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Journalists reflect on Church role in New York's vote for same-sex marriage

June 29, 2011

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Three different journalists offer interesting perspectives on the role that Catholicism played in the political battle over same-sex marriage in New York:

Columnist Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, rejoicing at the legislative victory for gay rights, focuses on the role played by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who still identifies himself as a Catholic despite flouting Church teaching on a number of issues, both personal and political. The governor’s own remarks on that subject are revealing:

“It’s troubling for me as a Catholic to be at odds with the church,” he began, before dissolving into a wry laugh. “Having said that, it seems that my entire political life, the tension with the church has come up again and again.”

Cuomo’s perception is accurate. He has always been at odds with the Church: on his support for legal abortion and same-sex marriage, on his open relationship with a woman who is not his wife. He claims to be troubled by this conflict, but he is evidently not too troubled to find it humorous—let alone to change his policies and amend his life. After all, the governor’s very odd version of Catholicism may earn occasional rebukes from bishops, but it wins kudos from Maureen Dowd and the New York Times.

John Zmirak, writing for Crisis, questions the legislative strategy employed by Church leaders in New York during this political struggle. Rather than calling for a “full-court press” against the proposal, he notes, lobbyists for the bishops—apparently feeling that they lacked the votes to defeat the proposal—settled for concessions that will exempt religious institutions from some of the new law’s effect. Citing the arguments of CWN editor Phil Lawler, Zmirak says that approach is doomed to fail:

Political philosopher and convert Hadley Arkes explains that when we cease to say, “This is evil, and no one must engage in it,” and instead say, “This goes against our religion,” we as good as admit that our position is not based in reason and justice.

Rod Dreher is more caustic in his assessment of the New York bishops’ political strategy. Although Archbishop Timothy Dolan made a strong statement before the vote, and the bishops of New York joined in a lament after the legislators had reached their decision, Dreher argues that Church leaders did too little, too late. Indeed, he says, they “fought with a half-heartedness that is simply stunning given the vivid, calamitous language the archbishop used to describe the threat…” It is not enough, Dreher argues, for Church leaders to issue statements when a vote to accept same-sex marriage is scheduled; the battle for public acceptance of homosexuality had been fought for years, with little input from the pulpits:

If our pastors, priests, and religious educators avoid speaking directly, intelligently, and convincingly about the meaning of sexuality for Christians, we should not be surprised when the laity takes its cues from the popular culture. If you've been coasting for years, do not plead befuddlement when you try to kick your moral leadership into gear, and get little traction.


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Jun. 29, 2011 8:44 PM ET USA

    You have to go further. How much has the non-confrontational stance of the Holy See after the Council vis a vis dissent, the secularization of Catholic universities, pro-abortion pols, pro-abortion clerics and religious contribute to the American episcopal scene taking their cue from Rome? This didn't just happen. We have been in deep crisis for the last thirty to thirty-five years!

  • Posted by: claire5327 - Jun. 29, 2011 7:05 PM ET USA

    Too many mindless water down version of our Doctrines since the 1960s are now bearing their fruits in full measures in every direction. "I am the Way,The Truth and The Life!" His words are LIFE itself for those who follow Him, for those who sold Him for his/her temporary gratifications will have to face Him Who is the Author of all living and all that is GOOD! "The tree is known by its fruits." Remember the cursed fig tree which bore no fruits? Imaging being a BAD TREE when facing Him? Amen!

  • Posted by: tasha1996 - Jun. 29, 2011 6:24 PM ET USA

    St. Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, pray for us!

  • Posted by: - Jun. 29, 2011 6:08 PM ET USA

    We have to agree with Rod Dreher. Too little, too late. And after the fact -- the bishops "lament" ? Rather pathetic handwringing. And one bishop suggests "shunning" ? Wow, that's really tough action, especially vis-a-vis the Governor.