Home Articles Spirituality Gay Wedding

RSS Syndication

Subscribe to my RSS Feed!
feed image


Gay Wedding PDF Print E-mail
Friday, October 12 2007 19:00
Last Monday I attended the wedding of two gay friends. One of these men I have known for several years, the other only slightly. For both of them I feel affection and wish them happiness in their life together.

The ceremony took place at City Hall in the community where I live. The City Clerk presided, reading the marriage vows that each partner repeated. They seemed thoroughly joyful as were the 25 or so guests who were seated in a semi-circle behind them.

For her part, the City Clerk indicated clearly in the emphasis she gave to certain words that she was acting under the authority of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In accepting my friends’ invitation I was conscious of my church’s strong disapproval of gay marriage. As a Catholic I felt myself to be acting contrary to ecclesiastical authority though there has been no explicit ban on attendance.

Had I been still a cleric, I surely could not have gone to the wedding because it could have been construed as expressing church approval. Probably I would have brought the censure of authorities down on my head.

One of the partners, I will call him Rob, is a longtime Catholic himself. Being a member of the church is important to him, though he often feels tempted to leave. That is largely because the Catholic Church in its official statements has expressed such hostility toward gay and lesbian people. He told me recently, “The behavior of the Church has been abusive.”

A Catholic college graduate and a longtime student in theology, Rob takes his faith seriously. That helps explain why he feels such pain at his church’s condemnation of his lifestyle. His partner, Del, grew up a Mormon, so he does not have the approval of his church either.

Despite my own attendance at this wedding, I must confess feeling mixed about the event. On the one side, I feel glad my friends Rob and Del have found happiness in their love for one another. To me, their fidelity, shown over years of living together, is good for them and also good for society. In wishing them spiritual blessings on this occasion, I was sincere and my message heartfelt.

But the tradition of heterosexual marriage remains precious to me, not something I want to see devalued in any way. My own wish would have been for the word “marriage” not to be applied to the union between gay and lesbian partners. For me, words are important, and this particular word has been used for centuries to describe the union between men and women.

Without casting aspersions on the unions between gay and lesbian people, I continue to regard the union of heterosexual people as different. The sexual differences between men and women are not trivial but constitute something basic and give a special character to marriage as it has been understood. Though the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has already applied the word marriage to people of the same gender, I regret that action of the court.

So, as so often on major issues, I find myself interiorly divided and torn. I want both to honor them and to rejoice when my friends of the same gender find lasting love with one another. Yet I want the name marriage to be reserved for couples of different genders. That’s the combination I currently live with but it can be uncomfortable.

For the foreseeable future, the Catholic Church would seem bound to a moral theology and an idea of church both at odds with approval of same-sex marriage. What the church could do, however, on the official level is to find spiritual values in the relationships between gay and lesbian people. That, in fact, is what many lay members of the church, and some clerics too, are currently doing.

One Catholic pastor told me recently of the esteem he has for a gay couple in his parish. “They are admirable in every way,” he said. “They are very spiritual.” This pastor seems to me to point the way toward a different attitude on the part of the official church. At the very least, the church should abandon what my friend Rob calls “the heated rhetoric” it uses on the subject of homosexuality.

Richard Griffin