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Mark Brown: Cardinal George says same-sex marriage is irrational

Cardinal Francis George  |  Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Cardinal Francis George | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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Updated: September 30, 2013 2:09PM



You might expect the leader of the Catholic Church in Chicago to explain his opposition to same-sex marriage on the basis of his religious tenets, but Cardinal Francis George says that’s secondary.

“This is first of all a rational issue before it’s a faith issue,” the cardinal told me in an interview this week. “That is, it’s nature that tells us what marriage is, that in marriage, men and women aren’t interchangeable.”

“We didn’t invent marriage. The church didn’t invent marriage. The state didn’t invent marriage. Nature gives us marriage. The Chinese are not Americans, and they’re not Catholic. They know what marriage is. Where did that come from?” George asked rhetorically.

I published parts of my interview with Cardinal George in Wednesday’s paper, and the response was such that I thought you might be interested in hearing more of what he had to say — whether or not you agree with him about who should be allowed to marry.

I do not agree with the cardinal, in case that is lost on anyone who doesn’t follow my column regularly. Personally, I think I could have an easier time accepting that someone’s faith precluded their support for same-sex marriage than that it was a matter of reason — which theoretically should transcend belief systems.

But that’s the cardinal’s primary argument, which he is entitled to express.

“In marriage, men and women do different things,” he told me. “They raise children differently. They contribute differently. They simply are different. It means something to be a man that’s different from what it means to be a woman, and vice versa. And to deny that obvious fact is something that just puzzles me, not as a matter of faith, but it seems to me to be less than reasonable.”

I would never deny that men or women are different, although I am struck by the fact that the popular concept of what it means to be a man or a woman has changed drastically in my lifetime alone.

During that time, many of the gender roles that were at one point assumed to have been conferred by nature have been completely reversed — as relates to child-rearing or the workplace or, dare we say it, the bedroom.

Going back through history, the definition of marriage has been a moving target as well, whether we’re talking about, ahem, polygamy in ancient China or chattel brides.

Still, the cardinal says it’s the “natural definition of marriage”— between a man and a woman — that the church is trying to protect by fighting to prevent state legislators from legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

“The state can protect [marriage.] It should,” George said. “But it has no right to change it.”

“I think it’s important for the state of Illinois that we not have a law that means that people have to kind of suppress what they know about marriage, just ignore it, and say: ‘It’s got nothing to do with children and family and all the rest. It’s just between two adults who love each other.’ ”

“That’s not what marriage is, and everybody knows that, but now we’ve got to pretend we don’t know it,” George continued. “A law that tells you you have to forget something that the vast majority of the human race knows to be true is not a very good law.”

“What is marriage? Marriage isn’t just about two adults who want to express their love. Marriage is about family. It’s about the continuation of the society. This law kind of reduces it to much less than we all know it to be.”

I’ve never understood this argument that marriage is about family and children. Men and women get married for a lot of reasons. Many couples don’t want children. Many of them can’t have children. There is no requirement that married couples have children, nor does it nullify the validity of their commitment.

Meanwhile, many gay and lesbian couples are raising children together, but their families are denied the same treatment under the law as my family.

Doesn’t seem fair — or rational.

Email: markbrown@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkBrownCST



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