I believe in Natural Law. There is no denying the science behind male/female intercourse having the natural potential to produce a child. There is also no denying that sex feels good and that, when part of a stable relationship, it helps strengthen the emotional bond between a couple. Psychologically speaking, when we humans are bound by law as well as by love, we work harder to maintain our couplings, thus creating a more stable environment not only for ourselves, but for our off-spring. Since society is made up of both men and women, this situation also allows children to observe and learn how to deal with both genders, and, if the family has more than one child, it enables them to learn how to deal with their age-related peers on a level more intimate than school or play-dates at the park.
This is, of course, an idyllic example of the nuclear family. I did not mention: fertility issues; single-parenthood (due to death or military service over-seas or abandonment, etc); physical and mental health strictures; the list could go on and on. In a perfect world, these impediments to family life would not exist, but that raises the age-old question of "would we be able to appreciate that perfect world if we never had anything to compare it to?" We humans are always looking for something better*, because we know that while Nature has it's ideals, there are always variances, aberrations, and exceptions that we cannot account for, and must adjust to when we do encounter them. While we would rather not have to deal with these problems, human evolution has presented us with three basic categories of response: fight against it, ignore it, work with it. Any one of these responses can be the right one, depending on the situation; they can also easily be the wrong one, if people fail to recognize the situation properly.
What does all this have to do with today of all days? A lot. Unless you live in a cave, you have heard how the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has ruled that DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) is unconstitutional, by reason that no federal law can inhibit peoples that individual states have voted to protect. The largest impacts of this ruling are that same-sex marriages that are recognized only in specific states, will now be recognized (for tax and other social benefits) in any state they might choose to move to; and also that same-sex spouses of federal employees can no longer be denied these tax and social benefits. The other big-ticket SCOTUS decision of the day was regarding CA Prop 8; in which the CA voters voted against allowing same-sex marriages. The proposition was brought before the CA state supreme court and was ruled unconstitutional, and eventually the case went to the federal court, where, today, SCOTUS essentially decided to deny it due to the fact that CA lawmakers refused to defend it. This bothers me because whether or not the elected officials agree with what the people voted on, they have a duty to represent the people who put them in office and they failed to do so.
What all this means, in laymen's speech, is that same-sex-marriage will no longer be ignored on the federal level and California same-sex-couples can again get married. I have no doubt that the number of states voting to legalize same-sex-marriage will explode in the coming months.
Again, what does this have to do with my opening paragraphs? I'm getting there; I promise.
Humans are born with 26 chromosomes, working with their genetic make-up to make them normal human beings. This is the ideal. There are deviances from nature that make this not always how it happens. Children are conceived by a natural father and a natural mother and are raised in a home with both. This is the ideal, but not always how it happens. The human brain produces chemicals that help it maintain an emotional balance. This is the ideal, but again, not how it always happens. Natural human couplings involve one man and one woman. This is the ideal...you get the picture. For all of those who are not personally affected by these divergences, there are those three basic reactions: fight it, ignore it, work with it; that result. Same-sex marriage is one of the single-most divisive topics of our time, and the coming days and weeks are surely going to see a lot of passionate responses, both for and against the decisions. (I'll ignore those in the middle, for now, since they aren't making any noise about it.**) Both sides feel, with absolute certainty, that they are right.
On the one hand, who are we to fight against the natural order of things? Our nature is what has made us who we are. If we don't work to keep nature in balance, what becomes of us as a species?
On the other hand, since nature allows these differences from the norm, who are we to try to get rid of them?
The logical answer is that we can't treat all differences the same. While there are those who would willingly be rid of all people with Down Syndrome (extra chromosome), the rest of society thinks people like that are sick at heart and need to be more compassionate to those who are different from themselves. The same could be said regarding homosexuality and those affected by it. Then there are things like cancer. I think most people would agree that it would be great if we could completely eradicate cancer, but there are those who view any kind of illness as something that they should just allow to happen, and not interfere with it. What happens when those categories become mixed? For example, maybe there is a man who sees his cancer as something that nature allowed to happen and he should just accept it, but at the same time he thinks that his neighbor, who nature allowed to be gay, should not be allowed to live equally to himself?
The point I hope to have made at this juncture is that no one of us is perfect in our behaviors, where we might be right on one point, we can be horribly wrong on another.
Have you noticed how I have kept God and religion completely out of this, so far? That is because I wanted to do my best to examine the issue from a non-religious angle, to hopefully get people to really think about it from different perspectives before I started talking about God and the Catholic Church; both of which are topics that can send people into a frenzy of opinions in as many directions as there are people. I have tried to keep my commentary calm and unbiased and completely secular. That ends, here.
My religion is based largely on natural law. Logic and common sense are the parameters. Most people fail to see this; even many Catholics. Some people believe that our Mother the Church is a harsh and exacting mistress, and to an extent that is accurate, but it is also incomplete. Like any good mother, the Church expects obedience and has seemingly strict measures that we are to live by, but She is also a loving, forgiving, and comforting presence. Her rules are there for our benefit, both corporeal and spiritual. When we fail to do as she asks and we realize that we have erred and we ask for forgiveness, we are forgiven. When our lives are not going in a direction that makes it easy to follow her teachings, she offers us strength in the form of the Holy Eucharist, to nourish our spiritual resolve. When all seems lost, we need only gaze upon a Crucifix to be reminded of the sacrifice made by Christ, so that even though our earthly lives are far from perfect, Heaven is waiting for us in the next life. I truly feel sorry for those who do not have the comfort of this faith in their lives; how bleak the everlasting must seem to be for them.
Do I think that everyone should believe as I do? Well, no. I don't. I think it is the ideal way to live, which is why I choose to live the way I do, but just as good is impotent without the comparison of evil, I don't think I would be able to appreciate the Catholic Church as much as I do without having something to compare her to. Do I condemn those who think differently than I do, just because I feel that my beliefs are right? Absolutely not. For one thing, I believe that it is not our place to judge one another. Only in the instance that we see our fellow man diverging from what is right and true to the extent that it endangers others spiritually and/or physically, should we have cause to intervene. We cannot possibly know everything that has brought someone to make the decisions they have made or take the actions they have taken. We cannot know the state of their mind, of their soul; only God can truly know these things, which is why He is the rightful judge, not us. This does not mean that I think everyone else can and should live their lives without moral compasses, however. I just do not believe it is fair to hold others, who do not share my faith, to the same strictures I hold myself to. What does this mean in practice? One example is that while I believe men and women should not engage in "marital" activities before they are married, but unless they are Catholic, I can't exactly say they have to live by rules they are unfamiliar with. And, let's be honest...not even all Catholics make this goal.
So what does the Catholic Church say about gays? That they are people just like the rest of us and should be treated with respect, compassion, and love. How does the Church, whose precepts are based on natural law, and therefore recognizes the rightness of male/female relations, encourage her members who are gay to live their lives? They are encouraged to live their lives as Christians ought, and on the specific topic of sexual relations, they are encouraged to be celibate. Since not even heterosexual Catholics always abide by that rule, we can hardly condemn our homosexual brethren who don't either, Catholic or not. You know, that whole "let he who is without sin cast the first stone", bit.
If you are still reading this (I do appreciate your patience) the main point I am hoping to make, is that none of us is perfect. None of us is without sin. We are each obligated to live our lives morally and ethically. There is a wonderful list of "rules to go by" that can help us with that, too. The Ten Commandments are a pretty good guide to life. Even for those who don't believe in God, the first few can be applied in a slightly different manner. Instead of "I am the lord thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me", think of it as advice to not get your priorities mixed up; like taking care of your family and doing your best to provide for them, but not to the point that you obsess over money so much that you let your family ties fray. If all people did live by the Commandments, we would have peace on Earth. Imagine that! Most people, religious or not, are familiar with the Ten Commandments, but there were others, too. When asked what the greatest Commandment was, Jesus replied "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind", and then said that we were to love our neighbors as ourselves.
The biggest problem, as I see it, is when people fail to remember these greatest of commands. Most particularly, that we are to love one another. This is what I want everyone to remember, that of all God's commands, we are to love Him and love one another. These next days are going to see a lot of strong emotions on both sides of the issue. I just urge everyone to please remember to be kind.
*This is where I bring God into the conversation and point out that we all naturally seek Heaven, by seeking something better than what we have here on Earth. As is now clear, I wanted to keep Part One secular, so as not to frighten off anyone who doesn't believe as I do. **I can't help but think also of the angels: 1/3 sided with St. Michael, 1/3 sided with Satan, and 1/3 sat back and watched. The 1/3 who sat back and did nothing were cast out along with the 1/3 who fought against St. Michael and the good angels. Just a reminder that sitting idly by is really not a good option. To quote the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers "Rush", you can choose not to decide, but you still have made a choice.