If you are a Minnesota Catholic, about a year and a half ago you may have received a DVD in the mail from the Catholic bishops of Minnesota on the issue of same-sex marriage. I received that same DVD, watched it and got upset. Like many people, I was personally opposed to legalizing same-sex marriage, but at the same time I thought that the Church had no business wading into this social issue. I thought, “What harm could legalizing same-sex marriage possibly cause our society?”
It was during a conversation about this DVD that my sister-in-law pointed out the error in my thinking. “So you are personally opposed to it, and yet you think it causes no harm to society?” she asked, sipping her tea after a meal at the Highland Grill. “Well, yes,” I replied, already wincing as my convictions (or lack thereof) were revealed. “So if you think it does no harm, why do you oppose it?” she pushed. In the end, I could formulate no answer.
Her gentle queries gnawed at me, and they led to other questions. Why was I personally against same-sex marriage and, at the same time, unwilling to publicly oppose it? What did I truly believe regarding this issue? Why was I so upset about the DVD? The fact that I had no answers honestly kept me up at night. And so, like any good English teacher, I started reading. I thought I had a good grasp of how the Church had arrived at its teaching on homosexuality, but I read everything I could get my hands on anyway. I visited websites of gay-rights groups, and read blogs written by celibate Christians with same-sex attraction. In short, I tried to cast as wide a net as possible, and wrestled with every argument and personal testimony imaginable. And I prayed—a lot. Help me to understand this, Lord. Help me to grasp why your Church teaches this. Help me.
If you’ve been reading this blog and my posts, you know how this all turned out. Slowly but surely, I came to understand just a little bit more about sexual complementarity, the role of marriage in history, and how parents shape their children, and thus shape society. I learned more about God’s grace and how it is constantly a life-giving love. And I began to slowly see how that openness to life—in its broadest sense— can only blossom fully in a marriage between a man and a woman.
It is easy to listen to our bishops’ teaching on this issue and think: “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:60) Though if we are honest with ourselves, I think this has more to do with facing what Catholic teaching requires of each of us, not just of society as a whole. But before we turn our backs, we owe it to God and ourselves to quiet our hearts and fully immerse ourselves in the Church’s teachings on human sexuality. Lest we forget, the words from the Gospel of John echo the words of those who eventually deserted Jesus. We must read, listen and pray with open hearts—and allow God the chance to move within us.