It appears that public opinion about same-sex marriage is diverging from the path promoted by prominent prelates. Catholics today are more tolerant of homosexuals’ equal civil rights, while outspoken Catholic archbishops are raising apocalyptic warnings about “aggressive and godless secularism.” Why?
The bishops are clearly voicing Catholic dogma: same-sex marriage cannot replace the union of man and woman as the Sacrament of Matrimony. But the current laws do not threaten the exercise of Catholic marriage. Actually, the now discredited DOMA law against same-sex marriage prohibited members of the United Church of Christ from following their religious belief that gays and lesbians can marry out of Christian love. Since the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits favoring one church over another, what choice is there other than for governmental secularism to allow each church to freely practice their faith?
Moreover, the Catholic Church long ago has come to grips with civil laws that allow for “sin.” Saint Thomas Aquinas (ST 2-2.10.11) accepted laws allowing prostitution: and in our day, the government has legalized divorce. These are both against Catholic teaching, but as argued by the Doctors of the Church, civil law does not have to agree perfectly with God’s law. St. Augustine (De ordine 2.4), for instance, wrote that a greater good is accomplished by regulating prostitution than in passing laws that make it illegal, but which will not prevent it. At a time when fewer straight people get married before “living together,” it defies logic to say that homosexual marriage disparages tradition. If anything, gays-getting-married argues just the opposite. If they are so eager to enter the civil institution of marriage, what are heterosexual couples missing? In sum, if same-sex marriage does not interfere with Catholic practice, can be tolerated as has been legalized divorce, and encourages the married state — what is the problem?
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Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo