A Galileo Moment?
"...It troubles me deeply and seems somewhat inauthentic to our Christian story to speak in terms of ‘traditional families’ and ‘traditional marriage’. In fact, I would go so far as to say it misses the point of the story entirely!..."
As I sit down to write this article, we are two days from beginning the season of Lent. You would therefore think that this LITed would be centered on preparing for Lent. That was my intention until the story of a young Catholic teacher being sacked in the United States became news over the weekend. She was sacked because she posted photographs of her civil marriage on her private Facebook page. The issue was that she married a woman. Then the story of Barnaby Joyce's marriage break-down made news. Barnaby was very outspoken during the marriage equality debate last year, talking about the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman while at the same time maintaining his relationship with his mistress. There has also been some robust discussion after Pope Francis married a young couple on an airplane - a couple who had only been civilly married up to that point. Marriage is big news at the moment. Ash Wednesday is also Valentine's Day, so it may be an opportune moment to explore marriage further in this edition of LITed!
Good theology is alive, it is present. If God is revealed in us, then theology must have the ability to respond to our current condition. Of course there are universal truths (God exists!) but these truths must be recontextualised every day, in the present. Recently Bishop Stephen Lowe of New Zealand pondered if we are in a 'Galileo moment' when it comes to addressing those in our church who are not in married, heterosexual relationships. It was a powerful statement and reminded us that the church is human, has been wrong in the past, and has the ability to change.
And, it may be time to change. Fewer and fewer young Australians are choosing to marry in our Church. In fact 70% of weddings are now celebrated by civil marriage celebrants, and the number of marriages in Australia is on the increase. They just aren't getting married with us. I wonder why this is? I wonder if it is our credibility/hospitality of those who exist outside of our binary understanding of human relationships? Significant issues that the recent Synod on the Family tried to grapple with. The resulting encyclical, Amoris Laetitia has not been received well because of its perceived pastoral support for people in exceptional circumstances.
Tony Abbott represented himself last year during the marriage equality debate both as a Catholic and a politician. Tony was very clear about his support for ‘traditional marriage’ and ‘traditional families’. Only a cursory reading of the Jesus story reveals a family that was not at all ‘traditional’. Mary, a young pregnant woman (under exceptional circumstances I might add) marries a much older man. Scandalous! It troubles me to hear our Christian story framed as a 'traditional family' because I think it misses the whole point of the God-child born in the margins. Isn't that the cataclysmic power of the story?
You may have heard a liturgist at some point mutter, Lex orandi, lex credendi, meaning we pray what we believe. The Sacrament of Marriage is a beautiful rite that unites two people in a vocation of love. So in love, that they would be willing to bring others into the world, in the context of that love. The rite reveals a beautiful theology. Unfortunately though, that theology doesn't apply to all of us - in the breadth and depth of being human, created in God's image.
It is important to keep talking, wondering and including. A German Bishop recently suggested that perhaps we consider blessing same-sex unions. I don't think we are there yet. The point is that this is an on-going discussion. Theology, alive and present. And, just like when we discovered we weren't the center of the universe, we have the potential to change, if it is appropriate to do so.