Catholics Do What?,  Culture of Death,  Evangelization,  Homosexuality,  Marriage,  Sex

How to discuss gay “marriage” {part 3: final}

Whew, I was thinking of breaking this up into 4 installments but the comments – many of which have been thoughtful and kind and many of which have been … not – are a little bit too much for my very pregnant brain to deal with right now, so I’m going to go ahead and publish one, final installment of my and Cara’s debate today, with the caveat that it’s a little longer than parts 1 and 2.

(And, um, be nice to her, okay? Even if you disagree with her. Actually, especially if you disagree with her. I won’t chastise anyone for the stupid stuff they’re saying to me because I’m a big girl blogger and deal with it every single day. But she doesn’t. So play nice. You don’t score any victories – or convert any hearts – by being cruel.)


So funny – USF is my alma mater! Go Dons!

I think we’re getting somewhere because I didn’t even need a deep breath for this one.

I want to be crystal clear here that my support of gay marriage and equal rights for all forms of sexual orientation and gender expression have exactly zero to do with appealing to some popular opinion or “common option.” There is nothing new, trendy, or popular about this. Same-sex love has been around since the beginning of time and all that is news here is that our country is finally coming around to showing this type of love and commitment the respect and legal rights that this community should have been entitled to for all of history.

My point was that there are many people who identify as Catholic who dissent from the fundamental bible-based Catholic teachings on gay marriage (and so, so many other traditional teachings of the Catholic church). A large group of people who believe in God and feel a connection to the Catholic church fully support LGBTQ rights and full acceptance and love of all people (backed by actually supporting all people to love who they love).

Because we have such different core values, it does make sense to me to clearly delineate conservative and liberal Catholics. They are, in practice, such vastly different approaches to life, and to be honest I would be horrified to be bucketed into the traditional Catholic mold. Unfortunately, I think the conservative approach to Catholicism has been much, much louder on a variety of social issues, so the liberal portion of the church has gotten lost in the shuffle. I do think Pope Francis is doing a lot to improve this, and I’m happy to hear we can agree that he’s the best. 🙂

As far as what marriage is and why it is so important, I think you’re right we can leave God out of this, and I want to do just that. While religions all around this globe treat marriage as a sacred and monumental event, that piece is far more complex than what was decided on a Friday in June. The fact is that while religion can put many (valid and important and beautiful) layers on top of marriage, marriage is a legal contract in which each marriage is as unique and diverse as the individuals within the commitment. Some marriages are religious, some are secular, some are between young or older individuals, some span across states or countries, some include children, and some are between same-sex individuals.

 You guessed that I think the point of marriage is for “romantic fulfillment and life-long companionship” and I find that phrasing incredibly empty and not even close to capturing what marriage is. When two people decide that they want to marry, that is an intimate decision that carries with it so many different intentions and goals.

Because of that, I don’t believe there is one “reason” for marriage. I think it depends entirely on the individuals within the relationship. This diversity does extend to whether or not they decide to have children.

Deciding to be a spouse and deciding to be a parent are such different decisions and roles in life, and it is for no one but the couple involved to make decisions about this. Do you know any married couples who have decided to not have children? Do you know any who are unable to conceive? Who have fostered or adopted children? Any who have blended families but have not “created life” together? Do you honestly think these marriages are not valid or living up to some “ideal”?

Your point about children being raised by their biological parents being somehow better off than children of same-sex couples just holds absolutely no water with me. I’m very familiar with the argument that some children raised by same-sex parents are somehow dissatisfied with their upbringing, and I had actually read Katy’s letter before. Some children of ALL forms of childrearing are dissatisfied with parts of their upbringing. There are just as many stories coming from children who are happy with their families, like Zach Wahls. So, this kind of “proof” isn’t proof at all. The stories of all families are complex with varying degrees of success and levels of overall happiness, regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents.



Small world 🙂

Okay, after thinking it over, here’s what I’m understanding to be your 3 main “pros” in favor of gay marriage, and here’s where they’re flawed: 

1. Same sex attraction/homosexual behavior have been around forever, so therefore it should be legally recognized as marriage. This necessitates a change from the fundamental definition of marriage (which I’ll define as a legally binding, life-long, exclusive public commitment to a spouse of the opposite sex and any children which may result from that union) to a broader range of various sexual behaviors. I’m reading that you don’t believe children have anything to do with marriage unless the individual couples wills for them to, and then pursues them in whatever fashion they see fit. Is this accurate so far?

The main issue with this point is the final piece, because this view of marriage radically alters the nature of the institution, which is ordered toward the creation and development of a family, which is the fundamental building block for our larger communities, and turns it into something else entirely: a sexual partnership which is not outwardly-focused, by it’s very nature, but which is focused inward, on the mutual satisfaction and “happiness” (quotes because it’s a completely subjective state unique to each couple) of the spouses.

This is not to say marriage should not equal happiness, but that marriage in the traditional definition often results in happiness but is not contingent upon it. Happiness is a happy aftereffect, if you will, but it’s not proper end. So we contract marriages because we love the other person and want to build a life and a family with them, but the vision is directed outward, away from the individual couples, and that other-centered love physically begets new life. Children are a natural good of marriage – and an essential part of the purpose for marriage – precisely because they draw the spouses away from one another and toward a common good, and ultimately, the future.

You rightly mentioned adoptions and couples who struggle with infertility. I set those aside for the purpose of our argument because they’re tangential, but since you brought them up I’ll answer that when a couple cannot conceive this is a poverty in their relationship. Yes, they may be able to adopt and take great joy in building a family through alternative means (moral means, but that’s another topic entirely), but you’ll never hear an infertile couple say that their infertility hasn’t been a great sadness or a source of suffering. Is their marriage any less valid? Of course not. That’s like saying a cancer patient’s life has less value than a healthy person’s because her body has succumbed to a disease. It means something has gone awry physically.

For a homosexual couple, the sterility of their love is fundamental. That’s part of the reason I said in our first exchange that I don’t believe there is such a thing as gay “marriage;” marriage, by definition, is open to life and directed to the propagation of future generations.

A homosexual relationship can never bring forth new life on its own, and so it cannot be rightly called “marriage” in the real sense of the word. Legal partnership? Sure. Civil union? Ok. But while the government has seen fit to radically alter the definition of marriage to include couples who are fundamentally incapable of fulfilling the essential duties (I’m using that word philosophically) of the office, there is nothing that can be done, legally or semantically, to actually alter the reality that only opposite sex spouses can contract a marital union.

2. When homosexual couples determine that they would like to acquire a child, either through adoption, IVF, surrogacy, etc., this results in a profound commoditization of the child. It reduces the child to a product, if you will, to be added on to their relationship as a kind of familial upgrade.

Do homosexual couples sincerely love the children they bring into their homes and raise as their own? I’m sure they do. But especially in the case of assisted reproductive technologies, there is almost total disregard for the dignity and the autonomy of the child. Their humanity is utterly secondary to wants and desires of the parent(s). Surrogacy is perhaps the saddest example of this commoditization, as it outsources the most fundamental human experience – gestation in your mother’s womb – to an unrelated third party. Does the child have no say in this? And can there really be no consequences to such an impoverished arrangement?

3. I didn’t present Katy’s story as any kind of definitive proof of the inability of a gay couple to raise a happy child, just as food for thought that maybe the children involved in these unions are not being afforded their full rights. We disagree on the nature of marriage as being ordered towards procreation, but there is still an innate drive, even among homosexual couples, to build a family. So the question becomes, what of the rights of the child? Does a child not, as we have legally recovnzzed up until this point, have the right to a mother and a father|? Is it not wrong to preemptively deny them a parent of the opposite sex, simply because two men or two women decide to build a life together?

My final thought is this: if marriage has nothing to do with procreation and building families, then why is the government involved in the first place? Traditionally the government has extended legal protections and benefits to married couples recognizing the unique benefits of marriage to society as a whole, (stable, intact families, healthier citizens, lower crime rates, greater economic stability, etc.) But these all tie into marriages begetting families.

Marriage has been recognized in a unique way because marriage – the sexual relationship between a man and a woman – is uniquely capable of bringing forth the next generation of civilization. Can it be done outside the context of marriage? Well yes, of course. But it’s always at the cost of the children involved, never to their benefit.

Also, if marriage means completely different things to different couples, as you said, if each couple contracts marriage on their own terms and for their own reasons and just wants to call it something that starts with an m….how can there be any kind of legal precedent at all for differentiating what makes the cut and what doesn’t? Can’t I marry my sister? Can’t I marry a second spouse of either gender while my husband is still alive? How is there any grounds, legally, to deny me that?

I’ve really enjoyed the peaceful nature and tone of this exchange (seriously, soooooo refreshing for someone who works on the internet) but I’m not sure we can go much further since it kind of feels like we’re talking past each other on a certain level. We’re using the same language, but we don’t mean the same thing, at all, when we say “marriage.”  So I guess maybe I’m up for one more round of closing arguments, if you will, and then we call it a day?



I agree on two points: I really have enjoyed the tone of this, and I think we’re getting to the point of talking past each other in many ways.

There are a number of things I’d like to push back on with what you’ve written here (i.e. those are not my three main points pro gay marriage). I think the fact is that we have wildly different approaches to marriage and family — beyond gay marriage or this particular ruling. I don’t feel the need for closing arguments, per se, as I (thankfully) saw this much more as a conversation than a debate. I would like to offer a couple reflections though.

I will admit that I was a bit nervous going into this. After your first email I had tears in my eyes and ended up going for a couple mile walk with my dog on the beach to de-swell the lump in my throat and unknot my stomach a bit. These types of conversations can be really painful and difficult, but I’m so happy that by this last email I feel better about it all. So — I’m glad we went the email route with this so there was some reflection time built in and an opportunity to compose our thoughts.

Another thing I noticed is that maybe the trick to this is that it didn’t really feel like a debate. We both have clearly thought a lot about this issue and have extremely deep seated beliefs about what is right here. Given that, I think we both quickly knew that we weren’t going to sway the other or “win.” What we could do was explain our stance calmly and (as hard as it may have been for both of us) openly listen to the other side. I think there’s a lot of value in that, and I’m grateful to Jenna for framing this up front that this was to be civil and productive, not a battle or a gotcha debate.

Honestly, I still don’t empathize with your stance at all and I think a lot of what you believe is incredibly harmful to our society, but at the same time I can respect you as an individual and hope that somewhere down the line you have a change of heart as so many people have. And I bet you feel the same about me! At least we’re not apathetic members of society, right? 😉 I do feel sure that we both want what we think is best for our world, and those opinions have been informed and shaped in very different ways.

Best of luck with the tail end of your pregnancy, and sincere thanks for having this conversation.



I have to admit I’m a little relieved, haha. Not because it wasn’t encouraging to engage this way overall, but yeah, because it is a little personally devastating to hear someone so passionately opposed to the deepest knowledge of my heart and my faith.

I was telling my husband last night that it our conversation was making me sad, not for you necessarily, but for our culture at large, just because relativism is so overpowering and pervasive, and it makes fruitful dialogue so difficult.

But He is bigger, and I’ve seen firsthand the fruits of continuing to question and seek and wrestle.

I had a massive reversion to Catholicism in college when St. John Paul II died, and I credit him with saving my life. I’ll be asking him to pray in a special way for both of us,

Enjoy your weekend and God bless your willingness to engage in this.


  • Jessica

    Hey Jenny – I just want to chime in to say thanks for all you do to civilly and positively discuss these important issues. With regard to this argument I’m definitely on your “side,” not Cara’s, but I totally identify with her needing to take a walk to cope and relax–even after just READING an opposing viewpoint! These conversations get so heated so quickly, and even when they are discussed in good faith by good people, it can have a huge emotional toll… and that’s not even getting into what happens with trolls and drive-by haters. I can’t even imagine that amount of crap you probably get in your inbox every day. You are a strong woman.

    All of which to say: thanks for fighting the good fight, and keep on keepin’ on. Virtual hugs and high fives.

  • Cami

    Jenny, great job this week. You have great grace to keep your cool. I’m so frustrated. To me, nothing Cara said was of any use to me. It was very much my own confused thinking a decade + ago. If anything, it made me grateful that God gave me the opportunities and people to eventually see His truth! This debate also made me sad knowing there are so many like her out there, even in my family. I’m also somewhat naive to why Jesuits are part of our church but will march in favor of SSM. I don’t get it. I just wish “Catholics” that support these disordered lifestyles would stop claiming the Catholic faith. Why bother calling yourself Catholic when you reject scripture, the catechism, and the wisdom of the saints? Moral relativism is the sneakiest evil of our time, arming its victims with a false confidence that in the end will leave them unfulfilled.

    • Kathleen

      “To me, nothing Cara said was of any use to me. It was very much my own confused thinking a decade + ago. If anything, it made me grateful that God gave me the opportunities and people to eventually see His truth!” –> I agree with this 100%.

      I went to Loyola University in MD and so I have a soft spot in my hard for the Jesuits. And now our beloved Papa is a Jesuit too.

    • Deshawn

      I’m also somewhat naive to why Jesuits are part of our church but will march in favor of SSM.

      Marxism is the foundational mindset of any westerner. That is, most people are practical atheists, they may say they believe in God, but they don’t act like it. No. They believe in Man. So marxist want to make heaven here.

      Piles and piles of bodies won’t stop them from making everyone equal! The Catholic church is splitting. I think we will see that in 2017 in a more formal way.

  • Ashley

    Thank you, ladies! It has been so refreshing to witness the civility present here.

    While I am completely “aligned” with your perspective, Jenny, it was very interesting to read a civil explanation of the “other side”. So often, words get heated so quickly that I can’t even stand to continue, even if I truly want to educate myself regarding viewpoints opposite mine.

    What I find interesting (and let’s be honest, quite depressing) is exactly what seemed to end this conversation. When we simply can’t agree on the basic definition of marriage, there really isn’t much more to discuss. Without that platform upon which to build a civil debate, everything else just crumbles. It’s like trying to bake a cake with music as your only possible ingredient. It just doesn’t work.

  • Christy

    Thanks for sharing the conversation Jenny!

    I agree that we have basically no common ground for a real discussion. We really can’t discuss morality at all because things just come down to feelings. We can’t hurt people’s feelings, and if people want to do something that makes them feel good, who should stop them? I do sincerely wish that people who disagree with us though, would understand that we aren’t seeking to harm or offend or hurt anyone. We’re just posing/defending a moral system thats been around for over 2000 years and has produced the free society that we all enjoy today.

  • Tia

    So, I’m not Catholic and I’ve long supported gay marriage. I even donated money towards marriage equality for my wedding 7 years ago. But I have to admit that Cara did not address your main questions. To me, I support gay marriage because I think the notion of legal marriage has been so divorced (pun intended) from its original meaning, and given its current cultural meaning and how the vast majority of people enter into the union, it’s unjust to deny gay people the same somewhat empty institution. BUT, I actually think this is a pitstop on the way to legal marriage in general disappearing because it does not actually benefit the state. Because really, what motive does the government have in making it harder for couples to break up their relationships if they don’t have kids? The gov’t doesn’t care about lifelong partnership or layers of meaning or love, blah blah. Marriage, from the gov’t point of view, is an exchange of state-mandated benefits which you receive in exchange for accepting the exponentially more difficult process involved in breakup (i.e. divorce). It is not in the government’s interest to make poorly matched couples without children stay together. In fact, one could argue it would be BETTER for the government if ill-suited, childless couples broke up more easily and made no legal commitment, as they can then find better partners and remove the emotional drag of a bad relationship quicker. That likely improves economic productivity and all the cold hard numbers that the gov’t presumably cares about. If you neglect children, from a purely secular standpoint there is no legitimate reason for the state to a priori grant marriage rights to people who have no kids, be they gay, straight, infertile, older, etc… As a bit of a tangent, my view of marriage altered radically when I had children. I had a visceral realization, even when I was miserably unhappy in my marriage, just how much our family splitting up would damage my children, and just how deep seated and innate was their need for us as a family unit. My kids watch no TV, they didn’t have any playdates with other kids…but even at age 1 or 1.5, I could see how much it delighted my child to see love between me and my husband, in a way that felt very primal. So I am more leaning towards Jenny’s point of view of the deep-seated meaning of family. I also think that people don’t think through the side effect of recognizing gay families and unions, which is that it may essentially elevate practices such as surrogacy and adoption from tolerated to a an aspirational or desirable family structure. Without proper restraints, that can easily mean that rights of affluent, married, gay families who look right would have preferential rights over, say, flawed, poor but biological moms and dads who are not married. I know several adopted people. And while many are so so grateful for their adoptive, foster families, all have a sense that something very deep was lost in the separation from or dissolution of their bond with biological parents. This is something very very deep seated. I think as a society we totally gloss over this or act like adoption is this magical, perfect, best-case family. At its best, adoption is a way to glue something together that has been broken badly and to create a loving and beautiful family that emerged from tragic circumstances. But it is not the same as the whole never being broken, and pretending it is is just deeply dishonest in my mind.

    • Amanda

      Hi Tia,

      I agree with what you have to say, and I think that Jenny probably would, too.

      I personally don’t have an issue with Same Sex Unions- but those are not marriages. Catholics have a very specific definition of marriage, and as Jenny hinted at, that culture as a whole has slowly been changing it with contraception, no fault divorce, etc…

      I would be in favor of total separation from a legal union- granting whatever legal benefits desired, and a Sacramental Marriage. Of course, in an ideal world, the culture would see the benefits of a Sacramental Marriage and would strive to keep that in tact, but we lost a lot of that well before SSM, and unfortunately, I do not see that returning any time soon. My focus has largely shifted from, “Save the Culture from themselves” to “Protect those of us who still believe in Sacramental Marriage, and other Truths of the Catholic Church”. And, perhaps I am wrong there, from a Christian perspective? I dunno.

  • CathyCMA

    Thank You Jenny and Cara for having this discussion in a way that was gentle for me to read all the way through.
    Cara, you sound like you are where I was very recently, and where most of my friends currently are. When you wrote “Honestly, I still don’t empathize with your stance at all and I think a lot of what you believe is incredibly harmful to our society, but at the same time I can respect you as an individual and hope that somewhere down the line you have a change of heart as so many people have, ” I thought to myself, YES! This is EXACTLY what I would say to YOU! ***But Cara, my heart won’t change to conform to the popular opinion. My heart must be aligned with God, and usually that won’t be simple, or give me a warm fuzzy feeling. It is hard.
    Jenny, a commenter has already posted my other sentiment above, that by not agreeing on the definition of what marriage is, we cannot truly have a discussion about it. It’s like comparing apples and bananas.
    Again, I thank both of you for having this dialogue in a very open, yet truly respectful manner.

  • Ari

    The only thing that (years ago) changed my mind on sexuality was learning more about Theology of the Body and natural law. I used to think anything goes, and that it was all about consenting adults, but this ignores the meaning, purpose, and natural order of our human nature. It’s so easy to ignore that we are created male and female, to medicate away our fertility, to blur the lines between the sexes, or to separate ourselves from our bodies. It wasn’t until I understood the design of human nature that the Church’s teachings on sexuality made sense. Difficult? Yes. But, we also have the grace to live it. I think the only thing that can change the culture is not more “debate” or “discussion,” but authentic, loving families creating small pockets of the “civilization of love” that JPII talked about. It will be attractive and authentic.

  • Amy

    I have a couple of thoughts.

    1. So, if something has been around since the beginning of time, then it is always good? Same-sex may have been around forever, but does that make it right and good?

    2. Cara said “backed by actually supporting all people to love who they love)”.
    This is supremely emotional argument. No one is saying a man can’t love a man. We aren’t even saying that you can’t have a relationship. You are free to do so, even if it isn’t right and good. But, the “love who you love” argument with regards to marriage devolves quickly. What if a grown man genuinely loves a 13 year old girl? Do we just have to tolerant? If so, really?! If not, why? Cause she’s a kid still? But, by the gay marriage argument love is love and who are we to stand in the way? The “love has no boundaries” leads us down many roads that we do not want to go down.

  • PZ

    I loved the first two installments of this conversation, but this last one left a lot to be desired. When it came to confronting the underlying beliefs for her position, Cara wanted to keep God out of the conversation. For instance, since you are a Catholic, how do you reconcile your disagreement with our Catholic God, Jesus, St. Paul and the Catechism about our beliefs about marriage as Catholics. I find it troubling when people disagree with the teaching of the Church while still claiming that they are Catholic. I find it troubling that people claim to be liberal Catholics and therefore can disagree with what the Church teaches and that is OK. Jesus’ teaching is hard. He calls us each to a radical conversion to deny ourselves and trust Him and his Church. This includes teachings that we in our own selfish ways have difficulty accepting. This includes sins that we selfishly believe that we can never give up or live without. To simply say I am a liberal Catholic therefore I do not need to accept the Church’s teachings is self-deceptive and sad. It is not always easy, but Jesus calls us to radical conversion to Him and his Church. If you do not accept His Church and his teaching, why call yourself Catholic? It appears that Cara has some thinking and praying to do about her faith. Relativism is a destructive thing.

    • Deshawn

      I find it troubling when people disagree with the teaching of the Church while still claiming that they are Catholic

      So do a lot of us. Start looking at the bishops. All this nonsense comes from our pathetic leadership. Cathlic Brexit

  • Maryann

    ARI, I finished a week of classes on Pope John Paul’s Theology of the Body with Fr. Sean Kilcawley, a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, NE. I learned so much! He has his teachings posted on UTube. I’m reviewing them now. Maybe others will be interested also.
    God bless both women engaging in healthy dialogue regarding this topic. I have friends who are lesbian. We had many discussions before they committed to their female friend. We agreed to disagree on this most important issue. We remain friends but the level of communication is so diminished because disagree on such fundamental life issues. I pray for them to seek and find the Truth that will set them free. You see, I love each one and want them to live forever in happiness and communion with Jesus. I know they don’t -for now – understand why I’m so adamantly opposed to their lifestyle. God bless us all…

  • M.T.

    Thank you Jenny, and Cara for discussing this here, in public, to share with all of us. I was enlightened and amazed at your respectfulness and honesty. This the kind of discussion that will get us places!

  • Kathleen

    Jenny, I admire your patience with that Cara & her nonsensical blabber. Her tone was also rude in the comments yet Jenna jumped to Cara’s defense every time. What?
    Further, why is Jenna so silent on this issue? Clearly it’s important enough to her to host the topic, but all she can say is, “I agree with Jenny and please play nice.” Again, what?? Show some backbone, Jenna. I’d sincerely like to know how she’d defend her Church and debunk Cara’s baseless arguments, but I doubt she’ll step up to the plate. Or maybe she will. I guess miracles do happen.

  • Deshawn

    After your first email I had tears in my eyes and ended up going for a couple mile walk with my dog on the beach to de-swell the lump in my throat and unknot my stomach a bit.

    Good grief.

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