How God Can Use Protesters

February 20, 2014 | 9 comments

A few weeks ago I gave a presentation on same-sex marriage at a university in the Midwest. My goal was to provide the audience with the non-religious reasons behind the Church’s efforts to keep marriage from being redefined in order to accommodate same-sex couples. Throughout the presentation I took great pains to be charitable. I also exhorted Catholics to not let their opposition to same-sex marriage turn into mean-spirited attitudes towards people who identify as having same-sex attractions.

Unfortunately, about halfway through my presentation two female students decided to protest my case for marriage by passionately embracing and kissing in front of the audience.  I’m not sure why they were doing this because in my talk I made it clear that same-sex marriage and the morality of homosexual behavior were two separate issues. In fact, I included in my presentation quotes from people with same-sex attractions who also oppose redefining marriage.

As a university employee approached them and asked the students to leave I invited them to stay and dialogue with me about my presentation during the Q+A session afterwards. They refused saying that I was “twisting the truth." When I asked them to give one example of said twisting they refused.  Their goal was to simply disrupt what I was saying and not engage me in rational argument.

Pray for Those Who Persecute You

This incident made me think about how God can use anything, even protesters who are diametrically opposed to what the Church teaches, to accomplish his will. Consider the picture above of Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard being doused by protesters while taking part in a panel discussion at a university in Brussels. According to one news outlet:

Four women, representing the pro-abortion and homosexual group FEMEN, took to the stage at ULB University in Brussels where the archbishop was participating in a debate on blasphemy laws. The women disrobed to reveal black-painted slogans on their bare chests and backs, such as "my body my rules. "Waving signs that read "stop homophobia," the women doused the archbishop with water from bottles formed in the image of the Virgin Mary.

In the minutes before the women could be forced off stage, Archbishop Leonard sat drenched with water, eyes closed in prayer. The archbishop then kissed the image of the Virgin Mary on one of the water bottles that was used in the attack.

"He was very calm and maintained a position of prayer. I have to believe he was praying for us," one of the attackers said to reporters.

What I find amazing is that if these protesters had not disrupted the event where the archbishop was speaking, then it would have probably gone unnoticed by the rest of the world. Ironically, their act of protest did not hurt the Catholic Church or portray it as the “evil villain” these protesters think the Church is. Instead, the protesters made themselves look like a bunch of bullies and the world was able to see the holiness of someone who has sought to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

The Difference We Can Make

While I faced a much milder disruption at my own talk on same-sex marriage,  those two women provided an opportunity for everyone in attendance to see a Catholic handle critics with graciousness. I did not chastise these women or verbaly berate them. Instead, I invited them to have a dialogue with me and present their toughest objections in front of everyone. Afterwards, many people, including critics who disagreed with me on same-sex marriage, said they were impressed not just with my arguments but with “how I handled myself.”

The fact that I wasn’t defensive but graciously encouraged criticism impressed many people and it made them curious to learn more about the Church’s position on this issue. I’ll leave you with an email from a young woman that helped me see that when we present the truth in love God can use our actions to build up his kingdom in ways we may never see.

Tonight I was granted the honor of listening to you speak on my home campus! I also had the nerve-wracking chance to invite along a non-Catholic friend, who has (or maybe I should say "had") a very decided opinion about same-sex marriage. After you concluded your talk, I summoned the courage to ask my friend for their thoughts on your speech. My friend's response showed the impact of being deeply impressed with your charisma and with how you handled yourself and presented your material!

This led to a conversation that lasted nearly three hours on topics generally surrounding why Catholics believe what we do. When we finally called it a night, I knew that my friend's beliefs about same-sex marriage had changed and that they had even started looking at Catholicism in a better light!

Granted, I have been trying to talk to my friend for months (years, if you count since the beginning of our friendship) and have never been able to spark an interest. As with many college students my age, my friend usually brushed off all attempts or changed the subject. After tonight, however, your God-inspired words left my friend's heart open to the truth! My friend even hinted about wanting to know more about our faith!

Thanks be to God's grace and all praise to the One who inspired your profession!! I cannot thank either Him or you enough.

In Christ,

an Amazed College Student


Ever since he converted to Catholicism at the age of seventeen, Trent Horn has had a passion for explaining and defending the Faith. After earning a degree in history from Arizona State University, Trent traveled the country training pro-life advocates on college campuses to engage opponents in...

Getting The Marriage Conversation Right: A Guide For Effective Dialogue
Getting the Marriage Conversation Right: A Guide for Effective Dialogue teaches you how to promote and defend traditional marriage in non-religious terms. It’s a great “how to” guide to answer those tough questions you’ve struggled with... "There is a lot of food for thought packed into this little booklet, which is intended to be a practical guide to help the laity navigate the confusion about marriage in conversations with their family and friends. I believe you will find it to be a very valuable resource." — Most Rev. Salvatore Cordileone Archbishop of San Francisco, Chairman, USCCB Subcommittee on Promotion and Defense of Marriage

Comments by Catholic.com Members

#1  jack hughes - bristol, Bristol City of

This is in the same vain albeit slightly different

I met a guy through work who is Gay, when I met him he was anti-religious albeit not of the violent kind; it doesn't help that he is a scientist by training and has been schooled in logical positivism.

We've been having lunch on a regular basis over the last 8 months and amongst over things (we both love the same Sci-Fi series, both have an interest in Sacred Music) have talked about Philosophy, the Church and her teachings).

Whilst he's not a Catholic yet, he admitted to me last Saturday that our conversations have forced him to constantly re-evaluate his beliefs and that he doesn't believe that Science and Religion are incompatible.

We've only brushed the issue of homosexuality but after I talked to him about the Four Loves, he did admit that refraining from such behavior would be easier if he knew that doing so would be the greatest love he could show for another.

February 20, 2014 at 2:31 pm PST
#2  Teresa Lambert - Aurora, Colorado

Thank you Trent, and praise God!

February 20, 2014 at 6:25 pm PST
#3  Scott Greger - Kansas City, Missouri

Is there a transcript or recording of this talk?

February 21, 2014 at 2:31 pm PST
#4  Arturo Ortiz - Anaheim, California

Thanks for the article Trent. This is what we are to do in any similar situation, specially as this has been happening very frequently in the last months or so. This is true in Argentina with the pro-choice protesters and in various other places such as Germany.

We are to be truthful but in all things charity.

February 22, 2014 at 11:54 am PST
#5  Michael Koeth - Lancaster, New York

Thanks Trent. Not that this is all about the pro-Life discourse, but I would like to share my thoughts. When I read your comment on Archbishop Leonard's counter-attack I am struck that the same people who fight for "women's rights" support the "right", or holocaust, of millions of females in the womb.

Last week we spent a gorgeous vacation in Orlando. We happened to come across a fascinating 400-year old painting at the art museum adjacent to Mary Queen of the Universe shrine. This thing was 10' high by 6' wide. The work shows our Blessed Mother surrounded by 14 gorgeous innocent babies, and my mind raced to the mass killing by Herod of the male children of Bethlehem when our Lord was born. It is as upsetting now as it must have been 2,000 years ago...we need to pray for these babies

February 26, 2014 at 5:58 pm PST
#6  John Christo - Texas, Texas

What a horrible picture.... And what a great witness to stay calm (I can't say I keep my calm as well)

March 4, 2014 at 12:40 pm PST
#7  Brad Dickey - Dallas, Texas

My confusion is.......

The marriage in the Church will never change. (I'm protestant btw, but not RCC bashing type...)

If you are a pastor/priest/whatever in the U.S. You can't marry someone without the states giving you a license to do so. You marrying someone in a ceremony is a power vested in you by the state of.....

If a couple never held a marriage license by the government, and cemented their marriage with the proper bumping of uglies, etc... they are as married in God's eyes as someone with the license.

Paul said not to judge those outside the church, that wasn't our Job.

Christ said if someone asks for your shirt, give them your coat as well. (probably got that backwards.) There was no SEE IF THEY ARE GLBT FIRST, to it.

Christ said that any fool can love those that love them. But God loves even His enemies and that love PROVIDES FOR THEM in the example Christ gave. Then the Christ commanded you/me/us to be perfect as God is perfect. The word perfect does NOT MEAN UTOPIAN to the Greeks of that time. It means more like complete.

The GLBT community is asking for legal rights, protection from those in the Church usually. (Granted that's more of people in the evangelical protestant communities...) We shouldn't judge them. We should protect them. If the Church wouldn't have fought them when they first started with asking for legal rights, the term marriage would have never been on the table.

I'd say if the Church had done what Christ commanded of them, this whole marriage fiasco would not exist.

Just some ramblings from a heterodoxical heretic.

March 6, 2014 at 10:38 am PST
#8  Brad Dickey - Dallas, Texas

And, TRENT HORN, people that spam like you did are disgusting.

For what it's worth, your message is backwards.

You are whining about the stink of the skunk, and teaching people to spray perfume on the stink. You aren't getting the skunk problem resolved.

If the Church (all of us from my protestant perspective) did our job, we would be involved with the children and their parents, with our gal 5:6 works of love through faith, eph 4: works of service and there would be less pregnant women to have to decide on abortions or not.

Fight the skunk, not the stink.

March 6, 2014 at 10:41 am PST
#9  Mommy Hacker - Phoenix, Arizona

What is legal marriage? Is it the governments stamp of approval on your love? NO! It is and always has been to connect children to their parents legally. Legal marriage is for protecting the children and promoting the stability of the family.

March 6, 2014 at 5:21 pm PST

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