Monday, November 2, 2009

Being Catholic or the Gay Marriage Issue

Okay, I'm a Cradle Catholic and probably what most people term as "Cafeteria Catholic" too. I tend to make people mad that way. Let me explain why I'm a "Cafeteria Catholic."

I believe that government and religion are two different entities. If the government allows prayer in school, the government has to allow all forms of prayer in school which would cause all kinds of discrimination against people. (I've personally had to deal with this, but that is another blog.) Therefore the government cannot allow prayer in school to avoid discrimination. This is something that the Church doesn't like (discrimination). We don't like racism, ethnocentrism, etc. But the Church wants prayer in school. So one is left with a choice. Which is more moral: prayer in school or discrimination against other faiths? Anyway I'm just using this as an example but I will talk about prayer in school later.

The same principal I feel is applied to gay marriage. The Church says gay marriage is wrong. As an institution the Church doesn't perform gay marriages. No problem with that. If the Church says that it is against God, then I believe that it's against God.

But here's the rub. If the Church feels that only Catholic marriages are valid, then they are also invalidating marriages of other faiths and those who are atheist. The Church doesn't perform these marriages. Other institutions including the government do. The government is then forced not to discriminate because in the constitution it allows for religious freedom. Therefore the government must validate marriages of all faiths (or lack of faith).

The government can't discriminate marriage based on religion; it also can't discriminate based on gender, ethnicity, race, or age (well it sets limits but that is also debatable in some societies even in the US). Governments are supposed to protect all people. In Canada, they have laws set up to protect long term relationships whether it is unmarried cousins who live together or gay couples. This gives those closest to an ill person the right to decide medical care and so on. The United States doesn't recognize such relationships which is why many gay couples want the right to marry.

This leaves the government two choices to avoid discrimination: set-up a system that recognizes long term relationships or have gay marriage legalized.

Now where does that leave the Church? Well the Church is protesting. They feel that marriage is between a man and a woman only. Fine; I totally agree with that for the Catholic Church. This is what makes me a "Cafeteria Catholic." I believe that the Church should not have gay marriage but I believe that that the government should have gay marriage. The Church is protesting marriages within a secular institution, which I believe isn't right. The Church should not be allowed to dictate what another entity does (unless it involves something deadly).

I'm a musician and many of my friends are gay. I've never known any of them to be evil. In fact many of them are religious. Even the Church accepts gay people (just doesn't want them to engage in the acts). So I think gay marriage is totally different than say war or abortion. Gay people don't hurt other people. Gay people aren't hurting themselves. We are all sinners so I don't think it's right for me to look down upon a gay person.

In my mind the Catholic church is counting all types of marriage as being invalid when protesting gay marriage (because not all gay people are Catholic). But if you ask a priest if a Jewish person is sinful because they didn't have a Catholic wedding, the priest would probably look at you a little funny. Ask the same question about a gay wedding and that depends on the priest (I know a few who also agree with me about separate institutions).

It comes down to this moral dilemma: do we want to be more ecumenical as a faith or do we want to invalidate all marriages outside of Catholic ones. For most "faithful" Catholics they choose to protest against gay marriage (and also seem to unknowingly promote invalidity of other marriages). For us "Cafeteria Catholics" we pick the other route, we want ecumenism. We don't want to discriminate against others; we want our religious freedom.

It's not an easy answer for anyone. But I think those who are "faithful" should start looking at the beam in their eye before they start calling those more ecumenical among us "Cafeteria Catholics."


  1. One thing I've had pointed out is that if it is legalized then it could be used against Catholic Institutions to attempt to force the Church to "accept" gay marriage. There have already been orphanages that have been told that if they don't allow gay couples to adopt they'll have to close down. The next, feared step would be that a person could sue to be married in a Church that doesn't accept gay marriage, because to not marry them would be discriminatory.

    And now that Chai Feldbloom (head of the EEOC) is advocating throwing out the first amendment altogether, you can begin to see it going in that direction.

    The Church does say other marriages are valid, however Catholic marriages are only considered valid if they receive permission to marry outside the Church by their bishop, or are married in the Church. There's lots out there on it if you look into it. Of course protestants who convert need to get their marriage blessed, but the assumption is that the marriage is valid.

    It's such a touchy subject, but nothing you wrote seemed to make you a "Cafeteria Catholic" (at least compared to my friends who proudly tout that title). I know personally it was one of the toughest teachings for me and I still find i helpful to read what some priests have written, that goes beyond the "intrinsically disordered" answer. I'll have to see if I can find them once I finish sorting out all the paper work I'm doing.

  2. I see your points about the government starting to dictate to the Churches. But I do believe in the separation of church and state. If certain LDS churches can still be polygomous when it is illegal, I don't the Catholic church (which is the largest Christian denomination) will have problems saying that they don't want the government telling them to legalize gay marriage within the church setting. It is a concern, but one I'm not worried about.

    The church does offer marriage blessings but it doesn't have to. Just like the Church honors certain baptisms but not others (for example Mormon converts must also be baptized "again"). Therefore if a gay person converts, the Church has the right to not recognize the union.

    BTW I have a few gay friends in the Catholic church. They work and worship like nothing is going on (and irritating the Bishop all the while). One of my friends recently "married" his partner. The priest in my church knew about it. My friend has "eccomunicated" himself. He still goes to church just doesn't take Communion out of respect. Based on this example, I think that the Church is nervous about gay people within the church and don't know what to do about them. They need to collectly figure out ways to embrace those who are gay. I'm not saying that they should condone gay marriage, but if we say that being gay is acceptable without the act then we need to live our lives that way.


I love to read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!