Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Illinois Marriage Initiative

The six Illinois Catholic Bishops are urging Illinois Catholics to sign a petition legally defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman. (Yes, this was one of the things that sent me into a tailspin on Sunday.) They officially authorize us, apparently, to mobilize an effort to change the Illinois Constitution with the following amendment:

"marriage between a man and a woman [is] the only legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State."

Well now... nothing like challenging my intention to love the church again right off the bat. This has to go in that love the actor/hate the action category. I love you. You're acting like idiots.

First of all, you, my Lord Bishops, do not have the right to authorize me to act in the political arena. My power to do that comes from elsewhere -the Constitution and my citizenship. The corollary to your bizarre "authorization" would be that I shouldn't act politically unless you authorize it. Settle down. You're over-reaching.

Secondly, why do you want us to steamroll -and bankroll- this for you? Yes, I've read the catechism and the relevant passages on homosexuality. Even if I agreed with you -which I don't- that's still not enough to explain needing to act in the political arena. What about a homosexual partnership wanting the legal and social protection of civil marriage threatens anything about heterosexual marriages? For that matter, how does ANYTHING about the civil institution of marriage either help or harm the sacramental experience of marriage? They seem to me to have nothing to do with each other.

Yes there are threats to marriage. Some of them are societal -which isn't the same as saying they have political remedies. But trust me when I tell you that the important threats to a marriage are internal to the marriage. I've been at this enterprise a long time. When things are good, society doesn't get the credit and when things are hard society is very little help. And two women or two men would have a similar experience, I'm quite sure. A constitutional amendment would not -could not- help the people in your parishes struggling to live sacramental marriages as their vocation, their witness to the world. Really, we need help from you and this is not it.

The very most you can legitimately claim is a defense of denying homosexuals sacramental marriage. I wish you'd let that go too, and I think I can make a rigorous theological argument for that position. The fact, though, is you get to make that call. However, you're way out of line in wanting to make this a consideration for the body politic. And that's the charitable spin.

The less charitable, but equally explanatory of the data, spin is that you are willing to capitalize on some people's irrational fears about homosexuality to advance your own power. Why else would you use language claiming political authority which you must surely know isn't yours to take? What you ought to be doing is following your own teachings and challenging those irrational fears.

So, no. I won't be signing your petition. And I'll be working actively against it. And I'll be going to communion and struggling to live the life of a faithful Catholic. And, as has been true for most of my life, I'll be doing that without any help from the hierarchy. Shame on you.

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