To call yourself Catholic, do you need to strictly follow every tenet the faith lays out? If so, the Catholic Church is going to lose a significant portion of its followers. And for a faith that is losing practitioners at an alarming rate, alienation might not be the best move.
However, recent statements by the archbishop of Detroit, Allen Vigneron, may be doing just that, alienating Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Vigneron insists that Catholics who support gay marriage should not be allowed to receive Communion. Note specifically that he does not try to dissuade just gays from receiving Communion, but anyone who considers his/herself an ally to the LGBT cause. This includes outspoken politicians such as Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Of course, high officials in the Catholic Church soon rushed to contextualize Vigneron’s comments in an attempt to quell any conflict and open a debate. They are trying to make the issue of gay marriage part of a larger concern, that of contradictions between the codified beliefs of the Catholic Church and those held by its followers. While statements of this ilk by the Joe Kohn, the archdiocese spokesman, may be part of a hurried attempt to placate the greater community; they expose a more profound issue that modern adherents to religion encounter on a daily basis. Is religion adaptable?
Since President Obama came out in favor of same-sex marriage, a steady of wave of politicians have been coming out of the closet, as supporters of gay marriage. Currently, more than half of U.S. senators (including two Republicans) have announced their backing of same-sex marriage, with a specific condemnation of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Clearly, these politicians have recognized the changing trend of public opinion.
Perhaps the Catholic Church needs to follow in the footsteps of the federal government and adopt a more tolerant policy. One that accepts and opens the Church to more practitioners rather than restricting its already shrinking numbers. In its formative years, the Catholic perception of marriage was established on two principles: that marriage is for the purpose of procreation, but also for support and love.
Somewhere along the line, the first principle has begun to overshadow the second, to the degree where its existence is scarcely remembered. But what if we were to call attention back to that second foundational idea of marriage, that we marry for love, to have someone to support us through life and simply to be happy. Could gay marriage then be in line with Catholic thinking?