National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  March 19, 2004

Gay marriage merits our prayers


Throughout the ages human beings have opened up the Bible and seen reasons to keep slaves, deny that native peoples and blacks have souls, burn Jews at the stake, stone women, kill innocent civilians to advance U.S. interests, deny women access to birth control -- the list goes on and on.

Yet through it all, God has raised up individuals who have rescued the word from those whose misinterpretations advance cruelty and injustice. Lovingly and prayerfully, often at great risk to their careers, if not their lives, they revisit the scriptures and let God reveal himself or herself anew. Thanks to them, we read the same Bible as the slaveholder did, but we no longer believe that God is for slavery.

God cannot be contained by human stupidity and prejudice. I, therefore, have no doubt that the Catholic church will one day welcome to the altar gays who wish to marry. Until then, I propose that Catholics everywhere dust off their rosaries and set aside time each day or week for prayer on behalf of theologians and others engaged in the scholarship that will allow God, once again, to enlighten us, to liberate us from our prejudices, this time with regard to homosexuality. Making our views known to the church hierarchy is not enough. The church is no democracy. What we need is a miracle. And this requires prayer -- in the name of our gay brothers and sisters wounded by hatred, in the name of those slain at the hands of governments, clerics and fellow citizens, and in memory of the homosexuals who perished in Hitler’s death camps.

Most lay people will welcome a formal doctrine in support of gay marriage; the rest will catch up. Lay people tend to be ahead of the game. We are not, for the most part, celibate men. We have very different ideas from the church hierarchy, rooted in experience, about the sacredness of desire. From the use of birth control to loving support extended to gay children, ordinary Catholics honor God by respecting reality, by shedding images that demean God. We do not sit around imagining God in heaven sick at heart about a slow procreation day or prayers said by a lesbian couple at Thanksgiving dinner.

Many years ago I read a message that was printed on a bumper sticker or T-shirt that went something like this: “If a man kills another man he is a hero; if he loves another man he is evil.” It brings to mind a news conference (before the U.S. invasion of Iraq) in which George W. Bush said that he was at peace with the prospect of war. “I read my Bible every day,” he said.

I have no doubt our civilization is threatened, not by love and marriage as our president would have us believe, but by warfare and its fallout: death, maiming, environmental catastrophe, devastated minds, and massive deficits as well as the slashing of basic social services.

As for public policy: If heterosexuals don’t want to share the word “marriage” with gays, so be it. Extend to those who enter into “civil unions” the same 1,000-plus government-bestowed benefits, responsibilities and privileges that married couples automatically receive. Meanwhile, heterosexuals who think gay couples are undermining their marriages should seek help, as nearly half of all heterosexual marriages end in divorce. This was true long before same-sex marriage became a national issue.

State and church alike should provide free counseling to households headed by heterosexual couples, given the historical tendency of such families to be the site of infidelity and domestic violence. The Catholic church should suspend use of the word “disordered” to describe homosexuality and turn its energies to addressing the disorders that plague heterosexual marriages.

Demetria Martinez is the author of three collections of poetry and a novel.

National Catholic Reporter, March 19, 2004

This Week's Stories | Home Page | Top of Page
Copyright  © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO   64111
All rights reserved.
TEL:  816-531-0538     FAX:  1-816-968-2280   Send comments about this Web site to: