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.