Catholic Answers Live recently aired a program where callers were restricted to those wishing to redefine marriage. Guests Trent Horn and Sherif Girgis each spent an hour fielding questions from same-sex marriage proponents. Both adeptly defended natural marriage between a man and a woman. Callers often accused them of simply expressing the view of the Catholic Church, which the secular world holds in little regard. Girgis responded by pointing out that traditional marriage between a man and a woman predates Christianity by thousands of years. The idea that two people of the same sex can be married to each other is a recent innovation.
One thing that became readily apparent during the program was that proponents of same-sex marriage and those who believe in traditional natural marriage have very different ideas of what marriage is. Callers were often asked how they would define marriage. Most of them could not come up with a definition that could not be reasonably challenged by pointing out various implications and inconsistencies. Marriage as expressed in the natural law reflected in Church teaching has become distorted in secular society to the point where many so-called secular marriages are hardly marriages at all.
My recent retirement has allowed me to take in some daytime television while spending time on the treadmill. Doctor Phil’s hour-long parade of dysfunctional couples demonstrates what happens when God is missing from the marriage. They often show clips of home life where anger, yelling, and name-calling are regular occurrences. No one should treat another human being this way, especially one’s spouse. Couples on the program are usually offered some form of counseling or rehabilitation. When a secular relationship deteriorates to this point, counseling is probably the only hope for improvement. This is not to say couples in a sacramental marriage cannot have problems. Certainly they can, but if they are living their Catholic faith, problems are less likely, and more addressable.
This secular aberration of marriage lies at the root of many if not most dysfunctional couples. It is marriage based on self-indulgent feelings lacking any concept of what constitutes a covenant between a man and woman. Missing is the complete respect due anyone and everyone as a member of the Body of Christ. I sometimes wonder how different Doctor Phil’s counsel would be if he were able to add Catholic perspective to his clinical view.
Some of the couples presented are not legally married, yet they live together, have children together, and are treated like that part of the relationship is not an issue. Our secular society refuses to deny marriage to any couple, same sex or not, but at the same time, says marriage is not essential or necessarily important. We have a model in the marital relationship between Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as his bride. Lacking an understanding of the marital covenant, relationships rely too much on feelings that are inherently self-centered and transitory.
When some insensitivity arouses anger in a volatile relationship, the tongue is usually the thing to run amok. Today, Doctor Phil displayed a list of names one man called his female partner. Most of the names have to be bleeped from daytime television. I propose to anyone with a brain that name-calling never helps your situation.
I challenge everyone with an R-rated vocabulary to do a purge. If you find yourself using those words, whether spoken in anger or just casual conversation, strike them from your vocabulary. They serve no useful purpose other than to lower the respect others have for you. They won’t reinforce a point that can’t stand on its own. They won’t help your spouse see it your way. They won’t help you achieve your goal. They won’t make your life better. Treat everyone with respect, even if it’s a one-sided respect at first. Never resort to name-calling, especially with a spouse or family member. Rise above the conflict. Take the high road. As Doctor Phil says, somebody has to be the hero.