Is recognizing 2 men as a marriage at my job a sin?


#1

I have a kind of two-fold concern. Both are on the job, but one is directly job-related and the other is more personal regarding relationships with coworkers.

I work for a healthcare and counseling company and we deal with clients by phone from various states across the nation. We are beginning to deal with clients in same-sex relationships who want us to speak to them about their problems as well as their insurance coverage as “spouses”, expecting the exact same respect for and treatment of these relationships as if they were husband-wife relationships.

So far I have chosen my words carefully so that I have remained neutral, and these calls are still kind of uncommon. But they are becoming increasingly common so I am becoming concerned that eventually I will be put in a situation where I will have to choose between remaining faithful to my beliefs about marriage and running afoul of the rules and regulations at my job governing the respect we’re supposed to show to all our callers.

I also have a superior who is a homosexual man in a relationship with another man. They have somehow had 2 daughters in the last 3 years. I do not even know how exactly. All the last e-mailed announcement said was that “little Rachel is going home from the hospital today with her 2 daddies”. I don’t know if it’s an adoption, or a surrogacy situation. I don’t work closely with this superior (he is actually my boss’s boss), so it’s been easy so far to avoid having to comment upon it. But again, this kind of situation is bound to become more common for me, as the culture in my workplace is very socially liberal and many openly homosexual men and women work here, particularly in management.

The question arose in my mind to ask “who is the mother?” But this seemed a bit inappropriate, since the event was being greeted by oohs and aahs and another e-mail was sent with pictures and all everybody could say was how cute the little baby was. And of course she was cute. But I felt sad that she would grow up without a Mommy. And honestly I felt it was unjust what the homosexual men were doing with this little baby girl.

I don’t feel angry at them. I like the homosexual man who works at my company (I have never met his partner). Although I have only interacted with him a few times over the years he is perfectly fine and very good at his job. I guess I am just looking for some insights and ideas so I can make some guidelines for myself. I know that eventually I may have to refuse to do or say things on this topic that the job may demand. Or I may simply appear mean or “hateful” among my coworkers if I don’t join in the congratulations.

I guess the basic problem is how do I balance doing my job and remaining faithful to my beliefs on this issue which I feel is very important. Has anybody else here learned anything useful they can share from similar situations?


#2

With respect to the callers who are calling in requesting help with their “spousal” benefits, you absolutely must treat them with respect. What if a divorced and remarried Catholic called in about benefits for his or her new spouse?

You may not be in agreement with their beliefs, but look at it this way, if a Protestant or Muslim called in, would you show them your full respect? You may not agree with their moral choices, but they’re not yours to make.

For your superior, that may be a bit more ticklish because you interact with them more frequently. Again though, they’re responsible for their own choices, and if your boss was a divorced Catholic and announced he had remarried and had children, would the moral dilemma not be similar?

Respecting someone’s choices (and the person himself) does not necessarily imply agreement. Just wish them the best. If you know the name of the partner instead of referring to him as “your husband” when speaking to your boss’s boss, or “Bob’s husband”, refer to the other partner by name simply i.e. don’t say “Bob’s husband” but simply “Jim” or whatever his name is. Same with the kids, instead of “your daughter” call her by her name as in “how’s Sally doing at school these days?”


#3

Explaining what their benefits and entitlements are under the health plans is not morally problematic at all. That in no way “recognizes” as legitimate their situation nor brings your personal beliefs into the situation. You do not write the plans, and healthcare coverage is not in itself immoral.

Statinf facts merely recognizes that benefits have been extended under Plan X that entail Y coverage.


#4

The above posters are correct. Simply going over the facts of their benefit plans as they are written does not constitute you “recognizing” them as being validly married.

You don’t have to go around telling all gay people that they are living in sin all the time. You can (and should!) be perfectly respectful of all people regardless of their living situation without coming across as endorsing it.


#5

The poll and the dilemas seems different

You cant recognize SSM. Dont do it. Smile and nod so you dont lose your job, otherwise, you cannot recognize the union because you then give appearence of acceptance and approval.


#6

Others have explained it very appropriately, but I wanted to add one thing.

Recognizing that they have a daughter is not, in any way, a sin, no matter how it’s done. Yes, it is obvious that at least one of the men did not father her, but she is still their child. Otherwise, to be logically consistent, you’d have to argue that any adoptive parent is not a “true” parent.

Now, you can [and, although it’s a bit iffier for me than non-negotiables, I’d think most would say should] certainly disagree with the practice of gay adoption, but considering it’s legal, the girl should at least be respected and treated as their daughter. Making her feel like an outcast won’t do any good to anyone.


#7

You are acting in your position as a representative of the company and replying to their questions about what the company provides. This is not an expression of personal acceptance of homosexual unions.

It would be rude to ask who the mother is. If you have a problem with his private life, stay out of it. You don’t have the right to have your curiosity satisfied and they have a right to their privacy. If he wants you to know more he’ll tell you.

Be kind and respectful. The children are in this situation through no fault of their own. Don’t do anything that would cause their lives to be made more difficult.


#8

If you don’t mind my hijacking this thread, I have a similar question, also about health insurance. What about contraception? Is it morally acceptable to recommend, design, and/or sell health insurance plans that include contraception and abortion? (I ask since I’m going into insurance)


#9

Thanks everybody. I guess my main job-related concern was in asking things such as “is your spouse covered on the policy?”, because even that is recognizing it as a marriage and I don’t want to bear witness in any way that 2 men are spouses or husbands or anything marital. I do feel that would be wrong for me to do.

As far as my superior’s daughters, I’m more confident I can handle that, plus it’s not directly part of my job anyway. What bothers me though is that there is just no recognition that the girls have a right to a mom. It seems wrong to celebrate them being denied that.


#10

Yes, I agree they are the ones making the life choices. My concern is with my response to it. That is the part that could involve me in their sin, by me celebrating it.

I see some similarity in the analogy you gave, but also much difference. A divorced Catholic may never have been validly married to begin with. Unless I know them reeaally well, and absent a church investigation, a reasonable person could give them the benefit of the doubt - especially if you don’t know the details.

But no reasonable person can give the benefit of the doubt to 2 men who present themselves as husband and wife. So that is obviously not a marriage. So I guess I see the situations as more different than similar.

Also, as far as the children of remarried parents, they have a mother and a father, which is every child’s birthright. The injustice to the child being denied a mother or father BY DESIGN, by the explicit plan of the parents, as if the child had no right to both mother and father, is what bothers me.

I’m not directly involved with that but I can involve myself in it by celebrating it or approving it. That’s the part I’m concerned about. The part that beckons to me to participate in somebody else’s evil by applauding it. If there is doubt that it is in fact evil, I don’t think it’s sinful to give the benefit of the doubt. But there’s no rational way to give the benefit of the doubt when we’re talking about a same sex couple wanting marital recognition, because no investigation is needed - the proof is before our eyes - they are not opposite sexes.

The catechism talks about cooperation in sin here. This was part of my thinking on this.
scborromeo.org/ccc/para/1868.htm


#11

Much of the following has already been said, but to offer my own perspective:

There are two things meant by the term “marriage” in our cultures:

[LIST]
*]Civil marriage, which some places includes same-sex marriage, and which is primarily defined as “two people who love each other”. Some of these marriages are valid natural marriages according to Catholic teaching, some are not.
*]Holy Matrimony, which is a Sacrament, conferred on one man and one woman, which originally didn’t really have much to do with “love” in the modern meaning of the term at all, but more to do with reproduction and to some extent property and societal duty, in addition to growing in holiness and so on.
[/LIST]

Sadly, many Catholics conflate the two terms, meaning they either want to open Holy Matrimony to gay couples (and so remove the reproduction part), or just as bad, they stick to the “love” definition while condemning gay marriage, trying to solve the equation by absurd explanations as to why gay couples “cannot really love each other.” In reality, the second definition has nothing to do with Holy Matrimony (which is why the latter can’t be conferred on a same-sex couple), and the first definition poses no logical reason to keep said couples from entering it (as increasingly recognized by civil courts - but I’m digressing here).

Now to my point: When customers call, you have absolutely no way of knowing whether they are in Holy Matrimony, a valid natural marriage, or simply in a civil marriage (or perhaps partnership would be a better word). They may be remarried without an annulment, they may be first-timers but with lack of form or intent, or in other ways not truly married in the Catholic sense of the word. However, you’d still speak of their partners as “spouse” or “husband” or “wife”.

Now I’m aware there’s a bona fide element here - with straight couples, at least you’d need more info. However, with that exception, the principle stays the same: You daily recognize people who aren’t married in the Catholic sense of the word, as married.

This is why, when I meet gay couples, even though I disagree with their definition of marriage, I keep to common courtesy and use the word “husband” or “wife” - those are not terms that imply a valid sacramental marriage, at least not in our society. They simply mean (ideally) “lifetime partner”. I may sometimes prefer to use the partner’s first name instead (since that wouldn’t even make them raise an eyebrow), but with people I haven’t known for long, I’m horrible with remembering names. Using “partner” would be hurtful to them, just as it would to my thrice-“married” uncle (who is now divorced again, so problem gone), Catholics who went to an Elvis chapel in Las Vegas without dispensation (which I hope no bishop would give), or any other heterosexual couple in an obviously invalid marriage. Now we could speculate as to the validity of their previous marriages in the case of remarried people, but that’s not a Catholic thing to do - the first possibly valid marriage is considered valid until proven otherwise. So by using the word “wife” about my uncle’s third partner, I’m doing exactly the same as when I’m using the word “husband” about a male friend’s partner.

You may disagree to some of this (and I recognize the validity of your disagreement - I’m not sure I agree with myself about civil marriage, or that is, I want the concept gone and replaced with partnerships that could be between any two adults, with no implications about the presence of sexual involvement at all), but I hope you see my point - there is no implicit endorsal of SSM by using the words “husband” or “wife”. Even less by acknowledging their legal rights - such rights are given by the state, insurer or other authorities that are irrelevant to religious teaching. Not least, I think common courtesy and politeness and generally being nice will bring gay people far closer to the Church than “sticking to principle” ever did. And it is possible to be orthodox while being nice, contrary to what (depressingly) many think.


#12

Thanks Rin. I do think the way you look at it is how most Catholics look at it. And if most Catholics don’t already, they will soon if things continue as they are going.

But as far as the idea of “2 different kinds of marriage, civil and religious”, I think it is more accurate to say that civil and religious marriage are 2 ways of looking at the same reality: the marriage relationship.

The civil perspective on marriage is concerned with enforcing responsibilities by law, whereas the religious dimension of marriage recognizes the deeper meanings of marriage. Many people nowadays don’t even have a religious perspective at all. But both perspectives are looking at the same reality: the man and wife in question.

Or they used to. Now civil marriage is kind of making a sharp 90-degree turn in saying sex and gender does not necessarily have any importance to marriage, even though sex and gender used to be the key distinctive qualities of the marriage relationship. A same-sex couple has no counterpart from the religious perspective. It is not a marriage from that perspective. But compelling religious people to use the same word, marriage, in the civil sphere to refer to something that they know is actually very sinful is I think very disrespectful to us and our beliefs. This seems lost on most people in power. Or maybe they know very well and enjoy sticking it to us in this way? Either way, I’m not going to go along with it.

Your solution, using terms like husband for a male’s male partner, or wife for a female’s female partner, out of politeness, has a problem. It makes it sound like you are going along with the idea that there is no important difference between 2 men and a husband and wife. You may know in your heart there is a big difference, but that’s not the impression you’re giving. I couldn’t do that.

And the “info” is the key. At my job, I don’t know, so I don’t really have a basis for not taking the person at their word that they are married. When I’m at work I don’t sit and think if somebody is in a Catholic sacramental marriage or not. I don’t even know if they are Catholic. I just think of marriage meaning man and wife.

I get what you’re saying in that both may be in an immoral state. But I don’t buy into the idea that an invalidly married wife is the same as a man sexually with another man. Yes I do think the homosexual situation is worse, because there is no way to make that right. At least with an invalidly married wife there are circumstances that can make it good, children can come of it, the marriage can become regularized, etc. One is a woman, and one is a man, so it really isn’t exactly the same thing. And that’s the problem I’m having. Being coerced to pretend it is the same thing.


#13

The legal term is spouse. You’re not celebrating or condoning anything by using it. It’s a legal status.

If your conscience tells you you cannot serve that function of your job (and it is understandable if that is the case) find another job. Many people make that choice for a variety of moral reasons or faith based reasons.

As far as morality goes I would see this as similar to an intake person at a hospital who asks a person for their religious preference to put on their paperwork, and asks if they would like to have a chaplain visit. Do they balk if a person is of a faith they do not recognize or agree with? Is writing down that information and passing it on to a chaplain condoning another faith? Is it participating in the practice of a false religion?


#14

:thumbsup: exactly. They have a marriage certificate recognized by the government as a legal document, then they have a civil marriage.


#15

Whether it’s a legal term or not, spouse is defined as husband or wife. That is the reality it is referring to. When I call a man’s male partner his spouse, by definition, I am affirming a man is husband to another man, with all that entails by definition. I don’t have to explicitly condone anything. Recognizing it as a marriage does that quite elegantly by the very words used. Calling homosexuality a marriage implicitly condones the morality of the relationship, as marriage is universally known, in both secular and religious parlance, to legitimize a relationship of people with sexual rights to one another. “You may now kiss the bride.”

I get that it is a legal status, but a “legal status” does not exist in a vacuum. There is no way to just delete morality from this situation. By affirming that status, I would be denying a key tenet of morality in the Catholic faith, regarding the definition of marriage. There is no way to say “husband” without really meaning it.

Marriage has both a secular and religious meaning, so there is an unavoidable overlap in society, as illustrated by people like me. If a person has no religious problem with homosexuality being equivalent to marriage, then no problem. If a person does, then they have to deny their faith and their conscience to keep their job. Coerced approval of homosexuality.

So I would say you’re very wrong: I am condoning something by using the word spouse for a same sex partner, just by virtue of the very definition of the word spouse, whether in its legal or secular definition it really doesn’t much matter, the meaning is essentially the same.

Do doctors find another job rather than have to do abortions? It’s just a medical procedure, says secular law. The baby has no “legal status”. So … ? When there is a conflict between secular law and a person’s religion or conscience, exceptions are made. So no. I simply won’t do anything that is against my faith. If we can’t find a compromise, they’ll have to fire me. And then maybe I’ll find a lawyer who can label this unjust law for what it is.

Your thinking though seems quite widespread, even among people who identify as Catholics: people like me can either violate our conscience, or just avoid any job that deals with marital status. Medical field, insurance field, … marriage really is central to society, so lots of jobs off limits there. I guess gay marriage laws are a good way to coerce approval of homosexual sex acts. Just make it hard for resisters to earn a living.

By calling it a marriage you’re implicitly approving it. I don’t understand how so many people can keep saying it’s not approval of homosexuality. First they said gay marriage won’t adversely affect anybody. Then they said they wouldn’t teach kids about it in school. All such obvious lies.

Now it’s: “If you don’t like it, get another job”. Not much of a compromise. Quite intolerant actually. And for what purpose? Simply to coerce approval of homosexuality. To coerce people to accept this new idea that equates homosexuality with the good of marriage that’s been accepted forever.

That’s a very innovative analogy. I think it might be an accurate analogy if I was a Muslim. But in Christianity we allow people to choose their own religion, we don’t coerce them. And that’s kind of my central point: coercion. In the chaplain scenario, everybody has the faith they choose, a compromise we’ve had for centuries. I see what you’re saying, you propose that my helping somebody connect with their chosen religion at a time of sickness is participation in their religion. I think the key difference is I am not obliged to say it is a true religion, it is simply their chosen religion. In my situation I must speak of homosexuality as if it is true that it is a marriage, violating a key element of morality in my religion, or I hit the road. And at another level it’s not even religious, but simply reality: if marriage means husband and wife, and even gay people admit it does, how can that same exact word also apply to 2 men in the presumably sexual relationship that marriage is? And if it does, where is the new word that refers to the unique type of union only possible between a man and woman? That doesn’t even deserve its own word? Lesbians get their own word, a special subset of “gay”. So where is the word that means “straight marriage”?

I’d be willing to go along with a silly usage of a word, or a silly secular law if it did not violate an important part of my faith. But using the same word that both society and religion has always used for the basic sexual relationship of civilization, “marriage”, to refer now also to homosexuality is offensive and unnecessary. SS Unions would have gotten gay people what they want. But we had to go that extra step, and force everybody by law to refer to homosexuality as marriage. No choice. Not only am I being told to violate my faith, I have to pretend 2 completely different things are the same, which doesn’t even make sense on the rational level.


#16

I think my point is that they know what the Church teaches. They’re reminded of it constantly. And, they often (I’d say falsely) believe this is one of the main focuses of the Church. Why? Because it is the first thing they notice when they meet Catholics: That the Catholic person needs to voice their disapproval, if not directly, then at least indirectly through refusing to use the proper legal terms about their partners. Now those terms also have a religious meaning which is different in Catholicism, which is where this gets difficult. But they know that. There is no need to remind them. By simply sticking to the legal terms, then at least they’ve met one Catholic whose first action was not to voice disapproval, be it directly or indirectly, spoken or unspoken. I only voice my opinion (and carefully at that) if they ask - which yields much better results.

And the “info” is the key. At my job, I don’t know, so I don’t really have a basis for not taking the person at their word that they are married. When I’m at work I don’t sit and think if somebody is in a Catholic sacramental marriage or not. I don’t even know if they are Catholic. I just think of marriage meaning man and wife.

I see your point, but then in a way you’ve already decided on not caring in most cases. Why then care only when it’s apparent to you? This is problematic, even if you can’t investigate heterosexual couples.

I get what you’re saying in that both may be in an immoral state. But I don’t buy into the idea that an invalidly married wife is the same as a man sexually with another man. Yes I do think the homosexual situation is worse, because there is no way to make that right. At least with an invalidly married wife there are circumstances that can make it good, children can come of it, the marriage can become regularized, etc. One is a woman, and one is a man, so it really isn’t exactly the same thing. And that’s the problem I’m having. Being coerced to pretend it is the same thing.

The problem is that there are many cases where a heterosexual relationship can’t be made right except through splitting up. If one of the spouses was previously married, and the Church did not grant an annulment, then they can not be regularized under any circumstances (leaving the death of the former spouse out of the picture…).

And there can come good out of same-sex relationships too. Anyone who doesn’t see that is too ideologized to think clearly. The couple may dedicate their lives to charity, they may help their neighborhood, and there might even come children out of it - not in a moral way according to the Church, but children are always a gift, also under such circumstances.

However, I agree the two kinds of relationships are different. But complying to legal terms is not really being forced to pretend it’s the same thing. And as I mentioned above, is this really the first impression you want gay couples to have of you, and by extension, the Church?


#17

Because I feel to speak matter-of-factly of a man being another man’s husband is a counter-witness to the obvious and important truth about human nature. Basically it is a lie and it is pretending something evil is the same thing as something everybody agrees is good (marriage).


#18

What if a person had a religious belief that marriages didn’t exist and were total crock? (And yes, this is a real thing). If you called your insurance company and asked about spousal benefits for your wife and the person admonished you and said she was your girlfriend, how would you feel?

We are called to oppose same-sex marriage. But we are not required to make our opposition known to a gay person in a legal union every single time we talk to them.


#19

I don’t want anybody to dislike me. I’m normal that way. But if I’m at a party or a friend’s house and they have home made pop-tarts from a recipe they invented themselves and are calling the tarts “eucharist”, I’m not going to go along with that, whether it hurts their feelings or not. I have some feelings too, and my faith is important to me. If they can’t figure out that calling their pop tarts “eucharist” is offensive to me, I can’t help it if they say their feelings are hurt because I don’t appreciate their baking.

It’s really the same thing with marriage. They are calling something evil the same name we use for a sacrament.

If using one definition for husband in public and another in your heart and in your church works for you, then switch back and forth between the two definitions and keep your friends happy and maybe that’ll work for you.

But I simply can’t do that. It seems hypocritical.


#20

I understand your point - I just don’t think it will evangelize anyone. Rather to the contrary; it might put people even further off. I just speak to too many gay people who ask me why Catholics single them out, why Catholics seem to worry more about how other people live their lives, why Catholics seem to care more about their living arrangement than about them as people. I can virtually see their fear that I’m just yet another person who is out to disapprove of them once they realize I’m Catholic. This is a huge problem for the Church, and, to be honest, it is our fault. Not theirs.

Insisting on using what we see as correct terms (or rather, using terms the way we see as correct), only further perpetuates these misunderstandings. Which is why I think “sticking to principle” simply is counterproductive. It won’t bring one, single soul into the Church - and that should be our main priority.


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