Saturday, February 4, 2012

Can Two Boys Be Married?

At fifteen years old I had to run away from home. I just needed a ride. I stood, defiant of the oppression and ready for sojourn, in our lush, sloping front lawn --- balancing a lit cigarette, a backpack and a cat. I must have summoned my friend Jamie Lynn by using our home phone, since even drug dealers and surgeons had only pagers then. No clandestine cell phone calls or silent texting was available to me --- such an escape had to be planned from the inside.

As I recall, Jamie arrived in quick order, parking her little hatchback and crossing the street to help with my self-professed emergency. I recited the litany of injustice that had driven me to this moment, calming as I awaited her aid. It came, but in a horrifying form. "'re running away from your family because you have chores, Tiffany Rose? That's silly. You can't come to my house. I mean, do whatever you want, but I don't have anywhere to take you."

Calling her had been a total mistake.

It sounds overblown and obvious now, but isn't that adolescence for you? I had some job to do, likely unglamorous but necessary like washing the windows or folding laundry. Diversion and melodrama being my currency, I spun this wild tapestry of victimization instead of just doing my work. I also pleaded for the confirmation that my actions were brave and smart, and I wanted it from the girl who was arguably my most virtuous friend. Her maturity and resignation to the facts were an exception among my confidantes; the rest of us being loyal not so much to one another, but to any opposition we perceived as threatening our freedom. (Vacuuming the living room, for instance.)

My friend was pastoral, practical, and I still find it valuable to reflect on the 'why' of her behavior that summer day. She wasn't spoiling for a fight or trying to win my allegiance. She was offering a true brand of friendship, to be prized highly over "confederacies in vice, or leagues of pleasure", as English essayist Joseph Addison called its lower, more counterfit forms. Her words carried no punishment, and because of her critical candor over the years, I've learned to trust her encouragement as being equally sincere.

We too often run away from truth and its gentle invitation, into the welcoming echo chamber of other liars. I don't remember how this short-lived adventure ended, though it's doubtful I went inside and did my chores. There was one voice giving mournful clarity to my woes, mirroring the quiet authority of my father. I could find louder and more exciting sources to validate my refusal of duty.

Such is the case against homosexual "marriage" and the hip chorus who clamors for it.  An often overlooked facet of Catholic teaching on such matters is that it is never the arbitrary decisions of men; it is rather a revelatory exercise which distills God's wisdom and love. There are the pastoral, the practical and the "nitty gritty" reasons why a same-sex union is in fact, false. The faith I profess has unlocked this epic agony, and it begins with a right understanding of sex.

It also ends there, for many. If we are not carefully instructed in virtue, there is little defense against the default catechesis around us. (If it feels good, do it. Lots. With a camera, once the novelty wears off.) I've watched enough primetime television in this decade to witness a marked uptick in the presentation of urbane, gay male lawyers as the sole champion of truth and integrity among their family and peers. This is significant not because it's unlikely in any given case --- hey, lawyers have been known to be honest ---  but because it grants inviolate status based on something as variable as human sexuality.

Suspending your opinion on so-called social issues, observe that a husband/wife/children situation is now the arena of carnival sideshows, peeked at through documentary-style TV shows about fruitful family life. (Yes, I'm talking about the Duggars. I have seen one episode. Her ice cream sandwich-cake impressed me.) Of course it's out of the ordinary for a family to grow quite so rapidly as the Duggars, and I suppose that allows for a viewing base. But ... is the daily lifestyle of a gay man given the same wide-eyed curiosity? Why not? Surely family life is just as diverse as any individual's, so to call this question promotion of a stereotype doesn't work. By its very definition, the core of the curiosity over the Duggar family is a curiosity about sexual activity and its effects.

We have normalized, sanitized and nearly canonized a behavior built of carnal sexual urges, all with a notable absence of the same meritless goodwill being extended towards a 'traditional' family. I dread being considered a bigot, but I refuse to be bullied into presumption of anyone's virtues based solely on their favorite vice(s). Content of character, anyone?

The Church does not dismiss same-sex attraction as contrived or even sinful as a condition, but neither will She elevate it to the charism the modern media and aggressively secular culture has ascribed to it.

A person is comprised of will, intellect, body and soul. We act either in harmony or violation of each faculty with almost every motion or thought. If we are not Saints, it's because that has not mattered most of all to us in our lives, as a precious friend reminded me just yesterday. Sure, not everyone is Catholic, or even hopes for Heaven, but I maintain that objective truth doesn't change because of our rebellion. (Wash the dishes, Tiffany Rose.)

We are created with this truth in mind, and we have a job to do. Those of us who understand earthly death as a beginning will describe this job with 'the end' in mind. Anyone else can agree that all people have specific talents, which cause them varying degrees of restlessness if unfulfilled. This is the essence of Satanic victory: lives of despair and self-loathing.

Recreational sex is not our job on earth. Pursuit of sex is not an identity. The methods an adult uses to accomplish an orgasm should be no more a topic of public discussion than any other private decision. That's not Puritanical, oppressed or small-minded. It's called manners.

Our frightful lack of a collective spine has allowed this debate to reach such a fevered pitch that we are now measuring 'equality' assigned by group affiliation. In the United States of America, rights are endowed to the individual. There are no 'group' rights.

The threat posed to a group is indeed real, but that threat is to any group who will not endorse and evangelize the homosexual cause. The Catholic Church would not forcibly seek to stop anyone from living a blatantly homosexual life; we simply can't say it's healthy, to the students and patients entrusted to our schools and hospitals. That's it. The crux of the stalemate resembles my own teenaged fit too well --- do whatever you want, but don't ask us for a ride. Again shines the American way --- we have the right to be wrong, in the world's estimation. Let us drive our private institutions into the metaphorical ground of our own volition. In such foundational matters of liberty, unanimity isn't useful or necessary. It is sufficient that we believe it.

Nitty Gritty
The natural order of sexuality having two aspects, unitive and procreative, is enough to show the disordered fact of same sex attraction. Since we hold that marriage must be open to both the unitive and procreative functions, the joining of two men or two women simply isn't a marriage. Even if we beg, demand and legislate it so.

I was raised by Good Hippies, who deserve all of my honor and gratitude for their insistence that we cherish the harmony created by differences. One of my parents' dearest friends was lost very early to the AIDS pandemic, and my mother still mentions how often and deeply she misses him. It's my hope that my young family will know of his humor and kindness. My elementary school education was, I realize in hindsight, at the competent hand of some memorable lesbians. Not because of their sex lives, nor in spite of them, but irrespective to such intimacies --- I'd drop off my kids to them today, were the same education available. An honorary uncle to our children has lived with HIV for nearly thirty years. We have all suffered the shock of suicide in young people who undertake a path which becomes unbearable. I reject any caricature of their lives. These are not tokens to me, these are people who took me as seriously and treated me as lovingly as I do them, even in memory. They're my brothers and sisters. 

For many years I could muster only tacit assent on this Church teaching, due to an immature understanding of it. My questions were answered by charitable hearts who took the time to share their experience, strength and hope. Here is just one of them. If you struggle against yourself in this area, let no one write your life's script for you. You are much more than your desires of the flesh. We have a job to fulfill with the gift of our lives, which can be recognized by threads of God's creative force, not the destructive roles many would cast for us.  The triumph of chastity is for every person, married or single, and worth exploration.

As with all of God's gifts, our effort is mostly one of becoming willing to receive it. And worth emphasizing perhaps above all else: it's never too late for grace through repentance. No shame can eclipse God's love, unless we stay in the shadows and insist on calling it a sunrise.


  1. I'll never forget my conversion... not to the faith... but away from secularism. It was stark and profound.

    Like the emperor... I realized I was naked. Well, mentally in my case, which was probably good since I was in 8th grade and something tells me that being naked in front of your peers at that age isn't something you bounce back from

  2. Thank you for the borderline homo-erotic comment, Joseph K!

  3. Wow... I have no idea how you interpreted my comment, but I think we crossed wires somewhere ... :)

    Regardless, I think you hit on something when you said, "We have the right to be wrong..." That is so hard to deal with as a Catholic. While we are young, we feel oppressed, controlled, and imprisoned.

    As I age though, I start to wish that we had less will, less freedom, and less opportunity to mess up our lives....

  4. Wonderfully written. It's always hard to put into words what one feels on this matter but you were able to do it in such a great manner.

  5. Thank you very much for this. I have to admit I find it very difficult to speak about this topic. I know what I believe and what the Church teaches, nevertheless I find myself too afraid to speak about it. I shouldn't. I'm glad to have come upon this.

  6. Hi Conservamom and Cindy, I really appreciate both of your comments. It helped me to write, since I too have glossed over this out of my own resentment of the way we are cast as 'opposing equal rights'. I find the Catholic faith to be ultimately consistent on matters of human dignity, and neither political party can supply what we must ask of our government. Which is fine ~ but our only enemy is Satan. He'd love for us to forget that and focus on each other though, wouldn't he? Thanks again for your words.

  7. Yes a really insightful post. Looking forward to meeting you in PSG.