Thursday, June 16, 2011

Many Eyes on New York

As a young priest, I sat at the dining room table of Saint Francis rectory in Bakersfield, California. Several clergy were enjoying a delicious lunch made by the housekeeper when the table talk turned to the many changes ushered into the Church by Vatican II. One priest stated that Vatican II had been a concession to “the Protestants.” Monsignor Lahey, an elderly priest noted for presiding over a “traditionalist” parish quipped, “So what?”

I thought of Monsignor’s dry quip when I read the National Catholic Register article on Bishop Thomas Tobin. The headline of the article quotes Tobin’s ominous assertion, “If we don’t care, gay marriage will pass.” So what?

Tobin goes on in that article to list four reasons why he opposes Marriage Equality. In his own words:

[#1] The arguments we’ve been making against same-sex “marriage” are well known. While the Catholic Church has respect, love, pastoral care and compassion for people with homosexual orientation, we believe that homosexual “marriage” is wrong because it gives state approval of an immoral lifestyle involving immoral sexual activity.

[#2] Also, it is an attempt to redefine the institution of marriage as it has been understood since the beginning of time. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman and is meant to foster life and love. Homosexual “marriage” can never do that. It is an ill-advised attempt to redefine something God has given us and what is one of the building blocks of human society.

[#3] Additionally, the passage of homosexual “marriage” presents a challenge to religious freedom and conscience protection, as has been the case in other places in the country. Our neighbors in the Archdiocese of Boston in Massachusetts, for example, had to get out of the adoption business because they were being forced to place children in situations where there were two gay people living in a home in an alleged marriage. The Archdiocese of Washington had to stop giving family medical benefits because they were being forced to provide them to gay couples who tried to get married in civil marriages.

[#4] And there are situations where ancillary Catholic facilities, such as reception halls, must be made available to gay couples as they attempt to marry. All these things are on the radar screen if you go down this road of approving homosexual “marriage.”

Regarding Tobin’s objection [#1], consider the question of Divorce. All fifty states grant couples the right to obtain a divorce and subsequently remarry. The Catholic Church literally interprets the Gospel on the question of divorce and remarriage,

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and the woman who divorces her husband and marries another commits adultery.” [Mark 10: 11-12]

Every divorced and remarried person reading this, unless of course you obtained a church annulment to your previous marriage(s), is an adulterer. Every time a divorced and remarried person has sex, he/she is committing the sin of adultery. Currently all fifty states give, in Bishop Tobin’s words, “state approval of an immoral lifestyle involving immoral sexual activity.” Since all fifty states, according to the Catholic bishops give state approval to adultery.

As for his assertion, “the Catholic Church has respect, love, pastoral care and compassion for people with homosexual orientation.” Hypocrisy is the nod that vice pays virtue. Tobin and the hierarchy of the Church state what is morally correct and then proceed to rob it of all practical meaning. Imagine if heterosexual people were instructed from childhood that they could never date, hold hands, kiss, fall in love and establish a home with a person who they loved. Furthermore, imagine that heterosexual people were then extended a “conditional” love, that as long as they never physically acted on their sexual orientation, then they would be OK. “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Just avoid any possible heterosexual contact, or anything that might lead to physical expression of heterosexuality. Too bad you are straight; you just have to remain a virgin all of your life, oh and by the way, don’t “flaunt” your heterosexuality. What would be the psychological, emotional and spiritual consequences for heterosexuals? Real people have already been subjected to this abuse. The Center for Disease Control “Youth at Risk” study of 1999 found that one-third of gay adolescents attempt suicide.

Tobin’s objection [#2] is based on the false premise that “the institution of marriage as it has been understood since the beginning of time. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman”
In many Islamic nations today, Marriage is a relationship between one man and several women. In some Native cultures, Marriage is a relationship between one woman and several men. Genesis says of Abraham, the Patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam,

“Thus, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, his wife Sarai took her maid, Hagar the Egyptian, to be his concubine. He had intercourse with her, and she became pregnant.” [Genesis 16: 3-4]

Of King David, the Bible says this, “David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem after he had come from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to him in Jerusalem." [2 Samuel 5:13]

Tobin is either ignorant of these Biblical passages, Anthropology and the Marriage Laws of Islam, or he conveniently ignores them in an attempt to deceive the people of Rhode Island.

As regards Tobin’s assertion, “Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman and is meant to foster life and love. Homosexual “marriage” can never do that” There are many, many Sacramental Marriages in the Catholic Church in which the heterosexual couples are unable to procreate. Procreation is, by the Church’s own practices and standards, not required for a marriage in the Catholic Church. Consider the marriages entered into by post-menopausal women. Are their marriages invalid because they cannot procreate? Are those marriages incapable of love, because biological procreation is not possible?

Regarding Tobin’s objection [#3], 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 Tobin or other Catholic bishops. Why then, is Same-sex marriage singled out as an “attack on religious freedom” while divorce and remarriage (i.e. adulterous marriages) are not?

[#4] Anyone who has ever been in a restaurant is familiar with the following sign, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” As a pastor of many years, I can tell you that I often received requests to rent our parish hall. We had a policy in place that permitted us to say “no” to any request we did not wish to accommodate. As regards marriage receptions, we only lent/rented the hall to couples we married. This fourth objection by Tobin is baseless and serves only to instill doubt and fear in uninformed people. Tobin seems to share the same approach here as Marc Mutty, then public affairs director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine, on the "Yes on 1" Strategy.”

"All we have to do is create doubt. You don't have to convince people that you're right....I know we need to do what we have to do -- not only slam people over the head with a two-by-fou¬r, but a two-by-fou¬r with nails sticking out of it... And it's nuts ... unfortunat¬ely, I think it's a lousy approach. But it's the only thing we've got -- it's the only way. That's the way campaigns work."

Tomorrow the State Senate of New York is expected to vote on Marriage Equality for New York State. Tonight will be a long night for Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York; bigotry is expensive and tiring work. Even more so, when Dolan’s master in Rome will be watching and expects Dolan to deliver New York, as Tobin delivered Rhode Island.


Beth in MN said...

The thing that infuriates me most about Catholic clergy who argue against same-sex civil marriage contracts is that of all the Christian denominations, the Catholics should understand the distinction between a civil contract and a religious sacrament the most! Catholic clergy should know the difference between the sacrament of holy matrimony vs. a civil marriage contract.

wild hair said...

Tobin has no pastoral sensitivity. He just repeats the tired arguments of an out of touch hierarchy. The bishops in this county, so called shepherds, act like they know everything. Well, as you point out they don't seem to know much history.

Bishops like Tobin are not very pastoral either. Bishop Joseph Sullivan in an article in the Buffalo News comes close to endorsing gay marriage. Sullivan also uses more pastoral language to talk about these issues. He drops the words "homosexual persons" in favor of GLBT.

The good news is that Bishop Sullivan says that now many parishs and many lay Catholics are coming to more pastoral views of GLBT people and gay marriage than most bishops.

The bishops, including Tobin, have a leadership problem.

FDeF said...

Excellent retort, as always.

FDeF said...

Also, as I hope more people will read this very reasoned response, I will include a link to this post on my blog.

Russ Manley said...

Amen. Excellent post.