People still come to me for help, solace and advice.
It’s a natural adjunct to 18 years in public office in this community. People know me, and they’ve learned over the years to trust me. Not only that, they’ve formed the habit of turning to me when they want to talk about something they can’t discuss with the people around them because they know that I won’t, ever, talk about what they tell me.
I left office a year ago, but I didn’t stop being the mother confessor for a lot of South Oklahoma City folks. I don’t know if I ever will.
The Supreme Court sent a number of people my way since last Friday, all of them looking for solace in the face of personal attacks they had suffered because of the decision on gay marriage. They called me on the phone, approached me after mass, in checkout lines and while I was running errands. I also had internet encounters of the same type that went far beyond the boundaries of my community and my personal friends.
Here’s the summarized version of what they told me:
There was a lot of yelling and screaming in certain circles this weekend. It was directed at Christians in their personal, and, heretofore, safe personal relationships. It was also directed at priests who spoke about the decision from the pulpit. One friend, who gave me permission to discuss this, witnessed an ugly blow-up at a longstanding poker game she and her husband go to. The people there hold diverse opinions about matters of faith and morality, but they’ve been meeting for this friendly get-together on a regular basis for years.
This week, the atheists in the group refused to practice civility. They cursed the Lord, called Christians bigots and homophobes and were otherwise verbally insulting. According to my friend, this began with a celebration on the part of the atheists over Obergefell. She said she felt like, “OK, you won your deal, have your celebration.” She said the Christians at the table kept silent.
But when the celebration turned to repeatedly cursing the Lord and calling Christians ugly names, she said one of the Christian men told them to shut up. It devolved from there into two men squaring off to fight one another. At that point, my friend stood up and told them to stop it.
She said, “I’ve never forced my faith on you. I don’t come here with a Bible telling you what to do. But you are disrespecting me and my Jesus and I will not stand for it. You stop this now or my husband and I are leaving and we won’t be back.”
My friend is the most soft-spoken Hispanic woman you’d ever meet. I’ve never heard her raise her voice. Not once. Not ever.
She said the room fell silent and everyone sat back down. But she doesn’t think she and her husband will be back for more fun next week. They are through with the group.
I’ve heard stories of spouses calling one another names and people walking out of mass on their priests. I also had Public Catholic readers directly ask me what they should do in the face of this hate that is being directed at Christians.
I think that my friend gave a template for how to handle friends who are not family. We really need to stand our ground. If the people we call friends do not respect us enough to allow us the space and personal dignity to hold our own beliefs and act on them, then the friendship is on sick and sad grounds. I know from personal experience how painful this is. But there is nothing we can do but let them go.
That also goes for priests who have parishioners walk out on them when they teach what the Church teaches about marriage from the pulpit. Many of these walkers away will walk back later. But whether they do or not, priests must still teach the truth. They have a responsibility before God to protect their flocks from the error of grave sin. Silence in a situation where their parishioners are facing this kind of abuse is cowardice. It is a shepherd, running away to protect himself when his flock is in danger.
Family members are a bit more difficult. There are several gay people in my family and we’ve never had a problem. The reason is simple: We love one another. I may not support gay marriage, but when my gay family member has to go to the hospital or is in trouble with the law or just lonely and feeling bereft, they know that I’m there for them. I will sit in the hospital waiting room, go to the trial and hang out with them when no one else will.
They do the same for me.
What is politics, compared to that?
However, this sort of familial sanity does not prevail in all families. Children, in particular, are too willing to use their parents’ love for them, a love they do not doubt or they wouldn’t do this, as a form of blackmail. “If you love me, you’ll desert your faith and back gay marriage.”
Chose me, or chose Christ. That is the thing in the balance.
All I can say is that you must never stop loving people because they are jerks and bullies. But no one — no one — can be put between you and Jesus. Jesus has to be your first loyalty.
That doesn’t mean you lecture them or even try to get them to change. Even if you do this with the intention of saving their souls, it is still the wrong thing in this circumstance. They are too set on their downward path to listen. Their ears are stopped and their hearts are hardened.
All you can do is love them and continue to love them and reach out to them in love. That, and keep the faith with your faith in your own life.
Aside from the fact that Jesus Christ must be your Lord or He is nothing to you, what they are demanding is far beyond the right of any person to demand of another. It is a crude and vicious violation of your integrity as a human being, of your natural human rights as a person.
At bottom, it, as my friend said, “disrespects” you. I heard a discussion this weekend in which someone more knowledgeable in these matters than me said that these kinds of attacks on the integrity of another person’s soul are always an indicator of disrespect. They do not respect you and your right to believe as you believe.
Disrespect at this level is disrespect of you as a person. You have a responsibility to yourself, to God and to the person attacking you not to accede to this. Mutual respect is the beginning of genuine trust. It is the foundation on which all good human relationships are built.
If I cannot trust you to respect me as a person enough to allow me the dignity of making my own choices in matters as profoundly personal as faith and morality, then I can not trust you at all. There can be no friendship, no true relationship, without this basic level of respect and the trust that comes from it.
I don’t know if my friend should go back to her poker game or not. It’s possible that the people there heard her and that they will respect her in the future. But if they do not, she really does have to leave.
I know my friend well enough to know that she would take a lot of disrespect directed at her, personally. But she will not abide disrespect to Jesus Christ.
That has to be the bottom line for all of us. Even the most co-dependent among us must stand for Christ in these times.
Do it in love. If you love someone, give yourself the freedom to keep on loving them. Never send someone who is really close to you away. If they leave, that is their choice. But when and if they decide to come back, welcome them home with the same love you felt before they left, and then let the past go.
Love hurts in times like this. The people we love are the ones who can and will nail us to the cross. But if our first love is Jesus, He will help us through this. Stay the course, my friends. On the other side of this Gethsemane, you will find that your faith in Him is stronger, your walk with Him closer, your love of Him, deeper.
You may lose trust in the people around you, but your trust in Him is a rock on which you can build your life.
He who made them in the first place, made them man and woman. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and go to his wife and the two shall become one. So they are no longer two, but one. What God has put together, let no man take apart. Jesus Christ
Jesus’ statement on marriage was one of his “tough” sayings. He didn’t equivocate about marriage, and neither can we.
Here’s what He said, broken down:
1. God created humanity as man and woman. This was ordained from the beginning, as part of the order of creation.
2. Marriage is between one man and one woman. Not, notice, one man and many woman, or groups of people, two men or two women. God’s created gift of marriage is not any of the innovative adaptations humans seek to apply it. Marriage before God is between one man and one woman. This definition of marriage is also given in the first chapters of Genesis. Jesus is not creating new law here. He is quoting Scripture which decides the order of creation as God intended it.
3. Divorce is a human contrivance that comes from our hardness of hearts. Further down in the exchange I quote from above, the Pharisees challenged Jesus in an attempt to attack Him. They asked Him why the law of Moses allowed divorce. Jesus answered them simply: Moses (not, notice God) allowed divorce because of the Israelites’ hard hearts. But, He adds, it was not so from the beginning. He goes on to say that, basically, divorce is a human contrivance and that even if someone divorces under civil law, they are still married before God and that any further marriage would be living in adultery.
What does this mean to us as Catholics?
It means that gay marriage is, at best, a human contrivance that has no existence before God. Churches of various denominations can decide to allow it, but they are teaching a false teaching to their flocks. I would not want to be a preacher who had deliberately done this on the Day of Judgement.
It also means that people who divorce and remarry are not remarried at all before God. They do not have the power to dissolve a sacramental marriage. The courts do not have this power, and neither does the Church. Jesus Christ has plainly said that it can not be done. When divorced people remarry, they are not married before God. They are cohabiting.
This gets into the thorny questions of the various accommodations the Church has made to our human fallenness in this area. Marriage Tribunals exist that go over divorced individuals’ marriages in detail in order to see if they can find a way in which the original marriage was not “licit,” which is to say that it was not a marriage before God in the first place. This looks, from the outside, like they are straining out gnats of situation so that they can swallow the camel of divorce. But that is a topic for another blog post.
What does all this say about gay marriage? It says that gay marriage doesn’t exist before God. It has never and will never exist before God.
What does that say about us and how we conduct our social and professional lives?
It says, first of all, that we cannot accept or accede to gay marriage as a social construct, anymore than we should accept or concede to divorce as a social construct.
Now we all know that we’ve done the hat-tip to divorce. My husband and I were once part of a large Sunday School class at a Methodist Church that was comprised of about 20 married couples. In that group, there were only three couples who had not been previously married, divorced and remarried. We actually felt like outsiders in much of the conversation, since we had no share in the miserable, teary-eyed stories of grief and personal tragedy that accompanied this divorced lifestyle and history.
Divorce wasn’t so ubiquitous in the Episcopal Churches we attended. In fact, it was rather rare. It’s certainly a reality in our Catholic parish, but when we gather with groups, life-long married couples with their only spouses are the majority.
The point to all this is simply that we’ve swallowed the camel of divorce. In the process, we’ve created generations of feral children and all but destroyed the working class.
One reason why divorce has been so disastrous for the working class is that divorce creates and exacerbates poverty. Divorce splits the assets of the married couple. Every single divorce does this. Several divorces can atomize an individual’s lifetime accumulation of property and savings to the point that they have, literally, nothing.
Divorce with children is much easier to weather when the divorcing parents are each capable of financially providing for their children’s care. When divorce hits people who are struggling to get by with McJobs, the family is plunged from barely getting by into a sinkhole of poverty. Whichever spouse ends up with the children is always the most poor because the kids are such a drain on the time, resources and career opportunities of a single parent.
This means, among other things, that unless family members can take up the child care, these kids spend almost all of their waking hours either under the authority of bad public schools, or home alone. As we say here in Oklahoma, they get their raisin’ from indifferent teachers in slum schools and other children.
Is it any wonder that they grow into messed up adults? Is it any wonder that they turn to gangs for the family they’ve never had? Is it any wonder that they are prey to every social innovation that comes along?
Divorce has destroyed our families and it has fed our kids into the maw of the culture.
Enter same sex marriage.
If divorce damaged and defaced marriage to the point that it created generations of feral children, gay marriage destroys it utterly. Marriage no longer exists as a legal construct in this country. It is now an elastic non-definition based on feelings rather than law. Since the Supreme Court “found” a right to privacy in the 14th Amendment, along with a new right to individual autonomy, the legal fence around marriage that allowed it to exist as a discreet legal entity is down.
Marriage no longer exists as a legal construct. I think that, in time, this will lead to the overturning of laws that grant marriage special privileges. That almost has to happen, for the simple reason that enforcing and allowing those privileges will become too burdensome on governance at all levels.
Also, marriage in itself is no longer deemed either a foundational institution or a core method of child rearing. Marriage is now, under the law, a matter of nebulous feelings, intent, and newly created rights to individual autonomy.
In short, marriage, as the vague and non-defined whatever that it is under Obergefell no longer provides for a social good that justifies granting it special privileges. When it is promoted by nonsensical slogans such as “love is equal,” you almost know that marriage is now about nothing from a legal standpoint. The decision itself reflects this.
Does that mean that marriage no longer exists?
Have we, by our own contrivance, done away with what God created and told us that we may not put asunder?
Marriage, real marriage is not a relationship. It is a reality. Marriage is the God-ordained root of human society by which human beings become more fully human. It is the civilization-builder that makes us unique among all of creation. It is also a gift that will last as long as this created order in which we live and breath, move and work, lasts.
Without marriage, there is no civilization. Men and women, when they are separated from one another, are useless creatures. Men without women rapidly descend to the brute. Women without men dither and spin. But when we come together, we create civilization.
We weren’t meant, as some false faiths teach, to lord it over one another and abuse one another. That is the sin of the garden. It is not the natural order of how we were created. Misogyny is the curse of our fallenness.
There is a reason why societies which degrade the female are both brutal and backward. That reason is that these societies violate the natural civilization-creating order that God intended. They suppress the feminine to the point that they descend to the male brutishness. They are societies that are trying to function with half their heart and half their brain.
The Obergefell decision destroyed marriage as a legal construct. But it did not destroy true marriage. The Court does not have that power.
And neither do you and I.
We cannot destroy marriage by divorce, domestic violence and adultery. We can not destroy it by the sophistry of legal definitions and media propaganda. Marriage, created by God from the beginning, is not ours to destroy. What we maim and damage and inflict grave harm upon with our behavior is ourselves, our spouses, our extended families, and, most of all, our children. If we continue down this path, and it appears that we will, what we will ultimately destroy is our society and our civilization.
Gay marriage does not and cannot destroy true marriage. Neither does divorce.
What both these things destroy is our society. Our children. And our own lives.
This is an informal, non-scientific poll that I’m conducting from my own curiosity.
Did you pastor address the Supreme Court decision doing away with marriage in his homily Sunday?
Has he ever preached on the issue of gay marriage?
I’m just curious.
This statement was issued by Archbishop Joseph E Kurtz of Louisville, KY. Archbishop Kurtz is president of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops.
I am printing it in full, without editing. To read more, go here.
June 26, 2015
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court decision, June 26, interpreting the U.S. Constitution to require all states to license and recognize same-sex “marriage” “is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The full statement follows:
Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.
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.
Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.
I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.
Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Supreme Court, religious freedom, marriage, same-sex, Obergefell v. Hodges, Roe v. Wade, Pope Francis, integral ecology, encyclical
# # #
Norma Montenegro Flynn
The news cycle turns and turns.
Friday, when the Supreme Court decision ending marriage came down, pundits jumped on the run-in-circles, scream-and-shout bandwagon. One week-end later, and they are all set to do the don’t-panic-you-unlettered-ones, it’s-not-that-bad pat down.
Today is the day when the flood of there-there-little-buttercup-it’s-alright commentary begins. We’ll be treated to analysis as to how same-sex marriage has not hurt anybody anywhere and there has been no push past gay marriage to an even more elastic set of definitions. We’ll hear how the Church is flourishing in countries with gay marriage and has not suffered harm.
We’ll be told to stand down and go about our business as if nothing has happened. Somebody somewhere is sure to use the meme, Keep Calm and Catholic On.
This is evidently as predictable as pundit ignorance is inevitable. Most of these people couldn’t read a law and tell you what it means if their lives depended on it. They certainly couldn’t look at a statute or a court ruling and see the ez pz ways in which it can be massaged for use in further challenges or revisions or whatnot.
In my humble opinion and for what it’s worth, the decision the Court handed down Friday is as elastic as hot taffy. It is so elastic that it destroys marriage as a legal construct. There is now no marriage in the dependable, this-is-what-it-is way of law under American jurisprudence. We now live in the Wild West of marriage.
It will take a while for the destructive vagueness of this hatched-up decision to roll its way through the body politic, but when it does, the damage is going to be widespread, endemic and generational. The court created a Constitutional crisis that will spawn other Constitutional crises that will spawn civil unrest that will spawn a much uglier culture war than what has damaged this nation so seriously up until now.
The Supreme Court has, in the past 50 years, been the chief creator of civil and cultural unrest in this nation, and it has now outdone itself.
If you want someone to go hush-a-bye and sing lullabies to you, read another blog. I would be lying to you if I did that. Contrary to the things you may read elsewhere, I’m going to tell you that it really is “that bad.”
But I’m also going to tell you not to panic.
Today is not the time to begin the process of talking about how we will respond to this new challenge. People — including me — need a bit of time to process this emotionally.
I wrote Friday and Saturday on the decision itself. I will probably do that again.
But for today I’m going to tell you one thing: The damage the Court did to this country Friday is every bit as bad as your worst thoughts of it. But — and this sounds ironic, I know — there is no reason to panic.
Martin Luther King, Jr, said “A lie cannot live.”
I would paraphrase that to say that a lie cannot live forever. Western civilization is in the grip of a number of lies about the most essential questions of all. We are debating the roots of civilization itself with questions revolving around the basic right to life and what it means to be human.
One question we have not asked, but which is much-needed, is how much nihilistic rot a culture can withstand before it collapses. Another unasked but needed question is whether or not we will impose any limits on human hubris.
Those of us who are traditional Christians, specifically those of us who are Catholic, have a stronger position in this debate simply because we are not balancing, as the Supreme Court did in its ruling, on the ever-rolling marbles of public popularity and poll numbers. We are standing on the Rock.
Notice, I did not say that we are standing on “a rock.” I said “the Rock.”
I’m going to noodle with this decision and its supporting arguments for a couple of days. You and I both need to do this to get our bearings in this new landscape. We’ll deal with the what is part of this situation first. Then, we’ll deal with the personal challenges that we face.
Then — and only then — we’ll look at political responses.
This is going to be a long fight. We have an entire culture that is caught in a self-righteous suicidal frenzy before us, and it’s our job to save it. We have a world to convert and re-convert. Our first work in the conversion department begins with ourselves.
The truth of our situation is that it really is “that bad.” But those of us who are standing on the Rock have no reason to panic.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
November 19, 1863
Can the Republic survive a federal government and a Supreme Court that is both corporatist and nihilist?
That is the question.
The United States Supreme Court has been waging a successful war on government of, by and for the people for several decades now. Roe v Wade and Obergefell v Hodges bookend an almost 50-year-old judicial bypass of democracy and the democratic process.
In both instances, the Supreme Court jumped into an arena where the democratic process was working very well. The Court slashed through the democratic process, ending it abruptly and disastrously. The democratic process was dealing with the question of legal abortion in the always-messy, always-effective way that is democracy in action. One state would legalize abortion in certain circumstances, another state would tighten abortion restrictions. The first state would revise its abortion laws again, and a third state would decide to legalize.
It would have taken time, but the democratic process was working this out according to the will of the people. There is no doubt that, if the Court had allowed the process to work, it would have worked. What we would have ended up with would have been a much more just and — this is crucial — culturally-agreed-upon solution. Our laws would have reflected the will of the people, and for that reason, they would have stood. There would have been a lot of electioneering and speechifying, but there would have been no destructive culture war and the resulting breakdown of the body politic which we have seen since Roe.
The Court, by injecting itself into a healthy, working democratic process, and arbitrarily ending that process by the use of the brute force of fictional “findings” in the Constitution, created an on-going Constitutional crisis such as this country had not seen since the Civil War. Flash forward 50 years, and we arrive at Obergefell v Hodges.
Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision was another slam-dunk of the democratic process on an issue that was being debated and legislated over time. There is no doubt that the democratic process would have resolved this issue had the courts stayed out of it. It would have taken time, and again, it would have been messy. But the end result would have been a solution that We the People accepted and that would not have damaged this country.
The DOMA decision of two years ago set the lower courts on their domino effect overturning of state statutes pertaining to the definition of marriage. That allowed the Supreme Court to do exactly what it intended when it overturned DOMA, which was to issue a draconian ruling. Yesterday’s decision was a judicial one-two punch. Anyone with half a brain could see that the issue had been decided when the Court set up the DOMA decision in the first place.
I suppose the lessons of Roe are why they decided to take this backdoor route to legislating from the bench. That, and the opinion polls which gave them the entirely false notion that they were acting in a manner that the public would accept.
Roe and Obergefell bookend tragic overstepping by the Supreme Court that have done and will do incalculable damage to the Republic. Roe shoved into the Constitution the legal fiction that some human beings are not in fact human and their lives have no value under the law. Obergefell destroys marriage as a legal construct. It enshrines cultural nihilism in the 14th Amendment and sets the Constitution on a collision course with itself.
Obergefell inevitably places the Supreme Court in the position of legislative arbiter on the limits and allowances of all manner of American freedoms which we have held dear and fought wars to preserve since this nation’s founding. We are going to see the Court’s ham-handed fine-tunings of the Bill of Rights on a plethora of challenges that will come from yesterday’s ruling. Each one of these subsequent rulings will do damage to American freedoms. Every ruling will limit the rights of We the People and will strengthen the Court’s power as a legislative body with dictatorial powers and no checks and balances.
Notice that I said that the yesterday’s ruling places the Supreme Court as the legislative arbiter. Obergefell is so destructive to the democratic process that it will inevitably remove whole areas of the law from the democratic process and place them entirely in the hands of the Court. The ruling is so nihilistic that it creates an arbitrary legal option for nihilism in future proceedings.
The Supreme Court has set aside democracy.
I mentioned corporatism a few paragraphs back. I am aware that my concern about corporatism confuses many Public Catholic readers. But corporatism, as practiced in America, is government, working entirely for multinational corporations who are like parasites draining every bit of economic vitality out of this country. Corporatism is not only a grave evil, it is the absolute enemy of the Republic.
These twin evils — corporatism and nihilism — are the underlying principles behind many of the Supreme Courts decisions in the past 10 years. The Supreme Court has become anti-democracy and subservient to corporatism.
The Court is not the only institution which serves corporatism and nihilism. Our legislative process is also poisoned by these twin evils, which are, at their root, very similar. Corporatists and nihilists share an absolute contempt for the will of the people. They are bedfellows in their parallel goal of side-stepping and annihilating the democratic process.
Their best friend in this is the United States Supreme Court.
The Court destroyed marriage as a legal entity yesterday. It also created a plethora of avenues by which basic American freedoms can be destroyed.
Advocates of gay marriage may themselves come to rue this decision. It will take time before that happens. A lot of tragedy and excess will have to play out before things get so ripe that everyone can smell the rot. But to the extent that gay marriage advocates value marriage and were simply trying to acquire the good of it for themselves, they have failed. Instead of buying the house, they burned it down.
The question before us is a relatively straightforward one, and the answer, at least to me, is equally straightforward. Can the Republic survive a Supreme Court that is both corporatist and nihilist?
The answer is no.
America may, as Rome did, go on as a great military power long after the Republic is dead. But democracy cannot survive if its own government turns on it and shuts it down. Corporatism, if we do not stop it, will be the death of democracy.
Nihilism, on the other hand, is such an unworkable social construct that it cannot govern at all. No society can survive as a nihilistic society. America will not go on as a great military power shorn of its democracy if nihilism prevails. America will fail horribly and fall into a debacle of ruin if it is governed by the forces of nihilism.
Nihilism and corporatism are very similar. Corporatism, is, at its root profoundly amoral. Nihilism is, at its root, profoundly anti-human.
American civilization was so strong that it has taken these blows and kept on walking. But the Republic cannot operate forever under the governance of corporatism and nihilism. America can be destroyed, not from without, but by the corruption of its institutions.
That is exactly what we are facing with our corporatist/nihilist Supreme Court and its ugly war on government, of, by and for the people.
They just couldn’t let democracy work.
The United States Supreme Court issued another of their sweeping legislate-from-the-bench rulings today. They have created a new Constitutional definition of marriage that over turns the truncates the on-going democratic process and destroys 2,000 years of legal understanding that the family is a protected institution.
This ham-handed ruling brackets Roe v Wade in its destructive force on The body politic. It sets up generations of culture wars.
I will write about this ruling in detail later.
My spiritual leader, Archbishop Paul Coakley, wrote a stirring letter to my diocese recently. I’m sharing it here without editing.
The Future of Marriage Hangs in the Balance
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley
The recent media fascination with the “transition” of Bruce Jenner into Caitlyn has highlighted the tragic confusion about gender and sexual difference in society today. Rooted in both natural law and divine revelation, our Catholic teaching affirms that men and women are equal and different. Together they are created in the image and likeness of God. Man and woman are designed by God in relation to one another to form a conjugal union that brings forth children. The consequences of this affirmation are far-reaching.
Sexual difference is essential to marriage and child rearing. Our bodies matter. We don’t just have a body. We are a body. Without this basis in sexual difference and complementarity, there is no limit to what “marriage” could mean.
Perhaps by the time this issue of the Sooner Catholic is published, and certainly by the end of June, the Supreme Court will have issued its ruling on two crucial questions dealing with the very definition of marriage. The questions the court is addressing ask whether the 14th Amendment requires a state to license a “marriage” between two people of the same sex, and whether the same amendment requires a state to recognize same sex “marriages,” which were lawfully licensed and performed in another state.
No matter how the court rules, it cannot change what marriage really is. Marriage by its nature remains the union of one man and one woman. It is a natural institution that predates and precedes governments and government regulation.
Every society has acknowledged that the sexual union of man and woman matters because it creates the next generation. While Jesus elevated Christian marriage to a sacrament, the complementarity of the sexes and the natural meaning of marriage can be known through reason even without appealing to Scripture.
Governments have long maintained an interest in protecting and preserving marriage. Society needs an institution that connects children to their mothers and fathers, and marriage is the only institution that does this. Every child has a mother and father and deserves to be loved and raised by them. Certainly, there are many circumstances that can hinder and prevent this, but marriage has always been the primary way that society protects this right of children to be raised by both a mother and a father. Both matter. Both are irreplaceable. Only a man can be a father and only a woman can be a mother. A child should not be deliberately deprived of either one. There are certainly wonderful single parents and others who make great sacrifices to raise children. They deserve our respect and support. But, every society ought to affirm each child’s basic natural right to come from and be raised in a loving home formed by his or her own mother and father joined together in a stable marriage.
Law is a teacher. A redefinition of marriage in the law teaches that one sex is interchangeable with another, and that either mother or father is dispensable as a parent. This ignores the wisdom of millennia of lived experience. It teaches that marriage is whatever consenting adults say it is and that these adults have a “right” to children they did not conceive. This is not only false, but it fails to take into account what is good for the child. Affirming the tried and true definition of marriage denies no one their basic rights. Rather it affirms the equal dignity and complementarity of men and women, and safeguards the rights of children.
Advocates for so-called “marriage equality” claim that the traditional definition of marriage unjustly discriminates against homosexual persons. Unjust discrimination is always wrong. But treating different things differently is not unjust discrimination. Protecting marriage is a matter of justice.
In addition to the devastating effect that a redefinition of marriage would have on children, there also are far-reaching religious freedom issues at stake.
It would change literally thousands of laws all at once. Marriage redefinition would immediately set the Church’s teaching and witness concerning the meaning and sanctity of marriage in opposition to the law of the land. This would result in countless conflicts between the state and religious institutions and individuals who adhere to the teaching of their faith and the judgment of their consciences.
So much hangs in the balance. What can we do? We can pray and we can fast for the protection of marriage and religious liberty. We can become advocates for marriage by our own witness to its sanctity and goodness. We can talk about the truth of marriage with patience and kindness and understanding. Who could have imagined that such common sense wisdom would become so counter-cultural in our time?
Bishops are teachers, leaders and administrators.
They are also priests.
When a bishop becomes so exasperated with his flock that he no longer likes them or feels love for them, it’s time for that bishop to go back to God in prayer.
Bishop Tobin of Rhode Island has published a letter to is flock that is a case in point.
I can’t say what Bishop Tobin feels in his heart, but various comments he’s made and things he’s done lead me to believe that he’s more than a little disappointed in the people in the pews in his diocese. He runs a diocese that is more densely Catholic than most, but also less publicly committed to following the Church.
Bishop Tobin has experienced the personal and pastoral debacle of seeing members of his flock defy him and vote to pass laws legalizing gay marriage. He preached and taught the right things, but they didn’t listen, or rather, not enough of them listened.
Poor man, he took their sins on his own back and blamed himself for the failure of those who should have followed hm to do what was right. It must have been a bitter black moment for him as a leader of souls.
This exasperation, this disenchantment, with the people he is tasked to lead comes blasting out in a recent article he posted concerning the way that Catholics dress when they go to mass. He wants his flock to show their respect for the Lord by dressing up a bit when they come to Church.
Catholics are notoriously casual in the way we dress at mass. I wear a lot of jeans and t-shirts to mass myself. Maybe we should be a bit more polished in our appearance. Many of my fellow Catholic Patheosi think they should. Me, I’m not so sure that I agree. I think that casual is the new normal of our culture and there are much bigger fish for a bishop to fry than taking on the role of fashion cop.
But I’m not a bishop and I don’t set bishops’ agendas. If Bishop Tobin looks out over his flock and sees attire that is unseemly and disrespectful of the Lord, it is will within his job description for him to admonish the faithful to spiff up a bit. It is the job of Catholics in the pews to listen to him and try to follow his teaching. He is, after all, their spiritual leader.
What is unfortunate is that, when he attempted to do this, he let loose with his anger at the people he leads. Here’s a bit of what he said:
You know what I’m talking about; you’ve seen it too. Hirsute flabmeisters spreading out in the pew, wearing wrinkled, very-short shorts and garish, unbuttoned shirts; mature women with skimpy clothes that reveal way too much, slogging up the aisle accompanied by the flap-flap-flap of their flip-flops; hyperactive gum-chewing kids with messy hair and dirty hands, checking their iPhones and annoying everyone within earshot or eyesight.
These displays reveal a gross misunderstanding of the sacred space we’ve entered in the church and the truly sacred drama taking place in our midst. C’mon – even in the summer, a church is a church, not a beach or a pool deck.
Every member of the worshipping community should dress appropriately for Mass, but the obligation is even greater for those who fulfill public ministries during the liturgy – ushers, lectors, servers, and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Because they’ve assumed a public role in the sacred liturgy and are in the public eye, it’s important that they give good example to others in the way they dress, speak and present themselves during Mass.
Certainly the people of God should dress with appropriate modesty when they go to mass. I agree that those who participate in the mass should make an effort to be visually presentable when they do so.
But I can tell the good bishop that long-term leadership of a group of people depends on trust and inspiration, not verbal flogging and public shaming.
Every person who comes to mass is a volunteer. Every single one of them has something else they could be doing. Every person who is sitting in a pew is there because, at least at some level, they are seeking Christ the Lord. That deserves respect, which is exactly what I think Bishop Tobin is trying to ask for himself and the mass in his misbegotten post.
I think that the bishop wants people to respect the mass, and I am guessing that he would also like for them to respect him. However, I do not think that talking to the people in the pews in the manner I quoted above will garner the respect he is seeking.
The reason why is simple: To get respect, you have to give respect, and Bishop Tobin disrespects his flock in this letter.
People will follow a leader through all kinds of hell and high water if they trust that leader. They will respect and support a leader who respects and supports them. That respect and support is the basis of trust and inspiration, and trust and inspiration is the basis of leadership.
When a leader — it does not matter if it is a priest or a president — disrespects the people he or she is trying to lead, they damage that essential element of trust and inspiration. When they do it repeatedly, they can destroy the trust, quench the inspiration, that is necessary for them to lead.
Bishops have a tough job. I’m pretty sure that it’s going to get tougher as time goes forward. Their authority is battered and tarnished by their own failings in the priest sex abuse scandal. The Church itself has become the sign of contradiction against the satanic influences that are ripping at our whole society.
Those satanic forces are gathering and will attack the Church without ceasing so long as it stays true to its mission of preaching the whole Gospel of Christ. Bishops, as the generals in the Lord’s army, are the top targets in these attacks.
But they can no go to ground and take cover. Bishops need to stand and lead. They must lead, and they must do it fearlessly and with the kind of strength and faith that only the Holy Spirit can give.
It is not possible for any man to do the job that confronts our bishops out of his own wisdom or strength. If God does not support these men, they will fail. That means that they have to unlearn the lessons of clericalism that have formed so many of our religious leaders and take on the humility of true followership of Christ. There is no other way for a bishop in today’s world to effectively do the job that is set in front of him.
Leadership requires a lot of those who take it up. Among other things, it requires self-discipline. That self-discipline includes a refusal not to indulge personal pique in public venues.
That’s what I read in Bishop Tobin’s remarks: Personal pique.
He is dangerously close to giving the impression that he flat-out dislikes the people he must lead. He needs to stop this and stop it now.
If he is genuinely concerned that the level of casual dress in his parishes has become so extreme that it endangers the sanctity of the mass, he must, as is his job, teach in that area. But it is imperative that he do so as a bishop, a priest, a father and shepherd of a flock that he loves and longs to lead to heaven.
There aren’t many chances when it comes to publicly dissing the people you lead. Such behavior violates the compact between leader and those who are led. If they trust you deeply, they will give you one or two second chances, but only if they love you deeply and trust you absolutely. No one ever gets more chances than that, and most leaders get no second chance at all.
All bishops, not just Bishop Tobin, need to take this to heart. I know what I’m talking about here.
I want to see our bishops succeed. I pray for their success. When I see a bishop shoot himself in the foot this way, I think it’s important to say something.
Bishops must respect and love the people God has entrusted to them. If they do that, they will find the job of leadership a natural outgrowth of the trust they receive in turn.