My husband and I were with family on Holy Family Sunday, so we went to a Catholic service. The priest gave his homily about how the face of the family was changing, so that there were fewer and fewer families that looked like Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. He claimed that families in which grandparents raised the children, families with adopted or foster children, and even (gasp) single-parent families could all be “holy families” because it’s not about “what families look like,” but “how they treat each other.” [My husband thinks the single-parent thing was a concession because there are so many of them and the priest didn’t want to diss a sizable contingent of parishioners, and I did note that he seemed to think single-parent families were only okay if the parents didn’t “plan” for it to happen that way.]
He then went on to assure us that families led by same-sex couples could not fit into the Biblical definition of a Holy Family by their very nature–as the “readings showed.”
This comment perplexed me, and the priest did not offer any clarification. So I re-examined the readings for the day and still found nothing. Yes, there is reference in the readings to marital relationships between “husbands” and “wives,” but if this does not exclude single-parent families, why does it exclude same-sex headed households?
He couldn’t offer clarification, of course, because as more GLBTQ people come out and more straight people can put faces on the “issue,” all of the old excuses stop holding up so well. All the ready defenses crumble, so that the best you can do is make vague statements about your disapproval and hope that no one calls you on it.
On Monday, a federal judge overturned South Dakota’s same-sex marriage ban. In so doing, she addressed every one of the state’s “defenses,” showing them for the flimsy covers for prejudice that they were. The whole opinion came across as a slap on the hand for Governor Daugaard and Attorney General Jackley, and it’s about time. On page 23, she wonders why South Dakota’s state leaders are so hung up on “preserving the status quo.”
A very good question.
One I would like to ask the priest from Holy Family Sunday.
Sometimes, someone with more power finally swoops in and chastises those who refuse to stand on the side of love and equality. The top-down approach in the Catholic church means there are many options for someone with “more power” to swoop in and chastise priests that continue to make discriminatory comments and behave in exclusionary ways.
Progressives love to grab hold of Pope Francis’ now iconic “who am I to judge?” comment as a signal of real change in the church. But the truth is, until the church holds its officials accountable for their hurtful choices, until the church rethinks its teachings on homosexuality and reexamines the meaning of love in all its complexity, diversity and simplicity, the church that our “non-judgmental” pontiff leads is passing judgment every single day.
“Who am I to judge?”
You’re the leader of the world’s largest denomination, that’s who. I’d like to tell Pope Francis to please, go ahead and judge, because we’ve been waiting too long for watered down statements about love and acceptance to bring about real change. Go ahead and judge, and when you do, perhaps you can take a page from the 26 federal judges who finally said, “Enough is enough,” and struck down discriminatory state marriage laws, one after the other.
That’s the kind of judgment that makes me proud to be American, and finally proud to be South Dakotan.
I would love that kind of judgment to make me feel proud to be Catholic again as well.