Column: M.D. Harmon
THE LAW OF LOVE
Catholic statement on homosexuality a solid work of charityThe Portland diocese's response in the context of the 'people's veto' is also thoughtful and appropriate.
©Copyright 1997 Guy Gannett Communications
A statement last week from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops compassionately upheld two long-standing Christian doctrines: God's love for his people and his condemnation of immoral actions.
At a time when some churches turn honestly seeking homosexuals away, while others have taken the command to be ''salt and light'' as advice to become paprika and a 60-watt bulb, the U.S. bishops encouraged parents not to disavow their homosexual children, separating the inclination from the act.
That follows the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus says, ''Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?''
That passage, along with many other parts of Scripture, uses a parent's love as a direct metaphor for the love the Father has for us. Those who cut off all ties with their children due to their homosexuality are not only refusing to imitate that love, they are tearing down a bridge that could lead to healing.
It's not just parents who are involved here, however. No one is outside the reach of God's love, and making fun of homosexuals, harassing them, or - in the worst cases - physically attacking a person for actual or perceived homosexuality is just as much against the law of God as any other immoral act.
The bishops were also careful to note that reaching out to homosexuals in God's love also carries with it God's offer of restoration and reconciliation, something such groups as Exodus and the Catholic group Courage try to facilitate.
They said such outreach cannot contain or imply approval of homosexual acts, which Catholic teaching (like that of nearly all Christian churches, indeed, all Western religions) has always held as wrong.
It's true that for some, what any religion says on this or any other issue carries no weight at all. They'll do whatever they want to do, no matter what anyone says. That is their option.
However, when the debate moves on to how society should respond to the political and social demands of some homosexuals, it rapidly gets more complex.
Catholics, and others, still retain the right - some would say the duty - to hold that immoral acts have no claim on any special protection by society.
Indeed, for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, that's the crux of the matter. It said last week that it sees nothing in the bishops' statement to impel it to move away from its strict neutrality toward a pending campaign to cancel a bill adding homosexuality to Maine's civil rights statutes. That bill has not yet become a law, pending the certification of signatures seeking a ''people's veto'' referendum.
According to Marc Mutty, a diocesan spokesman, the Catholic position on the Maine bill is that it remains very unclear whether the bill would merely prohibit discrimination against homosexuals - which the diocese could support - or whether it would serve to endorse homosexual acts, which it most certainly could not support.
That position strongly contrasts with the diocese's stand on Question 1 in the 1995 election, which would have prevented communities from passing local ordinances adding homosexuality to their civil rights protections. That question was opposed by the diocese, and it failed by a 53-47 margin.
The diocese sees the current campaign as very different. That's because it tried to get the Legislature to add seven amendments to the bill. All seven were intended to clarify the issue by adding guarantees that ending discrimination, not promoting homosexual acts, was the bill's true aim.
The amendments covered such things as exempting religious groups and youth organizations from the bill; protecting a person's freedom to express an opinion on the morality of homosexuality; forbidding the state to condone homosexuality in schools or to require any quota, preference or affirmative action policy; ruling out benefits for ''domestic partners;'' allowing adoption agencies to consider the sexual orientation of prospective parents; and saying that any policy or practice with a ''disparate impact'' on the basis of sexual orientation is not illegal on its face.
Some or all of these eminently reasonable amendments are contained in the civil rights laws of such states as Connecticut, Vermont and Rhode Island. They are also included in large part in Sen. Edward Kennedy's proposed federal homosexual rights statute.
And every one was discarded by the Legislature without debate.
That's the reason the diocese wonders about the real motives behind Maine's bill - and why it declines to support it.
- M.D. Harmon (email@example.com) is an editorial page writer and editor for The Portland Newspapers.
[Go to Top]
The Portland Press Herald Home Page
The Maine GayNet Archive