Theologian: Gay “Marriage” Fight Making Church “Irrelevant”
The battle over same-sex “marriage” in Minnesota is reaching a fever pitch. But one theologian at a Catholic college there is already declaring the Catholic Church the loser.
In defending marriage, Minnesota’s bishops have recently sent out letters to Catholics, urging them to donate money for television ads asking voters to say yes to a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex “marriage.”
In response, Thomas J. Bushlack, an assistant professor of moral theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., wrote at the Catholic Moral Theology blog:
Now here is why – whether the amendment passes or fails – the Roman Catholic Church has already lost. The Catholic moral tradition upholds what we in the business call “moral realism” – that is, that there is such a thing as moral truth that can be known to the human mind and put into action (albeit imperfectly as long as we live in this world, due to sin, pride, human error, etc.). But the engagement in the culture wars only underwrites the wider cultural perspective that there is no moral truth, and that politics is about raw power fueled by anger and resentment. So, if the battle to pass a marriage amendment wins because of the authority of the archdiocese and its institutional support (including a whole lot of money), they will simultaneously contribute to the erosion of the foundations of the very principles of Catholic moral theology upon which support for the amendment is supposedly built.
In other words, the very attempt to put its political, moral, spiritual, and financial authority behind such a culture wars approach simultaneously erodes the very foundations of our entire moral tradition. The irony, of course, is that those who support such actions believe they are doing precisely the opposite. But – assuming it passes – these actions will give further inspiration to those who work tirelessly in the trenches of the culture wars to support the amendment and will spur future alienating campaigns. And for those who do not support the amendment, they will feel further isolated from and spiritually abandoned by their Church, and they will be more likely to experience the very resentment that erodes a rich life of prayer, worship, and communion.
If Christians – both individuals and those with authority in church institutions – cannot find another way forward, we will only continue to make ourselves more irrelevant to the modern world, more angry, and more entrenched in and blinded to the worst aspects of the very culture that we (rightly) criticize. There must be a way to uphold the beauty and integrity of the Catholic intellectual, spiritual, and moral tradition that draws people into the beauty and the joy of the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection without fostering deeper resentment. As my very wise sister-in-law reminded me recently – when I was dealing with my own resentment over some of these issues – the true sign of the Holy Spirit in the church is unity. The culture wars are only driving wedges between those who are trying their hardest to love Christ and his Church even amidst radical disagreement.
Bishop of Winona John Quinn reportedly urged Catholics to action, saying “This is our time to stand up and defend marriage as a unique institution that, from the beginning of human history and in every culture, is the union of one man and one woman for the propagation of the human family and the upbringing of children.”