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Same-sex marriage bill in New York

Brooklyn's Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio writes a weekly column called "Put out into the Deep" - a title that expresses the high priority he places on the new evangelization.But when the bishop uses his column in his diocesan newspaper, the Tablet, to assail specific legislators, it doesn't help to build the plunging number of Catholics in his diocese. Social science research shows that churchgoers, especially younger ones, are prone to leave churches they perceive as too involved in electoral politics. Robert Putnam and David Campbell make a strong case for this in their carefully researched book "American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us." They write: "Americans overwhelmighly disapprove of political persuasion by religious leaders." And, they say, "in a competitive religious market they risk an exodus of members." And: "Continuing to sound the public trumpet of conservative personal morality may be the right thing to do from a theological point of view, but it may mean saving fewer souls than it did a generation ago."DiMarzio assails three New York state senators - Carl Kruger, Shirley Huntley, Joseph Addabbo - who have decided (after being undecided) to vote in favor of same-sex marriage, and notes that Kruger is under indictment and Huntley under investigation. ("Sadly, this is the character of our elected officials who are essentially redefining `marriage.' ") "My hope is that constituents will hold these elected official accountable for their decisions," he writes, adding that they "have ignored their constituents and preferred the counsel of powerful and well-funded elites."The upper half of the diocesan newspaper's front page features a color spread with the three senators' photos, a "yes" box on "same sex marriage vote" next to each one's name. The headline is "Shame! Shame! Shame!" This front page is essentially a political attack ad.It was no doubt a stinging rebuff to the bishop that these senators from his diocese rejected whatever means of persuasion he brought on them. But there are many other state legislators in the diocese who have voted or will vote in favor of same-sex marriage (for example, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, for whom the bishop made robo-calls praising his help in preventing a change in the statute of limitations on sex-abuse lawsuits). It doesn't seem fair to single out these three in such a way and not to decry the "yes" vote already cast by Lopez (no stranger to law-enforcement investigation) and many others.I would expect church leaders to speak out on important issues, including same-sex marriage. But politicized attacks such as this one won't accomplish anything except to hasten the movement of young Catholics from the church.


Commenting Guidelines

Felapton - Sounds reasonable except:Re: 4. - Not a good reason. The succession of generations, eminently within the public interest, is ensured by _procreating_ couples. Whether or not they are married is a secondary consideration. Marriage may contribute in the bringing up of the next generation, but numerous examples today and through the ages show that marriage is not an essential prerequisite to the next generation's assuming its place in history. If marriage were to somehow vanish, it's highly unlikely the human race would do the same.

Jack (6:05), civilization's a tapestry. Start pulling out structural threads because you don't like their color and you'll soon end up with nothing but pieces of cloth on the floor.Of course, if you don't value civilization very highly - and don't care a fig for the well being of people who might - it doesn't matter.

As I understand it, the argument against same-sex marriage in Catholic circles has gained new "heft" thanks to JPII's Theology of the Body. Based on his reading of Genesis, he argues that there is an innate masculinity in men and femininity in women, and that this is a matter of anthropological fact. Procreation demonstrates the "naturalness" of heterosexual marriage only. Thus the magisterium offers a natural law argument that ties the social good of marriage to procreative possibility because that procreative possibility reveals a deeper truth about men and women. Thus over and over in JPII and those who like that way of thinking is the notion that the social goods of marriage are tied to heterosexuality.Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. As the magisterial insistence that same-sex marriage is bad because marriage's social value consists in babies, it represents an increasingly narrow reading of the goods of marriage for anyone, gay or straight. In fact, years ago Ratzinger said one reason that same-sex civil marriage couldn't be allowed is that it would redefine marriage so it would become: "an institution devoid of essential reference to factors linked to heterosexuality; for example, procreation" This seems to represent a remarkably blinkered notion of marriage, and seems unworthy for a Christian voice in society. Is biological procreation really the only good that justifies marriage in civil society?One need not dissent from church teaching on marriage to favor civil marriage for gays and straights. We have a different tradition for civil law than for church law. JPII's vision of ontological masculinity and femininity, though couched in the language of natural law, is in fact a theological proposition that simply does not resonate with other people of good will in our society. The Theology of the Body might mean that gay Catholics will forever be unwelcome to marry in the Church, but it need not mean that Catholics might not support same-sex marriage in civil law.

(1) Which "civilization"?(2) What is the evidence that male/female only marriage, as currently defined in that particular civilization, is: (a) historically typical of that civilization; and (b) "structual"/integral to that civilization? (3) Why is goal of allowing same-sex marriage trivialized as the equivalent of whimsy, comparable to liking one color over another?(4) What evidence is there that allowing same-sex marriage would reduce the amount of, delegitimize, or otherwise harm m/f marriage? Just whose "well being" is threatened, in what specific way?

"Sauce for the goose..." Speaking of geese, about 15% of pair-bonding in geese is same-sex. Thank you, Lisa. I gotta say, when I hear evangelical fundamentalists make the "Genesis sets up how it should be" argument I always wonder why Christians ever came around to allowing episiotomies and epidurals and analgesics--aren't we supposed to bring forth children in pain?? I get that JP2's Theology of the Body is supposedly some major innovation, but the more of read of it, the less flesh I see on those bones. I appreciate the characterization as "blinkered." In my opinion it captures the way TOB conflates sex and gender while essentializing both, ignores significant amounts of same-sex sexual behavior in most species, and is (ironically, given what anti-homosexuality folks claim about gays and lesbians) reductionistic by obsessively focusing sexuality on two parts of genitals and how those two parts fit together for one particular goal (baby making), a standard the church doesn't apply to any other body parts.

Item 4 above credits married couples (as defined by Card. Ratzinger) "because [they] ensure the succession of generations "Metaphors aside, over the millennia about which we know something, the central factor in the succession of generations on six continents, civilized and uncivilized, has been human biology. Numerous social variations other than "married couples" (as defined by Card. Ratzinger) have been common socio-sexual mores and have ensured the succession of generations. Attempts to make this succession point further weaken the overall argument and would be better omitted.

It seems likely that JPII's Theology of the Body, including its doctrine on ontological masculinity and femininity will remain a part of the Catholic faith for the foreseeable future, and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony will remain exclusively heterosexual.But the TotB is irrelevant to the institution of civil marriage in a non-confessional state. Ratzinger's reasons why civil marriage should imitate the SoHM are not particularly convincing. On the other hand, the arguments put forth by the other side (proponents of same-sex marriage) are not much more convincing. The question will have to be decided the old-fashioned way, by politicking, lobbying, lawyering and (possibly) voting.The confusion that surrounds the issue suggests it is time for a more general reform of marriage laws, one which would acknowledge some modern realities. For example, the right to inherit a husband's Social Security pension should belong, not to the trophy wife he marries in his old age, but to the wife who bore and raised his children and incurred the attendant financial disadvantages.

Patrick--That would be money well spent.

After being out of the country and away from all of this churchiness for 3 weeks, it is pleasant to come back and discover that episcopal idiocy is still with us.Ya know, I didn't miss this stuff at all! There is a very large world out there for which all of this sturm und drang is totally meaningless.

Here's some information on the Catholic Church's treatment of slavery and the slave trade that, by coincidence, I posted the other day at NCROnline in response to a conservative blogger who had tried to "sugarcoat" Rome's history. Most of the information is from John T. Noonan's A CHURCH THAT CAN AND CANNOT CHANGE: THE DEVELOPMENT OF CATHOLIC MORAL TEACHING.+ Nicholas V granted the king of Portugal in 1452 the right, inter alia, "to make war on Saracens, pagans, and infidels; to occupy their dominions; and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery." In 1455, Nicholas V "issued the bull 'Romanus pontifex' confirming the first bull..." (p. 62). + Popes Calixtus III (1456), Sixtus IV (1481), Leo X (1514), and Alexander VI (1493) issued bulls in the same vein as noted above (p. 65). The bulls issued from 1452 to 1514 "show that slaving was an enterprise requiring no special scrutiny. Nicholas V and his successors approved the enslavement of whole peoples...without setting conditions on the right to enslave" (pp. 66-67). + In 1434, Prince Henry the Navigator and his men pillaged two Canary islands populated by Christians, who complained to Pope Eugene IV. In his 'Creator omnium', Eugene IV "forbade the enslavement of Christian natives...but in the bull 'Romanus pontifex' of 1436 [he] granted to Portugal the exclusive right of conquest over such of the Canaries as were populated by infidels..." (p. 243). + Pius V received "558 [Muslim] slaves after the naval victory of Lepanto" in 1571. "Galley slaves [were] obtained from the knights of Malta by Urban VIII in 1629 and by Innocent X in 1645" (p. 78). + "In 'Sublimis Deus', Paul III denounced the enslavement of Indians. He did not denounce enslavement at home [i.e., "the papal states"]. In 1548,...he declared that, 'from a multitude of slaves, inheritances are augmented, agriculture better cultivated, and cities increased.'...[T]he pope decreed that slaves fleeing to the Capitol and there, according to custom claiming freedom, were not freed and were 'to be returned to their masters in slavery and, if it is seen appropriate, punished as fugitives.' The decree, the pope added, included those slaves who had become Christians after their enslavement and slaves born to Christian slaves" (p. 79). + "The catechism based on the decrees of the Council of Trent dealt with slaves under the commandment against theft [as well as] the commandment against coveting a neighbor's goods" (p. 79). + "By mid-eighteenth century, the moral issues arising from slavery aroused even less attention among those [casuists] working in the main tradition" (p. 85). + "In 1814, two Irish Dominicans [informed Archbishop Carroll of Baltimore] that the [Jesuit and Sulpician] clerical slaveholders of Maryland were 'stumbling blocks in the way of their Quaker brethren [and others who had started to limit slavery].' The Dominicans carried their complaint to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, then in charge of affairs in the United States. The congregation did nothing" (p. 92). + "Slavery continued to exist in the Papal States into the early nineteenth century. From 1600 to 1800 a total of two-thousand slaves, almost all Moslem, manned the galleys of the pope's navy. As late as 1800-1807 in the troubled papacy of...Pius VII, four privately owned slaves and eleven slaves of the state were registered in Rome at the Casa dei Catecumi" (p. 102). + "As early as 1814,...the British...had pressed...the pope's secretary of state, to obtain a papal prohibition of the international slave trade. Pius VII responded by writing personally to the monarchs of France, Portugal, and Spain deploring the trade, but published nothing...In 1822, [the British again asked Rome to prohibit slave trading]. The report back [from the Vatican] was not favorable. True, there was suffering caused by the trade, but abolition was a notion of the antireligious philosophers of the eighteenth century. The most competent theologians and canonists held slavery to be not contrary to natural law and to be approved in principle by the Old Testament. A papal prohibition would please the British, who oppressed Catholics, and it would compromise the colonial interests of France, Portugal, and Spain. Pius VII did nothing" (pp. 103-104). + In December 1839, Gregory XVI issued his 'In supremo Apostolatus fastigio', "opening words calling attention to the pope's authority rather than to the subject [slavery] under scrutiny. Published in Rome as a pamphlet, the document was given a title that tried gamely to find a Latin equivalent of the standard European term for the international traffic out of Africa, 'the trade'...The pope wrote to unspecified addressees to dissude the faithful 'from the inhuman trade in Blacks or any other kind of men.'...The pope mentioned measures of [previous popes]...Gregory XVI strictly prohibited it and ordered the prohibition to be posted in Rome...['In supremo'] referred to papal actions without acknowledging their limited scope. The prohibition, when it was announced, was not anchored in natural law or in the Gospel. A theologically literate reader would see that with these remarkable omissions there are what a modern observer accurately notes as 'ambiguities and silences'. The pope stigmatized the trade as 'inhuman' without developing an argument" (p. 107). + Bishop John England of Charleston, SC "indignantly noted that the pope had in view only the international trade; he quoted Gregory XVI himself as telling him in person in Rome that the Southern states 'have not engaged in the negro traffic.' Bishop England [asserted] that the Catholic Church had always accepted domestic slavery; it was 'not incompatible with the natural law'; and, when title to a slave was justly acquired, it was lawful 'in the eye of Heaven'" (p. 108). + "In 1843, in his treatise on moral theology, Francis P. Kenrick defended the institution of slavery in the United States, going so far as to argue that any defect in title to slaves in this country was cured by prescription: the passage of time made it too late to challenge the owner's assertion of ownership...His 'Theologia moralis', written in Latin and evidently designed to educate seminarians, was the first textbook on Catholic moral theology produced in the United States; he was bishop of Philadelphia when it appeared...[He became archbishop of Baltimore in 1851], and he presided as apostolic delegate at the First Plenary Council of the bishops of the United States in 1852. His views were those of his colleagues and of the Roman authorities. The trade out of Africa was one thing; slavery as an institution was quite another" (pp. 108-109). + "Gregory XVI's letter had no obvious impact on the two nominally Catholic countries engaged in the slave trade, Portugal and Brazil, nor on seminary teaching in France." "It was [eventually] British resolution and sea power that brought a stop to the business [of slave trading]" (p. 109). + "As early as 1878 [the archbishop of Algiers] had addressed to Rome a memoranda on [the slave trade], calling for 'a great crusade of faith and humanity, which would reclaim honor for the Church' and 'crown the immortal papacy of Pius IX.' Rome made no response" (pp. 111-112). + Leo XIII issued his 'In plurimis' in 1888, "addressed to the bishops of Brazil, congratulating them on 'this happy event' [i.e., legal abolition of slavery]." The pope wrote that "[t]he pagan attitude toward slavery was 'marked by great cruelty and wickedness,' the Christian attitude 'by great gentleness and humanity.'...He noted that slaves had duties to masters, an implicit acceptance of the institution. He accepted the patristic teaching that slavery was a penalty for sin without explaining how the penalty was visited upon the innocent upon birth to a slave mother. He cited letters of the popes rebuking isolated instances of slave trading without mentioning the popes who authorized the kinds of Portugal and Spain to invade and enslave the unbelievers. He held up Pedro Claver as a model identifying him as 'the Apostle of the Moors,' a phrase quaintly marking as Moors the slaves brought from Africa. Leo did not remark that St. Pedro criticized neither slavery nor the slave trade...Leo labeled [slavery] 'base' and 'cruel'. He did not condemn it as intrinsically evil" (pp. 112-113). The pope did, however, mention "'human dignity'" in his document. The following information is from Thomas Bokenkotter's A CONCISE HISTORY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: "As recently as June 20, 1866, the Holy Office had upheld the slave trade as moral. The justification was based both on philosophy (natural law) and on revelation (divine law). Various quotations from Scripture were cited in support of this position...The Fathers of the Church and local church councils laws, Popes, and theologians were cited in the attempt to show that the approval of slavery was part of an unbroken, universal tradition" (pp. 487-488). "The statement signed by Pope Pius IX declared that 'it is not contrary to the natural or divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged, or given, provided in the sale purchase, exchange or gift, the due conditions are strictly observed which the approved authors describe and explain'" (f.n. 22, p. 488). Returning to Noonan, the author notes that the 1917 Code of Canon Law "maintained the positions set out in the old law that a free person contracting marriage with one believed to be free but in fact a slave contracted invalidly; and that slavery was an impediment to the reception of holy orders" (p. 117). "Also close to the era of Vatican II, Karl Rahner...published the thirtieth edition of 'Denzinger'. This authoritative and convenient handbook, first produced in 1854...contained the teaching of popes and councils from Clement I in the first century to the date of the edition...Not a single word repudiating or condemning slavery occurred in the collection" (Noonan, p. 117). Finally, Noonan describes how slavery was condemned at Vatican II. He notes that it was "not [done] with fanfare and trumpets." Nonetheless, according to the author, "[t]he Council's action was the first categorical condemnation by the Church of an institution that the Church had lived with for over nineteen hundred years" (p. 120). The condemnation appears in 'Gaudium et spes'

@Felapton,Indeed, the civil question is different than the intra-Church question. But I think Catholic social tradition would offer a number of pro-same-sex marriage arguments. A necessary foundation: as science and experience show, sexual orientation is not a matter merely of who one can have sex with--it's a far richer complex of physical, emotional, psychological, and even spiritual attraction and sense of "connected-ness." Sex columnist Dan Savage describes orientation as most basically who you fall in love with. If we grant the reality and human richness of orientation, then the magisterial affirmations of marriage as a fundamental human right (Paul VI,) the recognition that in contemporary societies the common good is upheld best by recognizing equal human rights (John XXIII, Paul VI,) the realization that a truly human marriage is a matter of a union of persons in all our complexity (Gaudium et Spes and JPII most clearly, but numerous other sources,) the fact that married life has positive public health consequences overall, therefore contributes to the common good as well as the individual's flourishing, the fact that we as Christians are called to love fully and deeply, (Jesus, et al.,) and that the deepest friendships are friendships of virtue, so a good marriage should make us virtuous (Aquinas,) and that we are mysteriously completed in our most intimate relationships, (even as we are fully human if we are not pair-bonded) (JPII,)--all point to a positive call to affirm same-sex marriage as Catholics in a pluralist society. These are traditionally Catholic (but not exclusively religiously-based) civil law arguments. Again, this hinges on the fact of sexual orientation, but that's widely accepted inside and outside the Church today, if less so in its official teaching. And offers a much better description of the social importance of marriage than "married couples can have babies."

Mary asks (6/18, 8:21 pm):

Which civilization?

Ah, well, if you have to ask ....

Felapton (6/18, 5:29 pm):

Civil law cannot contradict right reason without losing its binding force on conscience. In other words, ridiculous laws undermine respect for law and order generally. I am not convinced this is true. There are plenty of ridiculous laws already and were doing OK.

Ridiculous laws either undermine respect for law or trivialize it, which amounts to the same thing. Generally, I think, we obey most laws out of a combination of thoughtless habit and pure fear, neither of which has any moral worth. Generally, we do not obey laws because we feel that they're just - or even that the legal system as a whole is just. We're aware of far too many unjust and stupid laws for that. In theory, I think, it is not supposed to work that way. That it does shows up a serious social problem. Each additional unjust or stupid law, therefore, drives one more nail into the coffin of something that is supposed to be vital and effective and worthy of trust.

Felapton (6/18, 9:25):

Ratzingers reasons why civil marriage should imitate the SoHM are not particularly convincing."

To you. Apparently, they were to him. Whom do we trust?

@Professor Fullam, I think the Church is wise to be skeptical of the secular doctrine of "sexual orientation." History shows that human sexuality admits of extensive variation across time and place. The currently fashionable theories will eventually evolve or be discarded, just as all antecedent theories have been.@David Smith (5:46) I think most localities are stuck with quite a few laws which are either anachronisms or looked good at the time but turned out to be bad for some reason. Most people have internal filters which say "This law makes sense, follow it. This one is silly, follow it if a squad car is nearby. This one makes sense on workdays but not on weekends ... "(5:50 a.m.) Benedict's reasons for things usually make sense if the question is "How can all mankind ultimately be enabled live a superior mode of human existence?" but not if the question is "How can we muddle along a little more efficiently and decently in our present circumstances?" Benedict is a terrific Pope; he'd be a lousy Congressman.

@Felapton (7:41 am) - Laws. There are so many laws that we're swimming in them, drowning in them. The older the government, the more the laws. Eventually - before long - governments are encrusted with laws as ships' hulls are with barnacles. But there's no way to scrape away laws - they just keep piling on. The more laws, the less respect for law. Every now and then a jurist or a law professor has a press conference about this, it makes the NYT front page, then it's forgotten again. Adding gay-marriage laws will cause a lot of people to lose a lot more respect for the law. Unintended consequence, perhaps, or perhaps not. It would take an awfully stupid legislator not to see that consequence coming. Congressmen. Is there such a thing as a good congressman? Many people in this country have become deeply cynical about that. A little cynical is good for democracy; deeply cynical is bad.

Like others here, I don't see how civil marriage really furthers procreation. A dollar-for-dollar child care tax credit would be a much greater inducement for me than official recognition of my relationship. After I married, I was very surprised to find out we were paying more taxes as a couple than we would have as two single individuals (I think that marriage penalty's been fixed since then).While it's always nice to get a certificate of recognition, it's so much sweeter when it comes with a cash prize. I think there are more direct ways to encourage childbearing, ways more effective than applauding the parents' relationship.

1. The language of ecclesiastics may heighten tensions, but anyone who has read the New York Times daily and Sunday for at least the last decade (and more) knows that the paper of record has let its editorial position on the subject frame its news coverage, i.e., read it with a cup of salt. As an ardent defender of certain first amendment rights (as in freedom of the press), the Times seems less concerned and knowledgable about the other freedom, freedom of religion.2. There is good reason to think that the NY legislation did not provide sufficient protections for religious bodies and groups. The fact that Governor Cuomo has apparently agreed to provide new language to meet this criticism suggests that this was a problem.3. That will not necessarily provide for passage of the legislation, nor lessen tensions, nor provide cover for legislators who want the bill to die.4. Whatever one thinks of the essence of the matter here, we would be naive not to think that apart from religious interests this is a very major change in the law and in our cultural practices. 5. It is unfortunate that the archbishop and bishop have not been smarter in their language and in their objections.

@Margaret Steinfels: "Whatever one thinks of the essence of the matter here, we would be naive not to think that apart from religious interests this is a very major change in the law and in our cultural practices."Perhaps. But perhaps the "very major change" in law and cultural practices that should really engage our attention, if we care about shoring up a waning culture and protecting the embattled institution of marriage, is what heterosexuals have done to marriage--not the tiny minority of gay and lesbian citizens in our society. I'm persuaded by the argument of one Peter Steinfels in his book "A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America" (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2003) that the rather bizarre fixation on homosexuality and gay issues, when the vast majority of citizens are not gay, is diversionary and not helpful, if we really want to "fix" marriage. Steinfels writes:In many respects, the societys anxieties surrounding homosexuality are really only a projection of issues surrounding heterosexualityonce the tight link between sex and procreation is broken. Homosexuality becomes the obvious battleground for addressing questions about nonprocreative heterosexuality. The relatively small gay and lesbian portion of the population bears the brunt of unresolved moral and cultural questions facing the more than 90 percent that is heterosexual (p. 273).And so I wonder why anyone wanting to think about the "major changes" affecting our understanding of marriage focuses on civil marriage for gay couples as the primary threat. If the real threat is a threat to the procreative intent of marriage, then why is the church not seeking to outlaw contraception, when over 90 percent of married Catholics at some point practice contraception? And when the vast majority of Catholics endorse this decision?And why is the church not going after divorce?The fixation on the gays seems misplaced. Strange. Insupportable.And radically unjust (not to mention unChristian).

@David Smith: "civilizations a tapestry. Start pulling out structural threads because you dont like their color and youll soon end up with nothing but pieces of cloth on the floor."You've got it exactly right. Yes, that's precisely the point I was trying to develop in my initial response to you here.That's precisely what I heard over and over from my fellow Southerners during the Civil Rights crisis, and the point we heard in many of our churches. Pull out that thread of segregation, which is essential to civilization as we know it, and who knows what chaos will ensue.It was the same argument pressed for decades prior to the abolition of slavery--pressed by church folks and the culture at large in the American South. The argument was so clear: slavery has been around from time immemorial. It is an integral part of civilization as we've always known it, for millennia. It's not only endorsed but commanded by scripture.Who would be foolish enough to want to pull out that thread and court chaos?And my grandmothers, my mother and her sisters often told me they heard versions of the same argument when women began to vote, enter the workforce, wear "men's" clothes, bob their hair and so forth.Everything depends, with these arguments, on precisely whose "civilization" is being de-threaded, no?

@William Lindsey (06/19/2011 - 10:09 am) :

Who would be foolish enough to want to pull out that thread and court chaos?

Oh, I don't think anyone's predicting chaos, William. What gay-marriage legislation would do is simply remove an important part of our cultural heritage. No fireworks, no riots, just significant cultural slippage. Believe it or not, an awful lot of perfectly intelligent, informed, moral people don't want it to happen. Equating them with segregationists and racists doesn't make it true. That tactic seems to have succeeded in bullying a lot of legislators, but politicians are easily bullied. And these days, calling someone a bigot is, I imagine, very like calling someone a witch was in seventeenth-century Salem. Weak people run scared.Of course, there's been a lot of cultural slippage in the past half century, and this is, in a way, just part of the general movement. That doesn't make it inevitable, though. Politicians don't always follow the mob.

It's amazing how some things are part of the "cultural heritage" when you like them and are not when you don't: patriotism; male domination in almost anything; slavery; churchianity; liberalism; conservatism; gun ownership; abortion; supremacy of heterosexuality; automobile ownership; smoking; etc.

"The fixation on the gays seems misplaced. Strange. Insupportable." The fixation is less puzzling if the underlying, driving motive for hierarchical objections is other than keeping lay gays in their place for reasons that don't hold up in the eyes of many today. That is a cover. The aim is to protect the priesthood by keeping attention on homosexuality "over there". If the trend to legitimize same-sex marriage continues, then homosexuality gradually becomes more "normalized" in cultural and political views and practices. (The change has happened in the past with lepers, slaves, and other sub-populations.) At some point, the focus of attention shifts to the Roman Catholic clergy and the grand hypocrisy surrounding homosexuality in the priesthood. A year ago, Pope Benedict declared to his interviewer that homosexuality is incompatible with the priesthood. The world watched pictures on the Internet of gay priests on the town blocks from the Vatican. The Vicar of Rome promptly ordered all homosexuals in the priesthood to come out and get out. Results are unknown. A number of reports on homosexuality in the priesthood are available. The conflict between what the Pope and bishops say and do is blatant. But, if the next 5-year study on clerical sexuality were to deal with homosexual prevalence and activity in the priesthood, fully recognizing customary official positions and pronouncements, the institution would suffer far more than from revelations of a small number of child sexual abusers being covered up. That unveiling is the eventuality to be avoided at all costs. The same-sex anti-marriage campaigns are tactical diversions supporting a more important goal.

*Yawn* Still waiting on D.Smith to do more than wax poetic on "cultural heritage" and "slippage" and "threads" of hetero civilization" threatened by mobs of gay bullies. What nonsense. If you have anything more than unfounded assertion and specious reasoning, get on with it, already.

Margaret's post was most germane to what the thread is supposed to be about, viz. the proposed change in NYS law.Reading Maureen Dowdin today's NYT makes me sad as the discussion about support of marriage becomes acrimonious comments between the archbishop and Ms. Dowd, and more broadly their supporters on either side.My own view is that Holy Mother would be better off promoting real help to encourgae marriage values starting early with teens (preteens as intercourse is becoming more common among middle schoolers) and the sexting generation, through college students and the problem of "hook ups" which I doubt the reduction of coed dorms will do much to overcome, to the changing face of marriage with more cohabitation and later marriages, to different understandings of "family" in civil society. to the struggles of families where both parents work and spend even much home time onwork isues, to divorced/remarried and stable families outside the idea of easy annulments say.Particulaly vital is the need for more straight talk about the problems of abuse and violence in the home and how to deal with it realisticaly.Instead, we seem to have cries for making marriage strong appear only as a kind of homophobic ran to many.The issue is not only legislative, but really inside the Church and will continue to be so,The current tension at St. Cecilia's in Boston (see the boston Globe video of the pastor therr) capture IMO the growing gulf between how people experience Church values and the vacuity of attempting to impose Church views by statements and power approaches ala Brooklyn by Church policy makers.

I'll ask for the umteenth time:Just HOW could gay marriage destroy or even weaken marriages of heterosexuals???? What could the marriage of your gay neighbors possibly do to your marriage?I've been asking this for years, and not one person has come up with an answer. Not one. Not ONE answer of any sort.Could it possible be that there isn't any reason they shouldn't marry? (Except that you don't like the idea.)

The Times at its heart-strings best: "The setup is complicated. Griffins mother, Carol Einhorn, a fund-raiser for a nonprofit group, is 48 and single. She conceived through in vitro fertilization with sperm from Mr. Russell, 49, a chiropractor and close friend. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights, Mr. Russell stays in the spare room of Ms. Einhorns apartment. The other three days he lives on President Street with his domestic partner, David Nimmons, 54, an administrator at a nonprofit. Most Sundays, they all have dinner together."No legislation necessary, and they all lived happily ever after...or as happily as ....

" What could the marriage of your gay neighbors possibly do to your marriage?"The institution of marriage as it exists right now is associated with good, honorable, worthy, human qualities like love, dedication, commitment, and faithfulness. If it is expanded to include pairs of people who engage in what many believe to be indecent, dishonorable and bestial activities, it will cease to be exclusively a status people admire and respect and become in some cases a status that invokes disgust and obscene jokes. This is why people who regard homosexual conduct as morally wrong and depraved believe same-sex marriage will harm the institution of marriage generally. The public respect and encouragement that is rightfully shown married people plays a non-trivial role in the ability of some couples to endure low points in the marriage.I do not personally think this is a tenable position. But I agree with David Smith that there are many intelligent, informed and moral people who do (including, apparently, the Archbishop of New York City.) Bullying them into silence with name-calling ("bigot", "ignorant", "uneducated") and ridicule is detrimental to public discourse, whatever the legal outcome of this question turns out to be.Will including same-sex couples in the institution of civil marriage extend to them some of the respect and encouragement that heterosexual married couples currently enjoy? Or will it diminish that respect and encouragement for all married couples? Probably both, to some extent. Is the latter worth former?

"3. Such unions are not able to contribute in a proper way to the procreation and survival of the human race. This would imply a need to outlaw marriage involving a post-menopausal female or a member of either sex who had been surgically rendered incapable of procreation. In fact, even the Church performs such marriages, doesnt it?"Felaton --Do not expect rational implications from Catholic bishops. The principles of reason need not bind theirthinking. They, being stand-ins for God, are beyond reason and unreason, good and evil. That's why their lying and cover-ups about the pervert priests were OK. We, on the other hand, are bound by their all-but-divine "rationality". They don't have to give our kinds of reasons. They're bishops. They just know.

"When bishops and archbishops enter the Rep.-Dem. political arena to play the game the way it is played there, they become subject to the same rules as everyone else."Jack --Right. And when the ACLU demands that such behavior be recognized as political, the Church will lose its tax-exempt status. Rightly so.Vatican II says in effect that it is the job of the bishops to preach general principles of morality and the job of the laity to implement these principles according to their consciences. The bishops don't seem to have accepted this.

Gerelyn --I don't see why anybody is surprised that priests and nuns had slaves. Even free people of color had slaves themselves. The institution was generally accepted as the way it ought to be --except by the slaves, of course. There were slaves in the North as well, and indentured servants there were similar in some ways to slaves.When people came to this country to escape the status of being servants/peasants/serfs, they in turn couldn't wait to get servants/slaves of their own. Human nature. But to Europe's credit, it had done away with slavery before America was colonized. We tend to forget that, I think. Slavery was re-instituted in the USofA.

" In fact, years ago Ratzinger said one reason that same-sex civil marriage couldnt be allowed is that it would redefine marriage so it would become: an institution devoid of essential reference to factors linked to heterosexuality; for example, procreation This seems to represent a remarkably blinkered notion of marriage, "Lisa --Indeed! I can understand a community discouraging homosexual unions when there weren't enough children in this world. In the old circumstances it was essential that people reproduce.But history is in a new phase. Rome (pig-headed as ever) won't admit the fact, but there are now many too many people on the planet Earth. The human race simply doesn't not have enough natural resources to support 7 billion or more people. To expect that humanity can go on doubling its numbers defies the simple but inexorable laws of arithmetic, for heaven's sake. We are headed for more pestilence, war, and the other social ills that follow when parents can't support their children with the means at hand. The not very distant future looks terribly grim, and it's arithmetic that tells us soThe Catholic bishops are going to have a lot to answer for, especially in South America. They should be encouraging gay unions, no suppressing them.(If I were young and a saint, I would start an order whose sole mission would be to pray for the conversion of the bishops to rationality, if not to Catholicism.)

Joseph J. --Thanks very much for the information from Noonan. I didn't know that the Church's official teaching about the acceptability of slavery had persisted so long -- until V II. Certainly some American bishops had preached against it before that, and also preached against plain old segregation. It was my understanding that de factor slavery had disappeared from England around the middle ages and that on the continent it persisted only a few hundred years more. Were the laity indeed ahead of the clergy again?

Felapton - Re threats of same-sex marriage to the institution of marriage generally -If obscene jokes are a worrisome prospect and a decision criterion for approving a state of life. you should hear a bunch of the really rotten ones commonly told about ordinary married couples, and, even better, about ordained celibates. Good taste and the delicate sensitivity typical on dotCommonweal unfortunately preclude offering examples. Marriage vows often specify "for better and for worse", innocently agreed to at the time but fully understood only later. Speaking of conventional heterosexual marriage as if it were some pure angelic communion instead of the most human and intricate of human relations misrepresents the goal being defended in your arguments. Lisa Fullam (6/19 2:42AM and earlier) has pointed out some of the internal and external complexities that should call for thinking beyond the one-organ-one-function focus that often seems to underlie Church pronouncements.

"But, if the next 5-year study on clerical sexuality were to deal with homosexual prevalence and activity in the priesthood, fully recognizing customary official positions and pronouncements, the institution would suffer far more than from revelations of a small number of child sexual abusers being covered up."Jack --Isn't it time to say explicitly what is implicit above: many homosexuals in this culture repress the fact that they are themselves homosexual, and among the repressed homosexuals are probably a significant number of Catholic bishops. No wonder these bishops fight this marriage law tooth and nail. They are unconsciously extremely afraid that the acceptance of homosexual marriage will encourage them these bishops, to out themselves, while at the same time they do not want to out themselves. In other words, they have highly opposing unconscious reactions to such laws -- they want to come out (and the law would encourage coming out), but they also are afraid to come out, even to themselves. It must be terrible for them. They really do need our prayers.And suppose for a moment that they all did come out. They would then see that a significant number of bishops has been teaching as true what they really believe in their heart of hearts is false. This would be devastating for their faith, I would imagine. All in all, they are in a terrible position.

"The institution of marriage as it exists right now is associated with good, honorable, worthy, human qualities like love, dedication, commitment, and faithfulness."Felapton --Huh? Ya gotta be kidding. You're confusing the ideal of marriage with history. Sure, there are some married people like that, and sure marriage does often make people into better people. But there are also homosexual people like that (my neighbors, for instance), and no doubt their (unofficial but 40 year or so union) has improved both of them.

"Will including same-sex couples in the institution of civil marriage extend to them some of the respect and encouragement that heterosexual married couples currently enjoy? Or will it diminish that respect and encouragement for all married couples?"Felapton --Why should my admiration for you and your wife diminish my admiration for my neighbors? Why should my admiration for them diminish what I think of you all?What are we talking abouyt here -- some sort of popularity contest?

@Ann Olivier: Don't quote me out of context. I did not say what you imply I said. The question is not whether your admiration for particular married couples will be diminished when your neighbors' can also lay claim to the word "marriage." The question is whether there are people (and how many) whose admiration and respect for marriage the institution will be diminished.Status, honor and respect are important to people; it's pointless to deny it. At my graduate school, there was an inviolable rule that students with an undergraduate degree in engineering (even chemical engineering) were awarded a "Master's of Computer Engineering" and those with an undergraduate degree in math, physics or chemistry were awarded a "Master's of Computer Science" for completing the exact same program. From time to time, somebody would propose doing away with the distinction, and the MCE's would invariably respond with pure, unmitigated rage.Another time, there was a university-wide attempt to forbid the students to address adjunct faculty as "Professor." That title was deemed too impressive for those who were hired merely to teach. The fear was that somebody might mistake one of them for the more highly exalted research faculty. (That one failed, because nobody wanted parents to realize they were mortgaging their houses to buy their children a chance to spend four years with adjuncts.)These things make a difference to people. Many married heterosexuals will feel the title "husband" (to a lesser extent "wife") has been diminished when your neighbors can use it as well. And people usually feel more of a sense of obligation when they are distinguished with high honors than when they are merely accorded commonplace ones.Again, I do not myself consider this a serious objection and neither, obviously, do you. But people like Archbishop Dolan do, and it is worth trying to understand their point of view.

Jack, thank you for your response. Yes, I think you're absolutely correct: one of the strong underlying motives in the attempt of the hierarchy to keep diverting the discussion to the gays, as we talk about how marriage is going down the tubes, is to divert attention away from themselves. And, quite specifically, to divert attention away from the fact that the very men rattling the anti-gay swords in the church's clerical system are all too often closeted (or self-denying) gay men.I suppose part of what puzzles me is the ability of Catholics I consider to have heads on their shoulders to continue buying the diversionary tripe. There are still many seemingly intelligent, well-educated Catholics who will try to argue, with a straight face, that permitting same-sex couples the right to civil marriage will undermine the procreative norm of heterosexual marriage.When we've long been marrying non-fertile heterosexual couples with nary a peep about this from these defenders of marriage. And when we knowingly marry many heterosexual couples who are capable of having children but don't intend to do so. And when 90%+ of married Catholics in the developed nations practice contraception.It is quite clearly not about procreation at all, or about threats to procreation. It's about--as you rightly observe--keeping the gays in their subordinate places and not permitting homosexuality to be "normalized."Which means it's also about completely ignoring the serious considerations of justice that arise if, by chance, being gay is not a choice but a matter of how some of us come from God's hands. It's about pretending those brothers and sisters just don't really exist. And that, if they speak out about the injustice, they're being uncivil and self-centered and trying to dominate the conversation by harping incessantly on their issues.For many Catholics who have spent their careers in places like Catholic universities that have a long history of granting unwarranted privilege to heterosexual employees and that have often practiced injustice to gay and lesbian employees, it's also about not facing their own complicity in that injustice. Even as they talk about human rights, etc. It's simply easier to imagine those brother and sister Catholics just don't exist, as we talk about human rights and matters of justice (and communion and catholicity), while refusing to engage them at all.

@David, you say, "Believe it or not, an awful lot of perfectly intelligent, informed, moral people dont want it to happen. Equating them with segregationists and racists doesnt make it true."And with all due respect: so did "an awful lot perfectly intelligent, informed, moral people" in the American South during the period leading up to the Civil War and the period of the Civil Rights crisis. They, too, didn't "want it to happen." They, too, talked about slippage and decline and the bible and moral values. And what had obtained in civilized societies for millennia. And what had obtained in the religious teaching of those societies for millennia.And it turns out they/we were spectacularly wrong. Wrong in our assessment of ourselves as moral people. Wrong about where the moral arc of the universe was trending, with regard to racism and racial prejudice.It's not I who am equating those who press precisely the same argument about the human rights (and humanity) of LGBT folks with segregationists and racists.And it's not I who "making this equation true."I think you might want to look elsewhere for an explanation of who's making this equation true.

1. It's unfortunate that the Archb and B have made themselves the front lines on this because it certainly co-opts others from voicing their concerns, criticisms, etc. on the subject.2. Why deny that this is a significant change in law and culture? Isn't that what the LGB&T, etc., have been working toward. This will change our understanding of marriage. Why deny it?3. The advent of legal changes will almost certainly advance the practices of artificial insemination, surrogate motherhood, and other reproductive productions. Why isn't that a significant alteration in patterns of social organization, social systems, etc.. Any why should we believe this is always to the good. Think of the pharmaceuticals getting into the business.4. There was a time when all good liberals (including me) and some libertarians and even a few conservatives thought that discouraging single motherhood was a major civil rights issue. Well, guess what? It hasn't turned out to be so wonderful (cf. teenage moms), especially for the kids. 5. Point: whatever anyone thinks of the merits of gay marriage, why deny that it is not a major shift in how we understand marriage, fidelity, sexual relationships, reproduction, and child-rearing.

Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. - B16Aside from the irony of the church that covers up clergy sex abuse going on about violence to children, he's just wrong ....Kids Of Same-Sex Parents Do FineNew Position Statement Adopted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Adoption and Co-Parenting of Children by Same-Sex Couples

I'm not sure what the take-away is for any of the 5 points raised above, but I especially don't get the point of # 4 (re: single moms). Is the point that liberals have been wrong about things regarding marriage and child-rearing in the past? is that fact relevant to the present situation? Are gay people (who, as it were, are working toward being married parents) analogous to single mothers in some way that I'm missing?

I take the point of #4 to be that when we've flouted tradition in the past, tradition has flouted back even harder.

Hi, Margaret. Could you expand a bit on how you think gay marriage would mark a great shift in how we view fidelity? Thanks.

We flouted tradition when we abolished polygamy. Tradition does not always flout back.

Traditions do not flout or not not flout. They are not agents.

Margaret - Who are you addressing that is denying? - As far as change in legal definition of marriage, no question. Not long ago, I recall the same happened with segregation. - Fidelity shouldn't change by any definition of it I can think of.- Sexual relationships have been proceeding and should continue. They are hard to control.- The reproductive techniques you refer to have already been introduced here and abroad and are in use. - Child rearing has been happening in many ways beyond the pope's theoretical model for generations. Results seem to depend much more on the individuals doing the rearing than on the theoretical model adopted. Re: your #1: Earlier, you noted " 5. It is unfortunate that the archbishop and bishop have not been smarter in their language and in their objections. " Maybe it wasn't misfortune at work. Given the earth-shaking significance they attribute to the cause, one might expect the archbishop and bishop to think and speak with the maximum smartness of which they are capable. Perhaps they did. If so, that would be cause for concern.

IN RE: Genesis:Whether or not The Yahwist of Elohist writers intended it to be so, the command to go forth, be fruitful and multiply has already been more than amply obeyed.Though clearly contrary to Catholic teaching, has anyone questioned the world census and compared it to the world's ability to feed, clothe and shelter the people who already exist?Someone said to me recently, 'the poorest of our poor (USA) still enjoy a standard of living significantly higher than perhaps 80% of the rest of the world'. While I have no stats to corroborate that statement, I suspect that there is more truth to it than not.So, I wonder why the Church hasn't addressed our ever-burgeoning population. I mean, come on, how many thousands of years have elapsed since the first writings of the Hebrew scripture. At least we are up to accepting that the world is round, when are we going to address overpopulation.As far as politics and church involvement in same, another friend of mine recently pointed out something very interesting... the United States, the 'Great Experiment' which eschewed from the onset the meddling of religious institutions, has resulted, for good or bad, in the country we now live in. On the other hand, the Catholic Church, through the various Catholic Monarchs of Europe is responsible for the Central and South American countries. Realistically, where would you prefer to live?

The most recent March 3rd Pew Research Center survey (conducted during the last week of February) shows the following: 45 percent of Americans say gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry, up from 37 percent in 2009 (and just 27 percent in 1996) while 46 percent oppose same-sex marriage, down from 54 percent two years ago, and down from a 65 percent disapproval rate in 1996.Catholicism and other religions would lose nothing of their role in sanctioning the kinds of unions that they find in keeping with their beliefs. For nonbelievers and those who find the sacramental nature of marriage less or unimportant, the civil license issued by the State would be all they needed to unlock the benefits reserved in most states and in federal law for married couples. That has been done in most of Europe for many years with the full complicity of the Catholic Church and life as we know it has not ended.This precedent already exists in the US with divorce laws as well as differing laws within states regarding at what age a person is eligible to enter into a state-sanctioned marriage.What is telling is that Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Focus on the Family a while back (March, I think) that "it's clear that something like same-sex marriage -- indeed, almost exactly what we would envision by that -- is going to become normalized, legalized, and recognized in the culture." "It's time," Mohler added, "for Christians to start thinking about how we're going to deal with that." May I add that it is time for bishops and other Catholics to also start thinking about how they are going to deal with that.