The recent United States Supreme Court decision declaring by man’s authority that two people of the same sex have the right to marry in all 50 states is a landmark moment for Catholics called to take a stand. After Roe v. Wade, there is no more compelling issue in the divine order of things about which we ought to concern ourselves.
After the foundational issue of the sanctity of life, embodied by the sacrament of the Eucharist where we encounter in the Living Bread, the matrimonial dimension of Holy Mother Church is fundamental and sacramental, from Adam and Eve through the Wedding at Cana all the way down to the wedding supper of the Lamb at the end of all time.
Two Possible Roads
It is Biblical to notice that there are always at least two choices: “Enter by the narrow gate; the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mathew 7:13-14). If we strive to live out the Catholic mission, we are entering very difficult times. If we live our lives with fidelity to Catholic teaching on marriage and human sexuality we are at harsh odds with the world. We are at a crossroads and our choices are simple, but stark: either we take the wide and easy path of the world or we take the narrow path laid out by Christ.
The Wide and Easy Path
Popular New York Times columnist David Brooks offered some advice in an article on June 16th, 2015. He claims that the war on sexual morality has been lost. He writes to Christians:
I would just ask them to consider a change in course. Consider putting aside … a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.
Leaving aside Mister Brooks’ mis-characterizations of the Church, he suggests that we abandon a public stand in favor of God’s plan for human sexuality. He recommends the alternative that “social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society.” He advises that we “build community institutions in places where they are sparse.” His reason for suggesting that we abandon a public outcry against the Sixth and Ninth Commandments is that “the sexual revolution will not be undone anytime soon.” He concludes that the “more practical struggle is to repair a society rendered atomized, unforgiving and inhospitable.”
Mister Brooks seems to have a point: it does appear that Catholics have lost the battle against the sexual revolution. However, that is the wrong judgment, because it is only judging by appearances. We are called to take part in the spiritual combat, not to decide whether or not the battle is over. Besides, the war was won by Christ; we have but to play our part that we might end in heaven.
Mister Brooks suggests with the rest of the world that we give in, that we acquiesce and go with the flow. This is the easy road, but it will end in perdition. The alternative is much more difficult.
The Narrow Path
Bishop Joseph E. Strickland, from the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, publicly proclaimed the narrow path in an excellent statement posted on the diocese webpage and read in every parish a few weeks ago. He began with, “Let me unambiguously state at the outset that this extremely unfortunate decision by our government is unjust and immoral, and it is our duty to clearly and emphatically oppose it.” Bishop Strickland beautifully expresses Catholic truth conveyed by Christian charity as he elucidates the appropriate Catholic stand:
While taking a strong stand for marriage is the duty of all who call themselves Christian, every type of unjust discrimination against those with homosexual tendencies should be avoided. We must treat these individuals with loving kindness and respect based on their dignity as human persons. Christ rejects no one, but he calls all of us to be converted from our sinful inclinations and follow the truth He has revealed to us.
The narrow path is the path of love; but it denies the licentious rights claimed by the world to embrace and celebrate sin. It will cause the world to hate us, even as we love them properly; However, as Christ spelled out, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). To choose the narrow path of love is to insure that the world will hate us. Our response must be to embrace Christ’s twin commandments to love God first and our neighbor second, even if our neighbor is persecuting us.
Where do we go from here?
We are all compelled at this crossroads to take a stand one way or the other. The stand against taking a stand is a choice to take the wide and easy path of indecision. In deliberately choosing a path, we are inevitably going to alienate someone, either the world or God; we cannot please both. To choose the easy and wide path of the world will please the world, but alienate God. To choose the narrow path of Catholic virtue will please God, but alienate the world.
To take a Catholic stand, there is only one choice. It is a difficult choice, because there will be a great deal of blowback for those who stand for truth. It is the stand to which we are called in all generations in this fallen world. We are called to the narrow path, to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). The Catholic stand is to join Bishop Strickland in truth and charity.
Our duty is to become saints by taking up arms in the spiritual combat, cultivating a life of prayer, and doing everything within our power to colonize heaven. This is particularly difficult in this confused age, because the enemy has taken our words and used them against us. Many Catholics may not see what is so wrong with man’s attempt to redefine marriage. But it is certain: Man does not have the right to usurp the Creator’s authority in attempting to redefine the divine intuition of marriage; it is sacramental, and one of the great symbols and signs of salvation.
Christ exhorts us to “enter by the narrow gate!” We are called to take the narrow path of righteousness, the difficult and thorny road found pleasing to God, not the wide and easy road that pleases our fellow man. What stand will you take?