Same-sex marriage -- an oxymoron?

The weakness of the public position of those opposing same-sex marriage
by Father Thomas Dowd
Tuesday, March 1, 2005

We had a meeting of our West Island deanery today (a "deanery" is, in our case, a regional grouping of parish priests or other priests working in that region), and the discussion turned — you guessed it — to the topic of same-sex marriage. It was quite freewheeling, and no-holds barred. I love it when that happens.I must admit though, upon hearing what everyone was saying (and I include myself in that), that we really haven't succeeded at articulating our position on same-sex marriage in a way that makes sense to many people. I think of Eric, who posted this message in a comments box some time ago:

A question I always had: Since there are technically a lot of marriages
that aren't "official" from the point of view of the Roman Catholic Church (took
place outside, legal-only, Buddhist, etc.), why is so much being made of gay
marriage? Aren't they just one more on the list?

I am Roman Catholic and married, with a child and another on the way.
Apparently, this definition of family is supposed to be threatened by the idea
of gay marriage. We just don't feel threatened. I'm open to the idea that I am
viewing this incorrectly, so if someone could tell us why, that would be

In an age of rampant divorce, cheating, etc. why would we get concerned
that a loving couple would want the same civil (and only civil) rights as
others? I would NEVER want to see legislation to force the church to marry gays
and lesbians, but if it remans a civil matter, aren't they just one more on the

"We just don't feel threatened." I think Eric captures the essence of the attitude of so many Canadians. This point needs to be taken seriously. I remember visiting my parents' parish and hearing my very first homily on the subject. The preacher said, and I quote, "If this goes through, same-sex marriage will destroy the family." The thing was, he never said *how*. I asked him about that in the sacristy afterwards. "Can you connect the dots for me on that one, please? How will it do this? I need for you to show me how legalizing same-sex marriage on Day 1 will lead to the destruction of the family on Day 1000. I'm not saying there isn't a connection. I'm just saying that the connection isn't obvious. So what are the intermediate steps?"

(crickets chirping)

I'm still waiting for an answer. In the meantime, the teacher in me is looking for the necessary pedagogy to be able to provide an answer to honest people like Eric, an answer that will be more than clever rhetoric or an argument from authority. One thing I always admired about St. Thomas Aquinas is that he really understood the points his intellectual opponents were trying to make, sometimes better than they did. And he never shied away from addressing those points square on, with great humility and unassailable logic. It was never ad hominem with St. Thomas.

Nor can it be with us. I do not begrudge those who will defend traditional marriage with their flyers and their bullhorns. Go for it! You are defending a good cause. As for myself, though, I'm a teacher, not a social activist. My charism is to clarify and explain. And so that is what I am going to try and do. Eric, thank you! I hope any answers I can provide can do your question justice.

This article is taken from the web site Waiting in Joyful Hope, , and is © Thomas Dowd, 2004-2005. All rights reserved.

Courtesy of the Waiting in Joyful Hope blog by Fr Tom Dowd.


Father Tom said...

I'm delighted to see my posts on same-sex marriage still continue to interest people. I am working on "dot" #5 on the topic, so please stay tuned.

As an aside, I was just in Singapore last May. I got a chance to visit the Sultan Mosque and a few Hindu and Buddhist temples. I also had a chance to take in the Night Zoo -- quite an experience -- as well as the Paranakan (sp?) exhibit at the museum. A lovely country you have!

ChrisOw said...

Hmmm...I never expected that my post would attract Fr Tom's attention. But this is nonetheless a pleasant surprise. The Night Safari is quite nice -- we don't call it the Night Zoo -- and is best experienced on foot, but you'll have to put up with the humidity.

Peranakan culture is perhaps our best claim to uniqueness, notwithstanding the Tourism Board's Uniquely Singapore campaign.