Facing a growing political ferment across America around same-sex marriage, including six states that have recognized homosexual marriage and others that have adopted domestic partnership acts, the U.S. bishops this afternoon pondered how to get out their message in defense of traditional heterosexual marriage.
The Ad-Hoc Committee in Defense of Marriage presented four key points the bishops hope to make:
• Marriage is inherently related to the sexual difference between men and women.
• Marriage is ordered to the good of children. (“A culture that welcomes the child is a culture that welcomes hope,” said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the ad-hoc committee.)
• Marriage by its nature is restricted to one man and one woman, and saying so is not a matter of unjust discrimination. (“The church deplores all violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, but to treat marriage differently is not unjust discrimination,” Kurtz said. “It stems from the nature of marriage itself, and the state has a positive duty to uphold this fundamental institution.”)
• Legalizing same-sex marriage has consequences for religious freedom, such as the prospect that people opposed in conscience might be compelled into cooperation with it. (Kurtz said there are already plenty of “real-life examples” of that coercion.)
Kurtz presented these points to the fully body of bishops this afternoon. He said the committee is contracting with professional communications firms to try to package these points successfully, including the production of a series of videos and brochures.
Kurtz said the bishops hope to make their pitch to two key groups: Young adults aged 18-29, with a special focus on Latinos; and priests and catechists across the country. Those choices, Kurtz said, were shaped by consultations the ad-hoc committee has carried out, which, he said, revealed that “priests often hesitant to preach about defense of marriage.”
In discussing these efforts, Kurtz offered a special thank-you to the Knights of Columbus, which has provided funding for the Ad-Hoc Committee in Defense of Marriage.
Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, New Mexico, pointed out that efforts in his state to resist same-sex legislation were buoyed by cooperation with Evangelicals and other Christian groups such as Baptists. Kurtz agreed, saying such ecumenical alliances tend to be especially effective on the state level.
Kurtz also brought the conference up to date on efforts to draft a pastoral letter on marriage from the U.S. bishops. He said that a final draft of the document should be presented to the full body of bishops at their November meeting.
There are a number of things in the above article I find very disturbing, but two stand out for they amply demonstrate that the USCCB sees itself as political PACT. The first is the use of media experts to target specific audiences. In this case specifically targeting Hispanics and young Catholics. The second is to disingenuously call the POLITICAL alliance amongst Evangelicals, Mormons, and some Catholics an ecumenical alliance. It has nothing to do with ecumenism and everything to do with upholding the preferential status of heterosexual males in the general culture. PUHLEASE.
Targeting Hispanic Catholics with this message is a blatant appeal to machismo. This is certainly not the attitude with in Hispanic culture the Church should be cultivating. The good bishop of Santa Fe should spend some time in his local police precinct and learn just how difficult it is to get the concept across to macho Hispanic men that it is not legal in this country to beat the crap out of your wife and kids or to rape your wife. I know, I've been in those trenches. I've had Hispanic men spew all over my office about just how 'effeminate' American culture is that they have denied men the right to punish their wives. In this culture Traditional Marriage is not an equal proposition.
Targeting youth with this message is targeting youth with the absolute wrong message. The USCCB should instead be targeting our heterosexual youth with the notion that marriage is a good and stable thing to do because it will enhance and ennoble their experience of life. It makes no sense to teach them that they must work to defeat gay marriage when too many of them are not marrying period.
The combination of Evangelicals, Mormons, and Catholics, (and all their money) may have worked in California, but it has failed to impact the state legislatures that have passed equal marriage laws in this legislative session. Americans seem to have decided that this unholy alliance of powerful religious groups is inherently bad for American culture. States seem to have come to the conclusion that their marriage laws are their business and allowing themselves to be manipulated by outside interests does not reflect the will of their people. Good for them.
Then there is the issue of the amount of money which will be spent on this crusade while Catholic Social services are facing drastic cuts in services and staff. And this at the exact time demand for these services is sky rocketing. What in the world does this actually say about the USCCB commitment to the poor? Is it really more important to spend large amounts of money preventing gays from legalizing their love relationships than it is helping the millions of Americans who need social services---Americans who have children and can't feed them, house them, care for them. Is stopping gay marriage more important than helping these children?
I read this article and I have to admit I was stunned to think that the USCCB would be this blatant, with their priorities this skewed. Why is gay marriage such an issue to these men? It has no effect on heterosexual marriage what so ever. Why put all this time, money, and effort into this crusade when heterosexual serial monogamy is the far bigger threat to heterosexual marriage?
I'm beginning to think it's because too many of them are gay themselves and they truly see homosexuality as God calling them to live a life of dedicated celibacy. If that's true then gays who desire to live with a partner are violating this God given call to celibacy. Partnered gays are mocking God, and by extension mocking the choice these bishops have made regarding their own sexuality. This idea of 'I'm gay because God wants me to be celibate' is a logical extension of Catholic spiritual thinking, but it is beyond wrong to legislate that kind of thinking for a multicultural pluralistic society and to attempt to do it on a pack of outright lies.
Finally, I will no longer have anything to do with the Knights of Columbus. They have become little more than an adjunct PACT for the Evangelical right.