By the slimmest of margins, Question 6, also known as the “Civil Marriage Protection Act” passed in Maryland earlier this week, making Maryland, Maine and Washington State the first three states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote. A total of nine states and the District of Columbia now legally offer civil same-sex marriage licenses.
Archbishop Lori dubbed the decision a “wake-up call” for all Catholics. A good friend of mine was a little bit more pointed in his response to me via text:
“It’s clear we no longer live in a Christian nation,” he wrote.
Another friend sent me an e-mail saying that as he drove his daughter and their friends to high school Wednesday morning, one of the friends asked, “What happened last night?” As he proceeded explain the election results nationally and specifically the issues relating to marriage in Maryland, he began to hear crying in the backseat.
It continued for 15 minutes.
I know the feeling. I cried, too.
Make no mistake about this, dear friends: When it comes to protecting traditional marriage, we as a Church and as a society are now officially in crisis mode. With Tuesday’s vote, the worst-case scenario became reality in Maryland, as well as other places in our country.
I personally experienced a major election hangover Wednesday. The game changed. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. It took all the energy I had to get out of bed and go about my daily routine. I wondered – what could possibly be next for our state and our country?
Mostly, I worry about our children. The Catholic baptism rite clearly positions parents of a newly baptized child as the first and most important instructors of the faith. The Bible, Pope Benedict and our bishops clearly teach us that marriage is between one man and one woman. But how do I – how does any Catholic Christian parent – explain this unexplainable paradox to children as they grow older, when they see same-sex couples “marrying”?
It’s not surprising that a far-too-significant percentage of Catholics support or are indifferent to gay marriage. When studies show that more than half of Catholics don’t understand the basic tenants of our faith and when only about a third of Catholics attend Mass regularly, we have a challenging problem on our hands. I don’t know what the final tally was in terms of self-identified Catholics voting against Question 6 in Maryland, but anything less than 100% was a failure to honor our obligations as Catholics to uphold the sanctity of the institution of marriage.
Archbishop Lori was clear in recent months that as Catholics, a vote against same-sex marriage in Maryland would not make us bigots or uncaring toward homosexuals. He also stressed the societal and familial benefits of traditional marriage through the lens of sharing truth in love. In reality, civil unions provide many if not all of the protections of traditional marriage in Maryland. Governor O’Malley, a Catholic, hung his shingle on the “equality and dignity” mantle in showing his support for same-sex marriage, and even though gay marriage passed, his argument was logically and theologically incorrect and in direct opposition to the teaching of the Church.
As I stumbled around in a daze Wednesday pondering the totality of all this, feeling somewhat disillusioned and defeated, little did I know my outlook was about to change. That evening, I met with seven strong and courageous Catholic men and we tossed around our thoughts and feelings about what had transpired on the gay marriage issue.
Our disappointment and disillusionment slowly turned to a re-energizing of faith. While we recognized the crisis before us, we also clearly saw opportunity during this Year of Faith and as part of the New Evangelization to inform, educate and transform hearts, one at a time.
We also realized that we all have an opportunity, especially those who are married, to witness to the sacredness of traditional marriage in our own ways. Fear of persecution for standing up for what we believe is real, but courage and guidance from the Holy Spirit can overcome our fears if we allow it.
Finally, we recalled that the Church has survived and even thrived for 2,000 years through terrible atrocities, persecutions, schisms and crisis. Each time, our Mother Church has been strengthened and emboldened, as well as a shining beacon for truth and righteousness.
In his book, Wins, Losses, and Lessons, former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz wrote: “Nothing sharpens focus like crisis.”
The election is over. We see clearly the playing field before us. We have our marching orders. Our focus now is on the future, soldiering on in love of faith and love of one another to bolster, support and defend marriage and to seek to educate and transform hearts during this Year of Faith and beyond.