My friend Tyler sent me this text today.
“How do you as a Catholic come to terms with homosexuality. The church said bun in hell and actively campaign against marriages. You have gay friends and I imagine would happily attend their future weddings. If you could take it one step further: you being ok with homosexuality despite being born in the Philippines where bakla is an accepted comedy figure, but certainly not allowed to get married.”
And I responded with one of the longest emails I’ve ever sent anyone on my life:
This issue usually comes up when people realize that I have a lot of friends who are gay, and they ask me, “Would you ever go to their wedding?” And then it leads to the discussion of whether I’m against gay marriage.
There’s the short answer and the long answer.
The short answer, the TL;DR answer, is that of course I’m for it. I want people to be happy. Everyone should be able to love whomever they want for the rest of their lives, and they should get to celebrate that. Loving someone is such a rare occurrence, and who are we to deny someone that?
The long answer:
I know what the Church says, and we all know what the Bible says. But the thing is, there is no black and white answer. There rarely ever is. And this is something a lot of devout Catholics (that I know) continue to seek Truth about. There are things that ARE pretty clear-cut and black and white, but I don’t think this is one of them.
1) We don’t think gay people will go to hell. We don’t know who will go to hell, period. We can’t condemn people because that will be judging them, and that is something we should not do. Only God has the power and the right to do that when the time is right. Now the Bible does say who will inherit God’s Kingdom, but we as human beings do not know for sure who’s going to be in hell after death.
2) We do not hate gay people. We do not love them any less than we love any other person. I can’t speak for other denominations, but as Catholics, we are not taught to hate gay people, or anyone for that matter. If anyone who’s Catholic tells you that they hate someone because they are gay, then they are not Catholic. Because that is not what we believe. (Even long before Pope Francis told everyone this! Pope Francis merely reminded everyone.)
3) The Catholic Church, as you know, is all about Scripture and Tradition. So I understand the debate and the endless discussions and why a lot of people are conflicted about this. Tradition is something that is established by God Himself, something we can’t mess with. So I understand when people say that God intended a man to be with a woman. But I also understand that it’s not a choice to be gay. Scientifically, medically, it points to this theory. It’s not 100% proven yet, and I think that’s part of the reason why the Church still stands where it does now. A common belief is that it’s a phase/trial that will change with time. Or worse, it’s something that is wrong and can be fixed, like a syndrome. Either way, they are viewed as sinners (even if it’s not a choice – they are sinners who can’t help it), and that these “tendencies” are somehow a weakness. And what the Catholic Church teaches is that we are to love them as much as we love ourselves, and respect them like everyone else, and pray that they live righteously, meaning live in celibacy (pretty much).
Though I appreciate that more and more Catholics are being respectful about people’s sexual orientation, this is something that I still can’t fully understand. How am I supposed to love and respect someone, and deny them of one of the most beautiful aspects of life?
4) I think I’ve told you this before, so it might be a bit redundant (sorry!), but I think it’s necessary and very relevant to this topic. I told you about a book that I read, “Every Day,” and it’s about this being and how he/she wakes up in a different body every day. He/she calls him/herself “A”. “A” wakes up one day and falls in love with a girl. A continues to wake up in a different body every day (boy or girl) and is still in love with the girl. This reminds me of that C.S. Lewis quote, “You don’t have a soul. You ARE a soul. You have a body.” This helped me understand that our bodies are merely outer shells, that yes, we are body AND soul and they come in hand in hand, but our souls are ethereal. They are little pieces of God, and they are what makes it possible for us to love. This is why animals (like our pets) do not have the ability to love, because they don’t have a soul. They get attached to us, but they do no truly love us. Our souls are what connects us to God. It’s our link to Him. (Animals do not have this relationship with God; they ARE a relationship with God.) So we, as human beings, are able to love because of our souls. Our bodies are important, but they really shouldn’t matter. We always talk about how two people in love don’t care about how the other looks, that if one day they look different, it’s not going to change how they feel, because they fell in love with the person. If that’s the case, then why does it matter if someone is male or female or identifies as something else?
5) Ok, this is now something that’s purely me, and I don’t know how other Catholics feel about this, and I will probably get into a lot of arguments about this. But the Bible is a really, really old book. And I’m not saying that because it’s outdated, it means it’s wrong. Because not all modern things point towards right things (and vice versa). What I’m saying is that the Old Testament is something that I have mixed feelings about. I know that some chapters condemn every day things like, women wearing pants, or getting a haircut. But these things were also associated with Pagan rituals and beliefs, that’s why they were banned. But I don’t really know enough about the teachings and the historical part of OT so I can’t really speak much about that… What I do know is what Christ teaches us. That many times, pharisees question Him and say that He is doing something that is the exact opposite of what the Scripture says. And Jesus just replies that He knows what they are taught, but now He is here, and this is how things should be (like working during Sabbath, stoning people to death, associating with sinners, etc). But not once did Jesus even speak about being with someone of the same sex when He was on Earth! Not once. You know what he did say? “Love your neighbor as yourself.” and “Whatever you do unto my brothers, you do unto me.” and “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you,” His message of love is clear, and to me, that means treating other people the way I want to be treated.
6) The Church also has a very dark history. The ability of the Church to lay down what is true and we should believe (Magisterium) is still something that makes me uncomfortable. Having that much authority requires a lot of trust, and I trust the Church and its leaders. But like I said, we have a very dark history, and our leaders, no matter how Inspired they are (Inspired = moved and governed by the Holy Spirit), they are still humans. This is the same church that punished Galilee for saying that the Sun revolved around the Earth. (And it wasn’t until recently that we formally apologized for that!). What I’m saying is that the Church is still comprised of humans, and it will be difficult to reach a full understanding of love. It’s like trying to explain what music is using ONE song. Love is so much more than just one book, or one church. GOD is so much more than one church. Maybe I’m wrong about these things, maybe the Church is, I don’t know. But I stand by what I believe (for now, this is an ever-moving target for me, like a lot of things) because I know Jesus’ message of love. Having said that, no matter the question, I just go with one rule: love your neighbor as you love yourself.
So where does this leave us with same sex-marriage?
First, from what I understand, the Catholic Church doesn’t believe in the words “same-sex marriage.” It’s an oxymoron, because according to our Canon, “marriage” is a union between man and woman. So I guess by definition, it’s not something that can happen, again because it is something that is established by God. Now, as a human being who believes in the power of love, I think people can love and be with anyone they want to be with. As a Catholic, I believe that Matrimony is a Sacrament, an outward sign of God’s grace. Sacraments are done with God, through the priest, and us, being mere humans, don’t have the power to change any of that. If two people of the same sex get married, I’m not sure Matrimony really occurs, because by the nature of the Sacrament itself, the vows, the prayers, etc are tailored for a man and a woman. We didn’t design how it works, we just perform it.
I think if you ask most Catholics who are trying to find answers about this issue, they will agree that they won’t feel comfortable with two people of the same sex being married in a Catholic Church. And I 100% understand that. But a civil union, or a marriage through another church? I don’t see anything wrong with that. And I would totally attend that.
I don’t think you know this, but I did one of those things where you get ordained online. Haha long story. But anyway, those things are totally not legit (it doesn’t look like it?) but let’s say they were. A really good friend of mine from nursing school asked me that when she and her girlfriend were ready, she’s going to ask me to marry them. Haha. I’m not sure how serious she was, but if she did ask, I think I would do it. I would be honored to bring them together. So let’s pretend I did that, let’s pretend I ended up presiding over the ceremony (lol). The question is, do I think the Sacrament of Matrimony occurred? Of course not, because I’m not a priest and they aren’t Catholic and it’s going to be nowhere close to a Catholic wedding. But is there merit to what we did? Absolutely. It’s them sharing their vows, and telling the world they love each other, and that is enough. It’s similar to going to church with Faith (who’s not Catholic). There is no Sacrament, but it still means something, the message (of love) is still there.
As for being Filipino and gay marriage…
I grew up with a few gay uncles, and gay playmates etc. So it’s not like it was super taboo where we came from. But it is something that parents beat their kids up for because they think it’s wrong. As for me, I never understood what the big deal was. Every gay person I knew was cooler and funnier and more talented. Good for them! That’s how I thought about it. But I never really evaluated what it meant as far as marriage or relationships or regarding my faith.
Growing up, the only same-sex relationships I saw were between gay guys and straight guys, and girls in my school.
1) I went to an all-girl Catholic school (St. Paul College Pasig) until 7th grade. And for some reason, our campus was more open to same-sex relationships (or at least being attracted to the same sex) than other schools. For some reason, there were just more relationships. Don’t get me wrong, people still got kicked out if they were caught doing something inappropriate, but our school was kind of known for these things. So girls would crush on other girls, and start dating each other, or what would pass as dating in 6th and 7th grade haha. I mean, my first kiss (an innocent peck on the lips) was with a girl. (surprise! lol)
2) When I was a freshman, one of my good friends from college was scouting guys in the diner and said, “Who’s your friend? He’s really cute.” And my other friend said, “I know! But he’s straight.” and my friend replied, “I know.. They always are.” And I remember thinking, does it matter??? Because growing up, I just see gay people in ‘relationships’ with straight guys, purely to hook-up. Straight guys date them to get money out of them (I kid you not.) and that’s the arrangement that they have. So I actually have never been that exposed to many same-sex long term relationships that are based on love and commitment.
So I didn’t really have much experience or knowledge about same-sex relationships growing up. My Filipino culture really has very minimal influence on my beliefs when it comes to gay marriage (and other things), because again, most of it is just Traditional beliefs. We believe it because we’ve believed it for so long. Everyone believes it so we don’t feel the need to educate ourselves about these things and to defend it when necessary. Basically, I think me being Filipino has very little to do with my stand on gay-marriage.
This turned into a monster of an email. Sorry! I don’t think I’ve shared this much about my belief about something with anyone before. Also, I’m sorry if all this doesn’t really answer any of your questions. But like I said, this is something I still research on and read about and talk about. I’m sorry I got super tired halfway through this so I’m not as coherent and articulate as I wanted to be. And can’t really keep my eyes open anymore, but I hope this kinda sorta helps a little!