Gay and Catholic: Two views on the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling

Patrick C. Beeman

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Arthur Fitzmaurice

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Editor's note: In the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage, we received many op-eds about the ruling. Here are just two of the many op-eds of differing opinions we received.

Balance for the church lies
between mercy and doctrinal fidelity

By Patrick C. Beeman

The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the constitutionality of same-sex marriage has everyone talking. Sadly, it's not all charitable. My social media feeds are littered with responses like "God have mercy on us all" and "a crime against God and nature." How easy to forget that the tongue -- and the compulsion to use one's Twitter app -- is a restless evil full of deadly poison.

In our daily conversations, offhanded comments and social media status updates, do we want to risk turning someone off to the truth because we are more concerned about a truth? If we are careless, we will only lend credence to the caricature of the church as a mob of narrow-minded and sour-faced doctrinaires.

The Catholic balance lies somewhere between mercy and Christian charity on the one hand and doctrinal fidelity and truth on the other. The church has something to teach us no matter which side of an issue we take.

Try Googling "gay and Catholic." One of the recommended search strings you'll see: "Can you be gay and Catholic"? If Google's suggestions are any indication of what questions occupy people's thoughts at the interface of these two ideas, then that particular recommendation is instructive. For a Catholic, it ought to be embarrassing that people even wonder such things. No permutation of "Can I be a Catholic and __________" could ever be answered in the negative (Romans 8:31-39).

What sets Christianity apart from the world's religions is the truth that redemption is always possible. It seems that the negation of that proposition in people's daily lives is also what sets some Christians apart from the very faith they profess. 

When the nonbeliever has a better track record than the believer on matters of justice, something is wrong. Shouldn't it outrage any decent human being that in some countries, a homosexual act is a capital crime? Regardless of whether or not one believes it to be sinful, both sides should be equally opposed to the backward absurdity of a culture that would permit killing another person for a sexual sin. For my part, I am glad perfect marks in the area of sexual ethics are not a requirement for continuing. I suspect it would be "Game over" for many of us if that were the case.

And what of the subtler forms of social, familial, ecclesiastical and economic discrimination that have been perpetrated against gay people and are only now beginning to dissipate? We should be unsettled when a child is kicked out of his home because he came out as gay to his father. That is not the Catholic response. That is the response of misguided fidelity to the truth -- bigotry? -- which can only have the effect of injuring the faith of the vulnerable. And that kind of response deserves a millstone if anything does.

A few months ago, I attended Mass but was not receiving Communion that day. So while everyone processed up to receive, I knelt in the pew to pray. I opened up the Catholic app on my phone to review the day's reading, holding it in two open hands like a prayer book.

Just as I my eyes came upon "the love of God has been poured into our hearts" (Romans 5:5), a hand came upon my phone, yanking it from my loose grasp and flung it on the pew in front of me.

Startled. Disoriented. I looked up to find a 30-something woman glaring at me with a vicious scowl. "Will you put that away, please!" she angrily demanded. Then she turned around, knelt down, pulled out a prayer book and prayed.

Thinking back on the experience, I have to wonder if that angry woman's response is how some gay people experience their fellow Christians' response to them. Or to the divorced. Or unwed mothers. Or the heavily tattooed and pierced. Or any number of people who don't fit neatly into the local parish's demographic. I was convicted. I have been that angry woman, so quick to make a snap judgment about someone's soul or sincerity because of an aspect of his or her life that didn't comport with my own neat and tidy worldview.

Those of us who identify as orthodox Catholics need to start making reparation for our part in alienating gay people from the church. I'm not saying we should abandon the church's teaching on sexual ethics. But we ought to make quite certain we are applying it carefully and charitably. We ought to make sure that the beliefs that burn like fire in our hearts are ignited by a love for God and neighbor and not the smoldering embers of pride.

Hence, if you opposed the redefinition of marriage, you must show magnanimity in defeat. But even more so: Draw a sharp distinction between the issue of gay marriage and whether or not gay people should be treated equitably in the marketplace, legal system or in society at large. The latter is a question of human dignity. If you are Catholic, it concerns you, whether you opposed gay marriage or not.

We can apply St. Peter's broad advice on apologetics to this matter. He exhorted, "Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you," but added, "with gentleness and reverence" (1 Peter 3:15). On the subject of gay marriage (or LGBT issues more generally), it is much better to be Robert P. George than Fred Phelps.

Let us not forget, liberal and conservative alike, that orthodoxy and orthopraxy are both required for authentic Christian faith. Faith will become unhinged and skewed, devolving into either fanaticism or nominalism, if truth is preached without charity or charity is practiced without conviction. The air bubble will list to one side. The picture of faith will hang crooked. Gay or straight, we all need a level.

 [Patrick C. Beeman is a physician and writer from St. Louis.]

Can the church be more Christian? Rethinking rhetoric on same-sex marriage

By Arthur Fitzmaurice

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that civil marriage rights will be extended to same-sex couples throughout the United States. For those of us who stand at the margins as both LGBT and Catholic, our hearts are troubled not about the decision, but in disappointment that the church hierarchy's rhetoric continues to pierce the hearts of the faithful.

Even in the era of Pope Francis, who reminds the clergy to pastor with mercy, many of the hierarchy continue to make hostile statements without regard to their impact on faithful Catholics. It would serve the church well to remember the people at the center of the same-sex marriage debate.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church's declaration that lesbian and gay people "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity" (Paragraph 2358) should extend beyond one-on-one interactions into public discourse. But where is the respect, compassion and sensitivity in press releases written by many church officials?

The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, referred to the recent legalization of civil marriage for same-sex couples in Ireland as a "defeat for humanity." Did he stop to think how this inflated language is heard by a young teenager struggling to understand how he or she is a beloved child of God while experiencing homosexual attractions?

The official statement from the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops after the Supreme Court decision used similar language, declaring the ruling "a tragic error" and neglecting to acknowledge the people at the heart of the debate. If the bishops responsible for this statement believe that church teaching is the truth, why are they omitting vital teachings on the dignity of the LGBT person? A loving parent rushes to embrace a child in pain, yet church rhetoric is often the very sword that wounds. It is devoid of the respect, compassion and sensitivity that the catechism itself demands.

Both sides of the same-sex marriage debate feel they have a monopoly on the truth and that God is on their side. Members of the hierarchy claim their approach is one of tough-love compassion. They proclaim themselves as courageous for being countercultural. Proponents of same-sex civil marriage are affirmed by the love at the core of the unions they seek. The fact that both sides feel certitude makes the conflict dangerous and prone to many casualties. Compassionate dialogue is all the more necessary to hear God's voice in the debate.

I praise courageous bishops who have demonstrated utmost integrity in being faithful to their beliefs and to church teaching while also calling for dignified and just treatment of LGBT people. Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez modeled a Gospel response in writing, "Our first duty always is to love and to reflect the mercy of God to all of our neighbors. ... Let us continue to promote the dignity of all men and women, who are made in the image of our Creator and endowed with a transcendent value and destiny."

Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich said respectful, compassionate and sensitive treatment of LGBT people "must be real, not rhetorical, and ever reflective of the church's commitment to accompanying all people." San Diego Bishop McElroy assured the church that "commanded by the Gospel of Jesus Christ we will continue to reach out to families of every kind." These bishops incarnate the fullness of Church teaching with love and mercy at the core.

As we move forward from the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage, we are called to dialogue, and the church is called to listen to the Spirit working in the lives of LGBT people. The blessing of the same-sex marriage debate is that we LGBT people have found spaces to tell our stories. The younger generations have come out to seek love and acceptance from their families, teachers, pastors and friends rather than resigning themselves to isolation and misery.

If the church hierarchy wants to witness the Spirit alive in LGBT people, it needs to listen to our stories of finding new life -- and deeper relationship with God -- as we strive to integrate our faith and sexuality. Until they all listen, they cannot hear the voice of God speaking through us, and their words will lack true respect, compassion and sensitivity.

[Arthur Fitzmaurice is resource director for the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry.]





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