There has been a lot of turmoil over the religious freedom law recently passed in Indiana. Religious freedom activists across the board are celebrating this “step towards religious freedom” while gay “marriage” proponents are in the throes of proclaiming this the end of the world.
It’s the same old run-around that always happens when such a bill is proposed, backed, voted on, or passed. This time, for some reason, it struck me as odd that Catholics seem so surprised by this step.
Perhaps we should be surprised. The law was established by a worldly government, which is (I admit) rather shocking.
However, I don’t think Catholics should be surprised when traditional marriage “wins” a battle. The fact is, the truth will always prevail. What’s more, the traditional marriage debate is not new ground for the Catholic Church. In fact, this is old squat as far as the Church is concerned.
Don’t believe me?
Let’s take a quick tour through Church history:
St. Valentine. St. Valentine died defending the Catholic view of marriage. In fact, Valentine was sentenced to a three-part execution consisting of beating, stoning, and finally decapitation because of his stand for Catholic marriage. That was in AD 269.
St. Augustine. In AD 410, Augustine wrote a work entitled Of the Good of Marriage in which he defends the Catholic understanding of marriage. He states: “it is observed, that there be no lying with other man or woman, out of the bond of wedlock.” Want to know why St. Augustine wrote this work? Because there was an attack on the good of traditional, Catholic marriage. Now, this attack came in the form of a monk claiming that there was no difference in merit between celibate marriages and conjugal marriages, so a bit different to what we’re facing today. This point serves to prove, however, that the Church is not only used to defending and fighting for marriage — it has done so in multiple fashions, against various onslaughts, and has always won.
Pedro de Corpa, Blas Rodríguez, Miguel de Añon, Antonio de Badajóz, and Francisco de Veráscola. These Spanish missionaries were martyred in September of 1597 by the natives in Florida who, as polygamists, could not accept the Catholic teaching of a life-long union between 1 man and 1 woman.
Or, look at scripture. Why was John the Baptist killed? Because he stood for traditional marriage, calling out Herod for an adulterous relationship.
There are other examples, but I think I’ve made my point. We’re seasoned veterans at this. Defending traditional marriage is nothing new for the Church. Every time the world thinks it has found a new course to take, a new argument to make, it hasn’t. The Church has been there before, done it in the past, fought this fight, and will continue to do so with more experience and grace than the “other side” will ever have to offer.
So, we as Catholics, need to have greater faith and trust in the institution Christ left us.
Pope Benedict XVI issued a year of faith two years ago. We were not called to renew or strengthen our faith for just that one year. Rather, it was a call to radically transform our faith into something that does not fear in the face of evil, and does not falter when faced with challenges. We may very well be martyred for our defense of traditional marriage, but the “blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” and our sacrifice will only serve to strengthen the teachings of the Church and the faith of its faithful. We can trust that our sacrifice will not be for nothing; the righteous position will prevail because it always has and always will.
This battle is just that: a battle in the war of Good against Evil. This battle is not the war itself. We already know how the war ends. Christ won it. He overcame the culture of death in the very act we are in the midst of celebrating this week. In His cross and resurrection, He defeated death and sin and all of the cultural manifestations that come with it. His Church will always stand through trials because she is the bride of Christ, Son of the Father, Lord of the Universe.
Pope Saint John Paul II once said, “we are the Easter people and ‘alleluia’ is our song!” We must proclaim this to ourselves: we are the Easter people. Our entire faith is based on the belief that we will rise above sin and death, as individuals and as a faithful community. Our entire life should be one of celebration, hope, and joy in the resurrection of Christ: the defeat of sin and evil and its clutches on humanity by the Lord who loves His people enough to die on a cross for them.
Our Lord will not abandon His people. If we have faith in that, we can have hope in the eternal happiness He has ordained for us. If we have hope, we will have the love for our neighbor necessary to witness to the truth, bring about conversion, and ultimately, uphold the Church that for 2000 years has stood fast against the culture of death we fear so much.
This is not to say that worldly law does not have a place. Nor do I think we should cease at incremental legislation that will protect our faith and motivate authentic justice. Simply put, we ought to distinguish between Caesar’s law and the deposit of Truth that is the Catholic Church. Just because laws do or do not uphold a specific teaching does not mean that the Church is no longer the receptacle of Truth that will prevail in winning over the culture. This means that when a law is passed, whatever the outcome, we should not fear or become despondent, but remain calm and joyful in the presence of our Lord who has already won the war.
Gay “marriage” will threaten, snarl, huff and puff, but we should not fear. For, upon this rock Christ built His Church. It will not fall simply because evil huffs and puffs a little louder.
Our Lord is with us, and if He is with us, who could possibly stand against us? Let us abide by Pope Saint John Paul II’s famous words: Be not afraid!
“There are things which rightfully we ought to fear, if we are to enjoy and dignity as men. When, in an age of smugness and softness, fear has been pushed temporarily into the dark corners of personality and society, then soon the gods of the copybook headings with fire and slaughter return. To fear to commit evil, and to hate what is abominable, is the mark of manliness. “They will never love where they ought to love,” Burke says, “who do not hate where they ought to hate.” It may be added that they will never dare when they ought to dare, who do not fear when they ought to fear….
“Forgetting that there exists such a state as salutary dread, modern man has become spiritually foolhardy. His bravado, I suspect, will stand the test no better than ancient Pistol’s. He who admits no fear of God is really a post-Christian man; for at the heart of Judaism and Christianity lies a holy dread. And a good many people, outwardly and perhaps inwardly religious . . . today deny the reality of reverential fear, and thus are post-Christian without confessing it.” (Russell Kirk, The Rarity of the God-Fearing Man).
I no longer consider it particularly shocking when I hear of the defection of a prominent Republican leader  to the cause of so-called “gay marriage” . Similarly, I am not generally surprised to hear that yet another of my Christians friends—Catholic or Protestant—has come out in favor of “gay marriage.” And, of course, there is the recent spate of public defections following the article written by Joseph Bottum for Commonweal, which is, I suppose, the closest thing to a “Catholic case for gay marriage” that can exist . Others have looked in-depth at Mr Bottum’s defection (or betrayal) and what it means for both sides, and it’s probably old enough news by now that addingcolumnexpressingfrustration or outrage–or for that matter gratitude, encouragement, hope, or even just sadness and disappointment—would feel like beating a dead horse.
There is, however, another issue which underlies some of these defections . Many people, including many Christians in general (who should probably know better) and many Catholics in particular (who should definitely know better) consider our efforts against legal recognition of “gay marriage” to be a waste. This is certain, and it’s been stated. Less certain–but really not in much doubt in my mind–is that many consider the effort a waste because they want to see “gay marriage” become a reality, and not merely because they think the fight is using up political and moral capital which could be better spent elsewhere.
“Elsewhere” tends to be vague: it may be on the very important issues of fighting abortion, or the culture of death in general, or of poverty, or what-have-you. Anywhere else.
Like Mr Bottum, I have had a number of friends–and I do still consider them to be friends for now despite this–who have come out in favor of “gay marriage.” Literally, they want to see gay people getting married in the eyes of the state–and of everyone else. These are predominantly Catholic friends (that I know of), though only, I think, because I have more Catholic friends than anything else. And most of these friends have decided that they will go against Church teachings, despite being professing Catholics.
We read in the Gospel this past Sunday that “Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-27).
Many today mistake love as an emotion; others equate it with the willingness to do anything for the other person, to do whatever it takes to make that person content and satisfied, to make him “feel loved.” This second definition is nearer to the mark, in that it might require some sacrifice from the lover for the sake of the beloved, but notice that it still reduces love to an emotion only, albeit an emotional state on the part of the beloved and not the lover. Love is more than this, for to love a person is to desire the good of (or for) that person, and then to strive to help him to achieve it. Hence we say that the vocation of spouses is to help each other to become saints, for this is ultimately the good of a person, to become a saint, to live in heaven with God. The Baltimore Catechism puts it simply by stating that “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven” (BC Q6).
So what does this love, which desires the greatest good and strives for real happiness, have to do with the “hatred” preached by Jesus in last Sunday’s gospel–or for that matter with the necessity of hate noted by Burke and quoted by Kirk? How, in other words, do we get to the necessity of hating the sin as a condition of loving the sinner?
Hatred, it should be noted, is not the opposite of love, but rather is in it proper context a condition of love. When we love somebody, we begin to hate what is harmful to that person. We begin to hate what is hateful in their sight. But what is it that harms a person? As Christians, we ought to know the answer to this: all three synoptic Gospels record the same saying of Christ’s that it does not profit a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul. And a soul is lost through sin, and through sin alone, for sin is the rejection of God, and thus also of God’s grace. Sin is the thing which destroys a soul, which ruins it and which, when unrepented, leads to separation from God, and thus from final happiness.
Therefore, if we love the sinner, and hence desire that which is good for him, we must hate his sins, which act only to deprive him of the good. If we love ourselves in accordance with the second great commandment (Matthew 22:39), we must hate our own sins for the same reason. Thus, when the LORD tells us that we must hate mother, father, sister, brother, spouse, and even our own lives to follow Him, we see that this should be read to mean that we must hate the sins of each of these people, as well as the temptation to excuse those sins (especially our own) as “harmless”, or as being somehow “normal” and thus in the final measure “acceptable.” They aren’t, and it is not an act of love to pretend that they are at the risk of endangering the sinner’s soul.
This brings me full-circle to the question of “gay marriage” and of leaving the Church, or (perhaps more commonly) at least of ignoring and even outright rejecting the Church’s teaching, namely that “gay is not o.k.” Now, again, here we look at the difference between the sins committed (e.g. attempting to simulate a sacrament, to say nothing of the lesser sins involved in a “romantic” homosexual relationship) and the actual sinner. As regards the sexual orientation, the Church states only that it is “disordered,” adding that those who struggle with same-sex attractions are deserving our our compassion: it is one more form of concupiscence, ever unique and ever common .
Yet compassion means first and foremost helping the other to rise above his sins, urging him to holiness and thus to real and lasting happiness. “Bear each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” St Paul tells us (Galatians 6:2). The day may yet come when we lose the culture war, or at least the front of the culture war pertaining to “gay marriage.” That will be a sad day indeed (especially since a part of that loss will eventually involve the imposition of “gay marriages” on the churches), but saddest (in the end) for those who will then attempt to get “gay-married.” It is saddest for them, because they are the ones who will then enter into a legal institution whose purpose is to promote and celebrate a particular set of sins against which they must struggle. They are the ones who are ultimately told to forget about their sins, and to cease the struggle in favor of embracing those sins as “who they are.”
Loving the sinner is absolutely necessary. But we cannot really love a person if we do not at the same time hate their sins. Nor, it seems to me, do we love God first when we celebrate sins, or tolerate them any more than is necessary for the sake of that kindness which is required by charity. This certainly becomes the more difficult for us when our friends identify with their particular sins, for pride is the deadliest of sins, the one thing necessary for making a sin unforgivable . When our friends so identify with their sins, loving God (and even loving them) will appear hateful to them, so that it will really seem as if we hate family, friends, and even ourselves for His sake. We may therefore be tempted to turn aside from following Christ fully out of a sense of sympathy for our loved ones who identify themselves so strongly with their sins. This misguided sympathy is not, however, a good reason to waver in our faith or our fight, lest we become “unworthy” of Christ.
 The Democrats are less surprising still. They first filibustered and then voted en masse against a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman—and this in the year 2004, when similar amendments passed in 13 out of 13 states in which they were introduced that year, and in all previous state elections.
 “Gay marriage” is probably the most common term used, but I’ve also heard it called (by supporters): “homosexual marriage,” “queer marriage,” “marriage equality,” and of course “same-sex marriage” (SSM). I will refer to it as “gay marriage.”
 Not just the defections, though. There are some people who have had a “change of heart” as it were on this issue. Others still have long since been privately in favor of “gay marriage” but publicly against it while looking for a reason to come out and switch public sides. Ironically, some of these will eventually use the “personally against, but politically in favor of” line which is (or was) popular in a different debate.
 Of course, the phrase itself perhaps originates with Saint Augustine.
 Henri Cardinal de Lubac states in his Paradoxes of the Faith that “All suffering is unique–and all suffering is common. I have to be reminded of the latter truth when i am suffering myself–and of the former truth when I see others suffering.” I think that much the same might be said of temptations to sin.
 Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the one unforgivable sin, but it comes in 6 varieties. It seems to me that each of these varieties can be paired with another of the capital sins, but all six also point back to pride. For what it is worth, my pairing is: envy with envy of another’s spiritual well-being, avarice with impugning a known truth, sloth with presumption, wrath with obstinacy in sin, gluttony with despair, and lust with final impenitence. The last of these is the only real stretch, and it’s less of a stretch when one realizes that the daughters of lust include blindness of mind, hatred of God, love of the world, and abhorrence/despair of a future world.
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