Maryland is on the verge of joining a growing list of states that grant same-sex couples the right to a Civil Marriage license. The three Catholic bishops who have ecclesial jurisdiction in Maryland have issued a statement against allowing same-sex couples that civil right, “We urge Maryland Catholics throughout the state to act at once to make your voices heard.”
Let us consider the arguments the bishops posit against same-sex Civil Marriage. They state, “We believe such a change would lead to the erosion of the family, our society's most valued and important social unit.” The rejoinder to this “belief” is the question, “How?” The bishops fail to explain how same-sex marriage will “erode” the family.
They go on to state, “The measure would dismantle our state's legal recognition of the true procreative nature of marriage,” again, how? Not all heterosexual marriages result in procreation. No post-menopausal woman could legally marry, if the bishop's argument was taken to its logical conclusion.
In Catholic theology, 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 that 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 can’t two people of the same gender?
The bishops go on to state, “As a result, the measure would jeopardize the religious freedom of all those who cannot in good conscience recognize marriages that conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
This statement is false. Maryland, like all the fifty states recognizes a couple’s legal right to obtain a divorce and then to remarry. Legal divorce and remarriage is against the teaching of the Catholic Church. Divorced and remarried couples are believed to be living in adulterous relationships by the very bishops who make this statement. The fact that there is legal divorce in all fifty states, with a right to a second, third, fourth, etc Civil Marriage, is not viewed as an attack on religious freedom by Catholic bishops. Why then, are Same-sex marriages singled out as an “attack on religious freedom” while divorce and remarriage (i.e. adulterous marriages) are not?
The Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, is a Catholic and has said that he will sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk. House Speaker Michael Busch, also a Catholic, is planning to vote for the bill and Senate President Thomas Miller a Catholic, held off a filibuster that would have effectively killed the bill.
The issue here is not morality; but rather, power. The bishops are attempting to flex their political muscle and intimidate politicians. The problem for the bishops is that according to Gallup Poll, 62% of Catholics recognize same-sex relationships as morally valid. Then again, the overwhelming majority of Catholics have no problem with using artificial birth control, despite the bishop’s prohibition of such practices. One can only hope that these Catholics heed their bishop’s advice and make their voices heard on this issue “at once.” Although I think the bishops may not like what they hear.
It is time for the bishops to move away from a model of Church focused on political, economic and social power. When the Vatican pressured the Cardinal Archbishop of Lisbon, Portugal to oppose Same-sex Civil Marriage in that country, he answered that it was a matter of Civil Law and not Church Law.
This is the central point here. We live in a pluralistic society. Not everyone is required to share the same religious beliefs or, views. The Founders deliberately did not establish a State Religion for the United States of America. That does not endanger religious freedom it protects it.