I like to think of myself as a pretty open minded person. But a lot of people would wonder if I told them I am in agreement with the religious freedom laws that have been implemented, and debated ad nauseum, around the country.
I grew up Catholic, obviously, and I continue to practice my faith. I am in no way what I would call a good Catholic. I struggle. Hard. But I try to be true to Catholicism to the best of my ability, as does my husband, and we raise our children in the faith.
It was not until adulthood that I truly understood that Catholics were looked down upon by others. I had heard we were, but I really didn’t get it or see it. The crux of my personal faith has always been to love others, do good, and confess when I screwed up. Who could argue with that?
I’ve been shocked this past week to see just how scandalously Catholics and other Christians are talked about by others. I understand feelings on religious freedom are volatile. Everyone thinks they’re right. But somehow it seems no one is being tolerant with anyone.
I do not believe that religious freedom laws are about gay vs. straight. I believe they are designed to allow people to live by their religious convictions without retribution. And yes, I realize this becomes complicated when we start talking radical Islam. But as we have seen more and more in the last decade, an odd desire to make people homogenous has trumped our uniquely American right to religious expression.
Since it’s hanging out there allowing some to defame good people with no cause, I think it’s important to remind both Catholics and non-Catholics what we are supposed to believe when it comes to gays and same-sex marriage.
Catholics are NOT called to hate and discriminate against gays. Period. It’s written as such in the Catholic Catechism. We ARE called to believe in the sanctity of life. The only way God creates human life on Earth is through the union of a man and a woman. When He calls a man and a woman to commit to His plan through their love, we call it marriage.
Yes, life can be created outside of such a relationship, either by sexual relations between an uncommitted man and woman, or in a laboratory, in various ways. Yet for Catholics, the creation of life is meant to be God-centered, something He alone does, naturally, through the complimentary bodies of men and women. Catholic doctrine discourages the creation of life outside of God’s natural law, be it by hetero couples unprepared for parenthood, or by gays who use biochemical methods to achieve family. (Yet Catholics are called to love the children who result from these unions as they love any child.)
Many Catholics don’t feel gays, who cannot create life through their union without supernatural means, meet the definition of “married.” Yet we find ourselves in situations where people we love and care for are involved in same sex marriages and relationships. We DON’T stop loving people who engage in gay marriage. Our Catholicism requires us to leave judgement of their decision in God’s hands. We truly love them, even if our faith does not affirm their union as true “marriage.”
Catholics, like everyone else, are not perfect. I know Catholics who react viciously to gays. I know others who want to see the Church change it’s centuries-old definition of marriage because the world’s acceptance of same-sex marriage demands it. I’m sure neither approach makes God happy. But I know He would extend love to all people, as should we.
As Catholics, we are called to live God-centered lives. Marriage is about God creating life. Even though some couples will never conceive, the potential for God to use spouses to create life must exist in marriage, no matter how remote.
Religious freedom laws aren’t about gay discrimination. They are about being able to hold your belief or non-belief in God at the center of your being, without being forced to violate your conscience. Even if you yourself are a “sinner,” as we all are.
Our gay friends, family, neighbors and fellow Catholics bring a beautiful color to our world, and offer experiences and gifts like no others. Their value to society is priceless. But the beliefs and God-centered living of religious people are as well. One must not suffer at the gain of the other.
If Catholics follow the catechism and welcome gays openly as God demands, and gays allow for Catholics to celebrate their life-focused marriages, we can all live without prejudice, and continue in our beloved traditions.