The Supreme Court Ruling regarding marriage shocked and disappointed many of us. I knew that that day would come, but I didn’t expect it to be now. A range of emotions ran through me as I heard the news. Perhaps many of you are wondering how to react to this dramatic change in our culture and society. I hope I can make some sense of this.
We all agree that we do not want anyone to be discriminated against. We do not want anyone to be treated poorly for whatever reason. Even the official Catechism of the Church forbids discrimination. It says:
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. (#2358)
Many of us have family members or friends who are gay. We need to love them and respect them. We should not deny them their basic human rights.
The question, however, remains. Is marriage a right? For me, it is a vocation. If I believe that God made me, then I know that God has a plan for me. Within that plan, God calls me to marriage, single life, priesthood or religious life. Marriage, according to me, is a vocation, a calling. The person I choose to be my life-companion will help or hinder me on my journey to heaven, the ultimate goal of my life. When people do not have such a vision and instead view marriage as merely the fulfillment of my desires, this is where we will find ourselves.
Many believers may feel discomfort knowing that we do not fit in. That is how we are supposed to feel. As Jesus said to His disciples, we do not belong to the world any more than the Master belonged to the world. Paul writes in his Letters that we are “sojourners in a foreign land. Our true home is in heaven.”
Many years ago a well-known sociologist of religion, Peter Berger, coined a term “cognitive minority” to refer to a group that subscribes to views not accepted by most people. Even though the minority is right with regard to its beliefs, the majority dismisses those beliefs and even makes fun of them. For instance, at the time of Galileo the people who believed the sun to be the center of the solar system and not the earth belonged to a cognitive minority. The majority, including the Church, discredited them. Once the minority belief was proved to be right the majority also embraced it.
On many issues – many of them revolving around sexuality and reproduction – we, Catholics, belong to the cognitive minority. The majority of the American society does not agree with us and even ridicules us for our views. One website even called Pope Benedict XVI bigoted because of his stance on marriage. Unfortunately some who call themselves Catholic side with the secular society and dissent from the teachings of the Church. They prefer to belong to the majority rather than to the cognitive minority. It is ironic that this Supreme Court ruling was penned by a justice who is apparently Catholic.
Our human tendency is to rely on the strength of numbers. We think we are right because many people agree with us. Morality or faith is not the result of a consensus. It is the fruit of God’s revelation. In our overly law-conscious society, it is easy to think that just because something is legal, it is morally right. We cannot expect our secular society to uphold moral ideals. Humans take the path of least resistance and societal morality often descends into the least common denominator.
In our civil society issues are settled based on majority vote and popular opinion. Many forces in society – opinion makers, media, political pundits, movie stars, so-called philosophers and others with significant cultural capital – succeed in slowly desensitizing the populace to widely-held taboos. As a result, certain beliefs that were considered sacrosanct are no longer so. The Supreme Court has once again sheepishly bowed down before popular opinion, just as it did in 1973.
If we remain true to our faith, we cannot be swayed by every wind of popular opinion and fashionable trend. We need to remain steadfast. The Lord never promised us that the world would applaud us or even agree with us. In fact He told us that if the world hated Him, it would hate us too.
In his Letter to the Corinthians, Paul says that we are placed at the end of the victory parade. In America if we are at the end of the parade, we would be considered the most important. Paul is speaking about something else. When the Roman legions came back to Rome after a military victory, the vanquished were brought in chains at the end of the parade. It is so easy to forget that our victory parade will be in the next world. Only at the end of time the majority will recognize that we were right.
Let us remember what Jesus said to His disciples:
Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23)
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...