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Archbishop Dolan urges Obama: end campaign against marriage, religious freedom

September 22, 2011

In a remarkable letter to President Barack Obama, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York strongly criticized “recent actions taken by your Administration that both escalate the threat to marriage and imperil the religious freedom of those who promote and defend marriage.”

The prelate, who serves as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), concluded the letter by calling upon the Obama administration to end its “campaign against DOMA [the Defense of Marriage Act], the institution of marriage it protects, and religious freedom.”

An accompanying analysis, prepared by USCCB staff, warned that the

comprehensive efforts of the federal government—using its formidable moral, economic, and coercive power—to enforce its new legal definition of “marriage” against a resistant Church would, if not reversed, precipitate a systemic national conflict between Church and State, harming both institutions, as well as our Nation as a whole.

“This past spring the Justice Department announced that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court, a decision strongly opposed by the Catholic Bishops of the United States and many others,” Archbishop Dolan began. “Now the Justice Department has shifted from not defending DOMA—which is problem enough, given the duty of the executive branch to enforce even laws it disfavors—to actively attacking DOMA’s constitutionality.”

“The content of this letter reflects the strong sentiment expressed at a recent meeting by more than thirty of my brother Bishops who serve on the Administrative Committee of our episcopal conference,” Archbishop Dolan continued. “I know they are joined by hundreds of additional Catholic bishops throughout our nation. My observations are offered in the spirit of respectful, but frank dialogue.”

Archbishop Dolan added:

The Catholic Bishops stand ready to affirm every positive measure taken by you and your Administration to strengthen marriage and the family. We cannot be silent, however, when federal steps harmful to marriage, the laws defending it, and religious freedom continue apace …

I know that you treasure the importance that you and the First Lady, separately and as a couple, share in the lives of your children. The Mother’s Day and Father’s Day proclamations display a welcome conviction on your part that neither a mom nor a dad is expendable. I believe therefore that you would agree that every child has the right to be loved by both a mother and a father.

The institution of marriage is built on this truth, which goes to the core of what the Catholic Bishops of the United States, and the millions of citizens who stand with us on this issue, want for all children and for the common good of society. That is why it is particularly upsetting, Mr. President, when your Administration, through the various court documents, pronouncements and policies identified in the attached analysis, attributes to those who support DOMA a motivation rooted in prejudice and bias. It is especially wrong and unfair to equate opposition to redefining marriage with either intentional or willfully ignorant racial discrimination, as your Administration insists on doing …

Mr. President, I respectfully urge you to push the reset button on your Administration’s approach to DOMA. Our federal government should not be presuming ill intent or moral blindness on the part of the overwhelming majority of its citizens, millions of whom have gone to the polls to directly support DOMAs in their states and have thereby endorsed marriage as the union of man and woman. Nor should a policy disagreement over the meaning of marriage be treated by federal officials as a federal offense—but this will happen if the Justice Department’s latest constitutional theory prevails in court. The Administration’s failure to change course on this matter will, as the attached analysis indicates, precipitate a national conflict between Church and State of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions.

In the analysis accompany Archbishop Dolan’s letter, the USCCB staff criticized the Justice Department’s attack on DOMA as a form of “sexual orientation discrimination” as well as the administration’s promotion of adoption by homosexual couples, its “sensitivity training” against “heterosexism,” and its implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The USCCB staff members who prepared the analysis added:

[T]he Administration’s efforts to change the law—in all three branches of the federal government—so that support for authentic marriage is treated as an instance of “sexual orientation discrimination,” will threaten to spawn a wide range of legal sanctions against individuals and institutions within the Catholic community, and in many others as well. Based on the experience of religious entities under some state and local governments already, we would expect that, if the Administration succeeds, we would face lawsuits for supposed “discrimination” in all the areas where the Church operates in service to the common good, and where civil rights laws apply—such as employment, housing, education, and adoption services, to name just a few …


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  • Posted by: mgreen32234 - Sep. 23, 2011 2:21 PM ET USA

    But, but, Archibishop, you are implying the Democrats are no longer the party of married people. How long before we can't vote for Democrats under penalty of sin? We are defending marriage by redefining it so no one is left out. We are making it fair -- inclusive. And we're engaging tradition; declaring Church teaching fallable and inflexible. We want justice for all. Don't you? And peace too. Justice and peace. Marriage equality. Common ground. Or something. Can't we agree to disagree? :S)

  • Posted by: - Sep. 22, 2011 2:15 PM ET USA

    I think this is just a warning shot across the bow, so to speak, but I'm quite sure it will fall on deaf ears. This Administration cares not one whit for avoiding "national conflict between Church and State" and in fact is doing everything it can to hasten it. And how many Catholics will offer their pinch of incense at the altar of Caeser to avoid the consequences of fidelity to the Lord?

  • Posted by: Hal - Sep. 22, 2011 11:29 AM ET USA

    Well, that's just special isn't it? Buyer's remorse and all that. The funny thing is that he's the same politician they were so eager, and did in fact climb in bed with only several years ago. If the USCCB had any credibility left with me I might applaud this.