Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Covering the Hard Issues: Gay Marriage

Gay marriage is perhaps the hardest teaching of the Church for our generation. It’s the topic no one wants to talk about because it always brings out very strong emotions and defending the Church's position is widely viewed as discriminatory. While I’ve always been vocal about my pro-life views, defending marriage is something I generally have not taken a stand on unless pressed about my beliefs. I’ve seen the fact that I defend traditional marriage drive a knife into friendships and stop others from progressing and yet I cannot pretend to change my beliefs.

In many conversations I’ve had with friends, they bring up the fact that they have friends, siblings, or other family members who are hurt because they wish their relationships and love to be recognized in marriage. I too have close gay friends who have struggled and have been hurt by this, but this should lead us to delve deeper into Catholic teaching rather than reject it outright. It is only through study and reflection along with much prayer that we can properly discuss the Catholic teaching on marriage and come to realize it’s based not on emotions, but on the ability of a man and woman to participate in creation. Consider that the Church does not officially recognize the relationship between two friends, which can be full of love, and so there must be another reason for recognizing marriage while not recognizing other relationships.

In order to understand the Church’s teaching on gay marriage, we must first understand its teaching on marriage. Marriage is one of the seven sacraments of the Church. It is important to note that it is not the wedding that is the sacrament but the marriage itself. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring”. (Part 2, Sec. 2, Ch.3 Article 7). According to this definition, the outward sign of the sacrament of marriage, sex, must have a procreative aspect, which is not possible among two members of the same sex. This definition of marriage is stated in Genesis 2 and restated in Matthew 19: “Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6). The design of marriage is seen in our complementary creation, a complementarity which places the possibility of procreation at the forefront of our relationship in a marriage and which cannot be disengaged from marriage.

It is important to note that the Church does not persecute homosexual people. Pope Francis’ remarks on this topic are perhaps most revealing, “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem…they’re our brothers”. Rather than persecution, the Church calls homosexual people to live a life in holiness just as they call all men and women of the Catholic faith to live a life in holiness. Recently, great work has begun to consider more fully the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and especially the call to a deep friendship. I’d encourage anyone looking to find out more, to explore the writing on this website.

As Catholics living in an age in which gay marriage is the culturally accepted norm, we are called to engage this teaching through love and a prayerful heart. The Catholic Church considers defending the Truth as a duty of every Catholic, seen from the Apostles down through 2000 years of history. We as Catholics must do all we can to reason and learn why the Church teaches what it does and ultimately, have faith. 

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