Gay Marriage Rights and the Catholic Church Reaction

The US Supreme Court ruling that states cannot ban same-sex marriage follows soon after the Irish referendum which found 62% were in favour of changing the constitution

Gay rights activists gather outside the US Supreme Court building in Washington, DC on June 26, 2013. The US Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a controversial federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, in a major victory for supporters of same-sex marriage.The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) had denied married gay and lesbian couples in the United States the same rights and benefits that straight couples have long taken for granted. AFP PHOTO / MLADEN ANTONOVMLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images

Gay rights activists gather outside the US Supreme Court building in Washington, DC on June 26, 2013. The US Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a controversial federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, in a major victory for supporters of same-sex marriage.The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) had denied married gay and lesbian couples in the United States the same rights and benefits that straight couples have long taken for granted. AFP PHOTO / MLADEN ANTONOVMLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images

to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. The reaction of the US Catholic bishops was swift, with their top man calling it a “tragic error” and the Pope’s top US advisor, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, writing he was “saddened” by the news.

Here in Australia, the diocese of Parramatta produced an 18-page booklet on same sex marriage entitled, ‘Don’t Mess With Marriage,’ detailing the Church’s stance on same-sex marriage. The booklet was sent to 78 schools under the Diocese, both primary and secondary. Approximately 35,000 copies were distributed in total. A spokesman from the Diocese of Parramatta said: “While recognizing there are a range of views in society, the Australian Catholic Bishops are seeking to present their view based on Catholic teaching.”

While the booklet does not advocate hatred or vilification of people, as wrongly claimed, with a same sex attraction, and specifically calls for understanding and directs Catholics to the Catechism which teaches that people with same-sex attraction ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,’ the booklet’s distribution was negatively received. Students and families across the Penrith region in Sydney’s west have taken to social media to criticise local schools and the Diocese of Parramatta for sending out the booklet, which was seen by some as “anti-gay.” Clearly the timing for the distribution of this booklet was not wisely considered, nor was it sensitive to the mood of the time.

Vatican II called us to ‘read the signs of the times.’ Some US and Irish bishops are doing just that in the face of these dramatic social changes. While upholding the Church’s teaching on marriage, they nonetheless have called on Catholics to reflect deeply on the ruling.

Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin, said the Church in Ireland needed to reconnect with young people. The archbishop told the Irish broadcaster RTÉ: “We [the Church] have to stop and have a reality check, not move into denial of the realities. I Dublinappreciate how gay and lesbian men and women feel on this day. That they feel this is something that is enriching the way they live. I think it is a social revolution.”

The archbishop personally voted “No” arguing that gay rights should be respected “without changing the definition of marriage.” The archbishop went on to say, however, “I ask myself, most of these young people who voted yes are products of our Catholic school system for 12 years. I’m saying there’s a big challenge there to see how we get across the message of the Church,”

Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago called on Catholics to offer a “real” welcome to LGBT people following the US Supreme Court decision striking down state bans on same-sex marriage, while reiterating that the Church’s position that sacramental marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

Cupich, handpicked by Pope Francis last year to lead the nation’s third largest Cupich_2archdiocese, highlighted a frequently cited part of the Catechism that says gays and lesbians “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

But he challenged Catholics to go further.

“This respect must be real, not rhetorical, and ever reflective of the Church’s commitment to accompanying all people,” he said. “For this reason, the Church must extend support to all families, no matter their circumstances, recognizing that we are all relatives, journeying through life under the careful watch of a loving God.”

“The rapid social changes signaled by the Court ruling call us to mature and serene reflections as we move forward together,” Cupich said in a statement. “In that process, the Catholic Church will stand ready to offer a wisdom rooted in faith and a wide range of human experience.”

He said the Church will “hold fast to an authentic understanding of marriage which has been written in the human heart, consolidated in history, and confirmed by the Word of God” and noted that the Court’s 5-4 decision “has no bearing on the Catholic Sacrament of Matrimony, in which the marriage of man and woman is a sign of the union of Christ and the Church.”

Cupich’s statement appears to distance him from the more pointed criticism of the Court’s decision by the head the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is not alone, though, in calling for moderation. Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, a former president of the USCCB, warned those disappointed by the Court’s decision to refrain from “more venomous language or vile behavior against those whose opinions continue to differ from our own.” He said the ruling “confers a civil entitlement to some people who could not claim it before,” but stated that it “does not resolve the moral debate that preceded it and will most certainly continue in its wake.”

I am personally heartened by the responses of these moderate bishops who clearly have a greater appreciation of the ‘Sensus Fidelium.’ It is sad, though not surprising, to see that the majority of bishops continue to believe that we live in the era of Christendom and Church Triumphant that can dictate to people how they are to think and behave. That ship has long sailed. Any credibility their approach might have had at one time was shattered by the mismanagement of the Sex Abuse scandals. They certainly won’t win back credibility by continuing to live in the past.

The archbishop of Dublin’s comments are particularly telling. The Irish young people who voted in favour of the constitutional change are the product of Catholic schools, and have well learned the lessons of justice and equality. They understand the conflict of the right of Gay and Lesbians to marry in these terms. The Church triumphant approach, that dictates standards and condemns actions, cannot but be seen by young people as contrary to the principles of Catholic Social teaching.

Advertisements

About Passionist JPIC Australia

I am a priest with the Passionist Congregation and a part of our Australian Province which includes Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam. I have been ordained since December of 1992. I was born in the Philippines, though am from Spanish decent. I came to Australia in 1972 with my family when I was 11 years old, and we settled in Brisbane. That is where I did the rest of my growing up. On completing high school, I went to Queensland University where I studied for 4 years, completing a B.Sc. with a major in Microbiology. The following year I decided to enter into the Passionist Congregation to study for the priesthood. I trained for 9 years, and have been a priest for 25 years. In my time as a priest I have been Director of the Passionist Family Group Movement in Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland; conducted over 400 Parish Missions all around Australia and New Zealand, but particularly in Victoria and Western Australia; worked in adult faith education, Sacramental preparation for children and parents; Hospital chaplaincy; High school chaplaincy, in-services and retreats. In the year 200 I became engaged in developing young adult retreat teams and training them to carry on our high school retreat programs. I am also chair of our Province’s committee for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC). I am also a member of ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans).
This entry was posted in Justice and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Gay Marriage Rights and the Catholic Church Reaction

  1. Jerry says:

    I found myself nodding my noggin all the way thrugoh.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s