Our profane, woman-loving alpha male of a President has changed his tune and now come out in favor of same-sex marriage.
Speaking before an LGBT audience in his native Davao City, Duterte flat-out said, “Ako gusto ko, same-sex marriage.” At the same time, he warned them that “we have to change the law” in order to accommodate such a radical shift in the country’s mores.
I half-expected his usual critics in the Commission on Human Rights to applaud him. After all, given the rule of thumb that 10 percent of a population is usually gay, we’re talking about 10-million Filipinos (male and female) being shielded from “marital discrimination.” That’s a lot of human rights on the line.
Even the Left could have weighed in on his side. Gay marriages are standard practice inside the CPP-NPA, which theoretically is no longer bound by Judeo-Christian scruples. The model was set by Alexander the Great, the gay conqueror, who believed that men fight more fiercely for each other if they’re not just a “band of brothers,” but also a bunch of lovers.
Unfortunately, Duterte wasn’t cut any slack by his critics, even during the holidays, and even after such a surprising disclosure. If an innocent girl like his granddaughter was so badly savaged online simply for posing for photos inside the Palace, could her Lolo have expected any better treatment from the trolls?
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The problems with same-sex marriage are rooted in religious belief. For people who care about such things in this nominally Catholic country, the Church’s position is crystal clear:
“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of great depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life…Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2357).
So the religious objection goes deeper than the Church’s Judaic roots, which include various practices that were long ago abandoned as archaic, such as prescribed diets and hygienic rituals.
The proscription against homosexuality rises from a fundamental claim: That the human condition, marriage, even Nature itself, are “ordered to” the transmission of life, God’s unique gift. By that definition, “homosexual acts” are, in the plainest anatomical terms, “disordered.”
This is why same-sex marriages simply can’t be sanctioned by the Church. There may be a lot more love and loyalty in many gay marriages than there are in straight ones, especially in this country of philanderers. As well, marital fidelity between gays, in this age of AIDS, has got to be better than the promiscuity that seems innate in that orientation among males.
But it isn’t just a question of love, nor even of public health. The issue is sacramental, not sentimental.
Gay Catholics may well end up leaving the Church because of it. But the possibility of losing such souls is deemed preferable to the certainty of Heaven closing its gates to them if they persist with proscribed acts, uncounselled and unrepentant.
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The Catechism goes on to acknowledge that “the homosexual inclination constitutes a trial [for most homosexuals].” Who can deny this, in our culture of extended families where practically everyone is related by blood or affinity to someone who’s gay? It can only make your heart bleed to witness the lifelong emotional and social hardships suffered by a gay sibling, or cousin, or child.
On top of this, the Church’s advice to homosexuals is positively draconian: “[They] are called to chastity.” (Catechism, §2359) What a price to pay—the lifelong denial of one’s sexuality—just to remain true to one’s Catholic beliefs!
The only way I think one can live with this is to remember that everybody—not just you—has his or her cross to bear. Rarely are we given a choice in the matter.
We may think of the loving son who has to watch his parent struggle with the monstrous pain of an incurable cancer, instead of agreeing to a mercy killing. Or the young girl who decides to keep the child in her womb who was conceived from a rape. Or the unhappy couple who endure decade after decade of loveless marriage for the sake of their children and their faith.
All of them too have their crosses to bear. It may help to heed the advice of our faith: That the heavier one’s cross is, the more bountiful the graces one receives. But one must be disposed to look to the hereafter for this reward, and not just to the here and now.
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Where the President converges with Church teaching would be in this admonition to mercy: “Homosexuals must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (Catechism, § 2358)
One product of our Church-nurtured spirituality is our high level of tolerance for homosexual behavior—some would say excessively so, in view of the growing influence of gay vocabulary, humor, dress, movies, and other cultural accoutrements.
Day-to-day discrimination does not seem to be a major problem for local gays. And yet, to their credit, local LGBT leaders are still treading cautiously, careful not to needlessly provoke sleeping conservatives.
On the matter of same-sex marriage, most of them are simply asking for civil partnerships, at least for now. Marriage in this country is too heavily invested with religious trappings that will not be easily abandoned even by cultural Catholics, including many devout gays themselves.
Duterte promised to create a commission, with LGBT representation, that will presumably include same-sex marriage and other gay issues in its agenda. That’s another step forward for them, whether or not warranted by any urgency in their situation today.
Gay activists are pushing for their own favorite legislation, the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity or Expression (Sogie) Equality Bill, which has already passed third reading in the House. We’re not
sure what its contents are, but judging from the title, we’re likely to be looking at demands for more assertiveness in expressing gay identity and orientation—regardless of how influential in fact they may already be today.
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At the end of the day, who can quarrel with the principles of equality and non-discrimination? Our only caveat is for us to make sure that protection of a minority does not over time degenerate into repression of the majority in the name of “political correctness.” This disease has already infested much of the West, and should be kept away from our shores.
By the same token, who can quarrel with the principle of Church-state separation? It’s enshrined in our Constitution. But we should keep asking ourselves, as one challenge comes up after another: Are we a Christian nation, or are we simply a nation of Christians?
The way we answer this is likely to evolve our time. Upon our answers will depend no less than the kind of morality we set for ourselves, which will guide our laws and the way we live with each other.
Readers can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.