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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

Jean (6/20 - 2:47 pm):

I think some marital protections for gay couples are inevitable (and, in my view, in the best interests of society as a whole).

I agree. The sticking point here seems to be that gay-marriage advocates insist that the only thing they'll accept is changing the official definition of marriage to include them.

"The sticking point here seems to be that gay-marriage advocates insist that the only thing theyll accept is changing the official definition of marriage to include them."Or is the sticking point that anti-gay-marriage advocates insist that the law embrace the narrower definition of marriage that the Church promulgates?Many denominations are able to hold the faithful to their teachings despite the fact that civil law does not reinforce them. The Amish are such a denomination. ISTM that if the RCC did a better job with faith formation, it would not need to get involved in legislative lobbying.The fact that it feels it must take a stance, outside of objecting to language that would interfere with its religious rights, suggests to me that its teaching is a) not tenable or b) not well understood by the faithful.

Jean, my sense is that the Church is doing two things. First, it's teaching its members. Second, it's protesting a proposed state action that would change fundamentally the way marriage is understood in the wider community.Both actions seem to me appropriate. Almost all the loud and long arguing here and in the new thread on this topic amounts to people proclaiming their convictions about whether the Church position is right or wrong.

David, if teaching must go on through legislative lobbying rather than in the parish, perhaps the Church needs to look to the effectiveness of its catechesis. I would argue that the wider community has already fundamentally changed the way it views marital rights.As for "loud," I'm not sure how an internet discussion's noise level is measured. As for "long," conservative Catholics could shorten up the discussions considerably if they had compelling arguments that barring homosexuals from civil marital benefits, allowing them to protect joint property and assets, is in the best interests of God's people.

Jean, sometimes the comments section of these blogs puts me very much in mind of what barroom conversations must be like. Since I don't drink I really don't know, but I think that image can't be far off.Whence the need to be perpetually certain that one is right and the other guy is an idiot? There's very little chance of learning when everybody's yelling. It's an ugly picture of Catholic community.

I sincerely wish that seminary students, philosophy students, psychology and law students were required to read this blog. Not only does it make for an incredible conversation among enlightened and educated people with widely varying views, but it does so in a manner sometimes fast and furious with quotes and counter-quotes, and is an education in and of itself. I know of at least one Catholic Bishop who reads this blog (when he has time), and though unlikely to join in, he at least is 'hearing' what some of us are saying.Thank you all for your intellect, your beliefs, and your willingness to debate such a wide variety of subjects that are relevant to our shared faith and our shared Church.

For those interested in a few statistics, here is a map showing countries that permit same-sex marriages or civil unions. In several of these (all Western countries) various distinctions continue to be drawn about adoption and artificial insemination. I wonder what the legal/cultural background might be to these differences.