Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why State Definitions of Marriage Matter to This Catholic

American law is going through an interesting change. The definition of "marriage," for example, is being stretched to include any two human beings over a certain age.

Interestingly, I haven't run into proposals to decriminalize polygamy, polyandry, or child marriage.

And the obvious 'injustice' of not letting pet owners marry their dachshunds, tabbies, or parrots isn't even on the mainstream radar. But that's another topic. Almost.

I'm just "some guy with a blog." Whether or not I think inter-species marriage is a good idea or not shouldn't matter to practicing Catholics. (I think it's a bad idea, incidentally, although I like animals. Just not that way.)

What an archbishop has to say about what marriage is, what it isn't, and why what a bunch of Congresspeople and/or judges want matters: That, a practicing Catholic should be interested in.

From today's news:
"Erosion of religious freedom threatens Church and nation, warns Archbishop Wuerl"
EWTN News/CNA (June 23, 2010)

"...One issue to which the archbishop referred was the definition of marriage, a contentious issue, especially after the City Council of Washington D.C. passed a law allowing the recognition of same-sex 'marriage' without allowing voters to weigh in on the issue. The measure resulted in Catholic Charities of Washington D.C. being forced to stop offering benefits to employees' spouses and to close their adoption program.

" 'If you take another position than what is presented by people today … you are defined as discriminatory,' he said. 'And because of that, you and your institutions can be very, very severely criticized,' or even sanctioned.

"Essentially, what we are facing, Archbishop Wuerl stated, 'Is the failure to balance the rights of free expression of religion with all these other newly-created rights that are coming up out of our secular society.'..."

Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones: But Words Can Really Hurt You

Nobody in America, for the last three or four decades, has wanted to be called "discriminatory." It's sort of like being called a commie, back in the days of McCarthyism. Which is another topic.

What's - interesting? - about the propaganda value of words "discriminatory" or "discrimination" is that being able to discriminate is what keeps us alive, starting around the time we're toddlers.

"To discriminate" means several things, including:
  1. Recognize or perceive the difference
  2. Discriminate, separate, single out
    • Treat differently on the basis of sex or race
  3. Distinguish
    • As in "I could not discriminate the different tastes in this complicated dish"
    (Princeton's WordNet)
Definition #2 is what most Americans have been conditioned to think of when they hear variations on the word "discriminate."

Don't get me wrong: Civil rights made sense, in 1968. And I'm not at all anxious to see a return to the 'good old days' long before that, of "Irish Need Not Apply" signs. I also recognize that women are people: but then, I'm a Catholic. Think folks like Mary, Catherine of Siena and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

"Discrimination," as in definition #1? That's what keeps us alive. We learn - early - to discriminate between things we can touch and things we shouldn't: like hot stove tops. Discriminating between "Walk" and "Don't Walk" signs is - by definition - discriminatory. It's also part of what keeps city folks alive.
"Silly" is in the Eye of the Beholder
'That's silly! Crossing on a red light and marrying outside your species are completely different!' In a way, that's true. For that matter, it's possible to "discriminate" between crossing on a red light and drinking from a bottle marked "poison."

A big difference, I think, between 'good' discrimination like paying attention to traffic signals, and what America's dominant culture insists is 'bad' discrimination, like paying attention to the sex of the person you're marrying, is the length of time it takes for consequences to show up. It's a little like stepping off the top of a tall building: There's this wonderful, exhilarating rush of air. Until you hit the pavement.

I don't think America has hit the pavement. And I'm aware that there's no shortage of articles and experts who say that the pavement doesn't exist. Or that rubber heels will help you land safely.

I'm not convinced: but then, I'm a practicing Catholic, so I'm not following the regional culture's norms. (January 12, 2010)

Listening to the Church

What's tricky is listening to all of what the Catholic Church says. I've read too many strident defenses of "traditional marriage" that ooze venom. It's tempting to hate 'those people over there' who don't agree, or are different in some way. But hating people is not a good idea. At all. I've written about that before: you could check out the "related posts," below, or click 'hate' in this blog's label cloud.

Catholics are supposed to love all people: even the ones whose behavior we're not too crazy about. Some of us don't follow that 'love the sinner, hate the sin' instruction: but that's yet another topic.

Here's a video of the CNA interview with Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C.:

"Archbishop Wuerl on Religious Freedom"

catholicnewsagency, YouTube (June 22, 2010)
video, 4:24

"When asked by Dr. John Haas of the National Catholic Bioethics Center to comment on some issues facing the Church today, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. spoke of a growing bias against the 'thread' of faith in the 'social fabric' of Western Society."

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.