Commentary by Benjamin Terry
In his op-ed piece featured in the ever-venerable New York Times, columnist Frank Bruni attempts what he would call a plea to the Catholic Church to accept gay marriage.
“In and around Rome is talk of Pope Francis’ sage acceptance of the 21st century, of his empathy, of his departure from the stern moralizing on the matters of the heart that his predecessors engaged in,” Bruni said.
Gay marriage, however, is not what His Holiness meant when he said such famous phrases as, “Who am I to judge them?” when speaking about homosexuals striving to follow God. In typical media fashion, the liberal press, including people like Bruni, ran with the story.
Bruni relays to his audience a story of a Montana gay couple. They are active church-goers and attend to the activities of the Church. They have been celebrating together at their Montana parish for 11 years. But they violated Catholic doctrine by their action, no matter how anyone wants to explain it. That doctrine is rooted in the assumption that a man and a woman, no matter the circumstances, could bear biological children. It is a statement of faith. Yes, there are cases of marriage in which one or both spouses cannot have children, due to problems such as age or infertility. The statement of faith in such issues as marriage comes down to how life begins and is sustained. The priest in the case was following protocol; excommunication is in store for all who seriously violate established Catholic teaching. Tom Wojtowick and Paul Huff broke the common union — communion — with the Catholic Church. Those who receive or perform abortions, for example, are liable to the same. As St. Paul and so many theologians and theological writers have made known, the Church is tasked to preach truth. Is that not also what many liberal-leaning, scientifically oriented, “enlightened” people search for? Or, as St. Paul once wrote, am I merely “writing to you in my own large handwriting,” seeking to persuade rather than seeking the truth?
Society today has a problem today with an institution like the Catholic Church because it “doesn’t go their way.” And even if it doesn’t, some seem to assume it does or should. Caroline Kennedy, at the 2012 Democratic Convention, proudly exclaimed, “As a Catholic woman, I support a woman’s right to choose.” Well then, maybe the Catholic Church is more modern than previously thought. The Church explicitly says that every human being has an inherent dignity endowed to him or her by God. But because the Church forbids gay marriage, someone like Bruni says “…affirm that you are a lesser class of people.” Bruni then has the audacity to claim that the Church’s teaching is hypocrisy. At its very core they are distinct; the Church is not hypocritical to teach that a marriage between a man and a woman can produce children raised by parents who can give them the nurturing love a mother can give, the stern protection of a father and the guiding care both a male and female can give to a child. It is the image of the Christ Child with Mary and Joseph. Pope Francis believes this, despite what Bruni and company will tell the public.
For the record, various some Protestant denominations and Orthodox churches still ban gay marriage. With many of these cases, I am not sure marriage is truly the issue. What all this really boils down to is perceptions about the Catholic Church. Vatican II cemented more liberal thinking within the ranks of the Church, and because of the publicity of the actions of the Church, there are those who believe the Church should and could move in that direction. As times and institutions have changed, the Catholic Church has been sought out as a relative constant. It is because the Catholic, or “universal,” Church has spread out so much that Saint John Paul II noted that the Church “breathes with two lungs”: the Western Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches. No other church has this unique quality. Bruni quotes blogger Andrew Sullivan: “There is only so much inhumanity a church can be seen to represent before its own members lose faith in it.” As has been seen in so many institutions before, how much change of the “inhumane” will make the Catholic Church more “humane.” Would we still recognize it?