Postcards from the Edge

January 12, 2012

To oppose their state’s proposed civil unions legislation, the Colorado Catholic Conference is sponsoring a postcard campaign. The project, which is supported by the Knights of Columbus, asks Catholic lay people to send postcards to state legislators that contain the message:  “Protect traditional marriage. Vote ‘no’ on civil union legislation.”

Yesterday, Bishop James Conley, apostolic administrator of the Denver Archdiocese, released a long statement in opposition to the  legislation in Colorado.  While there is nothing new in the way he argues against the legislation, a curious paragraph appears towards the end of the statement:

“We do not know the long-term consequences of creating a parallel for marriage, distinct from its ancient and natural meaning.  But we do know they will be severe.  It’s already clear that some view civil unions as a stepping-stone to endorsing polygamous relationships.  Furthermore, civil unions allow for adoption of children by same-sex couples, and infringe on religious liberties for many groups.  There will likely be further consequences.  Redefining marriage means that government will try to redefine truth.”

The first two sentences violate simple and clear logic.  How can a person simultaneously not know something yet know that the “something” will be severe?  If the consequences are unknowable, as stated in the first sentence, that implies the possibility that they might be minor or non-existent.

The third sentence also would  not pass muster in a basic college composition course.  Who are the “some” who see civil unions leading to polygamy?  And why do they think that way?  What is their evidence?   In fact, what is happening in that sentence is known as a “slippery slope” fallacy, claiming, with no real evidence that adopting one idea will lead to other less favorable ideas.

The claim in the next sentence that civil unions will infringe on religious liberties is similarly unfounded.  The religious liberty argument is a red herring designed, like the slippery slope strategy, to instill fear.

The final two sentences are so vague as to be meaningless.  What, specifically, will the “further consequences” be?  How can a government redefine truth?  And hasn’t marriage constantly been redefined every time a law about the institution has been changed?

What is the bishop trying to say and why doesn’t he say it plainly and clearly?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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