May 17, 2009 by D Stack
What is a family? As a society we’ve been getting pretty caught up in this of late. The traditional family of a father, a mother, and the kids doesn’t seem to be universal anymore. Single parents and same-sex parents have become much more common of late. And as a society we often have trouble with these changes.
Here in Massachusetts we have a bit of a head start in this culture war, being the first place same-sex marriage was legalized. The Catholic church here has not been pleased with this development to say the least. A few years back Sean O’Malley, archbishop of the archdiocese of Boston issued a letter for all priests to read on a Sunday as part of a “defense of marriage” weekend which was intended to get parishioners to lobby their legislators to overturn same-sex marriage in Massachusetts via constitutional amendment. At the church I attended (not the parish I am geographically located in, just so I don’t get my local pastor in trouble with the archdiocese), the priest saying mass chose not to read this letter. But he did give a homily on the following reading from Chapter 2 of the Book of Luke:
Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
The priest discussed how this looks through our eyes. What would we think of parents who misplaced their twelve-year old son and didn’t even notice for a day? The Department of Social Services would be called in to see what was wrong with these terribly negligent parents! The priest went on to say that this wasn’t to say that they were bad parents – they were parents doing the best job they could. He further discussed how in our society families come in all sorts of varieties, some of them challenges to our traditional sense of morals, but that in almost all cases parents do the best job they can for their children, just as Mary and Joseph did. As an aside, as far as the Catholic church goes, you don’t get a better example of parents than the “Holy Family” which had Joseph and Mary for parents. But our prest pointed out that despite this, they weren’t any more perfect than we are.
I rather enjoyed this homily, especially in comparison with the letter I had been expecting about how the gays are out to destroy our society. I knew the priest well enough to talk with him afterwards. I asked him why he didn’t read the letter. He told me it was just too hurtful and divisive for him to read and he’d make it available to anyone who wanted the actual letter. He also talked about his belief that God created all of us as we are and loves all of us equally. God wouldn’t create someone inherently sinful.
Why this post now? A facebook friend of mine, very active in LGBT rights issues, was traveling and found someone had keyed “fag” on his car. During a discussion about it someone expressed his anger with Christianity, with all the bigotry, marriage amendments, etc. As a practicing Catholic, albeit an awfully liberal one, it was a hurtful thing to read, but I understand where that anger comes from. Jesus had a message of loving our neighbors. People give this statement of “love the sinner, hate the sin”. But that’s really not what Christianity calls us to do. We’re really called to “love the sinner and hate our own sins”. Even if homosexuality is sinful (something I am not attesting to), why this all-out war in the civic arena? There’s no massive crusades of this level of organization against prostitution, pornography or in support of worker rights. It’s not that the various Christian churches do nothing in these areas, but compared to the effort they put into blocking gay marriage? Please. First, it is civil marriage. It is a civil institution. I keep hearing marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. Great. So, umm, this sacred thing? Out of the pubic square please. I don’t want Muslims, Jews, Protestants, or even other Catholics using the law to enforce what they consider to be moral behavior. I’m not talking clear-cut things like murder, theft, rape, etc. But fighting legal recognition of a relationship between two consenting adults? I’m sorry, I can’t get behind that.
Now that we’ve left the sacred behind, what about marriage being for children? But do we really accept that argument? We allow infertile couples to marry. We allow couples who have no intention of producing children. We allow the elderly to marry when they are past the age of child-bearing. And we don’t police peoples’ bedrooms to make certain they only have child-producing sex. Wouldn’t want to allow oral sex – not going to see any kids from that after all! Do I sound silly? Yes I do. But this whole argument sounds silly to me. Like I’ve said before, I don’t even think the state should be recognizing marriage at all – really it should only be civil unions from the state. But that’s not what any of the fifty states do. So as far as the civic institution goes, let people live their own lives. Let them raise their families as best they can. That’s all anyone can expect or ask for.