Monday 31 March 2014

“Moral relativism of Hollywood showed me there must be Truth”

Full transcript of my interview with Fr. Denis Heames, pastor at St. Mary’s, in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. During my visit to Central Michigan University in September 2013, I attended a conference on gay marriage and religious liberty, and in the context spoke to Fr. Heames about these issues. News story here.

Transcrição completa, no ingles original, da entrevista ao Pe. Denis Heames, pároco de St. Mary’s, em Mount Pleasant, Michigan. A entrevista foi feita no context da conferência sobre casamento homossexual e liberdade religiosa a que assisti durante a minha estadia na Central Michigan University em Setembro de 2013. Areportagem está aqui.

The approval of gay marriage seems unstoppable; it seems that this is really going to be approved, state by state. Do you foresee a time when Catholics will have to afraid of making their voice heard on this issue in the public square?
Wow. I do, now that I hear you say it that bluntly. I think it will reach a point in the public square where we will lose the freedom to be against this. I think that is coming. I don’t even think this is even a debate anymore.

Because of the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA*, basically eviscerating the heart of DOMA, in terms of the definition of what marriage is, as recognizable by the federal government; and how the justices wrote their opinion with so much of a favourable slant towards those 11 states** which have enacted same-sex marriage legislation, I think with the two together, we’re going to see an avalanche of overturns.

The implication is that if this is a federally acknowledged, not just benefits, because the language is not just about giving people access to benefits, it is an innovative restructuring of the very concept of marriage, I think we are going to be completely limited in our ability to disagree in the public square.

How about internally? There seems to be a divide among the Catholics in the pews. Is there a risk that Catholics will accept this?
Probably, but I think if we take a step backwards when we see through history there are always shake-ups and things take a while to work out within the body of the church. So part of me takes a long range vision of that, in terms of the internal corpus and how we think.

You’ve got Catholics working in jobs where their co-workers could now be married gay men raising three kids, and so you are constantly engaging society and that is a challenge to your faith. How do I hold on to this teaching, which I believe to be true, but in this public way. That could be part of the rift we are going to see.

There have also been some calls for the Church to just get over this debate. Could that happen? Might the bishops say forget it, let’s get on to something else?
They could. I don’t want to think for the bishops on that level. They are at their bi-annual meeting right now, and I’m not sure how the bishops are going to respond as a unified voice on this, but in terms of the Church we will always maintain this vision of marriage between one man and one woman, and the sacramental dimension of what that love is capable of.

It may be that we will reach this point where our silence to this means we’ve lost the fight. I could foresee that, I don’t know if it will happen. I do think we’ll see a surge against it though, especially as the states experience these fights. I think we’ll have to at least try to maintain something. If we don’t that will be even graver for us. We have to try.

There is a generational gap, with under 30’s being hugely in favour of the idea of Gay Marriage. Do you notice that? And those who are faithful, are they suffering?
Yes, yes, and yes, if I can be so silly.

There is the Catholic who says he was raised Catholic and left the church. And often the issues that gave them the impetus to leave have to do with sexuality. Gay Marriage will always be the first one up there, pre-marital sex will be a close second, after that you realise there is really not much faith in the discussion… they don’t really care.

Then there are the occasional church-goers. They come, they are struggling with some of these issues. They are active in some areas, social justice and things, but they have these divisions and some of them are working on that.

In the larger university body I think it depends on the school. Here in Central Michigan University I think that there is a small minority which is vocally in favour, but I think there is a silent majority which doesn’t quite go along with it, but the problem is, it’s silent, and I think that the academic institution has a very clear bias.

For example childhood education, people who are studying teaching and development, and things like that, when they get into issues of diversity, or literature, those are very clearly angled towards this agenda. I do see students who are Catholic going into these areas struggling with these issues. “How will my faith be able to be lived in this work environment when there is such a heavy pressure, ideologically?” Books on the shelves in your elementary school classes like “The Two Princes”, and so on.

I do see that students who come here, and get involved, who take their faith seriously, who start to learn about the teachings and the “why?” of the Catholic Church experience a revolution. A load is lifted, their eyes are opened, they see why this is. It’s not because some guy in white decided to say that this is wrong, but it is buried in the heart of what it is to be human, its buried in the heart of what it is to believe in God, its buried in the heart of basic good human philosophy and truth. That is where I see a real revolution happening.

You had a bit of a Hollywood career…
I did! I graduated high-school in 1990 and literally three days later moved to Hollywood in a VW Bug. It was great, kind of adventurous. I started studying and a month later was auditioning for films and stuff and I landed some small parts, decent parts in some TV movies, and stuff. It was a modicum of success, without any real training, without any real knowledge of how the system worked.

Then it was as if the carpet was just pulled up from underneath me and I was left with this empty vacuum, lonely, struggling to know what I thought was right. I remember realising, seeing the whole Hollywood scene around me and wondering: “is it really that whatever you want to do is OK? That whatever floats your boat, you can do it?” There were some crazy things people were doing.

It was the moral relativism of Hollywood that forced me to say there must be truth. Seeing guys walking in opposite sides of the street, and just hooking up. I was just like, can this really be right? If it’s right then I had nothing to say, they can do whatever they want. But I just couldn’t.

There had to be truth, and it couldn’t just be true for me and not for you, It had to be true because we’re all human. So that is where my faith journey started. Hollywood was part of the conversion.

*Defense of Marriage Act. Uma norma que obrigava o Governo Federal a considerar que o casamento é apenas entre um homem e uma mulher. O Supremo Tribunal decidiu que se tratava de uma lei que revelava “animosidade” para com homossexuais e declarou-a inconstitucional, abrindo as portas para processos ao nível estadual para abolir todas as leis que limitem o casamento entre pessoas do mesmo sexo.

** À data da entrevista, em Setembro de 2013 / At the time of the interview, in September 2013.

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