Saturday, June 27, 2015

In the wake of Obergefell

Given how much I write about marriage I suppose it would be odd not post something on yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in the Obergefell case (read all opinions on yesterday's ruling here). The long and short of it is that, as of yesterday, in all 50 states of the United States, as well as in U.S. possessions and territories, the union of two people of the same sex must now be recognized by the state as a "marriage."

There are many ways to react to yesterday's ruling. In my view, the important thing is that yesterday's decision in no way impacts the reality, rooted in nature, that marriage is between a man and a woman and oriented towards having and raising children, which serves the common good. Yesterday's judicial fiat will have no impact now or ever on Church teaching with regard to marriage. Based on the emotive logic of Justice Kennedy's majority opinion, however, I firmly believe that, in terms of what the government will ultimately recognize as "marriage" yesterday's radical departure is merely the first redefinition. I can't see how, in the aftermath of the Court's decision in Obergefell, marriages that involve more than two partners of either sex is too far behind. Why do I make this prediction? Because there is a large enough number of people who live this lifestyle demanding it be legally recognized and sanctioned and because yesterday's decision did not really re-define marriage so much as simply expanding it to include something it is not through the use of flowery rhetoric and little solid reasoning.

Moving from the political to the pastoral, I found Dr Ed Peters' post, "Two thoughts re the Supreme Court decision on 'same-sex marriage,'" very useful and level-headed. Succinctly stated- "We have lived with persons in pseudo-marriage for many decades; so now the pool of such people is larger. The pastoral challenges in consequence of this latest decision are greater as will be the sacrifices needed to meet them." Meet them we must for the salvation of souls and the flourishing of everyone; for love of God and our neighbor.

It's easy to be pessimistic in the face such upheaval, but if it means anything to be a Christian, it means being a person of hope. Our hope is in the name of the Lord/Who made heaven and earth. Rather than wishing, the theological virtue of hope is about trusting God. It's important to understand that God's purposes cannot be thwarted. Anyone who knows anything about salvation history knows God brings about His purposes, foremost among which is the salvation of all, in the most unexpected ways and often through seemingly impossible circumstances.

My hope is not now nor has it been for many, many years in a particular government or even in any particular form of government. The important thing for Christians now is not merely to give witness to what we believe, but to bear joyful witness to the beauty of marriage in word and example. We must continue to love everyone and treat every human being with the respect their human dignity deserves, keeping in mind always that each and every person ineradicably bears the imago Dei. I know that most people who disagree with what the Church teaches concerning marriage, which sadly includes no small number of Catholics, do so in good faith in the belief that they are being charitable towards all.

What is the truth about marriage? I think the statement issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops yesterday in response to the Supreme Court ruling spells it out very well:
The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home (read the whole thing here)
For those convinced about the deep natural and supernatural truth of marriage we will begin to learn what it means to be strong when weak, to find power in powerlessness:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood (Heb 12:1-4)
We need look no farther than the witness of Christians whose religious liberty has been denied in states that began recognizing same-sex unions as marriages well before yesterday's ruling to see what this means.

I believe with my whole heart that to love another is to love her/his destiny. Yesterday I watched President Obama's response to the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell. In his remarks, the president spoke of the United States as a land where you can make your own destiny. Many people find such phrases inspiring. To be sure, such flights of fancy are very common in our political discourse and are employed by both parties. But if you take some time to ponder what this might actually mean, the incoherence of these words becomes readily apparent. To make one's own destiny is not to have a destiny, that is, a destination, a transcendent end for which you are lovingly made.

The persistent and perennial question, which remains at the forefront was posed powerfully by Msgr Luigi Giussani: Is it possible to live this way? "What way?" As a disciple of Jesus Christ. Of course, the answer is, Yes, it is possible to live in this peculiar way regardless of circumstances.

Circumstances, while often challenging, are the stuff of life. Circumstances make it possible to have experience, which is the God-given instrument for our human journey. The only way to verify the truth of what we believe is by living this way through all the circumstances in which we find ourselves throughout our lives.

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