On Bondings 2.0, we don’t often feature the writings of Catholics who identify as conservative or traditional. We do so when we think that their message is one which will possibly edify our readers.
Today, we are featuring a response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision on marriage equality by Patrick C. Beeman, a Catholic physician and writer from St. Louis who identifies as an orthodox Catholic. His essay, featured on The National Catholic Reporter website, has important lessons for both liberal and conservative Catholics.
Beeman’s essay focuses on the way some traditionalists have responded to the Supreme Court decision. He states that following the courts announcement:
“My social media feeds are littered with responses like ‘God have mercy on us all’ and ‘a crime against God and nature.’ How easy to forget that the tongue — and the compulsion to use one’s Twitter app — is a restless evil full of deadly poison.”
Beeman, who appears to support church teaching opposing marriage equality, is concerned about the style of argument that his fellow travelers employ. He is afraid that they will “only lend credence to the caricature of the church as a mob of narrow-minded and sour-faced doctrinaires.”
Noting that “Catholic balance” is a virtue that “lies somewhere between mercy and Christian charity on the one hand and doctrinal fidelity and truth on the other,” Beeman wonders why conservative Catholic opposition seems to forget this balance. He illustrates by noting the trend of criminalizing same-sex behavior around the globe:
“When the nonbeliever has a better track record than the believer on matters of justice, something is wrong. Shouldn’t it outrage any decent human being that in some countries, a homosexual act is a capital crime? Regardless of whether or not one believes it to be sinful, both sides should be equally opposed to the backward absurdity of a culture that would permit killing another person for a sexual sin. For my part, I am glad perfect marks in the area of sexual ethics are not a requirement for continuing. I suspect it would be ‘Game over’ for many of us if that were the case.”
And he did not forget other forms of oppression and discrimination which are closer to home:
“And what of the subtler forms of social, familial, ecclesiastical and economic discrimination that have been perpetrated against gay people and are only now beginning to dissipate? We should be unsettled when a child is kicked out of his home because he came out as gay to his father. That is not the Catholic response. That is the response of misguided fidelity to the truth — bigotry? — which can only have the effect of injuring the faith of the vulnerable. And that kind of response deserves a millstone if anything does.”
Beeman recognizes that supporting the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics does not give one license to ignore the Church’s teaching on human dignity:
“Those of us who identify as orthodox Catholics need to start making reparation for our part in alienating gay people from the church. I’m not saying we should abandon the church’s teaching on sexual ethics. But we ought to make quite certain we are applying it carefully and charitably. . . .
“Hence, if you opposed the redefinition of marriage, you must show magnanimity in defeat. But even more so: Draw a sharp distinction between the issue of gay marriage and whether or not gay people should be treated equitably in the marketplace, legal system or in society at large. The latter is a question of human dignity. If you are Catholic, it concerns you, whether you opposed gay marriage or not.”
In the essay, Beeman, who presumably disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision, seems to be in close agreement with ideas proposed by two Catholic commentators who supported the decision and who were featured on Bondings 2.0: Father Thomas Reese, SJ, and Bob Shine. I admire Beeman’s ability not to let one disagreement on LGBT issues blind him to his obligations in other areas concerning LGBT people.
More importantly, though, I admire Beeman’s tone of moderation in this essay. Though primarily addressing his fellow conservative Catholics, I think that all Catholics can learn a lesson that though we may be passionate about a topic, even a topic laden with issues and consequences of great concern, we should never let our passion get the best of us. We should always treat our opponents with respect and Christian charity, remembering that they, too, are our neighbors.
[You can read Beeman’s full essay, which was paired with one by Arthur Fitzmaurice, Resource Director, Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, by clicking here.]
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry