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Why I am annoyed with both President Obama and Cardinal Dolan on the same day on the same issue!

May 10, 2012

So Obama is now in favor of gay marriage. I can’t say I was surprised. But what did surprise me was the wall-to-wall adulation on sites like Talking Points Memo. This issue is being cast as a huge deal, a watershed moment, a historical turning point.

Forgive me if I don’t join in. To me, this issue is simply not that important. It’s really a niche issue for comfortable middle-class people in their comfortable little world. With all the attention, you might forget the real issues that are still not being addressed. Economic issues like unemployment, poverty, inequality, access to health care, the rights of workers. Political issues like immigration, the death penalty, the lack of gun control, ceaseless war and foreign belligerence, the corruption of the system by monied interests. Global issues like global warming, global poverty, war and terror, the exploitation of workers and women.  Cultural issues like consumerism, pornography, the ubiquitousness of violence.

Still, this evolution of thinking was perfectly predictable. Perfectly natural, even. Same-sex marriage does not redefine marriage. That has already taken place. The institution of marriage has been transformed from a social institution geared toward the bearing and rearing of children to an individualistic institution geared toward personal happiness and fulfillment. Once homophobia started to fade away, and gay people were finally treated with the dignity they deserve, then same-sex marriage – defined in this way – is a completely natural progression.

In other words, we now define marriage in purely Lockean terms, as the unfettered ability of the fully independent individual to choose and exercise power, to be fully in control of  his or her possessions and persons. Marriage, in this sense, becomes a natural right and any prohibition against marriage becomes an unjust act of coercion, especially since there is no apparent competition with the rights of others.

Of course, this is far removed from the Catholic understanding of marriage. Here, any “right” to marriage cannot be distinguished from a corresponding “duty” to order the married life toward the good, including the good of society and the social order. It must be open to the bearing and rearing of children, and it must not create a false dichotomy between the unitive and procreative elements. Marriage is a sacred bond that cannot be dissolved, and for that reason requires a consent based on a deep understanding of the obligations that are being undertaken. As the Catechism summarizes, “unity, indissolubility, and openness to fertility are essential to marriage”. Marriage is not only a social bond – it is sacramental bond, giving it a superratural as well as natural dimension.

Here’s the problem – you would not know any of this from Cardinal Dolan’s press release yesterday, in which he found the “redefinition of marriage” to be “deeply saddening”. He asks for people to “uphold and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman”. Does this embody the Catholic understanding of marriage? Not at all. He claims that the decision to recognize same-sex marriage constitutes a redefinition of marriage, without any acknowledgment that heterosexuals have done a good job redefining marriage themselves.

Nothing he says here would cause discomfort for those who believe that married should be entered into lightly or that divorce should be quick and easy. Nothing he says here would cause discomfort to adulterous serial monogamists like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, who seem to have commodified marriage – trading in wives every few years for better models, just like used cars. Nothing he says here would cause discomfort to the vast majority of Catholics in the pews who use contraception as a matter of course (in fact, during the HHS mandate debate, Dolan went to great pains to say the issue was not about contraception).

He seems blithely unaware that this move is merely a natural consequence of a Lockean view of society, once we strip away some unjust prejudices against gay people. Of course, this Lockean view also underpins the individualist view of economic relations – the poisoned spring of the evil individualist spirit, as Pope Pius XI put it. It’s all related, all part of the same problem. In their own ways, both President Obama and Cardinal Dolan seem blind to these obvious connections.

Sometimes I think we need a “last alliance” of Catholic progressives and Catholic traditionalists to take on this dominant Lockean paradigm. I would not push for a rollback of same-sex marriage. That train has long left the station. The demographic forces are just too strong. Plus, I actually don’t feel strongly about this one way of the other – it does nothing to the institution of marriage that has not already been done, and I’m not in the business of picking on gay people.

But I would like to see a greater degree of reflection on the pitfalls of Lockean liberalism as it relates to the dignity of the human personal and responsibility to the social order. I would like to see a greater distinction between the Catholic and the secular ideas of marriage. And I would like to see fingers pointed in the right direction – not blaming Andrew Sullivan for the sins of Newt Gingrich.

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108 Comments
  1. May 10, 2012 2:37 pm

    I, too, would love to see a distinction between the secular institution of marriage and the religious one. To see the sacrament of matrimony well and truly divorced (pun intended) from the legal and financial arrangements that have distorted its role in the Catholic faith beyond recognition would be an excellent first step in redirecting the attention of Catholics away from a process that is only relevant to Catholicism in its semantic similarity to the sacrament and toward a focus on the issues of social and economic justice that continue to plague our society and are implicitly supported through the lack of disgust and attention directed at them (I think Morning’s Minion did a superb job identifying those issues above, so I won’t repeat them here).

  2. May 10, 2012 2:52 pm

    I would think that, for faithful Catholics opposed to same-sex marriage, the phrase the redefinition of marriage would have no meaning. Certainly Cardinal Dolan’s position must be that marriage can’t be redefined. If he doesn’t care enough to speak with a measure of precision, why should anyone pay attention?

  3. Maria Combe permalink
    May 10, 2012 3:04 pm

    What you say is very true and well said, except that the effect of gay marriage is that it forces adoption agencies to treat traditional and homosexual couples alike in their fitness to adopt a child, it forces Catholic and other dissenting adoption agencies to choose between letting gay couples adopt or going out of business and Christian wedding planners and other wedding-oriented businesses to stage gay “weddings” or be liable to civil and perhaps criminal proceedings, and it even looks as though Christian churches may be forced to perform gay wedding rites or face government sanctions. Now, you may say that such issues could be solved by freedom of religion or freedom of conscience initiatives, but you see how well that is going with regard to the HHC mandate.

    • Kurt permalink
      May 10, 2012 6:58 pm

      Maria,

      No, you would be incorrect. The Catholic Church is free to place those orphaned children who are its wards with whatever parents she believes best. No church would be required to perform gay weddings. You are correct that corporations may not refuse service to gay people at their drug store lunchcounters or where ever.

      • Maria Combe permalink
        May 11, 2012 3:41 am

        I’m sorry, Kurt, but it is you who are incorrect. In Boston, after gay marriage was legalized, Catholic Charities was forced out of the adoption business when the Archdiocese told them they could not place children with gay couples and the state told them they had to, or lose their license. Mind you, it was not that they were receiving state monies for this service -they wete not -bute fact that they were licensed by the s

        • Maria Combe permalink
          May 11, 2012 3:43 am

          ..by the state.

        • Maria Combe permalink
          May 11, 2012 3:52 am

          (Sorry, my smart phone is not as smart as it would have me believe.) Let’s try this again: Mind you, it was not that they were receiving state monies for this service – they were not – but the fact that they were licensed by the state that apparently gave it the right to demand that Catholic Charities place children in gay households.

          Something similar happened in Illinois, but there Catholic Charities broke its ties with the Catholic Church so as to be able to continue its adoption services by complying with state law.

        • Jimmy Mac permalink
          May 11, 2012 2:51 pm

          They weren’t forced out. They chose to bow out. Big difference. If you take the Queen’s shilling, then you must do the Queen’s bidding.

        • Kurt permalink
          May 11, 2012 3:29 pm

          Maria,

          You are in error in your description of the situation. Catholic Charities had a contract with the Commonwealth to find homes for its wards. They had placed the children in the best available home, including in some cases with gays when on a case by case basis the faithful Catholic Charities social worker determined it was in the best interest of the homeless child. This long stand pratice was upset when some right wing thugs got wind of this and protested to the Archbishop, who issued a new decree that gays could not even be considered (racists could under Archdiocesen policy, just not gays). The Commwealth said that if Catholic Charities was going to leave its wards homeless rather than even consider gay people, they were in violation of the contract and it would not be renewed.

          The preference for racists of over gay people and the willingness to leave children homeless is a terrible mark on the Archdiocese.

        • Maria Combe permalink
          May 11, 2012 10:09 pm

          Right-wing thugs, Kurt, really? People who don’t agree with you are thugs? Were you involved in the process such that you know that “racists” were being chosen over gay people? I read the news reports. Catholic Charities, which receives money from the Catholic Church, was being told by the Commonwealth that they had to place children with homosexual couples. The Church told them they could not do so, so they closed their adoption agencies. End of story.

        • Maria Combe permalink
          May 11, 2012 10:33 pm

          Jimmy Mac, maybe you didn’t notice I said they were NOT taking money from the government. Any “shillings” they had were from the Archdiocese.

        • Thales permalink
          May 12, 2012 9:09 am

          They weren’t forced out. They chose to bow out. Big difference. If you take the Queen’s shilling, then you must do the Queen’s bidding.

          Sure. And that’s a shame. Our society is richer and healthier if the government makes reasonable accommodations in order to permit religious organizations to act in society.

        • Kurt permalink
          May 12, 2012 2:31 pm

          Maria asks:
          Right-wing thugs, Kurt, really? People who don’t agree with you are thugs?

          People who would clamor to leave seriously troubled children homeless because of hatred towards gay people and contrary to the judgment of their ward and of the Catholic social worker directly involved, are ring wing thugs.

          Were you involved in the process such that you know that “racists” were being chosen over gay people?

          Yes.

          I read the news reports. Catholic Charities, which receives money from the Catholic Church, was being told by the Commonwealth that they had to place children with homosexual couples.

          Catholics Charities had a contract from the Commonwealth to find homes for extremely hard to place children who were wards of the Commonwealth. The contract covered 100% of the program costs, so if they were claiming they had solicited other funding , they were doubling billing, which is fraud and a sin. You may want to report this to the DA, not that the Archdiocese of Boston does not have enough legal trouble.
          Catholic Charities announced a new policy, contrary to their practice at the time they received the contract, that they would no longer allow gay people to even be considered as foster or adoptive parents of these homeless children. They changed their policy and the Commonwealth announced it would not renew the contract when it expired.

          Thales notes:
          Our society is richer and healthier if the government makes reasonable accommodations in order to permit religious organizations to act in society.

          Yes. I found it sad and shocking that the Archdiocese of Boston had no program or ministry to encourage and facilitate adoption other than one very small government contract, particular given the tragedy of abortion in our society. I find it sad and shocking that the Archdiocese of Boston would not trust the judgment on a case by case basis of its own hand-picked social workers, for which it has an exemption from civil rights laws and is free to hire on a religious basis. (while understanding that they are not exempt from labor market realities and that few if any qualified persons with conservative views on this matter are willing to work at the meager wages offered). And I find it sad and shocking that CC would take money from the taxpayers of the Commonwealth to find homes for homeless children and then refuse to do so, leaving them homeless.
          In other words, I do not find this a reasonable accommodation. The Church remains at total liberty to take on homeless children has her wards and place them as she sees appropriate.

        • Maria Combe permalink
          May 15, 2012 4:57 pm

          Okay, I distinctly remember reading and remarking to my family on the facts as I’ve been insisting on them from newspaper reports at the time. Current internet research does not support them, however. Catholic Charities was getting Massachusetts funding, as you say, at least for certain adoptions, and apparently had been placing a small number of children with gay couples for several years. A Vatican document came out in 2003 prohibiting such placement, so the Archdiocese discontinued the practice, and then the state made an issue of it, so Catholic Charities there quit handling adoptions. Interestingly enough, the Worcester, Mass., office of Catholic Charities said they were not affected because they would simply continue their practice of asking the state, which had referred the gay couples to them, to refer those couples to another agency instead.

        • Kurt permalink
          May 16, 2012 12:55 pm

          Maria,

          To help your memory, it was not a Vatican edict but a 2005 story in the Boston Globe that noted that CC had placed 13 children with a gay adoptive parents out of the 720 placements it had done over the past 20 years. Immediately after the story, the right-wing started a campaign and the Archdiocese changed its policy under pressure. The Board of Directors of CC voted against the change and 8 members resigned because of the anti-gay action.

          Not only the Commonwealth, but private funders said they would not fund CC if they left children homeless rather than place them in homes which Catholic social workers found to be qualified.

          My understanding is that Worchester does not take state funding. They facilitate private adoptions in which the prospective parents pay the costs.

          You clearly are comfortable with kids never having a home by keeping them away from the gays. I am not.

        • Maria Combe permalink
          May 17, 2012 1:14 pm

          I inferred from this news article that the Vatican instruction had played a part in stopping the gay adoptions. It is also the source of my information about the Worcester diocese, but it does not say whether Worcester accepted state funding.

          http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0601456.htm

          I don’t believe children should be placed with gays, unmarried heterosexual couples, married couples with “open” marriages, households where the adults suffer mental illness or where there is domestic violence, households that are flagrantly racist, or any other household in which the children will be regularly and obviously in danger or subject to inappropriate influences. I would call those homes unsuitable, at the very least for placement by a Catholic organization.

          I am assuming that by “homeless” you do not mean living on the street with no supervision, but rather in an orphanage or foster home.

        • Kurt permalink
          May 17, 2012 3:48 pm

          Maria,

          For two years after the date of the Vatican statement, CC went merrily along using its best judgment to find homes for these hard to place children. Only after a 2005 Globe story and the resulting right-wing campaign did it become an issue.

          Anyway, it seems we are at odds. You think there is not a single gay person for whom it would be better to place a child with rather than leave him to “age-out” of state care without ever having a home. I do not.

  4. May 10, 2012 3:42 pm

    “Sometimes I think we need a ‘last alliance’ of Catholic progressives and Catholic traditionalists to take on this dominant Lockean paradigm.”

    Here here!

  5. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    May 10, 2012 3:43 pm

    MM,

    I am not going to wrastle with you on these issues, because you probably already know that I think you have got the whole matter upside down. And anyways, I am still uncorking the champagne, only the cheap stuff that we rich white types like my husband and me purchase by schlepping out to the ‘burbs to Total Wine! Oh, the humanity! You also have employed a very blunderbuss tool in these Lockean notions. No I would rather make a much more general point to push the conversation forward, based on a great book I just read.

    William Vance’s America’s Rome details the history of Americans’ attitudes (both Catholic and non-Catholic) and writings and art works based in their experience of the Eternal City. Vance gives many, many super- interesting examples, much of which I did not know, at least to the interesting detail. Yet the most striking fact for me was a general assertion he made on the basis of his manifestly huge familiarity with this special field of inquiry. Vance says that right from the start of the Republic, Catholic Americans just somehow assumed that a harmony could be made between the orthodox views they held and the views of freedom enshrined in American Founding documents. Even when the ideals were clearly dissimilar. Somehow all the obvious contradictions did not enter into their bailiwick on the matter. They just assumed that it could somehow all mesh, even though, especially early-on the RC Church was explicitly against democracy itself. Thus, in the early 19th Century for instance you have Catholic writers somehow assuming that even though their Church was against the very form of government they lived under that , somehow there was no conceptual roadblock.

    Vance just notes this as a curious historical matter. But I want to draw some implications from it. It seems that from the start the the American Catholic experience has been characterized by a highly imaginative and therefore unrealistic sense. We should contrast this with the character of Catholics in many other countries, especially Latin ones, where a great deal of pragmatism rules the day. But in in the US somehow Catholics got started with a mode of hyperbolic wishful thinking and never gave it up as a literary trope. It has been going on so long now, that they have conflated it with “Catholic identity” in politics itself. It causes a great deal of grief for many people, and not just for Catholics.

    The moral is to give up the hyperbolic wishful thinking and go with the pragmatism of the rest of their community elsewhere.

    • Jimmy Mac permalink
      May 10, 2012 7:25 pm

      The latest (March 2012) stats on approval of same-sex marriage:

      http://publicreligion.org/research/2012/05/research-note-evolution-of-american-opinion-on-same-sex-marriage/

      Public Religion Research Institute
      Research Note | Evolution of American Opinion on Same-Sex Marriage

      (snip):

      “Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Millennials (age 18-29) support same-sex marriage, compared to only one-third (33%) of seniors.”

      Mine and I have time and demographics on our side, irrespective of what the “smaller, purer church” rants and raves about!

      Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

      • dominic1955 permalink
        May 11, 2012 10:24 am

        But what does that matter, demographics and the fleeting opinion of one group of people in this country? You have time on your side? Oh, please…you are talking about a Church that buries empires!

        • grega permalink
          May 11, 2012 2:08 pm

          What Empire did come to mind?

        • dominic1955 permalink
          May 11, 2012 2:48 pm

          All of them since the Roman…

        • Jimmy Mac permalink
          May 11, 2012 2:54 pm

          We are talking about the US in the here and now, not the Catholic Church in the bye and bye or the unforseeable future. I don’t care what the CC does or wants in this matter. This is a secular matter over secular benefits, rights and responsibilities, funded by all taxpayers – not the RCC.

          BTW, that’s quite a bit of praise for the People of God: a church that buries empires. Hyper-masculinity at its worst.

        • dominic1955 permalink
          May 11, 2012 9:24 pm

          Then why bother arguing about it if you don’t care what the Church wants? Nothing is wholly and utterly secular such that the Church has no business in judging what is legitimate or not.

  6. grega permalink
    May 10, 2012 3:45 pm

    I am really glad to read that you feel that you are not in the business of picking on gay people while framing it as ‘a niche issue for comfortable middle-class people in their comfortable LITTLE world” – in my opinion you stepped right into it and certainly very much BELITTLE before you embark to enlighten.
    This progessive catholic is not waiting breathless for the “last alliance” of Catholic progressives and Catholic traditionalists to take on this dominant Lockean paradigm.
    As a matter of fact attempting to describe todays societal reality in terms of yesterdays philosophical paradigms is for me foremost an academic effort – and not a particualr profound one.
    I am very proud to be part of a society that does spearhead truly progessive societal developments – I see the one we talk about here as such – yes not the most important issue in the world in light of starving children and grave injustices – but one we can take on within our society and push to towards a better spot.

  7. Mark Gordon permalink
    May 10, 2012 5:19 pm

    The bishops are in a bind. In the HHS mandate controversy, all their arguments were based on American-style Liberalism: rights, liberty, equal justice. They didn’t try to make the Catholic argument based on the universal applicability of the teaching on contraception. Their stance was “we know it’s kind of kooky, but it’s what we believe, so be good Americans and just let us do our thing.”

    Now the rights, liberty and equal justice argument bites them in the ass. They can’t use it again because in this case the other side owns rights, liberty and equal justice. And they can’t go back and insist on the universality of Catholic teaching on marriage because they already begged off on that concept the last time. So, they are reduced to the kind of half-formed bumper sticker slogans that peppered Cardinal Dolan’s statement.

    Can Satan cast out Satan? Can Lockean individualism cast out Lockean individualism?

    • rayontremblant permalink
      May 10, 2012 7:46 pm

      Pretty much the only reason Catholics are being hard-nosed on this particular issue is because they have Protestants (a huge majority in this country) and other like-minded minorities to back them up. They play politics with the issue of divorce and contraception, two things that have gone miles to redefine marriage and that the majority of Protestants have virtually NO issue with, at least not officially, and yet pretend that the enemy of their enemy is their friend when talking about how the government defines marriage. This is just my intuition, but I seriously think that the only reason the Church fights this is because they know they have a chance of winning since while she herself may not be a bigot, they know that there are a lot of evangelicals who are. Yup, sounds legit.

    • Thales permalink
      May 10, 2012 8:57 pm

      They didn’t try to make the Catholic argument based on the universal applicability of the teaching on contraception.

      What does this argument look like? Everyone here is faulting the bishops for using a rights and liberty argument. I’m just curious what the better argument is.

      • Mark Gordon permalink
        May 11, 2012 8:16 am

        I find this question quite literally unbelievable. Someone pour some tree sap over it and preserve it forever as a pristine example of American Roman Catholic cluelessness circa A.D. 2012.

        First, by making a “rights and liberty” argument in the HHS mandate controversy, the bishops adopted the same liberal secular language being deployed against them in favor of extending contraceptive coverage to all American women.

        Second, in order to make this argument, they had to marginalize their own teaching on artificial contraception, including its universal applicability to all men and women, at all times and places. Instead they declared, “this isn’t about contraception, it’s about civil rights.” In so doing, they conceded that the teaching on contraception is just a sectarian curiosity, like Mormon magic diapers or Sikh turbans.

        Third, when the next controversy arose – this time over so-called “gay marriage” – the bishops were confronted by “rights and liberty” arguments very similar to the ones they had deployed in the HHS mandate controversy. Check. And they had already set the marker that distinctive Catholic teachings are intended for the ‘faithful’ alone. Checkmate. Any “gay-marriage” advocate could say with a conviction equal to that of the bishops, “this isn’t about homosexuality, it’s about civil rights.”

        What the bishops should have done is act like successors to the apostles, not acolytes of the Goddess of Liberty. They should have used the HHS mandate controversy to make the Catholic case against artificial contraception. And if they lost – God doesn’t call us to win, but to proclaim the truth – then they should have refused to accept government funding or pay government fines. When Catholic bishops are willing to go to jail, we’ll know we’re back in right relationship to a hostile, secular, and increasingly godless culture. Unfortunately, we’re a long way from that.

        • Thales permalink
          May 11, 2012 9:40 am

          I find this question quite literally unbelievable. Someone pour some tree sap over it and preserve it forever as a pristine example of American Roman Catholic cluelessness circa A.D. 2012.

          Ugh, Mark. You don’t have to be so condescending. It seems to me that for the last 50 years, the Catholic Church and prominent Catholic theologians and philosophers has been using “rights and liberty”-type language: consider Vatican II’s Dignitatis Humanae, or Jacques Maritain and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The notion of human dignity and of human personhood created in the image and likeness of God, and of what duties, obligations, and rights (sorry for using that word!) flows from human dignity are very difficult and complex topics. Now maybe you think the “rights and liberty” way of talking about these topics is fundamentally flawed. That’s fine, but you don’t have to be so insulting about it. Just point me to Catholic theologians or philosophers you think put forward a better vision of the human person in the world.

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          May 11, 2012 10:25 am

          Thales, I am sorry for being “condescending” and “insulting.” That was not my intention, though, and I think you’re being a little touchy today.

          The point is that in the HHS mandate controversy the bishops didn’t even attempt to present a “better vision of the human person in the world.” That would have been the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. Instead, they made a thoroughly American, secular and liberal argument – an argument based on Enlightenment rationalism – about the liberty due to religious sects, including those with odd, countercultural practices. This is indeed where John Courtney Murray and Dignitatis Humanae have gotten us, along with a widespread abandonment of Catholic belief and practice, with a resulting collapse of Catholic institutions, religious orders, and vocations to the priesthood.

          I remind you that in a recent post I noted that Murray has been the inspiration for both the Hyannisport Conclave that authenticated the “pro-choice” position for Catholic politicians AND the complex of “conservative” Catholics working to accommodate Catholicism to American-style capitalism, nationalism, and militarism. The problem is Liberalism, in its economic (capitalism), political (American-style “liberal democracy”) and social libertarian (contemporary “liberalism”) modes. Liberalism is a totalizing ideology, the philosophical root of which lies in “an erroneous affirmation of the autonomy of the individual” (Pope Paul VI). Satan cannot cast out Satan, and that is precisely why Morning’s Minion writes about a “last alliance” of Catholic progressives and traditionalists to combat the “dominant Lockean paradigm.” He thinks it can be done politically, specifically through the Democratic Party. I disagree. Others think that the Republican Party can be that vessel. I also disagree with them. I’m coming to favor non-conformity, withdrawal and resistance, after the fashion of the Catholic Worker Movement. I could be wrong.

        • dominic1955 permalink
          May 11, 2012 10:18 am

          Amen to that. Methinks the various Monsignori who make up the USCCB need to pull their heads out and read Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae…

        • Thales permalink
          May 11, 2012 10:51 am

          Mark,

          No problem. I’ve been on blogs long enough and been insulted plenty, so I’ve got a tough skin. I asked my question with honest curiosity since it seems to me, as I said above, that the Catholic Church and Catholic theologians outside of America for the last 50+ years (so we’re not dealing with any American-exceptionalism, GOP-supporting, or 21st-Century liberal types) has long used this language of “rights”…. and then you called me a “pristine example of American Roman Catholic cluelessness circa A.D. 2012.” It was just surprising coming from you, who I know to be a thoughtful person.

          So you think Diginitatis Humanae is fundamentally flawed? Do you think the same of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

  8. May 10, 2012 5:23 pm

    Very good point, Mark. They’ve made their bed, now they have to lie in it.

  9. Agellius permalink
    May 10, 2012 5:24 pm

    “In other words, we now define marriage in purely Lockean terms, as the unfettered ability of the fully independent individual to choose and exercise power, to be fully in control of his or her possessions and persons. Marriage, in this sense, becomes a natural right and any prohibition against marriage becomes an unjust act of coercion, especially since there is no apparent competition with the rights of others.”

    That’s a good point.

  10. Maria Combe permalink
    May 10, 2012 5:44 pm

    In fact, I would like to add that this whole thing hasn’t really been about gay rights so much as it is about destroying family life, Christian churches, especially the Catholic Church, states’ rights, and the rights of individual conscience – anything to which one could owe loyalty apart from a government that is slouching toward totalitarianism.

    • May 10, 2012 6:00 pm

      Except the points on “states’ rights” and “individual conscience” makes more sense from the pro-same-sex marriage side. And if you believe the government needs to ban same-sex marriage (which is a valid position to hold), then surely you are talking about giving the government more coercive power, thus pushing it in a more “totalitarian” direction? My absic problem is that you can’t use right-based language here – it will come back to bit you.

      • Maria Combe permalink
        May 10, 2012 7:23 pm

        Well, then, we have a situation, don’t we? Because “your” rights are violating “my” rights. Somehow, religious freedom, on which our nation was founded, is being trumped by gay rights, which will be no protection against totalitarian reprogramming, while a well-formed religious conscience might be (hence the war on all fronts against religious conscience). In fact, don’t count on gay rights in a totalitarian regime, unless of course the gays are running it.

        Those states which are passing laws banning gay marriage or acts reaffirming a traditional definition of marriage are doing so to protect the rights of those who might be forced to be complicit in homosexual marriages or adoptions against their religious or philosophical beliefs; the coercion is coming from the Federal government and powerful activists who are intent on domination of the nation’s social policies.

        Can this country be saved? I don’t know. Philosophically, politicallly, and in terms of religion, the gaps are too wide and varied, and tolerance can only go so far when people’s beliefs and practices are diametrically opposed to one another. If the Federal government does not succeed completely in homogenizing the nation (with the help of a media that is highly focused, anti-religious, and pro-governmental control), then perhaps the best we can hope for is a return to states’ rights, wherein at least if you don’t like the way things are in Vermont you can move to North Carolina.

        On the other hand, if we could minimize government interference, then gay churches might spring up to marry gays, gay wedding businesses might flourish, and gay insurance companies and lawyers could determine coverage and write up wills and powers of attorney for gay partners. Gay adoption agencies could spring up, too, but, oops, where would they get the babies?

        • Kurt permalink
          May 12, 2012 9:46 am

          Maria,

          Apart from a committment to respecting other people’s religious liberties, let me ask from a Catholic moral standpoint, if I was a clerk at a florist shop and I processed an order for flowers for a same sex wedding, did I commit an objectively sinful act according to the Catholic Church?

        • Maria Combe permalink
          May 12, 2012 3:47 pm

          Kurt, there are degrees of complicity and responsibility, and as a mere clerk at a florist shop I’m not sure that I would need to risk losing my job by refusing to process such an order. The floral shop might need to refuse the order. It could be argued that these weddings are going to happen anyway, and someone is going to handle them, and I’m not making a statement by doing so, just going with the flow. But if what I do can be seen to validate and approve of such a wedding, or anything else that is patently against Church teaching, then it can be a cause of scandal and, yes, a sin. So, a Catholic wedding planner who handles a gay wedding, someone who rents a reception hall for a gay wedding, or a band that plays at one could be committing an objectively sinful act.

          This kind of thinking would not justify refusing other kinds service, commercial or otherwise, to people who identify themselves as gay just because they are homosexual, but only for things that promote or signify approval of the lifestyle itself.

        • Kurt permalink
          May 13, 2012 8:04 am

          Maria,

          I would suggest you consider two things. First, an act has to in fact validate an objectionable act to be a sin, not just because some segment of public opinion says it does.

          Second, as you admit, participating in a commerical transaction between a business and a customer is not moral endorsement of the actions of the customer. Your inconsistent application of this principle does not negate the principle.

    • Jimmy Mac permalink
      May 10, 2012 7:57 pm

      Equal protection under the law and non-discrimination are not states’ rights; they are Constitutional law.

      In Loving et Ux Vs Virginia (1967 0) Chief Justice Warren delivered the opinion of the Court. “The Equal Protection Clause requires the consideration of whether the classifications drawn by any statute constitute an arbitrary and invidious discrimination. The clear and central purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to eliminate all official state sources of invidious racial discrimination in the States. —- Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

      The trial judge who found the Lovings guilty of violating Virginia ban on interracial marriage statues stated in an opinion that:

      “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

      In other words, religious beliefs were used as a grounds for discrimination and violation of equal protection.

      This is a perfect basis to believe that the individual states have no more right to deny equal treatment to same-sex couples than they did to mixed-race couples.

      • Thales permalink
        May 11, 2012 9:47 am

        Jimmy,
        The short answer to the Loving argument is (1) race is different than sexual orientation, and (2) there is a reason to consider marriage as being between a man and a woman because children are created in these relationships.

        • Jimmy Mac permalink
          May 11, 2012 2:57 pm

          I think that you’ll find out that constitutional lawyers will not agree. So if a marriage doesn’t create children, what ….? No longer a marriage? And don’t give me this old hash about the potential to create children. Incentives inure to results, not efforts.

        • Kurt permalink
          May 11, 2012 6:40 pm

          I think Jimmy hits it on the head. If you are speaking about the Loving decision, you are speaking about a ciivl matter. And our civil society did not have a Catholic understanding of marriage long before same sex marriage was proposed.

        • Thales permalink
          May 12, 2012 9:24 am

          Jimmy,
          Sure, some constitutional lawyers don’t agree with the argument I mentioned. But some do, and it’s the short answer to your Loving case argument. As for a marriage that doesn’t create children, the short answer is that it’s irrelevant if a particular marriage doesn’t create children—it’s still an instance of a paradigmatic institution that provides the ideal context for creating and raising children, and society has a interest in supporting this paradigmatic institution regardless if a particular instance is childless.

        • Kurt permalink
          May 12, 2012 2:58 pm

          I’m not debating that Thales has hit on the correct Catholic definition of marriage. I don’t think there is a solid arguement that is the defintion of marriage in our American legal tradition nor in the the common understanding of marriage in our society. Certainly any contraceptor is not accepting the Catholic understanding of marriage.

      • Maria Combe permalink
        May 12, 2012 3:31 am

        Jimmy Mac, I was replying to Morning’s Minion about increasing governmental control; I understood it in regard to states making laws defending traditional marriage. The federal opinion you are quoting trumped the private ignorant opinion of a biased judge, presumably a Christian, who would not be able to find in the Old or New Testaments support for such a decision; quite the opposite, since a fundamentalist would have to admit we all were children of Adam and Eve and had been intermarrying from time immemorial. Any intermarriage prohibitions would be between believers and unbelievers, with ever so many exceptions. Religious beliefs and conscience rights were not fundamentally at issue.

  11. rayontremblant permalink
    May 10, 2012 6:18 pm

    Reblogged this on A Catholic's Journey and commented:
    So much good commentary today! Yet another example.

  12. digbydolben permalink
    May 10, 2012 10:06 pm

    Morning’s Minion, you’re not America, are you? Not being American, you’re forgiven for not understanding that ALL of American political culture was founded–and found expressions in documents molded on–the “Lockean paradigm.” America IS, culturally, THE quintessential anti-Catholic culture, the one whose anthropology is forthrightly anti-Catholic–something that Knights of Colombus folks will never understand, as Peter Paul indicates, above.

  13. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    May 10, 2012 11:16 pm

    digby,

    But I think you have this turned around really. Here is a simple question, which is not meant to be cute: Where is Locke mentioned in any US government document?? I understand that since the efflorescence of college attendance since the 50’s many have congratulated themselves on knowing something about the probable Ideengeschichte for those same documents, and come up with Locke. But the point is HE AIN’T IN THERE by name. This has meaning. Also, do you think that in the history of the US, including today that ever more that 1% understood who Locke was and what he was about. So, think on these facts, simple as they are. What IS in the documents is that you are free to believe any old way that you want here. That is what 99.99999999999% of Americans have ever understood. It is a great thing. It is real. So this country is not anti-Catholic……it is just not pro-Catholic, and in that lies the rub. For you see, the Catholic ethos tends toward the totalizing, and often feels that unless its principles run society it is being discriminated against. It is false logic. Similarly, you take the wrong lesson from the historical analysis I mention. There may indeed have been anti-Catholic trends in 19th Century American society, but those cannot reasonably be the cause of the Catholic penchant for over-optimistic assessment of the congruence of its theology with American principles. The reason for that fantasy was something simpler probably like recent-immigrant elation mixed with a dollop of very American can-do energy. In America every insurmountable obstacle could be taken on even the rapprochement between their ancient church and their new country. Gung-ho!

    Lastly, as an historical matter the Knights of Columbus come off looking like some of the best people in the RC Church. Don’t let the big feather fool you.

    • digbydolben permalink
      May 11, 2012 11:23 am

      Sorry, Peter Paul, but I was TAUGHT in college political science courses that Lockean “social contract” theory was the intellectual underpinning of American Constitutional Law, as well as the source of the Founders’ justification for their rebellion against the British Crown–taught, that is, that in its dry rational empiricism, it is the direct opposite of Burkean “conservative” philosophy. Locke is the man who said, remember, that every people get the government they “deserve,” and that was what made the Founders decide that they would not “deserve” George III.

      Also, as a peripetatic expatriate for most of my life, I can tell you that I’ve lived in a lot of places in the world that are culturally much more Catholic than the United States. Those places tend to be a lot less hung up about sex–much more “worldly,” and, in good way, more “pagan” than the United States–less controlled by Scriptural legalisms (because of lack of Puritan influence). Also, the populations of those places are much more concerned with religious CELEBRATION than religious AJUDICATIONS, in the way that English-speaking Catholics are.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
        May 11, 2012 3:28 pm

        digby,

        But you are making my exact point about other countries and their pragmatism about all sorts of things, including of course sex preeminently. Also, you are making my point about being taught that in college, and of course it is true. But, you seemed to have missed the crucial point. The name Locke is not in the documents, and most people have no idea what it means. The Founders may indeed have been Lockeans in varying degrees (but by the way a number of intellectual historians of the period think Hume was just as important to them, and let’s not forget to throw Hobbes in there too!) But when it came to writing the documents these men did NOT write with great specific requirements for Enlightenment ideation. Of course a college course can trace the links, naturally. But as to what is there it is more like a skeleton, and that must have been for a reason.

        Many have believed that the reason is so that freedom could be increased not decreased, and so that no faction or sect could use whatever underlying metaphysics there might be the words to justify a tyranny. Not that it is has stopped some from doing that. People like that brain-dead ninny David Barton somehow twist the rhetoric of Natural Reason to justify their “Christian Nation” tropes, while some sensitive Catholics can;t get over the fact that the prose is in fact so seemingly reductionist as to make the insertion of their “Body of Christ” metaphysics very inconvenient indeed. Give the Founders some credit, this is what they intended, if they intended anything clearly in terms of foreseeing problems. We are all still free. We can believe what we want, argue, kibbitz, anathematize, etc to our hearts content, and the worst that happens is that we get banned from a blog. Boo hoo. In context it is a remarkable achievement. Let me finish with the thought of that great sometime friend and foe of the Enlightenment, Martin Heidegger. When we realize our true nature as openness to the present facticity and historicity of our Being-There, in being cast upon our circumstances (as Americans in our case) , we become Thankfulness.

  14. May 11, 2012 11:35 am

    The issue of the coming of the Kingdom and what role if any the state would have in that happening is curiously humorous to me, don’t quite understand what that has to do with Gay Marriage.

    The trappings of homophobia in some these posts are just as visible as Cardinal’s Dolan’s words. The Church has no business in trying to define Civil Marriage for either Catholic or non Catholic alike simply put it is non of their business.

    As to the articles thrust that there is a hierarchy of issues that are more important than Gay Marriage my response to that nonsense is if justice does not flow from the Eucharist than there is a question of the validity of that Eucharist. We are speaking about justice not mob rule in the guise of democracy. God bless our Nuns for getting it right.

    Anyone who thinks the Christian world has a given position on any given issue is not being real. Even our understanding of the Word of God is up for speculation. Christianity is divided so badly one wonders if all the parts can be found in time for the second coming.

    God bless President Obama’s support of Gay Marriage the Bishops could learn a lot from the courage of his integrity. Let us pray that the two great commandments not only apply to our neighbors, but also our fellow citizens who like you pays taxes.

    • grega permalink
      May 11, 2012 2:26 pm

      Amen to that RSM – well said

    • dominic1955 permalink
      May 11, 2012 4:05 pm

      If you’re Catholic, the validity of the Eucharist is guaranteed ex opere operato and not according to some nonsensical “justice” that “flows” from the Eucharist.

      Secondly, the Christian world might be divided but by definition the Church is not and cannot be in essense. One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism. Certain positions and interpretations are, by definition, a given.

      • May 11, 2012 5:48 pm

        dominic1955, Not so fast, where does it say the validity of the Eucharist is guaranteed, and that the flow of justice is not germane?

        Also, I do not support your unreasonable position that because I disagree with you that makes any less of a Roman Catholic than you. Don’t take this personally but I feel more comfortable with judgement being left in the Lord’s hands. I am sure if he wants you to sit in judgement of me he will pick up the phone.

        Ah – here we go again by definition. By definition priests weren’t suppose to sexually abuse young children. By definition the Magisterium was not suppose to put the reputation of Church over the needs of innocent children.. We live in a messy Church, and it is only going to get messier and in that messiness God willing we will find the Holy Spirit.

        What ever happened to the concept of opinion, and ownership of that opinion. Would you of stayed awake with Christ in the garden, or would you have been weak?. Let’s talk about that before you deal with either my faith, internal forum or sexual orientation.

        • dominic1955 permalink
          May 12, 2012 5:32 pm

          Trent and all right thinking theology. Ex opere operato. If you have a validly ordained priest using the right matter and form w/ the right intention, the validity of the Sacrament (in this case, the Eucharist) is guaranteed.

          Aside from that, methinks thou dost protest too much….I’m only reiterating what the Church has always taught and can be easily read it Her official acts and approved authors.

        • May 13, 2012 2:48 am

          Talk about double talk. Please site for me what document in the council of Trent which promotes form of the liturgy over the quality of Liturgy in terms of validity. I tend to think you are promoting an interpretation that has more of a basis in comfort than in competency. Justice is a very important component of the Sacred Liturgy. Let’s stay away from the Latin nonsense and restrict ourselves to English for transparent communication.

      • Julia Smucker permalink*
        May 11, 2012 8:11 pm

        The ex opere operato validity of the Eucharist acquires a magicalistic misinterpretation if no justice flows from it. It’s not merely about validity, but efficacy: if the Eucharist does not bear fruit in its effects, it has not fulfilled its purpose.

        • May 12, 2012 2:06 am

          I wonder if the original 12 apostles would recognize today’s Church? I think we make the faith far to complicated.

          Bridge building with our experiences should have a major role in theology. Such reciprocity in theology would, in my opinion expand our understanding of God in our lives.

          Dogmatism has become the most recent example of Idol-ism in the Church. Instead of looking at this, the Magisterium spends a lot of time howling about secularism. In some respects this is akin to focusing on the perpetrator of sexual abuse rather than the victim.

          Thank you for your insight.

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          May 12, 2012 1:58 pm

          Well, communion is a fruit of the Eucharist too. Drawing battle lines and pointing fingers at those we’re in communion with fractures the Body as much as any injustice we can (rightly or wrongly) accuse each other of.

        • dominic1955 permalink
          May 12, 2012 5:37 pm

          The ex opere operato validity is necessary against Donatism and variants thereof. Justice, necessarily and absolutely, flows from a valid Eucharist, guaranteed by the Church in this way. Thus, if the fullness of graces offered by Christ in the Eucharist seemingly are not being efficacious, then that is an issue with the recipient (ex opere operantis). There is no fault or defect in the Eucharist itself.

  15. Julia Smucker permalink*
    May 11, 2012 12:56 pm

    What PPF is pointing to here is what Frederick Bauerschmidt has called a “constantinian hangover”, the still-common presumption among many Christians (Catholic and Protestant) “that their interests ought to be identical with the interests of whatever regime in which they happen to be living.” I didn’t get a sense of this expectation from MM’s post, but I’m sure seeing it in this comment thread. The question is, are we expecting the values of church and society to mesh in terms of a neo-christendom conformity of societal values to ecclesial dictates, or in terms of the church fitting into a nice, neat little niche within the prevailing “liberal society” paradigm and generally staying out of everyone else’s way? I find something disturbing about both of those options. As Ryan Klassen has previously suggested, we need to find a third way.

    Mark, your comments have me particularly confused. One minute you’re bemoaning the loss of a christendom establishment to the point of sounding ready to throw Dignitatis Humanae out the window, and the next you’re sounding downright Anabaptist in your politically jaded (though understandably so) talk of “non-conformity, withdrawal and resistance” (which further explains why I once heard someone call the Catholic Worker Movement “the Mennonite Church within the Catholic Church”). You seem to have two competing concepts of church-state relations going on at once. Are you seeing one as an ideal and the other as a practical necessity, or the two as compatible somehow, or what?

    In any case, I truly believe we need to come terms with the reality that the age of christendom is long gone, and the church cannot expect to be the dominant force that it once was. I see this not as lamentable but as a great challenge and opportunity to find better ways of being an engaged yet sometimes countercultural witness to the gospel way.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      May 11, 2012 1:12 pm

      Julia, when have I ever “bemoaned the loss of a Christendom establishment?” I’ve never called for the establishment of a “Catholic” state, which is something that sets me apart from many self-styled “traditionalists.” My point of view is far too anarchical for all of that. Heck, I think the Edict of Thessalonica was a positive disaster.

      • Julia Smucker permalink*
        May 11, 2012 3:26 pm

        That’s a relief to hear. For me the red flag popped up at this sentence in your reply to Thales:

        This is indeed where John Courtney Murray and Dignitatis Humanae have gotten us, along with a widespread abandonment of Catholic belief and practice, with a resulting collapse of Catholic institutions, religious orders, and vocations to the priesthood.

        This sounded to me like a cry of “Oh no! We’re losing our Catholic strongholds!” And even blaming religious freedom for it. Please tell me I was misinterpreting.

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          May 11, 2012 4:01 pm

          Julia, it does bother me that a distinctive Catholic culture has been lost, washed away in the flood of secularization that overwhelmed the Church since the Council. Doesn’t it bother you? It’s got nothing to do with political power, or even with religious liberty per se. It has to do with a generalized acceptance of “an erroneous affirmation of the autonomy of the individual” that is at the heart of philosophical liberalism. That’s the “smoke of Satan” that Paul VI sniffed out in the post-Conciliar Church, and it has expressions on both the Left and the Right.

        • Kurt permalink
          May 11, 2012 4:07 pm

          it does bother me that a distinctive Catholic culture has been lost,

          I think it is underestimated how much of this was the American form of ‘pillarism”

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pillarisation

        • dominic1955 permalink
          May 11, 2012 4:29 pm

          In a way, it is. Obviously we never taught “religious liberty” before, we taught that false sects could (and maybe even should) be tolerated.

          It seems to me that Americanism never died, much like Modernism. The American bishops protested that such a movement did not even exist and Leo XIII was being overly cautious but Murray infected the whole Church with it at Vatican II.

          Is there really much doubt that the Church has lost (not essentially, of course) much of her missionary spirit and zeal for conversion? Aren’t many of our doctrines soft pedaled or ignored out of a false sense of meeting people where they are at? Is it not obvious that the bishops act more like CEOs and company men of USCCB, Inc. than successors of the Apostles?

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          May 11, 2012 8:05 pm

          Mark, I agree about the pervasive idolization of individual autonomy. But in terms of how the church should speak to that, you appear to be conflating distinctiveness and domination in a way that has me thoroughly conflicted. How can it have nothing to do with political power?

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          May 11, 2012 8:17 pm

          Julia, that’s because you’re reading something foreign into what I’m saying. Maybe you’d subconsciously like me to be that antagonist, to make it easier to make your own argument. I am proposing no domination. Quite the opposite. I’m proposing a creative detachment from the political process in order to “build a new civilization inside the shell of the old.”

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          May 11, 2012 10:24 pm

          Hey, I’m not looking for a fight here. It is quite possible that I’m reading something into what you’re saying that is contrary to what you mean, but that comes from my own sensitivities that I’m bringing into the discussion, not from any desire to make you an antagonist. If I am mistaken in any way, please understand that it is an honest mistake within an honest attempt to figure out your position – and my own, for that matter.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
      May 11, 2012 3:31 pm

      Julia,

      Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You deserve a big kiss for getting that just right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • rayontremblant permalink
      May 13, 2012 10:47 am

      Agreed.

  16. May 11, 2012 1:17 pm

    I don’t really see how the Church can articulate it’s interests in any way other than the Enlightenment “rights” paradigm. If the bishops got up and said that it should be exempt from the mandate because the Catholic Church is the one, true church and its dogmas are above secular law, who would take them seriously? Any moral standing the bishops had was lost with the child abuse scandal. It’s a bit mystifying to me as to why the health care mandate and gay marriage are considered uniquely evil. The Catholic Church in Louisiana was perfectly fine with slavery, habitually looked the other way when black and Creole women were forced into concubinage during the 19th and 20th centuries, and was lukewarm at best (as an institution) during the Civil Rights Movement. All of this was tolerated, yet the health care mandate and gay marriage is beyond the pale?

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      May 11, 2012 3:41 pm

      Maybe the bishops shouldn’t claim an exemption. Better yet, maybe they should just announce that they don’t recognize the State’s right to impose a mandate at all. Maybe they could simply give the finger to what Dorothy Day called “Holy Mother State.”

      • Thales permalink
        May 13, 2012 12:45 pm

        So then all Catholic organizations should just shut down when they can’t pay the government fine? I guess I don’t understand your end view for how the Church and Christians can operate in a secular society.

      • Anne permalink
        May 17, 2012 2:53 am

        Ah yes, I never tire of pointing out that the government has granted the bishops (dioceses, churches & church schools) an exemption from the mandate from the beginning. That has never been at issue.

        • Kurt permalink
          May 17, 2012 9:45 am

          And even with Catholic hospitals and colleges, the mandate is not on them but on the insurance company.

          Further, if they can’t live with this and drop health insurance, the fine only applies to large employers and is less than the cost of a comprehensive health insurance policy. So an employer would come out financially ahead, not be forced to close down.

  17. Nate Wildermuth permalink
    May 11, 2012 1:21 pm

    The bishops need to stick to being priests, not prophets. They need to be Aristotles, not Alexanders. And if there are too few Catholic Alexanders (Dorothy and Peter, I’m looking at you), it’s because there are more bishops trying to be kings than saints.

    But I sympathize with the bishops plight. I would not want to sit on their daily thrones.

  18. johnmcg permalink
    May 11, 2012 2:22 pm

    It seems to me that Catholics have been told for the past generation that if they want their views to be reflected in public policy, they need to make their case on secular grounds. Saying “God says so” ain’t gonna do it, and arguments based on any theology will be reduced essentially to “God says so.”

    We see this in the abortion debate — the scientifically solid view that life begins at conception is dismissed as an article of faith (even by those who profess to share it like John Kerry) that we dare not impose on others. And we have seen this in the Same Sex Marriage debate, where the Christian view of marriage is reduced to “God says so” that should not be a reason to prevent couple from marrying.

    Given this reality, it strikes me as quite unfair to criticize the bishops for making public policy arguments in secular terms. It seems that the bishops need to speak to two audiences — to the public society at large to allow Catholics and Catholic institutions room to practice Catholicism freely, and to Catholics to live out even the more difficult aspects of Catholicism. The first audience must be addressed in the language they understand — and currently, that language is the language of rights and liberty. Ideally, the bishops can speak to us in terms of things like human dignity and natural law.

    It’s probably also worth keeping in mind that Cdl. Dolan’s statement was a press release, not a comprehensive accounting for the Catholic vision of marriage. Reading things like “blithely unaware” from the absence of certain things from a 170-word press release requires more insight than I would be comfortable claiming.

    .

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      May 11, 2012 3:52 pm

      Yes, the successors of the apostles speak in the language of the press release. Some even tweet! Just one more braying, bleating voice in the secular Babel.

      • May 11, 2012 9:40 pm

        There is such a thing as reaching people where they are. I don’t fault bishops for issuing press releases or tweets, provided that such means of communication can communicate truth.

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          May 11, 2012 10:42 pm

          Yes Kyle, but that’s an important caveat. I think Mark’s point here (stated a bit strongly, I grant you) is about the limitations of these forms of communication. It’s hard to give a really Catholic nuance to complex issues in a short press release, let alone a tweet.

    • May 11, 2012 6:08 pm

      Since this topic is about Gay Marriage forgive me if I stay on topic. On what basis can you even claim any Christian Unity when it comes to Gay Marriage? Why does every conversation go back to the good old days, have you lost all hope in the future. Get a grip freedom and rights issues are with us and that is what Catholic Social Justice is all about.

      If you want to know something about your gay and lesbian neighbor be sure you are able engage in mature dialogue. So far I don’t see anything here that reflects a serious conversation about President Obama support of Gay Marriage.

      • johnmcg permalink
        May 17, 2012 3:16 pm

        That’s because I was not addressing President Obama’s support of Gay Marriage; I was addressing this posts’ criticism of Abp. Dolan.

        • May 18, 2012 10:29 am

          Archbishop Dolan is now irrelevant in the discussion, not because he is a Catholic Archbishop, but rather because he promotes homophobia in a very public way. Reasonable people have no time for such bigotry. Even within our own parishes Dolan is quickly being seen as out sink with the dialogue on Gay Marriage.

          Gay Marriage is about rights not religion.

  19. May 11, 2012 4:21 pm

    I would not push for a rollback of same-sex marriage. That train has long left the station.

    I think that’s the money quote here, and it very well captures the habital stance of Catholics who fancy themselves progressive: We’ll let society go on about its way, but we’ll keep a critical/philosophical distance from the theories it embraces to justify its behavior.

  20. KATHY FARLEY permalink
    May 11, 2012 5:59 pm

    Excellent article. A thorough discussion of Lockean theories would help.

  21. May 11, 2012 9:38 pm

    I would not push for a rollback of same-sex marriage. That train has long left the station. The demographic forces are just too strong. Plus, I actually don’t feel strongly about this one way of the other – it does nothing to the institution of marriage that has not already been done, and I’m not in the business of picking on gay people.

    This recognizes a fact many opponents of SSM seem not to have grasped: allowing SSM involves no redefinition of marriage. This redefinition already occurred when marriage became a legal contract that means whatever each couple wants it to mean. As fecundity is not an essential or even conventional end of it, there’s no basis other than arbitrary will on which to exclude same-sex couples from participating in the institution. From the Catholic perspective, only on rare occasions is civil marriage actually marriage.

    • Maria Combe permalink
      May 12, 2012 4:05 am

      Well, Kyle, divorce and contraception, which the Church fought tooth and nail, have redefined marriage in the secular city, and now the ultimate redefinition is being sought in the form of gay marriage. What is being sought here, I say once again, is the destruction of Catholicism, Christianity and anything other than cultural Judaism – discredit us, round us up as enemies of the state, subsume us into the philosophical melting pot, the snickering secular culture doesn’t care which. We can speak out, we can pray, we can make sacrifices, we can be martyrs. We must speak in language others can understand, but we have to let them know why we believe what we believe; more importantly, we need Catholics, at least, to undestand why we believe what we believe so they can live it. We need saints. If we just keep trying to fit in, we will become no more than cultural Catholics more fully inhabiting American materialism, which will leave us with precisely nothing of ultimate value.

      • grega permalink
        May 12, 2012 2:45 pm

        Nothing short of the destruction of Catholicism?
        For me embracing gay marriage has the potential to do just the opposite – it could bring out the best in Catholicism – let’s not kidd ourself unlike a good number of the more scripture focused christian denominations our religion has always excelled in actually embracing emotionally important concepts.
        Did Jesus Christ pray the rosary? How come that the Mother of Christ moved to the heart of our religion?
        It is rather trivial to do the bidding of the scribes and insist on a static interprestation that really never worked for actual people – you know Maria I kind of get what you so emotionally attempt to describe – the folks that actually have the appetite for this sort of fully engaged emotional way of religious live are in my view actually a good number of catholics with opposing views to yours. It does require not so much to negate – it is much more difficult to embrace and work on a common future for all of us.

        • Maria Combe permalink
          May 17, 2012 1:39 pm

          Grega, the Church does embrace gay people – just not the sinful activity. Just like it embraces contracepting Catholics, minus the contraception itself, and unmarried heterosexual couples who live together, minus the sexual living situation. Racist Catholics minus the racism, unfaithful spouses minus the unfaithfulness, Catholic swindlers minus the swindling, etc. In the case of homosexuality, it does not buy into the modern belief that the homosexually-oriented person must choose to follow that orientation or be untrue to him/herself, rather its mission is to support the struggle of faithful Christians to follow Jesus and carry our cross. Jesus did not guarantee that we would be comfortable on this earth

          The Catholic Church cannot codependently authorize whatever anyone wants to do so as to be liked and applauded by people who do not share its beliefs and doctrines.The Catholic Church was not founded by Christ to become assimilated to the current culture but to be a light and a witness to that culture. Whatever its failures, its mission has not changed.

        • grega permalink
          May 17, 2012 4:54 pm

          Maria as you can imagine I do not see the church as static as you portray it.
          We will see – if society continues on the current path towards increased tollerance for homosexuals the church will follow suit.
          If this makes emotional and rational sense to the common person in our society it is here to stay and I bet the church will find ways to fully support and embrace this.
          All the ‘never is going to happen in a million years’ are just that – temporary specualtive comments – stuff does happen – it might take a generation or two but what is that in the grand scheme of things?
          I could be wrong of course – I hope I am not.

      • Jimmy Mac permalink
        May 12, 2012 8:23 pm

        Thus spake St. Henny Penny:

        The sky is falling. The sky if falling.

        Maria – you are way overdoing the martyrdom bit. Way over.

        • Maria Combe permalink
          May 15, 2012 5:02 pm

          Jimmy Mac – Actually, St. Henny Penny says, “The sky is fine. It’s the ground that’s falling.”

  22. May 12, 2012 9:19 am

    Three cheers for Paul Lakeland of Fairfield University, Daniel Maguire of Marquette University, and Frank Parella of Santa Clara University–blasted the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for its opposition to same-sex marriage.

    “[Cardinal Timothy] Dolan and the United States Catholic Conference are misrepresenting ‘Catholic teaching,’ and are trying to present their idiosyncratic minority view as the ‘Catholic position,’ and it is not,” said Maguire in an e-mail. “The bishops will stand with Dolan and the US Catholic Conference, but on this issue, they are in moral schism since most in the Church have moved on [to] a more humane view on the rights of those whom God has made gay.”

    Perhaps it is time for a serious conversation of homophobia in Church from a theological perspective. If theologians can’t challenge the idolization of homophobia to oppose fairness and dignity for the LGBT people than what good is theology?.

    The passage of the North Caroline amendment is example of bigotry gone wild in a feeding frenzy of hate. This is what religion has given us, and yet most theologians lack the moral courage to stand up and be counted on this matter. Perhaps what we need to hear from theologians is more about love, and less about Church double speak when it comes to love of your gay neighbor.

    Three cheers for Paul Lakeland, Daniel Maguire and Frank Parella.

  23. A. Wostenberg permalink
    May 23, 2012 5:29 pm

    “Marriage, in this sense, becomes a natural right and any prohibition against marriage becomes an unjust act of coercion,”… unjust unless we think of the children. What do we owe them? Doesn’t every child deserve a relationship with his biological mother and father? But same-sex unions deprive them of that. Therefore they are unjust. What would Locke say?

    • Kurt permalink
      May 24, 2012 10:28 am

      Gays getting married do not deprive a child of a mother and father. Straights not getting married is what does that. (along with war, murder, and industrial accidents that result in the loss of life of a parent).

    • Anne permalink
      May 24, 2012 6:54 pm

      It was easy for decades after Vatican 2 to forget the Church’s fairly universal and longtime ties to the worst of rightwing politics, but thayrrrrre baack, thanks as often as not to converts and laymen such as these. Oh joy.:-(

    • Anne permalink
      May 24, 2012 7:04 pm

      I don’t know about Locke, but same-sex marriage in itself doesn’t deprive children of anything. That’s really a separate issue that comes up as often in heterosexual as homosexual unions. The thing is marriage as an institution has already been modified so radically by the modern view of it as primarily a love relationship that may or may not involve parenthood that you can’t assume any of the traditional values pertain to heterosexual, never mind homosexual, versions.

    • gadria permalink
      May 25, 2012 4:33 am

      “Doesn’t every child deserve a relationship with his biological mother and father?”
      I fully agree with you – of course this applies as well to our many adopted children.
      Same sex unions do not deprive children of that right any more than is done in any adopted or artificially conceived situation – children might not immediately know about the biological parents but eventually will have the right to know.
      Every child does of course have a biological father and mother – this is true for adopted children and true for conceived children due to sperm donation – I think the laws are such that children do have currently the right to eventually know their biological parents. I have to admit that I am not very knowledgable here.
      I fully agree that it is a fundamental right to know your biological father and mother – here however it does not matter what the nature of the union is- heterosexual couple adopting – lesbian couple utilizing sperm donation – gay male couple adopting – thus from my point of view this argument is not a particular strong one against gay marriage.

  24. digbydolben permalink
    May 23, 2012 7:33 pm

    Here is politicized Catholicism–allied to “wars of choice,” to Zionist expansionism and ethnic cleansing, to economic Social Darwinism, to environmental degradation in the interest of “jobs”–and all in the name of foetuses and exclusion of a pitfully small minority from connubial happiness:

    The faith of my ancestors has become a cruel abomination in modern America.

    • Anne permalink
      May 24, 2012 6:55 pm

      My above reply was supposed to follow this (digby’s, not A. Wostenberg’s, sigh).

  25. May 28, 2012 4:05 am

    Look at what the American Catholic Church COULD have been:

    http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2012/04/issues-for-discussion-at-u-s-bishops-conference-1995/

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