Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Deeply unsettling

There's a troubling post at the Faith and Family Live blog, where a Legion of Christ priest, Fr. John Bartunek, grapples with the question of Catholics attending gay "weddings," and comes up, I think, a bit short:

Let’s take another case – the parallel isn’t perfect, but it may be helpful. If your Methodist friend asked you to be godparent to her first child, you wouldn’t be able to accept. You couldn’t commit yourself to insuring that the child be raised Methodist without implicitly, at least, admitting the validity of the Methodist religion. But as a Catholic, you can’t do that without renouncing your own Catholic faith. So, you would try to explain this to your friend. And in order to show that you still care about her as a friend, you might very well agree to come to the post-baptism party.

Attending the wedding reception of an openly gay friend or relative is similar. By doing so, you can support the person while making it clear that you don’t support that person’s every decision – in this case, the decision to stay Methodist, or to actively live a homosexual lifestyle. Because of the context created by your conversation with your friend, your attendance at the reception would not be a celebration of their Methodism or Lesbianism, but an expression of your care for them as a human being and a friend.

First of all, in all the human the history of unfortunate comparisons, this has to make the top ten. Lesbianism/homosexuality is just like being a Methodist? That's rather insulting to our separated brothers and sisters in Christ, don't you think?

Secondly, a Catholic may, in fact, ordinarily attend a Methodist baptism, especially if the friends in question are lifelong Methodists (e.g., they are not former Catholics who left the Church and became Methodists). While the Catholic may not act as a godparent or take any active role, he or she is perfectly able in the spirit of ecumenism to attend a baptism that is putatively a valid Christian baptism (since ordinarily Methodists do use a valid form of baptism). There is no question of "only" attending the party afterward, since the party afterward is to celebrate the baptism and the baptism is something a Catholic may, under ordinary circumstances, attend!

The only time the questions of prudence Fr. Bartunek mentions might come in is in a situation where a Catholic who has married a Methodist outside of the Church is having his child baptized in the Methodist church. In such a circumstance, the close Catholic family members of this person might have to weigh whether or not their attendance at either the baptism itself or the party afterward will be helpful in drawing the lapsed Catholic back toward the Church, or if their attendance at either might be a barrier to that return (for instance, if the Catholic family member thinks their attendance is a proof of religious indifferentism on their parts). But that knotty, complex situation isn't even close to what Fr. Bartunek describes--he is talking about a Catholic person and his or her Methodist friends, and in that circumstance there would be no particular reason for the Catholics to avoid either the baptism or the celebration of that putatively valid baptism afterward--for, indeed, the child has been baptized, and while we may mourn our sad divisions in Christianity, who can help but rejoice when a baby becomes a child of God, and an heir to the Kingdom?

But, thirdly, and this is the critical point--in no way is this situation even remotely analogous to the difficult and painful question of how Catholics must act when invited to celebrate a gay union, "marriage" or not. Catholic apologist Michelle Arnold has said, "Since the Church has spoken so strongly against "same-sex marriage," I cannot recommend attending or celebrating "same-sex weddings" under any circumstances." (Link in her original quote.) Arnold's opinion is shared by many others, and I know I've heard or read other priests give a similar opinion (and if any Catholic priests are reading this blog, and would like to weigh in on this issue, I'd be very appreciative!).

Why shouldn't Catholics attend gay "wedding" ceremonies, or show up for the reception afterward? Because Catholics do not believe that same-sex couples can "marry" in any real sense of the word. Showing up for the celebration afterward would, in effect, be showing up to celebrate a lie, from the Catholic perspective; it would be showing up to celebrate the couple's commitment to continuing their practice of engaging in gravely sinful sexual behavior, behavior which, objectively speaking, may be endangering their immortal souls, cutting them off from the life of grace, and wreaking spiritual ruin within the depths of their beings.

Clearly, this isn't something Catholics can celebrate. Equally clearly, it is of an order far different than the question of whether Catholics can celebrate a valid, if Protestant, baptism when the parents of the child are Protestants! It is much more like the question of whether a Catholic may ever attend or celebrate any other sort of invalid wedding, with this one great difference: the marriage of a man and a woman might be putatively valid in many cases, but the "marriage" of two men or two women is never putatively valid--it is invalid by definition, as far as the Church is concerned.

I find it deeply unsettling that a Catholic priest would not appear to see any significant difference between these two hypothetical situations, when in fact the difference is astoundingly clear. Perhaps Father Bartunek merely wrote carelessly, without greatly considering the implications of what he was writing. Still, once again I find myself wondering just what, exactly, the Legion's formation of priests consists of, and how it is that a lay Catholic apologist like Michelle Arnold seems to have a much clearer grasp of what is at stake for Catholics in regard to giving any sort of approval or condoning of gay "marriage" than a Legion priest, apparently, does.


Alice said...

If that column represents a knight-in-shining-armor of orthodoxy as the LCs supposedly do, I have to wonder what a "liberal" diocesan priest would say. :P

If I were still an overly scrupulous Traddy, I could see myself attending a wedding reception for a valid non-Catholic wedding so as not to take part in a non-Catholic service. Since I can't condone a gay partnership, I can't attend a party celebrating it. I suppose Father Bartunek would be OK with us attending the couple's 25 anniversary too.

melanie said...

I am going to say this over here...my very best childhood friend is gay. This was the most difficult thing I think I have ever had to deal with. The decision to not have much association with her. I still love her dearly. The thing is that for her ( and I think for most people living openly gay )
There cannot be a disassociation of the person from the sin. They are defined by their being gay more intrinsically than say a "fornicating person", or a "divorced and remarried" person....in her eyes, my love for her necessities my love for her lifestyle/acceptance of her lifestyle. This is what makes it an almost inherent impossibility in the eyes
of gay people for Catholics to "love them but not their sin".
On my end, I can love her still and ask maybe to be
excused from participating in certain things, on her end, my
inability to completely embrace her lifestyle becomes a
rejection of her herself....Catholics are then seen as
"hateful" and "bigoted" simply because we are exercising
are adherence to our faith. Its not my place to judge her,
but I cannot condone. I cannot. And my behavior has to
reflect this careful balance of loving without condoning, and
because in the eyes of just about everyone, they're seen
as the same thing, this is nearly impossible to carry out
without being despised. I think only Christ Himself did this
well, loving without condoning.

Suzanne said...

I agree with you 100 percent. I followed your link from the comments you left there. (Excellent, btw.) I'm astounded that we're even discussing the possibility of attending such a reception. How could a priest ever endorse this? I'm still shaking my head.

Roger said...

Yep. The great priest and spiritual guru falls short on this one- on his nose. Sad state of affairs. Better go back to the seminary. A good review of Moral Theology would help and then you could integrate that with some Bioethics questions and round it off with a good semester of Pastoral Theology. Oh, a little common sense can help too.....

David said...

It's actually an understanding I had to come to with my family. I made it clear that while I couldn't disagree more with their views, I would respect their conscience and not put that in conflict, even if that meant them cutting me off and not communicating with me or a future partner anymore. I don't envy a conservative, Christian parent's struggle with a gay child, even if I do find most of their fears irrational and baseless.

My only concern with here is, where do you draw the line? Where does simply engaging (I believe it was your brother-in-law?) someone you know as gay become tacit approval? You can't recognize or be happy for their relationship because that would be encouraging it. Could you go to dinners at their house if they host it? Would that not be taking advantage of their hospitality they share as a couple? Can you inquire about their partners or be concerned for their health, hinting that there should be a reason to be concerned, that there is some worth/dignity to their relationship beyond simple roommates (and even if you did the mental gymnastics to convince yourself you think of them as no more than roommates, they certainly wouldn't interpret that way)?

Can you be kind to their partners and welcoming without affecting your conscience, without in some part implying that your toleration of it--when you absolutely can't tolerate it in the circumstance of a wedding/commitment/civil union ceremony--means more than it should?

I have to wonder at times if the only safe thing to do, embracing all titles of paranoia that come with it, is to completely ignore the gays and lesbians you know, cut them off, based on the simple possibility that a mere word you issue might be misunderstood as encouraging their...as you understand it...spiritual damnation.

Red Cardigan said...

David, there's actually a long-standing precedent (yes, I know, Catholics have precedents for everything) based on how a Catholic might interact with unmarried cohabitating or irregularly married family members.

It works this way: ordinary visits, hospitality, etc. are not only possible but not at all discouraged. Ordinarily, there is a tacit agreement on the part of all parties that the views of the Catholic members are understood and respected (hence no need for constant harping) and that young children will not be scandalized (e.g., whether Uncle Henry is married to "Auntie" Alice or not, if they are presenting themselves as a quasi-married couple then the children are going to think they are married, etc.).

The Catholic family members, however, would not accept an invitation to stay under the cohabitating/irregularly married couple's roof, and if Uncle Henry and "Aunt" Alice are invited for an overnight stay, they will have the grace to accept the separate bedrooms prepared for them (or else seek other accommodations on their own).

If the Catholic family members include Uncle Henry's father and/or mother, there is further the understanding that in private conversations the parent may, without being censured for impoliteness, exhort Uncle Henry to make an honest woman of "Auntie" Alice (if possible) or to leave the situation (if not). Tears, prayers, heartfelt entreaties, etc. may be acceptable on the mother's part, but references to her poor health and approaching deathbed are considered dirty pool unless she is, in fact, dying at the time.


Okay, this may seem humorous, but a politer age did have its rules for dealing with such situations--and Catholics were by no means the only Christians dealing with such vexing mixtures of morality and social interaction.

This is long, so I'll continue...

Red Cardigan said...

The problem, as Melanie points out so well above, is that frequently today same-sex couples don't wish to abide by any of these sorts of rules or etiquette; they see their gay lifestyle as so essential to who they are as people that any suggestion that, perhaps, when visiting Catholic relatives with young children they could avoid calling each other "my husband" and cuddling on the couch is wholly unacceptable to them. In the case of my brother-in-law, the very fact that his parents are Catholic and accept Church teaching on the grave moral evil of homosexual acts is unacceptable to him. I will avoid giving details out of respect for his privacy, but rest assured that any breach has been on his side, not his family's.

So the problem isn't that Catholics can't actually make a "love the sinner, hate the sin" approach work when interacting with same-sex attracted family members. The problem is that in too many cases, the same-sex attracted family members utterly reject the notion that there is any sin involved in their conduct, and are totally unwilling to interact peacefully with people who do think homosexual sex acts are sinful.

In the old days, Uncle Henry was willing to maintain whatever polite fiction was necessary regarding his paramour, mistress, concubine, etc. Whether she was introduced as "Auntie Alice," or whether, circumstances making that impossible, she was introduced as "Uncle Henry's dear friend," Uncle Henry knew that any attempt to insist that anybody who considered his relationship sinful was just a narrow-minded bigot would not end well for him.

The situation is not the same today, when many same-sex attracted people think that traditional sexual morality is simply bigotry, and that people who believe in heterosexual marriage as an important social construct are really not worth any social interaction in the first place.

Rebecca in CA said...

Yes, extremely disturbing. So does this priest think it would be okay to go to an abortion party, or a party celebrating a great drug deal, or...?

Diamantina da Brescia said...

It's not just same-sex couples who are unwilling to abide by the old rules of etiquette. Irregularly married and unmarried heterosexual couples are as well.

When my parents married in 1966, it was not in the Church, although my father was brought up as a Catholic. I think that they would have been offended if my devout paternal grandmother had told Dad that his civil marriage to Mom was invalid in the eyes of God. Since Mom is a non-churchgoing Methodist and Dad a decidedly lapsed Catholic, a Catholic church wedding may have seemed hypocritical and irrelevant to them.

I suspect that my grandmother might have tried to talk to Dad about convalidating his marriage, but was rebuffed and told that it was none of her business. The only time she came out to California (where we live) was when I was a baby, shortly after I was baptized in the Catholic Church (in what I suspect was a gesture to appease my grandmother). Although my paternal grandmother lived until I was nearly 13, I never met her again. That is a shame.

Anonymous said...

I think if you feel that you can't even associate with gay people at all, including family, you can pretty much count on the fact that they won't be so eager to have your company around anymore either.

I think it's too much to ask gay friends and relatives to understand your beliefs on the topic, and remain a close friend. Which is probably better for everyone anyway.

Anonymous said...

Diamantina da Brescia said...

"It's not just same-sex couples who are unwilling to abide by the old rules of etiquette. Irregularly married and unmarried heterosexual couples are as well."

That is because we have lost the concept of unconditional love. It is no longer acceptable to love even though we don't agree with a behavior or life style. Now we are supposed to give our unconditional approval.

David said...

Erin, that's eerily reminiscent of the arrangement with my own family. Personally, and respecting their privacy as much I can, it is very difficult to be around people who constantly wish for your change. Most friendships you could break or let die naturally over that kind of disagreement, but family poses stronger ties.

A comment about the "loving the sinner; hate the sin" because it keeps popping up in the guise that gays make their sexuality a big part of their life (Straw men abound, so I apologise in advance if this in no way reflects the comments made prior to it).

I can't and I am unable to speak for all gay men and women. My perspective is my own. Take the liberty that comes with it being my perspective, i.e. don't brush them all with my thoughts in eager strokes. I dislike when people speak for me, and I strive to provide the same courtesy to others.

The problem with "loving the sinner; hate the sin" is that is seems to only come up in context of gay topics. It has become, rhetorically, a dead slogan. All it means is the person saying it subscribes to a view of a group of similar, like-minded people. It's weaker than a label ("Catholic," "gay"), but it serves much the same purpose as the, "I'm a Catholic, but..." rejoinder.

We can dive into specifics, and unfortunately they will again only be anecdotal and my perspective. In my history, with my friends of varied religions growing up, I have never heard any of them (Muslim, Catholic, Mormon, Protestant) approach people with the same gall that they do with gays. Supposedly the "loving the sinner; hate the sin" applies to everyone equally, but it only was mentioned when a gay person entered the question. All the other sinners, regardless of whether it was unrepentant or whether they thought what they were 'doing was sinful or not, received a pass" mentally. I'm sure my friends found the others' actions sinful, would acknowledge on a technical or theological level that yes, these actions were sinful, but it never would arise the same bile that comes when a gay person announced their attractions. That is part of reason why I, and perhaps others, don't find anything worthy in "love the sinner; hate the sin." It has become dead, a case selectively applied to gays.

Secondly, when you say "love the sinner; hate the sin," it itself requires a rhetorical appeal. Love means something entirely different to you than it does to the person receptive of it. To some, loving a gay man or woman is setting them straight about their actions leading them to spiritual damnation. Whereas the recipients might think love is acceptance or turning a blind eye. The problem is obvious: the two parties have a disparate understanding of what "love" in the situation requires, and so it will always sound hollow if unbelievable when a Catholic or other conservative Christian says they "love the sinner; hate the sin" if the person on the receiving end has a different expectation of that "love." In fact, the kind of the love that is entailed in that statement might not be what the gay man or woman wants at all, or approaching other interpretations like badgering the sinner, being callous to the sinner...and other negative perceptions.

David said...


With making a big deal about their sexuality... I've never quite understood how this was the case, and I'm inclined to think it's like how something that's uncommon, when seen, becomes perceived as being all over or assaulting the senses. Infiltrating all life.

For example, if I talk to my mother or grandmother, there's often a mention in the conversation about their husbands and how they're doing. My siblings might mention their current relationships. In none of those occurrences would I feel as if they are making their heterosexuality a big part of their lives, pushing it on me. I would say the same thing about them hugging at family functions. It's normal expression of their sexuality. It is, like or not, a big part of who we are, how we form relationships with other people and family (I believe, though I can't quote it at the moment, similar is sustained in the Catechism). When gays are involved, however, and they try to act the same way (peer with the idea that their relationship is worth as much, how they might see it, not you), it's often accused where they're being pushy about it or making a deal about it. I have to wonder again if it's just the uncommon being more noticeable and offensive to our senses. We see the things that are atypical and make more note of them. I imagine you'd be amazed how much heterosexual people make their sexuality a big part of their lives, if not as vocally in some arenas because they already have a host of benefits to accompany it, one of which is usually family acceptance and support for the relationship.

When my mother, a protestant, married my father, a Catholic (and a remarriage for him at that), his family was utterly cold to her and his relationship, did all they could to discourage it for his spiritual sake. They were doing a variation of loving the sinner. They wished and hoped in their hearts that he would see the right and end the relationship. What happened with them is tragically common to gay men and women and their families: my mother and father stopped seeing his family as often. It wasn't all intentional, but they planned their visits around the environments that were continuously hostile to them. Eventually his family decided that keeping him in their lives was more important than making a point every holiday, and they accepted them and repaired the relationship. I'm not adding this example as a wish of what should happen with gays and their partners; it's to illustrate that the atmosphere can be so caustic that the estranged don't want to endure it anymore. Sometimes there are differences people can't smoothen for interactions, and it might just be one's disapproval of homosexuality conflicting with the gay man or woman's desire to be around their family in a way that isn't hostile. Sometimes the aims are not reconcilable...and something has to give on one's end (who knows whose?) for it to be fixed.

melanie said...

Dear David, good thoughtful comments, my only real disagreement is with what you said about a gay persons feelings that I want them to "change"...speaking personally for myself, I love my gay friends as I do all people, deep down, what I hope and desire for all people is to be with God. I don't presume to know how God intends to accomplish that for each individual. In that context I can simply relax around my friends, however, if issues arise, in discussion or whatever, I do feel that its important for me to as lovingly as possible express my thoughts on how I believe God hopes to accomplish our salvation. That's it.
I would do this is any context where I thought sins were being committed. If and only if it comes up in some blatant form... What I would hope is that, I could be understood as doing what I thought was loving and best in the context of my own belief system. Even if someone thought I was crazy insane wrong, I would hope that they would allow me the same courtesy they hoped that I would give. This just does not happen, because the fact that somewhere deep down I think a gay person living an uncelebate life is sinning, is just too much to bear.

freddy said...

The Corporal Works of Mercy:
•To feed the hungry;
•To give drink to the thirsty;
•To clothe the naked;
•To harbour the harbourless;
•To visit the sick;
•To ransom the captive;
•To bury the dead.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy:
•To instruct the ignorant;
•To counsel the doubtful;
•To admonish sinners;
•To bear wrongs patiently;
•To forgive offences willingly;
•To comfort the afflicted;
•To pray for the living and the dead

These are some of the ways Catholics are instructed to show love. Melanie's comment above shows it in action!

David, I'm sorry you feel singled out by the "love the sinner, hate the sin" mantra. It can be very complicated and stressful to walk the line between being charitable and either over compensating and compromising one's principles, and being rigid and stiff and harping. Perhaps you've had the experience of seeing a friend engage in behaviour that was dangerous or self destructive, say sliding into alcoholism. Perhaps this friend insisted that everthing was fine and insisted on being served drinks the same as any other guest, etc. etc. and even pointing out that others somethimes drink too much, too. Spiritually, this is a similar kind of strain and pain that many Christians feel with their gay friends -- and they are well aware that there is strain and pain on both sides.

Anonymous said...

from scotch meg


I suspect it's cold comfort to hear of a different kind of "love the sin", but the one in my life has to do with my brother-in-law. It is hard for me even to write about without sounding harsh, but here goes.

My husband's older brother married his wife the same year as my husband and I were married - some years ago now. They have four children, the youngest in the middle grades now. There were substance abuse issues, and despite the urging of her family, my sister-in-law stood by him, started going to Alanon, etc. He fell in love with someone else, and eventually left.

Now my husband's parents vilify his wife and welcome his girlfriend (he was cheating for some years with this woman before he left his family). They also vilify my husband and me because we avoid family gatherings where the girlfriend will be present, partly as an expression of disapproval, and (more importantly) because we want our children to understand how strongly we feel about the importance of fidelity in marriage. We haven't said anything critical to him, nor to anyone else in the family, but our actions are (correctly) interpreted as hostile to his new relationship.

So... our situation is about infidelity and divorce. And my husband's brother remains angry that we do not accept him as the wronged party (because his wife was such a witch as to drive him to bad behavior) and do not welcome his girlfriend. And my mother-in-law is continually lobbying against his (ex-)wife and in favor of his girlfriend. We just try to duck the bullets without compromising our own principles.

The supreme irony is that my mother was extremely supportive of her own husband's brother's ex-wife in similar circumstances, for many years of my husband's youth.

It is painful all around when people disagree on such intimate matters. It's not unique to gay couples and their families.

Anonymous said...

David, that was very well-spoken. I can't imagine what it would be like to have the core of your being oriented differently and have the natural impulse to want to talk about your life with a companion (something as simple as "Jeff and I went to this great restaurant last night (etc.)" as any hetero would. I can understand why gays (or cohabitating unmarrieds or irregularly marrieds) would want to avoid family members who are completely unaccepting.

Our neighbors are an extremely devout RC family. Their oldest son is the one who strayed away from the flock the most. His family shunned him both times he lived with a girlfriend, the second time, getting her pregnant. It wasn't until his daughter was seven months old that the parents thawed towards him. Eventually he was browbeaten into marrying her within the Church. (Ah, victory!) He and his wife separated briefly over having more children, as he was adamant he didn't want any more. 21 years later, they still have the one child. I'm SURE (cue sarcasm) they're using NFP! But they are married within the Church (whether or not they really give a damn about Church teachings) so there's their ticket to family functions.

My sister uses them as an example of extremism. She thinks it's terrible that they missed the first seven months of their granddaughter's life; and she has told me a few times that she would never miss out on being involved in her sons' or grandchildren's lives, whether they were gay, unmarried cohabitating or irregularly married.

She raised her two sons RC and has always been upfront with her sons about premarital sex (NO) and cohabitation (NO). Son #1, 25 who is now an atheist, is living with his fiancee. He knows full well his mother's view on the matter as she made it clear again when he announced that the fiancee was moving in. She knows that harping on the situation isn't going to change things - if anything, it will cause a rift, and she will have none of that. It is highly unlikely they will marry in a religious ceremony, certainly not Catholic, but Sister and her husband will be there. Amen to her.

Red Cardigan said...

I appreciate everyone's peaceful comments on this issue.

David, there are times when Catholic family members have to work out what is prudent with regard to other family members who have left the faith and are living in ways the Catholics can't condone. None of these situations or circumstances is easy--it's not just same-sex situations.

However, the gravest danger as far as Catholics are concerned is that their own faith, or that of their children, will be weakened by the bad example of those family members who flout God's laws in their daily lives. While it is true that we are all sinners, it's also true that those sins that have public components (e.g., they affect how we will live our lives) can become a visible stumbling-block to faith. The temptation is for the Catholics to think, "Oh, Jane and Janet are such nice people; it can't really matter to God if they're committing the sins of same-sex sex acts in the context of their relationship," etc. From there it's a short step to outright disagreement with the Church on sexual morality and other issues, and not such a big distance to the eventual loss of faith altogether.

For those who think of the Catholic faith as an outdated collection of bigoted ideas, the loss of that faith is no big deal. But for those who believe that Christ intended to found a Church as the ordinary means of salvation for human beings, and that the Catholic Church is that Church, the loss of faith is catastrophic, with the potential of eternal death and an eternity of separation from God.

As understandable as it is that people would seek peace and family harmony, it's not worth our immortal souls. Christ made that clear in the Bible, when He said that he had come to set even families against each other; we are not promised good, happy relationships with every family member in this life.

Beth said...

Hello Red and all,

If a gay couple belonged to a christian church whose baptism we recognized as valid and they wanted to baptized their child would you go to the baptism?

Red Cardigan said...

Well, Beth, I'd say that situation would depend on those prudential considerations we talked about. If the couple were close relatives, if the church in which they sought baptism for the child they were raising was not hostile to Catholic beliefs, if family harmony suggested the attendance, etc. I think it might theoretically be possible--remembering, of course, that the intent would be to celebrate the child's baptism, not to support the couple in their sinful lifestyle.

Beth said...

How would a church present hostile Catholic beliefs at a baptism? Especially a church we believe has a valid baptism. And if they were hostile why would you not want to go and pray for an opportunity to share your faith my guess is they actually have never met a Catholic who really believes and as a result developed their beliefs based on that.

I am not all too convinced you would remotely even consider it.

I have not read all the posts thoroughly--are you close to someone who is gay and/or are they involved in your life in some way?
I'm not sure if the gay topic is all in theory or if you have actually had to deal with it--- I am asking that kindly--it is my general belief that we as Catholics have mostly alienated ourselves from homosexuals and have left no room for a relationship. I have very little contact with gays in my life and have no one in my family that is gay. Over the years I found it easier to hang with those who support my beliefs rather than those who disagree with them--guess my light is not shining as bright as it could.

Anonymous said...

PS Red

It is not church teaching that visiting parents can not stay under their co-habitating child's roof--that is an opinion which is up for discernment for each parent.

Red Cardigan said...

PS Anonymous--I didn't say it was Church teaching. I said it was longstanding Catholic precedent. I think that's true, based on the anecdotes I've heard from people whose families contained these situations in the past.

Beth, I'm talking about a "gay-friendly" Christian church whose officiator at the baptism might use the situation to get in some digs against fellow Christians who aren't convinced that gayness is the source and summit of all wonderfulness--and, sadly, that does happen.

I have two same-sex attracted relatives. I don't have close contact with either of them; one, my brother-in-law, chooses that, and the other is simply someone I never had much contact with anyway. If someone very close to me were to announce that he/she was living the same-sex lifestyle, he/she would do so knowing full well what I believe, so he/she could hardly pretend to be shocked if I refused to attend his/her "Massachusetts wedding."

Anonymous said...

Has it occured to anyone that maybe, just maybe, knowing gay people will not cause a Catholic to lose their faith? Seriously folks. Life is messy. I pray for my children's souls. I pray for my deceased relatives. There's not much more that I can do, nor do I have control over. God has a plan for each of us, whether we hear His call, or sadly, do not. But I love my gay BIL regardless of his sin. It's not for me to judge.

Red Cardigan said...

Who said that knowing gay people would make a Catholic lose his faith?

It's the indifference to the sin that could cause that. And this is nothing new; Catholics who are indifferent to fornication, adultery, lying, theft, or any other major sin are also in danger of drifting away from the faith.

I believe it was the late Fulton Sheen who said that whenever a young priest would tell an older one that he was having doubts about the faith, such as suddenly not believing in the Trinity, etc., the older priest would simply ask, "Blond, brunette, or redhead?" The temptation to condone a serious sin, even when someone else is committing it, is not a sign of spiritual health.

Now: is it complicated to love the sinner while never, ever giving approval to the sin? Yes. But following Christ isn't easy.

Michael said...

I agree with your thoughts Erin. I believe turning to Catholic custom is a good way to communicate your stance, safeguard your family, and live according to what is good in a charitable manner. Its important that folks become familiar with this precedent, the more it is practiced and known the greater the likelihood of its acceptance.

Its especially important when partners, whether they are co-habitating couples or gay partners, visit your home. We need to respect each other's hospitality which is an expression of our culture and values. In the past a brother wanted to visit with his girlfriend to my home. when I told him that his girlfriend, who lived with him, could stay in my friend's house - a woman friend - she quickly decided not to come. (In a house of single guys we did not let woman stay over night) This kind of response will happen and there's nothing we can do to make people accept our hospitality.

In fact, its better to make the point that this is our hospitality, please respect it. When they come for Christmas we can say this is how we celebrate Christmas, please respect it. Its tradition and if our friends and family fail to respect that its because our society does more to break down good culture than understand it. Education on these matters is needed and capitulating to demands of folks who "just can't see it another way" will do nothing to help.

Beth said...

Thanks for your reply Red. Personally I do not base my decisions on any "Catholic" precedent. Sometimes we need to rethink things previous generations have handed down--and I can't even say what I would do in the hospitality situation--I'm not there yet.

As for hearing anti-catholic things in other churches--I've been to plenty and unfortunately it is the other way around--I hear more anti-christian remarks from other Catholics than I do from other Christians against Catholics.
We need to clean up our own act.

From what you say it sounds like you are not going to be invited to any gay relatives wedding anytime soon so neither you (nor I) have to worry about our RSVP. I think that is part of the problem we so separate ourselves from the rest of the world we do not get the chance to influence their lives. I would guesss that 95% of those responding to this subject have no consistent or meaningful connection to those that are gay. 4% probably have a family member who is gay who they had no choice to choose their relation too.

I don't think any of the constant ranting they hear from us is going to change their hearts nor is it going to change their hearts when we skip their "wedding reception" because we tell them that marriage is between a man and a woman. I surely do not have the answers to all these issues--just know the current ones are not working.

(that PS was me but came up anonymous.)

David said...


I'm not so sure that those gays who would invite Erin or other like-minded Catholics to their weddings would be as receptive to the message the Catholics would want to exhibit anyway.

It is handy at times to mention Jesus hanging out with the lepers, the tax collectors, and the prostitutes, but unfortunately, when it's a shared sin, and one so integrated with one's being (forgive me for hating the alcoholism comparison...it's an extremely poor analogy, but it's a pet for this conversation for some reason; I won't rehash it here, use the link), it's not likely to be affected by proximity. I wouldn't expect it to be, and the poor success rates of "ex-gay" therapies seems to support this hypothesis.

I predict people will cringe when I say the following. Please understand it's a matter of perspective, how some people likely do view it. It is not to assault the conscience but to provide an example for empathizing, however disagreeable you might find the point.

I view my own family's desire for me to be straight (or celibate) to be as irrational as that of a family of white individuals who had a black child by miraculous means desiring that child to become white. I think the chances of either outcome are slim, though not impossible through perhaps equally horrendous methods and denials to the real person's humanity involved. The behavior v. inborn trait hacks, whom I disagree with, could be more comfortable with the comparison of a family with a mute daughter being spiteful of the way she interacts with others, with unnaturally exaggerated hand gestures, throughout her life.

We have the, "it doesn't matter what you think but what God thinks/requires," and that's a fair point. I can't be as convinced, however, in light of what we've learned over the years through reason and science that the people speaking for God in this situation are as correct as their hubris suggests.

Michael said...

I think David has a point that gays are not going to be open to our ideas at their wedding. Its not the place to have an impact on them.

I've learned that many gay and lesbian folk do not accept the idea that they can be celibate or become straight. Also, even among many well meaning folks it is common to call someone who believes homosexualty is a sin a homophobe or bigot. So, the mere taking a stand in any noticeable way, even if very subtle, will often create a split.

In my opinion its extremely important to practice charity and kindness. Its also important to let conflicts exist, we gain nothing by pretending they don't exist. Forcing gay persons to simply pretend they are not gay does not help as they will feel alienated. On the flip side, to expect Catholic believers to just go along can very easily slip into acceptance, at least in the mind of children. The goal should be to be respectful of each others' beliefs and not aggressive or demonstrative.

Sometimes you have to draw the line charitably. If someone will hold that against you the split is probably inevitable and effective discussion unlikely.

Anonymous said...

Where charity and love abound there God is ever found. Be kind to one another.

Anonymous said...

What is going to take for religious people to realize that homosexual people don´t really have much choice. Romantic interest and sexual attraction are a huge part of life, some will even say that they are the main reason for living, and they normally produce offspring and a family, but not in the homosexual´s case, they are at a great disadvantage. What should be expected of a mature society would be to put themselves in their shoes, imagine that you felt strongly attracted to the same sex, imagine that you fell in love, and all the excitement you normally feel but for another man or, if you are a woman, another woman. How could you legitimately pursue happiness. ? Isn´t it the cruelest thing to expect them to keep celibate forever?