We’ve heard from the individual bishops involved in last week’s U.S. marriage equality ballot initiatives, and we’ve heard from the Vatican, too, on these matters. Today the news is of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) response to the four marriage equality electoral victories which they worked so strongly to oppose. It looks like the bishops are planning more of the same.
An Associated Press story opens with the paragraph:
“A subdued U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledged Monday that voters rejected the stands they took against gay marriage and birth control, but church leaders gave no sign they would change their strategy ahead.”
At a press conference at the annual USCCB’s fall meeting in Baltimore, one spokesperson offered his view as to why the bishops lost these ballot contests:
“Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, the newly installed leader of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said gay marriage opponents were outspent by gay rights groups, and bishops are grappling with how they can be more persuasive. Surveys by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life have found that the number of Americans who say they have no religion is at a high of 20 percent, while the number of former Catholics is so large that ex-Catholics collectively include more people than many denominations.
” ‘The election is a symptom of a much larger problem,’ Cordileone said. ‘Most people don’t understand what marriage is.’ “
“We regret the decision of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to continue the costly and futile campaign against marriage equality that has alienated so many faithful Catholics.
“Less that a week ago, Catholics in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington ignored the high-pressure tactics of these same bishops, voted their consciences and moved our country one step down the path toward justice. We had hoped that lay Catholics’ ringing endorsement of marriage equality might drive home the need for the bishops to take seriously the concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their families, and are profoundly disappointed that it has not.
“The bishops continue to look without for faults that are within. Their penchant for threatening Catholics who follow their own consciences in the voting booth is both theologically suspect and obviously ineffective. The millions of dollars that the USCCB and the Knights of Columbus spent attempting to crush the hopes of LGBT Catholics and their families could have been better spent to achieve more Christian ends. Additionally, the bishops’ ongoing relationship with the National Organization for Marriage, even after its deliberate attempts to divide the electorate on racial grounds, is a scandal for which they have yet to answer.
“We pray for the day when the USCCB understands the damage its intransigence is doing to LGBT Catholics and to the credibility of the church.”
In a post on America magazine’s “In All Things” blog, Michael O’Loughlin quotes further from Archbishop Cordileone’s press conference statements:
“When asked if the church would change its tactics given its apparent defeat, Cordileone balked, saying that the ‘good of society depends on [marriage].’ He said, ‘bishops are open dialogue partners with those who disagree with us on a whole range of issues’ and that opponents of same-sex marriage ‘try to be sensitive’ to marriage equality proponents, though claimed ‘many people have suffered a lot of violence from those who disagree’ with the church on marriage.”
Were I at the press conference I would have liked to press Archbishop Cordileone to cite specific instances of “violence” that marriage equality opponents have experienced. None have been reported in the news. I would have also liked to ask him why the bishops have yet to issue any kind of statement about the real violence that LGBT youth face daily in the form of bullying.
I hope and pray that Archbishop Cordileone lives up to his promises of dialogue and sensitivity on the marriage equality issue.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry