San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone conveyed the disappointment felt by his brother bishops because of the recent passage of same-sex marriage laws in three states and the defeat of an amendment that would constitutionally ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota.
Speaking at a press conference during the opening day of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops fall meeting in Baltimore, Cordileone, chairman of the subcommittee for the promotion and defense of marriage, called last Tuesday “a disappointing day” but stood by the Catholic Church’s efforts, saying that the defeats were “a call to intensify efforts to strengthen and defend marriage.” He said that the results were “a symptom of a much larger problem” for the church, because “many people simply do not understand what marriage is.” He went on, “Marriage is not simply two consenting adults coming together for the state to ratify their romantic relationships,” but the “only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any children born of their union.”
When asked if the church would change its tactics given its apparent defeat, Cordileone balked, saying that the “good of society depends on [marriage].” He said, “bishops are open dialogue partners with those who disagree with us on a whole range of issues” and that opponents of same-sex marriage “try to be sensitive” to marriage equality proponents, though claimed “many people have suffered a lot of violence from those who disagree” with the church on marriage.
Bishops in all three states where marriage equality ballot measures passed, Maine, Maryland, and Washington, released statements last week expressing their disappointment. The Vatican has also weighed in on the issue, sarcastically asking why marriage should not include polygamy or polyandry.
A report released last month by the Human Rights Campaign found that the Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus were responsible for a quarter of the funds used to combat marriage equality measures on ballots in four states, and some progressive Catholic voices argue that church leaders should move on from the marriage fights altogether.
John Gehring wrote in a blog post earlier this fall that, “Bishops have enough housecleaning of their own to do when it comes to strengthening Catholic marriages and rebuilding trust in the face of clergy abuse scandals. They should drop the culture war politics.”
James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, wrote that the church’s “work against civil same-sex marriage laws has the unfortunate effect of pushing younger generations of Catholics out of the church. Younger Catholics don’t want our faith known for its involvement in divisive culture wars, we want our faith known for serving the poor and marginalized.”
Polls have found that a majority of lay Catholics support the legalization of same-sex marriage and other gay rights measures.