If you have known me any length of time or followed me either here or on FB/Twitter, you will know I have been all over the map and a couple planetary globes over the last 3 years or so in my personal quest to understand the Church and where I fit in with her as a single and celibate same-sex attracted male.
I will not pretend to suddenly have all of the answers, as I surely do not, but one thing I realize, even after trying to run from it on several occasions, is that I belong to Rome and Rome to me.
Understanding that point is one thing, and discerning how to follow it is, at least for me, yet another. I have been greatly disturbed during the continued marriage debates and other cultural battlegrounds with both sides, very frankly, and I think that very real scandals can come from extremes in either direction at times.
Think with me first of what a scandal actually is if you will. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary has a number of definitions, but the first two are worth noting in regards to the Church and the questions regarding same-sex marriage:
Definition of SCANDAL
a: discredit brought upon religion by unseemly conduct in a religious person
b: conduct that causes or encourages a lapse of faith or of religious obedience in another
: Loss of or damage to reputation caused by actual or apparent violation of morality or propriety
I especially relate the first definition to myself, as I have definitely done my share of careless overreacting and, while not with malice, have certainly spoken out of turn in regards to this issue and how both the Vatican and our own Archdiocese have at times handled it in practice.
As you may know, Minnesota was a battleground state and there was, and still is, a deep divide among Catholics as to the recent decision to allow same-sex marriage to begin here in exactly one week from today (August 1).
Part of me was simply glad to see the battle over, at least in my immediate vicinity. That same part of me did actually rejoice, and I freely admit this, because of the very real need for family-type units of all stripes, even those who do not in any way follow or practice the Catholic Faith, to have very clear protections under the law with regard to such things as inheritance taxes, Social Security benefits, hospital visitation, wills, and onward. And I still see those results as a positive outcome for the most part.
That was one side of me. But another region of my soul was deeply conflicted because Roman Catholicism teaches, and I happen to agree with her, that a truly sacramental marriage in the Church can only be between one man and one woman, and is normally meant to exist for a lifetime. And, not only due to same-gender marriages, but with such public policies as easy “no fault” divorce, even easier contraception, and abortion supposed “rights,” marriage has already taken a horrific beating just since I was growing up in the 1960s. Speaking of scandal, by the way, when I was a child any divorce was considered to be exactly that. Now marriage is commonly viewed to be, as one woman I know used to say, “as long as you both shall love.” And that is not what marriage or family is meant to be. The foundational redefinition of this sacred institution started, in reality, long ago.
SPECIAL NOTE: I found out on my way home from work tonight, after writing this post, that today is the 45th anniversary of Humanae Vitae!!! This was the controversial encyclical penned by Pope Paul VI on this day in 1968 that argued forcefully against artificial contraception, stating it would lead pretty much to the entire list of things I just mentioned. Pretty amazing and prophetic. If you have never read it I will link it here:
As you read it, you might be surprised at how much Pope Paul VI knew of human nature as well as societal trends. He was clearly ahead of ,not behind, the times. And he suffered for his courage in sharing what he believed God had given to him–and God indeed had done so.
In any case when the announcement came that MN had passed the recent Marriage Act, and defined all marriage as “civil,” something other states who have allowed same-sex marriages to become part of the law have not done, I felt in one sense it was a step in a needed direction, not because I supported redefining marriage as such, but because I believed, and still do, that the sheer amount of animosity between the Church and the LGBT communities which has formed over the years will only get worse and to an absolute crisis point if some type of protections are not clearly put into place. FBI reports, just as an example, have cited a drastic rise in crimes towards LGBT persons here in MN as well as in other places where this battle has come to a head. My fear was and is that if the Legislature had rejected the proposed changes in marriage law, eventually some of those on the far right side of the issue would be emboldened to do even more of those types of crimes. The noticeable open hostility had begun to frighten me and continues to do so.
All that to say that I see the possibility of scandal and misuse of power existing on both sides, those for “marriage equality” and those not, and I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of that kind of injustice. I know it to a very small extent compared to many others, but I also am far too aware of others who have paid for it through everything from being mercilessly bullied to their very lives, and at least largely the Church has been silent on that particular “scandal” unfortunately. And scandal it is.
So what am I saying here? I am not suggesting that the Church change her doctrinal stance on this issue, not at all, but that she instead ready herself on a pragmatic level and seriously begin to educate leaders and laity alike in ways to become far more pastoral and compassionate than in the past. The “gay issue” is not going to go away, no matter the results of the marriage or anti-marriage movements. And I would feel that way no matter what Church body I was a part of. Catholics are not the only religious group who are guilty here either.
But then there is the other “scandal,” the one most Christians more are familiar with, and that is the sense of feeling that the LGBT “life choices” are being foisted upon them through the societal changes we all face in regards to these issues. And the argument does not hold up that there are no choices here. The feelings are not chosen, but behavior always is. And I get that too.
I also am clearly guilty of this area of scandal in a number of my Face Book and blog posts near the time of the marriage vote this spring, and for that I profusely apologize. I went from being fairly silent about the issue to sounding and reacting almost militantly against what my Church teaches. THAT WAS WRONG OF ME. EXTREMELY SO. And for those I offended or hurt by doing those words I very deeply apologize. Further, and more seriously, I allowed myself to give up on Holy Mother Church and ran instead and yet again to easier pastures to graze for a time. One might think I would have learned better by now, particularly after 2 or 3 other such gallivants, but clearly I permitted something that is usually my strength, which is a genuine desire for social justice and compassion, to become instead my weakness by not staying tenaciously where I belonged and taking a sane and middle of the road approach, and most importantly one which was and is in accord with Church teaching. In other words I blew it.
Hence my trip to the confessional yesterday after two months of anger and un-dealt with guilt that had been building up, like it or not. And the realization that I can never, ever, ever let this or other issues push me away from the Church again. And the further recognition that either side on this thorny issue can cause scandal and unneeded pain and hurt to others if not handled with both kindness and yet truth. Both/and, not either/or.
So “Catholicboyrichard” is here to stay, and with a capital “C” this time around. Maybe one day I will be a grown man in the Faith and can finally change my screen name. I hope so. But not yet. I have to finish adolescence first.
Mea maxima culpa.
Related articles–As always from a variety of perspectives…
- Why our new same-sex marriage is not yet equal marriage (newstatesman.com)
- Family Council Responds to Poll on LGBT Issues in Arkansas (arkansasmatters.com)
- Could a Texas City’s Proposed Ordinance Ban Traditional Marriage Supporters From Local Gov’t Posts? (theblaze.com)
- New poll in Iowa shows broad opposition to constitutional same-sex marriage ban (thegazette.com)
- Marriage Equality, by Steve Kindle — Review (bobcornwall.com)
- The Pope and the Pill (liturgyguy.com)
- Pope Francis Is Faced With Major Decisions Surrounding Catholic Church Reform – But How Will He Do It? (theblaze.com)
- “This book could hardly be more timely. …” (insightscoop.typepad.com)