Bishop John T. Steinbock
Homosexual Marriage in California
My dear people of God,
How is one to react to a single judge declaring that homosexuals have a right to be married, overturning the clear will of the majority of the people as expressed in proposition 8? Here are ten brief thoughts:
1. The judge, who is homosexual himself, ethically should have recused himself as he is in the position to benefit financially from a possible homosexual marriage for himself, with tax benefits, etc. His impartiality can certainly be questioned.
I was startled to read your words questioning the impartiality of the judge. Judges come in a variety of colors and predispositions. The best ones deliver sound decisions and rise through the ranks gaining respect for their knowledge of law and their ability to wield it. If the shoe had been on the other foot, the heterosexual one, would you have denigrated that judge's ability to be impartial? Also, I think it is inaccurate and dismissive to label a person as "homosexual" because we no longer know what that word denotes. Does he live with a man? Does he just have sex with strangers? Does he have a set of fetishes not shared by the majority of the LGBT community? Are you acquainted with the private sexual practice of that judge? Have you discussed with him his sexual desires and practices? Have you observed him having sex? Unless you have, you should be hesitant about labeling him as anything but a well respected judge. Gay sex, like straight sex, has a broad bandwidth of possibility. The people of God to whom you have written know well that the sex one married couple practices in the privacy of the domestic bedroom may be nothing like the sex their neighbors have.
So, my response to your first point is twofold: judges can retain their individuality while making wise decisions, and broadly labeling a person's sexuality unless you have had sex with him/her is a dangerous venture. For all we know, that judge may have had sex with more women than have you or I....
2. The judge redefined "marriage," actually making it the same as "a committed relationship or friendship" between any two persons, with no relationship essentially to children or family.
As a consecrated bishop, you yourself regularly redefine civil marriage. You do not see it as valid in the eyes of God. That is why you perform sacramental marriages. You yourself really do not hold civil marriage in high regard. You certainly do not consider it the equivalent of Catholic sacramental marriage. If you did, your sacrament of marriage would be little more than gilding the lily. Civil marriage - gay or straight - retains an essential relationship to the possibility of children and family. When an LGBT couple with children comes forward to be married they are doing so to make solid a foundation of health, safety and happiness for themselves and their children in a world of temporary and uncommitted relationships that are little more than emotional driftwood. How can we but rejoice in this for the sake of our own spiritual well being and for the good of the children involved? I hope that someday you will spend an afternoon with some children raised by LGBT couples - just you and them. I strongly believe that experience might change your perspective.
Also, I suspect this second point of your letter will sting the many Catholic couples who are childless by dint of plumbing or old age. Are their marriages inferior because they don't have children? Do those couples not constitute a family? I think you are skating on some thin ice when you make this distinction.
3. The ruling by its very arguments is imposing the homosexual agenda on the rest of society, and is a form of social engineering according to the judge's ideology.
I do not think there is a "gay agenda". I am gay, but I have no agenda, and my marriage to my partner of 26 years came with absolutely no desire to impose anything on the rest of society. I simply wanted the benefits and rights owed me as a taxpaying citizen of the USA. An agenda is a list of things the accomplishment for which one intends to work. LGBT activists with agendae are an extremely small group. Like the minutemen of Lexington and Concord, they fight so that we can simply stay home and live our little lives in peace and without menace. The overwhelming majority of LGBT people do not wish to change society. They simply wish to be free of oppression and persecution. I suspect you will empathize with that sentiment and I am guessing that ordinarily you do not see this issue from that perspective.
4. It is incredible that the judge literally accuses the millions who voted for proposition 8 of having ill will and discriminatory intent in their vote. How prejudiced and condemnatory can a judge be who is accusing others of prejudice? This is insulting to every one who believes that marriage is a divine institution.
Again, the judge was really not talking about the divine institution of sacramental marriage. That is your province. He and we are talking about civil marriage which is largely a contract governing the disposition of assets. The judge protected the rights of individuals, just as previous judges protected the rights of blacks and all the minorities who comprise this many splendored country. That is why we have laws and judges. To rectify ourselves when we need it. To accomplish good when we can't get there as a crowd.
5. The judge is finding a right in our Constitution that is not present in any way.
I don't quite know how to address this rather astounding statement other than to say that most grade schoolers learning the Constitution for the first time could probably cite the sections that invoke this judge's decision.
6. Human law at many times can be at variance with divine law. This is just one example. Another example in our country would be the so called "right" to have an abortion; another example would be the so called "right" now in some states to euthanasia. Let us never mistake human law as the law of God.
Yes, Your Excellency, let us never mistake human law for the law of God. Just as we have managed to survive and prosper in a country in which abortion and artificial birth control and euthanasia and booze and gambling and prostitution and medical marijuana, corn oil and a slew of other shocking temptations are ours for the having in any number of states, equality in marriage will not cause the walls of Catholicism in America to tumble. Once marriage equality is the law of the land, the sun will shine as it always does, you and I may argue about the merits of various other laws, children will be born and will make lives for themselves by the sweat of their brow, and folks will still die questioning the meaning of it all and hoping that they have done the right thing in this world. What's to fear? I've always wondered why men like you expend so much energy trying to control stuff like this. Why not simply trust the grace of God and that powerful wind that is the Holy Spirit? A wind that blows where it will and can never be contained by the likes of you or me.
7. We must emphasize all the more the true nature of marriage as designed by God, both to ourselves and to our children. Lord only knows what will now be taught in our public schools regarding marriage because of this ruling. It will certainly not be the traditional definition and understanding of "marriage."
I agree with you 100% about this point. I would like to remind you that those very same children already have friends and relatives who are in committed same-sex relationships. The fact of LGBT coupling and marriage will not be news to them. Things that shock and astound you and me barely induce a yawn in the mouths of kids. Gay marriage has already been assimilated in our culture, and surveys show that kids are OK with the concept. (Check out the recent surveys on "Catholics for Equality" to understand the fact that your youngest Catholics have already resolved this issue.) This is the next generation of Catholic kids who will comprise your future flock, not something that will happen long after we are gone. They already see "gay" as a non-issue. Their message to us is "Get over it." Also, don't you have any Catholic schools in the diocese of Fresno? Why not worry about how you will teach marriage to the students in your own schools rather than in public schools?
8. A "true" marriage is a unique relationship between one man and one woman and it is designed to procreate life and form a family, for the good of the children and of society. This is of divine origin and not of human origin.
Whenever someone restates a conclusion as a premise for reaching that conclusion, chances are that that someone has reached a point of exasperation that has short-circuited his ability to argue a position. I am guessing that is what happened to you here. Your 8th statement simply and flatly restates your conclusion without adding any rationale for it. Also, Americans are very hesitant to accept a teaching when the teacher says "This is true because it is of divine origin". In other words "This is what God wants, and I know, because he told me." I'm guessing you may have finished your list and found that you had nine things to say. You then added this one to make it an even ten. We've all done that from time to time, so I'm giving you a pass on this one.
9. We are seeing the result of society separating the gift of sex from bringing forth life, which can infect all of us. More and more people in our society now justify not simply homosexual relationships, but living together without marriage, fornication, sex before marriage, sex outside of marriage, prostitution, contraception, quick and easy divorce. All of these lead us to seeing children as secondary, and self-love becoming more important than self-giving love, which leads to a narcissistic society, with people never really growing up.
You are absolutely right about this, Your Excellency. And the American Roman Catholic clergy (whose patron saint is Peter Pan) are the perfect illustration of your point. If only they had children of their own, they would be less inclined to, as you say, separate the gift of sex from the bringing forth of life. May I assume that you are implying that we ought to have a married clergy?
10. The good old Baltimore Catechism tells us: "The effects of the Sacrament of Matrimony are: 1st, to sanctify the love of husband and wife; 2nd, to give them grace to bear with each other's weaknesses; 3rd, to enable them to bring up their children in the fear and love of God." (BC#1 285)
I still have the Baltimore catechism that I used as a child. Your citations from it are beautiful and any LGBT couple seeking marriage will want those effects. Again, the catechism is talking about the Sacrament of Matrimony, not civil marriage. I hope that once marriage equality becomes the law of the land, you will retain the right to deny my husband and me your Sacrament of Matrimony since that is what you seem energetically to desire and because, as I have stated, I have no agenda. I won't be protesting outside the doors of your church. In fact, I doubt many will disturb the dust on the steps up to those doors as you valiantly protect the exclusivity of your Sacrament of Matrimony.
Let us pray for this judge, for our children, for our society. Lord knows we all need it.
In conclusion, Your Excellency, my thanks for your letter which gave me the opportunity to clarify my thoughts about marriage equality. Your letter also reminded me of the huge gulf between you and me. You are a good servant of the Catholic Church. I have never felt called by God to be a servant. I don't think God desires servitude. Servants have daily agendae which they discharge for compensation. Their employment is conditional upon performance. I am more strongly banking on a story Jesus himself told about the prodigal son. When the father sees his son in the distance as he returns to his father's house after leading a picaresque life, he runs forth to greet him. He doesn't ask the wayward son what he's been up to. He doesn't care about that. He doesn't demand groveling or payback. He calls for a celebration and he overwhelms his son with love, like the rush of a tsunami.
In this world, I've known many priests, bishops and cardinals. The best ones were those who simply did not stand in the way of the grace of God. The fact that some of them were promiscuous or alcoholic or mavericks didn't matter. They gave consolation to the broken and direction to the lost. They had no agendae. They had no rules. They had no fears. They didn't need them because they knew God and they trusted God. You and I should do the same so that when we approach our father's house and find out that he wasn't keeping a list of our tasks and accomplishments after all, we won't be disappointed and we'll be seated not like servants, but at his right hand, life family, like children, like lovers.
Yours among the people of God,