In recent months, my younger sister and I have had occasion to discuss how Facebook has taken both the word and notion of friendship and turned it into something about which, it would seem, people are no longer completely clear.
My assertion is that the action of “friending” someone on Facebook and referring to those contacts as “friends” has, for many people, confused what actual friendship is, why people befriend one another, and what a friend actually is.
According to Merriam-Webster.com, the definition of “friend” is:
1 a: one attached to another by affection or esteem * b: acquaintance (*A note on the inclusion of “acquaintance”: M-W.com’s definition of “acquaintance” states, “a person whom one knows but who is not a particularly close friend.”) 2 a: one that is not hostile b: one that is of the same nation, party, or group.
For the purpose of this article, please keep in mind the two definitions under the second listing.
I believe what Facebook’s use of the term has caused is the confusion between a friend, an acquaintance, and someone you don’t actually even know, causing problems nowadays when discussing politics, religion, or other “touchy” subjects.
DOMA, Same Sex “Marriage,” and Moral & Legal Principles
On June 26th , in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a decision the likes of which mankind has never before seen when it struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act. The Court ruled that DOMA denied legally married same-sex couples equal protection under the law. Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito–all of whom are Catholic–were the four justices in the minority voting against the overturning of DOMA. Sadly, but not surprisingly, two justices who self identify as Catholics, Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor, were in the supporting majority.
In the wake of the DOMA decision, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated it “was a tragic day for marriage and our nation” and that the Court had “dealt a profound injustice to the American people.”
What exactly are we talking about though when we say, “same sex ‘marriage’?”
Honestly, as a Catholic who agrees with the Church’s teachings on marriage—I have no idea. Since marriage isn’t something that can be redefined simply for the sake of allowing one person access to another’s finances, health insurance, et cetera, the phrase “same sex marriage” makes no logical sense to me. However, looking at it from a cultural standpoint, what would seem to be the matter at hand is whether or not consenting adults should be allowed to love whomever they wish and to do whatever they want with their own bodies.
And who could argue with that? Why shouldn’t a person be able to do whatever he or she wants? Why, if you oppose this ruling, shouldn’t you be considered an intolerant bigot?
*Well, consenting adults also engage in adultery, prostitution, polygamy, and incest. Am I suggesting that homosexual relationships are the same as adultery, prostitution, polygamy, or incest? No. However, should we endorse adultery, prostitution, polygamy, and incest with legislation; because consenting adults decide they want to do them? No. But, if whatever consenting adults decide to do with their bodies should be ruled in, then adultery, prostitution, polygamy and incest must be ruled in. If adultery, prostitution, polygamy and incest are ruled out, then we can’t automatically rule in whatever consenting adults decide to do with their bodies. See?
Whenever someone says that same-sex marriage should be allowed, they invariably propose a reason why. However, you must consider that reason as a moral and legal principle. According to that standard, what else must be ruled in or out?
The reason the issue of same-sex marriage is different from the rights for which people fought during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s—including many, many members of the Catholic Church—is that in the ‘60s, the argument was regarding the definition of what a person was, not what a person wanted. It’s the difference between “being” and “doing,” and don’t be mistaken—we are a “doing” and “wanting” society.
Furthermore, the issue here is not whether a person should be allowed to marry whomever he or she wants, the issue is whether a man and a man or a woman and a woman can form the kind of union that is, marriage. Whether or not men should be allowed to breastfeed isn’t a civil rights issue—they can’t. Whether or not men should be allowed to be mothers isn’t a civil rights issue—they can’t.
If the marital union is simply a matter of love, affection, access to health insurance and other benefits, then yes, this is a matter of civil rights, and anyone can marry anyone whom he chooses. However, if the marital union is also the kind of union from which children come—even if no children actually come from it—then no, they can’t. The bodies of same-sex couples simply do not allow for it. A word can arbitrarily redefined, but reality does not change.
On sexual difference:
“[I]n the seven days of creation, the animals are not presented as sexed beings. What characterizes them is not the difference between the sexes but the difference of orders and, within each order, the differences among species… sexuality is not mentioned except in the case of mankind… which includes the sexual act by which man and woman ‘become one flesh’.”
-Rabbi Gilles Bernheim
Chief Rabbi of France
I hear you asking, “But shouldn’t we be tolerant and non-judgmental toward people whose ideas are different from our own?” Everyone makes judgments. Those who claim that we should be non-judgmental are saying it is wrong to make judgments. But, isn’t that a judgment about people with different ideas?
Okay then, what would Jesus do? Was Jesus tolerant and non-judgmental toward people whose ideas differed from His own? No. Jesus loved people and drew moral lines. He did both at the same time. We all need to follow His example.
Recalling the words of Archbishop Charles Chaput, “Tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Charity, justice, mercy, prudence, honesty—these are Christian virtues.”
Facebook and Friendship—Real and Otherwise…
The issue of same-sex marriage has been heating up for some time in certain circles of the Catholic Church—not the least of which is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
As a conservative, “professional Catholic,” and self-avowed “news junkie,” I have been following this issue, of course, with interest. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am one of the more impassioned Catholics they know. I not only support the Church’s teachings, I am vocal in my support…very vocal. I am not a shrinking violet with regard to my beliefs or opinions and everyone who knows me, knows that.
Up until June 26th; however, I had not said much about the same-sex marriage issue either in real life or on my social media outlets. I’m not sure why, exactly. Perhaps, it was because I find myself more impassioned about issues such as abortion and the inviolability of the right to life? Maybe because I have gay friends—in real life, who are also friends of mine on Facebook—and I simply didn’t want them to perceive anything I stated as offensive or hurtful? Maybe it was because I feel as though I am constantly engaged in a fight to defend my beliefs and just didn’t have the strength to take on one more fight. Maybe it was because others were doing the heavy lifting on this issue for me? Or, maybe, I was afraid…
Some of my “friends” on Facebook include people like Brian Brown. Brian is the president of the National Organization for Marriage. I met Brian earlier this year at the annual Catholic Leadership Conference in Charlotte, NC, where the “movers and shakers” in the world of Catholic communications come together and pow-wow.
Brian’s posts (and others with whom I am “friends” on Facebook) regarding the marriage issue have been spot-on with regard to the Church’s teachings on marriage. None of them have been hostile. None of them have been hateful. However, I hadn’t reposted a single one prior to June 26th.
On June 26th, after the DOMA ruling was handed down, I began to “like” a few of the various posts that were popping up on my timeline from others who were posting regarding their disappointment, I “liked” the statement from Justice Antonin Scalia on the day’s ruling, and I shared the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ statement on the ruling.
I am embarrassed to say, that for all of my usual bravado regarding the Church and my support of Her, those were the first public shows of support for the same-sex marriage issue that I had expressed via social media.
I was visiting my sister and her family that week, and both she and I began to notice people who were both “friends” of ours on Facebook as well as friends in real life were dropping off of our friend list after we showed our commiseration with those who were feeling the same way about the ruling.
In response, I posted, “Wow. Voicing my beliefs today has resulted in some “unfriendings” here. As I’ve said numerous times, if my values/opinions cause you to “unfriend” me in virtual reality, we weren’t friends in actual reality.” There were some great responses to that off the cuff remark. There was also some silence, which, in a way, I also appreciated.
I’m not sure at what point in our culture having differing opinions, beliefs, or ideas immediately resulted in the label of “bigot,” “hate-monger,” or “intolerance.” I do notice of late that all of those monikers are being applied to the Catholic Church and Her teachings—on just about everything. I’m not surprised that we who hold to the Church’s teachings are being tagged as hateful religious zealots. It’s always been that way and will, I fear, only get worse for us. What does surprise me; however, is the vitriol being spewed by people who have called themselves my friend…just because I am “different.”
It’s okay though. Again, to quote Archbishop Chaput, “We are Catholics before we are Americans.” I would add that I am a Catholic before I am anything else. This small experience has taught me something for which I am grateful—never again will I feel pressured to remain quiet about any issue that flies in the face of those teachings and traditions for which others have fought, for which others have died, and which I hold so dear. I will not rely on others to carry the banner for me. I will not let fatigue silence me. I will not. I cannot.
To paraphrase my favorite saint, Joan of Arc, as she was leaving Vaucouleurs to begin her mission to save France, “I am not afraid, for God is with me. I was born for this!”
*For a series of brochures on Same-Sex Marriage that includes content found here, please contact the Archdiocese of St. Louis Office of Marriage and Family Life at 314.792.7180.