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Same-sex marriage bill in New York

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


Commenting Guidelines

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:, 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: 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. 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, 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. (Carmelites. See last paragraph.)The Sisters of Loretto have a memorial to their slaves and to people who died of AIDS. (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'

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."

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."

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: 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:

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}. 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.