For Catholic Christians, there is a right way and a wrong way to disagree with the #SCOTUS ruling against banning same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Let us say for a moment you are a Catholic Christian and you believe that marriage is part of the natural law, a primordial sacrament that has been part of the make-up of human society since the beginning, between one man and one woman, an expression of total love and fidelity, for life.
(And let us assume you are familiar with the Catechism’s section on the sixth commandment, or, better, the tradition of Christian moral thinking it attempts to summarize.)
I imagine that most of the world would not be surprised that this is your belief.
Now in the wake of the latest decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn laws banning same-sex marriage throughout the land, how do you respond?
Based on the entirely unscientific method of scanning my Facebook feed for an hour as I think about this, it seems nearly everyone falls into one of two camps: outright celebration or something ranging from grumpy disgust to hatred.
Of course, there are secularists who lump all religions or religious people in the same basket with the most hateful. There are those who suggest that the only possible reason for opposing this ruling is homophobia. Both sides have extremists and a lack of nuance. These are wrong too, but not the point of my post…
The right way, from a Catholic Christian point of view, has been shared by the likes of Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Archbishop Gregory Aymond. Bishop Gerald Kicanas, James Martin, SJ, Dan Horan, OFM, Elizabeth Scalia, and many others.
You can affirm the Christian position of marriage, affirm the sacramental nature of marriage, speak of the beauty of the primordial sacrament and the integral ecology of human nature – and then proceed to honor the Church’s teaching to love one another, to treat our LGBT sisters and brothers with “respect, sensitivity, and compassion”. You can choose to “light a candle, rather than curse the darkness”. You can choose to celebrate the good present in the decision, aware of its limitations.
The wrong way comes from those who speak of a “war on marriage”, that the judgement “harms the common good”, is “immoral and unjust”, is “anti-Catholic” or “a persecution of Christian freedoms”, to claim that “Love has lost”, or to refer to it as “a wrongly decided decision” (that primarily because of bad prose). To the Texas pastor who threatened self-immolation: get thee to an exorcist. Or a shrink.
The cringe-inducing, fear-mongering, and hate-filled rhetoric of some commentators – sadly, even including a few bishops and religious leaders – do more harm than good. Giving scandal, in this case encouraging homophobic violence or hatred, is a greater sin.
To liken this decision to Roe v. Wade and therefore to liken same-sex marriage to abortion is beyond the pale. One is about love and fidelity – even if, as a Catholic Christian, it is not sacramental marriage, or marriage in the proper sense; the other is about killing innocent children before they are born. There is no comparison.
To speak of same-sex marriage as an attack on heterosexual marriage is nonsensical; certainly it is unhelpful to the cause (as the cartoon below illustrates). No-fault divorce is an attack on marriage. A throw-away culture that encourages people to recycle spouses as readily, or more readily, than their smart phones is an attack on marriage. Pornography and Disney and The Bachelorette and every trashy romance novel ever written are attacks on marriage, with their unrealistic scenarios, false hopes, and impossible standards for success. As a Catholic Christian you might say that same-sex marriage is only a partial good – honoring the unitatve purpose of marriage if not the procreative – but you can celebrate the good that is there. Most Catholics i know would say committed monogamy in any form is better than the alternatives, morally speaking. Why be so afraid of recognizing the steps on the way to perfection that we all must take. Meet people where they are, and walk with them further. There are many kinds of civil marriages that the church does not recognize as sacramental, including a significant number among Catholics. This is no different, at that level.
Honestly, I have never understood the hatred that is tolerated in Christian circles when it comes to homosexuality. As a kid, at least from my perspective, the Church was always a place where everyone was welcome. Which is not to say the Church did not teach clearly what it thought was right and good and what it did not. But everyone is imperfect, we are all a pilgrim people: The Church is about field triage, not a social club for the elite, so everyone is welcome. Being Catholic and being homophobic were as mutually exclusive in my early years as being Catholic and being racist. I knew there were some fundamentalist Christians who seemed to preach hate, but I had never encountered it in the Catholic Church.
It was only at university – at Notre Dame – that I first encountered otherwise level-headed, loving, and reasonable Catholics who seemed to abandon reason and charity both when the topic of homosexuality came up. This is unacceptable.
God is love. God calls Christians to love. Not just to love those who vote as you vote, or read the same journals you read, or go to the same form of liturgy you attend, but to love our neighbors, our enemies, everyone. Only with love can you speak truth, and until you have the former, you cannot hope to find the latter.