
But why is marriage so important to culture? Before the pharaohs of Egypt, the great philosophers of Greece, the Caesars of Rome, the British monarchy and even our own 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, there stood one foundational tenet of every civilization throughout time. That basis was the natural bond of marriage, which is the unity of one man and one woman and any children born of that union.
In light of the recent court’s decision, we must ask this question – ‘Is it justice to allow same-sex marriage?’ No, because, as the ancient Greek philosophers state – ‘justice has its source in nature.’
The nature of marriage is twofold – unitive and procreative. The unity of two people in marriage comes from their distinct and different body parts. There can never be true matrimonial unity without distinction of the body. Secondly, the nature of marriage is procreative. A couple must have the potential of offspring from that unity.
Justice is to do the right for the individual and the common good. For the good of society, justice does not allow me to be married to my sister, no matter how attractive I find her. For the good of the society, justice does not allow me to have multiple wives, no matter how much I ‘love’ them all. The common good of society is to have the stability, unity, and life-giving marriage between one man and one woman.
Same-sex marriage is also contrary to divine law. Remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in which God destroyed that city for their lascivious and often homosexual behavior. Or look at Paul’s writings to the Corinthians in the New Testament. Pulling no punches, he states sternly, “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor practicing homosexuals ……will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered… They are contrary to the natural law…..Under no circumstances can they be approved” (CCC 2357). On the basis of divine law and natural law, homosexual unions can never be permitted in a just society. By no way can we support, attend, or patronize the unjust law of same-sex marriage which has been forced upon our great nation. We as Catholics, have a duty and an obligation to uphold the dignity of marriage as a union between one man and one woman and any children born of that union.
If someone struggles with same-sex attraction he or she is welcome in the Church. Our attractions are not sinful. It is what we do with our attractions that can be sinful. Whether one is married, single, or consecrated religious, we are all called to chastity.
Just the other night I had a conversation with a family member who has same-sex attraction. He would identify himself as gay, but I see him as something so much more, a child of God. The human person cannot be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual preference. I asked him if he would like to get married, he said he would but has never been in a relationship before. I proposed to him a man I know. He is 33, long hair and great beard, and would die for you. As a matter of fact, He already has… on the cross!
Brothers, if there are any among us who struggle with same-sex attraction, draw your attraction to Christ! He is the only man who will sacrificially love you the way you desire to be loved. Sisters, if any of you struggle with same-sex attraction, take the hand of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the comforting love that will give you ever-lasting peace.
Beloved children of God, soldiers for Christ, patriotic Americans, the time has come for us to be prophets of true marital love. Just as Ezekiel in the first reading today, we will be sent to the “rebels who have rebelled against God, the hard of face and obstinate of heart” (Ez. 2). It is a daunting task, but may we find strength from the English Martyrs of Tyburn.
You and I must become authentic witnesses to marriage by – 1. our love for God’s divine and natural laws; 2. fidelity to the sacrament of marriage; 3. reaching out to people with same-sex attraction by introducing the greatest love this world has ever known, the love of Jesus Christ.
May we proclaim, like the last words of Saint Henry Heath, “Jesus, convert America. Jesus, have mercy on this country. O America, be converted to the Lord thy God.” Once our nation turns back to God we will truly find life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Only when we convert our hearts will we experience true freedom, which is the independence from the yoke of evil. “For freedoms sake, Christ has truly set us free” (Gal. 5)!
Fr. Eric Clark