The Run Away Shepherd: The Redefining of Marriage Debate

Are You a Run Away Shepherd?

by Fr. John Hollowell:

“A hired man, who is not a shepherd sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away”

The Shepherd Running Away from His Sheep

When I’ve preached on abortion, I’ve been accused of being a right wing republican

When I’ve preached about the REQUIREMENT that Christ makes of us to help the poor I’ve been accused of being a left wing liberal

When I’ve preached on religious freedom – right wing republican

When I’ve preached on the Church’s teaching on immigration – left wing liberal

This Comes with the “job.”  In fact, it just comes with being Catholic.  That being said, it is important to note that despite the accusations, the Church is not a political party.

There is a wolf coming that is threatening the sheep that must be preached on as well because our Church is very clear on this topic.  Like the prophets, like Christ, like the Apostles, like those being martyred today for their Catholic Faith throughout the world, we preach the truth in season and out of season.

“A hired man, who is not a shepherd sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away”

This week at the Supreme Court arguments will be heard about whether marriage ought to be redefined

What I’ve been amazed at over the past few years is how quickly the tone of this debate has turned.

If you even raise the possibility today that marriage is between a man and a woman you should prepare for an all-out assault.  You should prepare to be labeled a bigot, angry, hateful, a Pharisee, etc.

One Catholic evangelist notes that we hear a lot about tolerance.  Tolerance is a good thing, but it implies that I first disagree with a person before I can tolerate them.  We don’t tolerate the sunshine, we tolerate the rain, and so tolerance can only take place in a climate of disagreement, and yet tolerance is no longer extended to those who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.

One objection to this homily is that “The Church should stay out of politics”

But this, at the end of the day, makes no sense

If something is talked about by politicians or judges or whomever, does that mean it is no longer in the realm of Faith?  If something is part of our civil discourse, that we have to STOP talking about it here?

People likely told Fr. Theodore Hesburgh to keep his religion out of politics when he walked arm in arm with Dr. Martin Luther King to protest discrimination against African Americans – but he did it any way, and thanks be to God that he did.

People likely told John Paul II to keep his religion out of politics as he worked in the political realm to take down Communism – but he did it anyway, and thanks be to God

The idea that if something is being talked about in the political sphere means it can’t be talked about as a religious issue just doesn’t pass muster

If murder were up for discussion at the state house, no one would tell priests not to preach against murder

Pope Francis, in a daily homily recently, attacked this belief that if something is in the political realm we should stop talking about it in Church.

He said: “Some say a good Catholic doesn’t meddle in politics.  That’s not true. That is not a good path.  A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern… Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good. I cannot wash my hands

The Church actually compels us to be active in the political sphere because it is in the political sphere that decisions that affect the world are made.

The Church has a most important book called the “Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church” – and it is a guide to how we are to be active and what we are to work for as people who are engaged in the civil realm.  To say that we should stay out of these issues civilly is a non-Catholic stance.

Now, on the particular topic of same-sex marriage – what does the Church say?  This is absolutely crucial and so often confused, and if we want to continue to see marriage being only between a man and a woman, we have to understand this crucial teaching.

The most important takeaway is this, if you remember nothing else is that the Church says in its book on these issues – in order to defend marriage you don’t need the Church, the Bible, or Jesus.

So often people make this mammoth mistake in talking about this issue.  Someone asks you: “Why do you believe marriage is between a man and a woman” and people  respond “because Jesus said so”, or “The Bible says so,” or “The Catechism says so” – but the quick follow up question by those who want to redefine marriage is quite clear – “you can’t make me do something because your religion says it!”

At this point – most Christians and Catholics go slinking back home telling themselves “They’re right; I can’t say something ought to be this way because of religion.

The Church says, however, that in order to say that marriage is between a man and a woman you don’t need the Bible or Jesus or the Church to win the argument.  Marriage being between a man and a woman, according to the Church, is a first principle – something that you need not be a follower of Christ to understand.

The Church is not in the government running business anymore.  We were for many centuries – Popes and Cardinals were highly intertwined with governments, kings, etc.

We don’t run countries anymore, and as George Weigel notes, “In separating the Church from the State, what is clear is that the Church is better off for it.  What isn’t clear is whether the state is better off for it!”

The Church sees its role as political advisor – particularly in offering first principles up to nations.  What the Church does is say to all governments, kingdoms, etc. – here are some first principles, some things that all just societies must put into practice if they hope to endure.  If you build your nation on other principles that contradict these, your nation will not endure.

“First principles” are the “cornerstones” that any society must be built on, and we need not be a Christian to understand that these first principles must be cornerstones, nor do we need to use Christ to justify working to ensure that our country is founded on these cornerstones.

And everyone has first principles.  I was on a marriage panel at Rose Hulman about a year ago and one guy who was arguing for redefining marriage said “I really think it ultimately comes back to harmony and justice” – Okay, so those are your first principles, the axioms on which you think the country should be founded, the non-negotiables that everything is built off of.  Of course the question quickly becomes “what is harmony to you?”  “who defines harmony?”  “What does justice mean?”  “Who defines what justice is?”

Others say a founding axiom should be that “love is love.”  Okay, fair enough, you think that should be a first principle of our society.  Let’s flesh it out.  You think that all love is the same?  What if 8 people all love each other…is that marriage?  What if two cousins love each other?  What if a 55 year old and a 16 year old love each other?  Is the government in the “congratulating people on being in love” business.

Everyone has first principles, and we have just as much of a right to work for the first principles that we think our nation should have as anyone else has a right to work and advocate for first principles that they think our country should have.

So as Catholics, we work to ensure that marriage being between a man and a woman is a first principle in our government.  We believe that if it is not, then what will result is vastly different than a just and healthy society.

“If, from a legal standpoint, marriage between a man and a woman were to be considered just one possible form of marriage, the concept of marriage would undergo a radical transformation, with grave detriment to the common good.” (Compendium of Social Teaching, paragraph 228).

A solution that some propose but which can not actually work because it does not actually understand what the Church teaches is the proposed solution that the Church “get out of the civil marriage business” – civil marriage and if you want to get married in the Church, go do that too

It is NOT appropriate for Church authorities to remain neutral toward adverse legislation even if it grants exceptions to Church organizations and institutions. The Church has the responsibility to promote family life and the public morality of the entire civil society on the basis of fundamental moral values, not simply to protect herself from the application of harmful laws” – Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith

These are not easy issues.  I spent the last two years working on a documentary on what the Church teaches about same sex attraction.  I interviewed a lot of beautiful people who experience same sex attraction and heard their stories.  It was an amazing experience for me.  The way we grow toward unity is through dialogue – not through name calling, labeling, and ignoring what the other side is saying.  I look forward to these opportunities to gather and keep the conversation going.

In Conclusion – I am not the only shepherd in this room.  We are all, through our baptism, called to shepherd those around us.  Do we see our role in society to be a light to the world – do I believe that I am called to shepherd and get involved in the civil society I find myself placed in – or do I retreat to my home or my Church building and say to God, like Cain did – “AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER?”

 

“A hired man, who is not a shepherd sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away”

 We pray for the strength to be authentic shepherds, to work for the first principles that our Church puts forth for all societies.  Pope Francis said that we shouldn’t always talk about contraception and same sex marriage, and I wholeheartedly agree!  What the Pope implies in that comment is that we should talk about them some of the time.  May we have the courage to do that, and not see problems arising in our country and simply run away.

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