Friday, June 19, 2009

American Bishops Should Hang Their Heads And Cry

Bishops gear up to oppose same-sex marriage
by John L Allen Jr on Jun. 17, 2009 NCR Today

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.


  1. I agree with what you say in your response to the USCCB. I, too, wonder why this is such a priority for them.

    Like you say in the last paragraph, I suspect it is internalize homophobia.

    What a disappointment from the US Bishops just when Benedict is calling this to be a year to honor prists. So now priests are going to be encouraged to preach against gay marriage. I don't think I will be preaching on that. The gay men I know in relationships often point to the stability or their relationships. Heterosexual marriage should have such a record. Why don't they talk about building intimacy in marriage, in a relationship.

    I would be interested in what the bishops are doing to promote the development of healthy sexuality in their seminaries rather that spending their time opposing gay marriage. Listening to them today, I wonder what they are doing. When I was in the seminary, years ago, the preparation for celibacy was a joke. And if you were gay, nothing fit.

    It would be wonderful if the bishops would begin to apologize to all the 31 million catholics in the US who have left the church. Perhaps if the bishops would begin to say to the divorced, the remarried, the gays and lesbians, the victims of abuse: "Yes, we will listen to your expreience." "We will begin to listen to professionals from the human sicences on the matters of sexuality." That would be good news.

    No, it is just more of the same. It is a real disappointment.

  2. It truly is a shame that the US Bishops have decided to pump money into a propaganda machine against gay marriage and target youth and Latinos to be brainwashed (have their consciences formed) and to be used as their pawns in their political crusade.

    You're right Colleen, it is not an ecumenical alliance, it is a political alliance that the Bishops are building to further their political agenda to keep gays from marrying and push male dominance and superiority as the ideal in relationships. The Bishops are creating an unholy alliance with evangelical groups that do not share a belief with the Bishops that "the church deplores all violence" against gays. Eliminationist do not deplore violence but promulgate it and promote it via hate-filled rhetoric such as we've witnessed in the "prolife" movement that led to the murder of Dr. Tiller.

    That the Bishops prioritize "Defense of Marriage" and ignore in spiritual negligence the fact that people in this country are now living in conditions similar to refugees in Darfur, in Tent Cities that are growing daily, homeless, driven out by a lack of work due to greed via the economic policies that the Bishops ignored and voted for via GW Bush says they are totally incompetent to lead and do not represent Jesus Christ at all.

    From what you are saying, Colleen, the Bishops have decided that gays should be celibate like the Bishops. It really is mind boggling that the gay Bishops would believe that since they are celibate (and not all are from reports I've encountered) that they should impose celibacy on all gays.

    This sounds like a pathology they have chosen and certainly is not from any true theological understanding of the true nature of God, that they presume to understand as if He was contained in the palm of their hand.

    I agree with wild hair and the question "Why don't they talk about building intimacy in marriage, in a relationship." I believe the answer to that is that they are too busy puffing themselves up and knocking everyone else down. They do not know how to love anyone and they've chosen not to. This they are proving. Hence, their refusal to help or aid the people living in Tent Cities that are growing. They are more interested in politicking and crusading for more power to themselves than they are in being like Jesus and empowering others with His love.

  3. You could also see this as a Freudian Slip on the part of the USCCB.....virtually admitting that they are a PAC.....and not spiritual shepherds:)

    Obvious question: do they not have more important things to do?

    Related obvious question: how does this in ANY way address the FACT that people are leaving the Catholic Church in droves?

    In urban areas of the Northeast, most of the churches are virtually empty on Sunday. Churches built to seat 1500 (or 2000) have a scant 30 or 50 at a mass. And have been in a steady state of decline for decades - DESPITE being in very heavily populated areas.

    The suburban & rural churches fill more easily - as they are often half the size of their urban counterparts. This disguises the problem. They 'look full'. Yes, there are SOME churches which are packed - but far fewer then even a decade ago.

    All which is being spewed from the pulpits (and the Eternal Word Brainwashing Channel) is politics, politics, politics. What passes for moral teaching is shaming & social conditioning. Not the preaching by personal example which Christ taught to His Apostles!

    The only part of the American (and global ) Church which is growing are the sects....cults. Opus Dei, Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi, Miles Jesu, Focalore, Neo-Catechumenal, Communion & Liberation, etc. All of these are subordinate to & (subtly) controlled by Opus Dei, as part of the retrograde 'conservative' agenda being pushed. An agenda based upon political power, protest, control, shaming, lecturing.....fanaticism. And outright lust for power.

    There is a logical solution to the gay marriage quandry: the use of the term marriage.

    Marriage is a historical religious construct. The concept of a 'non-church related marriage"...before a judge or civil official is fairly modern. Call this what it is: Civil Union.

    A Civil Union is NOT a sacramental marriage - in ANY religious context. The Civil Union of a man & a woman is NOT a marriage, understood in this light. Yet both the civil & religious union are treated the same under Civil Law, as they should be.

    At the same time, God will certainly send His blessings & graces upon a couple joined in a Civil Union! They are not 'damned', nor are their offspring 'bastards'.

    We know that Civil Unions are often not recognized by various religions as 'marriages', as they are not so. But that should not be viewed or expressed in a shaming or condescending way!

    The solution, as I see it is this:

    Ensure the right under Civil Law for same sex couples to enter into Civil Unions - wherein such Unions enjoy ALL the identical rights, priviledges - and obligations - under Civil Law, as enjoyed by those in Hetrosexual Unions....AND those enjoyed by couples joined by Marriage in the sacramental, religious context (any religion). That the two types of unions are seen as 100% equal in Civil Law.

    ....Canon Law is another matter, which is not the province of the State...any more then the Church has any business trying to manipulate Civil Law!

    This protects the civil rights of gay persons & couples - and solves the dilemma.

    But....I would bet the farm that the Bishops & the Evangelical bizarro-world would still howl & scream.

  4. And, the idea of pushing male dominance and superiority over women is what is destroying many marriages and relationships.

    The Bishops should be ashamed of themselves and they should "Hang Their Heads And Cry."

    If anything, their lack of love, their divisiveness, unholy way of being and relating to people is a direct contributor to the failure of many relationships and to the violence in many relationships.

  5. As the laws currently exist, religious proscriptions masquerading as cultural or traditions norms impose restrictions on a portion of society that does not agree with nor observe these proscriptions.

    When Jewish adolescents reach 13, they head to a temple for a deeply meaningful rite of passage, their bar or bat mitzvah. When a Catholic reaches about the same age, she or he stands in front of the local bishop, who touches them forehead with holy oil as they are confirmed into a 2,000-year-old faith tradition. But missing in each of those cases — and in countless others of equal religious importance — is any role for government. There is no baptism certificate issued by the local courthouse and no federal tax benefit attached to the confessional booth, the into-the-water-and-out born-again ceremony or any of the other sacraments that believers hold sacred. Only marriage gets that treatment, and it's a "tradition" that should be abandoned by the State.

    I have yet to hear a compelling argument why my 37-year relationship with my partner in any way diminishes the value of anyone’s marriage or family stability to the point of justifying the denial to us of equal protection under the law. This relationship has survived and thrived in spite of our Catholic Church and, quite frankly, we don’t care whether the church approves of our relationship or not.

    The time has come: anyone who wants to get married should be able to obtain a State-granted civil license that confers all of the legal rights, privileges and obligations that currently come with marriage. These are SECULAR benefits granted by the STATE and not any religious group. Access to them should not be controlled by religion of any stripe.

    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 word marriage less important, 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 and life as we know it has not ended.

    JIm McCrea

  6. This is so true anonymous. "All which is being spewed from the pulpits (and the Eternal Word Brainwashing Channel) is politics, politics, politics. What passes for moral teaching is shaming & social conditioning. Not the preaching by personal example which Christ taught to His Apostles! "

    This becomes very obvious to people who have a conscious relationship with Christ and His words, His guidance that He shows us in the Gospels. He promised His Holy Spirit and to those who hear Him He knows and they know His voice and they follow Him.

    My marriage would have never survived without the reasoning with Christ. Love cannot come inside the heart unless His words reside in one's heart. If they are not in one's heart, one cannot hear His words of love and guidance.

    Entire groups of congregations/sheep who have not the word of the Lord within will be deceived by twisted distortions of the word of the Lord.

  7. Entire groups of congregations/sheep who have not the word of the Lord within will be deceived by twisted distortions of the word of the Lord.

    The Holy Spirit is circumvented by distortions from the pulpit and analysis that is for all intents and purposes not inspired by the Holy Spirit but is agenda driven rhetoric.

    When the mind is clogged with voices other than the Holy Spirit it is clogged with nonsense and perverted proscriptions that fill a righteous intention with negating righteous intention.

  8. Catholics and other Christians tend to conveniently overlook/forget their church history.

    Sacramental marriage was not part of the Christian religion until it was adopted per se in 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 it.

    If you do not want to redefine marriage, then we should go back to having fathers arrange who men should marry. Women …. accept your fate.

    All in favor, raise your hands now …
    I thought so.

    Jim McCrea

  9. Colleen, I agree with you very much about the use of media experts to target various audiences. When slick ad campaigns become the focus of moral persuasion, those using such campaigns might as well admit that their message itself is not persuasive.

    I'm also struck by the choice to call this a Defense of Marriage campaign. That's a hostile, in-your-face message. It echoes the discriminatory federal act that the nation is now struggling to put behind it, as we move to the 21st century.

    In using this terminology, the bishops are indicating a willingness to continue a hostile campaign against gay persons that brings them no honor as pastoral leaders.

    There are many other ways they could have chosen to frame this initiative. The fact that they have chosen to do so by using the odious Defense of Marriage term speaks volumes about their continued pugnacious stance towards contemporary culture. As people continue to walk away and shake their heads. . . .

  10. And the Maine bishop and Evangelical alliance has hired Schubert Flint, the firm that ran the "successful" proposition 8 campaign in California to work to overturn Maine's same sex marriage law. In the face of high unemployment, poverty, homelessness and closing churches, this is what their diocesan priorities are.
    Tell me why?

  11. I am inclined to agree with you on the issue of closet cases in the hierarchy. I suspect there are a lot of them, and sometimes in my more evil moments, I want gay Catholics to start outing them the way that some gay bloggers out secular politicians. Just because they may be gay and self-hating or fear a married or female priesthood doesn't mean they have to take out their internal conflicts on the rest of the world.

  12. Khughes1963, I have wondered if it isn't time for those who know the truth about our bishops to blow open the closet doors. I suspect the reason this hasn't happened is because the people who know the truth have so much to lose themselves... The clerical culture is highly protective because it's endemic to the structure.

    A Catholic priest I knew and loved dearly, who was gay himself, said he once figured out that 50% or better of the priests in the diocese we lived in were gay. He also told me his first sexual encounter as a gay man was in the seminary where he was raped in his first week by a third year seminary student. By the time he was ordained, it didn't surprise him that the first week he was in his first rectory he was sodomized again.

    Richard Sipe is onto a lot of stuff as far as I'm concerned, but I'm afraid he is going to draw limited conclusions. It's not that gays have taken over the priesthood, it's that God calling one to celibacy is such an obvious reason for being gay in the Catholic system and celibacy is equated with a call to the priesthood. This is all so backwards.

  13. Colleen, this is just so awful to hear that seminarians are committing rape and priests raping too. What was that about? Was it initiation into their club of 'don't tell and then we won't tell.' It is absolutely sick and so far away from grace and yet these are the people who are deciding who is allowed to receive communion or not! It is pathetic and a disgrace and since they will not be honest about the very intrinsically evil culture they live in, who is their right mind would want to listen to what they say is good for the culture or good for your soul!! Like they would know; the rapist. A bunch of hypocrites!!

    Everybody loses with this type of "leadership."

    Word is feaking

  14. The current US bishops seem never able to come up with anything edifying or evangelical. They strike me as a sort of Mafia.

  15. "I have yet to hear a compelling argument why my 37-year relationship with my partner in any way diminishes the value of anyone’s marriage or family stability to the point of justifying the denial to us of equal protection under the law."

    Obviously your 37 year relationship is not and should not be considered a 'threat' to family stability, et. al. In point of fact, your union/relationship has lasted far longer then most traditional, church-sanctioned marriages! Congrats for that!!!

    A relationship which blossoms into such a union is about love; about emotional commitment & the feeling of mutual security & support which goes with it. The sole purpose for state recognition of a union is ONLY for its status in Civil Law:

    As a contract entered into by both parties, viewed virtually as if it were a corporate entity or business partnership. It has everything to do with this - and the logical connection with right of inheritance, property, etc......and zilch to do with love, much less the recognition of any religious/sacramental aspect of a church wedding.

    The justice of the peace acts as a notary for the state, witnessing the 'contract'. A minister/priest/rabbi does the same thing, as he must be licensed by the state to perform the identical Notary function.....which has NOTHING to do with the sacramental/religious aspects of a church sanctioned marriage.

    As far as God is concerned, He is only interested in the sincerity of the contracting parties - in maing AND keeping the 'contract'.

    And may God's blessings be upon you & your partner!

  16. "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."

    Truer words were never said!

  17. Marriage is a civil institution, a civil right, and a myriad of civil rights under law flow from being married. “All” of the exact same rights under law do not flow from being civilly unioned or domestically partnered. It is the State that grants marriage licenses, not any church. It is the State that permits ministers and priests to act as (civil) delagates of the State in officiating at a marriage. The Church has no inherent right to lawfully marry anyone on its own. A purely “religious” marriage without benefit of a proper State license would produce no marriage under State law, nor would any State civil rights flow from such a purely religious marriage, though in time ‘common law’ rights might ensue in some States. Gays and lesbians want the same civil right to be married as a heterosexual couple. They should have this same civil right. Separate but equal didn’t work racially, nor does it work sexually in terms of the State vetting who can be married. If you pay the same taxes, you should receive the same rights, benefits and duties under the law. The USCCB, and any diocese, parish, religious order or church institution that politics in the civil arena to promote or deny any citizen’s civil rights under civil law should have its tax exempt status revoked. The USCCB and its bishops should be condemned. The US Constitution prohibits the establishment of any one religion, be it the RC church or a coalition of Christian groups. I have reluctantly come to feel that Christ has left the RC church. Truly he has left the USCCB. Former RC; D.Min. in NJ.

  18. I think you bring up a point which isn't made enough. A religious marriage ceremony conveys no civil rights and no civil benefits. They are empty of meaning in a secular social context.

    This is the reason the churches are battling this on secular grounds and not religious. There is no compelling secular reason to get married in a religious ceremony, except that all the money is spent on the religious aspect.