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?