Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

the anti-democratic option

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 01, 2010

 "Gay rights by law, not vote" reads the headline on a Boston Globe editorial. Reading it for the first time, one might wonder how else laws are established in a democracy, if not by vote. But the subject of the editorial is same-sex marriage, so the usual rules of logic, rhetoric, and democratic theory do not apply.

The attorney general of Massachusetts, Martha Coakley (who has her own reasons for feeling unhappy with the results of reliance on a majority vote) is challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. By striking down that federal law, she reasons, a court could eliminate the conflict between the Massachusetts policy allowing same-sex marriage and the DOMA rule that other states are not obliged to recognize such unions.

Let's pause here for a quick review. The DOMA was passed in Congress by a majority vote. The Massachusetts law allowing same-sex marriage was established by court decree, without ever consulting the voters. You can see why Coakley and the Globe are happier with "law" (court-dictated law, in this case) than with votes.

Coakley wants a federal court to strike down the law that Congress passed. Better yet, she wants a single judge to decide the case. And that's not all; she wants the judge to make his ruling without a trial. The Globe editorial explains her reasoning: "The unfairness of the law is evident."

Oh, well then. If it's evident, why bother with a trial? Why bother with a court? Why bother with a democratic vote? The law is--or should be--what Coakley and the Globe agree it is. That's the essential argument, laid out with remarkably little camouflage in this editorial-- and for that matter in Coakley's lawsuit.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: 51yrs&counting - Jan. 13, 2018 3:03 AM ET USA

    “Confused”! Is it out of kindness that we use that word since are we not, in truth, dealing with a “diabolical heresy”? First, the sacrament of marriage, then the documents, for are they not now trying to change “Humanae Vitae” and then “The Catechism of the Catholic Church” in order to make the “Teachings of the Church” more relevant? Has anyone else noticed the “dumbed down” Liturgy being used at Mass in the Vatican? Speak only words of truth. And pray!! I am frightened and not ”Confused”!!!

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Jan. 12, 2018 3:19 PM ET USA

    An individual cannot contradict Church teaching directly and continue to be seen as a faithful Catholic. If there is confusion about Church teaching, however, one is free to believe among different teachings. Thus, one possible strategy that can be used to contradict perennial Church teaching, and claim that one is a faithful Catholic, is to create confusion about this teaching. Is this strategy being used by many of Pope Francis supporters? And if so, who does Pope Francis allow it?

  • Posted by: Montserrat - Jan. 12, 2018 1:17 PM ET USA

    Like secular leftist idealogues who have no use for logical reasoning, so too we find Church leaders who only wish to push the neo-modernist agenda represented by the current papacy. What matters to them is whether or not the Church is in sync with the "superior" world view of modernist academia, modernist opinion makers, and modernist so-called theologians. They cannot be bothered with truth and crystal clear logic that smacks of "outdated" Thomism and ghetto Catholicism.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jan. 11, 2018 6:50 PM ET USA

    If Pope Francis really believes that everyone around him, everyone in the entire Church, for that matter, needs conversion to the ways of Christ, not only must the Vatican be riddled with diabolical corruption, but the entire Church, the sensus fidelium, must be corrupt as well. What other interpretation can be derived from the "paradigm change" quotation in the title of the article that accompanies this one, and concurrently from the content of the linked "Vatican News" article?

  • Posted by: frjpharrington3912 - Mar. 03, 2010 12:13 PM ET USA

    The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was ratified only after it was approved by the vote of the citizens of the Commonwealth. The third paragraph of its Preamble infact begin with the words, "We, therefore, the people of Massachusetts acknowledging, with grateful hearts...In Part The First it states "In the government of this Commonwealth... the judicial shall never exercise the legislative... As Attorney General didn't Martha Coakley swear an oath to uphold the Constitution?