CNN’s Belief Blog: ‘Can ‘True Catholics’ Support Same Sex Marriage?’

June 21st, 2012 10:41 AM

Never exactly reticent in the cause of promoting gay marriage, CNN continued its long tradition of gay advocacy by highlighting dissenters against Church teaching.

In a June 20 article on CNN’s Belief Blog titled “Can ‘true Catholics’ support same-sex marriage,” Chris Welch highlighted two Catholics who remained within the Church, yet declared opposition to the Church’s teaching of gay marriage.

Welch first mentioned Jim Smith, an ex-priest who founded a group dedicated to overturning laws on gay marriage. Smith founded a group, Catholics for Marriage Equality-Minnesota, which seeks “to encourage Catholics to consider the profound sacredness of same-gender relationships.”

Smith’s assessment completely misunderstands (or ignores) Catholic teaching on sexuality, which holds that the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage are inseparable. For the Catholic Church, any attempt to separate the two purposes of sexuality is destructive both to the individuals doing so and to society as a whole. Homosexual acts, which are inherently incapable of procreation, are thus viewed by the Church as inherently destructive.

Welch cited polls arguing that Catholics who support gay marriage are in the majority. Welch wrote: “a recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) suggests 59% of American Catholics support rights allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry.”  

Polls consistently overvalue support for gay marriage, as conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has pointed out. Even if the numbers are correct, however, the article assumes that Catholic teaching and right and wrong are judged by polls.

Welch also told another personal story of a pro-gay marriage Catholic. “Like Jim Smith, Michelle LaFrance is a Catholic who has also taken the bold step against the church in support of marriage equality.” (If 59 percent of Catholics support gay marriage, can LaFrance really be taking a “bold step?” Given the consistent, fawning praise of the gay agenda in the media, and the constant castigation of opponents of gay marriage as bigots who hate gays, true boldness lies in adhering to the traditional understanding of marriage.)

LaFrance argued that adherence to Church teaching was unnecessary, saying: “I don’t think anybody – whatever their religious denomination – whole-heartedly follows every single rule down to the letter.”

That’s quite correct – everyone fails to live up to the tenets of their faith. But she fails to make the distinction between failing to live up to a moral code (in Catholic theology, called actual sin) and openly declaring forbidden behavior to be acceptable. Catholics may fail to uphold their moral code on occasion – but that does not mean that they reject portions of that moral code out of hand.

But LaFrance seems to believe that the Church is purely a social justice organization. "The Catholic Church, despite the media [attention] it typically gets, does a lot of great things, a lot of great social justice," LaFrance said. She noted the church "feeds the poor, houses the homeless, takes care of the abused."

The Church’s ethic of service is directly related to its doctrine. One cannot be a “true Catholic” if one actively and deliberately opposes Church teaching, just as surely as one cannot be a “true Catholic” who ignores the poor, disabled, unborn, and disadvantaged. Service and doctrine, to the Catholic Church, are inseparable – and attempts to sunder doctrine from a missionary spirit inevitably lead to the destruction of both.

Welch at least included quotes from Catholics who believed in the teachings of the Church, including Dave Deaval, who declared of Catholics who support gay marriage: “they certainly don't represent what the church teaches," he said. "Is it a spiritual problem? I think yes." He also quoted the Minnesota Catholic Conference, which argued that “groups such as Catholics for Marriage Equality” “do not have any right to call their organizations ‘Catholic.’” 

But Welch made sure to drive home the thrust of his article at the end: “The inner conflict between what Smith believes is right and his love for the church has pushed him to consider leaving the Catholic religion altogether.” Translation: The Church should change its archaic rules on homosexuality, so as to make room for good people that want to be Catholics but support gay marriage.

CNN should stop trying to advise the Church on what it should and should not do.