Peace begins in the gay-friendly home

VINCENZO PINTO AFP/GETTY IMAGES Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead an ordination mass at St Peter’s basilica at the Vatican … Continued



Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead an ordination mass at St Peter’s basilica at the Vatican in April 2012.

As the new year begins, our list of threats to world peace includes the usual suspects: poverty, hunger, disease, environmental degradation, the availability of devastating weaponry and sectarian violence. To this list, Pope Benedict XVI would like to add our neighbor Bob.

In his message for the World Day of Peace, which takes place January 1, the pope said that allowing gay and lesbian people to marry “constitutes an offense against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.” That the pope holds these notions is not news. He has previously said that gay marriage threatens the “future of humanity itself.”

We are fortunate enough to be able to contrast the pope’s rhetoric with the reality of Bob’s life, and those of many other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people whom we know. They don’t seem like threats to world peace or the future of humanity. They are men and women trying to earn a living, love their spouses, raise their children and contribute a little something to their churches and their communities.

The pope is losing the fight against marriage equality because Catholics weigh his abstract definitions of what it means to be human, what it means to be male and what it means to be female, against the evidence of their own experience. They understand instinctively that human beings are too complex to be captured in such arid taxonomies, that categories devised by celibate philosophers no longer make much sense in a world in which traditional gender roles were abandoned long ago. Rather, what they know, what they believe, is the evidence of their own experience. Like John the Evangelist, they testify to what they have seen and heard.

It is difficult to think of the pediatrician who cares for your children, or the Sunday school teacher who is introducing your children to their faith, or the couple who open their home for a community fundraiser, as threats to world peace. It is hard to believe that the pope and his advisors understand our neighbor Bob’s “nature” better than he knows it himself. At some point you come to realize that it is not same-sex couples who pose a threat to our shared future; it is the people who work so hard and spend so much money to deny these couples the love and support they need to live generous and productive lives.

An ever-lengthening stream of public opinion polls confirm that a majority of U.S. Catholics support marriage equality and want to get rid of laws that discriminate against LGBT people. According to Pew research this year, “among [American] Catholics as a whole, supporters of same-sex marriage now outnumber opponents (52 percent vs. 37 percent).” Whether because of the great value that Catholic voters place on the family—all kinds of families—or the commitment rooted in church social justice teachings to treat all people equally, the U. S. Catholic electorate has crossed a bridge on this issue and shows no sign of going back.

History gives us every reason to believe that the church will one day follow suit, but that journey will be long and tortured. The pope presents his arguments against equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as immutable truth, just as the church once asserted that it was right when it argued against women’s suffrage, supported slavery, and banned new understandings of astronomy. On each of these issues, the church finally caught up with its people, but only after decades—and in the case of Galileo, centuries—of argument, exclusion and persecution. Catholics know that their leaders will eventually change their views on human sexuality.

In the meantime, most Catholics hear the pope’s increasingly strident rhetoric, think of our neighbor Bob and others like him, and scratch their heads. Then they go about their business of voting for marriage equality, opposing discrimination, and rejoicing at the unions of their gay and lesbian family and friends. We hope it doesn’t take several more popes and many more World Peace Day missteps before the Catholic hierarchy finally reforms its ways. Thankfully, ordinary, faithful Catholics are not waiting.

Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata are co-founders of Fortunate Families, which ministers with Catholic families with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children, and is a member of the Equally Blessed coalition.

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  • leliorisen

    An exceptionally fine post to start the new year with.

    Little has been said about the fat that this Pope even suggests that condoms make AIDS worse. In Africa, this is going to lead to countless more ‘heterosexuals’ getting infected and dying. Additionally, he blessed the Ugandan woman who called the reintroduction of a ‘kill the gays’ bill a Christmas gift to her country. And for a real eye-opener, research his role in the church during the start of the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s. Nothing about this man shows him to be holy. He is a religious figurehead. One that is capable of doing great harm.

    At any rate, thanks for humanizing who gay people are. Once that happens, it is very hard for one to remain a bigot.

  • Christianpastor

    You are very kind in your assessment of the pope’s war on gay people. His actions can only be described as pure evil, resulting in violence and suicide.


    If you get rid of catholicism in your home, it will be even more peaceful.

    If Bob is a good neighbor, he’s a good neighbor no matter if he’s gay or straight.

    On the other hand, the catholic church would reach its hand into our government and deny women reproductive choice. That’s not a good neighbor. The catholic church demands that it rule women, but it has no women in its heirarchy – denying 50% or more of the human race any rights or self governance. That’s not a good neighbor.

    The catholic church engaged in a worldwide criminal pattern of child abuse and sheltering these child rapers from the legal consequences of their actions. That’s not just not a good neighbor. That’s not not even just a bad citizen – that’s a criminal.

    Really, you have got to get rid of the catholicism, just dump that vile medieval construct. Leave and persuade others to leave until all that’s left is those 20 or 30 vicious old men in dresses huddled together in their little feudal city state.

  • WWDelane

    Yep. One funny thing is that more organized, more traditional religious groups seem to be strangely more cutting-edge on this issue than most. I have a theory as to why, but I am probably wrong. It just seems to make a strange kind of sense, though.

  • K Tobin-Sandoval

    Bravo Mary Ellen and Casey.
    Will be passing this on to several others.
    Good for you for an article in the Wash Post.
    Happy New Year to you and yours, Karen Tobin Sandoval

  • Secular1

    WWDelane, I strongly suggest you reread your comment and see if it makes sense to you.

  • Secular1

    Catholic church is a sovereign entity. It has its little place within Rome, there Mr. Ratzinger can promulgate whatever law, rules, regulations his stupid putrid heart desires. It is best he keep his hands within his gowns. If he wants to practice his pocket billiards, while they are there, we wouldn’t think of objecting. He just has to promise that he will not interfere with us, with our rules, laws and regulations.

  • vista1969

    I, too, will be passing this thoughtful piece along to others.

    David S. Fishback, Advocacy Chair
    Metro DC Chapter of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays

  • jack824

    I have a gay relative and the Church finally forced me to choose between family and faith. Family won.

  • djbiddle

    It seems to me that the Lopatas are interpreting the Pope’s statements as suggesting that gay and lesbian individuals are threats to peace, truth etc. From the quote they give though it seems that he is saying that changing the definition of marriage to mean the same type of union between same-gender couples as that which exists between opposite-gender couples. These are two different things.

    Also, I think equality is important, but why does that have to mean changing the definition of marriage? What would be the problem with having a kind of same-gender union that confers the same financial, health etc rights as marriage, without changing the current definition of marriage?

  • Catken1

    “These are two different things. ”

    Equally ridiculous, though. Peace and truth are not and never have been threatened by loving marriages and happy commitments, whatever the genitals involved.

    “Also, I think equality is important, but why does that have to mean changing the definition of marriage?”

    I think equality is important, but why does that have to mean changing the definition of “citizen” to include blacks and women? What would be the problem with having a kind of “registered American” benefit that confers the same voting, residential, etc. rights as citizenship, without changing the current definition of “citizen?”

    Because when you give the same civil contract, with the same rights and responsibilities and commitments, a different name just because you don’t want “your kind” associated with “their kind”, the results are NEVER going to be EQUAL. PERIOD. Nor is there any sensible reason to do so.

  • John McNeill

    Unless our parents proved fallible we could never mature and become adults. So God has blessed us with fallible hierarchs who are out of touch with the reality of homosexual relations based in love. We can learn the truth about homosexual love by trusting what God is saying to us through our own experience

  • amelia45

    Thank you, Casey and Mary Ellen, for speaking up and out. I, too, am a Catholic who believes that our laws need to recognize equal treatment for all our citizens and believe that, ultimately, the Catholic Church will see its error.

  • Sadetec

    “Also, I think equality is important, but why does that have to mean changing the definition of marriage? What would be the problem with having a kind of same-gender union that confers the same financial, health etc rights as marriage, without changing the current definition of marriage?”

    Let me turn that around: suppose we changed the law such that Catholics could enter into something called a “civil partnership”, but not permit them to call it “marriage”, how would Catholics feel? Would they consider themselves to be treated equally with their Jewish, Muslim and atheist friends (all of whom could continue to “marry”?)

    Y’see marriage extends to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, practitioners of Voodoo … even Satan worshippers are allowed to get “married”. Marriage also extends to atheists — even Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward are allowed to call their union a “marriage”. So not only is marriage not specific to one religion, but it isn’t specific to religion at all. Which begs the question, why aren’t same sex couples allowed to “marry”?

    If you want to impose a religious view of marriage onto society, then advocate the banning of none believers from marrying. If you want to impose (as I suspect you do!) a SPECIFIC Catholic view of marriage onto society, then advocate a ban on all non-Catholics from marrying. But don’t try and have it both ways at once. Either marriage is for EVERYONE, or it is for Catholics only — DECIDE!!!

  • PhillyJimi1

    What a bunch of double talk and twisted logic! If you’re not 100% hetro then the Church and the Pope have clearly spoken as to what they think about you! Of course unless your a gay pedophile priest then they protect you.

    Also if you don’t agree with the Pope then you’re not a Catholic. Read the rule book. The pope’s word is god’s word. Yes it is silly and that is why I am not a Catholic anymore. It is like a white guy thinking he is black. No matter how much you want to pretend you’re something it doesn’t make it so.

    You’re not really a Catholic if you think the rules are somehow optional. The pope/god have said gay marriage threatens the “future of humanity itself.” As an ex-Catholic I reject that as an absurd statement and the old man in the pointy hat as a idiotic dark ages icon. If you don’t like the rule of the institution don’t you don’t have to be a member of the institution. It is okay, you’re free to do so! The sun will come up tomorrow and everything will be okay.