There are times when it is critically important to reason according to principle. Why? So that we can appreciate the relationship between one object, event or circumstance, and another. It is rather like family relations. Sites like ancestry.com have become increasingly popular because people see an advantage or benefit to be gained by increasing their awareness of kinship relations that go unnoticed until we begin tracing our roots back to their origin.
This awareness of principle in a concrete sense has its counterpart of course in logic and reasoning. Indeed, the whole point of the scientific method is to find the common factor that must logically be at work in what can at first appear to be unrelated events. The notion that human behavior can properly be understood simply by following the methods of materialistic empirical science is questionable. But the logic that requires us to group events in terms of some common progenitive cause is common to the search for knowledge about human as well as non-human things. But because the activity of human beings may be subject to immaterial as well as material causes, people often lose sight of this common logic as they deal with social and political issues.
Is this logical myopia at work today when it comes to dealing with the issues of abortion and so-called "marriage" for homosexuals? Many people who rejoice in some politician's strong stand against the destruction of nascent human life can overlook or even support that same individual's promotion of so-called homosexual "marriage." Apparently, it does not occur to them to consider the common premise that is at stake in both issues. Abortion involves the physical suppression of nascent human offspring. The acceptance of homosexual marriage involves eliminating procreation and child-rearing from the assumed definition of marriage as a social institution. This latter conceptual alteration removes the child from consideration as an expression of the final cause of the marital union. The former material alteration eliminates the child as a consequential expression of that union, in physical terms.
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These alterations affect the moral substance of the institution of marriage. When the child is included in that institution as a conceptual and material fact, the institution serves the cause of humanity itself. It therefore affects the common good of human society as a whole, in accordance with a moral imperative that not only transcends individual interests, but transcends the particular interest of any given human community. It encompass that of the species as a whole. In this respect, the procreative understanding of marriage accords with the comprehensive understanding human justice demands, so that, in serving individuals, we preserve the community as a whole.
If properly applied, this comprehensive understanding of the marriage institution has a practical effect It implies that the institutional aim is not just to care for and satisfy the material and emotional needs of the individuals who comprise a family. It is to do so with respect for what is owed to humanity itself. This means parents who deal humanely with their children. But it also means raising children who are humane in their dealings with other individuals; and in their sense of respect and responsibility toward the human community which they and the others comprise.
Understood from this perspective, the issue of marriage cannot be treated simply as a matter of individual concern and self-gratification. It is not just about "individuals who love each other." It's about individuals who love each other for the sake of giving what amounts to lifelong service (thinking of both their own lives and that of their children) to the common good of humanity as a whole.
I can well understand how people who deny the existence of any authoritative natural bonds between one human being and another are comfortable with the idea of marriage as an individually self-gratifying institution. But these days, people who profess to believe that marriage is an institution that antedate's human governments and even human society itself are also acting as if marriage does not owe its institutional existence and authority to the creator, God, whom they recognize to be the author and ruler of all creation. For example, there is the deepening controversy among Roman Catholics in regard to Pope Francis' apparent endorsement of an approach that seems to give priority, in the pastoral care of married couples, to the subjective feelings and intentions of individuals, rather than God's objective provisions for humanity. This is already being espoused by one Roman Catholic bishop as the basis for pastors in his diocese to extend communion to openly adulterous couples, and a warm welcome to what he called "LGBT families."
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This can be mistaken for a purely religious or denominational issue until we face its implication: the existence and nature of government's interest in what is now asserted to be a humanly fabricated institution can no longer be taken for granted. This is particularly true when it comes to defining and enforcing parental obligations, or assuring that government's respect for parental prerogatives that were justly understood to be a consequence of their conscientious efforts to fulfill these obligations. Particularly in the United States, this has always been a challenging subject. According to the understanding that has, until lately, informed our political institutions, marriage involves natural and unalienable individual rights that human governments are instituted (and therefore obliged) to respect.
But if the political definition of marriage from now on sees marriage as little more than a contract between individuals, with no authoritative basis but their own will and passion, what authority do individual parents have when confronted with a government acting for the authority of the whole society? The advocates of so-called "marriage" for homosexuals cast their position in terms of freedom and individual rights. But by severing the institution of marriage from its root in "the laws of Nature and of Nature's God" (as the American Declaration of Independence put it), their logic cuts individuals off from sure access to what were, heretofore, their prerogatives over their family's life.
Those prerogatives existed as a matter of God-endowed right. They were not to be challenged unless and until government could assert and prove that parents had somehow failed to acquit their natural obligations. But as things now stand, Americans face the likelihood that, in future, parents will have no say over their children's lives that cannot be trumped by government power. Yet, if no source of justice imposes constraint upon their will and passion, except what human government admits, and, for example, human governments admit no constraint upon abortion, what ground of principle is left for opposing that travesty?
Like the opposition to slavery in the 19th century, and the 20th century civil rights movement, the pro-life movement in the United States depends on the view that humanity involves justice, God endowed – justice both individuals and governments are obliged to respect. But where there is no effective appeal for justice except to human will and power, what then? In what is still an age of atrocity, who seriously believes that nascent humans will be the only people this endangers?
Media wishing to interview Alan Keyes, please contact [email protected].
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