Once again, with the firing of the music director at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church over his same-sex marriage, we find the news reports lacking any sense of the gravity of the issue. Because this gap puts news consumers at risk of sin, despair, and eternal suffering, believers must strive to reach them with the missing perspective.
Catholics believe that God exists and has certain eternal qualities that define His will and the intention of the universe. To some extent, we can know God’s qualities by observing His creation, but in order that we may have free will, He leaves some areas for us to discern. Just so, an education includes some facts that students simply must acknowledge, but beyond those, the good teacher leaves it to them to find their way to the correct conclusions based on evidence that she makes available in the context of the lesson.
For Catholics, that evidence lies in three balanced areas. God speaks to us through our consciences, but we are prone to misunderstanding (deliberately or not), so through Jesus and the apostles He established for us a structured Church that works out questions as they arise and preserves the answers as history moves along. Just as an individual human being can stray from Truth, so too can human institutions, so the tradition that the Church continually develops must be rooted in scripture, mainly the New Testament of the Bible, with the Old Testament as context.
God’s nature is constant, but we are permitted to behave in ways that conflict with it. Inevitably, we are tempted to do so, even to the point that our sense of what is good differs from God’s, which is to say that our sense is wrong.
In our time, powerful forces want to affirm a small minority’s sense of what is good even though it conflicts with the unambiguous conclusions of tradition, statements of scripture, and even straightforward observations of nature. Last year’s insistence that we could draw no distinction between the intimate relationships of men and women and those of same-sex couples has become this year’s insistence that we can draw no distinctions between men and women, period, even to the point that we must alter our own sense of reality to accommodate a man who says he’s a woman.
Society will have to work these conflicts out over time. (Although, the early evidence suggests that aggressive progressives will permit a right to define reality in only one way: toward their worldview.) For the purposes of this essay, we need only acknowledge that scripture is clear that God created us man and woman and that we are meant to pair in that way for marriage, becoming literally one body in our children. Moreover, tradition has very long and very reasonably held that our binary nature has implications for reality, the act of creation, and our relationship with God.
When our neighbors hold conflicting views of reality, difficult and painful decisions slash at our lives. Reducing those decisions to simplistic struggles of compassion versus bigotry is a form of fanaticism — a fanaticism that allows no possibility of a Roman Catholic Church, or any organization that observes reality and heeds the lessons of our ancestors for millennia. The attack is not just on old ideas, not only on a particular belief system, but on a way of answering the questions that define our lives and reality.
Catholics also believe that evil exists, pulling us away from God without investment in any particular human activity. In one generation, it whispers us into destructive self-gratifying behavior, and in the next, it pushes the zealous to indulge in the pleasures of persecution. Then, a subsequent generation persecutes the righteous, even (or especially) those who were never among the overzealous.
We can easily understand why evil would want to destroy the structure that draws us toward God. Why journalists seem incapable of giving these deep questions the consideration they deserve is not so obvious, unless we conclude that they are like young students who demand easy, one-sided stories, oblivious to the harm that they do to others.