by JOY COWLEY
A few months after the twin towers tragedy, Terry and I were in New York and on our way to a Sunday morning Mass at St Patrick’s. When we saw half a dozen police officers on the steps
of the cathedral, we were nervous, wondering if there had been a bomb threat. Inside, however, all was calm and prayerful, not a hint of tension.
Then we came out after Mass, and were surprised to see that the NYPDpresence had doubled, uniforms everywhere.
In front of the cathedral, police cars were parked nose to tail along the kerb. I approached a woman officer and asked, “What is happening?”
She replied, “We are expecting the gay parade”.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Were the police there to protect the gay parade from Catholics?
In the past year Terry and I have been reminded of this incident many times by gay marriage statements from Catholics who have been fearful or angry. We’ve also met Catholics
who have been covertly in support of the bill. Most of these are parents of gay children in relationships. They know that their children are as God made them and they don’t want these
children to be treated as second-class citizens. They are also concerned that their children may have no choice but to leave the faith. I have heard their stories and seen their tears.
As an elderly heterosexual woman who has been married three times, and who has homosexual
friends in stable, loving relationships, I think I know a bit about marriage. I also
believe that prejudice comes from ignorance and misinformation, and in another decade we’ll
all feel rather embarrassed at the fear-filled reaction to gay marriage.
Meanwhile I’d like to respond here, to anti-gay statements I have read or heard in the last year: Gay people are trying to destroy the sacrament of marriage.
How will they do that? The Catholic Church has never married couples who are outside its teaching, and that is not likely to change. The sacrament of marriage within the Church will remain; but I don’t think we should try to impose Catholic teaching on the rest of society.
That is dangerous. I mean, how would Catholics feel if Muslims tried to ban all alcohol in this country?
Homosexual relationships are a sin against God.
The law against samesex relationships comes from the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament book of Leviticus.
What other laws are in Leviticus? Let’s look at chapter 20. Verse 27 states that anyone doing fortunetelling, is to be put to death. Anyone who curses parents (v9) or blasphemes or commits adultery (v10) is also to be killed. In chapter 25:44 we learn that God says it’s okay to take slaves from neighbouring countries. Well, we may have tried to do that with the Pacific
Islands, but I don’t think it would work with Australia. All of these laws, we are told, came from God to Moses. I wonder why Christians still hold on to chapter 20:13, the law against homosexuality?
In America, conservative Jews in New York have voted in favour of gay marriage.
We have to be true to Jesus’ teachings on marriage. In the Gospels, Jesus did not offer any teachings on marriage. He quoted the marriage laws of Moses in answer to a trick question from the Pharisees, but that was a response, not something we could call a teaching.
As far as we know, Jesus did not say anything about homosexuality. Maybe he didn’t think
that was important.
St Paul condemned homosexual activity. Yes he did. Methinks he protested too much.
St Paul was a Pharisee and a tent maker. In his day, it was most unlikely that such a man would be unmarried.
Paul reminds us that he is single while Peter and the other apostles are all married
(1 Corinthians 9:1-5). It could be that “the thorn in his flesh” he talked about was his sexual orientation.
Heterosexual marriage is not just religious law. It is a law of nature. Male and female come together to create progeny.
It is true that most species reproduce with the union of male and female, but that is sex, not marriage. Marriage is a commitment of love. If reproduction were essential to marriage, infertile people and older couples would not have valid marriages. Anyway, nature is not consistent. Homosexual union exists in many species. When scientific evidence of this became too obvious to ignore, the Church changed the term “unnatural” to “disorder” to describe
Gay people have civil unions. The word “marriage” is sacred to heterosexual couples.
The word “marriage” has been used loosely to describe other combinations; the “marriage” of a steak with a good pinot noir, opera as the “marriage” of music and drama. As far as I know, we
have never objected to the word being used in this way.
Besides, can society be so protective of marriage when nearly half of weddings finish in divorce? If we are to be honest, we have to admit that it is heterosexual marriage that has
degraded the word.
As for civil unions, they are legal, official and have no spiritual content.
Same-sex couples who have wanted an expression of God in their relationship, have asked me to write blessings for their civil union ceremonies, and I have been glad to do so. The
blessing is particular to the couple, but always has a heading taken from 1 John 4: “God is love, and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them.”
Because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t? Gay marriage isn’t really about politics, ancient laws, or a small part of the human body. It’s about love.
And the same John letter reminds us: “In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love: because to fear is to expect punishment, and anyone who is afraid is still
imperfect in love. We are to love, then, because he loved us first (1 John 5:18- 19).
I believe that marriage is a deep commitment of love between two people. I have seen that love in homosexual and heterosexual relationships and, in seeing it, I see God.
Joy Cowley, DCNZM, OBE, is a New Zealand author of children’s fiction, novels, and short stories who is known to be generous with her time and talent
by JOY COWLEY