Thursday, April 30, 2015

Abusus non tollit Usum: Thoughts on An Argument Trying to Refute the Defense of Marriage

As we wait for the Supreme Court to decide the fate of “same sex marriage,” I have seen an argument pop up in different places which tries to refute the defense of traditional marriage. This argument isn’t new, but I haven’t seen it for a few years. This arguments points to the cheapening of marriage as we know it in society with easy divorce, marriage for superficial reasons and the like. Some have argued that people with same sex attraction who want to marry have a higher esteem for marriage than heterosexuals because of the abuses that goes on in marriage today. I have seen both promoters of “same sex marriage” and Christians use it (the former for trying to justify their agenda, the latter trying to say “we’re all to blame here!”)

That argument is fundamentally flawed, but unless a person understands the issue, he or she can be easily led astray by it.

The problem can be summed up under the legal maxim abusus non tollit usum: “abuse does not take away use,” meaning that the fact that a thing may be abused or improperly used from a moral point of view does not justify its destruction, non-use, or non-application. I would argue that trying to redefine the meaning of marriage qualifies as the destruction of the original purpose.

In other words, the fact that many people have cheapened the true meaning of marriage (both now and in the past) through abuse does not justify the changing of the meaning of marriage. It means that we tighten up the meaning of marriage so as to eliminate the abuses and reinforcing the true means of marriage—which is what the Catholic Church has been doing every time there has been an attempt to distort the meaning of marriage. She has always stood for lifelong marriage between one man and one woman open to the transmission of life to a new generation. 

The proposal that “same sex marriage” proponents have "deeper respect" for marriage is a bit of a non sequitur (literally “it does not follow,” basically it means introducing something irrelevant to the discussion). Any attempt to redefine the intention of marriage is wrong—whether that wrong is the multiple divorces and remarriages of a Hollywood Actor/Actress or whether that wrong is trying to define marriage as existing between two people of the same gender. The invocation of “deeper respect” is misleading because it tries to sneak the idea of “same sex marriage” as if it were part of the proper understanding of marriage, when it is not.

Ultimately, the cheapening of marriage. is in reducing it to merely an emotional bond that lasts only as long as both partners feel such a bond—denying that marriage is a lifelong commitment which is open to procreation and raising the children born from this marriage. Any concept of marriage which does not recognize these characteristics is cheapening marriage—and the nature of “same sex marriage” is nothing more than an emotional bond. It’s unfortunate that marriage today is reduced to sentiment, but the solution is to defend what marriage is intended to be in all cases, not to redefine it in order to appease sentimentality.

Does respect for marriage need to be deepened in the West? It sure does. Are things like divorce/remarriage, adultery and fornication cheapening how the public views marriage? They sure do. Do these things justify reconsidering “same sex marriage?” They absolutely do NOT. The Christian who recognizes marriage as created by God has a duty to stand with the Church in defending marriage against false ideas and attempts to redefine it.

And that’s why we have to stand and speak out the truth (with compassion of course), even if the whole world hates us for it.

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