If a sacrament is a sign of God’s grace, it follows that relationships that are signs of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and faithfulness are sacramental. These signs of grace are part of the new life that married couples are called to bring into the world, with or without children.
I support civil unions for gay couples. I believe it from a legal point of view, so the rights of couples in life-long relationships can be supported and upheld.
I have slowly learned to accept the unions from a relational and not only legal point of view. Why can’t we call it a legal marriage, if it is a loving commitment for life? As a Catholic, I rationalized this view by differentiating from a civil marriage and a sacramental marriage. A union of two women or two men will never be a sacramental marriage in the eyes of the Church, so why should we get our shorts in a knot over a marriage on purely legal terms? There. I satisfied my liberal heart and my Catholic conscience.
Until I read Jamie L. Manson’s NCR article Sacramental marriage beyond anatomy. Now I have to rethink my whole view of sacramental marriage.
Jamie shares her own family experience of marriage, which included hardships and divorce. It wasn’t until she was in grad school that she observed the marriages of friends as being truly sacramental.
What made my straight friends’ marriages sacramental wasn’t the fact that their anatomies matched up in a particular way or that they could procreate. As I learned from my childhood, complementing genders and an ability to reproduce in no way guarantees that a marriage will be graced or sacramental. Their marriage was good and holy because it helped both partners to grow in generosity, compassion, mercy, and faithfulness.
She now believes that
the sacramental nature of marriage should be judged by whether there is equality and mutuality between spouses, whether the relationship helps both spouses to flourish individually and as a couple, and whether their relationship brings the love, mercy, and faithfulness of God more fully into our world.
If this is the case, is it so inconceivable to dare to see a loving, committed union between two women or two men as a sacrament?
Of course, this is getting into dangerous territory for it would force us to rethink our entire sacramental theology. If we accept this logic, that the efficacy of a sacrament shouldn’t depend on anatomy, then the reasoning behind the male only priesthood would also have to be thrown out the window.
We have to be careful about opening the windows of our minds and hearts. For one wee breeze can quickly turn into a freely blowing wind of change.