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Dolan on Gay Marriage

Archbishop Dolan's blog refused to take Father's Day off from the crusade against gay marriage. I applaud Dolan's embrace of blogging, and Dolan's posts have attracted a great deal of media attention, but I wish he would put more thought into his posts on this topic. I think it would be a much more powerful use of the medium, and would be helpful for those of us struggling to understand the Church's state of panic in the face of gay marriage, if he would engage in a more detailed way with the arguments on both sides of this issue. One searches his posts in vain for reasoned argument, finding instead a series of conclusory zingers like the one with which he finished up his most recent post. "Government presumes to redefine these sacred words at the peril of the common good." How does expanding the definition of the family to encompass same sex couples threaten the common good? Dolan doesn't tell us. His post simply ends.I looked back at his earlier post, and it also fails to adequately explain his views, except to tell us that the family is the foundation of our civilization and that tinkering with its definition is dangerous. I suppose I agree with both of those points, but neither one rules out same sex marriage. After all, the definition of marriage varies across time. Polygamy is approved in the Bible, though it is now illegal. Dolan doesn't discuss that, despite a reference to the authority of Genesis in his most recent post. Divorce used to be prohibited but no-fault divorce is now ubiquitous. Interracial marriage was legally forbidden in many US jurisdictions until just a generation ago. Now it is constitutionally protected. Telling us that revising the definition of the family is dangerous either means that all of these past changes were wrong or that, more likely, some were better than others. But if it means the latter, it adds nothing but a cautionary note to the present debate. It cannot be decisive.Indeed, Dolan himself can hardly make up his mind on the subject of marriage's meaning. In his two posts on the issue, he tells us that traditional definition of marriage is "timeless" and "as old as human reason and ordered good." And, yet, in these same two posts, separated by a mere four days, Dolan himself actually gives us, not one, but THREE different definitions of marriage. In his first post, he says that marriage is "one man, one woman, united in lifelong love and fidelity, hoping for children." His second definition, in the same post, is similar but not identical: "a loving, permanent, life-giving union to pro-create children." Finally, in his Father's Day post, he says that marriage is a "loving, faithful union between one man and one woman leading to a family."Of course, marriage has not been "lifelong" or "permanent" by law for a long time, and yet no blog posts urging NY legislators to (re)prohibit no-fault divorce as a grave threat to the common good have yet appeared on Dolan's blog. [UPDATE: By the way, no-fault divorce is actually a recent innovation in NY family law. While the Church opposed the change, during the debate, the director of the New York State Catholic Conference (which bills itself as the "official public policy voice of the Catholic Church") noted that [c]learly, not every marriage can be permanent."] Perhaps someone pointed this out after Dolan's first post, which might explain why he dropped any reference to duration in his most recent, timeless definition.As for procreation, "hoping for children" and "to pro-create children" are far from identical. Both might be read to rule out marriages among the non-fertile, though the "hoping for children" formulation is less exclusive on that front. But this leads to the question -- which is it to be? Does the marriage of two 80-year-olds threaten the timeless definition of marriage or undermine the common good? If not, why not? In his most recent definition, the reference to procreation is replaced by "leading to a family." This is circular, since legal recognition of same-sex couples as "families" would allow their unions to also "lead[] to a family." That's the whole point.These blog posts were useful opportunities for some thoughtful reflection on these questions, but the Archbishop chose instead to write unconvincing little screeds aimed at producing nice sound-bites for the press. Those who agree with him will no doubt take heart from his vocal opposition to New York's proposed legislation. For the rest of us, we are no better able to understand the foundation for his fears than we were before.

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Bishop Dolan 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 some nimrod legislators tear down the foundation of human society.I am glad the Bishop spoke out regarding this important matter.

Archbishop Dolan: The sacred word father implies mother. God the Father. God the ________. Father John Corapi. ________ John Corapi. (Prior to June 17, 2011, that is.)

I presume Dolan is speaking to his flock, not trying to convince the New York Times editorial board. He's keeping it basic and simple, sticking to principle and tradition. If he were to stray into complexity, he'd just be confusing some readers and delighting others by providing them with words and numbers they could pick apart.From a civil-rights point of view - which seems to be the way most pro-gay-marriage proponents see it - Dolan doesn't have a leg to stand on, no matter what he says.

Ken, how does allowing civil marriage for gays "shred society from end to end" and "tear down the foundation of society"? Like Dolan, you're heavy on emotional language and missing specifics and argument.

The Bishop is practicing political rhetoric, not theology or philosophy--as is his wont. I am utterly unconvinced by the "building block of society" rhetoric myself, believing that the term marriage covers a multitude of arrangements across history and human geography. I think extending the concept and legal definition to include same-sex relations is quite a big deal, far more so that righting the wrong of miscegenation laws. And yet I am for it.It seems to me that America made it's choice about the sanctity of marriage as a divinely ordained covenantal relationship with God as a third and enveloping partner when it twice elected divorced Ronald Reagan and continued to nominate candidates who put aside one wife for another.

"Those who agree with him will no doubt take heart from his vocal opposition to New Yorks proposed legislation. For the rest of us, we are no better able to understand the foundation for his fears than we were before."Is it the message or the messenger that is really the problem here? Seems to me the real heart of the problem for this and the previous post on the bishops must be the message. The Church's position on gay marriage really isn't that big of a secret is it? I mean a quick Google search of the topic led to a link to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What would somehow be clearer if Dolan had written a more artful blog post (which aren't, to be sure, intended to be law review articles) that isn't already clear from the Church's Social Teaching? Since the author is a law professor, a query: would a particular judge's inartful or confusing exposition in an opinion of the requirements for summary judgment or stare decisis somehow weaken those standards themselves? I doubt we would conclude so. Yet that seems to me to be the precise complaint here.I agree with the comment above: I admire Dolan (and the Church in general's) fortitude on this issue, but the battle has already been lost. Whether or not one has a valid or legitimate argument about preserving traditional marriage has been rendered irrelevant, as simply a mask for one's bigotry. See King & Spalding.

David Smith (and Ken):Does speaking to the flock give an Archbishop license to make silly arguments:

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.

What's going on in New York is the consideration of a bill by the members of the democratically elected New York Senate and Assembly. There is no resemblance to China or North Korea.

And, what about other rights, like that of a child to be raised in a family with a mom and a dad?

41% of children in the United States are born out of wedlock.

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.

See my post on ReligiousLeftLaw.com. The Catholic Church has never approved any law to guarantee gay rights. It is opposed to such legislation in principle.

Mary Wow; Ok here goes. From the beginnings of organized culture thousands of years ago, the family has been the fundamental building block of society.On a basic level, societies started with families, that grew into clans, and ultimately into cities and states.Clearly then, family is important to society. As a logical matter then, undermining the family is not good for society.Gay marriage proponents are the ones asking that we allow them to change the definition of family, but they do not explain how our allowing them to change this eons-old definition will either be beneficial to the common good or a least show that it will be neutral toward it.You ask me how changing the definition of family to include gay marriage is bad for society, but you have it the wrong way round. As a proponent of changing something that has been in place for at least five thousand years, as a proponent of changing the status quo, it is your job to show how the change you propose is good for society.

Yes, Mary. The "shred society from end to end" language is a bridge too far, over the top, beyond the pale, etc. It seems to me that anarchists and radicals who would eliminate marriage as an institution of patriarchy would better deserve such charges than those who say, "I'll have what they're having."

Gay-marriage merely tinkers with the definition of family, involving a swap of partners in the parental pair bond. It leaves all other familial elements of sibling status, inter-generational ties, and nepotistic relations intact. Is is divorce and re-marriage that undermines families.

Gay marriage proponents are the ones asking that we allow them to change the definition of family . . . What is the definition of family and how is it going to be changed?On a basic level, societies started with families, that grew into clans, and ultimately into cities and states.I think you are making up anthropology. While I am not an expert, I would imagine societies started with groups first and families developed within those groups. But the early families and, in fact, families up until quite recently were not the "nuclear family" (husband, wife, and their children) but rather extended families. These did, of course, need men and women to reproduce, but they did not need "one man and one woman."I really think this "redefining the family" charge is nonsense. Suppose a young teenage daughter gets pregnant and a decision is made to keep the baby. Is her baby not part of the family? Does she need to marry the father of her baby and move out into a new house so there will be another family? I know that many existing families consider the partners of their gay members to be part of the family. Two unmarried lesbians, when one of them gives birth to a child, certainly constitute a family. Family does not mean a married man and woman and their biological children. Here are a couple of definitions from the Merriam-Webster Unabridged

3 a : a group of individuals living under one roof : HOUSEHOLD b : the body of persons who live in one house and under one head including parents, children, servants, and lodgers or boarders; specifically : a group of persons sharing a common dwelling and table considered for census purposes to include at one extreme a single person living alone and at the other the residents of a hotel or the inmates of a prison5 a : the basic biosocial unit in society having as its nucleus two or more adults living together and cooperating in the care and rearing of their own or adopted children b : one's children c : a male and female animal with their young

Was there no "family" in the old television show My Three Sons, with a father and grandfather raising three boys?

Try to look at it like this Mary.Lets imagine I want to lower the speed limit in my neighborhood, from 35 to 25 mph. How would I set about this?I would first ask my neighbors if they agreed and if my proposal seemed sound and reasonable. I would then put together some data to illustrate the status quo and the problems caused by the current speed limit. I would likewise need to gather data to show how the change would benefit not only the local neighborhood, but also how the reduced speed limit in that area would not adversely affect the city; that the overall affect would be neutral-to-positive.Finally, I would ask for time to present my case to the city governing board or council, and would make my presentation accordingly. If they accepted my proposal, fine. If it is rejected, I can either live with the decision (a decision after all, of elected officials) or if I felt strongly enough about the issue, I could set about gathering signatures to put my proposal on the ballot, thus making my presentation directly to the voters.Do you see in this scenario, since I would be the person proposing a change to the status quo, how (i.e., because of that) it would then be my responsibility to explain why and how my proposal would be god for society?

oops - "...good for society?"

What DavidN said. Quite well.Ken, what you're ignoring (perhaps you're too busy inventing cultural history) is that proponents of gay marriage already have made the affirmative case in legislatures and courts in this and many other countries. If you have evidence heterosexual marriage and family would be harmed we'd have seen it by now.

in a wonderful graduate course "History of the 'Family'" my mind was expanded to recognize, as others have pointed out, how that concept evolved and changed throughout pre-history and history. I see more reason to support the cultural shift than to oppose it, especially with all the discongruencies others have pointed out. I believe that Abp. Dolan is more concerned with "power" than theology as the church continues to exercise less and less influence in defining the marriage commitment and sense of "family", there will ever louder screams about he way it "always" was regardless of history or anthropology.He surely has the right to advocate that no relgious tradition be forced to recognize any marriage that it does not wish to, but not to oppose the civil function and status it provides.

"The sky is falling down! The sky is falling down!" Truth is, the sky has already fallen. Interest in marriage as a legal and legitimating option for same-sex partners is not a cause, but a symptom of a transformation well underway in the nature of marriage as a social and civic institution. But same-sex marriage is not the road to perdition. A failure to live up to one's promises and commitments is. The most interesting argument against gay same-sex marriage is the notion that allows gays to marry (each other) will weaken marriage as a mark of status among heteros, especiallly male. It's the same idea that I have heard with respect to allowing women to be priests--that it drains force from gender distinctions. Ultimately the arguments involve domesticating men without demasculating them (by someone's definition)

Mary, for the benefit of me and those who might not have caught it; please re-state the case in favor of changing the definition of marriage (and by extension, family) that as you say, has been made in legislatures around the world? How does allowing gay marriage help society?

I think Archbishop Dolan's definition of a family would go something like this: "A male and female performing the ontologically pre-determined roles of father and mother and their children." Very few people will dispute the premise that only men are able to fulfill the role of father and only women are able to fulfill the role of mother. It is true that many children are currently in families in which only one of these relationships is present. Very few people will argue that those are desirable arrangements, although they are often the least bad possible arrangements (For example, if one parent is dead or dangerous.)To create a family which lacks one of the parents by intention (as opposed to by necessity) is not quite a redefinition of the concept. But it is a fairly radical innovation.

"Truth is, the sky has already fallen."Yes, this is obvious. But just because a patient has tuberculosis does not make it advisable to deliberately infect him with malaria.

In his first post, he says that marriage is one man, one woman, united in lifelong love and fidelity, hoping for children. His second definition, in the same post, is similar but not identical: a loving, permanent, life-giving union to pro-create children. In his Fathers Day post, he says that marriage is a loving, faithful union between one man and one woman leading to a family.I think it is interesting that opponents of same-sex marriage offer as the one, true, timeless definition of marriage an institution that does not allow for polygamy or divorce. Girgis/Geroge/Anderson do this in "What Is Marriage?" as does Archbishop Dolan. Even the old online Catholic Encyclopedia does not claim that polygamy and divorce are against natural law, and it seems to me that while we may consider polygamy a bad idea today, it was accepted and practiced by some of the greatest figures in the Old Testament. (I did not know, or I had forgotten until I looked it up a few days ago, that King Solomon, with his 700 wives and 300 concubines, was the son of King David and Bathsheba. Remember the story of those two?) Divorce certainly must have as long a history as marriage itself, and no doubt polygamy does, as well. There is now only one country in the world with no divorce laws (the Philippines). It would seem to me that the right for virtually all marriages to be dissolved by divorce is a much larger problem than the right of a few percent of same-sex couples to marry each other.

Haven't we been over all this before?http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=14010What's new to say? Either it's a simple rights issue or it's much more. You can't have it both ways.

To create a family which lacks one of the parents by intention (as opposed to by necessity) is not quite a redefinition of the concept. But it is a fairly radical innovation.Felapton,It seems less radical, or at least less harmful, than divorce, which modifies a family intentionally so it has only one parent.But just because a patient has tuberculosis does not make it advisable to deliberately infect him with malaria.Who is the patient here?

Ken says 'Clearly then, family is important to society. As a logical matter then, undermining the family is not good for society.'Why Ken, have Catholic sacramental marriages declined 50% in a decade and a half while Catholic population grew 15%?Why does A/B. Dolan and bishop DiMarzio have disdain for Catholic lay run marriage programs, as none are listed or funded in their dioceses? If you want credibility one has to put resources/attention instead of mouth into play.

Can someone explain to me why divorce is not the force that has torn down the foundations of society? We are living in the rubble of what marriage once was, for good and bad.

The patient is the institution of marriage. Many people would say, "Marriage is sick; let's not make it sicker." I agree that divorce is also bad for marriage. However, children of divorced parents still often have two parents in their lives, though not in the same housing unit.Children of gay couples are missing one parent. Archbishop Dolan over-emphasizes this point. But it is not irrelevant either.

@Ken,Gosh, I wouldn't think it's a good idea for you to form an opinion without familiarizing yourself with the opposing viewpoint, but that's your choice; I see no need to waste others' time here rehashing arguments that have been thoroughly aired in years of public discourse.

Here is a much better pastoral and theological approach to this local, political fight:http://www.cardinalseansblog.org/ (btw - this is also a bishop's blog)Appears that Dolan, in his effort to be orthodox and passionate, looses any ability to be nuanced, to take a step back and look at this issue more carefully, and finally to put into action his church history skills. Unfortunately, in his haste we get regurgited paeans.

Last week - - Dolan fails to stomp out sexual abuseThis week - - Dolan fails to provide critical exegesis of biblical texts on polygamyNext week - - Dolan fails to speak out on civilian deaths in Libya__________In the unlikely event that any post on this site might want to refer positively to Dolan here are a few of his interesting initiatives that might be worth discussing:http://www.cny.org/stories/Pentecost-Continues,5696?content_source=&cate...

Since the advent of democracy, the shape of marriage has always reflected popular will such that much of the civil law on marriage and family is incompatible with Church doctrine, and this has been the case for a long time. To take an obvious example, laws enabling and defining the rights of those who are divorced and remarried (e.g., spousal rights to benefits). Here are some other "innovations" that have occurred along the way:1. Divorce2. No-fault divorce (New York is the last state in the country to enable no-fault divorce, which occurred last year.)3. Custody presumptions (from men to women to best interests of the child)4. Marital property laws (before the mid-19th century, women basically had no rights to property even if they actually brought it to the marriage).5. Common law marriage -- laws that provided for de facto marital arrangements after the passage of a certain amount of time have been uniformly repealed, because legislatures noticed that there were a lot of people who intended to live together without intending to be married -- that is, who affirmatively did not want to be married, such that common law marriage was defeating their expectations.This is the handful that I could think of in five minutes that are easy to describe. They all have had significant impact on the nature of family relations. The Church does not advance its cause by making bold statements that are easily refuted on the facts.

Children of gay couples are missing one parent. Archbishop Dolan over-emphasizes this point. But it is not irrelevant either.Felapton,Well, children adopted by same-sex couples who have been given up by their birth parents will not be raised by their biological parents no matter what, and since single-parent adoption is permitted, they may be adopted and be missing a mother or father in their adoptive home. Or they may remain in foster care and never be adopted at all. So far, it seems that single parents and same-sex couples have been adopting some of the more difficult-to-place children from foster care who might not otherwise have been adopted.I don't suppose we have any good data regarding how same-sex couples who raise children are the biological mothers or fathers, and to what extent they include the biological mothers and fathers of their own children in the lives of the children. And of course while the issues of same-sex marriage, childbearing by those in same-sex relationships, and adoption by those in same-sex relationships are closely related, they are not the same issue. I know a number of same-sex couples who have been together most of their lives. Only one couple is legally married. None have children or plan on having them. It seems to me very difficult to say with any degree of certainty that the children adopted by same-sex couples would be better off had they remained unadopted or been adopted by someone other than same-sex couples.There has been at least one study that found children of lesbian couples fared better than children of heterosexual couples. It might be best to be somewhat cautious about pinning opposition to same-sex marriage on the welfare of the children. If further studies show lesbian parents are superior, it may be necessary to oppose heterosexual marriage.

As I said above, I think this is a losing battle, but for what it's worth - I'm dismayed by the argument contra-natural law evidenced in some of the comments. This argument seems to be essentially that the Catholic argument against gay marriage rests on an ideal not borne out in reality, as in the case of heterosexual marriage and divorce. Or perhaps that because hetero marriages have a high incidence of divorce, and the Church isn't advocating for a ban on divorce, that the Church's ideal of marriage is fractured and seems like selective outrage.I find this troubling for a few reasons:First, it seems to reject a long-held mode of Catholic argument, both analogical and sacramental. Simply because the ideal doesn't reflect reality or vice-versa does not mean that one must throw the baby out with the bathwater it seems to me. This is implicit in Thomas's levels of law, with the higest order - divine law, reflecting, but never being fully captured in the "lower" levels of law. The supernatural is never reduced completely to the natural, there is always brokeness and incompleteness. But that is not say that we should NOT strive to pass laws reflective of the best of the divine law.Secondly, there seems implicit an assertion that because the Church does not advocate a full ban on divorce, it somehow accommodates or tolerates divorce, and that this tolerance irreparably fractures its ideal of marriage. That seems an unsupportable position. The Church may not advocate a ban on divorce, but it also doesn't recognize divorce as such either. It also ignores the signficant social science research showing the detrimental effects of divorce on a variety of measures, including health, wages, education, etc. It further ignores the growing number of states restricting divorce in certain situations. The Church's stance on divorce may well look prophetic, rather than old and worn out, by the time it's all said and done.Again with respect to divorce, while divorce is certainly a fracturing of the ideal of marriage, it does not seem to me to be a rejection of the ideal in itself, as is the case with gay marriage. The suggestion above to the effect that there is no "big deal" about gay marriage because it simply amounts to a "swapping" of one partner is a very curious claim for a Roman Catholic to make. I think this is some of what Ms. Steinfels is getting at it in the other post when she wonders why advocates for gay marriage cannot or won't admit that such a change is a big deal, at least from a Catholic point of view. Finally, all Catholics should take note of the legal challenged filed by Catholic Charities in Illinois to that states civil union's law. The suit essentially seeks a conscience exemption for groups who do not accept same sex marriage such as the church with respect to adoption policies. Absent such an exemption, Catholic Charities will be forced out of the adoption services. What are the limits of "freedom of religion"?On a larger scale, I just read a piece by Prof. George on Mirror of Justice discussing the limits imposed on a Catholic's political leanings by Catholicism (he rejects Randian individualism FYI). I wonder in light of that whether, for a Catholic, marriage (or any moral matter) can ever simply, merely, just be a "civil rights" issue? Seems to me our Catholicism has to impose some limits on some of the civil rights rhetoric, whether it be to property or to marry whomever one desires.

Bill deHaas: Thanks for that link to Cardinal O'Malley's blog.

The Church more than tolerates or accommodates divorce, it in fact requires it, in the case of annulments.

"The Church more than tolerates or accommodates divorce, it in fact requires it, in the case of annulments."I believe you're confusing the concepts. An annulment is not a divorce.

Jeff, no one is asking the Church to change its doctrine. If there is a failure here, it is the failure of the Church or Dolan to separate out Catholic doctrine from civil law. Civil law will always reflect popular will, for better or worse. It is only a defeat or concession for the Catholic Church to the extent that the Church considers itself to be subject to civil law definitions and rules on marriage, which it manifestly is not. I have no problem with the Church making the case in civil law type terms why gay marriage is bad -- but housing that opposition in the Catholic definition of sacramental marriage must fail almost by definition, because the popular will has rejected that definition as a mandatory element of marriage for a long time now. And, of course, no state can base its own laws on marriage by incorporating Catholic doctrine by reference.

The Church may not advocate a ban on divorce, but it also doesnt recognize divorce as such either.Jeff, Isn't it true that the Church requires a civil divorce before the annulment process can begin?

" ... at least one study that found children of lesbian couples fared better than children of heterosexual couples." No, I don't think it does. The Achenbach normative sample of American youth (comparison sample) does not seem to be restricted to children of heterosexual couples. It probably includes children of single-mothers and step-families. And it simply asserts they display less aggressive behavior and rule-breaking. I'm sure the Archbishop more concerned with their chances of attaining the Beatific Vision. (He himself is hardly a paragon of compliance.)

Jeff, I suspect that what Mary is saying is that before someone can get an annulment from the Church they must either be seeking or have sought legal dissolution of their marriage. This is a required element.

Jeff, I'm not confused. Annulments require a civil divorce.

Paul Moses (06/20/2011 - 3:58 pm):

Bill deHaas: Thanks for that link to Cardinal OMalleys blog.

Yes, thanks, though there was almost no defense there of the Church's position. He spent almost all his time saying that the Church doesn't hate gays.

"Jeff, I suspect that what Mary is saying is that before someone can get an annulment from the Church they must either be seeking or have sought legal dissolution of their marriage. This is a required element."I see now. Requiring it and encouraging it are still distinct in my mind."I have no problem with the Church making the case in civil law type terms why gay marriage is bad but housing that opposition in the Catholic definition of sacramental marriage must fail almost by definition, because the popular will has rejected that definition as a mandatory element of marriage for a long time now. And, of course, no state can base its own laws on marriage by incorporating Catholic doctrine by reference."I agree with you at least to an extent, which is why I think Catholics may not be able to accept the strictly "civil rights" framing of the issue. Of course the moral teaching of the Church is that its ideal of marriage is not strictly "sacramental", but one accessible to all via the natural law.

Nice dodge Mary (the old 'if you don't know I won't tell' trick), but nobody has explained why or how gay marriage would be good for society.

My use of the word "swapping" above was intentionally cheeky as a response to the idea that the very notion of family is "shredded" when two parents are of the same gender. Pshaw.The family is an accommodating and socially flexible structure. Same-sex marriage will not destroy it, even as it is clear that marriage is undergoing a sea-change due to many forces--social, economic, technological. Forbidding gays to marry (each other) is not going to stop those forces.At the same time, same-sex marriage is a very big deal--a game-changer. My position is that the civil law should accommodate the existing social contracts under emerging notions of marriage and family structures.

Two Tocquevillian predictions, both anticipating that after legalization of same-sex marriage debates will only become more intense.I remain convinced that recognition is the main goal of the homosexual marriage movement and that there is a strong possibility that institutionalizing gay marriage will not provide the desired reassurance. Then all the behaviors and words and traditions that honor traditional heterosexual marriage will have to be suppressed or at least delegitimized. Partner one, partner two. Robert Nagel, Colorado LawThe absolute equivalence of hetero and homosexual relationships will become public orthodoxy. The result will be that parents will be effectively disabled from expressing any preference whatsoever for heterosexuality, heterosexual families, or traditional heterosexual marriage, and any disapproval or lesser preference for homosexuality, even for their own children. The parity of homosexual and heterosexual relationships and life styles will be aggressively pursued, and anyone who dares to question this will be defined as a bigot. Do I look forward to this breathtaking expansion of the empire of political correctness? Certainly not! The implications of such a state of affairs for religious practice and expression are staggering -- this is a whole different subject unto itself.Amy Wax, Penn Lawhttp://www.fed-soc.org/debates/dbtid.24/default.asp

Well, I acknowledge Massachusetts has had gay marriage for several years now and we don't seem to have suffered any adverse effects. But we are a superior sort of people up here. I don't know how it will go in New York.

Religious leaders have both a right and an obligation to advise the wider community on religious objections to proposed legislation. For example, if the state were to propose a law requiring physicians to comply with a patient's desire for physician-assisted euthanasia, a bishop would be derelict in his duties not to protest.

Gay marriage is, on balance, good for the people who seek it and for those around them who benefit from the stabilizing effects of marriage. No harm to others. Gay people will, on balance, be happier, especially those who are married (to other gay people) in loving relationships. A multiplier effect obtains in that family and friends and neighbors of gay people will benefit from this happiness. (Not all married people are happier as a result, of course.) People who worry that their children might grow up to be gay might be less worried. People who fear the commitment and responsibility of marriage will see that gay couple making a life together and think, "I would like that for myself." People of a Christian persuasion can stop fighting with one another over this matter and attend to spiritual and corporal works of mercy that testify to God's radical call to justice and peace. The collective happiness of these sundry folk elevates the happiness quotient all around, contributing to a net "good for society."

"The family is an accommodating and socially flexible structure. Same-sex marriage will not destroy it, even as it is clear that marriage is undergoing a sea-change due to many forcessocial, economic, technological. Forbidding gays to marry (each other) is not going to stop those forces."Has the ideal of "family" ever excluded the possibility of procreation; or the mutuality of the different sexes inherent in Catholic Social Teaching? If it has, does this exclude a Christian from exhorting that norm as a good for society? Seems to me at one point, marital infidelity was routinely accepted, at least among some classes. I think a case can be made that marriage, and women, are better off with a more robust expectation of martial fidelity. "My position is that the civil law should accommodate the existing social contracts under emerging notions of marriage and family structures."So should one "police" the contract? Or should parties be free to contract with no restrictions? People enter into all sorts of contracts for nefarious purposes: hit jobs, sexual services, illegal drug sales. So are these to be "hands off" too because they are the result of a valid contract between consenting parties? Of should the civil law "accommodate" these "emerging notions" of marriage? How is this not the kind of radical individualism which we are told is the anti-thesis of the common good?On a macro-level, even if one rejects the Church's teaching on same sex marriage, should the Church be precluded from making its case?

Just to note that Eduardo's post did not claim there were no good arguments an archbishop could make against same-sex marriage. He just said that Archbishop Dolan's arguments weren't very good. And they weren't. I think I could make a better case against same-sex marriage myself, and I'm not opposed to it. If I were opposed to same-sex marriage, I would be disappointed Archbishop Dolan did such a poor job. And then there was his call to the radio show, in which he said things that were just not true: Youve got couples now in England who are now told they cant adopt children because theyre not open to same-sex marriage. As I pointed out, there is no same-sex marriage in England. He badly misrepresented the case he was referring to, and if he had used it correctly, it would have been a very effective argument for his position. The problem with Archbishop Dolan and other opponents of same-sex marriage (and some in the pro-life movement, as well) is they don't seem to feel that they have to stick to the facts. As long as they speak in opposition to same-sex marriage or abortion, accuracy is not important.

So much of what is viewed as orthodox Catholicism simply highlights one way that the faith has been lived in the past, determines this to be normative, and then dismisses what might depart from it as being somehow less Catholic. This tends to be quite dismissive of the constitutively changing nature of the traditions of such things as marriage.Sacramental marriage was not part of the Christian religion until 1545 at the Council of Trent. There was no sacrament of matrimony before that. In 1200 there first came the concept of marriage for love. Prior to that, women were given to men as part of a business arrangement between families. Nothing holy about that! If we do not want to redefine marriage, then we should go back to having your father arrange who you should marry.Lets try to define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look at Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israelall these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachmentsespecially family. St. Paul regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. It is better to marry than to burn with passion, says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couplewho likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic loveturn to the Bible as a how-to script?I recommend you read John Boswells book Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (University of Chicago Press, 1980), in which he documents legally recognized homosexual marriage in ancient Rome extending into the Christian period, and his Same-Sex Unions in Pre-modern Europe (Villard Books, 1994), in which he discusses Church-blessed same-sex unions and even an ancient Christian same-sex nuptial liturgy.

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About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.