Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
Damnit, I had to write to somebody right now... starting to get angry at the characterization of anyone who believes marriage is NOT re-definable as bigoted, insensitive, an "a--hole" (these being just some of what I've seen on my Facebook and Twitter today). There is absolutely an atmosphere of intimidation, an icy front discouraging any opposition, and all under a sentiment of "compassion."
I've refrained from issuing any comment in part because, like most "internet activism," I find stating one's opinion by posting a picture or issuing a statement asserting my own righteousness to be fairly shallow. But I'm just about ready to be considered an "a--hole" if only for nothing other than a belief in marriage as an institution demanding respect or protection. If that's what it takes, let the insult be upon the insulter, and I will continue to do my best to be friend even to those who don't agree with me (wow, what a radical idea).
Shocking as it my be to my more tolerant friends, they won't find me trying to stop anyone from visiting a loved one in the hospital, or from inheriting property, or from taking care of their children, or from receiving an extra tax break. My belief in marriage as being between one man and one woman does not by definition preclude all other definitions of belonging, affection, or legal rights. Nor does it characterize me as a hater or persecutor of any class of persons.
No, the state can't and shouldn't prevent people from being in loving relationship with each other (that such a relationship may not necessarily even employ genitals- a possibility which runs contrary to many of our culture's most sacrosanct values -is quite beyond not only the determination and grasp of the courts and of much of the population in general). Neither can the state simply confer on something the status of "marriage" by calling it so, any more than it can magically conjure a child from two penises.
Not all married couples have children, but every child has parents. This is why marriage warrants any privilege. No-fault divorce, abortion... "gay marriage" is the latest marker in our society's self-destruction in the name of self-fulfillment. A certificate or a ceremony doesn't mean much at the moment it's given, honestly- it's more the cumulative downstream amassment of the values we hold. In that way, "gay marriage" is of course more the effect than the cause.
So let it come, I suppose, and let us reap what we have sown. It will not eliminate the good work of raising and loving and protecting the least of those in our midst... if anything, it will only make more peculiar the people of a conscience answering to other than the mores of the day. These might be the fires of refining us into a better witness.
Meanwhile, the need for real charity continues despite the very best intentions of those who are so proudly eager to be counted in their day with all that is right in their own eyes. And when in the years ahead they finally say, "How we were to know?" if we have kept the faith perhaps, by then, they will be persuaded to trumpet not their own good but the good of the One who cares more for them, and for the orphaned and widowed, than they yet know.</blockquote>
We need to face the fact that we have, at present, lost this cultural argument and adjust our approach accordingly. We haven't lost because we are wrong, of course, but because our culture can no longer conceive of any notion of the good beyond "consent". The consequences of that will have to play out and people will eventually discover that the punishment of sin is the sin itself. The effect of gay "marriage" is to make the word "marriage" mean whatever people want, which is another way of saying it means nothing at all Eventually, when the pain from that disastrous decision to drain the word "marriage" of all meaning (that really began with artificial contraception and no-fault divorce) gets bad enough, people start looking for answers and grace supplies them. Meanwhile, getting angry over things we can't change is a waste of energy. As St. James says, the anger of man does not bring about the righteousness of God.
That doesn't mean give up, of course. Catholics have always gone on fighting for the truth of God as civilizations have ignored them. As Chesterton says, "At least five times, therefore, with the Arian and the Albigensian, with the Humanist sceptic, after Voltaire and after Darwin, the Faith has to all appearance gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases it was the dog that died." The question is not whether the Faith will survive post-modernity. Of course it will. The question is how long post-modernity can go on ignoring the Faith before it commits suicide. We appear to be on the verge of yet another disastrous societal revolution. That's unfortunate--for society. But it will not destroy the Church because nothing can destroy the Church. Again, as Chesterton says, "Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a god who knew the way out of the grave."
So: Be not afraid.