A new Washington Post/ABC News poll is out showing that support for same-sex marriage has hit new highs. The same survey identifies the reason—62 percent of respondents considered homosexual desires to be “just the way a person it is.” It’s a misunderstanding of that which is driving the rising support for same-sex marriage, and underscores the long road the Catholic Church in the United States has in front of it in restoring culture, from which law follows.
The question of whether homosexual desires are something was born with is not the issue. The issue is whether homosexual acts—and thereby marriage—are natural. To answer that question, just ask yourself what would happen if everyone was homosexual—the human species would die out. That would strike me as unnatural.
The reality of life in this world is that we have attractions and passions that are, in varying degrees, unnatural and not the way God intended us to live. The Catholic Church would call that the consequences of original sin. I believe that gays and lesbians don’t control their attractions. What I don’t agree with is the belief that this therefore makes it natural.
It’s analogous to alcoholism. No one knows why some people seem to be wired in a way that when you have one beer it invariably leads to a case. The answer society offers is the correct one—to seek help and to live sober. Thankfully our society has mostly grown past the notion that alcohol abuse comes from a weak will and come to recognize it as an illness. It’s handled in the way it should be handled—with compassion, with respect, but with a firm belief that getting beyond the affliction is the way to live.
Unfortunately, we have not progressed as far when it comes to homosexual inclinations. The reality is that homosexual acts take a grave toll on those who commit them, the exposure to STDs being the most publicized, and including heightened chances of syphilis and hepatitis. I don’t consider this “God’s retribution”. I consider it the natural consequences of unnatural acts. The answer society has given those who struggle with homosexual affliction is tantamount to giving an alcoholic a case of beer—telling them, in effect, we won’t help you past your affliction, we’ll instead feed it.
The effects of normalizing unnatural behavior affects everyone, but the first people it affects are those who struggle with their afflictions. They really aren’t being given adequate answers by anyone, and that’s where the Catholic Church has to continue to find its voice—to articulate both the doctrine of original sin as an explanation for the disorder, and the grace poured out through the sacraments and the Gospel as the way to heal, recover and live normally.
The secular answer of “do whatever your passions tell you” is winning the argument right now, because it’s practicioners have been working at a long time, planting the cultural seeds that have put them on the verge of a political victory. If the poll numbers are right—and in spite of the bias at The Post & ABC, I imagine they’re pretty close—than even if California’s gay marriage ban is upheld by the Supreme Court, more states are going to continue to legalize the practice.
But what if the Catholic Church and its practicioners make the same sort of commitment to settle in for the long haul, to plant the seeds that will eventually lead to a restoration of the natural law. We’re losing the battle at the highest levels today, because we lost at the grass roots twenty and thirty years ago. The flip side is that the battle for the victories of thirty years’ hence is just beginning. Save the life and soul of the individual gay person. From there save the culture, and eventually let that settle into law.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com