Same Sex Marriage and the Church
Bp. Rocco Florenza on the recent SCOTUS decision.
Same Sex Marriage and the Church:
Any reasonable statement regarding same sex marriage and religious beliefs must begin with rational and responsible discourse guided by courtesy and mutual respect in an atmosphere of prevailing standards of propriety.
People of faith enjoy the liberty to think and act according to their religious beliefs. In a civil society, they should not be condemned, pressured or demonized as a result of those beliefs.
The United States Constitution, Federal and State laws, guarantee such freedom. However, reason dictates that the Christian’s right to religious freedom means far more than the right to worship. Placing restraints on religious freedom and confining it to something personal and private to be practiced only behind the church walls once a week, has no basis in Constitutional law. Religious freedom is to be enjoyed by everyone and the government has a responsibility to ensure that such freedom is protected and unvarying.
Christians do not have the option to alter, adjust or “update” what God wishes for His church. Therefore, the Church is bound to reflect God’s Will with respect to marriage as defined in the Biblical data and the Church’s doctrine, which professes marriage to be the only institution that unites a man and a woman together and any children that originate from that union. Attempting to “redefine” marriage to mean relationships that differ from the union between a man and a woman does harm to an irreplaceable institution essential to the common good and a matter of justice to children. What’s more, a definition of marriage as “gender blind” distorts the intrinsic nature of the Sacramental union between a man and a woman. Marriage and religious freedom are essential to each other. Comparing religious beliefs that differ from others to “racism, bigotry or hate,” smacks of intolerance and is in itself, evidence that more civil and intelligent discussion is needed. Attempts to suppress and avoid responsible discourse on so important an issue is unbecoming to that of a fair-mined citizenry.
Much is made of the civil rights of two consenting adults of the same sex to marry and that those rights are violated if not allowed to do so. The question becomes one of context. That is, whose rights are truly at stake? The civil rights that are actually dishonored are those of children. Children have a fundamental right to be raised by a mother and father. Positions contrary to this principle, deeply rooted in the history of mankind, since its beginning, encourages fatherless and motherless environments and fosters the notion that mothers and fathers are dispensable and therefore interchangeable. In a democratic society, a child, religious or not, has the right to decide if he or she wants to obey the Fifth Commandment, which is to “Honor thy Father and Mother.” Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2
The Church has a solution. Christians are commanded by Jesus Christ to love their neighbors. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is confronted by a man who questions the Lord’s words. He begins by asking him what he must do to gain eternal life. “What does the law say?” replied Jesus, “how do you read it?” The man answered, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” “Correct,” said Jesus. “Do this and you shall live.” Luke 10:25-28.
“Who, then, is my neighbor,” asked the man. And Jesus replied with the well known parable of the Good Samaritan. Luke 10: 29-33
A man is severely wounded and lay dying in the street. Several people ignore him and pass by. Another stops to help the man by dressing his wounds, helping him to his feet and takes him to a place that will provide him with shelter, medical attention, food and rest. The man who helped this individual asks no questions, nor does he judge him.
“Now,” asked Jesus of his questioner, “which of these
would you say was neighbor to the man who was attacked?’ “The one who showed him mercy,” came the reply.
When I read or hear the Parable of the Good Samaritan I am reminded of a scene from a film I viewed several years back, the title of which I have since forgotten. In the movie a fatally injured man lay in the street as a result of a terrible automobile accident. A man who witnessed the incident approached and knelt before him and cradled his head in his lap. “Would you like me to pray for you,” said the man. “I don’t believe in God,” responded the crash victim. “It doesn’t matter,” came the other man’s reply, “He believes in you.”
This is the church. Its purpose is to reach out to all in need and show them the risen Christ who gave his life so that they may live. It is His will, beautifully expressed in his own words: “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me into your home, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you visited me …When you did this, to the least among you,” said Jesus, “you were doing it to me.” “ Matthew 25:35-36,40.
This is the church; where no one is judged or condemned. Where everyone is treated with equal kindness and responsible love. Where the right to decency is respected and practiced. We are each other’s neighbors. Therefore, the rights of each are mutually applicable.
The Rt. Rev. Rocco A. Florenza
Cathedral Church of the Resurrection
Anglican Catholic Church, Original Province.