The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to redefine the nation’s marriage laws to include same-sex couples is no surprise.
Obergefell v. Hodges is one more sign that we have entered into a “post-Christian,” even perhaps an “anti-Christian,” moment in American public life.
But on a deeper level, the decision reflects the crisis in our society’s understanding of creation and the human person.
This crisis has been years in the making.
As far back as 1992, the Court wrote: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of the universe, and of the mystery of life.”
Last week’s decision builds on this false idea of freedom.
The Court says it has now discovered that liberty includes men and women’s right to “define and express their identity … by marrying somebody of the same sex and having their marriages deemed lawful.”
Of course, human freedom and human rights are gifts of our Creator. The law cannot confer dignity to people. Only God can. Without God, human dignity disappears.
But the opinion of the five justices in the Court’s majority reflects the passions and priorities of many who lead and shape our society in the areas of law, government, education, science, industry and the media.
In fact, Obergefell expresses the same “anthropocentric” and “technocratic” mentality that Pope Francis warns about in his new encyclical, Laudato Si’ (“Praised Be”).
At the heart of this mentality is a rejection of the idea of creation and human nature. Everything — the natural world, our social institutions, our physical bodies, even our very “selves” — everything becomes a kind of “raw material” that we can engineer according to our will, using technology, psychology and even law and social policy.
This “technocratic” mindset explains the audacious tone of the Obergefell ruling.
The Court expresses noble thoughts about the “transcendent” purposes of marriage and its importance as a “keystone” of our social order. It acknowledges that marriage has existed “for millennia and across civilizations.”
But the five justices in the Court’s majority do not accept that human sexuality and marriage are part of the order of creation. For them, these are just “constructs” that we are free to “re-construct” according to our preferences.
That is why these justices can assume they have the wisdom to “recreate” this institution that has been the foundation of human civilization. That is why they can presume the power to discard the definition of marriage that has existed since the beginning of history — as the lifelong union of one man and one woman.
Obergefell v. Hodges is a work of social engineering written in emotional and often sentimental language. It reduces marriage to a mere mechanism for satisfying personal desires for “expression, intimacy and spirituality.”
The new “right” to same-sex marriage responds to “the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there,” the Court says.
This is not a vision of the human person that is worthy of America’s founders. The founders built this country on the belief that men and women are created with equal dignity by our Creator. But this is precisely what Obergefell denies — our “created-ness.”
In his dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito warns that those who disagree with the Court’s “new orthodoxy” will be vilified and punished by the government, by employers and by schools.
I hope he is wrong.
But the Church’s mission remains the same in good times and in bad.
Our society needs to hear the beautiful truth about the human person and God’s plan for creation — a plan that is centered in the family, in husbands and wives and children. This is still our duty. And we are called to carry out that duty with love and respect for everyone, with no exceptions and no excuses.
We need to present a new “catechesis” from creation, based on how God made us and how God made the world.
We need to help our neighbors to see that we did not create ourselves and that each of us was born either male or female. We need to remind them that only the union of man and woman can create new life.
It is disturbing that the Supreme Court’s vision has no necessary role for children — they are like “options” or “accessories.”
But in the truth of creation, marriage always points to new creation — to new life, to the beauty of children born in the image of their parents and in the image of God.
So as we remember our nation’s founding this week, let us pray for our country and pray for one another.
Let us keep building a family culture and a marriage culture — remembering that holy lives, good marriages and strong families can change the world.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us strengthen our faith in God’s plan for our lives and our world.