In the second of the series of Meetings on Family, we embarked on the complex question of Same Sex Marriage and Family.
The meeting began in contemplative mode as we resurfaced from the February meeting the life giving elements of family communication and relationship leading to richness of life and growth.Starting with a brief presentation to throw some light on the social and religious background to our thinking on homosexuality and homosexual marriage and family, we moved into the theme of the day, Same Sex Marriage and Family.We give a summary here of the main points of what turned out to be a lively, well informed and well balanced discussion with useful input from members of our group.
Jesus on Homosexuality: In his response to his disciples’ concerns about the indissolubility of marriage, ‘If such is the case for a man with his wife it is better not to marry’, Jesus recognised three categories of men not bound to a wife, without any hint of marginalising them as a minority group:
- ‘eunuchs’ who have been so from birth;
- ‘eunuchs’ who have been made eunuchs by others, and;
- ‘eunuchs’ who have made themselves ‘eunuchs’ for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven’.
The Apostle Philip on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza recognised the dignity of the ‘eunuch’ who was driving along in his chariot. Barred as he was by the religious system from entering the Outer Court of the Temple, he was, at the moment of their encounter, reading from Isaiah Chapter 53 about the Suffering Servant, who, Paul informed him, referred to Jesus. ‘In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation?’ Acts 8, 26-40. He would have encountered the same unbiased, respectful response from Jesus as he did from Philip.
What, we asked ourselves, is at the heart of our marginalizing homosexual people and rejecting One-Sex Marriage? The reasons generally given by people contra homosexual marriage include the following:
- Family in the 1937 Irish Constitution as in Church teaching is seen as a union of a man and a woman
- the perceived ‘perversity’ of ‘against nature’ homosexual acts, as opposed to heterosexual.
- Same sex marriage, not open to procreation, cannot fulfil the dual purpose of marriage.
- One-sex couples cannot provide the right climate for rearing a family.
On the other hand some at the meeting knew of same sex couples with children having a very happy partnership, who were seen as a loving family
We looked briefly at the marginalization and persecution of homosexuals down the ages and even today in some parts of the world. Taking into account the approximately 4-7 homosexual percentage of the human population, statistics taken from those not sentenced to silence by fear or feelings of shame, we asked ourselves the question, ‘what could be the case for marriage ?’
The 2nd February 2014 letter from Pope Francis includes an invitation to “all the People of God, bishops, priests, consecrated men and women and lay faithful to discuss the urgent pastoral needs facing the family” in the context of the Synod of Bishops meeting in October.
Alan Shatter current Minister for Justice has informed us: “The intended referendum is about one thing only: the question of who is permitted to marry in the eyes of the State”.
So how will society deal with the changing perspectives on sexuality, and specifically on homosexuality and same sex marriage and family?
It was suggested that those of us who claim to be liberal minded with ready answers are not always ready to consider traditional views. Questions on family structures – homosexuality, same sex marriage, same sex families, in vitro fertilization are challenging to society and Church and need discussion. Younger people seem to be taking these challenges on board. The Church has had challenges before, including the issue of contraception and has made mistakes in the past, such as condemning Scientists for their scientific discoveries as in the case of Galileo, participating in the slave trade and so on.
Intercommunion with the Russian Orthodox Church could make for a more conservative direction.
But the Movement for Homosexual Marriage is gathering force. We see the phenomenon of Gays vociferously coming out of hiding as paralleling other movements for liberation from marginalization, the Women’s Movement, the unmarried mothers freed from the silence of fear and shame now calling for justice, adult men and women currently speaking out of a lifetime of suffering from the effects of childhood sexual abuse….. the list is long.
Such Movements of articulate adults insisting on their human rights constitute the beginning of change.
Meanwhile, we await answers to the question:
‘How will society deal with the changing perspectives on sexuality, and specifically on homosexuality and same sex marriage and family?’