Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Question of Hatred

I’m spending a few days on the blog talking about marriage, sex, the Church’s teachings, and the whole difficult issue of same-sex marriage and its civil recognition. I believe we need to try to talk about these matters, and what we believe about these matters, with as much kindness, gentleness and love as we can muster. Too much of the ‘debate’ around all of this is driven by fear, anger, and resentment. Accusations of ‘hatred’ and ‘bigotry’ abound; a calm effort to understand and listen to one another is less common.

And that’s where I would like to start today. This whole question of hatred is very important in the controversy. The recent US Supreme Court decision specifically said that the only reason to be opposed to a civil recognition of same sex marriages was hatred against homosexual persons. That is quite an extraordinary statement, really. It has a nice way of ending any possible conversation before it can even start. No matter what argument is offered, what issues are raised, what philosophical or sociological or legal implications are brought up, the one response is ‘You’re a hater! Don’t be a hater!’

The truth is, it is next to impossible to really be in dialogue with someone who you are convinced hates you. When I see a truly vitriolic rant against the Catholic Church, I don’t actually have anything to say in response to it. Hatred is the end of a conversation, not the beginning. And so to have Justice Kennedy proclaim, in what is now part of the legal jurisprudence of the United States, that the only motivation to oppose same-sex marriage is hatred, is quite a statement.

Now, is it true? Does this logically hold? I wish to go on record here, in this most public forum of the internet, as saying two things. One, that I am adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage (henceforth, ssm) and intend to continue to express that opposition as long as I am allowed to do so in our free society. Second, that I have no hatred in my heart for any human being anywhere on God’s earth. I simply don’t. Even people who do things I consider to be extraordinarily evil—drug dealers, abortionists, torturers, child abusers—I more feel sorry for them than anything else.

I hate ideas that are false and that do tremendous damage to people. I hate ideologies that lock people into prisons of various sorts, and wither love and freedom in the human heart. I hate hatred, and the terrible damage people do to one another out of malice, greed, anger. But people? I can’t think of anyone I have any hatred for, not even certain people in my personal history who have done great harm to close family members. And I certainly have no hatred—not even remotely—for LGBTQ people, nor can I imagine why anyone would, honestly (I have a very poor imagination, perhaps).

So much for me. Big deal – I’m one guy with a laptop sitting up in the Canadian wilderness, who happens to be a Catholic priest. But what about the debate in general? Surely it is all just prejudice and malice against these people, right? What arguments have ever been made against same-sex marriage that have been rational and fact-based? Either it’s all just my lousy Catholic theology which has no place in a public debate, or it’s just gay-bashing hatred, right?

Well, what about the implications of ssm for marriage in general? Or its impact on children? Or its impact on religious freedom, which in both Canada and the United States is considered a core element of our free society? Now, it is quite possible that a ssm advocate might read those four articles and dispute them, and may even have good arguments to debunk them.

That is not the point here. The point in question is that it is asserted that no possible non-theological argument exists or ever could exist against ssm, (and that the theological arguments themselves essentially boil down to the Westboro Baptist Church’s slogan ‘God hates fags’ of which I will have more to say later), and so the only motivation to oppose it is rank and vile hatred against a class of people. But these four articles present all sorts of arguments that are not rooted in hatred. You may disagree with them, but surely you cannot deny that they exist, can you? 

To hold that anyone who has a position you disagree with cannot be motivated by anything but ill will seems to me to be a strange and somewhat narrow view of human life. It would be rather silly of me to declare that everyone who is not a Roman Catholic is seething with hatred for God and for the good, wouldn’t it? And yet my own Catholicism is wholly a matter of my love for God and for the good as I best understand these matters.

The quest for truth and for understanding is not served by name-calling (Haters! Perverts!) or by misrepresenting the arguments of one’s opponents. The quest for a civil, peaceful society that includes all people is not served by driving out or silencing everyone who differs from us, but rather to work to listen to all voices and see what they have to say.

Well, that’s quite enough (more than enough, says the peanut gallery!) for one day. Tomorrow I will give my own argument against the civil recognition of ssm, and then the religious understanding of sex and its place in the divine plan, and then we’ll see where we are. God bless you and talk to you tomorrow.


  1. Can you give a link to where the Supreme Court says those who oppose gay marriage do so out of hatred of homosexuals?

    1. "By seeking to injure the very class New York seeks to protect, DOMA violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government. The Constitution’s guarantee of equality “must at the very least mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot” justify disparate treatment of that group. Department of Agriculture v. Moreno, 413 U. S. 528–535. DOMA cannot survive under these principles."
      Direct quote from Kennedy's majority opinion. Hence, the only ('bare') reason for DOMA was the desire to harm same sex couples. 'Desire to harm' = 'hatred', I deem. And surely you cannot deny that the great cry of 'H8Rz!' has echoed far and wide through the land in this debate, which is the primary and over-riding concern of my post!

    2. Harm isn't hatred. I would assume that Justice Kennedy is using harm in the legal sense as a any interference with an individual's legally protected interest.

      I would agree with this statement of yours

      "The quest for truth and for understanding is not served by name-calling (Haters! Perverts!) or by misrepresenting the arguments of one’s opponents."

      We've had SSM here in Canada fr over 10 years and religions are free to accept it or deny it as they wish, just like divorce and remarriage. I assume the same will happen in the US.

    3. Well, I agree with 'harm' being a legal term, but I think the key word is 'desire', which connotes interior attitudes, no? Even if, in strict legalese, this word has some other connotation, the SCOTUS judges know their opinions will be read widely, and certainly the message has been sent that DOMA and like statutes are only based in some degree of animus towards same sex couples.
      Re: religious freedom - I encourage you to read the two articles I linked to, if you have time. They're not too long or too difficult, really, and both make the point that it's not as simple as ministers of religion not doing ceremonies they dont' believe in. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on those articles.

    4. The first one "Yes, Marriage Will Change--and Here’s How" seems to talk about how gay marriages and civil unions are more unstable than heterosexual marriages. I wish the author had given links to the studies detailing the differential divorce rate. Even taking it on face value one can always revert back to the argument of the second paragraph and say we are years away from long term longitudinal studies of gay marriage divorce rates. As gay marriage becomes acceptable in civil society and in some religions one hopes the unions will become more stable.

      After all, who would have predicted divorce rates for atheists would be as low as that for Catholics ( )

    5. Here's a further take on the Supreme Court decision from the outrageous-but-he-does-make-his-point Mark Steyn:

    6. How it affects children? I only know from my experience of my children's friends and the scouts in my scout troop. There's the entire gamut from two parent families to one parent families to guardians and foster parents. The main effect I see is having a stable loving home, with two parents preferred if possible. I don't see a correlation between the children's mental well being and the sex of their parents, but I do see between their mental health and divorced and disruptive families. Go after the later two to help children.

    7. Mark Steyn's article is outrageous. more rhetoric than content.

    8. @ Rationalist. Ok... back to the discussion! (I have limited time here, so be kind to me if my responses are not as comprehensive as I would like). Re the marriage article, first the divorce rate among PRACTICING Catholics is significantly lower than 'Catholics in general' or the general population. It is religous practice, not religious self-identification that makes the difference in marital success, it appears. Meanwhile, we all hope for everyone to become more stable in their lives, but given the data we have that hope seems pretty faint for gay and lesbian couples. I don't want to be unkind, and I wish the best for everyone, but the statistics are pretty bleak on that front. Re: children. Well, you don't seem to have engaged the argument the article made - I think there are serious points being made there, and you don't really address them. I am particularly concerned about the normalizing of technologically generated children and the commoditization of human life that entails.
      Re Steyn: well, outrageous and snarky is kind of his beat. But there is an argument there that he is making, and making quite well, and I'm sorry you weren't able to hear it through the wise cracks.

    9. I just don't care for Steyn's style. I couldn't read it.

      By definition practicing Catholics have a lower divorce rate than self-identified Catholics because if a Catholic divorces and remarries they are not, by Church definition, a practicing Catholic.

      Two teenagers can create life can create life in a few minutes after a high school dance, a gay couple can take years to get an adoption process completed. It's not my position to question either couple by questioning their commitment to the welfare of their child.

    10. Ok - I'm back! You misunderstand my quoted stat about practicing Catholics and divorce - the studies I have in mind are looking, not at the people in the pew and seeing how many are divorced, but looking at married couples longitudinally and seeing which couples are less likely to get divorced. Regular religious practice is among the most certain predictors of marital success.
      It's not (in my view) a question of what couples are more committed to the welfare of the child - who wants to jump down that rabbit hole! Rather, that the act of heterosexual intercourse is ordered to, and frequently results in, the creation of a child, and it is in all of our best interests to support that act within a committed institution. There is no 'best interest' of the common good in helping any other affective union (same sex lovers, siblings, adult parent and child, best friends and bowling partners) to be more strongly committed to each other. In my opinion.

  2. And third link. I think SSM will be great for religious freedom as it will allow those religious faiths who support SSM to have it and those who don't to not have it. It's similar to divorce and remarriage now. Religious institutions are free to accept or reject whoever they want for marriage.

    As for commercial enterprises, the current law is that they may not discriminate by race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Some people now feel their reigious freedom is being discriminated against (although I don't know how religioun affects commercial transactions) but maybe the solution is for business such as hotels, restaurants, florists, etc. to post signs on their establishments indicating what type of clients they will not serve. That saves the problem of a person starting a commercial transaction and then when they realize its a gay couple getting into trouble by canceling it.

    The same with employees applying for a job, a prospective teacher should say what type of student or student family they will not accept in their class, a clerk at the land transfer office would say they will not accept transferring land ownership to certain types of couples and a sales person should say if they have a problem serving certain types of clients.

    If one is upfront about this then everyone knows where they stand.

    1. I debated about entering the fray here...but there are a couple things I wanted to say.
      Last week when the decisions from he Supreme Court abut DOMA and Californias Prop 8 were handed down- these two reactions - like Father Denis and like Rationalist- were everywhere.
      Many friends were elated- felt justice has finally been served- and maybe more importantly the friendships we have we LGTBQ people were finally recognized. The relationship itself was given dignity and seen as worthy of protection. Safeguarding human dignity has long been foundational in catholic social teaching...can't we agree on that? Now, same sex couples who are legally married must be treated in the same way as opposite sex couples. Now, they can file taxes together, make end of life decisions for one another, share work benefits and more.
      At the same time, our bishops were declaring a tragic day for nation.
      It is a pretty profound and uncomfortable tension. Many of us really understand why so many people are rejoicing. We also really want to recognize the beautiful teachings of the church on marriage, want to understand and celebrate that more and more. How do you hold these two things together?
      Perhaps, first we really, truly have to learn to grieve to give up and give away all these notions have created for ourselves. We have to open ourselves to something new. We have to talk to God about this and we have to arrive each at own place.
      Then, think you are right Father Denis, nobody deserves be vilified... on either side. Nobody gets to belittle one another for their choices "my conscience is more formed than yours", "my notion of church is holier than yours".
      Can't we all just allow ourselves to be?

      Bless you.

    2. @ Rationalist - well, this is quite an involved conversation, and meanwhile my priestly duties have taken me away from the computer for the rest of the day - I will get back to you tomorrow, I hope. @ anonymous, thank you for your sensitive, thoughtful remarks. I do hear your pain and tension - believe me when I say to you that I share it, although as a priest clearly I am coming at it from a different place. I hope the ensuing blog posts will at least give evidence of my desire to both respect, listen, and advance my own beliefs about this matter in a loving manner. God bless you.

    3. Rationalist,

      You are being generous.

      I think the catholic church would be more honest to surrender its tax exempt status... Than to use it to campaign against and lobby against the government.

      It just makes me sick to think of the money the church as invested in politics for DoMA. Think of how that could have helped the poor. Imagine.

      No, I think soon the church will need to pay its penalties. Soon there will be no more cemetery funds, please God.

    4. I agree with the tax status issue and I know several priests who advocate that. I personally support several groups that cannot issue tax receipts because they lobby about environmental and human rights issues but I can't see the Catholic Church going that way or politicians enforcing the law on lobbying against religious organizations.

    5. @ Anonymous - so you're saying that anyone advocating a position that is not approved by the government should be punished? That's... an interesting view of liberal democracy, I guess.
      The Church would not have to speak on political matters quite so much if the government was not continually expanding its reach into every corner of human life. When the government determines which human beings have a right to life, and what the definition is of the core human institutions and relationships that consitute society, then a Church silent on matters political is a Church silent about basically everything that pertains to the life of humanity. Which I suppose is what many want.
      The Church's tax exempt status is based on the great social good contributed by religion. Institutional religion has built thousands of schools, hospitals, and social welfare agencies in this country, funded by the contributions of its members and frequently run by religiously-motivated volunteers. Meanwhile, virtually every sociological study has shown that active participation in a church congregation is the best predictor of stable marriages and lower rates of various social pathologies - crime, drugs, etc..
      Meanwhile, I believe that the great driver of human poverty in North America is the breakdown of family and marriage. To defend the institution of marriage and its vital role in stabilizing pro-creative sexual relations in a committed environment for children is, in fact, to work against poverty and human misery.

    6. Ok, finally (for now!) - @ Rationalist - I really don't think the accommodation you suggest would legally fly in society as it is currently configured. Certainly there is not even a crack opening in current jurisprudence allowing religious business owners to choose not to serve in ceremonies they do not believe are legitimate. I have a fairly bleak view of the future of religious freedom in North America, although (from my own spiritual perspective) I think in the long run it will probably be good for Christians to be marginalized and even persecuted - but it's not good for society at large to marginalize and persecute Christians, and I am trying to persuade against that with this series. Peace to you, and thank you for your courteous, thoughtful contributions to this blog.

    7. One is perfectly welcome to speak against positions held by the government, one just can't do that and have tax free charitable status. One has to choose one or another. Having been involved with several charities, tax exempt status is a lengthy process if one is a secular charity, almost automatic if one is a religious charity. For a religious charity no social work at all is required (I'm not saying the Catholic the various affiliated Catholic organization don't engage in charitable work) but Churches get tax exempt status simply by educating their members in their religion.

      That said the Catholic Church, and indeed any church, is allowed to teach its followers what lifestyle they can or can't follow. The Catholic Church shouldn't seek to impose this on the general public or indeed other churches who do not share its view on homosexuality.

      I agree that the breakup of marriage is a blight both on society and has an enormous effect on children. We all need to do everything we can to promote good, stable, loving home environments for everyone's sake.

    8. I don't think that accommodation would work either. For one most people would refuse to go to a restaurant that refused gay couples, or a bakery that refused to bake cakes for gay weddings, or a florist that refused to send flowers to the funeral of a gay spouse, etc.

      But what other choice is there. How would a gay couple know if they were going to be refused service in a commercial establishment or by a government official otherwise?

    9. What?
      Are you really talking about how to exclude people based on sexual preferences?
      I keep re reading this to see how the conversation degenerated.
      Please, help understand how this does not assault the dignity of. My brothers and sisters.

    10. @ Catherine - sorry, but what? Who is excluding whom from what? How has the convesation degenerated - everyone here is being civil and thoughtful? I am puzzled at your distress, really. Sorry.

    11. Catherine - I totally oppose exclusion of people for sexual preference for commercial or government purposes. But because of freedom of religious practice that doesn't extend to religious institutions. On the other hand when a parish rents out its hall for commercial purposes they are then bound by the same requirements as any other commercial enterprise. I would just like people and companies to be up front about their prejudices so I can choose the appropriate action.

    12. Father Denis,
      Yes. It is not that you and Rationalist are not being respectful to each other. It is that as I was reading, I realized the goal was offensive:
      "Certainly there is not even a crack opening in current jurisprudence allowing religious business owners to choose not to serve in ceremonies they do not believe are legitimate" Father Denis
      'But what other choice is there. How would a gay couple know if they were going to be refused service in a commercial establishment or by a government official otherwise?' Rationalist
      If my daughter were sitting at the dining room table talking with her friends about how to exclude Deb and Barb form the table because they are ssm, I would react the same way.
      What? What is that? Why would you exclude them?
      Disagree with them, okay. But, not serve them? It feel offensive to me, akin to the old guys when women were not allowed to vote or blacks were allowed only in the back of the bus.
      What is that?
      How is that choice not perceived as offensive?
      How is that choice not perceived as an assault on the dignity of my ssm brothers and sisters?
      How do you frame that up?

    13. Rationalist,

      Yes. Okay, I understand. I was thinking of Chick a fil, or something like that. You are talking about church.

      But, I have to tell you both... I am stil incredibly sad just thinking about it. Super sad.

    14. Catherine - My comment about having notices about indicating what prejudice the person/company had was more facetious.

      Personally several years ago I didn't let my son join Scouts Canada as I (mistakenly) thought they discriminated against gays and I didn't want to support such an organization. When I learned they didn't (hadn't for years) he joined and then I volunteered and now I'm the Scout leader and he's the senior Scout.

    15. Catherine - I'm glad Chuck-a-Fil let it's prejudice be known. In that way I can not knowingly use their restaurant (not that I would be likely). But it's the same with the Salvation Army, I use to think they were a good organization and when Christmas rolled around made a generous donation to their canvassers. Now I wouldn't give them a cent after their PR spokes person in the US said that he agreed with the Bible in that gays should be put to death and the organization didn't correct him. No more Salvation Army donations for me.

    16. Whew - that's quite a lot of comments to wade through (actually I've been away all afternoon because I had to go to ER for a 'knee event', which I'm increasingly prone to and which currently has me on crutches, hopefully short term).
      Catherine, it seems to me that no matter how you slice it, someone is going to be excluded, run roughshod over, have their most precious beliefs and feelings negated, scorned, rudely shoved aside. If an evangelical Christian photographer, say, who really believes homosexual intercourse is gravely evil and that ssm is gravely evil is forced BY LAW to photograph a same sex wedding, isn't he or she being excluded, in a sense? Certainly forced to be part of an event that is against his or her deepest beliefs. It is less so with a florist, but what about the wedding cake baker, decorating a cake with two men or two women on top?
      Can respect for one another not include not forcing one another to be part of events that are morally problematic? I should say that, in my understanding of Catholic moral theology, I don't think a florist or a baker is required to decline that job, but if in conscience they feel they shouldn't, is that really so beyond the pale?
      I believe in freedom, and in allowing people to do what they want to do and not do what they don't want to do, unless there is grave harm coming from it. I would classify the changed definition of marriage as gravely harmful, which is why I am writing about it this week. And of course, if other people want to boycott a florist or a baker because she/he won't do same sex marriages - vive la liberte! Democracy in action!
      I plan (if I ever get there, to blog much more about the more painful and personal aspects of all this and my understanding as a Catholic priest of a path through that... stay tuned, if you can bear it.

    17. Father Denis,
      Just got back from the Fireworks! Then I thought of your blog and wondered if you had returned with sparklers!
      I was thinking as we were gathered celebrating this US holiday- I was thinking and love and surrender. Amazing how God has held us together one more year. How It is God who is holding us altogether, suurounding us, bathing each cell in love. Rejoicing in all that rejoices and suffering in all that suffers. I think it was Julian of Norwich who wrote because God is love we cannot fall out of love anymore than we can escape god.
      Which then led me to the surrender part. We are taught from an early age you know that surrender equals defeat. That real soldiers never surrender, we will always battle for the moral truth.
      But in this case my friend, when we are talking about church, the hands of the living God- surrender is the only valor possible. Maybe, in surrendering to each other we can become small enough.
      Mercy and loving kindness toward each other can only proceed from surrender. It is only by relinquishing our own clinging, our own self will that we can become small enough before God to suffer with. Because in the end we are all of us very small and in need of mercy. Standing still enough in this moment is a great cost to the self.
      I don't mean to go all spiritual on you. What I am trying to say is that you and I may never be able to agree on this... And somehow Learn to surrender. I am going to step away from your blog for awhile, because I do not think you and I have the grace to meet on this

    18. @ Catherine - God bless you. I respect that totally. I only intend to blog on this for another couple days - say, to Tuesday next or so, and then we'll change the channel. I think one of our tensions in our exchanges is that it doesn't cause me any emotional pain or unpeace to disagree with people, and I suspect it does for you. I am trying to surrender, but for me surrender is to God and God alone, and I do believe God speaks me to through His Church, so my surrender is negotiated along those grounds primarily. Peace and blessings to you.

  3. I'd have to agree, "'must at the very least mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot' justify disparate treatment of that group." is not equal to "hate", especially in a SCOTUS legal opinion. That is a slight sensationalizing of the context to claim the judge said hate within the opinion given. Now the interpretation given by various people and groups(on both sides) might wish to tweak the words to the broadest edges of definition to fire up their base, but then they must acknowledge it was in fact not a quote from the judges.

    1. Well, he also uses the word 'animus' in the decision, which of course is precise legalese for 'hatred'.

    2. Animus means intention in legal documents.

  4. Why, in the Name of God, are you debating what is NOT up for debate!
    You both read like silly little kids who have nothing better to do than argue over a piece of bird poop. You wish your own opinions to be respected, and hope to gain respect for yourself through your debates.
    How much more foolish can you get than that ?

    1. What are you saying here? It is far from clear. What is not up for debate? Same sex marriage? Says who? I'm not sure how my post, or my subsequent brief (because I actually am a fairly busy priest) responses to comments are those of a 'silly kid'. I am not motivated by a desire for respect. I am seeking the truth of the matter, have opinions on that truth, and am both trying to persuade others of the truth of those opinions (because I have a funny belief that the truth is really important to human flourishing) and listen to other perspectives with respect. I am unaware of anything in this post or comment thread that belies that.

  5. Same sex marriage is the law of the land in many places. It will likely become nearly universal in the months and years to come.

    Many dire predictions about the downfall of society have been issued by those in the traditionalist religious community. We will see how that goes. There is no chance that these decisions will cause Christians to lose their belief in the primacy of heterosexual marriage, most of them lost that belief some time ago.

    It's good that the LGBT community is coming out in the open and living their lives with the same prerogatives to personal autonomy as everybody else. This is healthy for society.

    A closed, nefarious Gay community, such as once existed generally and continues to exist in isolated pockets , like the RCC priesthood, does not make society a better place.

    1. Well, I agree with you that marriage has been in a free-fall crisis for some decades. I must say that, being born in 1966 and hence living my entire life in the post-sexual revolution world, I find it a bit amusing to be told that only now (!) can LGBT live openly in the truth of their sexuality. Ummm.... that is really quite funny, as I personally have no memory whatsoever of a time when they were not able to live this way - and I'm almost 50!
      And thank you for the random and irrelevant slur on the Catholic priesthood. Always good to be able to fill that square on my bingo card! God bless you.

    2. Where have you been living since 1966, Father? Try coming out as Gay married while you're working at WalMart, Chikfilet, Domino's Pizza, Exxon-Mobil or the local Catholic school system.

      You don't think that there is a deeply closeted Gay culture in the RCC priesthood? Wow! I don't think it's a swipe. I think one of the most important things that a priest can do to establish a bond with his flock is to talk openly and honestly about his own sexuality and how he expresses it in his activities of daily living. If priests expect to lead people in sexual mores, people need to know where they are coming from. One of the reasons that people ignore the Church teachings on sex is that they see the hypocrisy there.

    3. Well, OK - first, remember I don't know you personally, and I read your first comment as implying that 'all' Catholic priests are closeted homosexuals. This is not an uncommon slur, and so my reaction was such. Well, I suppose there is at least some closeted gay culture in the priesthood - it is well closeted enough that I've never encountered it! Blessed am I, I guess.
      Now as to the rest of your comment. If someone is working in the Catholic school system, they have made a commitment to model Catholic moral values and Catholic modes of life to the students. So an openly homosexual person simply should not be working in this system - isn't that a matter of personal integrity? It seems so to me. With the others, I'm not sure what sort of hostility and opposition you are referring to. Surely anything that rises to the level of workplace discrimination or overt harassment is not going to fly legally in the year 2013? If it is less than that - well, see, that's a problem I have. We cannot 'make' people be nice to each other. And it seems to me that there is a push on, using the vehicle of the law with its brute force, to make people not so much respect legal rights of the other, but be nice and not nasty to each other. And I think that is doomed to fail, and doomed to usher in a genuine tyranny in its wake.
      And honestly, I have been living in the same world as you, and I cannot remember a time when LGBTQ people were not open and 'out' in their relationships. Sorry - I guess we experience the same old world quite differently!

    4. Oh, and sorry - I didn't mean to ignore the last part of your comment (end of a looong day here). Personally, I am celibate and strive to live out my sexuality by practicing purity of heart, mind and body, not without struggles, and by loving every human being God puts in my path in a pure way (not without mega failures on that score). Open and honest enough for you?

  6. Here's what the problem for the Catholic Church comes down to. Among young people 18 to 24 79% of Canadians and 70% of Americans see no problem with gay marriage. They may not want gay marriage themselves or they may disagree with it for religious reasons but they see no reason why their friends and colleagues can't get married, especially since they don't share their religious beliefs.

    The Church risks alienating an entire generation, not by its teachings as I think most would accept that their Church opposes gay marriage just as it opposes divorce and remarriage. The Church will lose that generation if it keeps trying to impose that belief upon non Catholics as that's unfair. The Catholic Church may not agree with divorce but it doesn't seek to prevent (anymore) Jews, Baptists or non believers from divorcing and remarrying.

    1. Ok - this will be I think my last comment on this post, for the good old simple reason of 'holy cow, that's enough for this one'. Also, I think we may be coming to the point of 'let's agree to disagree' on this particular matter. The Church understands the moral law as not only applying to itself, but to everyone. Ssm is a brand new thing (younger than the internet, as one SCOTUS judge pointed out), and of course we are trying to articulate why we think what we think about it.
      And of course we risk alienating people, especially the young. But surely, if you grant that we genuinely and honestly believe we are speaking the truth here, you would not respect us for lying to people to 'market' Catholicism in a jazzy new package or something? How is that good?
      Now what I'm trying to do, and what many others are trying to do, admittedly with so far little success, is present the Catholic teaching as something true, good, and life-giving. But if we fail, we would rather preach the truth (as best we understand it) and lose ALL our members, than preach a lie (as we would see it) and convert the world. Because we would not be converting the world to Catholicism, but to a lie. I know you really disagree with the Catholic position, but doesn't that make sense, at least, to you?

    2. It makes sense only if the Catholic church you are speaking of is some tiny, insulated group. And if you are okay tending to the needs of that very small flock only. It makes sense only if you are choosing those few. Because, basically you have dismissed everyone and everything else.
      Maybe, you share some of the journey with Africa and Asia. But you will lose them again once they come into their own. Because, your way does not engage them allow them their own.

  7. The Church does not exist to tell their small flock that they are OK and everyone else is terribly messed up. The Church's mission is to call everyone to a relationship with God, which comes about by repenting (of one's own numerous personal sins) and believing. This message is for everyone, in a way especially for those who know the truth.

    This week's whole blog series is hardly "tending to the needs of [a] very small flock only... [and dismissing] everyone and everything else." It is a reaching out with the truth.

  8. Such a fascinating blog post and dialogue. Thank you Father Denis for hosting. I've learned a lot! People have always criticized the Church for not changing her teachings to be more palatable for ever adapting cultural standards. I would much rather see the Church stand with the truth. Young people are hungry for the truth even if it is counter cultural. As a young person who is a practicing Catholic, I think the Church is focusing her energies on explaining her teachings more than ever these days. Our Church is engaging culture and engaging in honest dialogue, even when it's unpopular.

    Before this article, I'm not sure if I had heard any honest conversation on what ssm would mean for our culture, just the overwhelming sense that if you're against ssm you are a bigot for sure. Thanks for braving the dialogue!

    1. I agree, Beth-- it is the mission of the Church to teach Truth-- Truth as has been revealed by God.

      one decides for him/herself if there is any real truth, or merely a lot of viewpoints. one decides for him/herself to conform to the Truths s/he accepts. (a common mistake is to equate the mere decision with the right decision.)

      i agree wholeheartedly that young people are so often amazed, inspired, encouraged and strengthened by the Truth the Church teaches, but ONLY IF they are presented that Truth:
      *solidly, without dismantling it for potability
      *personally, with respect for the young person's real-life experiences and challenges
      *with integrity-- hypocrites make bad witnesses to the Faith
      *in the context of a relationship-- nobody wants to be a 'project' of another.

      this is merely anecdotal, but it seems to me to NOT be the pro-true-marriage youth that are drawing the lines in the sand. the facebook un-friendings and twiiter un-followings seem largely initiated by pro-ssm youth against their peers who disagree with them.

      it's hardly persecution, but it demonstrates the initial point Father Dennis is making: ill will is presumed by their peers. all conversation ends.

  9. Father Dennis, your initial plea-- to present and accept all arguments for and against same sex marriage on the basis of mutual respect-- seem to me to be much better served by:
    1. representing the opposition more accurately
    2. leaving Steyn out of the link options.

    1. Kennedy's opinion doesn't say hatred. It says "seek" "to harm". That in itself is outrageous enough. Therein Kennedy's assertion is precisely the point you are trying to make. SCOUTUS just applied bad motive-- VERY bad motive-- the seeking to do harm-- to an entire group of persons-- those opposed to committed same sex relationships being included in the legal term marriage. i think this should be addressed without adding translation to his words. his words are bad enough.

    2. if the conversation is based on love, then Steyn doesn't fit the bill.

    but so far in these responses i've read:
    *rationalist initially makes similar points to mine but with the intent of arguing for ssm, which s/he seems to accept as an intrinsic good (though not yet, anyway, making any argument for its intrinsic goodness.)
    *anonymous makes impassioned appeals for greater love
    *anonymous classifies your deeply held beliefs (those you hold as having been revealed by God) as "notions" you have "created" for yourself.
    *catherine appeals to Julian of Norwich (though, not yet, anyway, appealing to the meaning of human sexuality as taught by the Church.)
    * some things about the tax exempt status of the Church
    *a few splashes of 'bad priests'
    *a lot of other verbage that rounds back to the beginning.
    *a general feeling that you, Father Dennis, are wrong about gay marriage and therefore you (depending on whose asserting) fall somewhere on the spectrum of being anywhere from sadly short-sighted in the love department (ala Julian of Norwich) to short on rationale (ala "how do you frame that up?) to (perhaps an unwitting) theocrat (ala: The Catholic Church shouldn't seek to impose....)

    as i read this, Father Dennis, wherever these assertions fall on the spectrum, it would appear that your initial encouragement-- for readers to accept YOUR goodwill-- has not been heeded. it reads to me that because you're opposed to same sex marriage, your (perhaps unwitting, perhaps latent) ill-will is presupposed by these post-ers who disagree with you-- though they disagree mostly politely.

    1. like you, so far, anyway,i'm trusting that this opposition will be good for Christians, Catholics and others who oppose the codification of gay unions as marriage. with God's grace, we can apply our arguments with love, but steadily and clearly and without wavering in either truth or love.

      but I'm not a local magistrate, nor am I a baker, caterer, military chaplain, banquet hall proprietor, florist or photographer. i have much less chance of being expected to perform or celebrate ssm than those listed. i am at much less risk of having my livelihood threatened by law suit. on the other hand, i work for the Catholic Church. if the Church eventually loses its tax exempt status i would probably be out of a job and my kids would become economically disadvantaged.

      (on a furthermore note: what a crying shame it would be for the Church to lose its exemption over the polite or overt brandation as 'hate group' especially seeing how the Church:
      *runs food closets and pantries in disadvantaged communities all over the country
      *provides approximately 15% of hospital beds for disadvantaged (medicaid/ medicare)patients
      *is the largest private provider of care to HIV and AIDS patients in the world
      *Catholic schools save the US about 20 billion dollars a year and that 30% of Catholic school students are minorities and 15% of catholic school students are not Catholic
      and so on.)

      having written all that, my (presumed)ill-will is easy to presume.
      game over. few people are willing to engage my non-religious reasons for opposing gay marriage, to wit, in a nutshell:
      *"marriage" should not be necessary to ensure gay couples the right to NOT be burglarized by insurance companies and the IRS. payees should be able to name their own beneficiaries. the federal government should STOP robbing all people, gay or straight.
      *marriage is the ONLY social and legal institution that provides for and protects children. gay marriage (along with other already-legal practices) seek to INTENTIONALLY deprive children of both a mother and a father. the question is not: do gay parents love their kids? the question is: should the law allow for the INTENTIONAL deprivation of mother and father to children. (the mucked up law already DOES allow for this intentional deprivation and those laws should be fixed.)
      *should citizens be allowed to exclude themselves from participation in gay marriage without legal retribution?

      but at the end of all this, somewhere, somehow, it MUST be possible for people to see the difference between, "you have no arguments" and "you have no arguments that i'm willing to accept." it MUST be possible for people to be able to conclude "i disagree with your arguments, though i agree you hold them/ make them in goodwill."

    2. Jusctice Kennedy use the word harm in a legal sense in a legal decision which means to hinder the rights of a person.

      An action does not have to be an intrinsic good to allow it legally. Adultery is morally wrong but legally licit. While I do not agree with it, I would not want any laws to prevent it.

    3. rationalist, i agree with Fr. Dennis that "harm" is an action-packed word. whether or not its use is intended to act as the trigger finger on a loaded gun is not for me to judge.

      all right, an action does not have to be an intrinsic good for it to be legal. but would you agree that actions thaqt are intrinsically wrong by which others are directly and negatively impacted should be illegal? i do. i think the intentional deprivation of both mother and father to children is reason enough for ssm to be illegal. furthermore, the negative consequences to non-supporters should (but typically doesn't) alarm Americans.

      but my basic point was in reply to Fr. Dennis' urging to approach this debate with respect and love. in these multitudinous responses, his urging went largely unheeded. do you not see the basic assumption of ill-will in this these comments, rationalist? few have engaged his initial assertions. few again have been willing to engage his reasons for opposing ssm(offered primarily in linked essays.) instead, these comments have threaded in and out of various facets of the charge that Father Dennis is motivated (or blinded) by non-love.

    4. But harm is used in a legal document and has a very specific legal meaning in a legal document.

      I tried to address his points including this one that harm is not equal to hatred.

    5. Monica - thanks for the critique. I was careless in my language around Kennedy's decision. Steyn - I guess I have a very high tolerance for snark and repartee, because he never strikes me as beyond the pale, but I guess YMMV, as they say on the internets. Thanks for the thoughtful analysis of the arguments.

  10. you're missing my point rationalist-- even without translating it as "hatred" Kennedy's use of "desire to harm" is faaaar too action-packed in THIS issue to have been used responsibly. do you really think the public will consider that language in the narrow legal application you propose it was meant? it won't be understood that way, rationalist. instead, it will be the basis and boost of innumerable "homophobe" charges, thus (as Fr Dennis contended) abrupting all conversation.

    in other words, why would you listen to my arguments once you've determined (with SCOTUS validation) that i "desire to harm" you?

    THIS presumption of ill-will making conversation impossible was the basis of Fr. Dennis' essay. it's my opinion that this has not been engaged in this comment thread-- only dismissed AND demonstrated.

    1. The public will. The only ones who aren't are those who want to make it appear like they are victims in this entire business.

      If you want to see ill will on this look no further than Santorum who is say gay marriage will lead to marrying animals. ( )

    2. Rationalist,
      I am right here with you, buddy, standing quietly at your side.
      There will always be room in my pew for ssm couples and their families. Because the Catholic church is big enough for all of us.
      It is clearer and clearer as I read here day by day... That there is indeed a grave sin happening here in the church.. It has do do with holding theology instead of our brothers and sisters.
      God is stronger than all that non sense. Indeed God is stronger.
      Chin up, my friend.

    3. Perhaps, there is no justification for dismissing ssm beyond " I disagree with you". Perhaps, Father denis just did not make a case. Perhaps, what his words confirmed was prejudice..
      There are those who believe you know- that this type of preaching is what has sparked the greatest division, caused the most scandal to the faithful..because it is so dismisissive, hold the truth so tightly, chokes the people of God. This type of preaching in itself does damage., knowingly , or otherwise

    4. @ Anonymous - sadly, you have demonstrated in full the very thing I lament in the post itself - that it is impossible to disagree with the cultural zeitgeist on sexuality and marriage without being accused of prejudice and hatred. I am certain that my words and my tone have been calm, temperate, and even kind... and all of that is of no avail to you. I am saying something you disagree with, and so I am prejudiced and 'choking' the people of God. Very sad, and bodes very ill for our ability to live together in social peace.

    5. Cultural zeitgeist? Your thinking on this is disordered, we are talking about the God given core of being here. Your comment is disrespectful and prejudicial. It comes from your disordered thinking here... It is okay, we can love you, and respect you, but will still have to challenge that disordered thinking.

  11. rationalist, you say this: The public will. The only ones who aren't are those who want to make it appear like they are victims in this entire business.

    this demonstrates Fr. Dennis' initial point. again. There is so much ill will fueling your statement, it's seeping out of every syllable. here's my assertion, supporterd by sane observation: the public will not. Kennedy's words hit on all the negative public perceptions it mirrors.

    that you can find some (many) outlier argument (albeit attached to a well-known conservative) and NOT engage a single argument put forth on this page- arguments presented with reason, temperance and goodwill-- makes apparent (again) the validity of Fr Denis' initial assertions. given good arguments, you have resorted to presenting a flashy misrepresentation of the arguments. misrepresentations are always welcome, arent they? they save us so much of the work (and the risk) of real debate.

    another thing: notice how Kennedy's arguments seem to you to be so much more balanced than do Santorum's? to me, they're both fouling out.

    in the end, you've demonstrated very clearly that your presumption of ill will prevents you from engaging in true debate.

    1. anonymous, it's hard to even know what to say to so much misguided sentimentality.

      first of all, i would imagine that rationalist is not the least bit concerned with what you propose to be the Church's sin of "holding theology instead of our brothers and sisters" as he seems only concerned with NOT engaging (authentically) rational arguments against ssm. perhaps, though, on this comment board, under these circumstances, he may feel the need to care about your concerns for a minute or two-- all for the sake of pro-ssm solidarity.

      but there is a much bigger fish to fry here, anonymous. and that is the much bigger fish of Truth.

      you are fearful a great sin is happening right before your eyes-- the great sin of the Church loving truth over persons (truth you denote as "theology.") you vow there will always be room in the pew next to you for ssm couples and their families.

      anonymous, that's very good. let's define that pew time a little, OK? when your ssm brothers and sisters are there, kneeling in the pew next to you, worshiping the One True God with one voice with all the angels and saints, should they,at some point, hear God's Truth? if so, should His Truth challenge them to conform to God's holy and perfect and loving will for them? or should we be content to bend and mold or dismantle the truth to conform to their personal circumstances?

      if we should hope God's Truth has the same effect it has had on us-- that of radical conversion and the contrite realization that we are in constant need of conversion toward the Person of Jesus Christ-- then our ssm brothers and sisters should be allowed to hear these words of Jesus:

      He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
      So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”
      They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?”
      He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

      here is a primer, straight from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Himself, a primer on marriage.
      1. how long has marriage been authored by God thus? Jesus said: from the beginning.
      2. who is to enter marriage? Jesus said: a man and a woman.
      3. what happens to them? Jesus said: the two become one flesh (which btw, herein profound arguments can be made against contraception)
      4. how binding is this union? Jesus said: God has joined them. let no one separate them. i.e., completely binding
      5. so what went wrong? Jesus said: obstinate sinfulness
      6. but? but nothing. Jesus reiterates: THIS is God's meaning. This has always been God's meaning for marriage. none other.

      now, then, why should Christ's perfect and living WORD be prevented from entering the hearts of our LGBT brothers and sisters? should we prevent Christ's words from change them radically?

      His Truth is NOT nonsense, anonymous. His Truth is holy and perfect and eternal. His Truth changes everything. His Truth sets persons free. Indeed, anonymous. God IS stronger.

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    3. now i just read the addendum to your last post, anonymous. you warn against "hold(ing)to the truth so tightly..."...? that what? thaT bad consequences, like alienating people...?

      friend, i DO hold to the Truth so tightly. because the Truth comes from God and anything that is Truth cannot be separated from God because He is the source of all Truth. In fact, He IS the Truth, the Way and the Life.

      yes. i cling to Him and His Truth tightly. I hold on for my life.


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