The Baltimore Sun reports that Maryland’s Catholic bishops are taking “strong exception” to the ruling Wednesday by Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler that the state may recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. In a joint statement, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of Baltimore, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington and Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Del., said the following:We take strong exception to Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler’s opinion that the state may recognize same-sex “marriages” performed in other jurisdictions. We trust our legislature and the people of Maryland will also object, and will act accordingly to counteract this opinion.
The General Assembly has repeatedly and explicitly upheld Maryland’s definition of marriage “between a man and a woman” even as certain limited benefits have been extended to same-sex couples. The opinion correctly notes that federal law does not require Maryland to recognize such marriages. We see a strong possibility that legal avenues to circumvent the legitimate legislative process on a serious public policy issue could be opened. Allowing the decisions of out-of-state jurisdictions or courts to dictate public policy in Maryland undermines the proper role of the legislature and the citizens they represent.
Most importantly, the opinion chips away at our society’s foundational institution. The equality of men and women and the dignity of their coming together as husband and wife is not merely a fact of religious faith or an institution established by civil authorities, but a fundamental reality rooted in our human nature and experience. Civil marriage is not simply a union of two people who love and are committed to each other. Marriage is invariably reserved to the union of one man and one woman because of their unique ability to bring children into the world, thus forming a stable and secure foundation for our society.
We respect the dignity of homosexual persons and roundly reject all unjust discrimination against them. Nonetheless, the clear words of Maryland’s marriage statute – “only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this State” – reflect the convictions of Maryland’s citizens and their legislators. This definition has been reaffirmed in recent acts of the General Assembly. The attorney general’s opinion demonstrates a fundamental disregard for the nature and purpose of marriage and its impact on society, as well as for the expressed will of the legislature and previous attorney general opinions. We urge lawmakers, the governor, and the courts to uphold the definition of marriage through all appropriate means.
Lets take a closer look at some of their arguments. They claim “Marriage is reserved to the union of one man and one woman..to bring children into the world,” i.e. reproduce. If marriage is to be reserved ONLY to those who may reproduce, then the Catholic hierarchy needs to immediately change its own laws and practices. Actually, there are TWO ends to marriage: 1) Unitive and 2) Procreative. The unitive end of marriage is simply a union of love and life. The Procreative end is, of course, to create new life. It is important to understand that the unitive end of marriage is sufficient for a valid marriage. The Church sanctions, and considers a sacrament, the marriage of elderly heterosexual couples who are biologically incapable of reproduction. So, if two people of different genders who are incapable of reproduction can enter into a valid marriage, then why is it that two people of the same gender, who are incapable of reproduction, cannot enter into a valid marriage?
If the biological ability to physically reproduce is to be required for ALL couples who wish to marry, then no post menopausal woman would be able to marry in the Catholic Church. Additionally, this would raise the question of the “morality” of sexual acts between a married male and female after the female became biologically infertile. You would also need to add to this list of people incapable of marriage, or the marriage act (sex), infertile males. Since, according to the bishops, marriage is “reserved to the union of one man and one woman because of their unique ability to bring children into the world.”
A verbal slight of hand is also employed by the bishops “We respect the dignity of homosexual persons and roundly reject all unjust discrimination against them.” Re-read their very carefully chosen phrase “UNJUST discrimination.” They imply that there exist “JUST discrimination” against people with same sex orientation. What might be some examples of the bishop’s “JUST” discrimination? The immediate form of discrimination which they both advocate and actively use their special rights to sway voters to support, is to strip same sex people of their right to a CIVIL LAW marriage.
In effect, the bishops are asking gay and lesbian people to live their lives alone. Why? Who does this benefit? How exactly is society helped by singling out a minority and excluding them from the union of love and life, which is marriage? How is marriage protected by intimidating gay and lesbian people into loveless and lonely lives? What is accomplished by this? Worse still, is to intimidate a gay or lesbian person into a heterosexual marriage, which is doomed from its inception, and makes two victims instead of one by this hurtful “theology.” This “theology,” which is parroted by clerics in polished tones from pulpits, produces the very prejudice and hatred in our society that they claim to abhor.
The statement made by the bishop reaffirms the feelings of exclusion and alienation that are suffered by individuals and their loved ones who have left the Church over this very issue. Imagine what hearing such damaging words does to an adolescent who has just discovered that he/she is gay/lesbian? What is the hierarchy saying to him/her? What are they demanding from that individual? What would it have meant to you personally to be told that you could never date? Never fall in love, never kiss or hold hands with another person? Never be able to marry? How would you view yourself? How would others hearing those same words be directed to view you? How would you view your life and your future?
The bishops with careful premeditation state: “We respect the dignity of homosexual persons and roundly reject all unjust discrimination against them.”
Imagine if they said that of ANY other minority group in our society! Imagine the outrage that would be expressed by African Americans, Latinos, the JDL, etc, if the bishops said that of any of those groups could be the target of “JUST discrimination.” Imagine the media reaction and yet, the bishops can say this blithely of people with same sex orientation, because their still exists legally sanctioned bigotry against this minority. The bishops should be ashamed of their bigotry, especially since they claim to speak in the name of God.
In 1975, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the Church’s watchdog for orthodoxy) produced a document entitled: “Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics.” In this document, they made the most remarkable statement. They stated that there are “homosexuals who are such because of some kind of innate instinct.” Of course, that statement was made under Pope Paul VI, both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have/are backpedaling furiously on that statement. But, since the “Church” (pope/bishops) can never admit a mistake, they simply ignore “inconvenient” statements or, “reinterpret” them away.
The bishops also carefully state: “only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this State” – reflect the convictions of Maryland’s citizens and their legislators. This definition has been reaffirmed in recent acts of the General Assembly. The idea behind which the bishops are hiding their bigotry is that the “voters” want to exclude same sex couples from civil law marriages. California Supreme Court Justice Moreno explains why this is a basically flawed line of argument. In his view, the issue of marriage equality involves “the core of the constitutional guarantee of equal treatment,” and thus was not properly the subject of a voter initiative under the California state constitution.
Essentially, the Equal Protection Clause of our National Constitution trumps the majority from stripping any minority group of their rights. This is precisely the role of the justice department and of our Courts. Imagine if civil rights for African Americans had to be “voted in” in the 1960’s. Segregation, employment discrimination, laws forbidding interracial marriage, would all still exist in many places in our country today.
Perhaps the bishops would appreciate the role of the Court in protecting minority rights if we were suddenly to “vote” on tax-exempt status for the Catholic Church. I wonder how people in Utah, Alabama, South Carolina, etc would vote?