May 15, 2012
Is same-sex marriage the future?
By Rebecca Ryskind Teti *

By Rebecca Ryskind Teti *

Is legal recognition of same-sex marriage inevitable?

Last week’s presidential endorsement has some folks speaking as if it were.

The success of a marriage referendum in North Carolina the previous day –the 31st consecutive win for one-man, one-woman marriage when put to a referendum of the people—suggests otherwise.  As I’ve argued before in this space, there is no reason for the effort to redefine marriage to succeed unless Catholics and other Christians give in to what sociologists call "the spiral of silence."

Many Catholics wrestle with the consistent teaching of the Church and the Bible. I recall the stressed reactions of several readers to a post on marriage I put up at faithandfamilylive.com some time ago. Some commenters were encouraged, but many were skeptical. 

One woman expressed despair about defending marriage at any level: “I don’t know, I can’t get all riled up about gay marriage,” she wrote, going on to say that heterosexuals have already messed up marriage enough.”

Another didn’t see the harm in same-sex marriage in the first place: “When people say that gay marriages threaten my marriage, my husband and I just look at each other incredulously. How, exactly?” 

Several people admitted they find it hard to defend marriage when called upon to do so. One such person wrote, “I just feel like a bully when people say I’m trying to deny other people their rights.”

Those and other comments led me to do a series of posts on the blog in an effort to sort out the different issues at play. I hope they helped, but I can’t help wonder in the end if our apathy towards defending marriage doesn’t spring in the end from a failure to love our brothers and sisters with same sex attraction.

Bear with me on a tangent. Have you heard of Lacy Dodd? She’s a Notre Dame alumna who protested that university’s honoring the President a few years’ back. She wrote in the First Things blog at the time about her experience being pregnant out of wedlock her senior year. Her boyfriend, also a Catholic Notre Dame student, offered to pay for her abortion. When she protested this was wrong, he replied, “all that pro-life stuff is just talk.”

Dodd ends her essay inquiring of Notre Dame’s president, “Who draws support from your decision to honor President Obama --the young, pregnant Notre Dame woman sitting in that graduating class who wants desperately to keep her baby, or the Notre Dame man who believes that the Catholic teaching on the intrinsic evil of abortion is just dining-room talk?”

In a speech before European politicians, Pope Benedict XVI taught: “…when Churches or ecclesial communities intervene in public debate, expressing reservations or recalling various principles, this does not constitute a form of intolerance or interference, since such interventions are aimed solely at enlightening consciences, enabling them to act freely and responsibly, according to the true demands of justice, even when this should conflict with situations of power and personal interest.”

In other words, when Catholics and others say that abortion is an evil, it is not for the sake of placing our rosaries on anyone’s ovaries as the crude slogan has it, but out of respect for each person’s right to hear the truth, and hope that open-minded persons will respond to it. We speak the truth as winsomely as possible, but the truth. To do less is not courtesy, it’s apathy. 

To return to the case at hand: to whom are we being nice when we fear to call homosexual acts risky, or frankly just don’t care much about same-sex marriage as an issue? 

Not to children whose guardians deliberately plan for them to lack either a mother or father.

Not to the adolescent passing through a (very common) phase of conflicted sexual feelings who will naturally develop a heterosexual orientation if he isn’t prematurely labeled and his other feelings aren’t encouraged.

Not to persons struggling heroically to bear the cross of same-sex attraction with chastity and dignity, but find that not even the Christian community supports them.

How many souls fall into tragic lifestyles because no one ever loves them enough to speak the truth – and love and befriend them anyway?

And what will we who kept the truth to ourselves out of misplaced courtesy say to the Lord on the Last Day about these little ones whom He loves and to whom we are sent?

(Note: this is a modified version of a column that previously ran in Faith & Family magazine.)

Rebecca Teti is a wife and mother who writes for Catholic Digest and other publications.
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