Finding the middle ground in the marriage debate

| Chris Stefanick | July 31, 2014 | 5 Comments

In the words of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “There are not 100 people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

While some people wage a war on the truth, I think most people who hate the Church today are waging a war against their misperceptions of what the Church is. Perhaps this is truer now than ever before. It’s especially true when it comes to the marriage debate.

After Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich was forced to resign because he had donated money to support Proposition 8 three years ago (it’s worth noting that 52 percent of Californians supported Prop 8, which would have retained a ban on same-sex marriage), the dating website, OKCupid, which spearheaded the attack on Eich, issued a statement that clarified their motives: “Those who seek to deny love . . . are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.”

Since love is willing the good of another, desiring “nothing but failure” for another is hate, by definition. And so, Eich was targeted because he was hated for his ideas.

The same was true for Elaine Huguenin from New Mexico, who was fined $7,000 for refusing to photograph a gay wedding. A baker in Lakewood, Colo., Jack Phillips, has no problem serving gay customers, but he refused to make a same-sex “wedding” cake for a couple because it violated his belief about marriage. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission has labeled this “illegal,” despite the fact that gay marriage is not even legal in Colorado, and ordered him to submit quarterly reports showing that he’s changed, and to train his employees to avoid discrimination (a.k.a. to support gay marriage), or he risks losing his business. A priest friend of mine in Vermont was recently asked to perform a marriage ceremony for a lesbian couple. They threatened to sue after he refused. There’s no longer any doubt that “gay marriage” is an effective tool to dig up and bludgeon into submission all who disagree with the gay lifestyle, or to force them out of society.

Of course, the difference between these ever-mounting acts of hatred against those who support “traditional” marriage and true “hate crimes” is both clear and tragic: The latter are generally motivated by mindless aggression. The former, by misperceptions.

If the perceptions of the gay-rights movement about people like me were correct, I couldn’t blame them for calling me “enemy,” not that these perceptions are unique to the gay community. Most people seem to think that there’s no such thing as objective moral truth and that disagreeing on a moral issue is an arbitrary attempt to assert control over others. The central dogma of the sexual revolution is that we are primarily sexual beings and that restraint amounts to a denial of who we are. Many have come to see marriage as no more than the expression of affection between two people, making things like lifelong commitment optional and procreation an afterthought. Given those misperceptions, it’s only natural to presume that people like me are bigots, bent on depriving my fellow human beings of happiness for no apparent reason. If all that were true, I’d consider me an “enemy” too. Of course, none of it is true.

Regardless, it’s becoming ever more dangerous to stand in defense of a definition of marriage that is rooted in natural law, divine law, and the good of children rather than a definition that is based solely on the affection of two consenting adults.

So what do we do when we’re the target of hate? There are two “safe” options, and I see countless Catholics retreating to each of them. One is the far “left”: to simply “come down from that cross” and stop addressing the issue. Stop offering cogent defenses for our sexual ethics and teachings about marriage — and not because the world has stopped asking questions, but rather because we think it’s more loving to avoid conflict, or we are afraid. The second option is the far “right”: to see the Church as a fortress designed to keep the “sinners” out (as if we aren’t all sinners!), and to become angry and entrenched.

Actually, we’re called to a different place: A middle ground where we teach the truth in love, remaining uncompromising and clear on moral issues and in defense of marriage, while at the same time offering a supportive community to people with same-sex attraction.

It’s that middle ground of uncompromising truth and undying love that got our Lord crucified. It’s that middle ground that cost St. Thomas More his head when defending marriage before King Henry VIII almost 500 years ago. More didn’t stop teaching the truth, nor did he flee his homeland or stop loving his King. That middle ground, where the cross is planted and where martyrs are made, is where we’re called to dig our heels in today.

Stefanick, a speaker and author, writes at http://www.RealLifeCatholic.com. Stefanick’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register, the official newspaper of the Denver Archdiocese.

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Category: Commentary

  • Nicholas Escalona

    We’re on the same side here, but this way of speaking is a partial surrender to the false narrative. The “left” option is the enemy, while the “right” option is a caricature lacking all substance. “Hate crimes” on sodomites are, as a rule, invented. There is no sense in speaking of a “middle,” then. It is simply the truth, as the Church has always taught it and as virtuous men have always understood it by the light of natural reason. Our problem is in no way a matter of going too far to extremes, rather: disregard for reason, law, and God in favor of sentiment, liberty, and self-worship. It’s rebellion, and Whiggish apologies for rebellion. The truth does not change with the times and fashions, and they are nothing compared to it. There is, then, a sort of sacrilege in changing the expression of the truth into the terms, concepts, and frame of the lies popular today. It’s a subtle thing.

  • TobiasRaphael1

    While I am glad to see the author saying we must be uncompromising and clear on moral issues, I do think that Nicholas Escalona has an insight in his comment.
    While it may not be sinful if one rejects “same sex attraction” type of thoughts, feelings, temptations, they are still un-natural and evil. To say that we should be a community that supports people with same sex attraction as the author of the article said, is an unguarded statement at best and is not helping to clarify to these people that it is wrong and evil.
    Also, I think the statement about the Church as a fortress keeping sinners out, is preposterous and a straw man argument. What Catholic would want to deny a repentant person from receiving forgiveness from the sacraments of the Church?
    While on the other hand, if the author means we should let un-repentant sinners into the Church to receive the Sacraments and “practice the Faith” hoping that some day our “niceness” will at sometime convert them to the true practice and belief of the Faith, then any Catholic should have a problem with that.
    Since there isn’t sufficient clarity in the statements, it leaves it open to multiple conclusions. This is a problem and certainly lends to the confusion and lack of a catechized laity. Since some Bishops have acknowledged a generation of poorly catechized Catholics, isn’t it clear yet that clarity what Catholics believe is a basic essential in all that we say and do?
    I remember a Priest say that Satan is a wordsmith. So, we should be on guard about the way the world and some in the Church phrase things.
    Our Lord warned us to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing and of the hireling and St. Peter and St. Paule warned us about the devil roaring about as a lion ready to devour us and that are battle is spirits of wickedness… we would be fools to ignore their warnings.

  • TobiasRaphael1

    Sorry about the typos! I see the irony in them… haha:)

  • TobiasRaphael1

    There is no edit button here. 🙁

    • BillinJax

      Both of you have made excellent points which must be brought to the attention of all who care enough to enter such a discussion. As you noted, Satan is a wordsmith or word changer and I see that as no different than a money changer and our minds and bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit. Christ would have us also drive them out as they have become a den of reason thieves.