I haven’t blogged since Wednesday. Struggling too much with what to say and how to say it, taking my pain to the cross. That pain, I have to be honest, does not come from the rulings the Supreme Court made on same-sex marriage, which the US leadership of my Church—to whose mysteries, including the sacramentality of marriage, I give full assent, though I have a devil of a time with the way those mysteries are proclaimed—called “tragic.” It’s far more personal (and therefore selfish) than that.
My pain was from joy, stifled.
There are people—lots and lots of people—in my life I wanted to call and text and sing and dance with on Wednesday. Couples whose commitment to each other in sickness and in health, through good times and bad, have lasted longer than most marriages I know. Families raising children no less lovingly and well than anybody else, in a world where children are too often unwanted and things are tough all over for parents. Couples with strong religious ties, who keep coming back with love when the doors are closed against them. People I love, and who have brought me God’s love. The woman I wanted to marry, once.
But I stayed silent, because I could not find a way to share joy that would not be read as hypocrisy by people all over the issue of same-sex marriage. Seeing what was out there in the comboxes and on the news over the past two days, I stayed silent because the extremes were not my words, and anything in the middle would be read as assent or dissent anyway.
My pain was from fear.
I was afraid that the comboxes might instruct me that my urge to rejoice was grounds for excommunication from the Church I am so inexplicably grateful to have found my way back to. And God help me, I was afraid they might be right.
Because for all the Catechism’s good words and all the assurances to the contrary, I fear that this is not, in the long run, about religious freedom or the call to chastity or separating the person from the action or even the ideal of sacramental marriage, but about the fact that the Church does, de facto, consider homosexual persons a special category of sinners. (If you think there was no “improper animus” motivating supporters of DOMA, as the Court found in Windsor, just read the things many Catholics have said over the past two days.)
It’s not just about reserving the sacrament of Matrimony to one man and one woman. How many Catholic parishes welcome same-sex couples or even uncloseted homosexual persons to sit in the pews, even when they keep themselves from Communion and don’t volunteer for ministries (other than music, of course) and don’t ask Baptism for their children or try to send them to Catholic schools? These are all things we do for other categories of sinners on a regular basis. I’m not talking about agitators protesting or people trying to make some political point; just regular folks, seeking the truth and solace of the Church, trying to get by, in need of conversion and grace and the support of the community as any of us.
I’m afraid that, in practical terms, my Church believes that homosexual persons (where my Church believes there are such persons, which is a whole other problem) are not just sinners, but sin. I pray I’m wrong.
And I’m glad to hear other voices speaking into the “uncomfortable silence,” as The Jesuit Post named it today (H/T Fr James Martin).
In fact, we find ourselves in a very profound tension: we understand why so many are rejoicing. At the same time, we recognize the beauty of the Church’s understanding of the natural purposes of marriage. And we struggle because we do not know how to hold these two things together. Neither of these are maliciously motivated; neither deserves to be vilified by the other side. Nor can we opt for silence simply because anything we say will offend.
Here, then, is what we can say: there is something to be learned in that uncomfortable silence; there is something to be learned from the fact that denunciations are less credible — by far — than images of rejoicing and gladness.
TJP’s call for leadership in messaging—which is the 21st century term for evagelization—is one I fervently echo. Here’s another (H/T Elizabeth Scalia), from a Catholic much more faithful and orthodox than I who has been struggling, too:
Gay Marriage – not because I think it should exist. I don’t. I believe that marriage is the fruit of natural love, a gift from God, of that familial bond between husband and wife with the ideal purpose of having children. Sounds archaic to you maybe, but that’s what I believe to be true. But I do see these people, and I realize that they want to be happy. They’re just like everyone else, trying to live their lives quietly. Often extraordinarily talented, generous and caring about the world they live in. They want to love, and for some reason I cannot define, that is the way that they are pulled. And many may interpret our words and our votes as a denial of happiness. A denial of life, in the only way they can see. We become the enemy. My heart breaks. You might say, “but they have an agenda. they want to change our nation. they want to change the Church.” Some might, but I don’t think all do. I think most of these folks are just living their lives as best they can, just like you and I. I also think of their loved ones. They are a son or daughter, a parent, a coworker, a childhood friend, a neighbor, a confidant. To them, they are not a statistic. They are not a news story. They are a person. To be valued and loved.
And all these people, they listen to our answers and comments and thoughts and hear:
“you cannot love. you cannot be happy.”
That’s not Catholic, that bit about “you cannot love.” In the end, all I know is that God is love, not in some slogan-y, easy way but in a way that we are called to live and testify to and rejoice about, even when we don’t understand it. And to retreat into silence, however comfortable, is never the answer.
So I’m celebrating this week, and praying for the words and the deeds that will make love visible and active in the world. And I’m repeating my initial advice to Be not afraid. John Corapi used to say, to great applause, “We have nothing to fear, because we have seen the ending, and we win.” No, not we. Love wins. Always, always, always.
Here’s a song to sing into the silence, as a prayer and a jubilation and a promise. It comes from people I love in Dayton (by way of Jesus and and St Francis a number of other very fine influences), to people everywhere who need practice showing love. Go ahead, sing along, dance, whatever you feel about this week’s SCOTUS rulings. Where there is hate, let Love grow.