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Forum focuses on same-sex marriage and Catholicism [26 November, 2008]

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The passage of Proposition 8 in California came about because of efforts by Christian fundamentalists and the Mormon Church.  As a result, there has been a great deal of discussion about the relationship between the gay and lesbian community and religion.  Most accounts tend to separate the two; it’s often forgotten that a significant number of gays and lesbians are also people of faith.

The Catholic Church faces a great deal of controversy in the wake of Pope Benedict’s stated opposition to homosexuality and his declaration that same-sex marriages are “pseudo-matrimony.”  On November 11, The New Ways Ministry organized “An Evening of Dialogue: Same-Sex Marriage and Catholicism.” Held at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congreation in Evanston, the event examined the theological underpinnings behind the Church’s doctrines, and the disparity between those and the lived experiences and lives of laypersons.

The evening was moderated by Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, and Matthew Myers, its associate director.  As explained by Myers, the issues of sexuality and same-sex marriage are fused as one within the Church; attitudes towards one strongly determine attitudes towards the other.

The two-hour discussion was clearly designed for Catholics who possessed an understanding of church doctrine and the Bible.  Attendees were not there to dispute their faith but to challenge and understand church doctrines.

The audience had different opinions on marriage.  One woman made it clear that she was not keen on the institution, and neither was her female partner.  On the other hand, a man believed that marriage was an important ritual to be recognized by the Church.

DeBernando and Myers discussed the major issues related to same-sex marriage, including the meaning of same-sex relationships and their effect on children.  Official church statements say that children raised in same-sex partner households live in unstable conditions.  DeBernardo pointed out that “according to the 2000 census, a quarter of same-sex couples are raising children” without any evidence of harm done to them.

DeBernardo said that for Catholics, the question was “not just about benefits but about the quality of relationships.  Catholics who support same-sex relationships tend to be the Catholics who’re concerned for society; they have respect for lesbian and gay partnerships because of the inherent dignity of them.  We want the goodness of relationships to be recognized so that all relationships can be made better.”

Originally published in Windy City Times, 26 November, 2008

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