Following last week’s election, the Vatican starkly reinforced its opposition to gay marriage, but this is a backwards and antiquated position. Yet to some extent, they know they are fighting to preserve a tradition. What they call tradition, I call a fevered death grip on a romanticized and fictional past, but their stance is not new. What the church has not considered are people like me and how their own position on major social issues may end up sabotaging them down the road.
The church has portrayed gay marriage as an affront to heterosexual marriage, according to The Chicago Tribune, and the church will continue to stand in the way of making it a reality. They are not alone in their anti-gay rhetoric: Recently in Uganda, an insane “anti-gay” bill is dangerously close to becoming a law, which would result in equally insane punishments for homosexuality, according to Reuters. Both institutions – the Vatican and the Ugandan government – are pushing dangerous attitudes. While the Ugandan case has more direct power to make the lives of some their citizens miserable, the Vatican is peddling a different kind of power: They believe their attitudes are based in a moral superiority and God’s law.
From a theological standpoint, it is nonsense the Catholic Church, which follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, would actively want to get in the way of two consenting adults getting married in what is supposed to be a bond of faith and love. For a group of men who are shockingly cavalier about eating the flesh and blood of a prophet who lived 2,000 years ago, the Vatican is oddly uptight about two dudes getting married.
But making a theological or even logical argument to the Vatican about their attitude is pointless, and that is not how change will come about. Rather, the church will need to adapt and survive when younger, more tolerant Catholics start making choices about their adult faith life and family life and cannot reconcile the church’s toxic viewpoints with their own beliefs on the way people deserve to be treated.
Being socially liberal on gay marriage and Catholic may seem like a counter-intuitive pairing, but when you grow up with a constant bombardment of “do unto others as you would have done to you” and “woe unto you that are rich!” (Luke 6:24-26), higher taxes and equal rights for all people seem pretty reasonable.
Yes, the Catholic Church’s stance on gay marriage is upsetting to some. From a citizen’s standpoint, I respect their opinion, and since they are a private institution, they can have whatever rules they want. As a member of the Catholic faith, their stance is disheartening. Their recent renewed decrees against gay marriage go against the acceptance and love they profess to cultivate.
I grew up in the faith. Both sides of my family are Catholic, and all marriages and funerals I have ever been to were under a Catholic Church roof, with a crucifix in plain sight. I spent 10 years in Catholic grade school and was confirmed in high school. The teachers I had in some of my more turbulent years growing up were not wicked nuns, but thoughtful and kind women and men who were progressive in their own way. When my family was dealing with a very serious and frightening illness, the community network in the church came out and supported us in ways that were comforting and sincere. And now in college, Catholicism is the base for a lot of my spiritual and philosophical questions. It is not just an abstract belief system – it has played a real role in both my education and family.
So as much as the Catholic Church’s stance on gay marriage deeply bothers me, I cannot ignore and separate myself from the Church completely because Catholicism is something that is part of my family, my culture and my identity. I have a stake to stay, but at some point the spheres of how I believe people deserve to be treated and how the Catholic Church treats people will influence how I live my adult life and whether or not the church will be part of it.
The Catholic Church is not going to wither and die if Addie Blanchard does not go to church every Sunday, but as mainstream attitudes toward gay marriage and gay people are becoming more and more accepting and tolerant, the church’s chilly and austere attitudes will become outdated and repellent to more people than just me.
The church is at an intersection: Either the next generation will blindly accept the church’s stance or just leave altogether; or the next wave of Catholic leadership will come to their senses and treat all people equally. Hopefully a change will come from popular outcry from Catholics and local leadership. Being a member of any faith community is an investment in many ways, but there are some things that cannot be sacrificed in order to belong.
Adelaide Blanchard (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior majoring in journalism.