Toward the end of an animated discussion about same-sex marriage, Catholic blogger “Misplacedbook” asks me,
How do we move forward?
You find our teachings bigoted. So what should be done? We won’t stop professing them. Are we to be shunned, relegated to a cultural ghetto, disinvited from the cocktail parties, and marginalized? Is that a recipe for unity?
Misplacedbook, I am optimistic about the outcome of these cultural quarrels that we’re having, and, though they are painful at times, I believe there will be healing, both in the short term and the long term. True, the Shias and the Sunnis are still fighting over something that happened more than a thousand years ago, the Irish Republicans are still steamed about Cromwell, and there are Southerners who still haven’t gotten over their defeat in the Civil War. On the bright side, however, the Berlin Wall fell almost overnight and, in this country, racial segregation is a thing of the past. In my state and in much of this country, gays and lesbians no longer have to hide themselves and live in fear. These are ways that the world has improved just since I was born.
I don’t agree with you that same-sex marriage will deepen the cultural divide—at least not over the long run. It will bring us together just as it brings couples together. Over time, those who fear it will realize there is nothing to fear, and it will become normalized, just as racial integration did. This is already happening.
The Church’s position on homosexuality cannot be sustained without an unacceptable level of damage to its credibility and moral authority. Its staunchest allies on this issue are in countries where ignorance is rife, and medical science has universally repudiated its premise that homosexuality is disordered.
You ask what will happen to Catholics who continue to channel these teachings? They will continue for a while to find support in their own ranks, and then even that will dwindle, as we are already beginning to see. Voice for the Faithful, The National Catholic Reporter, Hans Küng, and the LCWR are at the gates of the fortress and are running Ethernet cables under the walls.
The Internet has the highly salutary effect of aerating sites like this one [Crisis magazine]—or in fact any site that attempts to promulgate only one point of view. You’ve noticed what happened here. Hard-line Catholics like yourself kept asking why I was here, as if this were a closed meeting in the basement of the parish church. Hello, it’s the Internet. You’re in the public square.
But to focus more sharply on your question about being relegated to a cultural ghetto: I don’t think that will happen to you if you are savvy. It needn’t. You will do what my father did, starting in the seventies: he stopped talking like Archie Bunker. He gradually stopped disparaging African-Americans at every opportunity. He wasn’t getting positive feedback for his remarks. I didn’t like them, my brother didn’t like them, our neighbors didn’t like them. He wised up. I think he was racist until the day he died, but he learned to keep the lid on it.