Saturday, June 27, 2015

SCOTUS's Power

Yesterday morning when I checked my phone, I saw that five lawyers in Washington had reached a decision about gay "marriage." At that point, I proceeded to make my coffee and pray my breviary, same as I do every morning, because in the grand scheme of things nothing has changed. Throughout the day yesterday I read about the decision and I kept thinking I would write something, but I kept getting drawn to more important things because again, nothing has changed. Five lawyers did not change the definition of marriage, and therefore they did not change who could get married, not really. That, if I may borrow a phrase from President Obama, is above their pay grade.*

No, the One who created marriage (that is, God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth, in case you're missing the subtlety) was unmoved by Friday's decision. His definition of marriage as a privileged opportunity to participate in His creative love was unchanged by Friday's decision to grant legal concessions and benefits to those unions which are incapable of participating in said creative love. So my day carried on pretty much as normal, because five activist lawyers cannot change that which God has decided.

In my reading, a lot of people had good things to say about the decision. Let's start with Justice Robert's dissenting opinion (page 29 in the link). Justice Roberts recognizes that to claim a constitutional basis for this decision is completely mistaken.
If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.
Archbishop Kurtz, president of the USCCB, had a strong statement. He recognizes that the court makes decisions, it doesn't determine right vs wrong. This decision will go down in history with Roe v. Wade as an error that will fail precisely because it is an error:
Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.
Bishop Etienne echoed part of Archbishop Kurtz's thought that this ruling will not last:
This truth of marriage as a union between a man and a woman has been received from the Creator and lived by men and women since the foundation of the world. Such truth never changes. Only human philosophies change over time. Sadly, today’s ruling by the US Supreme Court is one more shift in human thought that will not stand the test of time.
And canon lawyer Dr. Ed Peters offers a canonical and pastoral perspective. First he recognizes that society has long called marriage various unions that the Church does not call marriage. Then he recognizes an important fact that priests and bishops would do well to heed. A great number (perhaps even a majority?) of practicing Catholics are already in support of homosexual "marriage." So we clergy and preachers cannot preach as if "we" the Church, that is, the people of God, are of one mind on this issue. No, we clergy need to understand that the Catholic Church is not united on this issue, and our preaching should reflect and try to remedy that reality.
First, we need to recall that the State has long recognized as married some persons who are not married, namely, when the State allows divorced persons simply to remarry. We have lived with persons in pseudo-marriage for many decades; so now the pool of such people is larger...Second, Catholic doctrine and discipline can never, ever, recognize as married two persons of the same sex, and any Catholic who regards “same-sex marriage” as marriage is, beyond question, “opposed to the doctrine of the Church” (Canon 750 § 2). I am sorry so many Catholics apparently think otherwise and I recognize that many who think that Church teaching on marriage can and should change, do so in good faith. But they are still wrong and their error leads them, among other things, to underestimate how non-negotiable is the Church’s opposition to the recognition of same-sex unions as marriage.
Finally, I noticed that the hashtag #lovewins has been trending on Twitter and Instagram. Sadly, this is exactly how the Devil works. He takes something good and twists it just slightly, but the slight twist is so well executed that the goodness is destroyed in the thing. Calling Friday's decision a win for love is exactly that. Love won 2,000 years ago when a young virgin said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord," and a long awaited Savior was born. Love won when a man prayed alone in a garden, "Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me, but not my will but thine be done," and he was given strength to endure his trials. Love won when that same man said, "Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit," and a life-giving Church was born. Love won 2,000 years ago on the Cross. Love didn't win on Friday.

*Interestingly, in the 2008 presidential debate in which Obama said that defining when a baby gets human rights is above his pay grade, he also said he believed marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and that he would oppose a constitutional amendment stating such because traditionally "it's been a matter of state law" (emphasis mine). How times have changed.

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