I’m Catholic and I support same-sex marriage

UPDATE [15/08/2011]

The Telegraph columnist, Miranda Devine, joins the list of Christians making hyperbolic claims about same-sex marriage. It was only a matter of time before someone drew a wobbly line between the London riots and the fact that Finance Minister Penny Wong and her partner, Sophie Allouache, are expecting a baby. I would have just laughed Devine off – I mean, who takes Tele columnists seriously? But then I read the phrase, “As a Catholic…” and went, “Oh no, you don’t”.

Check these links and try to tell me that all Catholics think the same way Devine does:

March 2011 Report on Catholic attitudes to gay and lesbian issues (US)

Dissent from official Church position

My position on this matter is covered in the original post below, and an earlier post [Letter from a gay-friendly Christian] covers some basics as well.

I should add that Devine’s concern — offensively and inebriatedly articulated — that children need to have some contact or relationship with both biological parents, is perfectly valid. Human rights lawyer and Jesuit priest, Frank Brennan, says as much (though he couches it as a serious question that needs to be sensibly explored: “When children are created in future, that as far as possible we maintain the ideal that a child would have a known biological mother and a known biological father”).

I agree. Our sense of identity, crucial to success in life, has very strong links with our past, including our biological lineage. Why else would adopted children, even those who grew up in happy homes, seek this connection? In this regard, that Wong’s child will know her father is a step in the right direction. But it is a step that many same-sex households already take, as well as those led by single or remarried parents: maintaining the connections that form the fabric of a stable, affirming childhood and adolescence. This is what all couples with children should ensure.

As Tom Ballard points out, this is one of the flaws that underpin Devine’s argument. The ‘fatherlessness’ that is offered as one of the causes for the riots in England is a world away from the issue of gay parents.

More than being fatherless (as many people manage to survive paternal abandonment to become healthy adults), it is the sense of disconnection that has unhinged that society, as it does many societies.

The complete opposite of this is the intentional desire to marry, and by extension, to commit to raising another person to the best of parental ability.

[Original Post]

As momentum gathers in the campaign for marriage equality, it is worth pondering why it meets such resistance from Christian figures.

Their arguments can be quite hyperbolic. Same-sex marriage, claimed Wendy Francis during last year’s election, is “like legalising child abuse.” Outgoing Family First senator Steven Fielding said that it is comparable to incest (“a bloke cannot marry his brother”). Even Peter Jensen, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, has expressed concerns that it “could open the way for… polygamous marriages.”

It is no big deal for these claims to emerge from the Christian lobby. After all, the institution of marriage undeniably emerges from religious tradition, which upholds the union between a man and woman. This is the framework for Christian opposition to same-sex marriage. It is a fairly legitimate view.

However, it is a big deal to make scurrilous claims in expressing such views.

There is no correlation between child abuse and parents’ marital status or sexual orientation. Children get abused in a variety of home environments, including ones where parents are married and heterosexual.

In fact, straight couples do not have a monopoly on what makes a good home. The elements of an ideal childhood – stability, security, opportunities to excel and explore one’s identity, unconditional love – are in fact already being provided by gay parents, single parents, and grandparents.

The Christian lobby is also incorrect in conflating support for same-sex marriage with approval for polygamy and incest. Not only are these patently different concepts, it is a gross distortion of the campaign for marriage equality.

Gay unions are not illegal, prohibited, or criminal. In fact, gay de facto couples have been legally recognised in every jurisdiction since 2009, including superannuation, social security, health care, aged care, and taxation.

Of course, the fear-mongering by the Christian lobby is lost on anyone outside its constituency. But that does not mean that that constituency is closed to persuasion. They need to examine where their resistance lies.

First of all, gay couples seeking the right to marry are not asking religious institutions to marry them. Even if they were, churches cannot be compelled to perform rites that do not align with their traditions and beliefs. Christians need to stop arguing as if this is the case. They should also note that their ministers do not exclusively hold the license to marry couples.

Secondly, they need to abandon the idea that same-sex marriage would undermine the status of marriage. Many couples are choosing not to get married or are getting divorced; some of these couples are Christian. This has been going on for a while now. Any number of economic, environmental, and psychological problems can be said to erode a marriage, no matter how well-meaning the couple. It is unreasonable to blame gays for these.

In the age of dispensable relationships, a gay couple deciding to get married is probably more countercultural than gay marriage itself.

It is a public declaration that the relationship sits within a community, not outside it. Rather than undermining the status of marriage, it affirms its life-changing properties. It bolsters the idea that an exclusive, committed union is something to aspire to and grow in. This is a bigger, truer definition of marriage. Christians can support it in good conscience.


Categories: Politics and Governance, Religion


4 replies

  1. Fatima, I get a lot out of your articles. The above topic is one that I have wrestled with for a long time, and I am still not sure what I believe.
    One could use texts from the Bible to support conclusions on both sides of the argument and that is what many Protestants do. But part of being a Catholic is accepting the teachings of the Catholic Church. Is the Church wrong? Can we reject the Church’s teaching on sexual morality and remain a Catholic? I don’t think that we can. The Church believes that Man has been loved into existence by God.
    ‘Man is willed by God, deliberately designed as male and female. That is the first reason why sex is holy. The second reason is that God has designed and willed not only the existence of sex but its purpose. It is holy not only because of its origin but also because of its end. That purpose is to be the means of procreating the greatest thing in the universe: new persons, with immortal souls. By transmitting human life to their descendants, man and woman as spouses and parents cooperate in a unique way in the creators work….
    The Church bases all her laws and teachings about marriage on the fundamental fact that the married state has been established by the creator and endowed by him with its proper laws… God himself is the author of marriage. The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they come from the hand of the creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics. The religious view claims that marriage is an objective reality, which man discovers rather that invents. It is a real thing, a big thing, like an elephant. If two people choose to ride on it, they conform to its terms. It has an unchangeable essence, or nature, and a ‘natural law’ written into it. Human attitudes about it are to be judged by it, not vice versa…..
    The Catholic Church reads the Sacred Scripture as saying that the homosexual act is a grave depravity, ‘tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complimentary. That is they refuse the divinely designed otherness’ built into sexuality, under no circumstances can they be approved.’ ‘
    (above quotes from peter kreeft, Catholic Christianity, a complete Catechism of Catholic beliefs based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)
    The Church’s teachings are pretty clear and logical. If we choose to believe that one aspect of the teaching on sexual morality and marriage are wrong, then the whole of its teaching on sexual morality must fall as well. And more to the point can we really call ourselves Catholics if we pick and choose like a protestant.

    • Hi, apologies for the delay in posting your comment and responding to it. I accept what you say as reflecting the official/general Catholic view. And it’s not the first time that I’ve been accused of being a ‘cafeteria Catholic’ (pick and choose).

      I suppose there are points on which we will never agree (whether homosexual intercourse is unnatural, whether sex can ever exclusively be defined in terms of procreation and hetero ‘complementarity’, whether God’s grace can ever be withheld from a same-sex couple who are lovingly committed, etc). But there are two things that must be conceded.

      First, primacy of conscience means that a Catholic who discerns in faith remains in faith. Second, that this discernment may, and sometimes does lead to dissent. Dissent does not mean disloyalty. In fact, the history of dissent is the singular thing that has refined human institutions, including the Catholic Church. I do appreciate the ‘wisdom of the ages’, the weight of thought that has gone into many church teachings. I am very proud of the body of Catholic social teaching.

      But we need to reconcile these teachings with the truth that lies in the lives of many gay couples; they love, they commit, and they strive to bring out the best in each other. It’s a fairly ordinary thing. And that’s because they are far more than the sexual act by which you define them, and in fact far simpler. They’re human.

      Tell me. Would *you* want to be singularly defined and disadvantaged by the gender of your partner? Would you think it just and reasonable if it were the other way around, and you are told by your church to not act on your sexual desires for life, under any circumstance? Have you even dared imagine it: falling in love and wanting to get married – a deeply intimate joy – yet having entire institutions (both government and religious) keep that choice from you? What does your conscience say?

  2. Good on you Fatima; I wish more Christians and other religious people could see the issue this logically. I would also add that allowing same-sex couples to marry does not in any way impinge the beliefs stated by most opposers that marriage should be between a man and a woman. The law will not force these opponents to change their own beliefs, if they wish to keep them!

    • I agree, Kristy. I do actually appreciate the religious insistence on man-woman unions. It’s just that I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a very narrow view of what marriage should be. It unjustly denies the idea that gays are capable of self-giving, exclusive, lifelong love — as if they are gay first before being human. But I’m preaching to the converted in your case. 🙂

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