One view, marriage is essentially an emotional tie, enhanced by public promises and consensual sexual activity. The marriage is valuable as long as the good emotions last. Proponents of this view of marriage argue that, given that men and women, men and men, and women and women, can have these sorts of emotional ties, all such unions should be recognised as marriages in law. (On this logic marriage could be further redefined to include various types of relationships.) *
The traditional view of marriage, which the Church has always supported, is different. It sees marriage as about connecting the values and people in our lives which otherwise have a tendency to get fragmented: sex and love, male and female, sex and babies, parents and children. This view has long influenced our law, literature, art, philosophy, religion and social practices.
On this view, marriage includes an emotional union, but it goes further than that. It involves a substantial bodily and spiritual union of a man and a woman. As the Old Testament taught and Jesus and St Paul repeated, marriage is where man and woman truly become “one flesh” (Gen 2:24; Mt 19:5; Eph 5:31) . It is a comprehensive union between a man and a woman grounded on heterosexual union.
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This is true even where one or both spouses are infertile: they still engage in exactly the same sort of marital acts as fertile couples, i.e. that naturally result in a child. Marriage for them as for other truly married couples is grounded on a total commitment: bodily and spiritual, sexual and reproductive, permanent and exclusive. It is in these senses that marriage is comprehensive .
On this traditional view what allows for this special kind of union between a man and a woman in marriage is precisely their difference and complementarity. Their physical, spiritual, psychological and sexual differences show they are meant for each other, their union makes them whole, and through their union ‘in one flesh’ they together beget children who are ‘flesh of their flesh’. They share the sameness of humanity but enjoy the difference of their masculinity and femininity, being husband and wife, paternity and maternity.
Same-sex friendships are of a very different kind: to treat them as the same does a grave injustice to both kinds of friendship and ignores the
particular values that real marriages serve.
* There have been examples of “throuples”, that is three
people, being ‘married’ in private ceremonies