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Learning from the Flintstones

Douglas Farrow ,Columbia , August 2005

I was somewhat relieved to discover that at least one member of the parliamentary committee holding hearings on C-38, Canada's proposed new Civil Marriage Act, believes that the link between marriage and parenting goes back to the dawn of human history.

According to LifeSiteNews.com (30 May 2022), the Bloc Quebecois MP, Réal Ménard, responded “to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' statement that laws must be in accord with natural law and reason” by pointing out that the good bishops were “adhering to ‘stone age' morality.” Ménard elaborated by explaining “that the insistence that marriage be linked to the raising of children is an idea ‘from the time of the Flintstones.'”

LifeSite seemed troubled by Ménard's statements, but I find them refreshingly well informed next to the opinion of, say, the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada. Our high court judges seem to think that the link between marriage and procreation was merely the fancy of a passing phase of late Christendom – “late” both in the pejorative sense of being a medieval perversion of the western tradition and in the more respectable sense of being deceased.

To be sure, Ménard apparently thinks it a bit quaint that anyone should continue to hold to the age-old tradition that marriage has something to do with procreation. How, as a separatist, he can fail to connect his attitude with Quebec 's suicidal birth rate is beyond me. But a quick glance at Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which joins together “the right to marry and to found a family,” might also give him food for thought.

. If anything in reports on the exchange with Ménard troubled me, it was a comment in the Canadian Catholic News to the effect “that Archbishop Gervais appeared shocked by the MPs' open contempt for the Christian concept of a transcendent moral order” (LifeSite). The archbishop of Ottawa , one assumes, has encountered such contempt in high places before. Having myself heard the archbishop speaking out bravely, I surmise that any shock registered was strictly for strategic purposes.

But this brings me to the point of this article, which is to present a frank appraisal of the situation we shall find ourselves in should same-sex marriage become the law of the land. The “we” here is first of all everyone, and then more narrowly those who agree with the Archbishop that, if the Flintstones did have a shortcoming, it wasn't their heterosexual bias but their lack of a developed sense of a transcendent moral order.

Any one of the three consequences of same-sex marriage I will explain would be enough to spoil your tea, but they come only as a package. The first is the denial of the common, and certainly the Christian, assumption that every child deserves a father and a mother, preferably his own father and mother. The second is the removal of the biological family from the foundations of civil law. The third is the rejection by the state of any limitation on its authority. Together these consequences augur, not merely the erosion, but the end of the freedoms we in North America take for granted.

First, same-sex marriage carries with it either a complete “Ménardian” detachment of marriage from family – from which it must follow that the capacity to marry says nothing at all about the capacity to found a family – or else it entails a denial that children have any inherent need for both a father and a mother.

Bill C-38 ignores children. A sign of our sterile times, it mentions them only in the fine print; that is, in the consequential amendments, to which we will come in a moment. But C-38 does not ignore children in a benign way, like a husband and wife determined to converse in spite of the fact that the kids are tearing about, making a great din. No, C-38 quietly undermines the very foundations of our children's lives while doggedly pursuing its adults-only conversation. Under the new same-sex marriage regime children will be taught, implicitly and explicitly, that either father doesn't matter or mother doesn't matter. This is the final step in the normalization of our divorce culture, and I suspect that it is because we do not wish to repent of our divorce culture that we have hardened our hearts far enough to take this final step.

Second, same-sex marriage removes the biological family from its proper place in law. This is where the consequential amendments kick in. C-38 excises from Canadian law expressions like “natural parent” or “natural parent-child relationship” and substitutes “legal parent” or “legal parent-child relationship.” That is necessary in order to put same-sex couples on equal footing with heterosexual couples. Law must do what nature cannot – make an inherently sterile relationship potentially parental – and it will do it the only way it can: by redefining the word “parent” as it redefines the word “marriage.”

It will be objected, of course, that adoption laws already do that, but they don't. Adoption laws make legal parents out of those who are not the natural parents of a given child, but they don't require the removal of the distinction between natural and adoptive parents. Same-sex marriage, legislated as an equality right, does. And this means that family law from here on will be based entirely on legal constructs detached from biology and from blood relationships (another term excised by C-38). It also means that the institution of marriage will no longer embody the rights of children to their natural parents and of parents to their natural children. Which leads us to the third consequence.

Bills like C-38 betray the state's intention to make itself supreme in all spheres of human life. They do so in two ways. First, by making religion or the supernatural irrelevant to public life, as the Supreme Court of Canada did already in its Same-Sex Reference opinion, when it invented for Canada an absolute separation between civil and religious marriage that never before existed. Second, by turning our most fundamental natural relationships into mere legal constructs, at the disposal of the state and at the mercy of the enormously powerful new reproductive technologies that the state regulates. This, in due course, will entirely eviscerate Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the protection it offers to the biological family unit, which calls “the natural and fundamental group unit of society” that is “entitled to protection by society and the State.”

Make no mistake: same-sex marriage is a milestone on the road to tyranny. The passage of C-38 will go a long way toward making the state itself the primary “parent” of every citizen. Family, tribe, church and synagogue, will have much legal or political purchase on the state. They will no longer stand, either at law or in civil society, as a priori limits on state authority. The state's rivals for the allegiance of its citizens – rivals which have long demanded of it a certain modesty in its claims – are effectively eliminated. With them go the real foundations of freedom and of political liberalism.

I do not know how far our bishops, let alone our politicians, have thought about these things. But thoughtful Catholics such as G. K. Chesterton and Christopher Dawson have been predicting them since the days of Leo XIII. Contemporary analysts (William Gairdner and Margaret Somerville, for example) have also raised their voices in warning. These voices, Catholic or otherwise, are invariably the voices of those who take seriously a transcendent moral order. The voices trying to shout them down are, more often than not, the voices of those who seek in the state a saviour from religion and from every transcendent moral claim.

This, then, is my appraisal: Our situation could hardly be more serious. It is the children who are especially at risk, a fact betrayed by the animus displayed by Réal Ménard and his associates against those who dare to bring up the subject of children. The Catholic Church, too, is in jeopardy, because the Church is the most cogent defender of the transcendent moral order that supporters of same-sex marriage, whatever they say in their own churches or synagogues, are forced to deny.

The Church, in other words, is capable of seeing both what the Flintstones already saw about the necessity of family life, and what they failed to see about the transcendent moral order. And what the Church sees and says pricks our collective conscience, insofar as we still have one, and irritates in particular the devotees of what Pope Benedict XVI calls the “dictatorship of relativism.”

The Church must resist same-sex marriage resolutely, and refuse in any way to cooperate with the regime it will introduce. It is in that way, and not by compromise or accommodation, that it can hope to reassert the complementarity of the civil and the religious, and reforge the link between civil law and natural law.

Douglas Farrow is associate professor of Christian Thought at McGill University , the editor of Recognizing Religion in a Secular Society , and co-editor of Divorcing Marriage .


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