Monday, December 15, 2003

Kingfishery & Kingcakery: New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes on Gay Marriage - In deference to a a request from one of my very few regular readers, affectionately known as "Pops," and as a member of good-standing in the Catholic faith, I have agreed to blog my reactions on the following editorial written by Roman Catholic Archbishop Hughes in the Clarion Herald, the local Archdiocesan Offical Newspaper. In this editorial, Archbishop Hughes writes:

When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided this past week that marriage is any committed relationship between two people of any sex, these judges, whatever their motivation, turned away from the truth and took a step that contributes to a terrible moral darkness.
I just don't see how these judges turned away from the truth. The "truth" of the matter is that a man and a woman can marry for whatever reason - be it convenience, money, love, etc. Even convicted mass murderers are allowed to marry from their prison cells, bestowing all the legal rights, privileges, and blessings on the couple which come from the act of marriage. The other "truth"of the matter is that people are born gay. Gay people are also loving people who may very well be incomplete creations of God without the fulfillment that comes from an intimate relationship afforded by the institution marriage - and not only the legal benefits of marriage, but also the grace that the sacrament of marriage confers upon the partnership. What is morally "dark" in my mind is to arbitrarily deny the grace of the sacrament of marriage to two people of any sex involved in a committed relationship, for that, ultimately, is what marriage celebrates and sanctions. All the other arguments given to exclude gay couples from the institution of marriage are straw man arguments, which I will address at a later point in my reflections on the rest of the Archbishop's editorial. Archbishop Hughes continues:
What does the Church say marriage is? "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament." This teaching is taken directly from the Second Vatican Council, the Code of Canon law and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It reflects God's revealed word in Scripture, handed down in our tradition. Please note that according to this truth, marriage is rooted in nature and, therefore, not a mere social construct. It involves a man and a woman and, therefore, is heterosexual. It has as its purpose both spousal happiness and procreation and education of children. This natural reality is raised for the baptized to a sacrament as a sign of Christ's spousal relationship to his Church.
Here, Archbishop Hughes narrowly interprets the Church teaching he cites. Of course the matrimonial covenant is something "by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life." But nowhere in this teaching is this covenant exclusive of gay couples. I must assume that the Church, which makes exception for infertile heterosexual couples, doesn't interpret this "covenant" as narrowly as Hughes suggests. Marriage IS rooted in nature. So is homosexuality. So, given this, what is so unnatural about homosexual marriage, especially to homosexuals? In fact, for gays, desiring marriage to their same-sex partner, is about as "natural" as can be. It is only "unnatural" to heterosexuals. Also, if marriage has as its purpose both "spousal happiness" and "procreation and education of children," then the only possible disqualifier here is the inability of gay couples to procreate. Gay marriage certainly can contribute to spousal happiness, and gay people are certainly able to education children well. And even the procreation argument has its flaws. Gay people CAN procreate, though perhaps not with their gay partners. They certainly can mother or father children. And so the procreative power exists, in ways not that much different, for instance, from a woman who cannot give birth herself because of some genetic deformity, but who can procreate through the use of a surrogate carrier. And even if we assume that the procreative power doesn't exist, why then can infertile couples marry? The fact is that there is no argument that can be made within the context of current Church law that proscribes marriage for gay couples that should not also proscribe marriage for certain heterosexual couples. Likewise, there is no good argument that justifies marriage for certain heterosexual couples, that cannot also be used to justify marriage for a homosexual couple. Hughes continues:
Some, of course, will raise the issue of tolerance. We tolerate people, not half-truths or lies. Christ calls us to include all in our lives, to love others with whom we disagree, even our enemies. But he enjoins us to resist untruth that comes from wolves in sheep's clothing. A half-truth is the more deceptive. We are to be wise of serpents, gentle as doves. We are to proclaim the truth in love.

When life and love, even efforts to promote justice and peace, are divorced from truth, then the foundation of our human society crumbles. Guigo, the saintly founder of the Comaldolese, once wrote: "The truth does not need us to defend it. We need the truth. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life." Christ's kingdom is one of truth. Let us pray whole-heartedly: "Thy kingdom come!"
Think about the patronizing tone of Hughes's "tolerance" argument. When Hughes says that we tolerate people, not half-truths or lies, he implies two things: first, there is something about the nature of God's creation of gay people that is somehow perverse, and requires tolerance like we tolerate pesky mosquitoes or the oppressive heat during the summertime; second, he implies that homosexuality in itself is a half-truth and a lie. How is this? Some people are homosexual and they are born that way. That is not half-true, it is completely true. And homosexuality is not a lie. Does God create, sustain, and love a lie? And with regard to Hughes's first implication about "tolerance," I'd just like to say that gay people do not need to be "tolerated," they need to be embraced and loved for the creation that they are, made in God's image. Hughes is treading on shaky ground. He is basically arguing that good Catholics need to reject the essential reality of the human condition and the requirements of intimacy and loving relationships for significant part of God's human creation. Furthermore, Hughes is arguing that God's grace as manifested through the sacrament of marriage is exclusive to people for no other reason than sexual orientation. I honestly don't believe Jesus would deny such grace to loving, monogamous, gay couples.

Well, that's my reflection on Archbishop Hughes's opinion. I know it goes against the thinking of "Pops" who solicited my impressions; but I've got to be honest to my conscience and take issue with Hughes on what I think is his wrong position on this subject. I welcome your thoughts and comments, too.

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