The same-sex marriage debate is heating up in Maryland, and our Bishops continue to fight the good fight. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore, and Bishop Francis Malooly of Wilmington together wrote a statement condemning the State Assembly’s vote to approve of same-sex marriage, and urged Catholics to continue mounting opposition. This drew the ire of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of something called New Ways Ministry, which is is described as a “Catholic [sic] ministry of justice and reconciliation for lesbian/gay Catholics and the wider church community.” He writes:
Faithful Catholics who
Three words into this and we already know where this is going. Whenever a person describes themselves as a “faithful Catholic,” you know that the next words out of their mouth are going to be anything but faithful to the Church, the Magisterium, and our Bishops.
follow the debate on same-sex marriage have grown accustomed to our bishops making embarrassing and insensitive statements, and Monday’s missive from the three bishops who exercise jurisdiction in the state of Maryland was no exception.
And sure enough DeBernardo does not not disappoint.
There is, for instance, no evidence of any sort that allowing same-sex couples to marry will lead to a further erosion of the two-parent household.
How can we have evidence when, by and large, same sex marriage has not been permitted? It’s called making an intuitive prediction based on experience.
Indeed, many of these couples already live in two-parent households with their children, only without the legal protection that the law bestows on straight couples.
So what are we fighting over, then? You’ve already conceded that same-sex couple already are permitted to live together in what is an otherwise “matrimonial” setting. What legal protections are they lacking? Be specific.
Likewise, the notion that marriage is intended primarily for procreation finds no support in Catholic theology, and conflicts with the Church’s own willingness to marry couples who cannot have biological children.
From Guadiem Et Spes:
Marriage is a covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, which, by its very nature, is ordered toward the good of the spouses and toward the procreation and education of offspring, and which, between the baptized, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of sacrament.
Sounds pretty similar to what the Bishops said:
The word marriage describes the commitment of a man and a woman to come together for life with the possibility of generating and educating children.
Perhaps DeBernardo could familiarize himself with the Catechism, which provides an explanation of the Church’s teaching on marriage, or perhaps the sayings of Pope John Paul II on the theology of the body.
The bishops’ other arguments range from the disingenuous to the disquieting. They acknowledge that “over the ages” couples have “come together in a variety of ways, physical, financial and social,” but say “these various unions have always had other names because they are not marriage.” The implication is that Catholic bishops could live with the legal recognition of some other sort of union, but you will look in vain for an instance in which this has happened.
There is no such implication. The Bishops simply note the historical fact and pass no judgment on it. They note – correctly – that these relationships have never been called marriage.
The most disturbing of the bishops’ arguments is that the bill currently before the state’s House of Delegates impinges on the religious freedom of those who oppose same-sex marriage on theological grounds. Catholics manage to live untroubled lives in a society that permits its citizens to purchase birth control and to remarry without the benefit of an annulment. Our political leaders frequently pursue actions at odds with Catholic teaching without much protest from the hierarchy. Yet, we are to believe that making civil marriage available to same-sex couples violates the bishops’ freedom of religion. How?
The bishops don’t say, preferring to raise the specter of religious persecution without attempting to persuade us whether it should be taken seriously. They cast themselves, rather than those they discriminate against, as the victims in this struggle. But the bishops are not being persecuted; they are simply being disagreed with. And anyone who has ever been persecuted can tell the difference.
This is yet another strawman argument. This is what the Bishops actually said:
The measure would dismantle our state’s legal recognition of the true procreative nature of marriage, and contains inadequate conscience protections for religious institutions and individuals. As a result, the measure would jeopardize the religious freedom of all those who cannot in good conscience recognize marriages that conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs.
Emphasis mine. The Bishops feel – rightly or wrongly – that the wording of the bill does not offer adequate conscience protections, no doubt alluding to potential conflicts with Church hiring practices, health benefits, providing Church space for marriages, etc. Additionally, Bishop Wuerl already had to confront this issue barely more than a year ago in DC. Does DeBernardo seriously not remember what happened? I’ve already blogged about the Orwellian title of the bill, which masquerades as a protection of religious civil liberties. Obviously the Bishops feel that the protections offered are inadequate. Perhaps they are wrong about that, but their concerns are certainly of a different nature than what DeBernardo is referencing with rgards to birth control and other matters. I’d also suggest that the Catholic hierarchy does indeed protest when it comes to other actions political leaders take, but let’s not go too far afield.
Most Catholic voters in Maryland support marriage equality–not in spite of our faith, but because of it.
I haven’t seen polling on this, but to the degree that any Catholic support same-sex marriage (note the use of terminology here “marriage equality” – it’s always cute when dissidents talk about moral issues, using “choice” for abortion, etc.) because of their faith, then it just suggests that these Catholics are ignorant of what their faith teaches.
We do not seek to change the definition of traditional marriage
Actually, that’s precisely what you’re doing. Our society has always defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman. So when you permit marriage between two men or two women, that is a re-definition of traditional marriage. Pretty easy to understand if you ask me.
There’s some more boilerplate about how “faithful” Catholics all want to end this bigotry and whatnot. Not content, though, to simply turn 2,000 years of Church teaching on its head, DeBernardo goes there:
We Catholics are told repeatedly that the Church is not a democracy. But Maryland is. And in a democracy, the views of a church hierarchy that has been on the wrong side of issues ranging from slavery to the charging of interest on loans to the position of the sun in the solar system, are due no special deference.
Aside from the complete ignorance of this statement, I have to ask: then why be Catholic? If you’re just going to defy the Church, what’s the point? You don’t have to answer that. If DeBernardo ran a gay and lesbian ministry that called itself Episcopalian, then he wouldn’t be published by the Washington Post.
DeBernardo might counter that he’s simply disagreeing with Bishops, which is certainly permissible to the extent that they are not discussing Magisterial teaching. However, when it comes to gay marriage, the Bishops speak with the full authority of 2,000 years of Church doctrine behind them. These aren’t a bunch of Bishops offering their own selective interpretation of Church teaching.
But remember – these are just loyal, “Faithful” Catholics expressing their stern opposition to the very Church they supposedly hold so dear. I wouldn’t want to be espoused to DeBernardo if this is an indication of how he treats the term “faithful.”