National Commentary

Pope’s Disappointment On Same-Sex Marriage

Comfort, my people. Here’s more from Walt Whitman:

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and the mothers of families, read these leaves* in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

*This a reference to his collection of poems, “Leaves of Grass,” as this quote was from his preface to it.

Truly, this is to be read often. It was powerful and worked when Trump was president. It works as we go through the stages of our lives, the highs and lows. It works for my people, millions of them, who whether of the Catholic faith or not, or agnostics or despisers even, have been bummed out by the Pope’s unhappy word this week that priests cannot bless same-sex marriages.

A young gay friend posted this on Facebook when learning of the Pope’s words this week: “The Vatican missed an opportunity this week, no doubt. But, whenever I’ve gone to Mass since baptism, my relationship with Catholicism has never been defined by what a cabal in Rome says. Rome at odds with the teachings of Jesus is not now nor will ever be a surprise. Christ is LOVE.”

I seconded his words with the following, “The author of this universe loves you and his/her whole creation through and through, and no imperfect words of mere mortals can alter that certainty.”

That’s kind of along the lines of what Whitman was talking about in the quote above insofar as it is not an argument about God but a mere affirmation about our role in creation.

It is ironic that the Pope’s words this week come on the eve of the first hearing on Congress on the Equality Act that was slated for yesterday morning.

Here is a clear case where our civil democracy proceeds ahead of stillborn religious dogma exactly as virtually every one of our Founding Fathers prescribed.

It is fascinating to recall how the issue of support for same-sex marriage came into the corridors of our nation’s highest discourses. As some may recall, in 2004, President George Bush made opposition to gay marriage a key cornerstone of his re-election campaign. It was a winning strategy at that time, and it worked.

But for all of the hate and bigotry that was engendered in that effort, what Bush and his allies failed to see was that it was igniting something great and noble in the American people. The parallel of that period to the rise of mass opposition to Trump in the period leading up to his crushing defeat last November is poignant and instructive.

By 2008 the nation’s first African-American president was elected who had come out foursquare for gay marriage.

Now, to be clear, he followed the lead of his Vice Presidential nominee: you guessed it, Joe Biden. Biden was first but Obama followed quickly.

Just a few months after taking office, on June 25, 2009, I was invited to a special reception hosted by Biden that included many of the top names of the LGBT movement. That’s when I first met Joe. He was gracious and a delight with everyone there, including my friend, the late LGBT pioneer Frank Kameny.

A devout Catholic, Joe had outrun the Pope to affirm the fundamental dignity and franchise of the last segment of the U.S. population that was denied those basic things before he came along.

Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected]