I decided to top off NaBloPoMo by not posting much at all in December, it seems. I’m not a quitter, though, so I haven’t given up on this series even if I didn’t give it the attention it deserved. Now I’m back in action and ready to keep talking.
I read a post today about the questionnaires (now published for the ordinary synod, too) from a news publication I trust. The author came down quite negatively on the decision of some bishops to provide the questionnaire from the extraordinary synod to laypeople. That’s the very same questionnaire I’ve been working through in this series. As he wrote, it was “not for the laity.” That would include my bishop, my diocese, and me.
I was always aware that different dioceses completed the questionnaire in different ways and to different subsections of the diocese. Some administered it only to diocesan staff, some to priests, some to pre-selected laity, and some (such as mine) to self-selected laity. It seems so harsh to declare that laypeople as a whole couldn’t have understood the document. I loathe the word “accessible,” and I hope that this series demonstrates that some plain old laypeople are well-educated and knowledgeable enough to understand the goal of the questionnaire and its specific questions. The writer didn’t come right out and say that the majority of Catholics are too dumb to understand the questionnaire(s), but that’s what it felt like.
That said, I will continue to offer my educated and (I hope) thoughtful opinions.
On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex
(This one is pretty clear, too. The questions specifically don’t call it “marriage,” but since that’s what the states are saying, I will, too.)
Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?
In the U.S., there isn’t a law; there are many laws. As I learned when I was doing marriage prep (for other people, not for myself), marriage laws vary by state and often by county as well. State by state, same-sex marriage is becoming legal by that name (not as civil unions or domestic partnerships). In a country where remarriage after divorce is barely something to bat an eye at and children are an optional bonus to marriage only for those who want them, it seems inevitable. When marriage doesn’t include children and permanence by definition, it’s hard to limit it to just one man and one woman. I don’t think the country will be able to hold out for much longer. I don’t like that at all, but I don’t see any other future that’s consistent with the past half-century.
What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?
Texas will be one of the last few states to give in on same-sex marriage. It’s easy to forget here in Austin that most of the state is conservative, Republican, and proud of it. Texas won’t go down without a fight. Currently, Texas has a marriage preparation endorsement called Twogether in Texas. It certifies programs and counselors who work with couples preparing for marriage. Even the secular state government recognizes that it’s easier to resolve problems on the front end than to try to stop divorce later. It even comes with a hefty discount on the base marriage license fee as an incentive. Some parishes have Twogether in Texas-approved programs, so specific pockets of the diocese support Texas’s current stance, at least.
As far as viewing people in same-sex marriages, the diocese doesn’t recognize that as marriage, of course. I don’t know if this diocese in particular has had any instances of employees desiring health benefits for same-sex partners, but I know that’s come up elsewhere in the country.
What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of unions?
That’s a tough one. It helps that people are generally aware that the Church doesn’t allow two people of the same sex to marry. They’re unlikely to approach the Church for a wedding. They may well turn up for funerals or liturgical ministries, though, and that causes real tension.
Following Gabriel’s blog and reading Eve Tushnet’s book have given me much to think about regarding the actual lives of gay Catholics. They’re both celibate, so it doesn’t apply directly, but it helps me see gay people as people with actual emotions and relationships. Love is doing what is best for the beloved. Two men or two women can truly care for each other. It’s the sexual aspect of their relationship that can’t be “what is best.” Recognizing the good while acknowledging the bad is a delicate balance for any sin and any sinner.
In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?
Same-sex couples have enrolled their children in Catholic schools or requested baptism for their children. On the one hand, we can’t hold children responsible for the actions of their parents. Those children deserve grace just as much as anyone. On the other hand, it’s important to make sure that the parents understand that the education their children receive (in regular subjects and in religious education) will eventually teach them that their parents’ unions are not recognized. That could be a world-shattering moment, and it’s inevitable. Preparing parents for that moment requires specific attention and great sensitivity.
What about you? How do you approach relationships with gay people in your life? Have you ever attended a same-sex wedding, or would you if you were invited? What tips do you have for the children of same-sex couples?