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July 13, 2015

The legalization of same-sex marriage in Ireland and the United States is to be deplored for undermining the family and the raising of children. However, deplore it as we will, the Canadian experience shows same-sex marriage will become more, not less, entrenched in the immediate future.

The deeper issue is that the gap between faith and culture, noted by the Second Vatican Council, has become a yawning chasm across the Western world. The Catholic faith – indeed, any faith – has little role in shaping the culture of the advanced industrial nations.

Nor is there reason to believe Catholic culture will ever make a strong comeback or again have a significant role in forming the underpinnings of societies where it has been usurped.

Our current culture is an anti-culture – a culture formed by the belief that the only consensus should be that the individual is king. All the rhetoric about "choice" fits nicely into capitalist-driven consumerism where most "choices" come with price tags and the despoliation of the planet.

The culture that underlies the acceptance of same-sex marriage is, in fact, one with the culture that Pope Francis has said in Laudato Si' is making the earth "look more and more like an immense pile of filth."

Reports on the encyclical focused on its political implications. Yet, political change does not always create cultural change, a fact borne out by the enormous sympathy still shown for the Confederate flag across the U.S. South 50 years after passage of the civil rights laws. Laws are changed more easily than human hearts.

Pope Francis says the world needs a cultural revolution, and he is 100 per cent correct in that. That peaceful revolution should be seen in terms of the ecological theme of his encyclical. But it doesn't stop there.

It is revolutionary today to act as though future generations matter. Corporations are overly focused on short-term profits; governments on winning the next election.

Care for future generations not only involves protecting the natural environment. It also involves nurturing family life to enhance the chances of our great-grandchildren being raised in a loving, wholesome way. It further involves paying-as-you-go so future generations are not saddled with unmanageable government and personal debt.

Our anti-culture creates massive debt – financial, ecological and social debt. It assumes one can live today as though tomorrow does not matter. The possibility of revolution lies at the cultural level; it requires massive change by individuals and groups. With the current system so entrenched, there is little ground for optimism.

However, there is always hope. Hope relies on the belief that God will act. Our part is to take action in union with others to change the culture, but also to call on the Lord to send his Spirit to renew the face of the earth. Without divine assistance, we will only continue in the same perilous direction.