It’s a touchy issue. It is also a vocations issue.
I wish to address it in this post in a way that is reasonable, spiritual, and respectful. Here it goes:
Two parties are involved in bestowing legal benefits of marriage to a gay relationship.
1. The government who bestows those benefits.
2. The two gay people in the relationship.
Often times, in commenting on this issue, we talk first about the government, and what the government should or should not be doing. But I think that the focus primarily be on the couple in the gay relationship. We cannot comment on this issue only in terms abstract legal theory. We must be reminded that this is, in the end, about the lives of two people.
What about the man or woman who experiences deep, life-long, physical attraction to members of the same-sex? What is best for them? Is is best to enter into these new “marriages” that New York State has afforded them? Well, there are many people who wish for just that arrangement. They say that if there is the desire to do this very thing, then the government is obligated to extend an entitlement. Anything less is described as second class citizenship. It is also compared to racial segregation. To deny it is bigotry. Extending the franchise of marriage is a societal evolution towards greater freedom and acceptance. It is a liberation of love.
Where is the rational weakness in this argument? I think we find it in regards to desire. We all desire to give love, and receive love in return. When we give love and receive love, then we touch the Face of God. When we love, we are participating in God’s plan for creation, and in His plan for our salvation. After all, God is love! In the Catholic faith, we encounter this “spousal” love most clearly (and physically) in the Sacrament of Marriage.
And so, I return to the question at hand: is “gay marriage” the best way to minister to the desires of people with homosexual orientation/inclination? The answer is, ultimately, no. Why? Because married, sacramental love is, by definition, creative love. For two persons to share sexual love in a way that is holy, spousal, and chaste, the sexual act must have the potential to conceive new life. There are other reasons besides, but this is the most obvious one. I understand that in our contraceptive culture, conception is a “fringe benefit” of marriage, but it really is essential to the spousal action. There are many ways to participate in God’s love! (as a celibate I know that). But if you desire to participate in God’s love in a spousal/sexual way, you must be married. That is,you must be in a life-long, chaste, exclusive, free, and vowed union with a member of the opposite sex. This is God’s creative and redemptive design.
(N.B. – Undoubtedly, conversations of this nature must be very hard for “gay” persons to hear. We have in our communities, families, schools, and parishes, no shortage of “gay” people. I have never been a big fan of self-identifying labels. In fact, I don’t think that I have met a whole lot of people who self identify as gay. For many, it is simply a part of who they are. How good of a job are we doing at ministering to the desires and dreams of these people? And I don’t mean ministering to a “gay rights” movement, but to real people, to individual people, to people who are just like you and I?)
So then, you may say, what will these people do? How will they love? The Church teaches that such people travel the same route of love as I do – chaste celibacy. That’s unfair – you may say – you chose celibacy! Did I? Undoubtedly yes, I did – but I was first called to celibacy by God. Might God be calling the “gay” person to the same beautiful experience of love? Undoubtedly, God has a plan for all people, not just the married.
What about partnership, then? It is not out of the realm of possibility for a man to have a dear friendship with another man (likewise a woman with a woman). But is it a holy thought to cohabitate with that other person, especially if you are sexually attracted? You can answer that question yourself, I think, in terms of Catholic moral theology. I see the same questions (even the legal and financial ones) come up when preparing cohabitating heterosexual couples for marriage. We don’t form physical, sexual relationships for legal and financial benefit. That is degrading.
Is this not the ultimate problem with the movement to redefine marriage? Is this not a serious issue with the prior movements for artificial contraception and no-fault divorces? Our legal system has made the natural good of sex and marriage disappear almost entirely. Now, it is debated in court as if it is a mere legal and financial benefit. It is not a good to be protected any longer. No wonder so many people do not desire marriage as previously understood, or are so willing to “redefine” it.
And so, for both the homosexual person, and for all of us, “gay marriage” will end as a frustration. It makes it all the more difficult to follow the path of true desire. It will hinder us from really hearing and answering our vocation to give love and receive love. This is the real vocation for all of us, regardless of our calling. Governments exist to protect the vocation to love, or at least to do no harm to people’s freedom to love as God loves. In acting in this way, the Government of the State of New York is blind. It has failed its people.
Finally, what does this have to do with vocations? Think about it: A culture where marriage is strong lead to lots of vocations. As Sacramental Marriage disappears, so will priests and religious, right? So, this is a vocation issue, albeit a long-term issue. Thank you to all of you who are faithful to your marriages! And thank you to any who are homosexually inclined, yet chaste. We will all spend eternity in heaven, where this will be a moot issue. God bless!