Catholic Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George loves to eat his food raw, having killed it with his bare hands. He also, apparently, loves sleeping out under the stars in a tree while waiting for the predators to walk away.
Cardinal George recently told the Chicago Sun Times’ Mark Brown that “This is first of all a rational issue before it’s a faith issue. That is, it’s nature that tells us what marriage is, that in marriage, men and women aren’t interchangeable.”
He goes on to say that “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?”
Which is a load of cow pies.
Marriage is and has always been a contract entered into by two or more people for the purpose of property distribution. Marriage takes many forms from one man and one woman to one man and many women to one woman and many men, to two women, to two men, to any combination of women and men that one can imagine.
Culturally speaking, there are dozens of varieties of marriages.
The Celts, for instance, had a marriage law set that not only categorized marriage into nine different forms- three contractual and six non-contractual forms, but also apparently lacked any gender identifiers and allowed for multiple partner marriages.
Muslims today still practice polygamous marriages. Many Native American tribes practiced what we, today, would call same-sex marriages in that members of the third and fourth genders often married people who were of the same physical sex as they were even though their genders were not.
Cardinal George is making the mistake of assuming that, because China today has marriage being between one man and one woman, that it has always been that way. It has not. Monogamous heterosexual marriage spread across the globe with the rise of Christian-backed European imperialism. Monogamous heterosexual marriage spread from Rome outward.
Cardinal George goes on to say that “In marriage, men and women do different things. 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.”
Except that this is another xenophobic belief out of Cardinal George. While the cardinal may have a degree in theology, he certainly has never studied his anthropology. What he is talking about here is gender construction. That is, what does it mean to be a man or a woman in relation to the society that we live in.
For instance, among the Celts, women were expected to be as competent as men when it came to battle; however, the way that women approached battle was different than it was for men. This is summed up by the Celtic saying that “men fight for honor while women fight for survival.”
Among the Athenians, the idea of a woman lifting a sword was as silly and stupid as you could imagine. No Athenian would dare let a woman near a blade for fear that she would cut off her own head out of incompetence.
Note, however, that I specify Athenians. The view that women were lesser beings and stupid was not shared by all Greeks. Spartan women were expected to be as battle capable as their men, and women were expected to be the second line of defense for Sparta. Queen Gorgo, the wife of King Leonides, was not only a capable warrior, but a capable and competent general, according to all the information we have on her.
It was not until patriarchy spread throughout the world that we started seeing women put into positions of servitude.
Cardinal George continues by saying “The state can protect [marriage.] It should, 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.’ ”
And he goes on to say “That’s not what marriage is, and everybody knows that, but now we’ve got to pretend we don’t know it. 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.”
Marriage is not about any of that except in the minds of those trying to stop it from being what it has always been. Marriage is not what Cardinal George wants it to be. It has always been about economic stability and the solidification of property, not children.
And the government can change what marriage is. Marriage has changed in definition a dozen or more times in just the last hundred years, and in the last thousand? That’s the stuff of a Doctoral Dissertation.