Commentary by Brandon Somwaru
When Benjamin Terry’s piece titled “Changing humanely” was featured in last week’s issue of The Aquinas, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with anger. His commentary was dangerously radical, tragically offensive and overall wrong. Not only do I disagree with Mr. Terry’s interpretation of Pope Francis’ “who am I to judge?” remark, but I also oppose his flawed argument toward why the Catholic Church can never accept same-sex marriage. By and large, last week’s article twisted Pope Francis’s encouraging statement into the same conservative saga that has plagued the Catholic Church for years.
When Pope Francis responded to a journalist’s question regarding homosexuality with “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” he made headlines worldwide for being the first pontiff to potentially accept same-sex relationships.
His statement, deeply rooted in the principles of love and acceptance, set a new tone toward gay marriage and painted the Catholic Church as a body willing to accept the love that exists between couples of the same gender.
Unfortunately, this message was reduced to near nothing when Terry rejected Pope Francis’ progressive move. Through brazened commentary, last week’s article sadly displayed Catholic animosity that still exists toward individuals in same-sex relationships.
Regardless of his strong opposition toward gay marriage, something I find myself struggling to understand is how Terry could support the excommunication of the gay couple, Tom Wojtowick and Paul Huff. Claiming that the priest was only following “protocol,” Terry seemingly justifies the mistreatment of the couple and this, together with his reluctance to accept gay individuals as active members of the Church, directly illustrates the inhumanity and hypocrisy that exist in Catholicism.
Although it is indisputable that Wojtowick and Huff violated current Church doctrine, millions of other Catholics frequently violate religious law. Catholic dogma tells followers not to divorce or use contraception, but millions still do every day. How come these sins go unpunished? What makes these individuals any better than those in a loving same-sex relationship? Are they not both “violating Catholic teaching”?
Yet, perhaps one of the most troubling parts of Mr. Terry’s argument was his bold allusion that same-sex marriage and abortion equally violate Catholic doctrine. While same-sex marriage unites the love of two deeply devoted individuals, abortion ends the life of an innocent human being. These two issues cannot be compared and I am appalled that Terry felt like it was appropriate to do so.
Even more disturbing than Terry’s outrageous comparison is his backward support of traditional gender roles. His claim that children deserve to be raised by parents who can give them “the nurturing love a mother can give” and the “stern protection of a father” suggests that males and females are incapable of both qualities. Men and women of the 21st century, regardless of their sexual orientation, should not be subjected to these stereotypes and I am disappointed that someone enrolled at a liberal arts institution like The University would believe anything otherwise.
Finally, I object to Terry’s conclusion that the dispute surrounding same-sex marriage “boils down to perceptions about the Catholic Church.” While it may be comforting for supporters of the Church to believe that the fight for marriage equality is only a political attack against Catholicism, the issue of gay marriage is not about the Church at all. Accepting same-sex marriage is about supporting the open expression of love and an individual’s innate right to marry whom they wish.
Overall, Terry’s article, although well written, only indicates the sad extent to which conservatives go in order to resist change. Even though I cannot say with certainty that Pope Francis supports marriage equality, I can say that his “who am I to judge” comment encourages Catholics to look outside the realm of religious law.
Regardless of how Terry or anyone else puts it, standing by a law that opposes the matrimony between two devoted individuals will continue to be viewed, by both “liberals” and ordinary people, as inhumane.
Do not let last week’s article fool you: the fear that accepting same-sex marriage would somehow undermine the character of the Catholic Church to the point where we wouldn’t “recognize it” is not a valid excuse for opposing it.