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Michael J. O’LoughlinNovember 12, 2012

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.

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Mike Brooks
11 years 6 months ago
Why does the Church and the State care that two people commit to one another in matrimony?  Why is marriage only for couples?

The answer to both questions is that sex between a man and a woman is the way that children are created.  Take away sexual reproduction, and marriage would not exist.

When a man and a woman enter a sexual relationship, conception, with very few exceptions, is a possiblity.  Marriage is designed to assure that any child conceived has his/her mom and dad, and to assure that the two individuals who created the  child take respsonsibility for its upbringing.  When a child's father and/or mother fails to take responsibility for the child, the taxpayer takes the burden and the child suffers.  This is why we have marriage.

As two people of the same sex can never create a child, the purpose of marriage in uniting moms and dads to their offspring can never be achieved.  Indeed, every child brought up by a homosexual couple has been stripped of one or both of its biological parents, the very thing marriage is desigend to prevent.

Good for the bishops,  One need not have a sexual relationship to know the productive nature of heterosexual sex as opposed to the destructive nature of homosexual sodomy.

Terence Weldon
11 years 6 months ago
Yes, it's true that very many people do not understand the true nature of marriage - most especially those who having taken a vow of celibacy, have never experienced it (or other committed, faithful sexual relationships). 
If they did understand, they would know that human and animal couples alike are fully capable of producing children without benefit of marriage. They would also recognise that when two people decide to commit in marriage, they do not usually begin by saying, ''I want to have children. It's time to get married''. Far more usually, the impulse is ''I love you. I want to make that commitment public''. Thereafter, they are likely to begin discussions about the timing of starting a family. (And no, most Catholics do NOT avoid contraception any more. It is now unusual for Catholic weddings to be followed soon after by swelling female tums.)
There would also be recognition that the real value of marriage for children is not in making them, but in protecting them. A substantial number of children (I saw an estimate for the US of something like 300 000) are being raised by same - sex couples. They also need the protection of marriage for their parents.

So, agreed - it is tragic that so many people with no real understanding of the true nature of marriage have been throwing money - church money - at the attempts to undermine it. 
ed gleason
11 years 6 months ago
Lets ask the bishops tp forget about City Hall marriages. The decline in Catholic Sacramental marriages is down 60% since 1992. Population up.. Sacramental marriages down 60%. It needs repeating because the bishops are not hearing it.  My wife and I began a forty year marriage ministry in the 60s 70s , we were always talking to couples whose concern was 'If no Church wedding, grandma won't attend'
Now grandma herslf is shacking up w/o marriage and could care less.
Amy Ho-Ohn
11 years 6 months ago
Thank God for His Church that teaches truth even when the whole world demands falsehood.

This is not the first time this battle has been fought. The pagan culture into which the Church was born also regarded human sexuality as a purely utilitarian expression of physical appetite, social dominance and economic self-interest, and denied the unique ability of a man and a woman to unite and become a family and make life profound, worthwhile and creative for everybody through the love they share. The Church's message that it is wrong to use one's fellow human being as a sex toy fell on deaf ears then just as it does now. (Emperor Nero is said to have entered into two "gay" marriages, once as the bride and once as the groom.)

There are two things the Church can never stop proclaiming without ceasing to be Herself. The first is the wrongness of human sacrifice, that no human life should ever be food, or a pawn, or a tool or a burnt offering. The second is that the human power to love creatively must not be perverted into an instrument of degradation.

One can wish the bishops would proclaim these truths more eloquently. But one must be grateful that they proclaim them at all.
Vince Killoran
11 years 6 months ago
 "The Church's message that it is wrong to use one's fellow human being as a sex toy fell on deaf ears then just as it does now."

Sex toy? What does that have to do with gay marriage?
Marie Rehbein
11 years 6 months ago
I agree with all the above comments, but Abe#7 is the funniest.

Amy#6: the Church has idealized marriage, and that is a good thing, as you say, but only up to a point.
Tom Maher
11 years 6 months ago
Bishops double down on marriage?  The Church  and the pope have always "doubed down'  on marriage.    This article poorly represents the central doctrines on marriage and the importance of marriage as a sacrement of the Church..  Marriage and issue of sexual morality are and have always been a central part of the Christ's gospel and the Church's mission and teachings. 

Mr. O'Loughlin poorly represents the Church teaching on marrriage and sexual maorlity and the implications and explaination of the Church's constant teachings on  marriage.  Mr. O'Lloughlin who is not trained in the in Church or a representive of any interest of the Church is free to distort and misrepresent what the Church's views and  interests are about marriage are.  As a non-Jesuit he is free to be the frontman for radical views on marriage without accountability to Church authorities for there departure fom the Church's authentic teachings,  HIs non-accountability also gives America magazine  the Jesuits plausable deniability for promoting and support of radical messages that may distort and undermine the Church's authenetic teaching by the disclaimer that Mr. O'Loughlin's views "are not necessarily the views of America magaine."  But Mr. O'Loughlin views on marriage do not represent the views of the Church.
Marie Rehbein
11 years 6 months ago
Amy#12, I don't believe that marriage was established for the benefit of women's reproductive health.  Far more important would have been concerns about who provides for the care of the offspring, and more than likely this concern would have come from the family of the woman who would be stuck providing it unless the father of the child could be determined conclusively.  I imagine that a woman would do better medically if other women, like sisters, aunts, mothers, and grandmothers were looking after her than if there is or is not a legal husband in the picture.

I don't think I said or implied that the Catholic Church was the only defender of marriage as we have experienced it in our time.  I'm sure there are plenty of people besides yourself who regard monogomous marriage as beneficial to themselves and society, emotionally, socially, and economically, and some of these people happen to be gay.  It's too extreme to claim that allowing gay people to marry destroys these aspects of marriage.
Amy Ho-Ohn
11 years 6 months ago
"Gay" "marriage" is no more than two people using each other as sex toys because there is nobody who can get pregnant.

Pregnancy is what marriage is about. Pregnancy is tremendously difficult, dangerous,  debilitating, actually heroic, even in the twenty-first century. My maternal grandmother died in childbirth. My other grandmother died of complications from childbirth. My mother had six children and only one (me) came into the world in the textbook way. There was the breech birth, the face presentation, the ruptured uterus, the one who came early so the uterus had to be sewn up to hold him in, fistulas, infections, the three-day attempt to deliver vaginally culminating in an emergency Caesarian section. I don't even know all the details, because I'm squeamish.

That's what marriage is about for women. It's not just about sexual pleasure, tax-free inheritance, fabulous spectacles in front of friends and cameras and self-indulgent emotionalism. It's a life and death venture which results in a new human being who has to be cared for for eighteen years (more like twenty-eight, these days.)

A society that cares about its future uses the institution of marriage to ameliorate the hardships and hazards women undergo in pregnancy and childbirth. The most dangerous problems in modern American society are all related to women who have no help at all and have to do it all on their own. Contracepting couples, divorced couples, cohabiting couples, even adulterous couples, are all in one way or another trying to negotiate the gigantic task God has given mankind to be fruitful and multiply. "Gay" "partners" are a farce and a caricature.

It is preposterous (as Marie and Crystal suggest) that the only defenders the institution of marriage has left are the Catholic hierarchy. These guys are so squeamish they discovered the doctrine that the BVM gave birth without even breaking her hymen. (Portrayals of the Birth of the Virgin are usually more realistic. The gore is usually glossed over, but St. Anne at least looks like a woman who's had a busy day.) If they're the only ones still brave enough to defend marriage as God designed it, this society is in even bigger trouble than we thought.

James Palermo
11 years 6 months ago
The Bishops are the ones who do not understand what marriage is.  They can recite what the Church has taught about marriage through the ages, but they do not know what marriage is, because most of them never lived it.  Most of them never had to worry about their next meal, or making rent payments.  They have not stayed up all night with a sick baby, only to then have to head out the door to work.  They are arrogant to reduce marriage to a mere sexual relationship.  The Bishops may have the right to say that church will not recognize or perform same-sex marriages, but they have no right to say they will deny civil legal rights to two people who want to live in an exclusive, loving relationship. There is much good in the Church but the recent positions taken by the Bishops on marriage, and Obama-Care reveals them for what they are: largely out-of-touch old men who, as my Grandma would say ''Have book learning but no common sense.''  And to make matters worse, they seem to believe that unless one has been ordained, one has no voice in deciding church teachings. Perhaps that is why they increasingly play to half-empty churches.
11 years 6 months ago
The conduct of certain vocal bishops during this election season, their condemnations of President Obama, and their threats that those who vote for the President are putting their eternal salvation in grave danger are an embarrassment to the Catholic community in this country.  That embarrassment is reflected, I believe, in the significant number of Catholics who voted not only for the President's re-election, but also for the other issues that these  Bishops have deemed 'non-negotiable.'

The saddest aspect of this whole situation is that these Bishops choose to be unaware, or worse uncaring, of the fact that the majority of Catholics are not listening to them.  I am reminded, when I think of this, of Our Lord's words in the Gospel when he describes himself as the Good Shepherd, who knows His sheep and whose sheep know him and cautions:  "the sheep will not follow a voice that they do not recognize as the Shepherd's."  If I were a bishop, those words of our Lord would haunt me and cause me great anguish.
Tim O'Leary
11 years 6 months ago
The Church (faithful laity and faithful Bishops - sensus fidelium) will not and cannot abandon the natural moral law, no matter how many 45-55% plebicites they are on the wrong side of. A gay homosexual union is not at all like a real marriage. It is not even a simulacrum of marriage, but a politically correct farce, and an unscientific farce. It is like the government outlawing religion, as if God could be eliminated by a vote. Sorry to hurt feelings but worse to abandon our neighbors to death. The end of Truth is the end of us all. 
Kang Dole
11 years 6 months ago
A "gay homosexual union." Is that like a "black African American"? You're Cartman, without any of his particular charm.
William Lindsey
11 years 6 months ago
@Ms. Ho-Ohn: "'Gay' 'marriage' is no more than two people using each other as sex toys because there is nobody who can get pregnant."

And as I point out in my posting, "there is nobody who can get pregnant" when an infertile heterosexual couple marries.

But the church gladly marries heterosexual couples too old to conceive children, or in which one or both spouses is incapable of conception.

So why, I wonder, does the church choose to "marry" such couples if our objection to gay "marriage" is premised on the ability of the spouses to procreate? 

And how does it happen that gays who "marry" are only treating each other as "sex toys," while heterosexual couples who "marry" but are incapable of procreation aren't doing the same? 
William Lindsey
11 years 6 months ago
Correction of what I just posted: "in which one or both spouses is incapable of conception" should read "in which one or both spouses are incapable of conception."
Thomas Piatak
11 years 6 months ago
The Holy Father and the bishops are standing firm on Scripture and Tradition, and they deserve support for so doing.

William Atkinson
11 years 6 months ago
American society is now 38% hispanic,  do we have 38% hispanic bishops and priests??
Same for Asians now at 26%,   Blacks at 9%,    Caucasian at 22%, Arab abd Indian(India) at 7%  American Indian at 8%,  Russian at 4%.  

American Bishops and Priest/ministers are predominently white with European background.  Just lookaround at bishops at upcoming fall conference and realise these bishops are not a representative of America, they are neo-white European (lot of Irish) and therefore most of their ethics and morality are (yea I don't mind saying it Euro-Roman) and not a representative of America;  This results in their thinking and doctrinal proclamations on marriage, sacraments, sacrifice, christianity, spirituality and overall religion, philosophy and theology greatly influenced by European society and not by what true american democratic communities are comprised of.   This results in their oppressing views of our constitution, our congress, our president, and the american peoples as a wholesome free society.
This is not a condemnation of good intentioned Bishops and Priest/Ministers, but an awakining and badly needed updating of their own structures and misgivings in a more and more changing transforming american society.

William Lindsey
11 years 6 months ago
Since Archbishop Cordileone and his brother bishops are concerned that “many people simply do not understand what marriage is,” I applaud them for mounting expensive national campaigns to deal with the greatest threat to marriage anywhere around.  That's divorce.

And I'm grateful for the money they're spending lavishly to assure that the laws in all states prohibit remarriage for divorced couples, and prohibit the marriage of infertile heterosexual couples.  And I appreciate that fact that they're instructing parish priests to preach about these matters incessantly and remind all couples using contraptives and all divorced and remarried couples and all heterosexual couples living together without beneift of matrimony that they are not welcome at the Lord's table.

What's that you say?  They're doing none of this?!

Their sole concern is with gay and lesbian people

Wonder what <b>that</b> can be all about!
Vince Killoran
11 years 6 months ago
“'[M]any people have suffered a lot of violence from those who disagree” with the church on marriage."

What does the archbishop mean? "A lot of violence"? Doe she mean mobs attacking anti-marriage equality folks? Bombings? Can anyone provide details or evidence of this violence? This is the first that I've heard about it. I hope this claim isn't true. And, if it is untrue, it is another example of the decline in the USCCB et al.'s legitimacy (remember their hyperbole on the HHS guidelines last spring? You would think Catholic Churches would be shuttered by now).
Crystal Watson
11 years 6 months ago
 It is disturbing that a celibate hierarchy responsible for covering up sex abuse would believe their opinions on marriage and childcare should be respected.  I wish they would spend the time and energy  they have on trying to doom marriage equality instead on listening to those who believe they are wrong.
David Smith
11 years 6 months ago
The Vatican has also weighed in on the issue, sarcastically asking why marriage should not include polygamy or polyandry.

''Sarcastically''?  Michael, et al., why, in your opinion, should ''marriage'' not include polygamy and polyandry? 
Helen Deines
11 years 6 months ago
I would be a content Catholic if the Church would teach lovingly about sacramental marriage, e.g., what our church teaches about marriage for those couples who choose to wed within the church.  

AND keep its institutional mouth shut about civil marriage, which is a right open to all people who reside in these United States.

The bishops have alienated a good part of the population with their disrespectul language towards all kinds of people, along with the contradictions cited by William Lindsay in the first post.

The Church can be a great force for good, modeling how to nurture marriages, support healthy family life, and even reach out to families experiencing divorce and remarriage.  However, our leadership seems to find it more "healthy" to assault LGBT persons and spend milliona on their misguided F4F.  How much better if we shifted resources to common ground issues, respecting life by offering support to struggling poor families, re-opening Catholic schools in urban areas-modeling our best Catholic selves!  
William Atkinson
11 years 6 months ago
Its nice to see bishops finally (after the fact, or beast got out of the barn door) commenting on marriage, but if you take the press releases or articles in catholic publications you see the bishops differ greatly on their interpretation of marriage; so said I would assume the general thought on bishops would be couples not get married untill they meet the strict standards they would impose on catholic society.  If society listend to the bishops about 40% of marriages wouldn't take place and they would say most of the other 60% were living in a state of sin.  If the bishops would just listen to Jesus's teaching from marriage of Canna (and its wine fest) to uses of Mosaic and Abrahamic law to bless and support those seperated and reunited in love instead of ostersising out of catholic community many many of newaunce marriage wou;d be supported by the church and bishops giving rise tp ideals that would invite and support many couples to encounter bless and sacrednesss of marriage.   Sometimes I think the bishops and their priest/ministers act too much like condeming pharasies instead of the Shephard (Jesus) of their flocks.   What is most badly needed is wholesome ethical and moral support and doctrinal teaching in press and pulpit of encounter, art of romance, sexuality specifics, examples, betrothals, church, family and community support for institution and history of couples, marriage, seperation, and reuniting, also since its so prevalent in America multiple and poligamist unions.    Suggest a common book, about size of current catekism on all aspects in detail of marriage.
Frank Bergen
11 years 6 months ago
I wish, but I don't expect, that bishops who dissent from the inanities and insanities of such as Cordileone, Lori and Dolan would speak up.  Through the overly loud voice of the NCCB, the hierarchy has ceased to speak as the people of God and has instead joined the ranks of the reactionary political community.  It seeks to impose on all the people by force of law what it is powerless to convince its own people to accept through its spiritual authority.  It has lost the game, the battle, the war, but just doesn't recongize it, given its corporate arrogance.
I know of no civic jusrisdiction in this country which would force any religious community to extend its blessings to couples of any combination whose right to the blessing the religious community denies.  Why then can the Roman Catholic hierarchy not recognize the distinction accepted by proponents of marriage equality that civil marriage is a civil issue and sacramental matrimony is a matter falling under the purview of the faith communities?
It is not conscience but ambition that makes cowards of the silent dissenters among the bishops of this country.  To them I say: you were ordained to teach, so start teaching, stop hiding behind the false prophets who intimidate you though they appear daily less intimidating to the people of God.
James O'Reilly
11 years 6 months ago
Wouldn't this issue be defused somewhat if we drew a distinction in the U.S. between the civic legal definition of marriage, and the sacramental definition, as is done in many other countries?
Specifically, there would be two marriage ceremonies, a civic one to establish the legal contract between the two parties, followed by a religious one if the two parties desired such.
By doing so, a religious body can establish its rules and standards for a valid sacramental marriage, and exclude anyone who does not adhere to these standards, but couples can still be legally married and gain all the rights and protections provided by the state for married couples.
It wouldn't satisfy the bishops who feel obligated to contest all marriages that don't conform to their sacramental standards, but it would certainly tone down the public acrimony about this issue.  
Jeanne Linconnue
11 years 6 months ago
Some years ago I started reflecting on the church's subliminal messages about ''what is marriage'' as they started to increase the volume on the teachings on the alleged ''evils'' of modern birth control again. I reflected some  more as the gay marriage activists started to receive some acceptance among the general populace. I did a lot of reading and studying, often going back to original source documents in the church to try to understand where these teachings come from (and was often horrified by my discoveries. I could excuse the men of the early centuries because of their hopeless ignorance about so many things as products of their time in history - but not the men of the 21st century).   I realized that in spite of the obfuscation rendered in typically dense Vaticanese, the church has never really believed that marriage, in and of itself, is holy, that it is a sacrament.  The church essentially reduces marriage to a utilitarian purpose - the procreation of the human race. However, beginning in the late 1930s, it began to realize that if it continued to teach its ''traditional'' view of marriage as pure utility, and sex as something tolerated only for purposes of procreation, it would begin losing the unquestioning obedience of some of those who actually live the sacrament of marriage and who don't reduce it to a merely utilitarian proposition.  Medical advances also led to changes in human mortality, especially maternal and child mortality, which meant that couples didn't have to birth twelve children in order to have four of them survive to adulthood.

Through most of the world's history, women were the property of men - first of their fathers, and then of their husbands. Marriage was a business deal, and the parties involved, including the grooms, seldom had any voice in the selection of the marital business partner.  One reason that the very early women's religious communities (including the desert mothers) attracted members was because it was among the only acceptable alternatives for most (not wealthy) women who did not wish to be given to a man as marital chattel.  Men needed to marry for sexual release (see Paul), to have someone run their households for them, and to bear and raise children for them. Children were sought primarily for economic utilitarian reasons rather than for themselves. In exchange for housing and feeding the children, most eventually were able to contribute to the family's economic welfare - they learned to farm or to shepherd or to be ironworkers or carpenters. The girls learned to cook and sew and weave and clean and make candles and milk the goats.  In time, the children were the ''social security'' for their parents in their old age. This system still operates in some parts of the world. Love, sacrament and holiness are not part of this historic and traditional business equation of marriage.

But, as history evolved, women slowly began to free themselves from this system. Marriage in the west eventually involved the mutual consent of the parties to be wed, who chose to wed in those early centuries of more choice, partly for economic and utilitarian reasons (security for the women - and their children - because there were few opportunities for self-support but at least they now could choose the man involved), but also because of the holy love some experienced in the relationship itself. Others witnessed this, and sought the same experience of love in marriage and eventually in the west (and now most of the world) it became the primary motivator for couples to marry - the sacrament of marital love.  It is married couples who live this sacrament, and who understand that the holiness of the sacrament arises from the love they share.  The sacrament exists - the holiness is there - whether or not the couple have children.  Parenthood is not the sacrament of marriage. Parenthood may be one of the fruits of the sacrament of marriage, but it is not necessary for the sacrament and the holiness and grace of marriage to exist. 

Unfortunately, the celibate males of the church still cling to the notions of the ancients - people like Thomas Aquinas who explicitly taught that the ONLY reason for the existence of females (defined as imperfect males by the esteemed theologian because something went ''wrong'' after conception and before birth) was for procreation and service to the male.  Once Augustine repented of his hedonistic youth, he overreacted and taught that sexual pleasure itself, without a procreative purpose is a sin - even in marriage. Augustine's understanding was the explicit operating view of the church until the third decade of the 20th century, and still implicit in the teachings - integrated into the teachings on mandatory celibacy (virginity is superior to marriage), the ''proper'' role of women (subservient to men in the church and in the home and in society in general, with motherhood defined as the primary role for all married women), masturbation, birth control and, of course, gay marriage. However, due to practical necessity, the explicitly Augustininian (and Paulist) view was amended by the teaching authority of the church to grudgingly concede a possibly ''unitive'' role for marital sex, while preserving a mandatory ''openness to procreation''  - isn't ''mandatory openness'' an oxymoron of sorts, when you think about it?  If the sexual act is entered into for procreation it is morally acceptable. But if not and if each and every act of unitive lovemaking is not 'open to procreation'', it is a sin - an ''intrinsic evil''.  So, of course, masturbation for physical release of sexual tension is a sin and gay sex is a sin - because procreation is not possible. The church at one time also taught that marital sex after menopause or sterlization due to injury or disease was sinful because procreation was not possible.

The church's teaching on modern birth control  imposes an unnatural way of living out the sacrament of marriage and marital love on couples. It also trivializes the importance of the natural cycle of female libido - denying the marital embrace to women at precisely the times that sexual desire is at its height - unless they are willing to have another child. Women's sexual pleasure is ignored by the men in Rome because the ideal woman - the one held up as the perfect example of womanhood - is a woman who is both a mother AND a virgin. Rome still sees sexual pleasure not as a good, but as essentially sinful - unless explicitly tied to the possibility of procreation.  Mary is held up as the ''ideal'' for all women - she is not sexual. She is also an impossible ''ideal'' for women, being both a biological mother (I wonder what Jesus's DNA profile would say about the ''biological'' father?) but a virgin!  The church emphasizes Mary's ''perpetual virginity'' in spite of multiple references in scripture to Jesus's brothers and sisters. The marriage of Mary and Joseph did not include sex according to these men, who, by this teaching, again reveal the underlying ancient view of the early church that even marital sex is inferior to virginity.   How could these men who believe teachings that are rooted in the earliest church father's ideas that all women are the daughters of Eve the temptress - occasions of sin for superior males - tolerate the idea that Mary was not a ''perpetual virgin''?  None of that sordid marital sex for Mary and Joseph, right?  After all, Mary is the ''not Eve''.  And sex without procreation is evil in the eyes of the celibate males who define church teaching.

So - back to civil gay marriage.  Is it possible? Is it a ''real'' marriage''? Under whose definition? Should religious understanding be civil law if the majority of citizens in a non-theocratic nation choose a different definition of marriage? To be honest, I wrestle with this idea, because I am part of a generation that grew up when homosexuality was still ''in the closet''.  I don't have an answer for myself - I still struggle and I try to remain open to what the Spirit may be doing. The concept of marriage between male and female is very different now from what it was during most of history. Perhaps the evolution of understanding of marriage is ongoing. It is certainly possible in a religously pluralistic country that embraces separation of church and state that the answer for the civil legal question may be different than the answer within the religious understanding of marriage.
Kang Dole
11 years 6 months ago
Jesus Christ, watch South Park, you old idjit. If more people would just watch South Park, we wouldn't have to hash out these same old arguments every day.
Winifred Holloway
11 years 6 months ago
Kudos to Jeanne for her summary of the historical positions of the Church in regard to marriage.  I do not understand and really, it makes no sense, to say that gay marriage will threaten heterosexual marriage.  It seems to me that people wanting their loving and committed relationships honored as marriages would strengthen the importance of marriage, both for straight and gay couples.  There is so much to say about loving committment in marriage that is not defined only about procreation and our bishops are unable and unwilling to recognize it.  They are turning themselves into the western version of the Taliban.  Their willful stubborness in refusing to listen in humility to their flock saddens and frustrates me.  As others have mentioned, there are probably bishops among this sorry group who do not agree with their brothers.  They should speak up.  For the faithful, for their own integrity and for the future of the Church.  They don't need to dis their brothers, but they can speak affirmatively of the good that lies in committed, loving relationships.  Until that happens, we can only speak of the "bishops" in the collective.  They are an embarrassment to the faithful.
Jeanne Linconnue
11 years 6 months ago
Tim (#28).  As noted before, Mary was not a normal woman. She was ''conceived without [original] sin'' and she was a perpetual virgin. She was not a ''real'' woman to the men, but essentially she was forced to become a plaster saint on a pedestal, unsullied by normal human female traits including sexuality.  Don't forget that Augustine blamed Eve (which means ''woman'') for ''causing'' Adam to commit the ''original sin''. Because of her sexual attractiveness, Adam (man) ate the forbidden fruit. Thus Eve - woman - and all women were distrusted as ''temptresses'' who might cause the ''perfect'' males to sin. Female sexual attractiveness to men represented a continuous ''occasion of sin'' basically. This wouldn't do for Mary, would it? That is why she was defined as the ''not Eve'' just as Jesus became the stand-in for Adam - the ''not Adam'' (perhaps leading to the church's insistence - in the absence of real historical knowledge of the first 30 years of his life - that Jesus was always celibate). However, because women were seen as less than fully human and thus not fully equal to men, the ''fall'' did not occur because of Eve eating the ''forbidden fruit''. Since she was a woman, that would not have been enough to damn all innocent newborns for the rest of time to being born with ''original sin''. It was only when Adam - a man - ate the fruit that ''original sin'' came into the world.  The misogny even in this teaching and in the church dates to the very beginnings, due to the cultural realities of the times that produced men like Augustine and, later, Aquinas (and many others before and after both). These men were ignorant because of their own time in history and the culture of those times. The men who run the church today and who define the teachings cannot use sheer ignorance as an excuse as could the early church fathers and theologians - but they persist in basing their teachings on this ignorance anyway.
The exact words from the Summa Theologica I, Q. 92, A 1:
 Reply to Objection 1: As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence; such as that of a south wind, which is moist, as the Philosopher observes (De Gener. Animal. iv, 2).
The legacy of Thomas's misogny is, sadly, still found in too many church teachings, including JPII's Theology of the Body and in his writings about the ''proper'' (subservient and passive) role of women. Unfortunately, in spite of being unable to deny the glaring nature of the ''wrongness'' of many of Aquinas's beliefs about basic biology, the church still bases many teachings on his ideas - including those about women.
 For example, Aquinas says in the same section of the Summa:
  It was necessary for woman to be made, as the Scripture says, as a ''helper'' to man; not, indeed, as a helpmate in other works, as some say, since man can be more efficiently helped by another man in other works; but as a helper in the work of generation. This can be made clear if we observe the mode of generation carried out in various living things. Some living things do not possess in themselves the power of generation, but are generated by some other specific agent, such as some plants and animals by the influence of the heavenly bodies, from some fitting matter and not from seed: others possess the active and passive generative power together; as we see in plants which are generated from seed; for the noblest vital function in plants is generation. Wherefore we observe that in these the active power of generation invariably accompanies the passive power. Among perfect animals the active power of generation belongs to the male sex, and the passive power to the female.
Summa Theologica I q.92 a.1 reply 2
Good order would have been wanting in the human family if some were not governed by others wiser than themselves. So by such a kind of subjection woman is naturally subject to man, because in man the discretion of reason predominates.
Summa Theologica II-II q.149 a.4
Sobriety is most requisite in the young and in women, because concupiscence of pleasure thrives in theyoung on account of the heat of youth, while in women there is not sufficient strength of mind to resist concupiscence.
Summa Theologica II-II q.70 a.3
The reliability of a person's evidence is weakened, sometimes indeed on account of some fault of his...; sometimes, without any fault on his part, and this owing either to a defect in the reason, as in the case of children, imbeciles and women, or to personal feeling...
Tim O'Leary
11 years 6 months ago
Jeanne #33
A lot of points raised in your post and I will sin against brevity (my common flaw) if I take them all. I will address three of them. 

1. Let me start by saying that I believe in the full equality of man and woman in human dignity (our highest attrribute), even if they differ in many talents and roles. I believe this is the Church's teaching. And, it is the only one consistent with the role of Mary, who is not the anti-Eve, but the New Eve, the perfect woman, the most perfect human who is not God. I disagree with your whole interpretation that Mary is not fully a woman, or is some abnormality. I note that both Eve and Mary were born without original sin. Only Mary did not sin.

2. If God inspired Genesis, then it must be true. If there is a fault in it, then it was not inspired by God and the Jews take the blame (as an aside, I notice a strong tinge of anti-semitism among the new atheists, esp. Dawkins and Harris). Given it is true, then the question is how it should be correctly interpreted. Aquinas errs in his thinking by leaning on the defective biology of Aristotle (who used the ''misbegotten'' term) and in the sense that the male is the active participant in generation (which is true only in motion, sperm vs. ovary, etc), which he follows Aristotle in ranking higher than the passive. However, he also quotes Pope Gregory (Q.92, Art 1, Obj. 2) who says ''Where there is no sin, there is no inequality.'' I think the Pope got it more right than the Theologian on this one (again!).

3. The Fall occurred when the first human, Adam, sinned, just as Jesus takes the role of the new Adam in salvation. And the idea that there was a sexual component to Eve's sin is purely speculative (it is not in Genesis), is not the accepted thinking, and is beside the point. Lust goes both ways, and there are six other deadly sins, so it's not all about sex. I think misogyny is the wrong word for the mistakes prior generations made in biology, as it implies hate or at least dislike of women, whereas there is no hint of that. And Mary's role could not have occurred if there was real misogyny.

Pope John Paul II of course did not teach any inequality between men and women in dignity, although there are surely biological, psychological and behavioral differences evident to all. Equality does not require sameness. To think that complementarity means de facto inequality is to demean the unique aspects of both sexes (some future generation might even call it misogyny to require sameness). Hence, it is ideal for children to be raised by a mother and a father, and society was right (only a generation ago) to emphasize this. Now, feminist and gay ideology demands a complete neglect of the differences, to the detriment of the next generation (who will also get the bill for the debt - they will not look kindly at this generation).

William Lindsey
11 years 6 months ago
@Tim O'Leary at #32: "[I]s there anybody on this blog who would care to describe what chastity could mean for an active homosexual male?"

I cannot claim to speak for all "active homosexual" males.

I can speak for myself.

I have been with my life partner for 41 years.

I'm 62 years old and can count on the fingers of one hand with fingers left to spare the number of people with whom I've had any sexual intimacy.  

This despite the fact that I was i college during the rather free-wheeling 1960s when, even at my somewhat conservative Jesuit university, many of the young men in my dorm had their girlfriends in their dorm rooms with them on any given evening . . . .

I'm perfectly well aware that studies show high rates of promiscuity among gay men.  I've also long been under the impression that the gay community does not have a corner on the promiscuity market, and that straight folks have challenges of their own at living lives of chasity.

And this is the case even though society at large and religious institutions provide all kindf of support networks for and give all kinds of signals of approval to the relationships of straight people that are not there for those who are gay and lesbian, making it harder for the latter to sustain perduring and strong relationships, in many cases . . . . 

Stanley Kopacz
11 years 6 months ago
Since former NJ governor McGreevy's wife was married to a gay man, was it a gay marriage?
Beth Cioffoletti
11 years 6 months ago
This is a stretch (what isn't?) for thinking about "virginity" and the Virgin Mary ... 

I recently came across a reading by Ron Rolheiser OMI about "revirginization" - and how one might become revirginized - that struck a chord with me.  Virginity just might be a deeper and broader concept than what we think.  Here is a passage from Rolheiser's book "Forgotten Among the Lilies" ...  It really challenges my very small notions of what the Virgin Mary is all about ...

Perhaps the process of revirginization may best be described by two metaphors:

The image of weather revirginizing a geographical terrain: Imagine a geographical terrain that has been ravaged by natural disaster and despoiled by human beings. Its waters are dirty and polluted, its vegetation is dead and its natural beauty is destroyed. However, given time and weather – the sun, the rains, the winds, the storms, the frost and snow – it, in a manner of speaking, revirginizes. Its waters again grow clear and pure, its vegetation return to life and eventually its natural beauty returns. In a manner of speaking, its chastity returns, making it again “virgin territory.”

So too with our hearts and minds: as soon as we stop despoiling them through the illusion of familiarity and indiscriminate experience, they too regain, gradually, their virginity and begin again to blush in the wonder of knowing and loving. A chastity in knowing and loving returns.

The image of fetal darkness: Imagine the gestation process of a human being in the womb. The process begins with a mere egg, a cellular speck which is being gestated, formed, cared for, shaped by things around it and nourished by a reality infinitely larger than itself. The process takes place in darkness, in a dark peace. Eventually the child has grown sufficiently and emerges for the first time.

The sheer overwhelmingness of the mystery of reality is so overpowering that it takes a long time, years of time, for the sense and mind to hard sufficiently for the child to even begin to understand. Initially the child simply looks and wonders. So too the process of coming to second naïveté, of revirginizing. We must truly be born again. We must, metaphorically speaking, make a recessive journey, a voyage to the sources, to the fetal darkness of the womb to be reduced to a mere egg, to be gestated anew in darkness (in the darkness of an understanding that understands more by not understanding than by understanding) so that we can again open our eyes to a new awareness that is so wild, so startling, so agnostic, and so overpowering that we are unable to name and number, but are reduced, as it were, to having to ponder and to wonder.
Rick Fueyo
11 years 6 months ago
I don't doubt that there are few issues more significant to Catholic identity for many members of the hierarchy and their most zealous supporters than sexual rectitude. It is what they interpret as Christ’s primary message, and the primary mission in continuing His presence on earth as the Body of Christ.  I don't see it in my reading of His earthly presence, but they sure do
Kang Dole
11 years 6 months ago
Heap coals on his head, eh?

C'mere, Mr. O'Leary-I have a sandwich for you.

Tim O'Leary
11 years 6 months ago
Regarding civil marriage, several comments above refer to the idea that we Catholics should only care about ourselves in teaching the truth about marriage (Helen's #21 ''keep your institutional mouth shut''), and just leave everyone else to their sins. The phrase ''none of the Church's business'' has also been used on this blog. This is an extraordinary anti-evangelical idea, like the phrase ''I am not my brother's keeper.'' We do not have the right to cut off 2-3% of our neighbors from the salvation that only the Church can provide. Imagine the alternative, a Church for the chosen, and to hell with everyone else. This is a form of theological laissez faire that is the opposite of the love of Christ.

It should be obvious to all but the most politically ideological that our humanity is heterosexual down to its biological core and heterosexual marriage is the foundation of society. Recall that this was confirmed by the words of Jesus. In Mark 10:6-12, Jesus says: “From the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female’. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.'

Heterosexual marriage is a natural and pre-political institution, and cannot change just because a law tries to redefine it. Since the family is the central unit of society, the attribution of the civil “marriage” term to a couple of homosexuals or other unions beyond that of a man and woman weakens the whole fabric of our society.

Inventing a gay marriage is not only scientifically irrational and morally wrong, but it is unjust and has victims, especially on the common good of begetting and rearing the next generation of our society. As if divorce wasn't bad enough, now the kids have to figure out what chastity is, when gay ideology has no answer, and in fact promotes the opposite in our schools under the guise of sex educaiton.

Those who hold to the truth of marriage will be discriminated against in employment and the public square, and will be prevented from running adoption services (as has already happened in IL and MA). Legal and civil actions will be taken against houses of worship of many denominations and religions, hotel managers, photographers, owners of reception halls, whose consciences are opposed to hosting gay marriages. Catholic teaching and biblical teaching on homosexuality has already been defined as “hate speech” in Canada and Britain. So, the stakes are very high.

Abe #17
You put the cart before the horse. The gay homosexual differs from the unhappy homosexual. Now a homosexual gay would be duplicative. You may not know that there are whites from Africa that call themselves (as a finger in the eye of political correctness) White African Amerians, but I am sure you would find that offensive too.

Jeanne #26
Could you provide the exact reference for your statement on St. Thomas that ''the ONLY reason for the existence of females (defined as imperfect males by the esteemed theologian because something went 'wrong' after conception and before birth) was for procreation.'' I would hate all your careful research to go to waste. I would like to see how he taught that Our Lady had an imprefection.
Tim O'Leary
11 years 6 months ago
Why would you ask Jesus to look at South Park, and call him an old idjit?
Anyway, given the source of your education, I can understand why you stick to oneliners. 

Jim #31
You are right that many marriages fail (sometimes conveniently 3 days after an election). But, they are failed marriages. There has to be an ideal for one to fall from it. 

Many (most) heterosexuals fail when it comes to chastity. But, is there anybody on this blog who would care to describe what chastity could mean for an active homosexual male?
Jeanne Linconnue
11 years 6 months ago
Tim, I won't bother to respond in full, as it would take too long.

 If you are unaware of the church's interpretations regarding Adam and Eve and this mythical first woman's role as ''temptress'', then perhaps you should study a bit more. JPII definitely did not consider women to be fully equal to men - his definition of ''complementarity'' echoes Aquinas - IOW, passive and inferior women ''complement'' active and superior men. Like Aquinas, he believed that women must be ''subject'' to men.  Nobody claims that males and females are ''the same'' nor do many want this.

JPII demeans women by attempting to define their roles FOR them, limiting women to roles approved of by men, and denying them a sacrament due to gender. This is not ''complementarity'' but condescending patriarchy. Calling this ''equality'' and ''complementarity'' is in the same class of deceit as the ''separate but equal'' laws that defined ''acceptable'' roles, schools, jobs, seats on the bus, water fountains, movie theatres, neighborhoods etc for African Americans. That was a lie and JPII's definition of ''complementarity'' is the same type of lie as ''separate but equal'' was.

 There is a great deal of overt misogny in the writings of many early church fathers and you can find examples with very little effort.  If you think that Aquinas' judgment of women as ''defective and misbegotten'' and putting them in the same class as ''imbeciles'' shows a ''liking'' of women, then there is absolutely nothing I can say to help you see what you don't want to see. Some prefer to stay blind - it means they don't have to grow, to move out of their comfort zones and change, which is indeed very difficult - but sometimes necessary for spiritual understanding.

I'm signing off now. I have tried not to post in recent weeks, and it's time for me to renew that resolution.  These discussions go nowhere, so it's really not a very productive use of time.  And, like others here, I have learned that you are never willing to let go unless you have the final say. Somebody has to stop first, and so this will be my final post on this subject.
Frank Gibbons
11 years 6 months ago
Abe Rosenaweig,

I find your entirely gratuitous use of "Jesus Christ" to be a classic case of taking the Lord's name in vain. And calling Mr. O'Leary an "idjit" (idiot) is a complete lack of charity.  

Why is there so much snark and sarcasm from the regulars on America and Commonweal?  You say you're the "People of God".  Well, act like it.
Kang Dole
11 years 6 months ago
Mr. Gibbons,

I think that Mr. O'Leary is a genuinely hate-filled man who would be pleased to see the well-being of those whose lifestyles he finds distasteful stifled and ruined. I do not give a tinker's damn about whether bad language, sarcasm, or even straight up blasphemy singe your precious ears. How is it that that is what bothers you, as opposed to the homophobia those such as Ms. Ho-Ohn or Mr. O'Leary spew? Perhaps I should trade in snark and quips for paragraph after paragraph of tortured scholasticism used to prop up bigotry? To hell with your charity, if it only concerns speaking nicely to those who denigrate the humanity of others. And if the people of God are so concerned about impugning the good name of people like Mr. O'Leary, then to hell with them, too.
Frank Gibbons
11 years 6 months ago
Mr. Rosenzweig,

But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 
Luke 6:27-28
If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat;
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
for you will heap coals of fire on his head,
and the LORD will reward you. 
Proverbs 25:21-22

11 years 6 months ago
I'm disappointed in the Bishops' stance on gay marriage for a variety of reasons, many stated above.  But I'm also disappointed that the gay marriage debate detracts us from other important issues.  We've been involved in a war for about 11 years in Afghanistan, almost as long in Iraq, and the impact of fighting for so long has been devastating in both human and economic terms.  Meanwhile, the number of people living in poverty is growing and the gap between the rich and poor  gets wider.  Amid all this, we choose to draw a line in the sand over gay marriage.  Is this really our most pressing issue? 
Jim McCrea
11 years 6 months ago
Thank goodness we have the likes of David Petraeus, Newt Gingrich, any of the Kardashians, and many others to show us how TRUE marriage really works.
Michael Barberi
11 years 6 months ago
Jeanne Linconnue,

Thank you for a most insightful historical account of marriage, women and sex in the Church. My studies also confirm your commentary.

Tim Oleary,

I added a few of my own comments in support of Jeanne's excellent remarks (#26), particularly her comments about the role of women, their historic discrimination in a patriarchial society which continues, albeit in comparative moderation, to this very day. 

1. Sex and the Utilitarian Attitude

It is quite clear and an indesputed fact that from ancient times to the later part of the 20th century, the Church taught that sex was only for procreation. Up until this time, sexual pleasure in moderation was never discussed. It became a new idea made explict to justify rythm, first mentioned in Casti Connubi in 1930 but only formally declared licit in 1951.

In the later part of the 20th century, e.g., JP II's reign, spouses who practiced natural family planning were proclaimed to treat each other as "loving subjects"; while couples that practiced contraception (regardless of the reason as a form of birth control) had a utilitarian attitude and a diabolical love grounded in concupscience (JP II"s Theology of the Body). Unfortunately, there is no evidence whatsoever in existential reaily that justifies this assertion.

Spouses who want no more children for good reasons are able to plot by temperture and cervical mucus the times when conception would not be procreative, and to limit sexual intercourse to only those times. In the Church's view, these couples are practicing "God's Procreative Plan". Using any other form of birth control is intrinsically evil. Most Catholics and theologians find that spousal "intention" in both circumstances are the same. Equally important, regardless of the papal claim, no one knows God's procreative plan with moral certitude. While not a theological or philosophical argument, most people find it perplexing why God waited almost 2000 years to tell Pius XII (and JP II) about His procreative plan.

2. Women and Equality
JP II always respected women and regarded them as equal. However, in the same breath he also proclaimed that women were better suited to certain roles than men, namely, motherhood and caregivers. He believed that Western feminism distorted and fractured the female personality where materialism was replacing the higher role of motherhood. Women could have jobs but not at the expense of having babies and caring for them. Mary was to be their model in life, full stop. JP II never understood Western women, especially women religious, and they never understood his philosophy either. His entire life was influenced by the death of his mother at age 9, with no other living females in his life other than the mothers of his friends who took care of him. He also was a man who grew up in 1930s-1950s Poland under communism, and a culture dominated by 19th century Polish Romantism and Patriarchy. The misery and horrific acts of WW II (including the experience of his closest adviser, Dr. Wanda Poltawska, who was a survivor of the Nazi concentration camp medical experiments), colored his view of women, Western society and sex.

3. Virginity and Chastity

Most of the other Christian religions believe that Scripture makes clear that Mary had other children with Joseph (after the birth of Jesus). The Catholic Church believes that Jesus's brothers and sisters were his step siblings. Nevertheless, the Church has not put forth any convinincing evidence that Mary's other children were the children of Joseph from his first marriage. They say that the words "brothers and sisters" have been used in Scripture as "cousins" and step brothers and sisters. However, the prevalence of this so-called fact is never discussed.

To admit that Mary was not a "perpetual virgin" would call into question the proclaimed superiority of virginity to an active sexual life in marriage. Examples and symbolism abound such as when the Church is referred to as "The Mother Church, Spotless and Pure; and Mary as Virgin and Mother". The word Chastity is often misunderstood and distorted by the Church because it is frequently defined as an extreme mean. Virginity on one end is considered superior; next is sex only for procreation (and as an outcome many children); and permissible is sexual abstinence (regardless of the number of days of abstinence per month) in order to perserve the teaching on birth control. On the other end, is contraception regardless of reasons. When it comes to Chastity-Temperance, in marriage, there is never a discussion about the role of prudence and justice. Nor is there any room for a definition of responsible parenthood other than the Church's definition. Full Stop.

4. Homosexual "Civil" Marriage 

How does same sex civil marriage destroy the fabric of heterosexual marriage when the number of gay people account for only 10%-15% if the population, and not all gay and lesbian individuals marry? Who is harmed? Certainly not either spouse (of the same sex couple). Each freely choose to live a faithful life together under the the same rules of marriage that hetersexual couples do. Many adopt children, or have them by in vitro fertilization (one of the spouses in a lesbian marriage). The study by the American Physcological Association concluded that same sex couples are equally likely to be good and responsible parents to children than hetersexual couples. The only one that could be offended in a same sex marriage is God. However, there is no clear basis in Scripture that explicitly supports this contention. The Catholic Church does not permit it and claims it is a violation against the Will of God; but other Christian Churches disagree. 

The argument about same sex marriage is a civil issue, not a Church issue. No one is arguing for the Catholic Church to change its teaching on Church marriage. 
Tim O'Leary
11 years 6 months ago
Abe #37
Your longest post in a while. I try hard to separate the sin from the sinner, judging only the sin. Forgive me when I fail. You claim to know my heart and describe me as a hate-filled bigot because I hold steadfast to the faith of the ages. It is you who are being severely judgmental (as in ''judge not, lest you be judged''). I do not see myself as your enemy, and wish you the best, even if I firmly disagree with you what I think is best for you (as is known only fully by God). And I do not hold to the excuse that ''I am not my neighbor's keeper.'' And, unlike you, I wish you do not go to hell.

William #38
When I was asking about chastity, I was not speaking about fidelity to one person, but to the idea that one does not misuse one's body in any way. There is a fearful line in Revelations (21:27) about entering heaven “Nothing impure will ever enter it”, which fits with the sixth beatitude: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.'' The Catechism (CCC #2394-96) says: “Christ is the model of chastity. Every baptized person is called to lead a chaste life, each according to his particular state of life. Chastity means the integration of sexuality within the person. It includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery. Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography, and homosexual practices.”
Kang Dole
11 years 6 months ago
I offer you a sandwich, and you offer me a moral lesson? I'm keeping my sandwich, and the coals, thank you very much.
Tim O'Leary
11 years 6 months ago
Sorry, Abe. Messages crossed in the ether. Thanks for the sandwich.

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