Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Sacrament of . . . Relationships

The chief executive of a leading Catholic marriage agency
sees the graces of marriage in same-gender relationships

Interesting news from Britain: Terry Prendergast, chief executive of Marriage Care, a leading Catholic marriage agency, has gone on record as saying that the Church must begin to think in terms of the “sacrament of relationships” rather than the sacrament of marriage.

Prendergast has taken this position after coming to realize that the graces of the sacrament might indeed be found in other forms of relationships apart from heterosexual marriage.

According to an article in the May 15 issue of the Catholic Herald, Prendergast delivered a speech to the Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in which he said:

I have been thinking more and more of the sacrament of relationships, rather than the sacrament of marriage, if we are to believe that God’s presence is expressed through all committed and loving relationships. It is my belief that the sacrament is present where you have love, commitment, consent, and covenant.

On this basis I wonder how it is possible for anyone to make an adverse judgment about such relationships . . . who can argue with the presence of grace and sacrament therein? Who is in a position to say that such a spiritual and graceful life is only available to heterosexuals?

Who, indeed.

Well, Victoria Gillick, a “Catholic family campaigner,” obviously thinks she is in such a position to dictate and limit the arena of God’s presence. Furthermore, according to Gillick, Prendergast should be sacked for simply sharing what he has seen of the presence of the sacred in the loving relationships of gay people.

“He should go,” Gillick declares. “Children do best within marriage and marriage is good for men and women.”

Note to Ms. Gillick: No one is saying that marriage isn’t good for men and women – but surely that’s true regardless of orientation. Accordingly, why not recognize this and extend marriage rights and responsibilities to all?

As to the idea that children “do best within marriage” (by which I’m assuming Gillick means heterosexual marriage), I think it’s important to note that in the February 2002 issue of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is reported that: “A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with one or two gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual. Children’s optimal development seems to be influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family unit than by the particular structural form it takes” (Pediatrics, Vol. 109 No. 2 February 2002, pp. 341-344).

Terry Prendergast’s enlightened thoughts on the topic of same-gender relationships remind me of Fr. Cletus Wessels’ writings on relationship as the “crucial factor in sexual morality,” and authors’ Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler’s contention that the standard for sexual ethics should be human flourishing, not openness to procreation.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Competent Parenting Doesn’t Require “Traditional Marriage”
One Gay Catholic Parent Who Isn’t Leaving the Church
Gay Adoption: A Catholic Lawyer’s Perspective
The Changing Face of “Traditional Marriage”
Celebrating the Presence of God Within All Families
Catholic and Gay in the UK

Recommended Off-site Link:
The Gospels’ Queer Values


kevin57 said...

I think Prendergast is on to something, but "sacrament of relationships" is too banal, too pedestrian for my taste. I would like to see some term that includes "covenant" in it since Vatican II reoriented marriage from "contract" to "covenant."

Michael J. Bayly said...

Yes, Kevin, you hit the nail on the head when you note that "sacrament of relationships" is too banal.

I like your idea of emphasizing covenant.