Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Does providing benefits to same-sex spouses legitimize SSM?

The Washington Post reports on a former executive of Catholic Charities, Tim Sawina, criticizing the decision to change spousal benefits policies in order to avoid legitimizing same-sex marriage.  A quote:

"Providing health care to a gay or lesbian partner -- a basic human right, according to Church teaching -- is an end in itself and no more legitimizes that marriage than giving communion to a divorced person legitimizes divorce, or giving food or shelter to an alcoholic legitimizes alcoholism."

The response from the Archdiocese of Washington -- at least the response reported by the Post -- was not exactly compelling:

The archdiocese responded to [Tim] Sawina's letter Thursday, calling it an inaccurate portrayal of the Church's position and saying that his appeal to the organization's board of directors would have no effect, because the board can't overturn the archbishop's decision.

For more analysis, check out Get Religion's coverage.  So what should the Archdiocese have said in response to Sawina's letter?

https://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2010/03/does-providing-benefits-to-samesex-spouses-legitimize-ssm.html

Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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I think a closer look at the argument is warranted:

"Providing health care to a gay or lesbian partner -- a basic human right, according to Church teaching -- is an end in itself"

Well, of course, the right is to basic health care, not to providing it to a gay or lesbian partner. The Church need not treat all human relationships the same in what it will and will not provide to them. The Church is free to elevate (heterosexual) marriage above all other relationships as an exemplar, worthy of special privileges between husband and wife.

"no more legitimizes that marriage than giving communion to a divorced person legitimizes divorce, or giving food or shelter to an alcoholic legitimizes alcoholism."

On the contrary, there is something quite different at work here. Same-sex spouses are, from the Church's perspective, involved in a sinful relationship no different than unmarried different-sex couples. Equalizing those relationships with marriage is to raise the inherently disordered to the level of the inherently sacramental (even if later sin between the married couples damages that order). Giving communion to a divorced person who is not remarried is no legitimization of any evil state in the person, nor is giving food or shelter to an alcohol.
However, giving the alcoholic money to buy alcohol in the same way that you give a starving person money to buy food, and then calling the giving equivalent, is incoherent.

Posted by: Jonathan | Mar 5, 2010 1:19:49 PM