Letters: Syria, Same-Sex Marriage, Christians & Politics

Life & Death

Joseph Bottum’s important, common-sense article, “The Things We Share: A Catholic’s Case for Same-sex Marriage” (September 13), has elicited scores of responses. As a result, readers may have missed the far more significant article by Gabriel Said Reynolds on Christian support for the Assad regime in Syria, as well as for the terrorist organization Hezbollah. Reynolds is both balanced and authoritative.

Justus George Lawler

St. Charles, Ill.


Pauline Principle

In his brilliant article, Joseph Bottum argues for U.S. Catholics to accept same-sex marriage as a gamble that may well enhance the institution of marriage itself. Catholic bishops will not be convinced, he says, because they believe it is wrong; he implies that this opposition is based on natural law, “a grand, beautiful, and extremely delicate structure of rationality.” But that’s not their rationale: Scripture seems to condemn homosexuality.

In Romans 1, Paul seems to view homosexuality as a punishment for turning away from God. But is that the correct reading? In putting gay people on this earth, isn’t God testing the limits of our Christian love? If so, Paul may be read in a different light. He is inveighing against promiscuity—the opposite of marriage, gay or straight.

Joseph P. Marren

Chicago, Ill.


Define Your Terms

When Archbishop (later Cardinal) William Levada requested the City of San Francisco to recognize gay civil unions with all the privileges of married persons, he was ignored because he would not use the term “marriage.” I supported his position. Gay couples may well love each other with a pure love and an erotic love and be entitled to all the civil rights of a married couple, but “marriage” is a word defined by centuries of history. It did not simply refer to a man and woman who were wedded in a ceremony, because those who got married but did not engage in intercourse were not considered truly married until consummation. If a married couple splits up before they have had intercourse, they may be granted an annulment, meaning “no marriage took place.” The technical term is ratum, non consummatum. People of the same sexual characteristics cannot consummate—that is, they cannot complete a marriage.

As Socrates noted, the historic meaning of words is not determined by polling or voting. Socrates lost his job as a vote-counter in meetings with the men of Athens because he regularly miscounted the votes. He did so deliberately whenever the vote was a matter of fact or history. I agree.

Frank Nieman

Pleasant Hill, Calif.


Sectarianism Is Not An Option

The September 13 editorial, “America’s Politics,” was right on target. Anyone who thinks that Christians should be absent from political debate is forgetting our history. Lincoln pushed through the Thirteenth Amendment to stop slavery; FDR brought the end of child labor and gave us Social Security. LBJ used his political wiles to enact Medicare, Medicaid, and civil-rights legislation. And now President Barack Obama has laid the groundwork to provide millions more Americans with health care. All four of these presidents helped millions of needy Americans in ways no church could. Yet some of those measures were opposed by Christian churches.

“There is no need to choose between fidelity to Christ and our secular democratic hopes,” the editors write. That truth should marshal every Christian to support the best in their politicians.

Paul Stubenbort

Bensalem, Pa.

Published in the October 11, 2013 issue: 
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