The Seattle PI’s Joel Connelly has an illustrious history of commentary in Seattle. I’ve enjoyed him for years. But in Monday’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he makes one of the best cases for the Catholic Church to give up the paranoid same-sex marriage rhetoric- and his seasoned, well-reasoned thoughts beg to be shared. Excerpt:
The bishops see themselves as shepherds, but American Catholics are not sheep. They think and act independently. A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found that nearly three quarters of Catholics favor letting gays and lesbians marry (43 percent) or form civil unions (31 percent).
“Catholics are more supportive of legal recognitions of same-sex relationships than members of any other Christian tradition and Americans overall,” the survey concluded.
The church is also hurting itself: Its social activism, defense of human dignity and witness to peace should make it a beacon for all who seek justice. Instead, the church is pilloried as an instrument of reaction.
Its wounds are self inflicted, a classic case of clerical error. As the National Catholic Reporter put it, editorializing after New York legislators approved marriage equality last spring:
“Even if the bishops had a persuasive case to make and the legislative tools at their disposal, their public conduct in recent years — wholesale excommunications, railing at politicians, denial of honorary degrees and speaking platforms at Catholic institutions, using the Eucharist as a political bludgeon, refusing to entertain any questions or dissenting opinions, and engaging in open warfare with the community’s thinkers as well as those, especially women, who have loyally served the church — has resulted in a kind of episcopal caricature, the common scolds of the religion world, the caustic party of ‘no’.”
Connelly is taking a fair and balanced approach, using the Catholic tradition of social justice and charity to argue for the reality of human experience- in this case the reality of same-sex relationships. The very reality of them flies in the face of the “Natural Law‘ argument:
“Jesus befriended those who were marginalized because He knew it was only in the security of loving, unconditional relationships that hearts and lives are healed,” argues writer Justin Cannon, reflecting the Christian faith as taught to us by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Not only healed, but enriched. I’ve witnessed a warm, very traditional moment over the years. A goofy, dreamy smile crosses the face of a friend, who after years of playing the field announces “Well, I met this woman (or guy)!” It signals a readiness to settle down. My natural reaction is to say, “You lucky dog!” and to be there, in affection and support, when the knot is tied.
Life together is a natural passage in life. Yet, according to “natural law” the Catholic church frowns on my friends who fall in love with somebody of their own gender. It violates nature, according to a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops statement, because such “inherently non-procreative” relationships “cannot be given the status of marriage.”
The church’s positions are, as state Sen. Ed Murray put it Friday night, “hurtful” as well as contradictory.
Out of one side of its mouth, the church condemns “all forms of unjust discrimination, harrassment and abuse” against gays and lesbians. At the same time, the Cathechism of the Catholic Church describes “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” as “objectively disordered.”
As my critical thinking professor at Carroll College taught me, the Church’s argument is flawed. It can’t have it both ways. It either acknowledges the reality of same-sex relationships- the reality of the complexity of human love as a gift from God- or it becomes the ubiquitous symbol of fantasy, its credibility falling off the edge of its own absurdly flattened earth.
Connelly’s brave, full essay is here.