I am linking the following 2003 Vatican document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by Blessed John Paul II and written by Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), which addresses all the questions that exploded around the internet in the past couple of days, sadly putting even orthodox Catholics publicly at odds. We don't need to be at odds on this issue, as the Church has spoken, and very clearly:
If you don't know what internet explosion I'm talking about, simply search "joseph bottum same-sex marriage" and dive in if you'd like. I dove in yesterday and today, and I am wiped out.
Why faithful Catholics are arguing the point is so sad and confusing to me, since our marching orders have already been given, both in the above document (please, read and digest every word of it), and in the subsequent words of Pope Benedict in a 2006 speech to European politicians:
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge[s] clearly today...
Recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage and its defense from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role….
There is no confusion in either the document or the speech, no suggestion that Catholics may simply "give up" the political and legal battle, exit the public square on this issue, and instead work to "re-enchant" the world in other ways. If someone can show me where that approach is even hinted at, I am willing to listen. But from what I'm reading, that avenue is not even an option for a Catholic.
And by holding the principles she does, the Church is not "mean" nor lacking in compassion. The Church is a Teacher and a Mother, upholding the common good, i.e., what is good for all. As the wonderful Brandon Vogt told me today:
One thing I see often among well-meaning Catholics is that they misunderstand why the Church vigorously defends conjugal marriage. It's not just because God established marriage this way, or because we should uphold the sacramental meaning of marriage, though both are certainly true.
The main reason Catholics defend the traditional, civil understanding of marriage is because a strong marriage culture benefits everyone -- Catholics, atheists, poor people, children, singles, senior citizens, etc. And a failing marriage culture harms everyone.
To say it another way, a strong marriage culture benefits the common good. Whenever ideas or political movements threaten the common good, the Church must defend it, even at great cost, even when its own people don't understand why, and even when the outcome seems hopeless.
The Church rejects the idea of "same-sex marriage" not just because it contradicts natural law, or God's divine plan for marriage, but because it's deleterious for society, children most of all.
That's all. I'm still exhausted. But before I go, I want to leave you with the link to the Church's teaching one more time, just in case you missed it up above, and just in case you decide to jump into the debates raging on every blog and site:
No need to reinvent the wheel.