Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Long Loneliness: The Dorothy (mon)Day QoTW: Marriage, Caesar, and God


Man plans, God laughs. Or so the saying goes. My intention was to send out this post so last evening, but "the internets" in my home has been unavailable, and will continue to be so over the next day or two. Thankfully, I've gotten into the habit of coming to the library on my day(s) off so that I can write relatively undisturbed.

What a fantastic opportunity! For the past few weeks I've noticed a trend in my posts that has been quite enlightening: they often veer from the intended meaning of the quote, which is fine by me. I'm always afraid of being stilted and stentorian in my approach.  Telling my reader what the quote is about is not my thing (anymore). Instead, I prefer to use them as a sort of jumping off point. Thus is the situation with this weeks words of wisdom from Dorothy Day.


"And this preoccupation of his {Peter Maurin} with business, with economy, with agriculture, with labor...his unceasing emphasis on the fact that these are the vital concerns of religion, have led people to think of him as a materialist! "Laying too much emphasis on the material!" they say piously, and return to their prayers. "After all, we must use our spiritual weapons, we must devote ourselves to religious service, and all these things will be added unto us." And withdrawing themselves, "keeping themselves unspotted from the world," they are guilty of secularism, of using religion as an opiate."--Dorothy Day, The Catholic Worker, September 1945.

One school of thought would have religious entities stay out of their bedrooms and their bodies; another would have them do little more than pass out bags of food, encouraging people to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps with little help from anyone else. Both sides keep religion in the shadows.

To live as Christ means to live radically in a practical sense. This means we not only give a man a fish, but we help him learn how to fish; we allow him the means to do it. We take all obstacles out of the way so that he can earn a just living. Or, as Dorothy Day put it, we "make it easier for people to be good."

The flip side of that is that we also render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and give unto God what is God's. Here is where we put the mettle to the pedal, and is the crux of many issues today. Can we allow Caesar (legal authorities) his due while retaining moral integrity? Christ tells us that not only can we do it, but we should.

We can allow two consenting adults the ability to have a legally-recognized marriage, this is nothing new. Weddings done by rabbis, ministers, imams and magistrates are all recognized as legal binding contracts, even as they are not sacramentally recognized by the Church. None of these diminish the Catholic understanding of marriage.

The worst offenders of distorting the Catholic view of marriage are Catholics themselves. Divorce is an unfortunate occurrence but it is a problem among the Catholics. Marriage, according to the Catholic faith, is so much more than a legal contract--it is a sacrament, an eternal gift and promise. Divorce cannot break that; neither can the marriages of other people who believe differently.

If we want to preserve the sanctity of marriage, we need to change our understanding of Catholic marriage. Allow those who want to be recognized as legally married to be married, "they" are not harming us, but we are harming them by not extending to them the same rights we accord anyone else who does not desire recognition by the Church. And let's do this with mercy and compassion. As Christ would have us do it.