"All day long, some of them tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together, from all parts of the city, a multitude of those withered from famine, and distributed bread to them all."
At a recent event in Washington, D.C., San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone quoted from Eusebius, a historian who chronicled pagan Rome. Having Christians around (the "them" in the above quote,) wasn't the worst thing in the world. They'd stick around and care for you when you were sick and forgotten.
In today's outrage-fueled media cycle, human stories often get lost unless used they're for propaganda. This is a predominant reality of our current culture. We opine about decisions or activities without ever having facts. This is who we are as a tweeting, blogging, status-updating people.
And so during what has become an annual March for Marriage in our nation's capital, Cordileone made a plea: "Please do not make judgments based on stereotypes, media images and comments taken out of context. Rather, get to know us first as fellow human beings."
He was responding to a group of politicians and activists protesting his involvement in the march.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who took to excoriating Cordileone, too, might not agree, but her city's archbishop is worth taking a moment to listen to, whatever you make of the ongoing marriage debate.
At the event he also said: "Every child comes from a man and a woman, and has a right, a natural human right, to know and be known by, to love and be loved by, their own mother and father. This is the great public good that marriage is oriented towards and protects. The question is then: does society need an institution that unites children to the mothers and fathers who bring them into the world, or doesn't it?"
That's not hate speech. That's taking a moment to pause and consider why government should have anything to do with marriage in the first place.
Cordileone suggests that there can be "no justice, no peace, no end to poverty, without a strong culture of marriage and the family." He points to our modern reality: "All we have to do is look around and see that our society is broken and hurting in so many ways ... We need to fix our economy; we especially need to pay a living wage to working-class families; we need to fix our broken immigration system; we need to improve our schools, especially those that are failing children from poorer families."
But to fix these things, Cordileone insists that we must first "rebuild a marriage culture, a culture which recognizes and supports the good of intact families, built on the marriage between a man and a woman committed to loving faithfulness to each other and to their children." That's what this country should be about. Individually, we may wind up choosing something else, wanting something else, doing something else. But can we reflect on what's common about human nature and what's good for a society?
The Catholic Church's teaching about the true nature of marriage is no condemnation of people who are gay. We simply believe that two people of the same sex should be unable to marry. That is not to say that gay people cannot experience deep friendships, commitment, loyalty, generosity and love, just like anyone else. It is to say that men and women were made for each other in a unique and complementary way by God. Such a union is something that we believe cannot occur between two people of the same gender.
The capacity of a man and woman to procreate gives their union special and unique significance. This complementarity and the capacity that exists for the creation of a new person are essential to marriage, even when this potentiality is not fully realized, as in the case with couples who divorce or couples are unable or choose not to have children.
We live in a fast-paced time. So if we can take a news event -- in 140 characters, or a short video, or a quick conversation -- to draw people into something deeper, we might impart a bigger picture than our computer screens, news debates, and certainly political campaigns typically show. If we try to encounter people instead of bludgeon them, we might be surprised whom we meet and what good, beauty and truth we're drawn to.