Instead of defining us as living in sexual sin, the church is suddenly seeing all aspects of our relationships – the care for one another, the sacrifices of daily life, the mutual responsibilities for children, the love of our families, the dignity of our work, and all that makes up a commitment to one another. We are actually being seen as fully human, instead of uniquely crippled humans directed always and everywhere toward sin. And, yes, there is concern for our children as well – and their need for care and love and support.
Andrew Sullivan seems genuinely moved by these looming changes in the Church coming out of the ongoing Synod on the Family. I find some hope in them. And I am happy for him if this reconciles him to the Church. But maybe that need for reconciliation in him is stronger than in me.
This is definitely a step forward, but I am surprised that someone of Sullivan’s intellect cannot see how this continues the pattern of tolerating men who love men and women who love women rather than offers true hospitality. So long as the love between two men and two women is primarily characterized by the sex they have, we will always be second class partners, strangers welcomed to the table. And I mean here strangers in the sense described by Georg Simmel, those who have come to stay rather than those who drop by for a brief visit.
And in here Sullivan reveals why he would be okay with us being second-class strangers tolerated for what we have to offer: “Yes, the doctrine does not change. The sacrament of matrimony is intrinsically heterosexual – a position, by the way, I have long held as well. But it is possible to affirm the unique and wondrous thing of heterosexual, life-giving union without thereby assuming that gay people are somehow intrinsically driven to evil, as Benedict insisted. It is not either/or. It has always been both/and.”
This is the reification of the procreative sexual act over all else. He is correct that the improvement here is that we are not being defined as weaklings driven to evil by our sinful desires. Again, I bring up Simmel’s stranger: the stranger has a lot to offer a community, and s/he is welcomed by that community to stay. Like the Metics of ancient Athens or the Jews in fin de siecle Vienna.
But without a sacramental dispensation, we are just guests sitting at the table, guests who can be asked to leave or forced to leave as soon as there is a change in the Athenian Polis, the Hapsburg Imperium, or the Roman Papacy.
These are definitely steps in the right direction: I do believe that. But we are still not full members at the table and will not be so long as those who happen to love persons of the same gender are categorized first and foremost by how we have sex. And since sex between opposites is sanctified, how can love between the same ever be fully welcome?