The Catholic Church is one of the only institutions of note taking a stand against this cultural tsunami.

Amid the roar of popular culture and the political process, the Catholic Church’s voice on homosexuality and same-sex marriage sounds increasingly lonely, out of step and even bigoted. 

Pro-homosexual activists successfully have framed their cause as one for civil rights, tolerance and acceptance — and their opponents as simply hateful. Their argument is only bolstered by the occasional but regular reports of homophobic assaults and violence. 

A host of events in recent weeks underscore the progress of the gay movement in the United States. 

  •  A Catholic professor of religion at the University of Illinois said this month he was fired after a student accused him of hate speech because of his presentation of Church teaching that homosexual acts are against the natural moral order. The class? An introduction to Catholicism. The Alliance Defense Fund is planning legal action on his behalf. 
  •  A federal judge in Boston ruled recently that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. Meanwhile, a U.S. District Court in California is expected to rule soon on a challenge to the state’s voter-approved referendum adopting traditional marriage (see story, Page 5). 
  • After a very successful opening, Fox Searchlight is expanding distribution for its “modern family comedy” film, “The Kids are Alright,” starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as lesbian parents of children who reconnect with their sperm donor father. (The film’s male star, Mark Ruffalo, recently bashed opponents of same-sex marriage in an interview promoting the film: “It’s the last dying, kicking, screaming, caged animal response to a world that is changing, a world that’s leaving a lot of those old, bigoted, unaccepting views behind. It’s over.”) 
  • NBC’s “Today” show this month announced it is changing the rules for its annual wedding contest to allow same-sex couples to apply. The winners celebrate the nuptials during the program. 

The Catholic Church is one of the only institutions of note taking a stand against this cultural and social tsunami (even if its credibility has been damaged deeply by the clerical sex abuse scandal and reports of predatory homosexual priests). It does so even as it also condemns hateful acts toward homosexuals and supports their pastoral care. 

This issue matters. It extends far beyond what consenting adults do in private to the very health and future of society itself, and the well-being of each and every member of society, not least those with same-sex attraction. The Church has something valuable to propose here — a vision of human relations and society that, unlike any other, is rooted in biology and history. 

“To claim that defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is somehow irrational, prejudiced or even bigoted, is a great disservice not only to truth but to the good of our nation,” the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ committee for defense of marriage, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., said in mid-July after the Massachusetts court ruling. 

“Only a man and a woman are capable of entering into the unique, life-giving bond of marriage, with all its specific responsibilities,” he said. 

As a Church, we’ll have to fight off cultural and legal attacks. But we should be leading, not constantly reacting. To have any chance of reaching hearts and minds, we need to do a better job — and spend more time — underscoring the beauty of this message of self-sacrificing love and its benefits of happiness, family, health and well-being for individuals and society.

Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; John Norton, editor; Sarah Hayes, presentation editor