I’m not sure why the Supreme Court’s ruling today is either a surprise or really a cause for alarm for Catholics.

People outside the Church do as they please. They live together outside of marriage. They make commitments firm and flimsy and in-between whether they marry or not. Even people inside the Church make and struggle and sometimes fail at their commitments, often committing sins against partners, loved ones, God, and others as they do so.

The government seems to have an interest in regulating what was once a family affair. In medieval times marriage was finally discerned to be a sacrament. And today the boundaries of two people living together with a legal commitment has expanded. Perhaps some perceive the Church is left behind. Others see the Church’s opposition as discriminatory. I’ve talked with and corresponded with a few gay or lesbian people. The ones who seek commitment just want a level of stability in their lives. It strikes me that “civil marriage” is a broad umbrella that covers a lot of bases and in our litigious culture. Somebody can’t make a hospital visit, somebody can’t inherit, somebody can’t make an economic commitment with somebody else … bottom line: somebody gets sued.

And as for same-sex attracted people living together and engaging in sex–that will still happen unless and until some draconian enforcement is put into place.

I look at my marriage today, 19.41 years of it. It seems no weaker today than yesterday. Sure, there are financial pressures, parenting concerns, a move, a new job for me, stress at home breaking out now and then, but reconciliation always in play for us.

One parish that approach me about a ministry position had no provision for family medical insurance: a fifty-fifty split for my premiums, then an additional several thousand annually for my wife and daughter. It was explained that most staff members were on their husbands’ plans. Frankly, I have no such recourse. Nor would I want it. But it occurred to me: does that policy and budgeting priority in the parish and diocese support marriage?

I think an ideal reaction to the court ruling is to ignore it. Let’s provide more support for couples who want to Encounter one another in their marriage, especially those who are non-white. What about more mixing and praying and support across generations of married persons in parishes? What about blessing couples on their anniversaries–all of them, and not just diocesan-celebrated silver and golden jubilees. Improved child care. Better insurance plans, maybe even helpful options for people who have better medical coverage on a spouse’s plan.

If my marriage falters, I need look no further than the mirror over the bathroom sink. I can ask: am I ready to make a loving and sacramental commitment today? Am I prepared to act as Christ did, sacrificing for my family, especially my wife? Did I do it yesterday? Am I prepared to do it tomorrow, next month, and in thirty years, and all the days in between? How does the Church help me and others in this boat?

Other people sin: sure. So do I. The famous prayer urges me to change the things I can change. I can’t change politics. I can’t change how God seems to have made other people. Maybe I wish things were different. Usually that means I wish I had done something differently.

The ruling is over. There is no appeal. Maybe now we can get to work to bolster, strengthen, and deepen our sacramental marriages. The world needs a witness of higher caliber. Why don’t we give it to them?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to SCOTUS Ruling

  1. charlesincenca says:

    I’m not claiming prescience here, but I’ve been advocating that the RCC (in the USA) should have had the foresight to get out of the “civil legal witness” aspect of nuptial ceremonies quite a long time ago. The sky indeed is not going to fall, it doesn’t need to as implosion has always worked well in the past for decadence. Not going into neo-pelagianism, but haven’t “The Big We” of the Church forgotten the “we are the hands and feet” aspect of Christian living, and held up “the gates of hell shall prevail against it” as a kite for too long? The wind blows where it will.

  2. Jen says:

    I’ve yet to hear a compelling argument why the couple upstairs diminishes my relationship in the slightest. Frankly, if it does, we’ve no business being together.

  3. FrMichael says:

    Jen, if either of “the couple upstairs” happens to be baptized, then personal sin affects the entire Body, the Church. But quite frankly, that’s not the big problem: individual Christians sin all the time. The big problem is free exercise of religion in the public square conflicting with this newly invented “right” by judicial fiat, untempered by the legislative process to simultaneously fashion specific religious protections. The Chief Justice’s dissent laid out the complications caused by the “blunt instrument” of 5 unelected justices quite clearly, I invite you to read his opinion. Actually, you can read the majority opinion and the 4 dissenters in about an hour, it’s not that difficult to understand.

  4. Liam says:

    One thing that has escaped the attention of every commentator I’ve read in the past 24 hours is that not a single Catholic dissenter stipulated that natural law would be an obstacle to the civil law’s recognition of same-sex marriage. The dissents were solely, in substantive terms, about the consitututional process for that recognition.

  5. charlesincenca says:

    Liam, that observation surprises me as I think the “lobby” (whatever that was and is) dispensed with any concern about natural law years if not decades ago. Quantum physics is a projection of “natural law” in a manner of speaking, but there’s no refuge there as the rabbit hole is a conception. I’ve never read “Alice,” but IIRC “law” of any sort is not part of the rabbit hole universe.

    • Liam says:

      I offer it because I read commentary that assumes that such a possiblity is in active legal play, and it’s not.

      In a similar vein, overturning Roe v Wade and its progeny would not ban abortion. It would permit states to ban abortion, and, as best we can tell from places with pro-life electorates like SD and MIssissippi, I suspect it’s unlikely that more than a handful would for very long.

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