The Editors
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Friend Request

There was a time when most people could name the exact number of friends they had, not because Facebook kept track for them but because the number was small enough to actually remember each person by name. Although the number of active Facebook users in the United States is not growing as rapidly as it once did, the social networking site still claims almost 700 million active users worldwide, and the term friend has taken on a much broader meaning. The popularity of such sites, and of the Internet in general, has led some, Pope Benedict XVI among them, to warn that the Internet can lead to a “sense of solitude and disorientation.”

But a new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project may ease these concerns. The study reports: “Americans have more close social ties than they did two years ago. And they are less socially isolated. We found that the frequent use of Facebook is associated with having more overall close ties.” In addition, Facebook users are more trusting and more politically engaged. This is good news considering that nearly half of American adults belong to some sort of social network, a 26 percent increase since 2008. And these sites are not just for college students anymore: More than half of this group are over 35. Fifty-six percent are female.

The study also found that “a deficit of overall social ties, social support, trust, and community engagement is much more likely to result from traditional factors, such as lower educational attainment.” Facebook can be a complement to real-life connections, not a replacement for them.

The Republic at War

Probably everyone knows by now that 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. This year has already seen a wave of commemorations at Fort Sumter and elsewhere, along with the inevitable re-enactments of key battles. The sesquicentennial has even occasioned an iPad app. For $7.99 you can receive daily reports of the events of the war as they happened 150 years ago.

Most anniversaries receive more news attention than they deserve, but the Civil War is different. The events of 1861 were as important to the future of the republic as the events of 1776. It was by no means inevitable that the United States would do away with slavery. One prominent senator proposed enshrining it as a constitutional right in order to keep the peace. Abolitionists in the North were perhaps too eager for war, but their campaign against slavery still stands as a pre-eminent example of moral witness. There were other heroes too, many now forgotten.

In California Thomas Starr King, a Unitarian preacher, argued eloquently in favor of the Union cause as the state teetered on the edge of secession. German immigrant soldiers in St. Louis helped defeat pro-secession forces at a key moment at the start of the war. Gen. Benjamin Butler emerged as an unlikely defender of runaway slaves when hundreds of them fled to Fort Monroe in Virginia seeking asylum.

These events, masterfully recounted in Adam Goodheart’s new book, 1861: The Civil War Awakening, offer a glimpse of a patchwork nation that rallied together at a time of unprecedented division. The rest of the war would be uncommonly brutal, and some of the divisions remain to this day. Yet the road taken was the right one, and that has made all the difference.

Love One Another

The church’s stance on same-sex marriage is very well known. It has been made well known by the Vatican; and it has been made clear by many bishops in this country. The church teaches, in short, that same-sex marriage is not permissible because it promotes homosexual activity and redefines the traditional concept of marriage. There can be few Catholics, and non-Catholics, who do not know this.

What is less well known is the church’s teaching on gay and lesbian people themselves. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that gays and lesbians are to be accepted with “respect, compassion and sensitivity.” Jesus Christ asks us to love everyone, not simply those with whom we agree, not simply those in our churches and not simply those who “follow the rules.” But the church’s message on gays and lesbians is often obscured by its vocal opposition to same-sex marriage. Gays and lesbians hear about little else in church circles. And with no other group does the church speak almost exclusively the language of prohibition, rather than that of welcome.

That is why bishops who speak of love and acceptance should be praised, like Joseph M. Sullivan, a retired auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn, who wrote in the Buffalo News on June 2: “For most Catholics, there can be no statement that better summarizes an attitude of welcoming of our LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] brothers and sisters than those of Jesus, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’” There is nothing wrong with telling people that they are loved and lovable. And that all are, indeed, welcome.

Comments

Frank Bergen | 7/1/2011 - 10:02pm
I'm an Episcopal priest resident in Tucson, Arizona.  I began my priestly ministry 45 years ago as a Jesuit.  In both communions I have performed marriages in several jurisdictions in the United States, in every instance acting as agent of the state as well as the church's official witness to the vows of the couple.  Five years ago I forswore acting as the agent of the state of Arizona because I consider its marriage laws unjust, in that they forbid marriage to same sex couples. 

Since marriage is a fact of civil law, enshrined in the statutes of every state of the union, it seems to me beyond the competence of the various communities of faith to insist on defining civil marriage in accord with their respective faith perspectives.  No expansion or contraction of eligibility for the civil relationship ought to be relevant to the faith communities in their dealings with their members, any more than any state has any business making determinations regarding the dispensation of sacraments.    Live with it.

I commend Bishop Sullivan for pointing out that LGBT people are meant to be loved by the church as they are children of God, and welcome within the church.  But I must ask just how welcome are people who are told they must live their lives as if they had been granted the relatively rare grace of celibacy, even though they may experience within themselves no such gift.  May I be allowed, from my distance, to point out that it seems indeed a very lukewarm welcome that LGBT people receive in the Roman Catholic Church?

I'm 75 so I may not live to see the day, but same sex marriage will prevail, sooner or later, in many, eventually most and ultimately every one of our 50 states.

By the way, I'm legally married in the state of Arizona, should there be any questions in the mind of the reader.
CHRIS LANE | 7/1/2011 - 11:33am
Two thoughts on your comments on "the church" and same sex marriage.  The secular media routinely equate "the church" with the Vatican and hierarchy.  America should not.  The catholic "people of God" do not share the Vatican's views on this issue.  That includes both religious and lay people.  Polls have shown for several years that a majority of catholics  support gay marriage, and to a greater degree than non-catholics.  And a significant component of the pastoral element of the institutional church, the nuns and priests who counsel and work at the parish level, do not endorse the Vatican approach.  Accurate reporting should note the distinction.  Second, while your effort to soften the institutioinal teaching on homosexuality is admirable, candor should compel an acknowledgment that the official institutional teaching uses the term "objectively disordered' to describe homosexuality.  Those are harsh words.  It would be difficult to view any group as loving and accepting when it describes your fundamental nature in such words. 
LEONARD VILLA | 7/1/2011 - 10:12am
This editorial on the gay marriage issue does not fully reflect Church teaching in my view because it accepts a major premise of gay ideology which is not necessarily embraced by all people who experience homosexual inclinations. That premise is that if you announce the truth about marriage and the human person that per se is not being loving to people experiencing homosexual inclinations.  Quite the contrary! Charity is based on the truth and not on ideology.   Moreover the editorial is at odds with the Church because it ignores a major clarification that was made years ago about the homosexual condition and which goes against LBGT/gay ideology: 

...an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.


Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.  SCDF October 1986 signed by then Cardinal Ratzinger  now of course Pope Benedict.


To say the least LGBT/gay ideology does not reflect this truth about the human person. It is always charity to preach the truth about the human person because all persons should be treated with love and compassion not because they are gay or embrace LGBT/gay ideology but because they are persons. Your editorial tries to embrace the ideology and Church teaching. That can't work because it's NOT the truth.


Andrew Di Liddo | 6/28/2011 - 9:47am
AMEN!
NORMA NUNAG | 6/27/2011 - 4:53pm
Thank you for responding right away, Tim .  I think there are a number of people on this planet who are chronic crabs.  They complain if/when you do and complain if/when you don't! 
WILLIAM ATKINSON | 6/27/2011 - 2:01pm

Bishop Sullivans words are nice, his actions, or lack or actions, spell out his true thinking on marriage of Adam and Steve:  From this day on the New York Archdiocese and all church leaders in NY will share in the vote that sent the sacrament of holy marriage to its demise.  Its a sad day for our youth growing up in a church society that views acceptance of pagan immoral views over those of Christ.   Maybe if leaders of catholic church were intuned with marriage, human togetherness, and love like that taught by early christian leaders and Christ Himself instead of un-natural celibate lifestyles he would of taken a more active stance on Sacrament of Holy Mactrimony.

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