Catholicism & Same-Sex Marriage

A Commonweal Reading List

"There have been few changes in our moral, sexual, and legal culture more precipitous or, in some ways, more dramatic than the normalization of homosexuality and the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage." So wrote Commonweal's editors in "The Truth about Marriage" in the aftermath of two 2013 Supreme Court rulings that fundamentally altered the legal view on marriage between two people of the same sex. Although the editors noted the magazine's skepticism and caution regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage, they also noted Commonweal's stance on defending the rights and dignity of homosexual persons both in society and in the church.

Through the years, the magazine has engaged the twinned issues of sexuality and marriage, with articles and essays from contributors on both sides of the question, always carefully and thoughtfully argued. This page features some of Commonweal's most important pieces on Catholicism and same-sex marriage, including editorials, analysis, and blog posts; we will update it with new material as the larger debate continues.

Engagement or Retreat?

In the summer of 2013, Commonweal published a controversial essay by Joseph Bottum, “The Things We Share: A Catholic’s Case for Same-Sex Marriage.” Bottum, the former editor of First Things, had long publicly opposed same-sex marriage, but in “The Things We Share” he argued that it was no longer prudent for American Catholics to oppose the legal recognition of same-sex civil marriage. According to Bottum, Catholics should instead concentrate their efforts on the “re-enchantment” of a culture that had forgotten “the essential God-hauntedness” of the world. Because he did not argue for a change in church teaching, many readers of Bottum’s essay criticized him for not going far enough. Many conservatives, meanwhile, criticized him for going much too far. In May 2014, we invited Ross Douthat, a conservative columnist at the New York Times, and Jamie L. Manson of the National Catholic Reporter to comment on Bottum’s argument, and we asked Bottum to respond in turn to what they had to say.

The Things We Share

We are now at the point where American Catholics should accept state recognition of same-sex marriage simply because they are Americans.

Engagement or Retreat?

It's one thing to urge the church to prepare for political defeat on same-sex marriage, another to say it should preemptively cease to even make the argument.

Engagement or Retreat?

The church should revise its attitude toward same-sex relationships; American Catholics should accept recognition of same-sex marriage because they are Catholics.

Engagement or Retreat?

Our problem as Catholics isn’t that same-sex marriage somehow uniquely represents Western society’s recent turns; our problem is those turns themselves.
Homosexuality & The Church

Commonweal published "two views" on homosexuality and the church in the summer of 2007: one from theologian Luke Timothy Johnson and another from freelance writer and Patheos contributor Eve Tushnet. Johnson cautioned against "scapegoating" homosexuality as the greatest of sexual vices ("If the church condemns the bath-house style of gay life, it must also condemn the playboy style of straight life"), and argued that Scripture cannot be used as a way to justify condemnation. Tushnet cautioned against making one's experience infallible, saying "experience is itself a kind of text, and texts need interpreters," and that the "only approach that has helped me understand at least parts of the church teaching on homosexuality is the theology of the body."

In 1991, Commonweal published Jean Bethke Elshtain's "Against Gay Marriage," in which she wrote that excluding the concept of family from society's "intergenerational ideal" risks our becoming "so vapid" that we will no longer be able to hold moral standards. Then, in 1994, Sidney Callahan confessed that she was "coming out of the closet" as a person who "believed homosexuals should be allowed to marry," and told why.


Homosexuality & The Church

(Featured in our collection of stories about Catholicism & Same-Sex Marriage) Is the present crisis in Christian denominations over homosexuality really about sex? I don’t think so. If it were, there would be no particular reason why homosexuals should be singled out for attention; there is more than enough sexual disorder among heterosexuals to fuel moral outrage. The church could...

Homosexuality & The Church

(Featured in our collection of stories about Catholicism & Same-Sex Marriage) One of the frightening aspects of loving somebody is the way that love can seem to offer unique access not only to pleasure but to truth. Love of another person—not only romantic love, but familial love and deep friendship as well—promises or threatens to reshape us completely. It can become the lens...

Why I Changed My Mind

Although I find myself diverting from Vatican teaching, I've come to believe that the gospel truth about homosexuality is to accept and affirm.

Against Gay Marriage

Marriage is not, and never has been, primarily about two people—it is and always has been about the possibility of generativity.
The Supreme Court & Marriage

"Same-sex marriage may prove to be a mistake or a failed and eventually abandoned experiment, but it is not an existential threat to the church or to Western Civilization." That was the editors' assessment in August 2013, after the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor ruled that in defining marriage as between one man and one woman, the Defense of Marriage Act violated the “equal liberty” rights of same-sex couples; and in Hollingsworth v. Perry let stand a lower court’s decision to strike down California’s Proposition 8, which prohibited same-sex marriage. The magazine then featured responses from contributors Michael J. Perry, Marc O. DeGirolami, and Richard W. Garnett on the rulings.

Worth Worrying About?

“Disentanglement” is not a stable or feasible response to the dangers to religious freedom posed by the legal redefinition of marriage.

Right Decision, Wrong Reason

The Court made the right decision in Windsor, but the majority was unclear about why DOMA’s exclusion of same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.

Why Standing Matters

Not every constitutional disagreement takes the right form for decision by a federal court.

The Truth about Marriage

Will severing the connection marriage has forged between sex, procreation, and family formation undermine the expectations our culture places on the institution?
From the dotCommonweal blog

In recent years, our blog has featured a spectrum of opinion on Catholicism and same-sex marriage. Featured here are posts from Lisa Fullam, who asks just what counts as the kind of "unjust discrimination" the U.S. Catholic Bishops refer to in their document on homosexuality "You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yourself"; Keri Horan, who offers a view of same-sex marriage from generation Y ("What's the big deal?"); Matthew Boudway, who agrees "with the opponents of same-sex marriage: the state’s interest in marriage is principally about its interest in the welfare of children"; and Eduardo Moisés Peñalver and Paul Horwitz, who look at how some states are using legal arguments for religious freedom to disrupt same-sex marriages, and how such a strategy inevitably invites further litigation. 

What Counts as "Unjust Discrimination"?

(This article is now featured in our collection of stories about Catholicism & Same-Sex Marriage) Under the heading "You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself," the Catechism of the Catholic Church considers homosexuality: Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has...

Marriage Equality: A Gen-Y Perspective

Yesterday morning, I logged on to Facebook just like every other day. The first update in my newsfeed was from a friend who had changed her profile picture to a pink equal sign with a bright red background. I read the description: "Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal...

Gay Marriage and Religious Freedom

This story out of Ledyard, New York, which is a very small town just up the lake from Ithaca, is interesting for a number of reasons. The gist of it is that the town clerk, a self-described "Bible-believing Christian," believes that signing the marriage licenses of same-sex couples would violate her religious convictions. Since New York law requires her to issue those licenses, she has...

Same-Sex Marriage & Religious Freedom

After Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoes bill affecting gay marriage, similar bills in other states will give us another master class in how to hold a culture war.

Notes on a Controversy

If, as G. K. Chesterton said, tradition is the democracy of the dead, then one can understand how someone might think of progress as the democracy of the future. That seems to be how many journalists and politicians are understanding progress when they talk about opponents of same-sex marriage being on the “wrong side of history.” Of course we can never be as sure of what most people...
What is Marriage? | Book Reviews

Below you'll find a collection of reviews from Commonweal of books that deal with the subject of marriage in modern times. Andrew Koppelman reviews What is Marriage? a philosophical case against same-sex marriage whose authors Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and Robert P. George, all proponents of New Natural Law Theory, argue that heterosexual marriage is a kind of universal human good, “a distinctive kind of bond that has its own value and structure, which the state did not invent and has no power to redefine.” 2. Andrew Sullivan’s Love Undectable, reviewed by Gilbert Meilaender, is a collection of three essays: one on Freud and the modern debate on the “normalcy” of homosexuality; one treating the death of his friend to AIDS and the what it means to “survive” this “plague,” and his final essay is on friendship, on how souls “strictly speaking” can unite. 3. Mark Sargent reviews David Blankenhorn’s The Future of Marriage in which the author critiques not the legal recognition of same-sex marriage but the way in which the debate surrounding it has focused too much on individual rights and not enough on marriage as an institution. 4. Barbara Dafoe Whitehead reviews Marriage at the Crossroads, a collection of perspectives from sociologists, legal scholars, and others on how marriage itself is reshaping society, in two ways: by integrating gay and lesbian Americans into the mainstream, and by its fracturing along class and educational lines, contributing to rising economic inequality. “In sum,” Whitehead concludes, “marriage today is like a highly selective college. It is a sign and symbol of personal achievement and social advantage.”


More Intuition than Argument

For better or for worse, same-sex marriage is one of the most successful social movements in American history. Its claims were outside the realm of political possibility as recently as the early 1990s. Now its victory is probably inevitable. It has...

Body and Soul

In his preface, former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan says that he had intended to write  a  book about friendship. Distracted from that task by the death (from AIDS) of a close friend, he turned instead to write the essay "When...

Goods in Conflict

Just the other day, it seems, same-sex marriage was unthinkable—or even if thinkable, nonexistent, its anthropological and historical evidence rare, fragmentary, and usually explainable in other terms. Now, however, gay couples are being...

Status Symbol

Scholars who study marriage have generally focused on describing how broad changes in our society have led to changes in that institution. Several contributors to Marriage at the Crossroads take this approach, providing a useful if familiar litany...


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Thanks for gathering these all together in one spot.  Makes the referencing back a great deal easier.

There’s evidence that the legalization of same sex marriage is a logical step in the process of general marriage institution evolution. After the society recognized the right for co-habitation before official marriage, the next step was that heterosexual couples prefer co-habitation as an alternative to marriage. In some places, (as it was outlined in this same sex marriage research paper sample big corporations grant their employees with extended rights for their significant others, no matter whether they’re officially married or whether they’re gay or heterosexual.

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