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Issue of social justice

December 21, 2012
The Daily News

EDITOR:

Voters demonstrated a dramatic shift in their attitudes toward the issue of gay marriage during the past election. They voted for the Marriage Equality Act in Washington and Maryland and defeated a proposed Constitutional Amendment in Minnesota that would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The Catholic Church and Evangelical Christians used their pulpits and monitory resources in a losing attempt to maintain the traditional understanding of marriage. The Supreme Court has now decided to take up the issue as it relates to two cases.

In light of these recent events, I would like to share some observations.

1. The history of Christian marriage reveals an ongoing struggle between the recognition of marriage as sacred and sex as sinful. Because of this negative attitude toward sex, the Catholic Church did not declare marriage a sacrament until the 12th century. (Protestant Churches recognize marriage as a sacred institution but not a sacrament) It is also interesting to note that marriages in the Western church were civil ceremonies for the first 1000 years. It was only after the fall of Charlemagne's empire that the Church began to take jurisdiction over marriage and weddings.

2. There is a difference between a theological and civil understanding and definition of marriage. Civil marriage is a legal contract granting the couple certain rights and privileges The Catholic understanding of marriage is that the couple is empowered by God's love to reflect in their relationship the love Christ has for his Church (Eph. 5:23-33). They administer the sacrament to each other through their vows. The Catholic Church recognizes the civil marriage of two baptized non-Catholics, but does not recognize the marriage of two Catholics who marry civilly without the proper dispensations even though they are legally married in the view of society.

3. The Romantic movement of the 18th century eventually resulted in a more personalized understanding of marriage. By the 20th century, marriage was no longer based on societal expectations or parental wishes but the desire to marry the person you loved.

4. The churches may never accept marriage equality, but many of those relationships are sacraments in the broad sense of the term. Numerous people have known family members or friends living as gay or lesbian couples for 10, 20 or 40 years and who demonstrate a deep love for each other. The way they communicate, the respect and support they give to each other, the manner in which they seek and give forgiveness for the hurts they caused, the openness and acceptance they show to others, the compassion they demonstrate for those who are hurting are reflections of divine love.

5. There is a real tension between our lived experience and various scripture passages that refer to marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. However, there are also a number of biblical texts that are culturally determined and no longer reflect basic human values: the acceptance of slavery, the stoning of belligerent children or adulterers, the treatment of women as property. There is also a scriptural text that reminds us that "where there is love there is God" (1Jn. 5:12-16).

Every person in this country should have the right to marry the person they love regardless of sexual orientation. It is an issue of social justice and a basic human right.

Peter J. Carli

Spread Eagle, Wis.

 
 

 

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