Simcha has a great post today.
(Beginning to think I should just have a category called DIRECT LINKS TO SIMCHA FISHER AND MARK BARNES.)
A reader asks her,
I feel that I am a faithful Catholic- attend Mass, pray regularly, try to follow the Church in all things. But I fall short on this with one issue- I do disagree about the Church’s stance on homosexuality and gay marriage. My beloved sister is a lesbian...I cannot/ do not look at what my sister is doing as wrong. I’m happy she found someone she loves to spend her life with. I love her children, and I’m so happy that they exist. My sister and her partner are raising them wonderfully...
Sometimes conservative Catholic bloggers will talk about how they struggled with a Church teaching, but the post always ends with how they changed, and saw the light, and saw the truth and beauty in the Church’s teachings. But what are you supposed to do when that doesn’t happen?
There's more than one question wrapped up in that post, of course. Let me pick one excerpt from Simcha's answer:
Sometimes people think that the Church requires us all to be prophets with bullhorns, or prissy grand inquisitors — that the only way we can ally ourselves with the Church is to be thoroughly obnoxious.
Or perhaps we believe that believing something means feeling good about believing it. These ideas are actually very handy temptations, courtesy of the devil. They make excellent obstacles to obedience.
So what is the reader supposed to do? Certainly not shun or treat her sister, the partner, or the children with disdain; certainly not wish them misery, wish that they hadn’t been born. Certainly not pick over their house, hunting for evidence of degeneracy. Depending on the situation, the Church may or may not want the reader to even speak to the sister about her lifestyle, now that it’s so firmly established.
Read the whole thing. The main thrust of the post is that we are all dissenters about something or other, to one degree or another, and because of that this is really a universal problem of the human heart. If we value obedience --to legitimate authority within its legitimate sphere, of course -- sooner or later we must come up against some principle we haven't taken to heart. How do we deal with that? How do we recognize it?
But there's also another question here: The question of how faithful Catholics are to live in a world, and sometimes in families, with a broader definition of "marriage" than we can parrot back. It is still an open and vague one.
For the time being, the official work of the Church in this area is to work to preserve, one way or another, our freedom to assert what we believe to be true about it. The Church hasn't quite given up the hope that the larger culture can be steered back to an acceptance of something closer to that same truth.
Now, I don't wish to question the wisdom of this approach heavily, because I am not an expert in pastoral techniques of any kind, let alone large-scale culture-steering. Cynicism is a fault of mine.
But: I tend to believe that this particular horse has already left the barn, and that it was my fellow heterosexuals who drove it out foaming at the mouth. I think we are already in dire need for pastoral assistance in dealing charitably and truthfully with the world around us here. It is NOT easy, as Simcha's reader's situation (and countless others) demonstrate.
In many ways it's not new: Families everywhere have always hosted an endless stream of intra- and inter-familial messages along the lines of "If you do not take steps to demonstrate your approval of my actions, that is the same to me as a demonstration that you do not love me." If there is any difference now, it's that much more often the "approval" runs against values that transcend the merely cultural or habitual. We expect family members to get used to a "black sheep" who merely dressed embarrassingly unconventionally, or pursued a career different from the expected one, or joined the "wrong" political party, or married a person from a different class or ethnic group, or wanted to move too far away or stay too close to home. But -- and this is still a strong, widely held value in the United States -- it's entirely different to expect people to "get used to" being asked to deny, explicitly or implicitly, publically or privately, their religious beliefs.
Don't we all get impatient with the bishops sometimes? I think we're long overdue for some real pastoral advice on how to live, and how to love others, in a world where regular denial of our religious beliefs is expected of us -- both through public economic acts and through ordinary social rituals.
It's love and truth. They are never in conflict -- not really. One without the other is impossible. But we ordinary, foolish humans can screw it up royally, trying to carry them both like a burden, and end up delivering neither.