Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage

Above: Catholic supporters of marriage equality
gather on the steps of the Cathedral of St. Paul, October 31, 2010.
For more images and commentary, click here.

Catholics for Marriage Equality MN is a grassroots initiative launched by lay Catholic individuals and groups in response to the clerical hierarchy’s campaign to deny civil marriage rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The initiative seeks to support, educate and mobilize Catholics in the advancement of freedom and equality for LGBT people at the federal, state, and local levels.

The Catholics for Marriage Equality MN initiative is supported by established groups, including the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, Dignity Twin Cities, Catholic Rainbow Parents and the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform. The initiative was officially launched with the hosting of an educational forum entitled “Why You Can Be Catholic and Support Gay Marriage.” Drawing approximately 400 people, this forum was held October 21, 2010, at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis and featured author and moral theologian Daniel Maguire from Marquette University. Maguire highlighted and discussed the support for same-sex marriage that can be found in all the world religions, including Roman Catholicism.

Last month the initiative also issued a statement (see below) that outlines various reasons for supporting civil marriage equality for same-sex couples. These reasons relate to points of ethics, constitutional law, social justice, and Catholic moral teaching. The statement reflects Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's recognition of marriage equality as a social justice issue, as a matter of fairness, and as a contributor to individual flourishing, the stabilization of relationships, and the common good of society.


Catholics for Marriage Equality MN supports same-sex marriage for the following reasons:

Point of Social Justice

Of any religious group in the U.S., American Catholics are among the strongest supporters of equality for LGBT people. We recognize that this support is intrinsic to Catholicism as it is a support drawn from the rich tradition of Catholic social justice teachings, grounded in the Gospel message of love.

In their 1997 pastoral statement, Always Our Children, the Catholic bishops of the United States write: “Respect for the God-given dignity of all persons means the recognition of human rights and responsibilities. The teachings of the Catholic Church make it clear that the fundamental human rights of homosexual persons must be defended and that all of us must strive to eliminate any forms of injustice, oppression, or violence against them.” These are powerful words, rooted in Jesus’ call for social justice. As such they supersede certain teachings of the Church that reflect a medieval and inadequate understanding of human sexuality – teachings that, accordingly, are unresponsive to the presence and movement of the Spirit in the lives of LGBT people. Furthermore, we believe that civil marriage is one of those “fundamental human rights” referred to by the U.S. Catholic bishops.

Point of Constitutional Law

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that a State shall not “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The State of Minnesota currently protects heterosexual unions with many legal benefits. There are no good reasons for denying the same protections to homosexual unions. Constitutional democracy is a democracy in which principles of justice are accepted by the people to regulate the vote of a majority in depriving a minority of rights.

Civil marriage should not be denied to anyone based on sexual orientation. Just as civil divorce would not be denied by the state because some churches do not believe in divorce and remarriage, civil marriage also should not be denied based on religious beliefs concerning sexual orientation.

No house of worship should have to perform a marriage ceremony against its will, and never because of the intrusion and/or compulsion of government. Guided by the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, government should not try to define persons suitable for marriage in houses of worship.

Point of Catholic Moral Teaching

The Catholic teaching of probabilism holds that when there are good reasons and good authorities on both sides of a debate on a moral issue (in this case homosexuality and same-sex unions), Catholics are free to make up their own minds. The magisterium of the Catholic hierarchy notwithstanding, there is debate among theologians and the faithful, the sensus fidelium, on the issue of homosexual unions.

We do not believe that homosexual sex is in itself a sin. We believe heterosexism (prejudice against people who are homosexual) is a sin. “It is a serious sin because it violates justice, truth, and love. It also distorts the true meaning of sex and thus also harms everyone, including heterosexuals.” (Maguire, Daniel. “A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage.”)

Point of Ethics

When a significant number of U.S. citizens do not hold with Catholic ethical teaching on a specific issue, it is a violation of justice for a voting majority of Catholics to enact laws based on their own ethics. Catholics would suffer if a voting majority of other religious bodies enacted laws requiring behavior or denying benefits based on their religious ethics. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the common ethic of people in a religiously pluralistic society.

Above: A rousing and very Catholic show of support for marriage equality
took place at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul on April 17, 2010.
For more images and commentary, click here.

NOTE: You can now show your support for marriage equality by signing your name to Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's Statement of Support. To do so, click here.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Catholics Split Over Hierarchy's Campaign Against Gay Marriage – Chris Welsh (CNN, November 8, 2010).
Minnesota Bishops on Gay Marriage – Fred De Sam Lazaro (Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, October 29, 2010).
Marriage Catechesis Remains Archdiocesan Priority in Wake of DVD Controversy – Maria Wiering (The Catholic Spirit, November 4, 2010).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Minnesota Bishops' Last Ditch Effort
It's a Scandal
Misplaced Priorities
A Message to NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy)
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Marriage Equality
A Catholic Voice for Marriage Equality at the State Capitol
Daniel Maguire in Minneapolis
At the Cathedral of St. Paul, Rainbow Sashes and a Circle of Love
300+ People Vigil at the Cathedral in Solidarity with LGBT Catholics
An Open Letter to Archbishop Nienstedt

Images: Michael J. Bayly.


Michael J. Bayly said...

Sorry, Louis, but the rationale for your comment is not self-evident. Could you explain your thinking further? Thanks.



Rick DeLano said...

Umm, there seems to be a bit of an issue of "truth in advertising" for these protesters.

The Catholic Church has received her teaching on marriage from Jesus Christ Himself.

No Catholic could possibly imagine His teaching to be the sort of thing against which pressure-group agitprop tactics are legitimately deployed.

I conclude, therefore, that the folks protesting either (a) suffer from the delusion that they hold the Catholic Faith......or, (b) what would be worse, they cynically intend to lie to the rest of us that they hold it, when they know they don't.

So which is it?

Anonymous said...

The point surely is that apart from in a purely legalistic, institutional sense these people aren't actually Catholics.

Mareczku said...

This is very thought provoking and well-written. I especially admire the young people who are standing up for themselves and others. Any feedback from the higher ups?

colkoch said...

Rick, Jesus actually taught about adultery, not sex. Adultery is first and formost a sin against a sacramental relationship and need not be sexually consumated. Jesus talked about committing adultery in one's heart as well as the act of adultery itself. This indicates to me His objection was about the damage to the relationship which God had joined together, not the sex per se.

I have no trouble considering myself Catholic, and am in fact, considered way too stringent on what constitutes adultery. Where I part company from traditional catholicism is that I think gays can commit adultery too, which means I think they can have loving relationships honored by God.

If 'true' Catholics were even remotely honest themselves, they would have to concede that adultery does far more damage to heterosexual marriage than gay marriage ever could. But then honesty is in short supply all the way around.

Mark said...

Preface: everything I say here applies equally to straight couples.

Well said, Colleen. But how are proponents of traditional marriage to react to articles like "Many Successful Gay Marriages Share an Open Secret" by Scott James, NYT, January 28, 2010. The URL is http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/29/us/29sfmetro.html?

More importantly, how to proponents of same-sex marriage react to it? Should open marriage be supported, tolerated or condemned?

The James article refers to research by the Center for Research on Gender & Sexuality at San Francisco State University ("Many gay couples negotiate open relationships" by Meredith May, July 16, 2010. The URL is http://articles.sfgate.com/2010-07-16/entertainment/21985570_1_hiv-prevention-gay-couples-gay-men).

If proponents of same-sex marriage favor a mutually faithful, monogamous union of 2 partners 'till death (and, if Catholic, no recourse to the "internal forum" when the going gets tough), why don't we see and hear condemnation of contrary definitions?

FYI, the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality web site is here (http://crgs.sfsu.edu/), research projects are listed here (http://crgs.sfsu.edu/research/index.htm) and the "Gay Couples Study" is described here (http://crgs.sfsu.edu/research/gaycouples.htm).

Michael J. Bayly said...

Thanks, Marky, for your thoughtful comments and questions.

I appreciate your prefacing your post with the acknowledgment that the issue of open relationships applies equally to straight couples as it does to gay couples. That's often overlooked, despite the reality that something like fifty-plus percent of heterosexual marriages end in divorce - many of them no doubt brought about by infidelity, by a lack of regard, in other words, for monogamy.

Could it be that those gay men who opt for "open" marriages are mimicking in a very upfront way what goes on quite a bit in "traditional" marriage?

This shouldn't be that surprising given that, in many ways, what we refer to today as "traditional marriage" remains a patriarchal way of being in relationship. It's a model in which, historically, the male is free to have sexual relations with others (both male or female) while the female is not. She is considered his property.

Now you might think that the modern manifestation of traditional marriage is different. In some ways it certainly is. But I wonder how many of the infidelities and divorces within straight marriages are the result of ingrained patriarchal (i.e., "traditional") attitudes of male sexual privilege.

Is in any surprise, then, that when two men enter into "traditional" marriage the likelihood of infidelity, i.e., of both of them demanding the patriarchal privilege of what it means to be "the man" in such a relationship increases?

The solution, to my mind, isn't to deny two men from marrying, but to dispense with the damaging patriarchal attitudes that undergird and in many ways continue to define the model of "traditional marriage" - a model that clearly isn't working very well for either straights or gays.

But what of those marriages that do work? I think you'd find that successful marriages - again, whether they be gay or straight - are ones that embody a degree of equality that has moved them beyond the patriarchal limits of "traditional" marriage.

I find it interesting (and telling) that the red states in the U.S., i.e., those that most oppose gay marriage and uphold rigid gender roles and the notion of traditional (and thus patriarchal) marriage, have the highest rates of divorce (and no doubt infidelity). Conversely, those states that are open to less patriarchal models of marriage (including same-sex marriage) have lower rates of divorce.



colkoch said...

Marky, I agree with you one hundred percent. Open marriage almost never works for anybody, gay or straight, male or female, and can be devastating on children.

Relationships that do work, and work best for raising children, generally avoid the "C,D,E's". Those are control, domination, and exploitation of one person over another. That's why I find Jesus's notion of 'adultery of the heart' so powerful. It's really a statement about a mindset, as opposed to behavior, and that mindset includes the right of one person to CD&E another.