This weekend our pastor, a much-loved Irish priest in his late sixties, a bit nervously addressed the congregation of our church on a topic that I am sure made him feel uncomfortable: What to do in the light of the recent Supreme Court's decisions on gay marriage.
I wrote to thank him for his honesty and courage, knowing that he was doing his best to follow the bishops' stance that only a marriage between a man and a woman can provide a stable home for the rearing of children.
I began by saying that I, too, have wrestled in recent years with the use of the term 'marriage' to refer to two persons of the same sex. I have come to realize that the only legal way to make equal opportunity happen for the minority who wish to commit themselves for life is through marriage.
Since I had noticed that our priest, always a very human and non-judgmental man, had openly worried about two things: where would this lead the country? and what was he to do with invitation he had received to the gay wedding of a young man he knew.
On the latter issue, I said that those who sent this priest the invitation were brave and would hope for the kind of loving response that Jesus would give: wishing these two young men happiness and success in being faithful to each other, even though the church's blessing cannot be extended. What I didn't say is the obvious fact that at issue is civil marriage, not marriage as a sacrament in the Catholic Church, so in a sense the hierarchy's concerns seem overblown.
Heterosexual marriage in this country, I went on, is in deep trouble, which has nothing to do with gays being married to each other.
I went on to say what has been said by many before me: that both sexes are capable of love and nurturing in families and there is every reason to be more optimistic about the future than our priest is. Legalizing same-sex unions "will expand the possibility of more adoptions and allow same-sex people to being nurturing and love to any children they choose to adopt and to each other, in a more stable form."
So I see a future marked by an increase in love, a decrease in promiscuity among gay men, and an expansion of the idea of marriage. "I can understand why the church's blessing cannot be given to these unions, yet I remain glad and hopeful that in the secular sphere, the gay people I know can become a bit more accepted in this land of opportunity."
Facing radical change of this kind, especially to those of us of a certain age is tough to do. It is easy to see some of these same-sex unions as trendy and to worry that they will not last. But when I think of all the single moms and some dads running households and raising kids, I am not worried that two men together or two women, with the security of marriage, will, overall, do an equally good job. Society will be better off.