Wednesday, June 18, 2008

NY Catholic Bishops Unite to Oppose Gay Marriage Edict :: EDGE Boston

NY Catholic Bishops Unite to Oppose Gay Marriage Edict :: EDGE Boston

by Kilian Melloy
EDGE Contributor
Tuesday Jun 17, 2008

The recognition of marriage granted in other legal districts is a threat to marriage in the State of New York, according to a statement written and released by a group of NY bishops.

The statement, co-signed by eight new York bishops, including the Archbishop of New York, Edward Cardinal Egan, condemned Gov. David Paterson’s recent instruction to state bureaus to implement a New York court’s finding that same-sex marriages granted elsewhere must be recognized in New York state, despite the fact that New York does not, at present, offer marriage equality.

The state assembly last year approved legislation that would make marriage equality a matter of law and no longer restrict marriage as a special right exclusive to heterosexual couples; the state Senate, however, has yet to allow a vote on the bill.

In their statement, the bishops declare that "The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus Christ himself raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament," and refer to heterosexual unions as "holy" and "consistent with biology and natural law," calling heterosexual marriage "a mutual personal gift... that serves the individual couple in many ways, allowing them to grow in love and, through that love, to bring forth children."

The bishops further assert that, "Numerous theological and religious arguments could be advanced as to why same-sex unions should be rejected. However, this is not simply a matter of theology, and religious values are not the sole source of opposition to this plan."

The bishops then point to rising divorce rates and single-parent homes as a danger to society, at one point commenting that, "Common sense and empirical evidence tell us that children’s welfare is best served in most cases by their being reared in a stable home with their mother and father."

The bishops declare, "Encouraging marriage between a man and a woman, therefore, serves the state’s interests, as well-reared children who live with their mother and father are much more likely to grow to be good citizens, thereby, creating wealth, stability and security for the members of the society."

The bishops continue, "On the other hand, there is no compelling state interest in granting legal recognition to same-sex relationships."

Add the bishops in the course of their statement, "Recognizing same sex unions will only serve to devalue marriage even more than what has already occurred in recent years," before going on to equate marriage equality with "our nation’s growing rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births over the last four decades."

As for the question of civil rights and the concern that granting marriage as a special right to be enjoyed only by heterosexual couples constitutes a civil injury to gay and lesbian families, the bishops write that, "marriage by definition is a union of physically and emotionally complementary male and female partners."

Addressing anti-gay prejudice, the authors note, "it is true that homosexual persons sometimes face unjust discrimination in certain areas. This is wrong and must be opposed by everyone.

"But the state need not ignore the realities of natural law or discard thousands of years of human tradition to address such issues," the bishops continue.

The position of the Catholic church, while not explicitly addressed in the statement, is that God intends gays and lesbians to lead celibate lives--the implication being that they should be deprived of family connections.

That thought is seemingly present in the sentence in which the bishops declare that, "in truth, the movement for ’same-sex marriage’ is less about such benefits as it is about societal acceptance and approval of homosexual relationships."

Add the authors, "But it is not the business of the state to attempt to legislate such approval."

The Website of the New York State Catholic Conference offers further details on the views promulgated by the state’s bishops.

Comments by Richard E. Barnes, the executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, appear at the site, including Barnes’ declaration that the "unilateral move without legislative input" undertaken by the governor "is not in keeping with Mr. Paterson’s promises upon taking office of a collaborative and bipartisan governing style"--though it is in keeping with the court’s ruling, a fact that the site does not mention.

Barnes refers to "biblical ancestors," but ignores virtually all reputable scientific evidence on issues of sexuality and the need, present also in gays and lesbians, to engage in family structure, with the subsequent statement that marriage "should not be treated as simply one more lifestyle choice, equal to any other, because it is not."

Barnes goes on to say that, "[the state] can not declare a same-sex union to be a ’marriage,’" despite the advent, in 2004, of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and this week’s commencement of marriage equality in California.

As reported last week at EDGE, Bishop William Murphy, writing in a Catholic newspaper, dismissed Gov. Paterson’s directive for state offices to comply with the court ruling as "just plain wrong," and declared that, "Sexual intimacy between persons of the same sex does not pass muster."

Further, legal unions between people attracted to members of their own gender "do not serve the common good," Murphy wrote, because, he said, such attractions "contradict biological teleology and the natural law."

Murphy wrote, "No matter how much some may wish to apply the term ’marriage’ [to gay or lesbian commitment], it does not fit because it fails the test of truth and authenticity."

Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

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