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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.

About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009).

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Is it too much to ask that somebody -- ANYBODY -- at Commonweal post an article defending (and promoting!) Catholic teaching on the truth of marriage?Must we always get posts attacking those in the Church who do defend marriage?

"I would expect church leaders to speak out on important issues, including same-sex marriage. "I don't see at all why leaders would need to speak out against civil rights legislation. Do you think Mugavero or Sullivan would have publicly opposed this law?

Bender,I do not think that you understood the post. Perhaps you should re-read it.

When the church finally keeps its overly large nose of out people's bedrooms, perhaps many who have left will reevaluate their reasons for leaving.If the Vatican wants to keep track of its clergy's bedrooms, wonderful, but leave the poor laity alone.The church can teach and preach until the cows come home, but under the circumstances of the last decade or so, perhaps it is time to silence its strident voice. People will hear the message of the church, and then make their own choices. Perhaps 'natural' law needs to be rethought; apparently as when they were deciding the finer points, they left out (yes, even back then) whole groups of people and only focused on the ones they wanted to promote and reward.On the other hand, down here in the South, dioceses and bishops owned slaves. You can't just whitewash facts. Yet today, people of African-American descent are the equal of anyone else in this land. How things changed in 150 years!So, there are more groups that need to make the journey from down-trodden and vilified to equal, and regardless of what the church says, they will reach their goal.So, Rome, get over it. Start planning for how you will incorporate these groups into the whole church because, history teaches us that one day you will be doing just that!

Mr Davis,Can you provide some source material that shows that Catholic bishops owned slaves in the South? I can't find any material that says that they did. Thanks.

Lot of pertinent info missing here. Are all three state senators Catholic? That would make a difference to me because many politicians use their Catholicity connection when useful. The political word is that Bloomburg (who bought his election) is behind this deal with influence and money to make an easy re-election for all three. When did these three change their minds on gay marriage or were they always for it?

Mr. Gibbons, you addressed Mr. Davis, and I don't mean to butt into the conversation.But I would recommend that you have a look at Kenneth J. Zanca's "American Catholics and Slavery, 1786-1866" (Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America, 1994). It's online at google books. The introduction to section III of the book (it's not clear to me if Zanca wrote this) states, "Catholic bishops, clergy, and religious were slave owners" (p. 111). This goes on to cite specific examples.John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the U.S., was a slaveholder, as was Bishop Dubourg of New Orleans. Catholic religious communities in the Southern part of the U.S. very frequently owned slaves, and in some cases, amassed quite a bit of wealth by operating plantations with slave labor. In case you're interested in learning more about that particular bit of American Catholic history, there's abundant historical documentation and research about the Jesuit practice of slaveholding, in particular.I hope this information will be helpful to you.

P.S. See also Thomas J. Shannon, "Catholic Social Ethics in the United States," in "A Call to Fidelity: On the Moral Theology of Charles J. Curran," ed. James J. Walter, Timothy E. O'Connell, and Shannon (D.C.: Georgetown UP, 2002):"Catholic bishops and religious orders had owned slaves, and the church was slow to reject the reality of slavery" (p. 175). Shannon goes on to note that, even after it rejected slavery, the church "ever so slowly" began to see the evils of racism and segregation--and that "a related question is sexism," where "the dominant history is one of oppression and exclusion [of women] from leadership roles." I hope this is helpful information, Mr. Gibbons.

"Official Catholic docytine held that slavbery was not necessarily evil .... not opposed to divine or natural law .... Catholic plantation orwners -- including the Jesuits -- had held Negroes since the introduction of slaves into colonial Marylamd .... Archbishop Carroll, for example, directed in his will, written a month before he died in December 1815, that his 'Black servant Charles' should be manumitted within a year after his death ..." - p. 90, American Catholicism, byy John Tracy Ellis This looks like an interesting article. I wasn't able to read it beyond the one page, but it has some helpful footnotes ... John Hughes and a Catholic Response to Slavery in Antebellum America

Sorry for the typos

The "careful research' of Putnam and Campbell appaprentl leads them to the conclusion Americans overwhelmighly disapprove of political persuasion by religious leaders. Putnam and Campbell foresee in a competitive religious market the risk [of] an exodus of members.The careful research of P & C notwithstanding, Bishop DiMarzio evidently feels that the risk is worth taking. And he's definitely not alone. Here are an additional 700 plus religious leaders (on the other side, including a few Catholics) who seem to agree that the risk of provoking an exodus of members is one worth taking when moral principles are at stake:http://blog.marriageequalityny.org/2011/06/faith-leaders-from-across-new..., Kruger's (he's one of the three mentioned in the Bishop's letter) lack of integrity was the subject of much mirth on this site as recently as March:http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=12557Its also worth noting that in addition to the three Democrats mentioned in this postthe Bishops column has strong words about the key Republican leader: If this legislation is brought to a vote, Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos will ultimately be responsible for the passage of same-sex marriage in our state. The bishop might also have mentioned Gov. Cuomo, who seems to have brought this issue to the fore in a last-minute way when complex and delicate religious liberty issues of enormous consequence are at stake. Its odd that the 700 religious leaders seem so ready to endorse a bill that unless altered has such weak protections for religious liberty. Even the NYT reproters recognize that important issues are being given scant attention.

Patrick Molloy writes that "Bishop DiMarzio evidently feels that the risk is worth taking." I agree. But would there not be a way to proclaim what the church teaches without being so overtly political? His use of the front page to attack selected politicians goes much further than the statement various religious figures signed in support of the legislation.

This all seems to be about tone of voice. I wonder whether there are any Catholic bishops who've editorialized or otherwise preached against gay marriage in a manner that liberal or progressive Catholics would see as acceptable. If so, it would be interesting - and possibly useful - to contrast them with Bishop Di Marizio's effort.

Preaching against gay marriage in our private religious practice is one thing, preaching against legislation extending rights and protections to a minority group is another. We have laws protecting women from discrimination, those laws do not prevent our Church from privately discriminating- barring women from the priesthood, etc. Did the Catholic Church in the past come out against gender discrimination laws, somehow fearing it would obstruct our right to continue to engage in it ourselves?

Paul, thanks for this post; and thanks all for the discussion above. Some reactions:1 - In the "talk to me like I'm stupid" category, I don't understand how a civil marriage between, say, two women, is, from a Catholic perspective, in a different category than a civil marriage between a man and a woman. Our bishops don't object (or at least, not as strongly) to all sorts of non-sacramental marriages recognized by civil law (e.g., Protestant marriages, Jewish marriages, Muslim marriages, interfaith marriages, interracial marriages, marriages between people unable to conceive children, etc.). Why the strong reaction against gay marriage? Help me out here, folks.2 - The Church's poor reasoning on sexual matters has been a stumbling block for me for decades, ever since I read "Humane Vitae". Like many church statements, I found it to have beautiful and profound insights and teachings...side by side with stunning assertions of illogic. Bishop DiMarzio's column seems to follow in that tradition.So, for example, statements like "marriage has forever been, is now, and always will be a joining of one man and one woman in an everlasting relationship" don't strengthen Bishop DiMarzio's case; they weaken it. Anyone can open a Bible and find numerous counterexamples (Jacob with his two wives and two concubines, to name one).Neither does a statement like "common sense and practical evidence tell us that the well-being of children is best served in most cases by their being brought up in an established home with their mother and father", which apparently concedes that common sense and practical evidence tell us that the well-being of children is best served in some cases by their being brought up in a "non-traditional" home (e.g., a single father, a father and loving stepmother, a grandmother, an adoptive family, etc.). Well, if that's the case, isn't it a positive good worthy of Church support that civil law---in the best interests of the children---makes accommodations for those cases?3 - Cyprian Davis' "The History of Black Catholics in the United States" is, so far as I know, the definitive one volume history on its subject, and is well worth adding to the "reading list" started by other commenters above.

Luke (6/18, 6:19):

1 In the talk to me like Im stupid category, I dont understand how a civil marriage between, say, two women, is, from a Catholic perspective, in a different category than a civil marriage between a man and a woman. [...] Why the strong reaction against gay marriage? Help me out here, folks.

No children, no procreation? Marriage today privileges child making. The new, improved marriage would not. Also, no children, no church. Also, maybe, it's sort of thumbing one's nose at the biblical injunction to be fruitful and multiply. I dunno.I doubt that all the priests and bishops who protest in public have thought it through to the bitter end, but I imagine if they did they'd end up in the same place - as would their political opponents. That's the way humans think - we decide, then rationalize the decision. Unfortunately, though I think this is obvious - and is becoming increasingly evident as society slips its moorings of traditional morality and ethics - when we discuss and argue, we insist loudly and even angrily that it's not - that we're being completely rational. But rationality isn't necessarily the ultimate touchstone of truth.

Incidentally, Krugers (hes one of the three mentioned in the Bishops letter) lack of integrity was the subject of much mirth on this site as recently as March:Indeed. And there has been some speculation that having his personal life thus exposed made it more difficult for Kruger to maintain an anti-gay-marriage stance as a legislator. I don't know whether that's true -- this is Albany we're talking about; embarrassment is not measured on an ordinary human scale. But he's certainly not one it would be good to have on your side for the purposes of principle and persuasion.

@David Smith: "as society slips its moorings of traditional morality and ethics . . . ."What a flood of memories that observation--pitched here against those who think full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the human community is a positive good that will build a more humane society--brings back. I graduated from high school in south Arkansas as the integration process began in schools. It began in my school in 1967--"with all deliberate speed," we had mendaciously claimed we were moving, until federal action forced our hand and made us do right. When our school integrated, we were plastered several times, the whole campus was plastered several times, with lurid brochures warning us about what we should expect when the color line had been breached. SOCIETY IS SLIPPING ITS MOORINGS, those brochures all announced in shrill, fear-centered tones, underneath photos of white women dancing with black men. TRADITIONAL MORAL VALUES AND THE BIBLE ARE BEING PITCHED ASIDE.And then integration took place, human rights long deferred were granted to a minority that had been treated inhumanely for far too long. And the world continued to turn on its axis. And poor shabby little morality remained as firmly in place as it had ever been, as shabby as it had ever been. And some of us may have become slightly better people for having been made by law to face our prejudices and our inhumane treatment of others (those weren't moral issues, of course; they weren't what we talked about when we talked about morality slipping its moorings).For those interested in a good scholarly article about how segregationists in the American South used the argument that integration would undermine morality to try to stop the integration process, see Anders Walkers' "Legislating Virtue: How Segregation Disguised Racial Discrimination as Moral Reform Following Brown v. Board of Education," Duke Law Journal 47, 399-424.If I were confident I could successfully embed a hyperlink to this article, which is online, I'd do so. But I lack confidence that I can do it without bungling . . . .

No children, no procreation? Marriage today privileges child making. The new, improved marriage would not. Also, no children, no church. Also, maybe, its sort of thumbing ones nose at the biblical injunction to be fruitful and multiply. I dunno.David Smith,I am not sure exactly what you mean when you say marriage today "privileges child making," but I don't see how allowing a small percentage of marriages in which the couples, unassisted, cannot procreate will change marriage for the vast majority of couples who can procreate. And of course one of the main objections to same-sex marriage is that gay couples will adopt. Meanwhile, 41% of births in the United States are out of wedlock, and 28% of mothers who have two or more children have conceived them with two or more fathers. A little more alarm about those kinds of things and a lot less alarm about opening marriage to an additional few percent of the population would seem to be in order.

@David Smith (6/18, 7:37 am) David, thanks for your reply."I doubt that all the priest and bishops who protest in public have thought it through to the bitter end...."This is part of what I'm curious (ignorant?) about. When bishops are promoting the Church's teaching, aren't they presumed to have "thought it through to the bitter end"? Or at least, aren't the Church's teachings, somewhere along the line, thought through, if not to the bitter end, at least in great depth and nuance?It seems to me that's one advantage of having a 2,000 year old worldwide institution---a great intellectual tradition in which all sorts of things---including civil and sacramental marriage in a pluralistic society---are carefully and well thought out.So yes, "marriage today privileges child making". But in US civil law, to my knowledge, there's no requirement that married people have or raise children, nor that they demonstrate an ability to have children. Adoption and foster care are long-standing mechanisms for creating and sustaining families, and for raising children in our society. The Church can (and, it seems to me, does) say that the ideal is for children to be raised by their birth parents, while recognizing there are situations in which that ideal is not possible, or not achievable. So why can't/doesn't the Church say that although sacramental marriage is reserved for a man and a woman intending to have children and raise them in the practice of the faith, we recognize that civil marriage is differently defined in a pluralistic society such as the US? (Again, a serious question on my part.)

"Did the Catholic Church in the past come out against gender discrimination laws, somehow fearing it would obstruct our right to continue to engage in it ourselves?" (Irene, 5:22am) Like opposition to the ERA during the 70s ratification push. Though at least unlike the Mormons the RCC didn't excommunicate ERA supporters.

So the Catholic Church opposed the ERA? Wow.

A NYT NEWS ALERT - - This just in: Tensions over the religious implications of same-sex marriage legislation were heightened on Friday. . .How were these tensions heightened and who was involved, you ask? Our ever-sensitive press arbiters helpfully explain: Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the states top Roman Catholic leader, called in to an Albany radio talk show to warn that the proposed legislation posed an ominous threat to society. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/18/nyregion/cuomo-expects-approval-of-sam... see a familiar pattern here. The Archbishop obviously could have chosen less inflammatory language but instead he decided to heighten tensions. Some contend that he commited a hate crime. Long time observers are stunned. They have never seen the like in the many epochs of Albany politics. The mere suggestion that there may be ominous threats in any bill produced in the Albany sausage factory is widely ridiculed among reputable scholars and others of sound mind. A welcome message from less incendiary quarters is that of 700 New York religious leaders: Embrace laissez-faire morality and individualism and avoid any needless societal tensions, they say, in a scrupulously non-political statement. Progressive Catholics seem to agree though for the record many have no comment except to excoriate their bishops.

Frank G. I see others have done my work for me - thanks all! In the small graveyard outside the east end of the Cathedral in Charleston are buried some of the church's slaves...Luke H. Let us not forget that marraige between people of the same gender is not only being allowed in more and more states, but in more and more countries. I do not have a list of all the countries where it is legal, but I remember some of them are "Catholic" Countries. Last week, while the US was focused on Wiener's escapades, the US Congress passed legislation to privatize Social Security. Time and time again, while the US Public has been focused on what I consider to be 'non-issues', laws are snuck thru while no one is looking.I have to wonder if at least some of the RC propaganda about marraige is a smoke screen to divert world attention from the still-growing clergy abuse scandal... (Philadelphia come to mind)

Patrick Malloy: I fail to understand your beef with the NYT in this instance. Would you prefer that they not mention the church's opposition at all? Or is it just insensitive to quote the words Dolan actually used? If he believes it's an "ominous threat," isn't it a good thing for the newspaper to pass that verdict along? Don't you think heightening the tensions is his objective? Seems like a fairly neutral description to me.

The Archbishop obviously could have chosen less inflammatory language but instead he decided to heighten tensions. Some contend that he commited a hate crime.As I noted in my post on Religiousleftlaw.com, the following statement from Archbishop Dolan is duplicitous:

Our beliefs should not be viewed as discrimination against homosexual people. The Church affirms the basic human rights of gay men and women, and the state has rightly changed many laws to offer these men and women hospital visitation rights, bereavement leave, death benefits, insurance benefits, and the like.

Archbishop Dolan is claiming for himself and the Church sympathy for "reasonable" gay-rights legislation, when the clear position of the Church is that there should be no recognition of gay rights whatsoever. I didn't mention this part of the Archbishop's statement:

Last time I consulted an atlas, it is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America not in China or North Korea. In those countries, government presumes daily to redefine rights, relationships, values, and natural law. There, communiqus from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of family and marriage means.But, please, not here! Our countrys founding principles speak of rights given by God, not invented by government, and certain noble values life, home, family, marriage, children, faith that are protected, not re-defined, by a state presuming omnipotence.

It is simply preposterous, not to mention offensive, to compare the democratically elected government of the state of New York with the governments of China and North Korea.

You're welcome, Mr. Gibbons. Glad I could help. The topic has long interested me, since I did my undergraduate work at Loyola in New Orleans, a university whose foundation depended on the money generated for the Jesuits by slave labor on the plantations they owned.I was also attracted to the Catholic church as a teen, in part, due to the willingness of many Catholics in my part of the South to accept integration at a time when many other "white" churches, including my family's Southern Baptist church, were unwilling to do so. Painful to me as a gay Catholic now to see the Catholic church behaving in precisely the opposite way, and seeking to depict its response to the struggle of LGBT human beings for our rights as virtuous. I have to keep reminding myself that churches have frequently not been on the side of angels in similar historic struggles for rights in the past--as Mary and Irene are noting, quite rightly, about many churches' response to the struggle for women's rights, as well.

Mr. Lindsey,Thank you for providing documentation.

when God blessed Adam and Eve and told them to multiplyNot exactly important, but I have been rereading Genesis recently, and it is in the first creation account (Genesis 1-2:3) that God speaks about procreation:

God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: "Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth."

In the second creation account, when God wants to create a partner for Adam, here's what we get:

The LORD God said: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him." So the LORD God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.

Harold Bloom suggests that J (the source for this part of the story) was having a little fun, since in attempting to make a partner for Adam, God creates all the animals, but none is suitable. Was the creation of the giraffe, say, or the peacock a failed attempt at making a suitable partner for Adam? What part does procreation play in all of this?The only mention of procreation in the Adam and Eve story is here:

I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel." To the woman he said: "I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master."

The version of the NAB still online admits in a note that there is a better rendering of, "He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel," and in the Revised Edition, just recently released, they do what they should have done in the original edition and translate it, "They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel."

Mollie Wilson OReilly - I dont believe Archbishop Dolan was trying to heighten tensions when he criticizes a bill unless you also want to say that proponents of the bill are simultaneously trying to heighten tensions. I havent seen anything remotely like that kind of description/accusation leveled against the proponents. Of all the ways to describe the purposes of a criticism of the Albany legislature, I confess that heightening tension is to my ears an unusually strange one. Perhaps you have some ready examples where it is commonly used in a neutral manner?Regarding Archbishop Dolan, I find the French satirical proverb more relevant:Cet animal est trs mchant. Quand on l'attaque il se dfend. [This animal is very wicked. When it is attacked it defends itself.] Would you say that the cat is trying to heighten tension?

I would support a "no" vote on these gay marriage initiatives if someone could show me that they in any way impinge on the rights of churches. No one is assailing the Catholic Church's right to turn away those it deems unfit for marriage in the Church or from receiving the Lord at the altar. Moreover, it seems to me that in a secular society, we have to tolerate many things that run counter to faith. For example, we let people like Christopher Hitchens print heresy and get money for it, too. We allow divorcees like Ronald Reagan to hold public office, a fact many Catholics were happy to overlook in their approbation of his economic policies. We purchase our prescriptions at pharmacies that sell prescription and OTC birth control--in fact it would be awfully difficult to find a pharmacy that did NOT sell these things.

" ... preposterous, not to mention offensive, to compare the democratically elected government of the state of New York with the governments of China and North Korea."Most of the arguments on both sides of this question are arguments by analogy. I mean, arguments of the form "This thing is like that thing, therefore it should be treated like that thing." There is really only one way to respond to such an argument. That is to say "But this thing is unlike that thing in this other respect, which is pertinent to how it is treated." Or to say, "But this thing is more like this third thing which is not treated in that way," which is a less precise version of the same response.Ultimately you get to a point where the whole argument is just about who thinks the first thing is more like the second thing and who thinks it is more like the third thing. Different people have different pattern-matching circuits in their synaptic networks because they have lived different experiences. Then the argument can easily devolve into hysterical recriminations of the form, "Your brain is evil, mean, and stupid and my brain is good, kind and intelligent! Therefore, we should do what I want!"What is a gay relationship more like: a heterosexual marriage or two people masturbating together? What is the restriction of marriage to heterosexual couples more like: Jim Crow laws or the law which forbids bigamy? What is a marriage license more like: when God blessed Adam and Eve and told them to multiply or a Joe and Fred's mutually owned auto repair shop?College students who have hooked up with hundreds of their peers relying on the impenetrability of condoms may see it one way. Older couples who have experienced the financial and physical reality of childbirth may see it another way. The argument immediately falls apart as soon as somebody resorts to "How preposterous! I'm offended! You only think that because your brain is defective!" Offense and ridicule are not rational arguments.

Here is a more detailed account in the Times of Archbishop Dolan's remarks on the call-in show.Among other things, he said, "Youve got couples now in England who are now told they cant adopt children because theyre not open to same-sex marriage.Archbishop Dolan seems to be referring to an important ruling against a Pentecostal Christian couple by the High Court, and I can understand why he doesn't like it, but he's making up the part about same-sex marriage, since it's not legal in the UK, and there was nothing in the case about attitudes toward same-sex marriage. Also, the couple wasn't seeking to adopt but rather to provide short-term foster care. Archbishop Dolan seems to have a problem when it comes to making accurate statements.

For those who are interested (f/u to Wm. Lindsey's comment), the new bishop of New Orleans, Gregory Aymond, made a public apology because of the historical slave ownership of the diocese in the 19th century.Also, have documented proof that the Vincentian Fathers owned slaves in Louisiana and Missouri.

David, thank you for the links and your fine post at Religiousleftlaw calling attention to Dolan's odd version of history.Ridiculous for him to choose such an hysterical label--certainly not an effort on his part to promote thoughtful and honest (rational) dialogue. Given the skepticism and outright disdain felt by much of the public for the Church's conduct regarding sexual abuse of minors, the label "ominous threat" is pretty clearly misapplied.I agree with Jean in that I've never heard a persuasive answer to why--since we don't live in a Catholic theocracy--the Church is so obsessed with blocking a civil law that does not impose on the religion's right to enforce its teachings. Beyond that, though, "what Luke said" in his earlier comment that the Church's position itself isn't explained or defended well--I'd say because it's not defensible. Seems like when it's reducible to "Genesis doesn't say Adam and Steve" and "marriage is about procreation" it doesn't take much argumentative threat to seem ominous, I suppose.

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. Scathing counter-attacks in kind are to be expected as a normal part of the process. Fact-checkers will show up and do their duty. (Thanks, David Nickol) If they had a coherent, rational, honest argument to offer, as Jean and Mary et al. look for, they could at least stand up and lay it out and pray that it persuades. They evidently don't. These are the same men who stand on a 40-year record of failure in conveying the Church's concept of male-female Catholic marriage to more than 80-90% of captive Catholic audiences. There is no reason to expect them to do better in the more complicated case being discussed here.

Nuns had slaves, too, of course. Some, including the Carmelites of Port Tobacco and the Ursulines of New Orleans, mention in their histories how nice they were to the enslaved workers.http://www.ccacarmels.org/ciach08cca.html (Carmelites. See last paragraph.)The Sisters of Loretto have a memorial to their slaves and to people who died of AIDS. http://www.lorettocommunity.org/who-we-are/loretto-motherhouse/ (Scroll down almost to the bottom.)

Bishop DiMarzio is no friend to Catholic sacramental marriage. Fact checkers... look at his website under marriage. Family life. no people.. just a few notes that if you have questions about marriage send an email or call them ... no email or tel# posted. No family life office, no funding.. Defenders of bishops' upholding marriage are being hoodwinked' http://dioceseofbrooklyn.org/ministries/marriage/default.aspx

I dont believe Archbishop Dolan was trying to heighten tensions when he criticizes a bill unless you also want to say that proponents of the bill are simultaneously trying to heighten tensions. Of course they are. Both sides are now putting pressure on a shrinking number of legislators to commit to voting, pro or con. Increasing that pressure is what drives everyone speaking out on the issue in NY at the moment. Dolan's weighing in personally heightens the "tensions" surrounding religious groups' concerns, laid out in the preceding paragraphs of that article, because he's such a visible representative of the religion that many legislators, and the governor, happen to belong to.

Google heightens tensions to see how the expression is commonly used. If its such a common occurence and characteristic of many political disputes one should be able to easily find multiple news accounts of pro-gay lobbying efforts described as heightening tensions. If you can find one Ill pay for someones free subscripton to Commonweal.BTW, is our exchange itself heightening tensions?

Genesis: "The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man."David: "Harold Bloom suggests that J (the source for this part of the story) was having a little fun, since in attempting to make a partner for Adam, God creates all the animals, but none is suitable."Harold Bloom is taking professorial license. The Hebrew verb "to exist" is the verb Mim-Tzadeh-Aleph in binyan Niph'il, that is, the passive of "to find." (The same construction is used in Russian.) "No suitable mate to the man was found" means "There existed no suitable mate for the man." Moreover, the conjunction "but" ("but none proved to be ...") is a translator's liberty. In the original text, it's simply "and.""What part does procreation play in all of this?"The female has one gamete and the male has another. Without a female and male gamete, no embryo can be produced. A female giraffe gamete and a male human gamete won't do the trick and neither will two male human gametes. It's a non-trivial distinction, if multiplication is the goal.

Speaking of giraffes, a significant amount(some scientists say most) of their sexual intercourse is same sex among the males.

The bishop of Brooklyn's too easy a target for you guys. Here's a harder one. Do your worst :o)Boston Globe, 2005:

Pope Benedict XVI, offering his first detailed critique of gay unions since his elevation to the pontificate six weeks ago, yesterday described same-sex marriages as ''pseudo-matrimony."http://www.boston.com/news/specials/gay_marriage/articles/2005/06/07/pop...

In 2003, Ratzinger wrote an important Vatican document outlining the church's opposition to same-sex marriage; the document became controversial because of its assertion that ''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."http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_...

Sorry, Patrick, but you are going to have to find a sturdier hook on which to hang your umbrage. This one's just not bearing the weight.

Oops. I was in too much of a hurry at 3:44. This doesn't use the term "psuedo-matrimonies", but it's from the right year and is directed to the right target:http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_... let the poor Bishop of Brooklyn rest in peace for a while and have at Ratzinger , instead.

I'm not sure that "heightens tensions" is a particularly helpful phrase, but neither am I convinced by Patrick's suggestion that it's being unfairly employed. The Archbishop is a moral leader, and when he says same sex marriage is unjust and immoral, detrimental for the common good and an ominous threat" I think it does heighten tensions in a way that some individual pastor saying "same sex marriage can be beautiful" does not. For one thing, it's easier to heighten tensions when you're opposing something than when you're supporting it. It's certainly not a left/right thing: surely when someone called President Bush a "war criminal" back in 2003 that heightened tensions in a way that a supporter saying "this invasion is just wonderful" did not.

Sorry to butt in late, but on the question of clerical slaveholding in the old South (if not actually episcopal) there is a study by a Jesuit scholar on his order's slave owning.Thomas J. Murphy, Jesuit Slaveholding in Maryland, 1717-1838 (Routledge). And here's a review:http://jsr.fsu.edu/2002/Reviews/Farrelly.htm

Well, Mollie, like any sensible person, I take umbrage at the NYTs slant on goings-on at least three times before every breakfast, but, you may be assured, each time only after the most careful validation. Im sorry if its a pleasure you dont seem to share.Apparently you are unable to pursue at this time the offer I made above (about the alleged evenhandedness in the use of the phrase) so it looks as though I will have to divert my funds for the planned Commonweal subscription to another periodical {with initials FT}.

http://www.jstor.org/pss/27570515Bishop Lynch of Charleston, S.C., "served as the Confederacy's diplomatic emissary to the Holy See in 1864-1865. He was a defender of the institution of slavery and a slaveowner of significance."

Ratzinger (David Smith's link from 4:29 p.m.) makes approximately four relevant arguments. Section I is arguments from Revelation, which are irrelevant to secular law. Section II is a statement of the problem. Section IV is instructions for politicians. The main arguments are in Section III. They go something like this.1. "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 we're doing OK. (I don't think he has proved same-sex marriage contradicts right reason and I don't think its proponents have proved it doesn't. But I don't think that matters as far as this point is concerned.)2. "Civil laws are structuring principles of man's life in society, for good or for ill. They play a very important and sometimes decisive role in influencing patterns of thought and behavior." If this is so, why do the present marriage laws not induce people to marry before having children and remain married afterwards? 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, doesn't it?4. "Because married couples ensure the succession of generations and are therefore eminently within the public interest, civil law grants them institutional recognition." That is one good reason to grant institutional recognition, but is it really the only reason?ISTM that's all he's got.

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. http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1004842.htm 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. http://www.avvenire.it/Cronaca/vicariato+preti+panorama_2010072310594394... 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 .... http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/19/nyregion/an-american-family-mom-sperm-...

" 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.

Tonight on CNN there was a story about a NY couple who have been together for 61 years. Lovely photos of both guys in their military uniforms (I assume WWII) and throughout what has obviously been a rich and rewarding relationship. They're 83 and 91 and hoping the law changes so they can marry. I found the story touching. It never occured to me to think about them in terms of what sex acts they choose--how tacky and bizarre to care! Rather, they seemed a perfect example of commitment, hope, faithfulness, mutual support, and love--unity. I can't see how granting them rights to marriage would not bolster the positive values we say we want marriage to imply.

"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."Felapton, please re-read your Chaucer. It seems to me that heteros have so degraded the estate in the course of 800 years that allowing homosexuals who exhibit "love, dedication, commitment, and faithfulness" might bring some respectability back to it. The Church, in its wisdom, of course, may determine that a much smaller percentage of people have a legitimate vocation to sacramental marriage. Honestly, Raber and I were married 30 years ago by a judge and no hanky panky has ensued in that time, but, based on what my young friends tell me about preCana programs, I'm not sure we'd make the cut even today.Margaret, late to the party here, but what was some of the language in the NY bill that did not adequately protect religious groups?

Polygamy is part of our tradition?

It is wrong to discriminate against people for innate attributes like skin color, musical ability, sexual orientation, etc. The question, imho, is why do some important and influential people do it and expect their underlings to join the charade. An answer was provided above by Jack Barry at 11:18. Another answer was posted by someone else in another thread, forget when: fear of blackmail.

"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, didnt 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."Bill Lindsey ==My experience exactly. Nice folks can be terribly prejudiced, and it doesn't make any difference where they live. It's all a matter of how they were brought up. But people *can* change. I have seen it happen so very often in the South. Just this week I had lunch in a small restaurant in an adjoining parish/county where a lot of the die-hard racists went to live to avoid school integration. I mean there were some mean folks there, and integration of public places there was slow. But this week about half of the people in that restaurant were black, and not only that, a couple of tables had black and white folks eating together at the same table. I don't think that would have happened even 10 years ago. But things do change when decent people look at themselves and realize, hey, I was wrong.

Felapton --You defended keeping the laws which reflect the view of people who have a glorified image of marriage, even if you didn't defend their image of marriage. Granted, they might have good intentions, but that is hardly justification for allowing their view to dominate the laws. So question should be: what would be justice for gays?

"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."Ms. S. -- ISTM we really don't know yet the effect of two parents of the same sex on the adoptive children of such couples. There simply have been too few instances of such adoption to make any informed judgment about the benefits to children. On the other hand, there has been more than enough experience of permanent gay unions to know that in other respects their unions are like heterosexual marriage, except for some sexual relations, but whose business is that? So there is no reason at this time to deny gay people at least the other rights of marriage.I must hasten to add that the only child of a gay couple I know seems to be a fine little girl, very well brought up. But I do think that for the children's sake we shouldn't approve full marriage for gays -- yet. Marriage in the old sense of the word -- around which our laws have centered -- is not simply a matter of the friendship of the spouses.

We *do* know the effects of SSA couples on children raised - links at my earlier comment.

Ann Olivier says: "You defended keeping the laws which reflect the view of people who have a glorified image of marriage, even if you didnt defend their image of marriage."I defended keeping laws of some of the people who have a glorified image of marriage. And some of the people whose views I defended have a glorified view of marriage. But you implied that I had defended views of a class of people who are defined by their glorified image of marriage. That is different. For example, if you say, "This blog is frequented by people who sneeze." you imply (1) Most people who frequent the blog sneeze, and (2) With few exceptions people who do not frequent the blog do not sneeze, and (3) Sneezing is somehow relevant to people's decision to frequent the blog. That's why I thought your characterization of my explanation was misleading. People's glorified views of marriage are not relevant. (Neither are historical facts about marriage.) The essential point is that marriage is now generally considered something creditable and beneficial and will soon be expanded to include something discreditable and detrimental. The one is consummated by an act which is believed to sanctify the participants and all society. The other is consummated (in most cases) by an act which is believed to defile the participants and all society.It is not an injustice to treat dissimilar things differently in proportion to the magnitude and nature of the underlying dissimilarity. (The Catechism calls this "just discrimination.") The dissimilarity between sanctity and defilement is not like the dissimilarity between dark skin and light skin. That suggestion is a grotesque, obscene insult to all the people disenfranchised by institutionalized segregation. I'm actually surprised that more liberals do not object to it.

I imagine part of the impasse here - people talking past one another, refusing to admit even the smallest possibility of agreement - may have something to do with the way we view and use language. Generally, with natural languages, the meanings of words and phrases evolve naturally, over long periods of time, by general consensus. Sometimes, though, governments appropriate language and change the official and acceptable meanings of words and phrases to force or accelerate social change. This probably happens wholesale with totalitarian governments, but it also happens in democracies. And in democracies, in which the people often have a large voice in how laws are written and enforced, these changes can come not only from the top, but also from below. Mass movements can compel governments to compel people to change the way they use language.And I think that this is an important part of what's happening here. By changing the meaning of "marriage" - by taking a word that's long had very positive associations and forcing it to include what have long been for many or most very negative associations - an attempt is being made to in effect force language users to start to think positively about things about which they've previously thought negatively.Now that I think of this, it occurs to me that it's so obvious that in our hyper-verbose society there must already have been a fair amount of discussion along these lines, if not in the popular media, at least in academic circles. Is anyone here aware of anything that might be readable by a lay person?

@Mark Proska, polygamy was part of the tradition when it was abolished. If it hadn't been, there would have been no point abolishing it. This is a tautology. (You are right that it was never a part of "our" tradition, because its abolition in the West took place thousands of years ago.)I believe all traditions are tautologically vacuous. Because if there is a good reason for something, nobody calls it a tradition. For example, if somebody asks you why you have an umbrella and it's raining, you say "I am holding this umbrella to keep the rain off my head." But if somebody asks you why your church (basilica) has a ridiculous little umbraculum thing taking up space off in a corner, you have to say, "Oh, that's a tradition." Traditions are things you continue to do even after they stop making sense. At this point in time it is valid to ask whether civil marriage has become or is likely to soon become a mere tradition.

The fixation of bishops on gay marriage may be a pragmatic political calculation: on that question, the population is more or less evenly split, so official voices of the church may hope to influence the outcome. Divorce is a lot cause in the US, but on gay marriage, they may be able to block or at least delay legislation.The fixation of homosexuals on gay marriage is symbolic. Even in France, where they can sign a "PACS", a civil contract that gives them largely the same rights and protections as in marriage, there is still a campaign for gay marriage. They don't just want rights, but also positive recognition of gay couples. The funny thing is that, as an unexpected outcome of the "PACS", heterosexual couples have been choosing that option. The couples who want the legal guarantees of PACS or marriage, but do not want the state to meddle with their symbolic and love life, choose a PACS, and I have read that more than 90% of PACS contracts are between heterosexual couples.

Following up on Claire's comment, above:Pacte civil de solidarit

"The essential point is that marriage is now generally considered something creditable and beneficial and will soon be expanded to include something discreditable and detrimental. The one is consummated by an act which is believed to sanctify the participants and all society. The other is consummated (in most cases) by an act which is believed to defile the participants and all society."Felapton --I am sorry I misinterpreted just what you said.However, I must disagree with the statement above. You seem to be assuming that it is generally believed to defile the participants and all society. I don't think this is generalization is true anymore, at least not in this country. If it were 45% of the population would not be willing to changes the laws.

Felapton, (Here we are again, eh? Let me try it this time without the uncool snark) --You don't have any evidence that gay marriage is "detrimental." "The one is consummated by an act which is believed to sanctify the participants and all society. The other is consummated (in most cases) by an act which is believed to defile the participants and all society."--"the act that is believed to sanctify," you mean like on Jersey Shores (most mainstream media depictions)? The "hetero-intercourse is sacred" ship sailed a long time ago. Gay choosing to commit themselves to each other in love and fidelity would seem to be pushing *against* larger social trends that fail to take sex and marriage seriously. --the passive voice needs to be addressed: "which is believed" by whom? Let's see some stats, please. And why should assumptions about the value of sexual acts other consenting adults might or might not engage in be the government's business when it comes to deciding what adults may enter into a marital contract? This asserted defiling act seems to be focused on gay men--lesbians are off the hook? Please take a look at the CDC Family Growth statistics, as substantial numbers of heterosexual couples engage in anal sex. Apparently much of society doesn't consider "the act" defiling. Why we would be so reductionist as to trivialize gay relationships as defined by, circumscribed by, penises and anuses is beyond me.

"For example, if you say, This blog is frequented by people who sneeze. you imply (1) Most people who frequent the blog sneeze, and (2) With few exceptions people who do not frequent the blog do not sneeze, and (3) Sneezing is somehow relevant to peoples decision to frequent the blog."P. S. For the record. "This blog is frequented by people who sneeze" does not even suggest (2), much less imply it. (People who frequent this blog are people who sneeze" does not imply "People who do not frequent this blog are not people who sneeze.")

@Ann Olivier, yes, you're right. But it does imply (1) and (3) and I think (3) is the main point.

@Ann Olivier: "You seem to be assuming that it is generally believed to defile the participants and all society."No, I would not say "generally believed." I would say "widely believed." Archbishop Dolan, for one, seems to believe it. So does every member of my family and every clergyman I have ever heard express an opinion. It's not a subject that comes up in decent conversation, and that in itself speaks volumes.

Its not a subject that comes up in decent conversation, and that in itself speaks volumes.Felapton,Presumably you are talking about anal intercourse, and your argument is that you and others think it is disgusting. It is not really a very good argument. Almost all of the arguments about how dangerous and disgusting homosexual acts allegedly are don't apply at all to lesbians. In fact, they apply more to heterosexual sex than lesbian sex. Heterosexual sex is not germ free. We don't generally have casual chats about feces, but then, we don't usually have casual chats about urine, either. Or yeast infections, or menstrual blood, or why feminine hygiene sprays are advertised on television. If human beings didn't reproduce heterosexually, penile-vaginal intercourse would no doubt be viewed as disgusting. Freud said, regarding sex and disgust, that a many who would have no hesitation in kissing a pretty girl would no doubt be revolted at the idea of using her toothbrush. Kissing itself isn't all that attractive when referred to as "swapping spit." In terms of the number of bacteria, the mouth is the dirtiest part of the human body.Oral genital contact was considered a perversion not all that long ago. I remember someone from a generation not all that older than mine referring to oral sex as "the worst thing a woman can do." I think your squeamishness about these topics is telling us more about how you feel personally than about how society feels about "defilement."

From Wikipedia

In 1992, a study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 26% of men 18 to 59 and 20% of women 18 to 59 had engaged in heterosexual anal sex; a similar 2005 survey (also conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found a rising incidence of anal sex relations in the American heterosexual population. The survey showed that 40% of men and 35% of women between 25 and 44 had engaged in heterosexual anal sex. In terms of overall numbers of survey respondents, seven times as many women as gay men said that they engaged in anal intercourse, with this figure reflecting the larger heterosexual population size.

There are several points being made here that it might be helpful to clarify.What (nice) people think is a huge generalization in a world of changing attitudes.The attitudinal change towards gays is grounded in the notion that that is the way God made them and that is how they express mutual love.That places the Church on the horns of a dilemma -if it accepts that that is the way God made homsexuals (which more and more tend to believe) it seems difficult to deny them a lifelong commitment sttaus.On the other hand, the Church is deeply set in upholding the traditional view of marriage with the classic Augustinian bona, with a strong emphasis on procreation.A lot of that view has collapsed for both good and bad in the minds of many Catholics.What's problematic is that, given the dilemma, the Church has enterred the fray strongly on the political side -a problem because the Church (while its voice should be heard strongly in the public square) should speak cogently in the public square, but it has yet to clearly get through the dilemma.Beyond that (see Boston currently) the same is true at the parish level.Yet (as Anne and others have pointed out) in the changing world, moving forward is possible despite what many might think.

Catching up: Someone asked what the first amendment, religious liberties, issue was with the current legislation. Here is a brief analysis of the problems in the current legislation from a law professors at Washing and Lee sent to a NYState legislator; it also makes mention of the problems, now remedied, in the 2009 bill. http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/70925/religious-protections-...

Bob (6/20, 11:04), change isn't the same as progress, and progress is a subjective idea. A train moving down a track isn't making progress if it is moving because the driver forgot to engage the brakes.Nothing has to happen; we have free will.

Still catching up: Someone asked me to explain the appropriateness of this point. "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 hasnt turned out to be so wonderful (cf. teenage moms), especially for the kids." This is an argument by analogy: When major shifts in social policy occur, the proponents emphasize the necessity and justice of the change. They do not always foresee the unintended consequences. The policy issue on single mothers had mostly to do with state welfare systems that required a man (preferably a husband) to be present in the household. One of the reasons many women were poor was that they lacked a breadwinner. Changing the rules to allow single/divorced/abandoned mothers direct receipt of welfare payment did away with a genuine hardship and a good deal of subterfuge. The unintended consequence was that younger and younger women (including especially teens) were able to live independently of any caring adult. "Children having children" became a serious social problem (though my impression is that may have abated in recent years); men took advantage of younger women; men were "freed" from the responsibilities of fatherhood, and on and on.What is the analogy to gay marriage? It is that there are unintended consequences that will especially affect children. We may say that adults can take care of themselves, but as my example shows, some adults can't take care of themselves, at least in some respects. Some will object that this is no argument against gay marriage. It is an argument against the widespread idea that this will all turn out for the best. Not likely.

Bob Nunz - Excellent, especially second line. Universal truths are hard to find. Polygamy is practiced today in our US and Canada. It is illegal. See Wikipedia. Appeal to the authority of Abp. Dolan brings to mind his (laughing) conclusion to Morley Safer: ""I'm in one world. You're in the other. I'm glad you're visitin'." Like New York City, his world may be a good place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. On election, he announced "it's not like we're in a crisis". Now, he's surprised to notice life's most basic values under attack in his own home state as has been going on nearby for years. His facility in adapting to the moment raises some questions about his gravitas and actual views on the state of the Church. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/17/60minutes/main20044218_page4.s... Ann O. - Small comfort - The Vatican's reform of ecclesiastical theological faculties, announced in March, "adds a subject: ... logic" to the required curriculum. Perhaps future clergy will help it spread as they did in centuries past. See ratio studiorum and Aristotle et seq. http://visnews-en.blogspot.com/2011/03/reform-of-ecclesiastical-studies-... It can be expected to re-affirm that neither appeal to authority nor assertion determines truth.

Finally, someone questions my point about reproductive technologies. Except for adoption, gay couples, who want children, will have to resort to some form of assisted reproduction. Granted it has been developed for infertile heterosexual couples, a whole new clientele encourages practices that ought to be examined more critically and ought to be more highly regulated than they are. Among the Times's stories is the one I posted yesterday about a woman and a child, sperm donored by a man in a gay relationship whose partner (anonymous in the story) joins them for dinner on Sunday, while the donor himself seems to spend four nights a week with mother and child. And one of my favorites in the Times is the story about the gay men who pay a surrogate to conceive and carry a child for them. Why aren't these and other stories examples of my point: a major shift in social policy and social systems that come along with a new definition of marriage?

The proposed Marriage Equality Act also provides no protection for ordinary individuals. Bakers, photographers, seamstresses, florists and B&B owners who, for religious reasons prefer to step aside from celebrating or facilitating same-sex marriages may be subject to suit under New York's Human Rights Act.Perhaps to protect religious sensibilities, same-sex married couples should be required to ring bells wherever they go and cry, "Unclean! Unclean!" It seems to me one thing to allow religious organizations opposed to same-sex marriage to decline to rents space for same-sex weddings or otherwise participate in them. It's another matter grant a religious right to ostracize gay people who want to legally marry. No, we won't sell you flowers. No, we won't bake you cakes. No, we won't take your pictures. No, we won't sew your dress.

"What is the analogy to gay marriage? It is that there are unintended consequences that will especially affect children. We may say that adults can take care of themselves, but as my example shows, some adults cant take care of themselves, at least in some respects. "Sorry, but I still don't understand the analogy. Does the fact that some adults can't care for themselves pertain in any particular way to homosexuals? Also, what are some of these potential unintended consequences affecting children?

Catholic Bishops communication with Catholics in their juresdiction, be it in print or otherwise, is a crucial evangelical instrument. We Catholics need clear direction from church leaders in all matters of faith, and this most certainly applies to the hot-button issues, including the Catholic Churchs truthful designation of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. (I would add that those who parse the words of the previous sentence are nothing more than charlatans.)Given the above, I respect and value that Cardinal Sean OMalley of the archdiocese of Boston, speaks clearly about the churchs position on marriage. However, were he to become politically involved, the power of his office would be diminished, because, then, he would be using the Word of God for political purposes. As far as I know, God is not a politician, but an all-powerful, all wise, merciful Father, who cares about us more than we can imagine, and transcends political trappings.Indeed, we do need for Catholic Bishops to speak out loud and clearly in favor of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, whether or not such a position is culturally popular. The reasons for this position should be clearly taught in Catholic Churches everywhere, but it is not. There is a book on the subject, which I actually learned about from Commonweal, SAME SEX MARRIAGE AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY-EMERGING CONFLICTS, by Douglas Laycock, which should be expounded upon from every Catholic pulpit, because, after scientific study, it concludes that same-sex marriage is very much a threat to religious freedom. And THAT is what the Bishops should focus on, whether or not such speech will make those in the pews uncomfortable.To be sure, even such legitimate focus will draw the ire of same-sex marriage proponents; still, their power will be diminished and their cause will garner less sympathy, if citizens comprehend the inherent threat to religious liberty that is intrinsic to same-sex marriage. No matter what, they will attack Catholicism for speaking truthfully; but Catholic leaders will not be wasting time on the subject the positions of particular politicians, nor watering down Catholic Doctrine to become politically correct. Therein Bishops would be addressing the subject objectively, rather than subjectively.

"Whats problematic is that, given the dilemma, the Church has enterred the fray strongly on the political side."Could it not more properly be said the Church has argued on the side of 2.000 years of consistent moral teaching against homosexual acts? I think the Church is being forced to the political side only because opponents of the Church's moral teachings are using political/legal means to undermine those teachings.

"Traditions are things you continue to do even after they stop making sense."Felapton, I prefer the description of tradition as the democracy of the dead. The, uh more traditional definition. Some things do not make any sense at all to us in the moment, but in hindsight, they make perfect sense. Tradition helps in such instances. For example, MOS' point #4.

Howdy, Patricia, Charlatan here. Any chance of getting a rationale-slash-evidence for this: "the inherent threat to religious liberty that is intrinsic to same-sex marriage." See, it's the "intrinsic" and "inherent" parts that don't make sense. Appreciate your laying it out for me. Margaret, do you think gay and lesbian couples are less likely to use reproductive technologies now because they aren't "married"? I definitely share concerns about those technologies, but I just don't see how allowing same-sex marriage substantially increases their use.

AR: "Sorry, but I still dont understand the analogy. Does the fact that some adults cant care for themselves pertain in any particular way to homosexuals? Also, what are some of these potential unintended consequences affecting children?" Unintended consequences for children: Uncertainty about who is their "mother" or "father." Economic, social, psychological, and cultural responsibility for their upbringing. The legal issues surrounding surrogacy and the psychological issues surrounding anonymous sperm donations (and on a smaller scale, egg donations.) The Times had an op-ed Sunday or Saturday of a child conceived through an anonymous sperm donor lamenting some of the outcomes and issues he faces (sorry can't find it right now).Adults get caught up in scenarios that come from shifts in social practices, etc., their economic, political, or educational status makes them unwitting victims. Teenage girls grow up into unwed mothers whose children generally show low educational attainment as well as the more general consequences of poverty. In an non-socialist society like ours their pretty much on their own.I am puzzled by the reluctance of those who seem to favor gay marriage not to recognize that it is a major shift in law and in our social systems. My analogies are intended to show that the enthusiasm for such large changes come with consequences both positive and negative.

@Mark, OK, fair enough. I'm not sure "democracy" works, though. I think a majority of all humans ever born are now alive. Or close to it.

Religious leaders need to become involved in politics from time to time. Politics is the business of changing how people's lives are channeled by the state. If the state proposes making a law that clearly impinges on a person's moral life - directing him to do something immoral, say, or making it difficult to avoid doing something immoral - it's clearly the business of a religious leader to speak out.

Margaret (6/20, 12:26):

I am puzzled by the reluctance of those who seem to favor gay marriage not to recognize that it is a major shift in law and in our social systems.

I imagine it's because they see it as a clear-cut rights issue, a matter of simple fairness. They think you're creating a complication that has no business in this discussion, changing the subject, muddying the water.

"The Times had an op-ed Sunday or Saturday of a child conceived through an anonymous sperm donor lamenting some of the outcomes and issues he faces (sorry cant find it right now)."------That's what I wanted to talk about, too. Very sad piece. (Can't remember which day.)1) Given the biological imperative of males to father as many babies as possible, the first person he should consider is the owner of the clinic. There have already been cases where owners substituted their own genetic material for that advertised and sold as being from others.2) The notion of women and men selling genetic material demonstrates a lack of understanding of what parent/child relationships are about. Maybe the Church and Catholic periodicals should attempt to remedy this with sermons, articles, etc.

I thought my comment was clear: that the church needs to speak in the public square, but it needs to do it cogently and persuasively. And, given the curren tsituation, I don't see that happening.I think talking about unintended consequences while real is also complex.Prior to liberalization of divorce laws, people were thrown in jail for longer periods than violent crimes .Now we have widespread divorce with both good and bad consequences in individual circumstances.We also have lots of people questioning Church rules on marriage/divorce..As Anne would say, "complexity, complexity."

Margaret (6/20 - 12:26):

The Times had an op-ed Sunday or Saturday of a child conceived through an anonymous sperm donor lamenting some of the outcomes and issues he faces (sorry cant find it right now).

Maybe this one?http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/19/nyregion/an-american-family-mom-sperm-... the first in a series on "nontraditional families".

No David, That's a "news" story; this was on the op-ed page, I thought in the Week in Review, but still can't find it.

And below the online article? An offer to pay $1200 for genetic material.

Mary: "Do you think gay and lesbian couples are less likely to use reproductive technologies now because they arent married? I definitely share concerns about those technologies, but I just dont see how allowing same-sex marriage substantially increases their use."I have no data on same-sex marriage and reproductive technologies; not sure, there is any yet. Any data collectors out there?In any case, the practices have preceded the legalization of gay marriage. Once upon a time, doctors would not use reproductive technologies on unmarried women. Now they do. The pressing edge of that was unmarried women and/or lesbians who wanted children. Today, artificial insemination seems to have become available for anyone who can pay for it. And one or other edition of "Our Bodies, Ourselves," featured a do-it-at home procedure using the sperm of a friendly guy and a turkey baster.

No David, Thats a news story; this was on the op-ed page, I thought in the Week in Review, but still cant find it.

Yes, sorry, I realized that almost as soon as I'd posted it. Found the correct reference and was about to post that, but you'd already done it:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/19/opinion/19wooten.htmlBasically, all he's saying is:

But babies born of the procedure in the future should have the right to know who their donors are, and even have some contact with them. Sperm donors need to realize that they are fathers.

The example the author cites for his dilemma is having to write for a class an essay on his genealogy, i.e., parents, grandparents, etc. This is not an uncommon assignment to get students to look at history, ethnicity, and immigration. I suppose states can outlaw "anonymous" donations and/or prohibit history and social studies teachers from assigning such essays!Gerelyn: Eggs!!! worth lots more.

The Church is only pointing out what should be obvious to all; that tinkering with one of the oldest building blocks of society is at best, very dangerous.What is the matter with people who think that in order to correct something, that they find it necessary to shred society from end-to-end?Certainly people should be taxed correctly; certainly we can and should update our property and finance laws so gay folks can properly tend to the practical matters of their lives. Nobody should want to make gay folks lives more tedious or difficult than they already are. However that does not mean we should stand by while shallow, nit witted legislators tear down the foundation of human society.

From Paul Moses's post:"The upper half of the diocesan newspapers front page features a color spread with the three senators photos, a yes box on same sex marriage vote next to each ones name. The headline is Shame! Shame! Shame! This front page is essentially a political attack ad."----I thought I could find a copy of that Brooklyn Tablet Sunday afternoon by stopping into a church on 21st Street, Park Slope. Padlocked. Bishop DiMarzio's essay is on the Tablet website, but not the graphics. So, how much of an audience does the bishop have, if the readership are subscribers and some churches that may or may not have copies are locked after Sunday Mass? (

Gerelyn: Eggs!!! worth lots more.--------Yes. A young college student not realize that the resulting baby will be like HER, maybe trapped forever with the genes of a man she would never speak to in real life.Women who are mothers know that they and their children can often read each other's minds. To think of a child being raised by people who look different, think differently, have different talents, abilities, etc., and maybe no capacity to recognize or encourage the talents and abilities of the EGG, . . . As to assigning family trees? Children should be shown how it's done, with ancestry.com, but then made to do one based on a stranger. It's just as interesting. (I was looking up a man the other day, not an ancestor, and I found myself studying the list of sailors who served with him on a ship that carried vehicles from Pearl Harbor to Okinawa in the last months of the war. Hit by kamikaze, etc. I was sooo happy to find that he lived through it and died as an old man with children, grandchildren, etc.)

Hi Joe McMahon,I'm Paul Moses' son and I read the Tablet online and I'm guessing the young Catholic readership my dad was most concerned about was mine. He's certainly right about my reaction to reading the Bishop's column. But even if I hadn't read it in the Tablet, I would've caught the Times' coverage.

Margaret, thanks for the link re problems with the bill's language: http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/70925/religious-protections-... think some marital protections for gay couples are inevitable (and, in my view, in the best interests of society as a whole). As a practical matter in understanding how those protections should or should not impinge on religious freedom, the information you provide in the link is critical.

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.http://www.france24.com/en/20110615-same-sex-unions-across-world-gay-mar...

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