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Monday, July 6, 2015

Same Sex Marriage, Truth and My Cousin's Legacy...

In 1994, one of my closest cousins died.

Funny, smart, full of life; he was always the life of the party and center of attention. He was the kind of person who would welcome strangers and five minutes later was their best friend. Maybe, it was because, after having come from Cuba at a young age and moving to middle America (a suburb in Chicago), he always felt like a bit of an outsider, although there was probably more to it than that.

My cousin was extremely family oriented, which shaped the man he was.  There was never a family reunion without him being there making everyone laugh at his jokes, imitations and antics. Yet, despite his candor, openness and jovial exterior, there was a part of himself he did not share publicly. He was attracted to men.  It seemed that out of love and respect for the family, he preferred to keep that to himself.

When he got ill, his death came quickly.  Within a year he deteriorated and was reduced to a remnant of his old self, succumbing to his ailment at the tender age of 33.

I love my cousin.  I miss him dearly.  When I first saw the movie Philadelphia, I felt a sense of shame and remorse for not being there for him towards the end, not for any conscience reason, but because I was "too busy" living my life, too caught up in my own selfish lifestyle.  I still live with that regret today.

Now, while it's true that he never came out publicly to his family, although he did confide in a select few, to be honest, it wasn't necessarily a surprise to anyone.  We all live with secrets in life and some extend to family, where, at times, some are considered best kept that way.

Despite his personal desires, his love of children and family unity, may have made him realize the emptiness and meek prospects of his situation in the long run.  He always lived for the moment.

It's funny, I thought about my cousin recently after the Supreme Court decision last week and an openly homosexual friend (who is in his mid-to-late 50's) admitted to me and another friend, "You know, I sometimes wish I would have found a wife and had children.  Especially, now that my life is winding down.  I could never have adopted, as did... (He mentioned someone we know).  I'm too selfish and enjoy my freedom too much.  I love traveling, going out and partying but, it would have been nice to have had a wife and family of my own."

Last weekend at Mass, our freshly ordained parish priest, barely a month out of the seminary, said his honeymoon was over (almost as fast as it started) because he was going to speak out against something that, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll, 60 percent of Catholics agree with; Gay Marriage (Not that Truth is ever determined by popular vote or that the Catholics polled even go to Mass!).  He actually gave a disclaimer by giving out his email address for anyone that would object and wanted to discuss the issue further!

During his sermon, the novice priest quoted (in less graphic terms) from Chief Justice John Robert's dissent on the SCOTUS ruling:
"This universal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman is no historical coincidence. Marriage did not come about as a result of a political movement, discovery, disease, war, religious doctrine, or any other moving force of world history—and certainly not as a result of a prehistoric decision to exclude gays and lesbians. It arose in the nature of things to meet a vital need: ensuring that children are conceived by a mother and father committed to raising them in the stable conditions of a lifelong relationship.
The premises supporting this concept of marriage are so fundamental that they rarely require articulation. The human race must procreate to survive. Procreation occurs through sexual relations between a man and a woman. When sexual relations result in the conception of a child, that child’s prospects are generally better if the mother and father stay together rather than going their separate ways. Therefore, for the good of children and society, sexual relations that can lead to procreation should occur only between a man and a woman committed to a lasting bond.
Society has recognized that bond as marriage. And by bestowing a respected status and material benefits on married couples, society encourages men and women to conduct sexual relations within marriage rather than without. As one prominent scholar put it, “Marriage is a socially arranged solution for the problem of getting people to stay together and care for children that the mere desire for children, and the sex that makes children possible, does not solve.”
The clergyman added, "The only thing he was missing was not mentioning that this is something given to us by God.  And, you see the problem, if we believe this is what marriage is, and this is what God has given to us as marriage, then you see the issue is that we can't change it.  We, as a Church, are keepers of the Truth... we can't change it, no matter the political, cultural or societal circumstances of the time."

"This is completely antithetical to the way our culture thinks today," he continued, "which is that truth shifts according to the circumstances, and how everybody feels at the time... In the past few weeks, there have been serious debates online on whether a white woman can call herself black, or if a man can call himself a woman.  The arguments for these things revolve around the fact that they really desire it to be so, so why not?  It would be discriminatory, or judgmental, to say otherwise. The Church would say, as much as you say that "you're black," the reality is, "you're white."  The Church would say, as much as you say it and desire it, and even change your appearance to look it, the reality is, "you're a man", not a woman.  You can see in this reality how we can easily take what has been marriage since the beginning of humanity, and take something that was never called marriage until a few years ago, and now call it marriage."

At my work, the SCOTUS decision was received with cheers, applause, high-fives and champagne bottles being uncorked.  We even got a statement from the company President hailing the decision by five of the Court's nine judges.

As everyone knows, social media exploded with celebratory comments and profile pictures turned into rainbows.  "Love wins!" many friends posted but I ask myself did it really?  Catholic author Chris Stefanick points out in his book, Absolute Relativism, "Love without truth - much like truth without love - is a unique form of cruelty."  

Even taking religion out of the equation, it's not hard to see what nature had in mind. Nobody can deny, as much as some may try, that our bodies proclaim the truth of our nature; certain parts designed to fit in certain others and when we fulfill that truth and give ourselves completely and openly to one another within marriage, we partake in the creation of life; in the survival and continuation of humanity and society (as Chief Justice Roberts pointed out).

I couldn't help but think of how fast we had moved from my cousin's death in the mid 90's, to sympathy and empathy, a worldwide cry to find a cure for AIDS, tolerance and acceptance, to support and an eventual move to redefine the most sacred and important institution within society, which is the foundation of the family.

While I'm sure many, including family members, would say that my cousin would be celebrating along with the culture, I can't help but wonder if that would be the case.  As giving and selfless as he lived his life, where he was willing to protect his family at the detriment of his own desires, would it be so strange to think he wouldn't?  I don't know.

In any case, I think another Catholic author, Brandon Vogt, said it best, in addressing those of us dejected by the Supreme Court decision, on where we go from here, "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than teachers.  Bear witness in your own marriage.  Holy marriages fuel a strong marriage culture. Commit right now to your spouse and to your kids that their vision of marriage will be shaped not by legislators, teachers, or activists but by YOUR marriage; by your heroic devotion, one-flesh union, and fidelity to that truth imprinted on your bodies and affirmed by God.  When asked the most pivotal question in this debate -- what is marriage? -- their answer should be clear: my mom and dad."

And, that is what I feel my cousin would want me to do...