Thursday, June 27, 2013
Church Reaching Them All
By Sister Mary Ann Walsh
You never know what you’ll find at the other end of a phone call. Take yesterday.
A man called saying he was from a daily newspaper and asked in expletive strewn language how I would answer to God for the Church’s position that marriage is between a man and a woman. The expletives suggested he didn’t seek civil conversation. After his diatribe ended, he called back and said to an associate, “we were cut off.” Cut off and ticked off would be more apt.
A few hours later another stranger, a mother upset with her daughter’s lesbian lifestyle, called. She said her daughter is bright, thoughtful, generous and kind, but also is in a same-sex relationship that Mom doesn’t approve of or understand. “I’ve lost a child,” she said. We spoke of the bishops’ document Always Our Children, which describes the relationship between parents and gay children. I opined that the parent-child relationship is more important than any Supreme Court decision. She thanked me for listening, and I said she made more sense than other calls I’d had earlier. Plus, she didn’t swear at me. We both laughed.
The calls indicate how volatile the same-sex marriage issue is and how deep goes the pain as families work to cope with it. They also exemplify the Church’s challenge in dealing with policy and pastoral issues simultaneously.
Policy-wise, the Church looks to marriage as an institution that holds society together and provides the ideal situation in which to raise children. It holds that the married love between a man and wife is sacred, like the love God has for the Church. It is unique. Admittedly, we do not always reach the ideal. Some parents flub the job. A child can thrive more in a single parent household than in a marriage where violence and tension push love out. But just because we can fall far from the ideal situation, doesn’t make the ideal flawed.
Pastorally, the Church is there to support people, especially in trying times. A pastor can help a father to see that a son who is driving him mad might actually be a lot like himself, for example. The Church also teaches the importance and power of love and the sacredness of the bond between parent and child. It reminds parents and children that they need to be there for one another in easy and difficult times. The Church reminds all people of the need for wholesome, sustaining friendships. It urges all of us to have patience with one another. It also offers many examples of people who are both celibate and happy. It teaches we should treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of their lifestyle. Bottom line: We’re all treasured children of God.
So, like it or not, the fact is that my obscenity-spewing caller is a brother in pain, just as the sweet mother struggling with her daughter’s lifestyle is a hurting sister. So too are the legislators and judges who weigh the issues that can form the culture and affect our lives. The Church needs to minister to them all.