Catholic Marriage Preparation is a tricky thing. It is something that people who are responsible for providing this ministry never stop thinking about and never give up making better. In our ever-changing world it continues to get even more complicated to navigate. In 1968 Pope Paul VI predicted that those of us who prepare engaged couples for marriage would be up for a difficult task. His encyclical was primarily about hormonal contraception, but the implications of accepting birth control in our world would lead to even greater complications. He stated that with the acceptance would come a lowering of morality and governments would get involved. Today we have a world view of our own ability to define morality and a government who refuses to defend the basic teachings of our founding fathers.
The Catholic Church is trying, with all of our might, to hold onto the principal that the Sacrament of Marriage is between one man and one woman who give themselves to one another in a free, total, faithful, and fruitful bond. This is not easy when our government has legalized the union of two people of the same gender. In addition to that, how do we do marriage preparation when human beings can choose what gender, if any, they prefer to be?
Before we get into why it is instrumental for those asking to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony to understand why homosexual unions and gender ideology are important parts of their marriage preparation we must first look at how we define love! Is it loving for me to agree with everything my neighbor says? Is it loving for me to teach things that only leave us with “good and peaceful” feelings? Anybody who is a mother or father will know that it is not the most loving to just go with the flow and let our children do what they please. As a silly example, my 10-year-old son LOVES to snack on carbohydrates and salty snacks! It brings him joy. It makes him happy. As his mother, am I really loving him if I don’t require him to limit his snacks and challenge him to eat protein, fruits, veggies, and dairy? No, it’s not love…in fact, I bet I would get chewed out by our family doctor if I let him eat chips and noodles all day long. It’s not balanced and it’s not what is best for him! As a mother, I must make him understand that there is a reason behind the food pyramid, not matter how many arguments he gives me that protein is just not something he enjoys, and it makes him feel judged if I make him eat that piece of chicken. LOVE IS WILLING THE GOOD OF THE OTHER!!! LOVE IS HARD! Is it easier for me to not argue with my son daily about his diet, absolutely! Is it loving? Absolutely not!
The Catholic Church has been consistent from the time that Jesus walked the earth stating that the Sacrament of Marriage is between a man and a woman. From the time of creation God created male and female for special purposes. We are made in His image to reflect His likeness to the world, and we are made different…these differences lead to a fruitful familial life! It is in these beautiful images that we truly mirror God to the whole world! So, if a man and a woman come to the Catholic Church requesting the Sacrament of Marriage why do we care if they know about why homosexual union and gender ideology challenges are a danger to their marriage. They obviously are not homosexual, and they obviously do not struggle with if they are male or female, right? While that is true, they are asking the Catholic Church to give them a Sacrament, a pure gift from God and in that Sacrament, they promise to accept children lovingly into their marriage and raise them in the Catholic faith. If couples do not know where the church stands or worse yet disagree with where the church stands on these issues are we loving them by just brushing them aside and not helping them understand the importance of such moral issues in our world today? The answer to that rhetorical question is, NO, we are not loving the engaged couple. We need to equip all engaged couples with the ability to have a moral compass and to pass that moral compass down to their future children.
When we approach these issues, we are often faced with anger and frustration that a church would be so cruel to people who struggle with sexual or gender identity. I desire to challenge that thinking! The Catholic Church separates the person from action! If a person struggling to know if they are male, female, or the like, we still love the person, but we want to challenge the action. Same for those struggling with same sex attraction.
What do I mean by this? I have a sister who has same sex attraction and I love her very much! I have witnessed her with several different partners, and I have loved all of them with my whole heart too. I will say that her relationships have never been easy, in fact, most complicated and messy, and the happiest I have ever seen her is when she has embraced her life as a single person. That does not mean that when she is in a relationship, I shun her because she has chosen to live outside of the teachings of the church, but instead I love her just the same. We have had many conversations together where we civilly spoke of our differences of opinions on the matter, but she has never once doubted my love for her, nor have I doubted her love for me. It is sad that in our world to have a difference of opinion often results in hate speech and bullying…this is not what God intends…He intends us always to love the sinner and hate the sin…always calling forth our fellow human to grow to be the best person they can be. I show the same love to the girl in my daughter’s class who is struggling with her identity as I show to the friend who is not struggling. Through my actions I pray I can bring them to the truth of the love of Jesus.
I have had several couples walk away from marriage preparation because we have talked about homosexual marriage or gender ideology in our preparation. They get so fueled by the fact that we say something they may disagree with, but they won’t even take the time to discuss with us, in a civilized fashion what they are upset about…they just walk away. My heart breaks for them and I pray for them.
So as a couple who is preparing for marriage it is imperative that we speak the truth in love about the moral issues that surround our world today. The engaged are promising on the altar before God and their family that they will accept children and bring them up according to the teachings of the Catholic Church…Yes, you are a male and female asking to be married, but you, God willing, have children you will need to teach and guide in your homes. I pray for you to have the tools you need when you begin to have families and have to walk in the murky waters we have in our world.