Fr. Mario Alexis Portella

Wednesday, Fr. Mario Alexis Portella writes: The Fight for Traditional Marriage Isn’t Over. Portella demonstrates extreme animus towards gay people and contempt for their marriages. Most American Catholics do not agree with Fr. Portella. Nevertheless, he is an influencer and he is toxic.

Fr. Mario Alexis Portella is an American born Catholic priest who is currently Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. Portella is best known, perhaps, for his Islamophobic tome titled “Islam: Religion of Peace?: The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-up.”

Fr. Portella is wed to three misconceptions:

  1. Same-sex marriage has a mystical (perhaps mythical) effect on opposite-sex marriage.
  2. The state should preference “traditional” marriage to the detriment of same-sex marriage.
  3. The state should preference religious marriage to the detriment of civil marriage.

Portella’s confusion might be the result of the fact that he has a doctorate in canon and civil law from the Pontifical University. Portella is terribly and painfully verbose. Some people confuse verbosity with the exhibition of erudition. I am pruning.

Unfortunately, the indissolubility and unity of marriage that can only exist between male and female—with the end of having and raising children—are being threatened, perhaps even to the point of extinction. Part of this is because of the LGBT and environmental movements (and the politicians who support them); the former has redefined marriage, while the latter is seeking to strip away its fruition.

The above was one of the losing arguments posed to the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges. The good father is defining Catholic marriage as if it is the only form of marriage that exists or is permitted to exist. I must concede that Portella presumes to have a conservative Catholic audience. Therefore, this polemic was never intended for a wider audience.

On the other hand, the intended audience has the potential to influence others. Portella is arming the influencers with biases. We are obliged to accept that “the indissolubility and unity of marriage that can only exist between male and female” is possibly binding religious dogma. As such, it is no more offensive than some Orthodox rebbe condemning the consumption of shrimp.

However, the claim that LGBT people threaten traditional marriage to the point of extinction is outrageously hyperbolic, inflammatory and bigoted. I have yet to entertain a coherent argument to sustain the notion that same-sex marriage has some effect on traditional marriage. 4½ years since Obergefell no one can produce evidence of adverse consequences.

The pretense of the state deeming same-sex “marriage” a human right is what has ultimately misled so many—both homosexuals and heterosexuals—into believing that such legalized unions are equal to those between a man and a woman, and that therefore they must be equally protected under law;

Marriage equality is not based on what Portella calls a human right. It is deemed a constitutional right in the United States. No one has been “misled.” The suggestion is that people are stupid.

In point of fact same-sex marriage is the legal equal of opposite sex marriage. The equal protection that Portella doesn’t like was the intended result. Equal protection under law in accordance with the Fourteenth Amendment was the primary basis on which marriage equality came to fruition.

…the rationale is that if two consenting adults love each other, they have a right to contract a marriage. Some emperors, for example, had male lovers and yet they had no intention of marrying them—and some of them even wedded in order to procreate!

The ancient history is interesting but irrelevant. Portella has already observed the real rationale. He heard a sound but he did not listen. The rationale is constitutionally guaranteed Equal Protection. Portella is trying to diminish the importance of marriage equality and its legal basis.

Portella consistently confuses secular law with religious edicts:

First and foremost, love in itself does not give one the juridical right to marry—under the same argument, a man can file for divorce if he wakes up one day and no longer loves his wife. …

In civil law the purpose of marriage is to create a marital estate. People marry for many different reasons. Whatever the underlying reason for the union, once a couple is intent on marrying, they do have a “juridical” right to do so. We do not question the motives of same-sex couples or opposite-sex couples.

Let us keep in mind that while the state may proclaim same-sex unions as a human right, that does not make it so. As Catholics, we know that human rights—if the phrase is to have any meaning at all—are the same as natural rights..

As I conceded, the intended audience is conservative Catholics. However to frame the basis for marriage equality as a human right is misleading. He is doing so to contrast our rights with natural rights which are presumably based on natural law.

It is my learned opinion that natural law and natural rights are terms of art. They mean whatever the person citing them claims they mean. Natural law was the basis for slavery. It was the basis of the prosecution of the criminal case that was the predicate for Loving v. Virginia. The judge in that case provided us with a perfect and lasting example of what natural rights and natural law mean:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

Portella is indulging in the logical fallacy of appealing to a higher authority. He is claiming that something is true because the accepted authority deems it to be true. A faith-based belief system does not define truth. The truth (or falsity) of any proposition is best resolved with evidence. On that note:

The Creator designed sexual intimacy solely and exclusively to exist in the union of man and woman with the end of generating the human species. …

I respect religious belief which is predicated on the fact that it is voluntary. When individuals seek to impose their religious beliefs on public policy that presents a constitutional conflict — if one believes that the Establishment Clause means precisely what it says. As you will eventually see, that is Fr. Portella’s intent.

The other misguided idea being used against the family, as notable Democrat politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have suggested, is that couples should stop having children altogether in order to save the planet …

Note the use of opposition party demagoguery; the use of Democrat when the correct word is Democratic. That aside, they — Bernie et al — are informed by science. Reducing the number of children we crank out is good for the environment. It is not imposed on public policy and there is no proposal to impose that on public policy.

The proposal of imposition:

Yes, the state needs to promote and safeguard the notion that marriage can only be between male and female for the procreation and formation of progeny. Ultimately, it is not human law that will change people’s minds on this but the natural law, which is the divine precept written in the human heart. …

You will recall that Portella’s title is: “The Fight for Traditional Marriage Isn’t Over.” Portella’s intent is to fight until marriage equality is eradicated. He is not only appealing to authority (“divine precept”) but indulging in the logical fallacy of argumentum ad populum. It is the belief that if enough people become adherents of natural law then gay couples will no longer be permitted to marry.

Same-sex marriage never was a popularity contest. It was never argued on that basis. It was always a matter — and always will be a matter — of constitutional rights.

Let’s discuss real world. In order to challenge same-sex marriage someone needs to file suit. In doing so they have to have legal standing. They have to demonstrate a real harm due to marriage equality. It can be neither hypothetical or prospective. Someone has to assert “this is the injury I have sustained …” The second requirement is to demonstrate that the only means of redressing the injury is overturning the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Father Portella has a religious objection. His purview should be limited to adherents. I might still object because it would marginalize some gay people due to religious dogma. However, I would not express concerns over unconstitutionally imposing religious dogma on civil law.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.