By: Sr. Clare Hunter
“Shame on you sisters for hating us. May God have mercy on your souls.” As I turned my head to look at the young man who slowly and sincerely spoke those words to me and Sr. Judith, I saw the look of pain in his eyes, and I desperately wanted to stop and talk with him in the midst of the crowd. I knew that attending The Marriage March at the Supreme Court would be a very different experience than the March for Life. With just a few thousand gathered, it was much more intimate and personal. One could easily see the whole crowd, the diversity of Christian churches represented, bibles and religious images being held up as well as American flags and signs for marriage and family, equality, etc. – but mostly, one could have many face-to-face, eye-to-eye, encounters with someone holding the opposite position. It got very personal.
I didn’t stop to speak with the young man, and I have spent hours imagining the conversation I wish I could have had with him. Sister and I carried no sign, and wore no buttons, but our habit and veil instantly told him we were there to support marriage as one man, one woman, and our identity as Catholics labeled us in his mind as “haters.” Why did his words sting my heart so much? I certainly know this is the impression of most people, that the Catholic Church “hates” those with same-sex attraction. It baffles me as the Catholic Church has been profoundly compassionate and crystalline in her deep love and concern for those who have same-sex attraction. In fact, a specific ministry in the Catholic Church, The Courage Apostolate, is solely given to the mission of spiritual support and outreach to men and women who have same-sex attraction.
As I heard Archbishop Cordileone’s opening words in his address at the Marriage March rally an hour later, I thought of that young man, and really wished he was there to hear these words:
“I want to begin with word to those who disagree with us on this issue and may be watching us right now: we love you, we are your neighbors, and we want to be your friends, and we want you to be happy.
Please understand that we don’t hate you, and that we are not motivated by animus or bigotry; it is not our intention to offend anyone, and if we have, I apologize; please try to listen to us fairly, and calmly, and try to understand us and our position, as we will try to do the same for you.” Entire message
And yet, I realized that the Archbishop’s words could not be heard, nor comprehended. Once the spirit of “hate” enters, the steel walls are erected to make hearts, ears and minds impenetrable. It was “steel” that I saw in the eyes of my young friend. It was painful, as I wanted to connect with him. I want him to experience true happiness and freedom, but not at the cost of denying the goods of marriage.
After receiving Holy Communion at Mass before leaving for the Marriage March, I prayed for the gift of humility and for courage, for a confidence in Christ’s love, that I might be a true walking tabernacle and bring Him into the crowds gathered at the Supreme Court. What a mystery to be weaving through a crowd on First Avenue in Washington, D.C., on the Tuesday of Holy Week, as a Consecrated Religious, and be called a “hater.” Only through the grace of God could I say that I was able to look back on the young man, and love him.