If indeed, as the bishops write, "the legal recognition of same-sex unions poses a multifaceted threat to the very fabric of society," why do I not feel threatened? In the scope of things that might cause even minor upheaval in my marriage, same-sex marriage doesn't even make the list. In fact, my spouse and I struggled with the idea of gaining both sacramental and legal recognition of our relationship when so many who we care about could not have the same protections.
Massachusetts, the first state to legalize same-sex marriages, boasts the lowest divorce rate in the United States. All this leads to skepticism of the bishops' position. As state after state recognizes same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships, none of the dire predictions about the destruction of heterosexual marriage has come to pass.
However, if one's ideal of marriage is not simply based on love, compatibility, fidelity, and the like, but rather is deeply invested in maintaining traditional gender roles, one can begin to see how allowing same-sex marriage actually could pose a threat to society. Allowing unions that challenge society's traditional understandings of the role of men and women, then facing the evidence that the world will not come crashing down around us, opens the door to a train of thought that challenges that which underlies many of the church's other sexual teachings.
The saddest part of the pastoral letter, even after all of this, is the lack of imagination and exciting possibility that the bishops allow for the marital relationship. Is the creative function of marriage as pedestrian as egg-meets-sperm? Are genitalia and chromosomes more important than the mutuality, support, and deep compassion that I have experienced through my marriage to my spouse? Shouldn't both our sacramental practice and our politics be predicated on the greatest commandment: to love one another as God has loved us?
Read earlier installments of Young Women & Catholicism
- "In All Things," on the unique identity of young Catholic women.
- "Young, Female, and Catholic," on the "Catholic glue"that keeps us in the Church.
- "Role Models," on the need for models of faith and service.
- "Defending the Saints," exploring the role of saints in the lives of Catholics.
- "Spiritual but Not Religious?,"addressing the ambivalence many young Catholics feel about the religious structures of the Church.
- "This Is What a Catholic Woman Looks Like,"exploring stereotypes of the young Catholic woman.
- "Sacred and Secular," on the link between spiritual practices and the secular life.
- "Spirituality and Vocation," reflecting on the ways spirituality affects career choices.
- "Religious Identity, Sexual Identity," on the complexities of weaving together belief and identity.
Johanna Hatch is a feminist activist, writer, and amateur hagiographer. She currently resides in Wisconsin with her spouse Evan and their mostly blind dachshund. They eagerly await the arrival their newest family member in mid-November.