The Tablet Blog
Why I oppose the Church on gay marriage
Virginia Moffatt, guest contributor
13 July 2012, 9:00
I am a married Catholic who takes my faith and the sacraments very seriously. Yet, when the Archbishop of Westminster recently invited us to sign the petition against gay marriage, I not only declined, but immediately signed a petition in favour. Why can I not support the Church on this issue?
As a cradle Catholic it never crossed my mind to question the Church’s teaching on same-sex relationships – that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered’ and gay people are called to chastity. It was a shock, on my first day at university, to be exhorted by the flamboyant Gay and Lesbian Society member to ‘Come out, come out, wherever you are’.
It took a training session at a counselling project to change my views completely. Two members of Gay and Lesbian Soc were invited to share their stories with us so that we could understand how being gay might affect students. They told us how they knew they were gay growing up, but the bombardment of messages that heterosexuality was ‘normal’ made them feel like outsiders. I’d just spent six months living in a L’Arche community supporting people with learning disabilities, a group of people often discriminated against. I realised that gay people were being equally discriminated against.
My friends who are actively gay say their sexuality is intrinsic to who they are. They are good, loving people in faithful relationships and I cannot understand how expressing their innate sexuality in a loving relationship can be considered a sin.
Over the last 30 years I’m glad to see societal attitudes have changed towards gay people: a person’s sexuality is no longer a bar to being a pop star, an actor, a politician, or even Poet Laureate.
But there is still one area of life where people in same sex relationships get a raw deal – they aren’t allowed to marry. I have always found it deeply upsetting that gay friends, in long term faithful relationships, cannot stand up in church and make their sacramental commitment to each other in front of God, friends and family, as I was able to do. And I believe the Church’s continued stance on gay marriage is wrong, cruel and unjust.
One justification for the Church’s position is that homosexual acts are condemned in Leviticus and by St Paul. But I can’t find any evidence that Jesus said anything about same-sex relationships. Secondly, Leviticus also promotes harsh dietary laws which we wouldn’t dream of following today, and Paul appears to be in favour of slavery. If the Church can change on these issues, why not on same-sex relationships?
Another argument is that sacramental marriage is for procreation alone. Well if that’s the case, where does this leave all the heterosexual people who can’t have children?
Many commentators suggest gay marriage undermines traditional marriage. Given that my marriage is based on a promise made between my husband and me, I fail to see how anybody else, other than us, could ruin it.
The final argument I’ve heard is that marriage has always been for heterosexuals. Yale Professor John Boswell has uncovered over 70 records of rituals celebrating same sex unions in local Christian churches between the 8th and 18th centuries.
I believe the Catholic Church has a responsibility to speak out on issues that affect the whole of society. And I’d support the Archbishop in most things. But, at a time of austerity cuts, destruction of welfare and health, endless war in Afghanistan, I find it disheartening that of all political messages to promote, the Catholic Church is choosing to focus on one that makes us look like bigots.
Virginia Moffatt is a lay Catholic in the diocese of Birmingham.
From this weekend’s issue of the English Roman Catholic newspaper ‘The Tablet’, we have this blog offering from Virginia Moffat, a Lay Catholic, who gives her considered opinion on why the Catholic Church should alter its long-standing attitude towards Gays, and their bid to be allowed the privilege of the Sacrament of Marriage.
The Tablet is know to be a forward-thinking publication on the liberal side of Roman Catholic thinking in today’s crucible of morality, and for the Editors to allow this forthright opinion by a Lay-Person in the Church – especially one who is happily and heterosexually married, but with a refreshingly new perspective on the validity of Gay relationships – to be published is, to say the least, a wee bit surprising, but nonetheless, encouraging to all of us who truly believe that Gays are made in the Divine Image.
That there are many in the Roman Catholic Church, who believe with many of us who are Anglicans, that the emancipation of the LGBT community in and by the Christian Church is long overdue, and is only just beginning to be acknowledged by the hierarchy of both Churches.
A couples of Christmases ago, I remember reading a copy of the Journal of the world-wide ecumenical Christian Meditation movement, which contained a seminal article by the Head of the movement, Dom Laurence Freeman. In his editorial, Dom Laurence spoke frankly of being invited to a wedding involving a Roman Catholic family in the parish. The daughter who was to be married had asked her sister to be her chief bride’s-maid, and to choose a male partner to accompany her in the bridal procession.
In front of the family, the bride’s sister broke down, and confessed that she was a lesbian, and that she would prefer to be accompanied by her partner of some years. She expected the family to withdraw the invitation to act as chief bride’s-maid, and was surprised when they – the bride, groom and her parents – all agreed that she and her partner should both be present at the wedding, and that they should walk in prccession together as a couple, behind the Bride and Groom.
Before the actual Wedding, Dom Laurence was asked what he thought about this, and he agreed that what the family had decided should be allowed to happen. He then shared the fact that, when the Wedding Party entered the Church, it seemed so right and proper that the chief bride’s-maid and her partner should follow the bride and groom, as a couple in their own right.
When the friends of the family greeted the Wedding Party, their pleasure at witnessing this special arrangement, and being aware of the relationship of the two couples, bore witness to the undeniable fact of the rightness of the occasion. Dom Laurence saidthat to him at the time it suddenly seemed the most natural thing to do. He felt that the Christmas Newsletter was an appropriate place to record this bit of Good News.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand