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Is New York’s New Archbishop Anti-Gay?

Only Archbishop Dolan seems to stand in the way of same-sex 'marriage' being passed in New York
by Br Scott Murphy | Source:

Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire have ceded to the pressures of pro gay-marriage lobbyists in rapid succession. All signs point to New York being next state to follow. Will the freshly installed Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, try to stand in the way?  You had better believe it.

Archbishop Dolan showed his characteristic mix of jovial candor and firmness in his first news conference on April 15th.  Gabe Pressman of WNBC wasted no time in posing an aggressive question to him regarding gay marriage.  “Do you regard your position as a bully pulpit where you can speak out on public issues?  …An example would be the recent introduction of a bill by Governor Paterson here to validate same-sex marriages” 

Dolan’s personal approach certainly did not give an “aggressive and mean and sharp and bitter” bully-like impression, but he did exhibit his clear intent to stand firm in teaching the Church’s doctrine on this controversial social issue.  “So I’ll preach the truth, I’ll still try to apply the immutable teachings of Jesus and his Church to contemporary situations.” Speaking particularly about same-sex unions he said, “You can bet I would be active and present and, I hope, articulate in this particular position.”

The entire interchange sparks reflection.  It boils down to a question which reporters did not ask.  Is Bishop Dolan, and for that matter the Catholic Church, anti-gay?  That too is a loaded question which Catholics would do well to unpack. 

This question includes many others:  Do Catholics believe that homosexual behavior is immoral?  Do Catholics believe that homosexual tendencies are immoral?  Do Catholics believe that homosexual persons should be discriminated against?  The answers to these questions differ.  This confusion often makes Catholics sound like unchristian bigots, or seem confused about their own convictions. 

To be abundantly clear we turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which tells us, “Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” (#2357)  At the same time homosexual persons “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (#2358)

However, homosexuals insist that they are being unjustly discriminated.  Governor David Paterson says that homosexual couples in New York are currently denied as many as 1324 civil protections.  Quinn, a lesbian, whose commentary was published on April 16th by the Associated Press argued, “Look me in the eye and tell me that Kim and I aren’t a family, that we don’t struggle every day, that we don’t pay taxes, that we don’t work every day in this city.  No one can look me or her in the eye and tell us that, because it is not true.”

Perhaps, emotionally charged remarks blur the facts.  We can all be grateful for the work homosexual persons do, the taxes they pay and the efforts they make to build society, but the question still remains.  Do daily struggles, working and paying taxes constitute a family?  Yes, the state does grant numerous protections and supports to traditional marriage and family.  No, it does not provide these legal protections to homosexual couples.  So, does that imply unjust discrimination, or simply a strict application of the definition of marriage?

Safe-guarding traditional marriage is what this controversy is all about.  Christians are called to respect, and demand that others respect, people with homosexual tendencies.  However, re-defining marriage out of fear of being called “homophobes” will not serve society or homosexuals.

In September of 2005, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, 1st Department, said in its 4-1 ruling that the government has a “strong interest in fostering heterosexual marriage.”  The court went on to explain, "We find it even more troubling that the [Manhattan] court, upon determining the statute [in favor of traditional marriage] to be unconstitutional, proceeded to rewrite it and purportedly create a new constitutional right."

Following this decision, Glen Lavy of the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona legal defense group that opposes same-sex "marriage," insightfully pointed out that, “marriage laws are not primarily about adult needs for official recognition and support, but about the well-being of children and society."

The New York court does not stand alone in its decision.  The landmark decision of the Massachusetts High Court in 2003 made that the state the first to legalize gay “marriage.”  This spurred the majority of states to take a stance.  Since then, more than half the states in the country have clearly defined marriage as a stable union between a man and a woman, even amending their state constitution to do so.  This only goes to show that, for most Americans, insisting on the distinction between traditional marriage and homosexual unions is not a matter of discrimination, but of principle.

Come what may, Bishop Dolan has promised us that he will be a man of principle.  A day after Dolan’s first interview, Governor Paterson introduced the bill to legalize gay marriage insisting, “Rights should not be stifled by fear.  What we should understand is that silence should not be a response to injustice.  And that if we do not take action we will surely lose.”

Thankfully, “fear” is not the word to describe the new archbishop or his stance.  He assures us that he will not respond to injustice with silence.  He rightfully pointed out, “Young people want the teachings of the Church preached convincingly, even if they don’t embrace all of those teachings.”  Archbishop Dolan has set our expectations high.  Time will tell just how convincing his preaching will be and how many Catholics, and non-Catholics alike, will accept his style of presenting the truths of the Catholic faith with charity and charm.

Br Scott Murphy, of the Legionaries of Christ, studies for the priesthood in Rome.

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