I had hoped to bury my head in the sand and try to ignore the rumblings of the public sphere. I had debated disconnecting from Facebook for a week in an effort to help myself remain charitable. But that is the coward's way out. And, as St. John Paul the Great said, "The truth is not always the same as the majority decision." My heart breaks for strangers, acquaintances, and dear friends who believe wholeheartedly in Obama's words: "This is a victory for America...we are all more free," and who also think that #LoveWins is an accurate tagline for the direction in which America is headed.
I have two general directions for my thoughts on this matter, one falling firmly in the faith camp, and one landing more in the political camp.
First, I think it is ironic that the masses are so eager to jump on a bandwagon of support, "loving" their brothers and sisters who may live a different lifestyle, encouraging those who have been ridiculed and debased, celebrating a shift in public acceptance. And I wonder how supportive those same masses would be of Orthodox Catholics who have suffered persecution, hatred, discrimination, and poorly rationalized attacks for loving the unborn baby, loving the disabled elderly woman who no longer contributes to society, loving the prisoner whose redemption rests solely in the hands of God. I know the members of the Catholic Church have not always lived out the grace, compassion, and love of Christ in a way that is befitting of her, and for those instances of failure, we must beg forgiveness. But I also know that the Catholic stance of homosexuality is founded in deep and life-giving love of the human person. I'm not going to take the time to explain the stance, though I would be happy to discuss it with anyone willing to truly listen, but the way Christ calls us to love those with same-sex attraction is a way of loving that is truly free. Not the misguided understanding of freedom running rampant in our culture of death, which dictates that true freedom is the ability to self-govern those decisions which will bring about the most pleasure and satisfaction. No, true freedom as understood by the Catholic Church is God "conferring on him (man) the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions...so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection." (CCC 1730) True freedom is the freedom to direct our will toward the attainment of what it means to be fully human. Sometimes this involves sacrifice. Sometimes it involves suffering. Sometimes it involves acting in the best interest of others. And loving someone means wanting what is best for them, not simply allowing them to do whatever they want to do. In this way, I think sometimes it is harder to be loving than tolerant. I can love someone without condoning their actions, and this holds true whether we are talking about same-sex attraction, alcoholism, anger, dishonesty, idolatry, envy, violence, etc. A mother who refuses to let her child eat cake for breakfast everyday is not anti-cake. She is loving her child and wanting what is best for them. I could go on and on, but the primary thing I want to say is that it is possible to be in favor of upholding the traditional definition of marriage and still be loving toward those who disagree. And if I'm being perfectly honest, I think it is those who seek to uphold that definition who have the best interest of humanity at heart. Two quotes come to mind. The first, from 1 Corinthians, "And I will show you a still more excellent way," and the second from Chesteron, oft quoted by yours truly, "Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls, but they are the walls of a playground." I would argue that I'm the one living more freely, and I long to share that with those who would dare to try.
Second, a brief note on the political side of things. There is a lengthy article from the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy (which you can read here) that details a logical defense of the traditional, or conjugal, view of marriage. One of the more interesting things I think it addresses is why the State should get to be involved in upholding that definition (or in redefining it as the case may be). Read at your own risk, it is a long article, but I think it's important to be educated and to understand why you believe what you do, rather than just taking a moral relativity stance (which, if we're being fair, is a little lazy and a very slippery slope). If we define marriage as centuries of cultures have done before us, as a conjugal union between one man and one woman, to be comprehensive, monogamous, oriented toward children, etc, then marriage as an institution is critical to the success of society, and therefore I would argue, can be regulated (to an extent) by the government. If, however, you subscribe to the revisionist view of marriage, which defines marriage as a relationship between two romantically loving and caring persons who share the burdens and benefits of domestic life, then it doesn't really make sense for the government to be involved at all. There is nothing in that definition that hints at marriage having an impact on the common good of society as a whole, or really upon any person outside that partnership (or trio, or foursome, as the tendency may now trend). Marriage, by this definition, also struggles to stand firm against further, more egregious, modifications. The article comes to some pretty definitive conclusions.
"First, marriage is not a legal construct with totally malleable
contours—not “just a contract.” Otherwise, how could the law
get marriage wrong? Rather, some sexual relationships are instances of a distinctive kind of relationship—call it real marriage—that has its own value and structure, whether the state
recognizes it or not, and is not changed by laws based on a false
conception of it."
"Second, the state is justified in recognizing only real marriages
"Third, there is no general right to marry the person you love,
if this means a right to have any type of relationship that you
desire recognized as marriage. There is only a presumptive right not to be prevented from forming a real marriage wherever one
Ultimately, the conversation comes down to the definition of marriage, which is where we have to start. Not by talking about what's fair or unfair, not by putting all those in defense of traditional marriage under the umbrella of bigotry, not by proclaiming our support in rainbows, not by being silent. There is the law of God and the law of man. And I hope that in the pursuit of "progressing" one, we don't trample the other.