Guest post: Guest blogger Eileen Hoenigman Meyer is a writer and a development professional in the Chicagoland area where she lives with her husband and two young children. Outside of her professional endeavors, she supports a variety of programs that aim to assist and teach children, and she is a perennial volunteer for educational projects in her community.
Dear Cardinal George,
I wanted to write to you about your letter "Same-sex Marriage: What do Nature and Nature's God Say." I am the very proud sister of a beautiful lesbian woman. My love for my little sister has given me the opportunity to examine this issue with a deep urgency and a determination to right myself--to confront my own discomfort with an orientation that at first seemed foreign to me. I have been given the opportunity to detoxify myself from the homophobia that is a part of our culture. I like to say it is in the drinking water. As I worked through this issue I realized that my body and soul were teaming with it. I have truly racked my brain with the goal of making myself worthy of my precious girl.
Cardinal George, your letter proposes that gayness is unnatural. You indicate that allowing gay marriage would "act against the common good of society" because a gay marriage would be a socially constructed union, while a traditional marriage is a naturally ordained union because it can yield children. There are scores of marriages that also have never produced children, as there are scores of gay couples who have adopted children. Those families deserve our support and protection.
Gayness is not in the medical or psychological communities regarded as unnatural or unhealthy. The American Psychological Association asserts: "Both heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality." The APA also affirms the health of the gay union: "Lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships are normal forms of human bonding."
According to the American Psychiatric Association "gay men and women are among the most stigmatized groups in the nation" because of the popular discomfort with gayness that abounds. With humility I assert that the perspective laid out by your letter serves to support the continued health of that stigmatization rather than the well-being of our gay brother and sisters.
I am less concerned about "pretend[ing] to accept something that is contrary to the common sense of the human race," and more concerned about the actual people who have been hurt by the circulation of your letter and the perspective it champions. I'm worried about the 11, 12, 13, 14 year old kids, struggling with their own emerging gayness, who feel a deep sense of shame when they read your letter. I worry that, like my sister, they will pray in tragic futility for God to let them remain children so that no one will ever have to know.
Jesus had a special place in his heart for the marginalized. He sought out "adulterers," lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, and others who were labeled "sinners." Jesus was radical. To truly embrace our gay brothers and sisters, we have to be radical too. Real people and real children are counting on us to do this work so that they need not be ashamed--not in our church, not in the house of God. What good is love if it doesn't make us work, if it doesn't transform us? Cardinal George, you welcome our gay brothers and sisters to sit in our church, but deem their basic unit of family "something that nature itself tells us is impossible." How can a person feel comfortable and valued when his/her efforts to forge the most fundamental knit of community are met with such dismissal and distain?
The perception articulated in your letter runs contrary to what the experts in the field state, and it creates stigma. Upholding and institutionalizing stigma causes psychological damage. If gayness is normal human functioning as the experts assert, why can't we be on the ones to bend? Why can't our gay brothers and sisters count on us to change? Why must we always ask gay people to reconfigure themselves so that they will be tolerable to us?
I want to stay here. I want to be Catholic, and I want my children to be Catholic, but I need to teach them differently than what you are promoting. I am very open for productive, peaceful discussions of this. I have worked hard on my perspective, and I believe that God has been with me in my search.
Eileen Hoenigman Meyer