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Gay Marriage and Other Things That Our Parents Don’t Want to Hear About

A regular reader of this blog mentioned that the Catholic church disapproves of gay marriage, homosexuality, and abortion. Because I’m a Catholic, I thought that I should say something about it.

I recognize the authority of the church to set its doctrines. As a Catholic, I try to follow those doctrines in my own life. At the same time, we live in a pluralistic society with people of many different faiths, and even some people who claim to have no faith.

I would not have an abortion, but I don’t believe I have the right to tell anyone else what decision she should make about it. If a friend asked for my opinion, I would offer it to her, and would encourage her to consider all of her options. But the choice would have to be hers.

As for homosexuality, I go to a women’s college where I have gay friends and classmates. I also confess to having a crush on MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow, but a lot of people feel that way about her. 🙂

So though I recognize the authority of the church, I don’t think it necessarily extends to people who aren’t Catholic. I also think it’s unrealistic for the church to say that gay people should be treated with love and respect, but that they can’t express their love for each other:

Homosexual persons are to be fully respected in their human dignity and encouraged to follow God’s plan with particular attention in the exercise of chastity. (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, section 228)

It’s easy to tell someone else to live like that. But it does not seem to me as if it respects their human dignity.

As for marriage, it can mean different things. The church has a perfect right to say that it doesn’t allow gay marriage. But there are other places to get married. There’s civil marriage, and marriage in other religions that permit gay marriage. So because we live in a pluralistic society, I support legal recognition of gay marriage at the same time as I realize that the church can limit Catholic marriage to heterosexual couples. I wish that the church supported gay marriage, but it’s not up to me.

One member of my family takes a different viewpoint, saying that gay marriage simply isn’t “marriage” as it has been practiced throughout history. So he supports civil unions that are just like marriages except that they can’t use the word “marriage.”

Where I think he goes wrong with that argument is that a society should try to embrace as many of its members as possible. Our laws should not single out some social groups as less deserving of full rights than others. Society and the law shouldn’t push some of our people off into a corner because they’re gay, have red hair, or are Muslims. Access to marriage is part of including them in our society.

Some people who I respect will disagree with me, but that’s what I think. If I’ve made a mistake somewhere, I’ll be thankful for any correction.

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

  1. David
    April 6, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Good thoughtful writing, as usual, hon. You are right that the Church only has jurisdiction in Catholic lives, so can’t really say anything to anyone that’s not Catholic about homosexuality, gay marriage and abortion.

    A lot of people get the impression, though, that because the Church is against these actions (they are actions, after all), that the Church is against people who identify with these actions. Not true. Pastorally, God loves everyone equally. We’re all sinners. So, no, the Church is not homophobic, etc.

    But understand that the Catholic Church always has, and always will, consider itself to be the moral compass for the world. For about 1500 years, in the Christian world, there were only Catholics. Christ commissioned His church for everybody, so the Church tries to let everyone know what Jesus would do.

    I believe that the right way to do this is from the inside out. If all Catholics really lived Catholic and acted Catholic, a lot of the rest of the world would follow. But because we have divisions in the church-those that think the three subjects above are alright to some degree, we really have no right to talk. So we need to convince Catholics to be Catholic first.

    Inside out also has to do with converting hearts first, so with those who are homosexual, or considerning abortion, you are absolutely right, we can only give our opinion when asked. Someone asking questions indicates an open heart. It doesn’t help to yell and scream epithets at anyone, usually that just makes people more stubborn.

    So, regarding people, we’re to love them all. Regarding the institution of marriage, we need to go back to the core: What is the purpose of marriage? (Just like I asked you that other question you’re working on…:)) Who instituted it? and why?

    I think it’s important to have a distinction between marriage as defined by the church and marriage as defined by the state. Marriage, in most churches, is a covenant between man, woman and God. Marriage covenant. Marriage, to the state, is a contract.

    I think, if people of the same sex want to form a life-long bond, and the state is willing, there’s nothing I can say or do. But it’s really not marriage…

    Thanks for a thoughtful piece, though…

    • Rinth de Shadley
      April 7, 2010 at 10:56 am

      Hi, David —

      Thanks for another helpful and educational comment! We mostly agree.

      I never thought, and hope I never suggested, that the church is against any group of people. I know that’s not true. I do think that requiring gay people to be celibate is unrealistic. Priests and other clergy choose that life, and it’s difficult even for them.

      I want to raise a question about one thing you said: “the” purpose of marriage. It seems to me that marriage can have more than one purpose. It can have a holy purpose, but it can also have lesser purposes, such as affection and companionship that we all need. Civil marriage can satisfy many of those purposes, and I think that legal recognition is what gay people are most concerned about.

      Marriage is both a religious and a social institution. Calling gay unions “marriages” is a matter of social inclusion, not a religious statement. It tells gay people, “You are part of our society, and we embrace you as our sisters and brothers.”

      Thanks again for such good thoughts.

      • David
        April 7, 2010 at 12:41 pm

        No, you didn’t, but many do (call the church homophobic, or anti-gay).

        Regarding gay sexual life, it’s not the Church’s law, it’s God’s (if adultery really means sex outside of marriage). And nobody said it’s easy. In fact, nothing about our faith is very easy.

        I should have said the “main purpose”, and there are several, you’re right. What I want to point out is the slippery slope, here. There is a good possibility that, once the state legalizes gay marriage, and calls it marriage, that gay couples will be pushing the Church to loosen their definitions. Actually, I think the best thing that can happen is for the government to get out of the “marriage” business and call it a civil union. What the state forms in their involvement is a contract. What the church forms is a covenant.

        At any rate the Church is right that all persons are to be treated with dignity, and all of us have to keep working on that.

  2. April 7, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Well though-out post! Although I was raised Catholic, I don’t really consider myself attached to the religion since I grew tired of the church’s contradictions. I believe that everyone should be free to believe what they choose to follow, but not use their beliefs to dictate others lives. So long as no one is hurting anybody else, I don’t see what the big deal is.

    • Rinth de Shadley
      April 7, 2010 at 5:56 pm

      Hi DorkysRamos —

      Thank you! We agree about not imposing our beliefs on other people.

      As for contradictions, life has so many of those that I try not to let them bother me anymore. 🙂

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