Several Catholic bishops across the US have been at the forefront in the fight against same-sex marriage in recent weeks:
In Newark, Archbishop John Myers released a pastoral letter, apparently meant for August but held back until just weeks before November elections, in which he suggested that Catholics who support same-sex marriage might refrain from taking communion. Read more here and listen to a report from NPR here.
Washington state is putting the question of same-sex marriage to voters after the legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill earlier this year, signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Catholic who cited her faith’s emphasis on social justice as a motivating factor. The three Catholic dioceses in that state are coordinating efforts, and Seattle’s Archbishop J. Peter Sartain released a video in which he urged voters to defeat the law. Read more here.
Voters in Minnesota are being asked if that state’s constitution should be amended to ban same-sex marriage. Archbishop John Nienstedt is asking the Catholic faithful there to fund television ads to adopt the amendment. Nienstedt has long been a vocal opponent to same-sex marriage in Minnesota, with his efforts including the distribution of anti-same-sex marriage DVDs to hundreds of thousands of households. Read more here.
In Chicago, Cardinal Francis George used the occasion of a golden anniversary ceremony for hundreds of couples to remind them of the Church’s teaching against same-sex marriage. He suggested that same-sex relationships are friendships and should be honored in some way, but denounced any change to current marriage laws. The Catholic governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, supported civil union legislation in that state, and has promised to advocate for full marriage rights. Read more here.
Finally, San Francisco welcomed its new archbishop, Salvatore Joseph Cordileone, who is considered the architect around the campaign to overturn the same-sex marriage law in California in 2008. Several gay rights activists protested outside the installation Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Read more here.
Same-sex marriage is already a reality in many states, and its adoption in several more is inevitable. The Catholic Church offers a much needed voice for many of our society’s most troubling issues, including poverty, the environment, and immigration. Should church leaders continue to focus their energies on marriage, or redistribute its resources to other areas where their efforts might be more impactful? Have they considered the pastoral challenges they and their pastors may face after waging so public a campaign on so emotional an issue? Has acceptance of same-sex marriage become common, even among Catholics, and, if so, are some church leaders harming evangelization efforts with these political campaigns?