Saturday, December 12, 2009

Traditional Marriage in Trouble

In June of this year, my parish priest declared in his Sunday homily that in life today we are faced with many frightening and confusing issues. An example he gave was our (Canadian) government undermining traditional marriage between a man and a woman by legalizing same-sex marriage. I thought about this for a day or so and decided that I had to respond. Here is the e-mail I sent him:

Good Morning, Father:

In yesterday's homily, you mentioned that there are a number of confusing and frightening issues that we are faced with in today's world. The first example that you gave was the undermining of traditional marriage brought about by the decision of the Canadian government to legalize same-sex marriage.

Since I actually heard this statement twice [I was in the choir at a later Mass], it has led me to wonder how same-sex marriage has undermined traditional marriage in this country. Has the number of marriages between men and women decreased since 2005 and has it been shown that this decrease is a direct result of the same-sex marriage legislation? Has the divorce rate in marriages between men and women increased since 2005, and if so, has this increase been linked evidentially to the same-sex marriage legislation? Does allowing gay couples to marry somehow cheapen or demean traditional marriage? It seems to me that holding such an opinion would be like believing that allowing interracial marriage would diminish the sanctity of racially "pure" marriage, or recognizing the value of left-handedness would diminish the value of right-handedness.

When we say that same-sex marriage undermines the sanctity of traditional marriage, I believe we are in a sense ignoring the elephant in the room. If we look at the divorce rate in this country over, say, the past twenty years (in other words, going back long before the same-sex marriage legislation), we must admit that there is something terribly wrong with marriage in our society. Something other than same-sex relationships has undermined this institution. I would suggest that we should perhaps look at the rampant materialism that has characterized our society since the end of the Second World War and the greed and selfishness that have resulted rather than pointing the finger at our government for giving gay couples the rights that heterosexual couples have enjoyed for many centuries. There are many traditions that are simply wrong (just read The History of Black Catholics in the United States, by Father Cyprian Davis, for example), so we cannot always point to tradition as a light that can guide us or use tradition as a reason to oppose change.

I have the deepest regard and respect for you as a person and as pastor of our church. You are a both a loving shepherd and a tireless worker in the vineyard of the Lord. I also recognize that you have a job to do and that your job includes ensuring that your parishioners understand and follow the teachings of the Church. But as a Catholic who has not "chosen a lifestyle" and who is not working from a particular "agenda" but who is nevertheless gay, I am offended by statements that reflect the Church's lack of understanding of - and its unwillingness to understand - both the psychology and the sociology of homosexuality. I can only hope that the integrity of individual Catholics, including priests, will one day overcome this lack and that younger gay people will feel validated, loved, and recognized in our church.

I waited for a response but did not receive one. The next Sunday I was a lector, so I saw Father in the sacristy. He told me that he had received and read my e-mail, but did not respond because he was poor at keyboarding. He suggested that it would be better to discuss this issue face to face. I am still waiting for that discussion to take place.

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