Last week, my country New Zealand became the thirteenth country in the world to redefine marriage and allow same-sex marriage to be legally recognised. This follows a worldwide trend of redefining marriage, France and Uruguay also being recent countries to pass the bill. Many other countries have it on the cards this year.
New Zealand is a small country, population around 4 million, far in distance from the rest of the world. It is one of the most secular countries in the world, with 35% of the population in the last census declaring themselves to have no religion. In 2005 New Zealand passed the Civil Union Bill, allowing same sex marriage to have civil unions in place of marriage. In May 2012 the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill was proposed, and was pulled from the ballot and passed its first and second readings in parliament in August 2012 and March 2013. It was widely promoted as the ‘Marriage Equality’ Bill. Media it seemed were quite well spoken in favour of the bill, with a few national prominent figures being gay or lesbian. Only the Catholic Church and two minor political groups actively spoke out against the bill. It has been argued that the political process in regard to this was corrupted, with the select committee process of hearing public submissions being biased and the bill being rushed through. Polls of public opinion showed the support for the bill decreased with each reading of the bill. On the day of the bill passing current affairs show ‘Campbell Live’ ran a poll showing 78% against. Generally though it seems public opinion was in favour. The Bill was passed last week, with 77 votes in favour and 44 against. Already there has been talk of polyamorous marriage equality and naming of churches saying they won’t perform same sex marriages when it becomes legal in August. What is to come will be interesting to witness.
Often we feel helpless to do anything about same sex marriage – and often people actually react when its too late. Shown by a recent phone call from our parish priest who said that parishioners were coming up saying the parish should’ve done more to stop the bill. Perhaps this bill passing will wake up many in the church to action?
So from a country that has already finished the debate, heres a few things that we can practically do to stand up for marriage:
1. Pray fervently
2. Reach out to the homosexual communities. They are not our enemies. They are our brothers and sisters. Make a stand against all legitimate forms of homosexual discrimination. Show them that you love them. They will know you are Christian by your love. Perhaps get a group together in your parish who want to support people who are homosexual.
How many homosexual Catholics are there sitting in the pews feeling ashamed, embarrassed, angry and upset? Reach out to them and do it as someone who has been forgiven by the Lord. Do Catholics even know what the Church’s view of homosexuality is? In the words of Mother Teresa, who called homosexuals “friends of Jesus” :
“Jesus loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy. When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes, He is the one who always accepts you. Only believe, you are precious to him. Bring all you are suffering to His feet, only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are. He will do the rest”
This should be our first message to homosexuals. A message of love and understanding.
3. Better resource your parish. How can people make informed decisions if they do not know the facts? I recommend starting with a heap of pamphlets on often controversial Catholic teachings. Obviously these ones on homosexuality are the most topical, but homosexuals are a very small group of people and pornography and contraception are the major battlefields in your parish – I can pretty much guarantee you that. Have them visible and have some good communicators standing giving them out every week. Post out one of each to every person in your parish. Put your money where your prayers are. God wants you to pray, but he also wants you to work. Hard.
4. Teach your parish. Get study groups together, read what the popes have said. It might surprise you. Teach others. Hire good people to come and talk – again, putting your money where your prayers are. In our diocese we have a few good local apologists that can explain issues well. Who are your good local speakers?
5. Bring Natural Family Planning to your parish. In a BIG way.
You might be thinking, “Hey, this has nothing to do with homosexuality!” However, it has everything to do with building a concrete culture of life. The likelihood is that most couples in your parish are not living their marriage vows in one way or another and NFP has been proven to build stronger marriages and stronger families. A visiting Australian Bishop once said in a talk that the best thing that a parish could do to promote a culture of life is to hire an NFP teacher for the parish.
6. Theology of the Body – this is the glue that will hold 2-5 together. Start investing time and resources into getting this into your parish. Teach all ages, from young children, to intermediate kids, to teens, to young adults, to engaged couples, to regular adults and EVEN divorced couples. Peter Kreeft and George Weigel, two Catholic intellects that I highly respect, have called the Theology of the Body the cure of for our society’s sickness and a ticking “theological time bomb” waiting to go off in the third millennium. I have taught the Teens course about 8 times and the fruits have been incredible.
7. Utilise media channels and a good message. Social media (Twitter etc) and mainstream media are used well by supporters of same sex marriage. We are often labelled as ‘bigots’ or the argument for ‘our side’ comes often from less eloquent people who are outside the norm and presented as extreme or crazy. The reason that homosexuality is so widely accepted and politically correct around it is that they have used public relations to their advantage. A few decades ago the words sodomy, sodomists and other terms were frequently related to homosexuality. Now the words associated are “gay”, “equal rights”, etc. They turned this around by the presentation that they used. We need to have eloquent arguments that make sense and at the same time use love. We will be judged by their side for being judgmental. But we need to be able to argue well and with compassion.
“To all the members of the Church, the people of life and for life, I make this most urgent appeal, that together we may offer this world of ours new signs of hope, and work to ensure that justice and solidarity will increase and that a new culture of human life will be affirmed, for the building of an authentic civilization of truth and love.” - Blessed John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae
Lastly, we can consider it our fault that our culture has gotten to this point. The last 5o years of contraception our marriages almost out of existence have led our society to the point where marriage has nothing to do with sex and sex has nothing to do with marriage. If our society continues down the road, we can also consider it our fault.
“Faith, hope and charity go together. Hope is practised through the virtue of patience, which continues to do good even in the face of apparent failure, and through the virtue of humility, which accepts God’s mystery and trusts him even at times of darkness. Faith tells us that God has given his Son for our sakes and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! It thus transforms our impatience and our doubts into the sure hope that God holds the world in his hands and that, as the dramatic imagery of the end of the Book of Revelation points out, in spite of all darkness he ultimately triumphs in glory. Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light—and in the end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practise it because we are created in the image of God.” – Pope Emeritis Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est
© 2013. Chelsea Houghton. All Rights Reserved.