On Trinity Sunday we celebrate the heart of our faith – an encounter with a God of love. The Trinity has often been described using images that in the end always limp and fail to capture the glory and sublime beauty of a doctrine that is only able to be encountered in prayer, rather than described by theology. The divine dance between the three persons of the Trinity is capable of holding and sustaining every one of us, as we share in this call to be loved and share that love with others.
Perhaps on a Sunday when we celebrate the experience of love at the heart of God, it is proper to reflect on another love that is in the news with the results of the referendum in Ireland and the new private members bill by the leader of the Opposition to legislate for so-called Gay Marriage. In response, the Australian Bishops have released a document (available on the parish website). It is a good document, but like the public sentiment that it is responding to, the arguments are not deeply convincing. Because we have ostracised anyone who is different and actively discriminated against certain people – whether that difference relates to skin colour, gender, nationality, religion, size, shape, height, weight, dominant hand, looks, wealth, and of course by sexual orientation – for so long, the debate has centred around questions of equality, fairness and discrimination. As much as the church attempts to argue that this is not a case of discrimination, the fact that this is where the debate has (wrongly) landed the church in arguing for a traditional understanding of marriage appears to be discriminating. Which is unfortunate, to say the least.
The word marriage in our society has already been misappropriated. What the state understands as a legal or valid civil marriage can be radically different from the fullness of the Catholic appreciation for the beauty of sacramental marriage. For example, it is perfectly legal in a civil understanding for a man and a woman to enter into a marriage with no intention (borne out by the pre-nuptial agreement) for permanence, fidelity or fruitfulness. The exclusion of any one of these essential ends of marriage automatically annuls a marriage in the Catholic understanding – but not for the civil variety. A couple in a civil marriage can agree to ‘marry’ for as long as the love lasts, not to have any children, and have other partners when the desire arises. That this kind of arrangement has been allowed to wear the (false) title of a marriage is one of the significant problems in this debate. If this kind of relationship can be called a marriage, then it quickly descends into a question of discrimination when a similarly described same-sex relationship is not able to be celebrated. Is marriage the most appropriate word to describe either relationship? No, of course not. And this strikes at the heart of our dilemma as we continue to move forward as a society without adequately addressing the state of our history and the discrimination and hatred that continues to lurk just beneath the surface.
You may object that the scriptures clearly condemn homosexuality – and by extension any version of a same-sex union. Without getting into the arguments about what exactly the six-or-seven verses that condemn sodomy were against – although in that society, homosexuality was more about temple and ritual prostitution, acts of violence, inhospitality and pederasty – so all of these should clearly be condemned. Even so, the fact that it is only six-or-seven verses in a library of 73 books (in a Catholic bible) which together contain some 35,526 verses help put the issue into a scriptural perspective. And although Jesus says many things about money, justice, prayer and some things about human sexuality – he doesn’t actually say anything specifically about homosexuality. Which does leave one wondering…
Recorded at St Col’s, Vigil (10 mins)
Trinity Sunday, Year B.