Despite the fact that the speakers were among the best and the brightest on the topic of marriage, the turnout for the 2014 second annual March for Marriage on Thursday, June 19 was a small band of supporters with a wide variety of perspectives represented, some certainly more well thought out than others. The post-march press reports have been scathing, comparing the Marchers with pro-segregationist marchers in 1963. The coloring of the gay marriage issue is so thoroughly cloaked in civil rights vocabulary and conceptualizations that to oppose gay marriage is seen as barbaric and backward.
It is a difficult societal position for the Church. Any accurate historical memory of the civil rights movement in the United States will recall that Dr. King found support in the principles, the doctrines and, most importantly, in the active participation of Roman Catholic clergy and laity. Even in the midst of this current debate, Catholics find themselves cheering the fact that discrimination against gay men and women is being put on notice. At the center of the Church’s ethical reflection is the fact that all persons have an inherent dignity which discrimination and mistreatment wounds. However, we offend our own dignity when we act in immoral ways. The full dignity of homosexually inclined persons is not found in homosexual lifestyles and activity. Still, crass and judgmental signs and posters did little to bolster the case for traditional understandings of marriage at the march.
The insights represented by the Church’s understanding are subtle and not easily written into slogans, chants and bumper stickers. What rhymes with “the complementarity of the sexes?” For such points to be made an atmosphere of openness and genuine desire for the truth has to be in place before the discussion begins. Rallies are not the means for such discussions. While there is value in public witness and power in numbers in a democracy, the appreciation of the wisdom which the Roman Catholic Church brings to the discussion may not be best appreciated in such a mixed and ham handed format.
It was wonderful that Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone attended and spoke to the March. We should not be absent. Society must be offered what is best for it. Catholic teaching is not for Catholics alone. Anything that is true is true for all humanity. We are bound to stand in and for these truths of human nature, in season and out. But we should know that the nature of marriage might best be taught in other formats more effectively. It is worth noting, too, that this is not the season for traditional marriage and that standing for it will bring all the ridicule and sarcasm, as well as false accusations, that Jesus promised his followers. Some commentary and pictures are found here: http://mediamatters.org/blog/2014/06/19/inside-noms-second-failed-march-for-marriage/199807. And here,