After a certain point, Catholic criticisms of my decision to “date” another dude come down to, “Well, yes, you say that it’s not something directed towards marriage, and that you subscribe to Catholic views of sexuality. But you shouldn’t do it, because it looks too much like dating between men and women. And it’s just… It’s just not.”
Along similar lines, some have criticized civil unions between persons of the same sex. They’ve argued that Christian values preclude same-sex couples from entering into civil unions, because these unions look too much like marriage and should thus be forbidden.
In the end, this strikes me as the same perspective which brings about same-sex marriage in the first place. Only when we’ve lost a deep sense of what marriage is can we begin to call other unions marriages simply because they share similarities to what we “traditionally” understand as marriage. Indeed, it strikes me that a culture with a robust understanding of marriage would be able to have a variety of legal unions which, while sharing some benefits and responsibilities often associated with marriage, are not themselves marriages.
I would be able to have a civil union with another man, for example, and no one would accuse me of upholding or promoting “same-sex marriage,” because that’s just not what I’m in. I wouldn’t be a cause for scandal, because when people ask me why I’m in a same-sex marriage, I’d just say, “I’m not.” And the Church would be able to accept and, at times, promote a diversity of unions because of Her robust understanding of marriage. The fact that the Church doesn’t do this presently may be a sign that Her members actually have a weak view of marriage.
Just because it looks like a marriage, and sounds like a marriage, and smells like a marriage, doesn’t make it a marriage. A marriage makes it a marriage. Everyone should just take a deep breath and calm down.
On a related note, see this blog on the difference between “same-sex marriage” and “same-sex unions” by canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters. See also this critique of same-sex blessings by Archbishop Chaput, whom I respect and admire but don’t entirely agree with on this particular matter.
More on Catholicism and homosexuality here.
Here are some comments in response by a friend of mine (also related to yesterday’s post on Catholic blessings for “same-sex unions”). While I don’t entirely share her perspective, I do think her comments are worth considering:
“Many people argue that a couple in an invalid second marriage cannot be expected to live celibately together, because it is “heroic.” But you suggest we bless gay people who put themselves into this situation on purpose. What happens ten years down the line, if they are co-parenting and realize that celibate cohabitation requires ‘heroic’ self-restraint, and they demand to be allowed communion wile living a sexual relationship without true repentance? What if they say, ‘If I don’t, my partner will leave me, and what about the children?’ It’s bad enough to end up in that situation. I don’t think we should encourage people to get themselves into it.
“Also, this sort of blessing would not be well understood by almost anyone. People have enough trouble wrapping their minds around the idea of an annulment. It would cause grave and widespread scandal and confusion.
“If you’re looking for a public ceremony in which to say, ‘we used to be sinners and are in a scandalous situation, but we fully intend to live a true Christian life from here on out,’ perhaps baptism or reception into communion with the Church could serve that purpose.
“If the kind of relationship you’re envisioning is in fact a good form of Christian life (which I am obviously not convinced of), then still, we don’t need confusing church ceremonies and labels to give hope to young people. We need authentic, joyful witness. There are many good lifestyles lived by single people in the Church. These lifestyles don’t have or need ceremonies.”