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New York bishops lament passage of same-sex marriage

June 27, 2011

The bishops of New York State have issued a statement lamenting the State Senate’s 33-29 vote approving the legalization of same-sex marriage. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Catholic, signed the measure into law.

“The passage by the Legislature of a bill to alter radically and forever humanity’s historic understanding of marriage leaves us deeply disappointed and troubled,” the state’s bishops said. “We strongly uphold the Catholic Church’s clear teaching that we always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love. But we just as strongly affirm that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, loving union that is open to children, ordered for the good of those children and the spouses themselves. This definition cannot change, though we realize that our beliefs about the nature of marriage will continue to be ridiculed, and that some will even now attempt to enact government sanctions against churches and religious organizations that preach these timeless truths.”

“We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization,” the bishops added. “Our society must regain what it appears to have lost – a true understanding of the meaning and the place of marriage, as revealed by God, grounded in nature, and respected by America’s foundational principles.”

Despite the strong statements from the Catholic hierarchy, the New York Times reported that during the intense last-minute political maneuvering in Albany, the state capital, Church leaders did not play the active role that many legislators expected. "The Catholic Church, arguably the only institution with the authority and reach to derail same-sex marriage, seemed to shrink from the fight," the Times reported.

One key legislator who voted for the same-sex marriage bill, Senator Mark Grisanti, candidly admitted that he was torn by the question, since same-sex marriage was at odds with his Catholic faith. "I know that with this decision, many people who voted for me will question my integrity," Grisanti said. But he claimed that he had not heard a strong argument against legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan had issued a clear statement of opposition to the measure, drawing heavy criticism from gay-rights groups for his stand. In a separate statement after the vote, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn denounced the state's “corrupt political process” and “asked all Catholic schools to refuse any distinction or honors bestowed upon them this year by the governor or any member of the legislature who voted to support this legislation.”

“Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature have deconstructed the single most important institution in human history,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “Republicans and Democrats alike succumbed to powerful political elites and have passed legislation that will undermine our families and as a consequence, our society.”

He continued:

With this vote, Governor Cuomo has opened a new front in the culture wars that are tearing at the fabric of our nation. At a time when so many New Yorkers are struggling to stay in their homes and find jobs, we should be working together to solve these problems. However, the politicians have curried favor with wealthy donors who are proponents of a divisive agenda in order to advance their own careers and futures.

What is needed in our state is leadership and not political gamesmanship.

In light of these disturbing developments and in protest for this decision, I have asked all Catholic schools to refuse any distinction or honors bestowed upon them this year by the governor or any member of the legislature who voted to support this legislation. Furthermore, I have asked all pastors and principals to not invite any state legislator to speak or be present at any parish or school celebration.

The above request is intended as a protest of the corrupt political process in New York State. More than half of all New Yorkers oppose this legislation. Yet, the governor and the state legislature have demonized people of faith, whether they be Muslims, Jews, or Christians, and identified them as bigots and prejudiced, and voted in favor of same-sex “marriage.” It is mystifying that this bill would be passed on the last day of an extended session under the cover of darkness.

This issue has been framed as upholding marriage equality. This is not the case since one of the principal purposes of marriage is to bring new life into the world. This cannot happen in same-sex marriage. It is not a civil rights issue, but rather a human rights issue upholding the age-old understanding of marriage. Our political leaders do not believe their own rhetoric. If they did, how in good conscience could they carve out any exemption for institutions that would be proponents of bigotry and prejudice?

Republicans and Democrats equally share responsibility for this ruinous legislation and we as Catholics should hold all accountable for their actions.

Two days before the State Sentate vote, the bishop of Rochester had said that same-sex marriage would not serve the “wonderful end” of equality.

“[Marriage] is an institution so deeply ingrained in the human spirit that to redefine it in such a short time frame under the very wonderful rubric of human rights, which I thoroughly support, the two don't equate in quite the way its proponents want to present it,” said Bishop Matthew Clark.

“We don't approve of that practice but that's not to say we don't see good, loving people who go that way of life,” he added. “We don't say that there's no love there at all, there's no sign of God's presence, because indeed they remain God's children, beloved of us all. It's more a question of how you reach that wonderful end of equality for all people and we're just arguing in this case that you don't effectively, long-term do it, by redefining an institution that's served us so beautifully.”


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  • Posted by: tony2311 - Jun. 28, 2011 9:20 PM ET USA

    This is a terrible scandal, not just for you in the USA, but for all of us Catholics around the world. If no action is taken with respect to Cuomo, it will give licence for Catholic politicians everywhere to ignore Church teaching. More importantly it just makes the Church look silly and irrelevant to the world at large; it removes any meaning from the adjective and noun "Catholic". As the Church is the lone voice in the world regarding natural law and God's law, we mustn't let that happen.

  • Posted by: Franz10108953 - Jun. 27, 2011 11:34 PM ET USA

    It is interesting that the Bishops of New York put out their collective objection to the "gay marriage" law AFTER it was passed. Other than Archbishop Dolan's efforts not much was heard from those Bishops BEFORE the fact. Hubbard was very aggressive in defending Cuomo's right to receive Holy Communion in spite of his living with a woman without benefit of marriage so could he really care about the marriage issue?

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Jun. 27, 2011 8:42 PM ET USA

    "he had not heard a strong argument against legal recognition of same-sex marriage." If we would stop calling true marriage "traditional" marriage, and start calling it "natural marriage," people might start paying attention to the natural law. The trouble is that we take St. Paul's advice not to even speak of these perversions and so people think that all homosexual practitioners do is hold hands and kiss. Sodomy is sexual abuse per se. Whatever the law says, it is perverse.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 27, 2011 8:40 PM ET USA

    Where have the bishops been? This issue didn't just arise last week. New York is supposedly a heavily "Catholic" state. Lack of episcopal teaching? It's past time for some action vis-a-vis the governor.

  • Posted by: bsp1022 - Jun. 27, 2011 8:22 PM ET USA

    For a thoughtful [very sharp] commentary on Governor Cuomo's canonical relationship to the Catholic Church and possible consequences [which, obviously, he does not give one wit about] go here: [rated GREEN by Catholic Culture] There are none so blind as those who will not see. [1738 / J. Swift]. If you will not take action when you can have good effect [USCCB], you will [thereafter] have no choice but to take action when the effort will be effectively useless.

  • Posted by: williiam ronner - Jun. 27, 2011 8:14 PM ET USA

    Bishop Hubbard, in his usual departure from morality, claimed that Gov Cuomo would be a great evangelist for the Catholic Church. I guess he's spent too many nights in Washington Park. Courage dictates that the Gov be directed to refrain from receiving Holy Communion until a public repentance. But that would have to come from Bishop Hubbard who has elected to function more as a politician than as a shepard.

  • Posted by: Chestertonian - Jun. 27, 2011 7:32 PM ET USA

    Grisanti needs to be smacked upside the head with a Bible opened to St Paul's letter to the Romans, or to the story of Sodom and Gommorah, and then have Abp Dolan's statement taped to his forehead. What a poor excuse for a Catholic! Apparently he's never heard that old saw, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse," nor of using Google to search on a topic.

  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - Jun. 27, 2011 7:31 PM ET USA

    What else can we expect when there is no admonishment or penalty in all the other scandals that have led up to this? Clearly, no one expects any penalty for anything they do in defiance of our Lord's teaching (abortion, contraception, marriage) - and remember, this is our Lord's teaching - not simply that of the Vatican or the Bishops. Perhaps everyone should devote some time to reading St. Haul. He had some clear messages about those who rejected the teachings of Jesus.

  • Posted by: LittleRedHen - Jun. 27, 2011 6:20 PM ET USA

    It sickened me when Andrew Cuomo and his live-in girlfriend presented themselves at Holy Communion on the day of his inauguration, and the Bishop of Albany didn't think there was anything wrong with it. Lucius49 is right -- excommunication is called for here and some stiff fraternal correction for the bishop, too.

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Jun. 27, 2011 3:37 PM ET USA

    We certainly need more than lamentation. It's time for ecclesiastical penalties like excommunication.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 27, 2011 10:26 AM ET USA

    And this measure was pushed through by a Catholic - Gov Cuomo. Perhaps excommunication would get his attention, but I doubt that will happen.