Marriage equality is one step closer to becoming the law of the land in Maryland, as the state Senate approved the bill last night by a vote of 25-22. The bill now goes to the desk of Catholic Governor Martin O’Malley, who has pledged to sign it into law. (And Governor O’Malley will be speaking at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium, March 15-17, Baltimore, Maryland. For info, click here.)
The Baltimore Sun report on the Senate vote carries a good summary of the floor debate, as well as reactions to the vote, but also notes the strong likelihood that the issue will go to referendum in the November election.
As readers of this blog already know, New Ways Ministry had a small role in facilitating the bill’s passage by sending representatives to testify at legislative hearings, by writing, publishing, and distributing the book Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach, and a Washington Post op-ed essay “A Catholic Case for Same-Sex Marriage” by New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo.
The op-ed essay by Gramick and DeBernardo has provoked a response from a pastor of the Archdiocese of Washington. The Washington Post has printed an essay by Msgr. Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian parish in DC, who opposes the Catholic case for marriage equality presented by the two New Ways Ministry leaders.
Two of his points deserve comment because of their inaccuracy and incorrect logic:
The Catholic Church is apostolic in nature, that is, it derives its faith, not from polls or a simplistic read of Church history, but from Jesus Christ himself. Jesus established the Church with the structure of apostles and their successors, bishops, who have as their solemn obligation preserving the unity of the Church and teaching the faith. The sensus fidelium or faith understood by the whole Church is authentically expressed when it is in union with the bishops.
First, while Jesus did call apostles, he did not establish the office of bishop, which is a church structure . Second, the it is the bishops’ role to determine the sensus fidelium, not to dictate it. If the bishops were to dictate it, it would be the “sense of the bishops,” not the “sense of the faithful.” In any case, it is clear to any observer that there is great disagreement between the bishops and the majority of the Catholic faithful on the issue of marriage equality.
Some of the notes from commenters on the Post website are worth noting:
From BDVienna: “With all due respect, Msgr. Pope, you simply have neither addressed nor refuted the theological issues raised in the essay to which you reply. The Scriptures are not so clear. The apostolic tradition, for which I have the utmost respect, is subject to human error that has been demonstrated by scholars (both historians and theologians) over the years. Your argument here boils down to ‘because we said so.’ And I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to deny part of the reality God has created when we were made in his image.”
From edallan: “There are umpteen examples in the Old Testament documenting, with approval, that marriage is between one man and a minimum of one woman. Although self-declared Christians often proclaim it, I am not aware of any passage that asserts that marriage is between only one man and one woman at a time. And, from the tenor of Rev. Pope’s article, he is fully in agreement with the view of the cafeteria Catholic bishops, all of whom have rejected any form of marriage for themselves, that in their view there are only two acceptable motivations for sex. One is treating women likely dairy cows. The other apparently acceptable motivation is sadly documented by the massive numbers of claims against dioceses after diocese in country after country, not infrequently involving the same clergymen. Perhaps when/if Cardinal Law returns to the U.S. from his promotion and impending honorable retirement, a more illuminating discussion can take place. “
From jdavis115: “And yet the catholic church makes no effort to outlaw pre-marital sex, adultery or divorce, all strongly prohibited in the Bible. Their fidelity to the Bible appears to blossom only when same-sex couples are involved! Instead of making only gay people conform to biblical marriage instructions, why not make straight people conform, too?
” Or maybe it’s just easier to attack an already disliked minority. In insisting that people vote on this issue, the Catholics and Mormons (especially) have thrown in their lot with the homophobes and straight supremacists to create an unholy alliance of a voting block bent on marginalizing gays and lesbians. It would be impossible to pass all these state marriage amendments without appealing to homophobia and straight supremacy. I can’t begin to imagine what God in Heaven thinks of this particular hatefest extravaganza!”
From marshalphilips: “It’s quite a stretch, in my view, that Jesus would endorse bishops and cardinals and popes and all that pomp, gold, worldly glory, princely titles, funny hats, and eye-glazing theological gobbledygook. Contrast and compare the simple humble Jesus in his carpenters clothes with the jewelry, the royal purple and scarlet and the Vatican’s high and mighty temple to its organization. . . .”
From vypergts: “It’s completely laughable to argue that opposing same sex marriage is in the same spirit of Jesus’ message. Most all Christian faiths hold that Jesus’ message was one of love and inclusion. To suggest that some types of love should be recognized over others in the name of Jesus is intellectually dishonest at best and blasphemous at worse. The Catholic church is selectively using a narrow interpretation of scripture over the broader message of the New Testament and THAT is why they are out of touch and wrong on this issue and many others, particularly those concerning treatment of women.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry