It’s hard to know what to say in responding to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on gay marriage. It is a decision of great consequence, but it’s almost impossible to anticipate the details of such consequence. The ruling will be of far greatest significance for women and men who are gay, as well as their families. It’s possible affects on the Church, upon what we do, how we define and ritualize marriage, will be realized well into the future.
My fear as we come to terms with the ruling’s ramifications, again something we’ll be doing for years or decades, is that harsh and even incendiary language provokes greater hostility toward those who are gay; that we exaggerate certain realities for political or popular gain. One minister, for example, was reported as having told his congregation that the sinfulness of marriage as it’s been affirmed by the Court is the most clearly defined teaching of Jesus in all of the gospels. Well that’s simply ridiculous, and to make such claims only fosters alienation and a judgmentalism that is not ours to claim.
All of this is happening quickly. For many of us it is contrary to what we’ve ever imagined. It is hard to understand. As Catholic Christians we need not embrace the Court’s ruling, but we must remember what the Church teaches regarding women and men who are gay. “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,”” we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
The Church will continue to prepare couples for marriage pretty much as we have, although we’ve realized for several years that fewer women and men are choosing to get married in the Church. We’ll celebrate the sacrament of marriage with women and men who seek to make life-long commitments of love and fidelity in the name of Christ. We’ll honor couples who’ve endured the struggles of life and celebrate significant milestones of faithfulness. That’s how we will defend marriage, and the Court’s decision interferes with none of that. If there comes a time that our civil authority to preside at weddings is threatened, then a clerk or a judge can take care of signing the documents, and we’ll celebrate the sacrament, which is ultimately what couples come to Church to celebrate anyway.
Archbishop Cupich of Chicago, one of many to offer public comments in the wake of the Court’s decision, spoke honestly and pastorally: “The Church must extend support to all families, no matter their circumstances, recognizing that we are all relatives, journeying through life under the careful watch of a loving God. … Our aim in all of this will be to hold fast to an authentic understanding of marriage which has been written in the human heart, consolidated in history, and confirmed by the Word of God.” TL