October 22, 2009
President Lincoln had a yellowish-brown mongrel called Fido. The dog was the first presidential dog known to be photographed. But his fame also comes from elsewhere. Fido is believed to be the source of Lincoln’s famous example that lays bare the need for logic in any discussion.
Abraham Lincoln once asked an audience how many legs a dog has if you count the tail as a leg. When they answered “five,” Lincoln told them that the answer was four. The fact that you called the tail a leg did not make it a leg. With his simple example, Lincoln was illustrating one of the fundamental principles of logic, the principle of identity.
This principle of identity can be simply stated: “A thing is what it is.” A pepper plant is not a tomato plant. A football is not a baseball. Put another way: something cannot both be and not be at the same time and under the same aspect.
Ever since the days of Aristotle, this principle of identity -- “A being is what it is”—has been recognized as a first principle not only of knowledge but also of reality. The mind does not invent reality. Rather, the mind recognizes and understands reality.
Today we are facing a very strong, focused and well-financed effort to redefine marriage. The definition of marriage is not some esoteric question. It has very serious consequences for individuals and for society itself.
In the discussions surrounding this issue, there is need for clear, logical reason. However, the debate has been otherwise.
Marriage is what it is. It is not something that the State creates or invents. It is not something that individuals fashion according to their personal preferences. The natural structure of human sexuality shows the ordering -- even on a bodily level -- of man to woman and woman to man.
Nature provides complementary roles for a man and a woman so that they come together in a union of love and pass on from one generation to the next the very gift of life itself. Furthermore, marriage, that is, a committed relationship of a man and a woman, is the best environment in which to raise children.
The State rightly sets marriage apart from other relationships or arrangements, because it is different. The husband-wife relationship makes a special contribution to society. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “To recognize [marriage] and assist this institution is one of the greatest services that can be rendered nowadays to the common good and to the authentic development of individuals and societies, as well as the best means of ensuring the dignity, equality and true freedom of the human person” (
Homily at the Concluding Mass of the Fifth World Meeting of Families, July 9, 2006).
Today, ardent proponents of same-sex unions want to change the very definition of marriage itself. No longer is marriage to be understood as the union of a man and a woman. Rather, marriage is to be redefined as a union of two adults in a committed relationship of love. They argue that the exclusion of same-sex unions in the definition of marriage is discriminatory. But is not the opposite true?
To uphold God’s intent for marriage as written in nature herself can hardly been labeled an offense against the dignity of homosexual persons. In fact, is not the effort to redefine marriage to accommodate the sexual orientation, preference or habit of a minority itself a discrimination against the majority?
To be continued