Looking at the traffic flows onto this site, and seeing that I'm getting an unusual amount of traffic from other Catholic sites, it occurs to me that a few people might be logging on from abroad to see what I have to say about the same-sex marriage referendum that passed here two days ago.
I haven't said much about it on this blog. I've said a lot about it elsewhere. I've written about it in The Catholic Voice, on Facebook (especially in the comments section of the page of the Iona Institute, the flagship social conservative organisation in Ireland), in letters to the editor, and even in my little Chesterton column in The Open Door magazine. It hasn't been by design that I haven't touched on it so much here. But maybe, unconsciously, I've been avoiding it on my blog, where I try to write about joyous things.
It was an extraordinarily bitter and acrimonious campaign, as you can imagine. Feelings ran high. And I'm very depressed that Ireland has become the first country to introduce same-sex marriage by popular vote.
It's not a debate I particularly relished. I don't hate gay people. It hurts when you are told you are psychologically damaging young people who are homosexual and who feel personally invalidated by any opposition to same-sex marriage, or when they hear anyone say that homosexual acts are sinful.
But I am also a controversialist by nature, so I do tend to launch into debates, and to do so even more spiritedly when I am representing an unpopular and villified view.
In doing so, did I sometimes forget the humanity and feelings and sensitivities of homosexual people? I'm sure I did, though I tried not to. Mea maxima culpa indeed.
I don't understand why God seems to have made some people attracted to their own sex, when acting on this attraction is-- according to orthodox Christian morality-- opposed to His law. It does seem like a crushing burden to bear. And it's too glib to simply point out that all Christians are called to chastity. A heterosexual who chooses to become a priest or a nun, or to remain celibate for whatever reason, has made a choice. Even a heterosexual who is involuntarily celibate can hope to meet somebody in the future. But a gay person who wants to live their lives according to orthodox Christian morality must shoulder the cross of self-imposed celibacy. And that cross must be very, very heavy. And very, very lonely. I don't claim I would be able to bear it. Nor do I judge anybody who cannot bear it.
I believe God has good reasons for asking some people to bear such a cross. It's a mystery. But saying, "It's a mystery" does not feel very helpful when a child dies, or when a disaster strikes, and I'm sure it doesn't seem very helpful to people who are born with same-sex attraction. (Nor do I doubt for a moment that most gay people are born with these feelings.)
None of this makes me doubt for a moment orthodox Catholic teaching on sex and sexuality. But it does make me very aware that this is an extremely sensitive subject, and that we are talking about real people with feelings and sensitivities. And I am not sure I have always been tender enough towards those feelings, especially in the heat of an acrimonious debate.
I pray that we will all (me especially) journey on our Christian pilgrimage with respect for each others' crosses-- in truth, always. But truth with charity.