Marriage: the core of every civilization

It was one of the more uncomfortable moments in my life.

Outside of St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Milwaukee, where I, as archbishop, was celebrating Sunday Mass on an otherwise magnificent Wisconsin autumn day, were a couple dozen very vocal protestors, representing some off-brand denomination, shouting vicious chants and holding hateful signs with words I thought had gone the way of burning-crosses and white hoods.

This frenzied group, taunting the people as they left Mass, were rabid in criticizing the Catholic Church, especially her bishops, for our teaching that homosexuals deserve dignity and respect.

To be more precise, this group was yelling at us because, they objected, the Catholic Church was so friendly, welcoming, and defensive of gay (they used other foul words) people.  They waved placards explicitly quoting and condemning #2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which affirms the dignity of those with same-sex attraction, and warns against any form of prejudice, hatred, or unjust discrimination against them, and insists that homosexual acts, not persons, are not in conformity with God’s design.

Never have I faced such a vitriolic crowd, blasting the Church for simply following the teaching of Jesus by loving and respecting people regardless of anything, including their sexual orientation.

When a reporter asked me for a comment, I replied, “They’re right:  we do love and respect homosexual people.  These protestors understand Church teaching very well.”

I’ve been recalling that episode often of late, because now I hear Catholics, — and, I am quick to add, Jews, other Christians, Muslims, and men and women of no faith at all — who have thoughtfully expressed grave disapproval of the current rush to redefine marriage, branded as bigots and bullies who hate gays.

Nonsense!  We are not anti anybody; we are pro-marriage.  The definition of marriage is a given:  it is a lifelong union of love and fidelity leading, please God, to children, between one man and one woman.

History, Natural Law, the Bible (if you’re so inclined), the religions of the world, human experience, and just plain gumption tell us this is so.  The definition of marriage is hardwired into our human reason.

To uphold that traditional definition, to strengthen it, and to defend it is not a posture of bigotry or bullying.  Nor is it a denial of the “right” of anybody.  As the philosophers remind us, in a civilized, moral society, we have the right to do what we ought, not to do whatever we want.  Not every desire is a right.

To tamper with that definition, or to engage in some Orwellian social engineering about the nature and purpose of marriage, is perilous to all of us.  If the definition of marriage is continually being altered, could it not in the future be morphed again to include multiple spouses or even family members?

Nor is it “imposing” some narrow outmoded religious conviction.  One might well ask just who is doing the “imposing” here:  those who simply defend what the human drama has accepted from the start, a belief embedded in nature and at the core of every civilization — the definition of marriage — or those who all of a sudden want to scrap it because “progressive, enlightened, tolerant culture” calls for it.

Sadly, as we see in countries where such a redefinition has occurred, “tolerance” is hardly the result, as those who hold to the given definition of marriage now become harassed and penalized.

If big, intrusive government can re-define the most basic, accepted, revealed truth that marriage simply means one man + one woman + (hopefully) children, in a loving family, then, I’m afraid, Orwell’s works will no longer be on the fiction shelf.  As someone commented to me the other day, “Wouldn’t it be better for our government to work on fixing schools than on redefining marriage?”

And resistance to this rush to radically redefining the ingrained meaning of marriage cannot be reduced to an act of prejudice against people with a same-sex attraction.

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94 Responses to “Marriage: the core of every civilization”

  1. AndyP/Doria2 says:

    I just hope these words reach the ears of our “catholic” governor who has made legitimizing so called “gay marriage” one of his top priorities. God help our children.

  2. Sarah K. says:

    Thank you Archbishop. Well said.
    Sarah.

  3. Gabriella says:

    Good article. Ironically I have been exploring this subject because it seems television is abandoning values for ‘cheap’ entertainment and many of the shows openly represent homosexuals, seemingly to encourage it at times.
    I watched a show recently with an openly ‘gay’ celebrity who celebrated her ‘marriage’, and although I find her entertaining I disagreed with her ‘status’ and I personally question her values. Therefore I have been reading up on this matter: what IS marriage??? …trying to learn more.
    Ironically the one thing I did learn previous to reading your article is that our government IS separate from and independent of religion and must define marriage in a manner consistent with the secular principles upon which the government and the laws are founded. … I say why change what has and has always been …
    let’s defend our secular principles!
    “Therefore what God has joined together, let no MAN put asunder [ apart ]” (Matthew 19:6b). <–NOT even the Government!!!

  4. John says:

    Excellent blog post. Whilst everything you say is true and correct, we live in a society where truth and correctness are inconveniences for some people’s lifestyles. And because these people have a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of government, they want to impose their beliefs on everyone else by the force of law or judicial fiat.

    In addition, they fundamentally fail to understand what a right is. Rights come from our Creator and are revealed in our nature. Thus, speech, thought, belief, property are all rights. What are not rights are products, services and institutions, the latter of which includes marriage.

  5. Ed Mechmann says:

    For more information about this issue, and some action steps to defend marriage, see the webpage of the Family Life/Respect Life Office: http://flrl.org/Defend_Marriage.htm.

  6. Dorothy says:

    God bless all of us, even those that carry so much hate in their hearts,I don’t understand how anyone who claims to Love our Lord can hate Anyone, Jesus calls us to Love the sinner, hate the sin, and to leave the Judgement to Him……so how can they hate anyone. Its a puzzle to me. Thank you archbishop for your words of wisdom. God be with you.

  7. stephanie says:

    I like your comment “…Not every desire is a right.” I want to add that our society is based on “If it feels good, do it and other people should accept it.” Doing what you want to do and disregarding others feeling is not being a christian. Where does morality and law come in if we do whatever we want? The world would be in chaos. If you look around it already is.

  8. Vincent says:

    “As the philosophers remind us, in a civilized, moral society, we have the right to do what we ought, not to do whatever we want. Not every desire is a right.”

    By the same argument, and with all due respect, it is not right (or moral, if you will) to deny one group the same rights afforded to the majority simply because you feel it is right or it is your desire. You may not do whatever you want. Not every desire is right.

  9. Greg V. says:

    Archbishop,

    Thank you for a great article.

    One difficulty that I have in conversing with people who support changing the definition of marriage is in illustrating reasons, aside from religion, against such a change.

    Your article alludes to history, Natural Law, religions of the world, and other grounds to support the traditional view of marriage.

    It would be a great help to me in these conversations if you would provide more elaboration of some of these areas. People have fallen into the trap of thinking that this is a civil rights issue equivalent to racial discrimination, and that we cannot discriminate against gay people seeking marriage in the same way that we cannot discriminate against black people trying to vote (or even marry white people, as was the case in some places in the South).

  10. Ron says:

    “Therefore what God has joined together, let no MAN put asunder [ apart ]” (Matthew 19:6b). <–NOT even the Government!!!

    Can someone explain why we have divorce so rampant if this is the case? or Why do 50% or so of mariages end in divorce?

  11. M Campbell says:

    Well, no. There’s this myth that keeps getting perpetuated that “marriage has always been the same,” but the truth of it is, marriage means something very different today than it meant in Biblical times. Marriage at one time meant one man, two women, or one man, a whole harem of women, or one man, one women, and several concubines. The concept of marriage in the middle ages was one of property. Arranged marriages were the rule. Marriage for love was usually not an option. And, sir, you know this. Nowhere in the bible does it say anything about what marriage is. We can infer from descriptions, but nowhere does it say: “This is what marriage is.” For that, we have to look to Catholic doctrine. Correct me if I’m wrong and point me to the precise bible verse.

    The definition of marriage is hardwired into our human reason? With all due respect, sir, this is just plain obtuse. It’s NOT hardwired, or we would all feel the same way and believe the same thing about the issue. That’s what “hardwired” means. And what is “plain gumption?” This doesn’t have a place in a serious conversation.

    And yes, again, with all due respect, Mr. Archbishop, sir, you are imposing your religion and morality on the rest of society when you try to deny marriage rights to all citizens. No one is forcing the Catholic Church to perform gay marriages. The Church can already deny marriage to anyone it wishes without fear of reprisal. Divorced people are not allowed to marry in the Catholic Church, for example, and to my knowledge has never been sued because of it. To deny gays and lesbians the right to formalize their relationships is to impose one religious point of view on a society that is meant to respect all faiths and ideologies. There are groups of Christians who welcome and gladly bless gay marriages. What about their faith? Why should your faith and brand of morality trump other faithful believing Christians?

    Like it or not, in a pluralistic society everyone’s rights must be respected. Your article, though I’m sure well-meaning, is misinformed and willfully ignorant of the reality of the situation. With all due respect.

    M Campbell

  12. Jon Mitchell says:

    Fortunately for our LGBT friends we live in a secular democracy so this argument is one that will eventually only be heard inside the walls of some (but not all) houses of worship. You cannot stem the tide and the future of marriage equality in our great state, and indeed thoroughout the United States, is a reality. Battles may be won and lost, but I’m here to tell you the war is over.

  13. Well said, Your Excellency!

    It’s funny how often people of our contemporary American zeitgeist fail to make proper distinctions. First, they fail to distinguish the act from the person–they cannot see that the Church upholds the dignity of persons with homosexual temptations, while still condemning homosexual activity. They further fail to distinguish between reasons against homosexual activity and bigotry against persons with homosexual temptations–they cannot see that logical arguments against homosexual activity are different from hatred of people who are have homosexual temptations. Finally, they fail to distinguish between rights, duties, and desires. I think your quote, “in a civilized, moral society, we have the right to do what we ought, not to do whatever we want. Not every desire is a right.” is worth a blog post of its own. Too many people think there are many “rights” which we really don’t have–and to which we are not entitled.

    Instead of really considering the logic behind BOTH loving the person AND hating the sinful activity, people on either extreme (both those protestors and those trying to redefine marriage) don’t listen, or don’t take time to consider what is really being said by the Church. Thank you for addressing this.

    Kissing the sacred ring,
    Casey Truelove

  14. Ray Whiting says:

    Only Catholics are self-subjected to adhere to the man-made doctrines of the Catholic Church. A civil society makes civil laws, not religious laws. The Catholic Church is welcome to teach, preach, believe, and practice as it may wish to, but it cannot impose Catholic doctrine into civil law. Further, the Catholic Church has no business trying to shape social standards, any more than any other religion who tries to do so. There is no genuinely “revealed doctrine”, just as there is no (and has never been any) historical singular definition of marriage. Marriage is defined by the society in which it exists, and society has changed it repeatedly over the years. Today we recognize marriage as a civil (not religious) contract between any two people who wish to commit to each other to the exclusion of all others. Expanding the understanding of what marriage is does not take away from those who wish to limit it; it merely allows others to have the equality guaranteed by our constitution to all persons who are legally married. Gender should not be a consideration for civil marriage.

  15. a.mcewen says:

    Actually I have to disagree. You are not redefining marriage by allowing gays and lesbians to be married. Both historically and Biblically, marriage has been an ever changing concept.

    But I think the Archbishop is sidestepping a little bit. Certainly the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman is not bigotry. However, the methods used to convince people of this have been most un-Christian. Even as we speak, there is a commercial running in New York which falsely implies that allowing marriage equality would subliminally “recruit children” in the so-called gay lifestyle. Hyperbole and getting people motivated through fear is immoral, but yet these are the methods that people are using, while their supporters, such as the Archbishop cover up these actions with talk of “loving the sinner but hating the sin.”

    You see that’s where the anger comes from – when people denigrate gays and lesbians while others in authority, such as the Archbishop, pretend that these things aren’t happening.

    Furthermore, while I respect the Archbishop’s opinion, this is not a Christian nation. Giving gay and lesbians the right to marry will not force him to accept homosexuality or wed gay and lesbian couples.

  16. William says:

    Marriage belongs to no one! Especially the Catholic church which is nothing more than a corporate institution seeking your funds. When I was a child I remember my parents struggling to pay their bills and the priest coming to visit. Naturally you would think he came to see how we were doing or if we needed assistance. He came to demand money , they had fallen behind on their offerings…I was an altar boy at the time and saw my mother crying as she handed over what my parents had to spare. We at one point had no hot water or electricity a couple of months later. I do not remember the church offering any assistance.

    I quickly realized the church cared little for anything but money.

    Spirituality is an individual’s connection to something greater than themselves not a religious institution.

    The Archbishop has every right to his opionion. Unfortunately for him Marriage is a state matter and religion should have nothing to do with it. If that were the case we’d still be stoning women to death for adultry.

    I have also been to Catholic masses where homosexuals are bashed and belittled in sermons so for the Archbishop to say the church loves and respects homosexuals is a lie and he should go to confession for that statement.

    There are hundreds of definitions of marriage and he chose ones to fit this blog post. Marriage was mainly created for man to control woman.

    The truth is nothing is going to happen if Gay people are allowed to marry. The Church wants you to think it will but there is no proof or logical explanation. It is just simply because thats the way it is…I guess

    The real truth is one man and one woman have already ruined the institution of marriage on their own over time. Men and women have had their hand in creating broken homes and the breakdown of the family. I do not see anything about that in this blog post.

    The Catholic Church are the original Orwellians

  17. Christopher Lamparello says:

    Archbishop Dolan, your right to your position on same-sex marriage is unquestionable, but I must respectfully disagree. Giving same-sex couples the right to sanctify their relationships does not weaken the institution of marriage; it does the very opposite; it promotes and strengthens the very bonds of family that you admirably seek to defend.

    The gift of love and acceptance should indeed be extended to those gay couples who are as committed to their relationships, their families and, yes, their faiths as any couple is. It is certainly a good thing that you believe that gay people should be treated with dignity, but your admirable wish can not and will not be completely achieved unless they and their families are fully embraced and yes, celebrated by all of us.

    We all know that compassion, love and integrity are often quite lacking in our world; sometimes, they seem all too rare. When two adults who love each other wish to marry, that is a good thing. It should be accepted; the law should acknowledge their commitment as it would do for any couple; their commitment is a wonderful gift from God.

  18. X Miranda says:

    You are entitled to your views; however, your views are not shared by the majority of people in the world. And if the catholic church prefers to continue age-old traditions, well, you are entitled. This does not mean that you have the right to impose your traditions on the rest of society. The world is not supposed to be catholic or christian. The world is what it is. The Enlightenment has brought us progress and better lives than we ever had during the Dark and the Middle Ages. And this has been in spite of the catholic church that tried to keep it from happening by all means possible. Yet it happened. The liberty, the freedom, and the enlightenment of all humanity is assured, no matter what people like you have to say about it, or how many pyres you are prepared to light up for all the heretics left in the world. The Enlightenment will continue to grow and your traditions will continue to die.

  19. Irene says:

    I must stand with the 74% of Catholics nationally who support gay marriage/civil unions. I think it is a civil rights issue and I have asked my elected officials to support its passage here in NY.

  20. Juan Pablo says:

    Archbishop, reading your blog I realize that you are in fact right on some aspects. Many Catholics do embrace all people, as Jesus would, and would leave judgment to his hands, and not ours. I agree with your point that it should not be in the hands of governments to redefine any institution either.

    But you see, same-sex couples are not looking to redefine a religious marriage. The holy sacrament of marriage is not something they are really looking for.

    These are people who’s course in life was dramatically altered because of their sexual orientation, who have lived through many years of turbulent emotions and are finally able to live a peaceful life, (in part thanks to the increasing acceptance and embrace that institutions such as yours have for homosexuals), and look to live full lives in committed relationships, however you want to call them. So far, this all seems reasonable to me, and they have yet to ask to participate in a holy sacrament, or redefine your institution.

    This fixation on your part that this is redefining your institution is a little misleading and confusing. No one has knocked on your door asking to change the bible. And you are not a legislator that has specific duties to govern. Same sex couples simply are unable to find a legal way to commit to each other and safeguard their relationships, and yes, their families. They are not asking for you to bless them. In fact, they would probably be fine if you condemned their behavior – its not the first time they’ve dealt with it.

    Your fixation with the traditional definition of marriage is even more misleading – the definition and the core concepts of marriage over the ages has changed so dramatically – just think of how many more people are actually committing to their soul mates and to people only after thorough dialogue and reflection compared to just 50 or 100 years ago. The utility and the reason for marriage, not to mention what it looks like, makes it a substantially different institution today. And I have not even mentioned polygamy.

    And so ultimately I disagree with you – it’s impossible to impose anything on anyone, when the institution each party discusses is a different one. Regardless of how the Catholic church ends up describing the legal and equal union between two individuals (homosexual or heterosexual), it is a legal institution that is fair and required for us to become a stronger society and a more equal nation, for many reasons I can argue should you want to. More importantly, just as governments cannot and should not redefine your institutions, you should reflect on whether the catholic church has a role in redefining the people’s institution, and civil rights.

    Where I end up, is that yes – your efforts should not be reduced to an act of prejudice against the people with a same sex attraction – as I take your statements of homosexuals at face value. They instead are the reflection that there is a real struggle in this nation to separate church and state, and to truly understand the societal benefits of providing all people with the right to “marry”. And when I say “marry”, I don’t mean your sacrament.

  21. Philip says:

    The Archbishop’s entire argument pivots on an incorrect assumption of the definition of marriage and this article is riddled with subtly divisive, loaded language. There is a disgusting level of rhetoric and logical fallacy. On the human timescale marriage has widely varied in area, era and culture. The majority of human cultures have had vastly different social structure and the Archbishop is certainly not advocating to continue the traditions of fraternal polyandry. Even if marriage is the titular “core of every civilization” it is absolutely false to tout this artificial definition as the definition.
    I respect what the Archbishop and his congregation holds sacrosanct. There are legal rights and responsibilities of marriage and federal and state laws concerning marriage. They should be applied equally to all American citizens in accordance with the same group of Supreme laws that provides most of us with our freedoms.

  22. Anne Rice says:

    I support Same Sex Marriage and equal rights for gays. Marriage has evolved over the centuries in many ways. Most recently it was a bond between a fully enfranchised male citizen and a woman who who did not have equal rights. But that is gone now. And no real “traditional marriage” in which women were chattels exists. There is no reason that gays cannot enter into valid civil marriages. I frankly wish the Roman Catholic Church would stop trying to interfere with the rights of gay Americans, and leave them alone. After all the RCC doesn’t recognize civil or secular marriage period; so why interfere with the rights of gay to contract civil marriages? Teach what you want in your church, of course. You want to call it matrimony, fine. But don’t try to dictate to Americans what they believe or do about marriage.

  23. Julian says:

    ‘If the definition of marriage is continually being altered, could it not in the future be morphed again to include multiple spouses or even family members?’

    I thought perhaps you’d be interested in realizing with the above statement, that you’re using an informal fallacy

    ‘The strength of such an argument depends on the warrant, i.e. whether or not one can demonstrate a process which leads to the significant effect. The fallacious sense of “slippery slope” is often used synonymously with continuum fallacy, in that it ignores the possibility of middle ground and assumes a discrete transition from category A to category B. Modern usage avoids the fallacy by acknowledging the possibility of this middle ground.’
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_slope

    Best regards.

    —Julian

  24. KV says:

    The United States government is not run by History, Natural Law, or the Bible – it’s run by the will of the people. I’m quite comfortable letting American citizens decide this issue, and if opinions are changing, then United States law should reflect that. Call it “progressive, enlightened, tolerant” if you will, but it’s simply the way things work in the United States.

    As for you hearing Catholics being branded as bigots and bullies, Archbishop, maybe this is God giving you a glimpse of what it’s like to be unfairly judged by others based on something unshakeable. Like your faith. Or who you happen to love.

    I’ll never understand why gay marriage matters so much to people who aren’t gay. I ask you, if God is good enough to give me someone to love for the rest of my life, how would our marriage diminish your life in any way?

    My sentiment is not unlike the one someone commented to you the other day: Don’t you have anything else to worry about? Your recent media appearances would have me believe you do.

  25. Jennifer Tritle says:

    Your Excellency,
    Thank you for publicly speaking out on this issue. The world looks to the Church for Truth and guidance. I appreciate very much when our bishops and archbishops represent us, the Faithful, so well. I am saddened that you experienced as much aggression as you did after that Mass. Thank you for defending marriage.

    My husband and I converted to Catholicism seven years ago from Reformed Presbyterianism with our children. Again, thank you for this post.

  26. Mark says:

    Not every desire is a right, Archbishop Dolan? You are correct on one point – wanting to marry the person you love IS a desire, no doubt. But right now, straight couples who fulfill their desire to marry also earn the “right” of tax benefits and other contracted protections. By extension, loving same-sex couples are therefore taxed at a higher rate because they can’t legally marry. They are also denied the right to other protections and benefits. So don’t tell us that not every desire is a right. No one has the “right” to treat different classes of citizens differently.

    So here’s the deal: let’s not legalize marriage equality. Instead, all married couples should immediately lose their extra tax, social security, death and spousal benefits. After all, marriage is not a right, right? I know, I know, you’re going to say that those marital benefits help promote families and maintain a stable society. Yeh, we have heard that before. Then what about couples who don’t or can’t procreate – should they be able to hold on to their marital benefits?

    By the way, up until 150 years ago, slavery was considered embeded in nature and at the core of civilization. Should there have been efforts to redefine what it means to be free? To hear you speak, the answer is no. As for morphing into marriage of family members – or even animals as some have suggested – that assertion is just plain insulting to gay men and women who truly love their partner. Not like father and son or mother and daughter, but as a loving couple in every sense that couples who are heterosexual love one another.

    Several years ago I abandoned the Catholic Church for good, and I have never regretted the decision. Thank you for reminding me again why I left.

  27. Casandra says:

    I’m happy to see this argument being made in an intelligent and well thought out way. Most of my friends are extremely liberal and I find myself on the outskirts because I tend to lean more towards the conservative. If I posted this blog entry on Facebook I would be flamed like the Satan himself. Sad state of affairs we find ourselves in.

  28. Thomas says:

    Archbishop Dolan,

    I want to thank you for calling attention to #2358 of the Catechism, and reminding Catholics and other members of the American community that tolerance is a Catholic value. As a member of the Catholic Church and of the Diocese of Brookyln, I am proud that my church is a source of strength for all. This is demonstrated if anything, by the latest data that show that Catholics are among the most supportive groups of individuals when it comes to legalization of gay marriage. In fact, over half of Catholics support gay marriage.

    This dissonance between the Church’s teachings (and yours) and those of us in the pews is the result of I believe a closeness that goes beyond tolerance. To the majority of Americans even, it is hardwired in our reason that gay marriage is something that should be legal. History has told us that marriage has been expanding to include rational, consenting adults, so long as health is at risk. And natural law shows us that companionship between homosexuals can have health benefits like reducing HIV infection and even child rearing benefits (considering when heterosexual marriage fail to both be sustained with a child, or to support a child). Our lives have told us that our gay friends are spiritual, that our gay children are beautiful, and that gay relationships are as powerful and meaningful as any other.

    Your main objection then, about redefining marriage, is empirically denied, as marriage has been redefined hundreds of times, and the majority now think that gay marriage should be included. The other question then, is whether or not its “Orwellian”

    Well, its not Orwellian if a majority of New Yorkers are in favor of it, which by the latest measurements, they are. Then its democratic. But more importantly, was it Orwellian to legalize interracial marriage when a majority opposed it? Perhaps then people said so, but protecting the rights of a minority often involves going opinion the morals of the majority.

    How could one justify that? The answer is based on the foundations of government, maximizing freedom. Does allowing a gay couple to sign a legal contract change the ceremony that goes on during mass between a man and a woman? if it does, then I question whether or not the ceremony was all that sacred and the extent to which it was sanctioned by God.

    I want to end by addressing the idea that those who are against gay marriage are labeled as “bigots” and are bullied as a result. I do not think that being against gay marriage is itself a bad thing. Nor do I think someone against gay marriage should ever be harassed. That said, i don’t think that one can truly say that in nations like Canada or in states like Massachusetts, those against gay marriage must face an agonizing discrimination because of their large government.

    Moreover, this pales in comparison to the discrimination against gay people. As long as the government denies basic rights, like filing for joint taxes, sharing healthcare, or visiting a sick loved one in the hospital, to gay couples, it legitimizes discrimination. It tells children that its okay to use the terms “thats gay” and other sexuality-based slurs that are widely more accepted than ethnic ones. Hundreds of gay children kill themselves each year because of this systematic bullying that occurs because of a debate that goes on over the worth of their relationships. This is no way the intent of the catholic church, and I know that, but it is the impact.

    Archbishop, the Church has every right to protect its sacraments and teachings as it sees fit. However, it should not interfere with a legislative process governing protections of a legal relationship. And if anything, the Church should support efforts to reduce stigma placed on a group of loving individuals who want to commit to each other. I fully believe that where there is love, there is God. If two people love each other, then God is with them.

    Thank You,

    Thomas, 18

  29. Nicholas Coppola says:

    I would also like to point out to the Archbishop 1935 in the Catechism:
    The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that
    flow from it:
    Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights
    on the ground of sex,race,color,social conditions,language, or religion
    must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.

    Archbishop, I am a Gay Catholic. I am not asking to get married in the church. I want the same rights afforded to everyone else. At the same time the church should not work at or spend money which could be used to feed the hungry, to fight to take away a RIGHT from Gay people.
    Statistics are against your opinion on same sex marriage. Even in the Catholic Church, some numbers show over 50 percent in favor of same sex marriage. That percentage increases to over 70 percent when it comes to giving same sex couples the same rights as other couples.
    People are leaving the Church in huge numbers. You need to ask why. The Church, at one point in time accepted slavery. Times change. Society changes as we are educated.
    Just ask: What would Jesus Do?

  30. Carlos Rivera says:

    Recently there was a “Kill the Gays” bill presented in the Ugandan Parliament. The bill provides for the death penalty for any person who is gay. People who help gay people can get hard labor. My church, the RCC, is silent. When teenagers are beaten to death or commit suicide because they are gay, my church is silent. But when I want to get married, I hear my church. It tells me I am an abomination. This is the church of my family since the Conquest of the Americas in 1521. I am Catholic and I am gay. And one day I am going to get married in the Catholic Church.

  31. Lesley says:

    And yet there is precedence for multiple wives in the Bible. What to do?! Such contradictions that surround us. Let love win. Forever and always. Let no one put THAT asunder.

  32. Debbie Duncan says:

    To love and affirm the dignity of all people – male & female; young & old; gay & straight; etc. etc. – is a tenant of most faiths on the earth. Some practitioners focus on excluding groups of people, but, to my mind, this is a perversion of the faith, be it Christian, Hindu, Jewish, etc. I sometimes say that my Bible is defective – it is missing the page where Jesus tells us whom to hate. I applaud the Catholic Church, as well as the multitude of other Christian denominations, Judaic, Buddhist, Neo-Pagan, Muslim, and many other faith traditions that uphold the values of love and respect for all humanity.

    It has become apparent to me, however, that the controversy over same-sex marriage is in held up to oppose “gay” marriage, when, in fact, it is really about gender – and gender alone. A gay man and a lesbian can get a marriage license and be legally and religiously married – no problem! There is no test for sexual orientation. A man and a woman can marry with every intention of NOT procreating, but living in a loving, committed relationship. Marriages of older people or those with genetic disorders are welcomed, in full knowledge that procreation will be avoided. Actually, there is even no requirement that a marriage be a sexual relationship. We apply no “test” for the sexual/procreative component of marriage.

    What we are saying is that any relationship that appears NOT be a heterosexual, committed relationship, can only exist outside the sanction of law and blessing of your faith. Therefore, by definition, it is outside the law & outside of faith boundaries, and thereby treated as “illicit” or “unacceptable”.

    The definition of “one man, one woman” is a clearly a religious definition that has been assimilated into civil society. Clergy and religious leaders enjoy the privilege of applying the requirements of their faith tradition to permit and prohibit marriages based on many circumstances and criteria. For the most part, I respect that authority; a religious community can determine which people can belong to it.

    It has been my contention for some time that “marriage” should be recognized as a religious covenant. Only those unions sanctioned by a religious tradition should be termed “marriages”. All commitments legalized by civil authority would be “civil unions” (or whatever “term -du-jour” one prefers). Thus, the definition would be consistently applied, without regard to the gender, sexual orientation, age or other characteristic of the participants. My first marriage, 25 years and raising a family together, was in fact a “civil union”. My current marriage, intentionally childless, is a religiously sanctioned “marriage” by this definition.

    Finally, I would violate my own moral/religious values if I did not address the presumption that children are better off raised by straight parents. This assumption is belied by the fact that there is so much abuse, neglect and trauma inflicted in families lead by heterosexual couples. It has been scientifically established for decades, that the VAST majority of sexual abuse of childen is perpetrated by heterosexual men. Many of these offenders are relatives of these children. Preventing same-sex couples from parenting under the guise of protecting children from perversion is a symptom of our societal denial of the causes of abuse. If we truly cared about protecting our children from sexual abuse, lesbian couples woud be the highest ideal!

  33. Alex says:

    The definition of marriage HAS evolved and changed over the centuries. In this country little girls are no longer given to much older men against their will to cement political alliances or garner monetary wealth any longer. And yet such unions were solemnized by the Catholic Church who actually performed these barbaric and ugly “marriages” for centuries. Thank God that version of marriage has changed and is no longer with us! Of course, also for centuries, marriage existed OUTSIDE the purview and control of the Church. People simply declared they were married before witnesses and guess what? They WERE married! Even when they THEN went to a local church for the blessing of a priest upon their union the fact of the marriage itself HAD ALREADY TAKEN PLACE. So the Church (ANY church) has no legal position to argue from when it comes to defining marriage. the Church may choose NOT to perform marriage ceremonies for people of whom it does not approve and that is as it should be. But it has NO business meddling in the legal definition of marriage.

  34. Carlos says:

    You are just one voice in a vast church of people who believe in true equality and social justice. I do not agree with you and your hate speech is worrisome for someone who is in a position of some leadership. May God bless your heart and your mind.

  35. Scott Connuck says:

    What you consider “traditional” marriage, e.g. between one man and one woman, is not hot-wired into anything, even the bible. If you read the bible, you will discover that King David HAD MANY WIVES! Certain Mormon groups, likewise present an entirely different concept of marriage as being “between one man and one woman.” The Muslim faith grants each husband up to four wives, and in Sephardic tradition, Jews (up until 500 years ago, were also granted more than one wife.) Now, I do not advocate poligamy, as I personally find the practice reprehensible. I DO feel that a just and fair society should grant marriage rights to heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. It is what I believe God would want, as he loves gays no less than any of His other children.

  36. rick solsten says:

    Historically speaking, marriage is a civil contract and not a religiojus one. Rev. Thomas Richstatter, of AmericanCatholic.org in a recent article states, “It was not until the 12th century that marriage took its place among the other ritual actions which we now name the seven sacraments. Throughout the Middle Ages there was no singular wedding rite for Christians. The Catholic wedding ceremony that you might witness today dates in large part from about the 16th century.” So who I ask you has tampered with the definition of marriage? Gay people are not asking for the pproval of sacramental blessing on their unions. They are asking for civil rights conferred on hererosexuals counterparts by the state and federal government.

  37. Glenn S says:

    Allowing two individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, to enter into a government legal contract that gives each certain obligations, rights, and duties is freedom. Creating laws that prevent them from doing this is denial of freedom. This does not mean that any religion need condone, approve of, or participate in such a contract. Religion has the freedom to endorse and condemn anything it wants. Creating laws that reflect religious endorsements and condemnations is wrong; today’s religious majority may be tomorrows religious minority. As people of religion work to create laws that dictate how people shall and shall not live, I endorse working just as hard to prevent such laws. I do not endorse caustic words or actions. Live, and let live. In the name of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. When legal rights are denied, such as to own property, protect it, or act on the behalf of another with regard to something like health care, this is a denial of freedom. Thus some method, call it what you may, is necessary for two people, regardless of them being male or female. People with religious convictions must think intensely about the importance of separation of church and state.

  38. Gene Sullivan says:

    Well said Archbishop. The current administration with its repeal of “don’t ask – don’t tell” has us on a slippery slope. Just look at the recently (temporarily) retracted Navy order for for chaplins to perform same sex marriages. One has to wonder what Washington has next in store for us. I believe we need to be proactive in electing leaders who wil get us (the US) back on track to decency.

  39. Anthony says:

    Its unfortunate that the Catholic church continues to focus so supremely on useless dogma at the expense of human dignity and doing what is best for families and children. Continuing to propagate the belief that same-sex marriage is harmful to the concept of families and marriage flies in the face of years of research and study that prove children from same-sex parents are well-adjusted, successful and every bit like you and me. If the Bishop merely said that this is “our belief” about marriage and left it at that, that would be one thing. But instead he is part of a false information campaign that ignores the reality all around him. Why cite Orwell?

  40. Jack Rayne says:

    I was raised Roman Catholic, and this very issue has driven me away from the church and has deeply shaken my faith. Even now, twenty years later, your teachings haunt me and I feel condemned to live a spouseless life of abstinence. I could marry a woman, but it would be a false mockery of a marriage and my oaths would be a false insult to her and to God. And yet, I am forbidden to marry someone with whom I could honestly make the marriage vows and remain faithful to for the remainder of my life. I see nothing Orwellian about allowing a paltry 3% of the population to be included in the umbrella of matrimony, and I pray that the church will some day agree. I despair that I will live to see that day and my heart goes out to those, who like me, who are compelled to die unwed, unloved and alone, due to your intolerance.

  41. Ruth Ann says:

    This was so well stated and makes complete sense to me. Please keep these sorts of essays coming. I’d like to be able to explain our position to others, but I need to be taught like this.

  42. Danyah says:

    “The definition of marriage is hardwired into our human reason.”

    This is almost as absurd as calling marriage equality Orwellian. Marriage is a social construct, for God’s sake. It’s as hardwired as going to the movies is.

    By the way…if the definition of marriage is so hardwired, why do different countries and cultures have different definitions of marriage, hmm? In Saudi Arabia, for instance, a man can have multiple wives at the same time.

  43. Michael Rutledge says:

    I respect that you have the right to believe and live as you see fit, including your religious beliefs. I feel you should accord me the same respect to me. That is the essence of Christ’s Golden Rule.

    Sadly, your actions and the actions of your church hierarchy do not live up to your claims, in my own experience. While you claim to love gay people, your actions and the actions of your church’s hierarchy are to fight ANY gay rights, not just marriage. That is not loving your neighbor. That is despising your neighbor in action and in deed.

    As for marriage, I think you are disingenuous in conflating religious marriage with legal marriage by the state. In the same way that state law allows divorce while your religious laws do not, the state should not be bound to your particular beliefs regarding marriage. We have separation of church and state because the Founding Fathers specifically wanted to prevent having official religion as was the case in Europe. It was a very specific rejection of official religion.

    I am not Catholic. I was raised in a fundamentalist church, which I left after recognizing that the churches were leaving God behind and running after money and political power. I gave up being part of organized religion entirely after all the lies and hateful things that have been done to me and others in Christ’s name by “Christians” (including, specifically, your church’s actions). It is easier to walk alone with God than to deal with churches that so clearly no longer have the Holy Spirit in them.

    I choose to live without organized religion. In our great nation, there should be room for both of us to live and get along. So why then, should I or anyone else tolerate the insistence that our nation live by your religion’s rules and ideas? What happens when Muslims outnumber Christians in the U.S. Should we change to Muslim religious laws? It is an all or nothing proposition. The middle ground leads us down a slippery slope to theocracy.

    That is not American. America always stood for religious freedom or even freedom FROM religion in our government and civic life. I’m fine with the Catholic Church not allowing gay marriage within its religion. Trust me, with the damage you and others like you have done to the LGBT community, you have turned whole generations of LGBT people away from God permanently, ruining your chief mission from Christ. We don’t want to get married in churches. When a church has acted as official persecutor, no one wants its blessing.

    I don’t care whether you hate me or not. That is between you and God. All I care about is that you aren’t loving me as you were instructed. I know you say you do, but I can tell by your actions and those within your hierarchy that you, in fact, do not practice what you preach.

    God gave us free will for a reason. It was His gift to us. Even in sin, if homosexuality is a sin (God has told me otherwise than your teachings), God wants what is best for us, including legal protections to allow us to live as anyone else does.

    To me, when you try so hard to thwart what you think is a “lifestyle” choice, you do what He purposely does not. In doing so, you slap the face of God and tell him that free will is not allowed and that you know better than Him. In fact, you replace God with yourself, breaking the First Commandment.

    By all means, do as you believe your religion requires WITHIN your religion. But your religious rights end at the end of your nose. Just as mine do. Forcing everyone to live by your rules only breeds contempt for you and your religion, then by proxy, God. You cannot blame anyone for reacting to your provocation.

    I’ll pray for you, as I’m sure you’ll pray for me. There is a path of love for both of us to walk together, even though we disagree, but you haven’t found it yet. I think I’m getting there, but I’m not quite there yet, either. What I do know is that this path you are on is not God’s intended path for either of us.

  44. Christian Cooper says:

    If you are opposed to same-sex marriage, don’t marry someone of the same sex. If your church is opposed to same-sex marriage, then it should not perform them. None of that changes when same-sex marriage becomes legal in New York. So claims that lesbians and gays are seeking to “impose” anything on anyone are patently false.

    Imagine if a group tried to make the law so that a Catholic couldn’t marry another Catholic. To declare Catholic marriages null and void…and offered no other reason than “common sense,” “the word of God,” “natural law,” and “gumption.” (This is not so far-fetched; Catholicism in this country has been subjected to virulent bigotry.) Catholics would be justifiably outraged. Why, then, should we lesbians and gay men feel any differently than you?

    The great irony is that conservatives have long decried the gay community for supposedly seeking “special rights.” Now, as the Catholic church fights to maintain a privileged position for the marriage of two people of opposite genders, we see who the people seeking special rights really are.

  45. Robert says:

    My husband and I were married (in a legally unrecognized, religious ceremony) in 1996. In 2008, we had another wedding, also a religious ceremony, but this time legally recognized. Our two sons (adopted) were present, and Dinzel, our older son, who was eleven at the time, was a bit confused. “Aren’t you ALREADY married?’ he asked.

    We fully expect to be together as long as we both shall live.

  46. Laura Bettencourt says:

    “The definition of marriage is a given: it is a lifelong union of love and fidelity leading, please God, to children, between one man and one woman.”

    So: does that mean as a woman past child-bearing age, I don’t need to bother getting married since it won’t lead to children????

    Or as a woman who can’t have children??

    I call you on your definition. It does not hold. I think the Church has no right to oppose civil marriage between ANYONE who wants to get married. Stop your hateful rhetoric. I have not attended mass since hearing this message IN MASS. Keep these ridiculous political statements out of our mass. This kind of catholic leadership I can do without.

  47. Jane says:

    The Catholic Church should and does have every right to perform within their churches only those marriages that conform to their beliefs. If the Catholic Church does not want to marry gays, or divorced people, or whoever doesn’t fit their standards, that is fine.

    However, the Catholic Church should have absolutely no say over civil marriage.
    If atheists are allowed to have civil marriages, then gays and lesbians should also have that right. They should also be allowed religious marriage, if they so desire, in a church that supports marriage equality, of which there are several.

    Religious beliefs should never be used to deny anyone their civil rights.

    Live your life according to your moral standards and your interpretation of the Bible. That is your right. Stop trying to force others to do the same.

    To my mind, forcing someone else to conform to your religious beliefs is far more immoral than two men or two women who love each other making a commitment to each other.

  48. Kate says:

    I thought the core of civilization would be LOVE, considering it is indeed the basic yet most important teaching of Christ.
    I find it very sad that you would be so inclined to be so closed minded, closed hearted and judgmental. You can be sure that this sort of exclusion of humanity is a good reason why the Catholic Church is crumbling. You should also know that the continual creation of “us versus them” is a prime feeder of war, violence and despicable acts around the globe.
    If you would only put so much attention on working with global leaders to end war I might think you are honestly attempting to imitate Christ. In this case no. This is certainly not a conversation I could see Jesus having.
    Cast your stones, Sir, and continue to see an end in parishioners, of which I am one. A heterosexual, married ex-Catholic.

  49. John Patrick says:

    Archbishop,

    I might add that you are following the traditions of your predecessors in opposing every single right that should belong to gay citizens as citizens of this country while saying that you “love and respect” us. Your predecessors and John Paul II and Benedict have opposed laws protecting our access to housing, public accommodations and the protection from job discrimination. You have opposed the rights of foreign partners of gay people to remain in this country without being thrown out, the rights of gay people to adopt, the rights of gay people to have legal recognition for their relationships.

    Benedict has denied that our relationships can be loving and he has called our relationships a threat to society. He has declared that gay couples do violence to the children they raise.

    You have opposed protection for our relationships and our families. You continue to declare that you are pro marriage when you attempt to impose your religious beliefs on the whole of society and to prevent or dissolve those legal marriages into which we have entered.

    You continue to overlook the violence that we often have to face and you overlook the suicides too many of our youths attempt or commit due to the negative things you say. You basically say that we are not worthy of full citizenship and full rights because you believe that our love is immoral based on some old biblical references (while conveniently overlooking the fact that your predecessors for centuries justified slavery on some old biblical passages).

    You neither love nor respect us when you oppose any legal recognition of any of our rights and of our loving relationships. Thank God that we are a society that is not ultimately a theocracy. God save us from the control of the priests and ayatollahs.

    We are not asking for you to bless our relationships in church any more than we are asking or demanding that you bless the relationships of atheists or Jews or thrice married and divorced persons in church. We just want you to get out of our way and stop putting much more money and energy and enthusiasm into opposing our rights than you do into the effort to provide health care for all and jobs for the jobless – and more effort and energy than you do in addressing the scandal of the oppression of the poor by the rich in our society.

    It is time for you to stop talking and start listening to us and our children. It is time for you to stop preaching to us about how much you love and respect us while you turn a deaf ear to our stories and try to drown out the reality of our lives with lies in unison with the National Organization of Marriage.

    How long will this post remain on your blog before you delete it as though it never existed, the same way you attempt to delete the rights and lives and stories of those of us who are gay as though we never existed – the same way you ignore the cries of those who are beaten and killed and those who commit suicide because of the words you preach about us from the pulpit and in the lying ads for which you pay?

    You are on the wrong side of history. The tide is turning and ultimately our relationships will be recognized and our right to marry will be guaranteed in law. You are on the wrong side of history because young people see through your arguments. You are on the wrong side of history because love is more powerful than hate in the end. And if you truly believe in a God of love, you or your successors will come to realize that contrary to what your pope says, our love is a blessing of the creator who made us who we are and who gave us the gift of love.

  50. Jim says:

    How can you say that you love and respect homosexuals when your position is to deny them the opportunity to live in a lifelong legal commitment of love and fidelity to the person they love?

    I don’t believe that anyone expects the Catholic Church to bestow the Sacrament of Marriage on gays and lesbians, but there is such a thing as civil marriage and there are legal and communal benefits that come with it, not the least of which is the love and support that comes with making a legal commitment to another in front of one’s community of friends and family. For you to wage a campaign to deny that opportunity – for even a legal civil contract – to the people you claim the Church loves and respects is, at best illogical, at worst hypocritical.

    My grandmother always said “Actions speak louder than words.” She was right.