Despite the high profile opposition of many of our bishops, we know that Catholics as a group are firm supporters of legal recognition for same – sex unions, and are more likely than most other Christians to support full equality in civil marriage regulations. Now, it seems that the bishops’ vigorous efforts to prevent marriage equality are spurring many Catholics to open disagreement in formal groups publicly supporting same-sex marriage. In Maine last year, Maine Catholics for Marriage Equality was the first such group, spurred into action by Providence Bishop fund-raising for the Prop 1 campaign to overturn marriage equality in that state. “Catholics For Equality” took that campaign to a national level earlier this year – “Equally Blessed” is another national initiative, a joint effort by New Ways Ministry, Dignity USA and others. In Minnesota, just as in Maine, the efforts of Archbishop Nienstedt to influence state elections to stall same-sex marriage have spurred another local group in support of justice for same sex couples.
“Catholics for Marriage Equality MN” is an initiative by local groups and individuals who are concerned at the Archbishop’s intervention, which emphasises one element of Vatican doctrine on sexual ethics while totally ignoring broader Church teaching on justice and equality for all. A thoughtful statement the group issued last month, which I read at Michael Bayley’s The Wild Reed, has much to commend it. (Michael heads the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, which is one of the partners in the project, together with Dignity Twin Cities, Catholic Rainbow Parents and the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform). This says that Catholics for Marriage Equality MN supports same-sex marriage for the following reasons:
- Point of Social Justice
- Point of Constitutional Law
- Point of Catholic Moral Teaching
- Point of Ethics
Arguments from Social Justice and Constitutional Law are familiar, but too easily become derailed into the sterile supposed opposition of “civil rights” and “religious obligations”. It is refreshing therefore to see that these principles are expressed here in terms of Catholic belief:
Of any religious group in the U.S., American Catholics are among the strongest supporters of equality for LGBT people. We recognize that this support is intrinsic to Catholicism as it is a support drawn from the rich tradition of Catholic social justice teachings, grounded in the Gospel message of love.
As the statement reminds us, this commitment to justice for LGBT persons is made explicit by the American bishops in their 1997 pastoral statement, “Always Our Children”.
The statement also goes beyond the principles of Catholic commitment to social justice, to show why orthodox moral theology should have prevented the Archbishop’s intervention:
The Catholic teaching of probabilism holds that when there are good reasons and good authorities on both sides of a debate on a moral issue (in this case homosexuality and same-sex unions), Catholics are free to make up their own minds. The magisterium of the Catholic hierarchy notwithstanding, there is debate among theologians and the faithful, the sensus fidelium, on the issue of homosexual unions.
While Catholics have an obligation to avoid sin, the authors of this statement submit that the “sin” is not homosexuality, but heterosexism:
We do not believe that homosexual sex is in itself a sin. We believe heterosexism (prejudice against people who are homosexual) is a sin. “It is a serious sin because it violates justice, truth, and love. It also distorts the true meaning of sex and thus also harms everyone, including heterosexuals.” (Maguire, Daniel. “A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage.”)
This is entirely consistent with the argument I have presented before, that the real “Sin of Sodom“, or the “Sin That Cries Out to Heaven“, is not homosexuality but the prejudice and discrimination practiced by so-called Christians against sexual and other minorities.
Read the full statement at The Wild Reed.
Boswell, John: Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe
Bray. Alan: The Friend
- Cherry, Kittredge: Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations
- Glaser, Chris: As My Own Soul: The Blessing of Same-Gender Marriage
- “Speaking the Truth” on Catholic LGBT Inclusion (queering-the-church.com)
- Despite Anti-Gay Activism of Catholic Hierarchy, Marriage Equality Seems “Poised to Prevail” (thewildreed.blogspot.com)
- The Minnesota Bishops’ Last Ditch Effort (thewildreed.blogspot.com)
- Minnesota Catholics For, Against Gay Marriage (rooting-for-gay-marriage.blogspot.com)
- Gay Marriage: Coming (Soon?) to a Church Near You. (queering-the-church.com)
- Mormon Prop 8 Apology: A Lesson for Minnesota’s Catholic Bishops (queertheology.blogspot.com)
- Daniel Maguire, A Catholic Defense of Same Sex Marriage (religiousconsultation.org)