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placeholder October 5, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 17   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

Gay rights supporters celebrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington June 26 after the justices ruled in a 5-4 decision that the U.S. Constitution gives same-sex couples the right to marry.
JIM BOURG/REUTERS, cns

What are we to make of the Supreme Court ruling and marriage?

Rev. Dan Danielson

The Catholic Church has lost the battle to allow the marriage of same-sex couples throughout the United States.

The Supreme Count of the United States, on June 26, ruled against the Church and others who supported Proposition 8, the California initiative that said marriage was between a man and woman only.

What are we to make of this whole scene as Catholics? Though I've had some struggle with myself about doing so, I want to try to address that issue.

There are some basic things that have to be made clear up front.

A homosexual orientation is born, not made. No one simply chooses to be "gay." Studies have shown over and over that this attraction and orientation toward people of the same sex is not the result of particular environments or family structures. A person discovers him or herself to be "gay." They don't decide to be thus oriented. In our culture, why would anyone ever choose to live such a difficult life?

Being someone with a homosexual orientation, whether male or female, does not make one bad. It is not sinful or wrong. It is not a mental aberration. It simply IS. And as quoted above, in God's own image, He made all people, without exception.

Every human being is a son or daughter of someone, is a brother or sister of each of us. And as such they are worthy of the same great respect, love, understanding, care and dignity to which we are all entitled as children of God.

That means that all forms of discrimination, abuse, disrespect, prejudice, hatred, insulting remarks are to have no place among us. Often such behavior really reveals the latent insecurities about the abuser's own sexual identity.

All human beings, including those who have a homosexual orientation, are welcome to be members of the Christian community. We desire them to be "at home" here, to know that they are loved and respected here, that they have nothing to fear here — from any of us.

The issue that requires us to deal with this further, is the sexual activity of people with a homosexual orientation.

Again there are some issues that need to be clarified here:

The issue of chastity is an issue every human being has to wrestle with. The task of integrating this powerful aspect of humanity into the rest of our lives is a struggle for most everyone. And who among us can say that they have always made the right decision and have nothing to look back on with some shame?

All people face the struggle of "becoming chaste" with the help of God. Random acts of sexual encounter, using another human being in that way, can never be condoned or approved of, whether that person is "gay" or "straight." And such acts have always been seen by the Christian Church as wrong.

The Church believes that the marriage between one man and one woman is the best environment in which to raise children. It is the foundation of all societies in our modern world. That is why the Church has fought to maintain that definition of marriage.

But we all know of heterosexual marriages that are miserable places in which to raise a child and many of us know of homosexual couples who raise children with great love, attention and devotion. So while the Church's teaching is certainly in general correct, it does not work out that way in many instances.

When all is said and done, no one is the judge of someone else's conscience. And we cannot set ourselves up to judge the stable relationships of homosexual couples, whether those relationships are called domestic partnerships or marriage by our civil laws and our society.

Indeed, there are things in many of the long-term relationships that homosexual couples have that are truly admirable, as they would be in any long-term relationship — fidelity, self-sacrificing love, care in times of sickness and disability among them. These relationships are not to be simply condemned as sinful.

The Catholic Church is not going to be performing religious ceremonies or marriages for homosexual couples. That is clear. And the Church is not going to simply accept that any relationship other than a committed relationship between one man and one woman can properly be called marriage.

But neither are we going to go on a rampage of ignorance and hate. We are going to accept all our brothers and sisters, wherever they are in their journey toward the God who made them in His image and likeness. We are going to love them as God loves us all and accept them as God accepts us all — without judgment or superiority, conscious of our own faults, failings, blind spots and at times — accommodated consciences.

May the Lord who made us all in His image and likeness, lead us all safely home together — one family, one Lord, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all. To Him alone be glory and honor now and forever. Amen.

(This was Father Dan Danielson's homily, slightly edited, at Mass on June 28. He is the former administrator of the Diocese of Oakland and retired pastor of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. He currently lives at Corpus Christi Parish in Piedmont.)


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