By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK
When the God of Judeo-Christianity is excluded in a public ceremony which celebrates and glamorizes evil, should His friends be present also? Many Catholics believe that to show their love they should accept invitations to every event at which their presence is requested. Can love also be expressed by the witness made possible by absence from some events?
At a recent meeting of priests, the group discussed the dilemmas our Catholics face, especially when invited to participate in what I call same-sex marital-simulation ceremonies. Many Catholics already attend invalid marriages between divorced Catholic individuals, for example; should they make distinctions between different kinds of invalid marriages such as natural and unnatural in order to discern which to attend and which not?
One priest expressed a concern that, if the Catholic party does not attend a same-sex marital-simulation ceremony, a door might be closed to further contact with family members who might thereby at a later time be brought back to the faith. I countered that in a war waged by language and symbols, the resulting perceptions of one’s presence at a celebration of immorality cannot be controlled despite the best of intentions, and that, for the most part, presence is seized upon as a victory by the change agents who perpetrate these so-called marriages.
For many, presence equals approval, despite the attending individual’s intentions, upright or not. People do not particularly care what other people are thinking so much as they care what other people are doing. When same-sex couples invite family and friends to a simulation ceremony, they want to know whether the others plan to come or not. A positive response ends there: The guest attends, brings a gift, congratulates, puts on an obligatory smile, and then goes home like everyone else with the same effect as everyone else who attended. Presence is approval.
A Catholic who chooses to respond negatively can do so in person, in the context of a compassionately and gently delivered explanation as to how the invitation has forced him to make a choice between love of God and love of another human being. He can explain that his choice must be for God, and for God’s moral law, which holds that marital expression is reserved as sacred for one man and one woman only.
It is not the fault of the believing and practicing Catholic that this choice has been forced upon him; it is a result of the free choice of the individual who, perhaps also knowing the invited is Catholic, has chosen to do the inviting.
The marital-simulation crisis points to a larger issue: the overwhelming failure of Catholic witness. Many Catholics function as though the faith is a product for personal consumption which has no relevance beyond the individual. The materialism and consumerism that afflict humanity in general have had a profound effect also on Catholics. Private and therefore conflict-free Catholic identity has in fact never existed, so from where has this false idea arisen?
American Catholics have assimilated so completely with the larger society that their behavior in many instances has become indistinguishable from that of their neighbors. This has often been hailed as a success, indicating that Catholics are no longer second class, that they have “come of age.” The issues and responses which predominated at the time of John F. Kennedy’s race for the presidency come to mind here.
Being Catholic, however, has never meant doing everything that everyone else does; it in fact has always meant being different and sometimes being mistreated or persecuted for being Christian.
It is not a sign of success, therefore, when so many Catholics act and make decisions in so many areas of life in a manner no different from others around them. That this happens so frequently indicates the diminishment of the moral compass that should be formed for the individual by consistent inculcation of Catholic faith and morals.
On issues such as contraception, abortion, and marriage, Catholics are by no means univocal in support of Church teaching. That this is true because of a lack of catechesis is undoubted. For this reason homilies and education must continue to address these critical issues on a regular basis. And Catholics must act according to their informed conscience through public witness in selfless love for Jesus Christ and for all, especially those whose faith is weak.
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(Follow Fr. Cusick on Facebook at Reverendo Padre-Kevin Michael Cusick and on Twitter @MCITLFrAphorism.)