Some Afterthoughts

Almost two weeks ago — hauntingly, on the Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist, whom King Herod would behead because the saint dared to defend the God-given truth about marriage — our state sadly attempted a re-definition of marriage.  Is there anything left to say?


For one, thanks to those courageous millions who valiantly fought this unfortunate project of social engineering.  You can hold your heads high.  Sanely, civilly, thoughtfully, vigorously . . . you did not cave-in.  The forces on the other side were a Goliath indeed — with tons of money, “glitterati” from entertainment circles, political powerbrokers, and the media — but you proved a worthy David.

You will understand my special word of gratitude to people of faith — evangelicals, Mennonites, Jews, Moslem, Catholics, Amish, and so many more, led often by African-American and Latino believers — who simply believe that marriage is a given, at the very foundation of civilization, which the state has the duty to defend and protect, not to mutate.

My brother bishops of New York were particularly prophetic.  When I arrived here a little over two-years ago, they told me realistically that we faced a looming battle over the defense of marriage.  They advised me that the odds were not in our favor, and that some experts were even suggesting that we give-in and not put up a fight.

But they were also resolute in their conviction that such would have been a dereliction of duty.  As Blessed John Paul II often commented, the Church is “counter-cultural,” like Jesus, often at odds with what passes as chic, enlightened, and progressive.  In their writings, sermons, personal lobbying, interviews, and our common statements — backed up by indefatigable efforts by our New York State Catholic Conference, bolstered by ecumenical and inter-religious cooperation, and, especially, supported by countless thousands of our faithful Catholic people (one legislator told me he received 47,000 e-mails against the measure from the Catholic Advocacy Network) — the bishops were on the frontiers.  We have been bloodied, and bruised, and, yes, for the moment, we have been defeated.  But, we’re used to that.  So was the Founder of our Church.

Two, the Church neither has nor wants political “clout.”   As Cardinal John O’Connor commented, “The only ‘clout’ the Church really has is God’s Truth, the assurance of His grace, and the simple yet sincere conviction of our people.”  Blessed John Paul II again reminds us that “The Church never imposes, she only proposes.”  And as our current Holy Father has often observed, all the Church wants is its freedom to serve humanity by bringing the light of the gospel to the world.

But, three, we do worry indeed about this freedom of religion.  Editorials already call for the removal of guarantees of religious liberty, with crusaders calling for people of faith to be coerced to acceptance of this redefinition.  If the experience of those few other states and countries where this is already law is any indication, the churches, and believers, will soon be harassed, threatened, and hauled into court for their conviction that marriage is between one man, one woman, forever, bringing children into the world.

Four, the real forces of “intolerance” were unmasked here.  The caricature, of course, is that those defending traditional marriage were the right-wing bigots and bullies.  However, as one out-of-state journalist, who was following the debate closely, commented to me, “From my read of the columns, blogs, and rhetoric, it’s not your side that’s lobbing the grenades.”  A Catholic who wrote to criticize me for my defense of marriage still conceded, “But I must confess that I am sickened by the amount of anti-Catholic venom that has surfaced in this debate.”  As one respected columnist has observed, the problem is not homophobia but theophobia — a hatred by some of God, faith, religion, and the Church.

Five, though, if we did hurt anybody in our defense of marriage, I apologize. We tried our best to insist from the start that our goal was pro-marriage, never anti-gay.  But, I’m afraid some within the gay community were offended. As I replied recently to a reporter who asked if I had any message to the gay community, “Yes:  I love you.  Each morning I pray with and for you and your true happiness and well-being.  I am honored that so many of you are at home within our Catholic family, where, like the rest of us, we try, with the help of God’s grace and mercy, to conform our lives to Jesus and His message.  If I have offended any of you in my strenuous defense of marriage, I apologize, and assure you it was unintentional.

Point six, the Church has always stood-up for marriage — one man and one woman, united in lifelong and faithful love, leading to new life in children – whenever and wherever it was in danger.  Veterans my age and over can remember sixty years ago when we fought widespread, no-fault divorce, convinced it would lead to a cheapening of the marriage bond and harm our kids (as, of course, scholarly studies now report has, indeed, happened).  Recall how the Church resisted the “contraceptive mentality,” fearing it would rupture the sacred bond between love and the procreation of children.  Then, remember how the Church sounded the alarm over rising rates of promiscuity, adultery, pre-marital sex, and cohabitation prior to or instead of marriage.  And now we ring the steeple bell again at this latest dilution of the authentic understanding of marriage, worried that the next step will be another redefinition to justify multiple partners and infidelity.  If you think I’m exaggerating, within days of the passage of this bill, one major newspaper ran a flattering profile of a proponent of what was called “nonmonogamy.” Apparently, “nonmonogamy” is the idea that society is unrealistic to think that one man and one woman should remain faithful in marriage, and that openness to some infidelity should be the norm!

Let me say it again. None of this is anti-anybody, but simply pro marriage.

(By the way, as Professor Robert George at Princeton University eloquently points out, in warning about promiscuity, divorce, cohabitation instead of marriage, adultery, and “same-sex marriage,” the Church is hardly some shrill, bitter, reactionary, naysaying prude, but actually prophetically right-on-target.  Recent studies by people such as Myron Magnet and Kay Hymowitz show that the weakening of stable marriage and families is the cause of most social and cultural woes, especially burdensome on poor women and children.)

Finally, last point, for us in the Church, not much changes.  We continue to hold fast to the God-given definition of marriage, and acknowledge that no unfortunate legislative attempt can alter reality and morality.  Yes, we have a big catechetical challenge, in that we have to admit that quite a few people no longer hold to this timeless moral truth.  (Although I still believe most people do; thus the fear of a referendum on the issue by those who still claim this is a “grassroots movement” sweeping the nation.)  Yes, we do have our work cut out for us, as even some Catholics, and, scandalously, even political leaders who claim to be Catholic, tell us the Church is “out of it,” and has no claim on truth.

So, we try our best to witness to the truth, encouraging our married couples and their kids to be loving, radiant, “lights to the world.”  We acknowledge that, as St. Augustine taught, if something is wrong, even if everybody else is doing it, it’s still wrong; and, if something is right, even if nobody else is doing it anymore, it’s still right.  Like St. Thomas More, we’re willing to take the heat and even lose our head from following a conscience properly formed by God’s revelation and the teaching of His Church, even if it is politically incorrect, and clashes with the King’s demands to re-define marriage.

176 Responses to “Some Afterthoughts”

  1. Laura says:

    From today’s New York Times:
    Irish Report Finds Abuse Persisting in Catholic Church


    The church has lost all moral authority. Its bigotry knows no bounds. I am ashamed to have been born into this church, but grateful to be able to leave it with my faith in Christ intact.

  2. Renee says:

    Archbishop Dolan:

    Your blog posted was incredibly self-absorbed and defensive. Despite all sorts of attempts to “blow smoke” (as we say here on the East Coast), none of your arguments addressed the simple question: why do non-Catholics have to abide by the Catholic definition of marriage? I am not a Catholic; my religion allows me to marry under its auspices. So, answer that one question for me – why am I subject to your doctrines?

    Of course, I could go on and on, but others already have.

    I just have two more points to make. First, if you are so all-fired serious about defending “marriage,” why is it possible for any Catholic with $10,000 (maybe it’s higher nowadays) to receive an “annulment” of his or her marriage? I was there when my brother fell in love, got engaged, married and had two lovely children with his wife. After 25 years, they suddenly “weren’t validly married.” If you were so serious about defending marriage, why don’t you make these people suffer for the rest of their lives?

    Second, no thanks to you, my lover and I will be marrying about 22 years of loving partnership. “Marriage” means a lot in society, and we are thrilled to be able to participate in this important social and legal relationship.

    P.S., we are being married by a Christian minister.

  3. Rene M says:

    God ordained marriage between one man and one woman and the Church will always defend the truth.

    Lets look at the natural law for a moment. Where would society be 150 years from today if every single person in the world immediately embraced the gay lifestyle today. Men with Men and Women with Women.


    It is time for everyone to defend the truth but we also need to be charitable and teach the truth to those who incorrectly believe that there is nothing wrong with being gay. We need to help them and pray for them as their immortal souls are at stake.

  4. Laura,

    I feel so sad that your faith somehow depends on the actions of others. Jesus established our Church and told us that he would be with us until the end of time. Nothing can change that. I find great encouragement within the Church community, because we all struggle with sin, whether of the horrific nature of the abuse scandal or in speaking unkind words to others. I was not born into this Church, I chose it for the fact that it is the one true Church that Jesus established and carried through the centuries by His dying for all our sins.

  5. Your Eminence, I am fr. Roberto Leoni, chancellor of the roman suburbican diocese of Porto – S. Rufina (the diocese where the International airport of Rome Fiumicino is located), and in charge as well of our diocesan website:

    We want to express you our most convinced appreciation for the passionate “afterthought” that you wrote on your own blog about the defence of marriage and family, a defence that is by now to be carried on in Europe as well.

    We had it translated yesterday, posted in the item “Approfondimenti” and sent to other Catholic Italian blogs, sure that it will be read by a lot of people.

    I will post later on today your latest column you wrote about “The gift of our Holy Father”, which I find impressive and noteworthy to be spread around like the first.

    Thank you again for your teaching and your example.

    Yours in Christ,

    fr. Roberto Leoni

  6. Deborah says:

    I would like for the leadership in the Church to explain its defense of marriage when they themselves make divorce a REQUIREMENT in order to petition for nullity. How many faithful Catholics are aware of this? There is no canon law–NONE–that even suggests this as a necessity. How could there be? How is it that the Church here in the U.S. defies God by requiring a divorce–something He hates–in order to look into the possibility of nullity? Without divorce, there is a stronger possibility of reconciliation of spouses. With it, you can kiss the chances good-bye. Over 40 years and hundreds of thousands of annulments granted and counting. One would have to be totally naïve or gullible to believe that all those marriages are invalid.

    As far as scandals go, this one tops them all in terms of size. I am speaking in 1000% percent defense of the Church and her teaching that I love with my entire being. Many of those inside it have betrayed her teachings. This too, needs to be investigated.

  7. Jim B says:

    Your Excellency: With utmost respect I challenge your approach to this devasting situation. As a recognized Church leader, you are called upon to more that just prophecy. Your role as Church Leader requires you to LEAD. Where is your passionate plea to the clery to lead the laity and for the lay people to be called to take ACTION, in the streets, if necessary, to protest the moral decay which is engulfing our country/society. Persecution may come as you predict, but where is the call to all Catholics & good Christians to stand against EVIL.

    Shame on you failing in your responsibilities as SHEPHERD….to lead the sheep!

  8. Deacon Paul Rooney says:

    Your Eminence, you quote St. Augustine in your “Afterthoughts.”
    However, no one seems to be able to come up with a precise source for that alleged-Augustinian quote.
    Could you kindly provide your source?

    Deacon Paul Rooney

  9. Deacon Paul Rooney says:

    Regarding your “Afterthoughts,” I am now advised that the quote from St. Augustine is really attributed to William Penn:
    “if something is wrong, even if everybody else is doing it, it’s still wrong; and, if something is right, even if nobody else is doing it anymore, it’s still right.”

    Deacon Paul Rooney

  10. Erin Archer says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan:

    Thank you so much for your encouraging words. You are a light for us around this country and throughout the world! God bless you and keep you!

    Yours in Christ through His Blessed Mother,


  11. John A. Fountain says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan.
    All one has to do is take a look at history.The Greek culture and country declined, and Roman culture and country declined, simply because of their permiscuous way of life.When morals go, so does society and the country.
    While reading the history books, one also needs to read the Bible since the Bible is history. Whenever the Jews, who were God’s chosen people broke His laws, they lost battles.If this country doesn’t wake up we too are on a collision course with disaster.
    It’s not our job to judge, thats God’s job, but there is nothing wrong with
    people who value the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman for the overall sake of this country. Yes, if this kind of mentality
    continues, we as a society, people and nation will go down the tube.
    We need more defenders and outspoken clergy like Archbishop Dolan.
    John Fountain

  12. Cathy Miller says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan,
    Thank you for your courage and your leadership. The young people in this world are being bombarded with false infomation and they need us to stand for the truth. It is going to take everyone of us to stand for the truth even if it is life threating. I would rather die for the truth than live a lie that offends our Wonderful GOD. WE are the church and we need to defend it and the truth. God bless the priests and Nuns that are standing up for God’s Word. Thank You so much for your stand. Cathy

  13. Anthony says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan,

    I would like to know if as a “Catholic”, Gov. Como has automatically excommunicated himself from the church by his actions.

    Will he be allowed to receive communion?

    I believe he should NOT be permitted to receive communion until he demonstrates repentance in a public venue to atone for the immense damage he has unleashed.

    Please your Eminence, speak to this issue.


    James 1:14-15

    14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

  14. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest church in the U.S.
    Lapsed Catholics form the second largest religious group in the U.S.

    Has the hierarchy ever stopped to ponder why?

  15. P. Edward Murray says:

    Your Eminence,

    I like your definition that the problem is not “homophobia” but Theophobia which is the hatred by some of God, faith, religion, and the Church!

    But it is more than that….

    Today, these folks scream and holler for “their civil right to marry” while at least 14 Million of us are Unemployed and over 24 Million of us can’t find a full time job! Not to forget that CBS Evening News reported a few weeks ago that the number of chronically unemployed is equal to the number chronically unemployed during The Great Depression!

    In my mind, that means that we are now in another Great Depression and these people have the audacity to worry about getting married?

    This can mean only one thing:

    That all these advocates of same sex marriage are NOT concerned with the rest of us because they are either wealthy or they already have good paying jobs!

    If anything else this means they are truly bigoted against those who have less, the poor and the unemployed:(

    May Jesus help us and our nation!

    P. Edward Murray
    Yardley, PA.

  16. Maria Verde says:

    Nobody is stopping the gay lifestyle. The more gays clamor for gay rights–the more they cut their own throats. Do you not see what is happening in Canada and Europe? They are now wrestling with the question of polygamy. You do the math, which religions believe in polygamy? In just a matter of years who do you think will have overpopulated those countries? What did the Iranian president say, “we have no gays in our country.” So you think living in a Christian country is difficult? Wait until you live in a country of extreme Mormanism and extreme Islam.

  17. JeffG says:

    “Let me say it again. None of this is anti-anybody, but simply pro marriage.”

    Unfortunately claiming something doesn’t make it so. As a Californian, thanks primarily to funding by the LDS and RCC, my own constitution has been reforged into a weapon to deny me over 1300 civil rights, as well as the fundamental human right to marriage.

    What I don’t understand is, the Church has an easy out on this issue. Last I checked the RCC sacrament is not and never has been “marriage”. The sacrament is called Holy Matrimony. So offer this as a separate service (only opposite-sex couples invited), and our First Amendment will protect your right to run these services however you wish.

    In my view the current RCC position on homosexuality is not only anti-gay, it’s emotionally dishonest. Tell a heterosexual man that it’s ok to be attracted to women but not to actually have sex with them. What’s astonishing is that so many heterosexuals sincerely believe this makes any more sense to gay people than it does to them. Gay bashing comes in different flavors and this kind of emotional bashing is among the worst imo.

  18. On your blog you write: \Like St. Thomas More, we’re willing to take the heat and even lose our head from following a conscience properly formed by God’s revelation.\

    If this were indeed, true, there would thousands of headless prelates taking a moral stand on the priestly abuse of minors. instead of thousands of Catholic adults broken into pieces by abuse. There are no such headless prelates. The hypocrisy of the church is astounding.

    Christ himself said nothing about homosexuality. The church, following its persecution of Galileo, continues to fight science; at some future, the persecution of gay Catholics will be another historical stain the Church will have to admit.

  19. Paul says:

    You said: “Tell a heterosexual man that it’s ok to be attracted to women but not to actually have sex with them.”

    The Church does that all the time. The moral laws demands that sex be unitive and procreative. As an unmarried man, it is not okay for me to have sex with my fiancee. Even as a married man, when I have sex it must be open to life and for the good of my spouse. The moral law makes strict demands on everyone, not just individuals with homosexual inclinations.

  20. JohnD says:

    The bottom line is that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution demands all citizens be accorded equal application and protection of our civil laws. Therefore the state has only two legally viable options: it must either provide equal civil rights for gay people, or it must recriminalize homosexuality and base marriage and other human and civil rights restrictions on these new laws.

    The RCC will need to accept and adapt to one of these two options, because anything in between them is legally indefensible, at least in our country. Withholding Communion and refusing donations isn’t going to change that fact, or change the position it puts our Catholic politicians in. You’d think the RCC would be intelligent and non-reactionary enough to understand this.

  21. Paul says:


    Are you making the claim that marriage is a “civil right”? Please demonstrate how A. one has the “right” to get married and B. how that “right” originates from the state.

  22. JohnD says:

    Fundamentally it’s a spiritual commitment between two people. Any two people, including two people of the same gender, have always had the right to marry. The issue at hand is legal recognition of these marriages.

    Legal “marriage” is a set of over 1000 civil rights and responsibilities which originate from the state. They cover every aspect of life: housing, employment, taxes, inheritance, adoption, immigration, insurance, hospital and prison visitation and on and on. In my experience not many people have taken the time to review this list and learn how, and especially to what extent, the current legal and civil discrimination affects gay people. If for nothing other than the sake of fairness I think people owe it to their consciences to at least know what the current policy is doing to couples and entire families. The irony of the terms “family values” and “defense of marriage” quickly becomes apparent.

    The word marriage has separate civil and religious meanings, and the two appear to conflict only because of sloppy terminology. As a civil institution the right of the state is limited to issuing civil union licenses, not “marriage licenses”. Meanwhile no religion has the right to dictate restrictions or terms for civil union rights. In America our rights are granted according to our constitutions and civil laws, regardless of religious recognition or approval, occasionally exclusive even of majority support from the American people. E.g. when minorities were formally integrated into our armed services in 1948 polls indicated 80% of the public (and 85% of servicemen) were against it. Within just 40 years Colin Powell was Chairman of our Joint Chiefs of Staff and even the concept of discriminating based on race in our armed services was considered ridiculous.

  23. Rene M:

    “Where would society be 150 years from today if every single person in the world immediately embraced the gay lifestyle today. Men with Men and Women with Women.”

    Where would society be 150 years from today if every single person in the world immediately embraced RC clerical lifestyles, men becoming celibate priests and brothers and the like and women becoming nuns? There’d be a non-trivial likelihood of extinction, too. Does it follow that the Roman Catholic Church must be shut down or something?

  24. Maria Verde:

    There is a long body of evidence suggesting that polygamy as such doesn’t have a significant positive effect on fertility, since the sorts of women who enter polygamous unions differ from the sorts of women who don’t. See Somalia in the 1980s for one example.

    It might even have a _negative_ effect. Don’t forget that many men, too, don’t get married in a polygamous culture: if there are equal numbers of men and women, and the sex ratio remains constant while some men monopolize the population of women, how will all men get married?

    “[S]cientists have now uncovered an odd fact about 19th-century Mormons: the more women in a household, the lower the average birthrate. In other words, the more sister-wives a Mormon woman had, the fewer children she was likely to produce.

    “Although it is great in terms of numbers of children for successful males to have harems, the data show that, for every new woman added to a male’s household, the number of children that each wife produced goes down by one,” said biologist Dr Michael Wade, of Indiana University.

    The result is intriguing, because this is the first time scientists have observed humans being affected by what is known as the Bateman gradient, a phenomenon that gets its name from the geneticist who first observed it in fruit flies. The more sexual partners the male fruit fly had, the lower was the fecundity of each of those partners, the 20th-century geneticist Angus Bateman noted.”

  25. Tara Sz. says:

    Archbishop Dolan:

    Thank you for your bravery in defending marriage – God calls us to be faithful, even we aren’t successful. My heart is really hurting that so many people, especially Catholics, believe the lie that marriage is just about ‘two people who love each other.’ Marriage is so much more than that, and now we see how contraception has ruined our vision. I am fighting with you and praying for the re-strengthening of the family.

  26. Scribbler2099 says:

    Definitions of Marriage are as fluid as the society from which they spring. Having multiple wives is now frowned upon, while the no-fault divorce has freed women from the confines of domestic servitude.

    What infuriates me, is that instead of serving soup kitchens, helping undocumented immigrants, or helping to organize unions, the Church is attacking gay and lesbians couples’ civil rights. Like, get a life. Or better yet, turn some of your pedophile priests into the civil authorities. Your confessions, dogma, and cannon law is not a separate and higher form of law than that of the people.

    Every time I hear the Church blame pedophilia on homosexuality, I really have to wonder about all the opposite sex pedophile priests out there, and how an adult abusing a child without their consent has anything to do with what consenting adults do.

    Notice how the Church doesn’t have a single non-faith based argument against gay and lesbian civil rights. It’s a good thing that our government is based on the will of the people, and not on superstition and the beliefs of long dead civilizations.