On March 9, Pope Benedict XVI spoke with visiting U.S. bishops, encouraging them to fight against the gay marriage lobby, though it may seem counter cultural. The BBC ran a story on this as did Fox News and USA Today—however I was unable to find anything from CNN. At any rate, the pope’s outspokenness on the issue is causing waves of disapproval and a deafening outcry from American gay rights activists—and just simple USA Today readers.
Here are a few of the comments underneath the article from USA Today’s March 9 online story, or at least some paraphrasing. One reader asked if celibate men were qualified to teach on human sexuality. Another made a philosophical comparison between the Roman Catholic Church and the Taliban, suggesting that both are “stuck in the 12th century.” He said a bit more than that, but you can go read it if you’re that interested.
Another reader suggested that the Catholic Church’s credibility was akin to “a grain of sand” in size that is. Still another suggested that hate is “born and nurtured in religions.” Finally, one reader asked the question, “So when did Jesus actually say that gay marriage was a sin…” to which another promptly replied, “Romans.”
I guess I just find all of this sadly amusing. All of the back and forth has created such an environment as to forever douse any possibility of understanding or helpful dialogue. But what is helpful dialogue? I’ll admit the purpose of this article is not to offer any one answer to this issue, but rather to sit down in the filth that is the universal church’s relationship with the rest of the world and admit that it stinks and there’s only so much we unhappy few can do about it.
Call it sin or call it the institution’s lack of ability to embrace the modern culture, the fact of the matter is that everyone is wearing ear muffs and can only hear muffled and distorted sounds coming from the other side. Take it from someone who worked at a purging machine in an air-conditioning factory—I was required to wear ear muffs, which made it impossible to hear anyone else speaking—so I just spent the summer working on my JFK impersonation.
Having said that, if the Church could just understand that __(LOUD NOISES)__, and if everyone else could just see that __(LOUDER NOISES)__–the gospel would once again become relevant and there would be peace on earth. But this is to over-simplify the issue at hand.
The Roman Catholic Church is quickly losing its hold on its own flock—not that it’s ever had a tight grasp since the 16th century. Roman Catholicism is, indeed, losing members daily to nominalism (as is Protestantism and every other ‘ism’ you can think of). But the RCC’s stance on contraceptives has long been a hot-button issue, and 21st century catholic youth are not in full support of the church’s position. Even with gay marriage, the pope might have the backing of the clergy majority, but the tide of commoners is swiftly rising against him. How long will the RCC be able to keep its head above water in the days of culture shock and shift?
Is the Roman church’s fervent appeal for tradition and morality killing it? Perhaps. Am I pro-gay marriage? It doesn’t matter either way—not that I’m culturally oblivious, but I don’t think it exists.
Every good idea is stolen from someone else, and this is no different. Mark Regnerus (who has recently become a member of the Roman Catholic Church) spoke a little bit about this in chapel a while back. His argument was along these lines: perhaps marriage is a separate institution altogether, distinct from the state and the Church. It is a spiritual establishment, a bequest that, by its nature, can only be bestowed within a Godly context. If this is, indeed, the case (and I’m convinced), then neither the state nor the Church has more authority to join two persons in holy matrimony than the Office of Student Life… and I think the Church understands this (or should)—and that is why everyone should relax. Marriage transcends social characterizations.
I would ask the same question of Kim Kardashian’s marriage. How long did that last—72 days? The Titanic was number one in the box office for 33 days longer—which begs the question, was this a true marriage or simply a man and woman being granted certain benefits from the State, lasting as long as they were sexually and emotionally interested in each other? You get my point? This is not marriage. Marriage is a sacred thing that should, perhaps, be protected and recognized by the Church (and the State); however, these institutions have no authority to grant marriage or to define it. The institution of marriage predates both the Church and the State. In fact, the holy mystery of marriage, in large part, defines the Church itself.
In my humble opinion, the pope and the RCC might do well to tone down the rhetoric, knowing fully that I have their back. And regarding contraception, well… perhaps it’s time for a little concession. It’s been almost 14 years since the last papal bull. That’s all I’ve got.
So let the state join whomever the state would join, and by the same right, we must let individual churches join whosoever they will upon their own convictions. We can rest in knowing that the authority to grant marriage lies solely within the Trinity.
So then, let us spend our time loving them all— not condoning but extending grace as often as we have been given it, remembering with Paul that: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”