Here’s What Catholic Bishops Should Have Said About Marriage Equality Decision

Today’s compilation of Catholic responses to the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality begins with an interesting hypothetical response, written one day before the decision was issued.  Also included in today’s list are further comments from New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo, three bishops, and others.

Reverend Tom Washburn, OFM

Reverend Tom Washburn, OFM, Executive Secretary of the English Speaking Conference of Franciscan Provincial Ministers, who blogs at AFriarsLife.blogspot.com:

After reviewing Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s statement that the Catholic Church needs to do a “reality check” on same-gender marriage, Fr. Washburn proposed, on the day before the Supreme Court ruled on marriage, a possible statement for the U.S. bishops to issue (the boldface emphases are Washburn’s):

“A possible response of the U.S. Bishops: ‘Today, in a truly landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision, the result of which makes it legal for people of the same-sex to contract a legal marriage in the United States. To the extent that this decision represents the end of discrimination and oppression of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as a group of people, we rejoice with them. The Catholic Church has long opposed discrimination under the law in all of its forms and we rejoice whenever such legal discrimination is cast aside in favor of progress toward the recognition of the equality of all people. We rejoice with those who welcome this movement of liberation. We understand that civil law is different than church law or theology, and our tradition as well as current and long-held theological understanding of the sacrament of marriage continues to be that sacramental marriage is a union between a man and a woman. But, we also understand the desire of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to find long term, lasting, loving and committed relationships. The Church in recent years has struggled in its attempts to reconcile all of these positions in a coherent way that leads all her children to Christ without making some feel as though they are not welcome within our walls and our communities, or that we desire anything less than a full, happy and fulfilled life for them. What we ask of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters today is this: please, keep struggling with us; let’s continue to dialogue together. We need you and hopefully, you need us too. Please continue to be active members of our parishes and communities and help us understand one another better and figure out how we all walk to Jesus together.’ “

(From a blog post on AFriarsLife.blogspot.com)

Archbishop Blase Cupich

Archbishop Blase Cupich, Archdiocese of Chicago:

“. . . [T]he United States Supreme Court has ruled that two persons of the same sex have a constitutional right to marry each other. In doing so, the Court has re-defined civil marriage. The proposed reason for the ruling is the protection of equal rights for all citizens, including those who identify themselves as gay. The rapid social changes signaled by the Court ruling call us to mature and serene reflections as we move forward together. In that process, the Catholic Church will stand ready to offer a wisdom rooted in faith and a wide range of human experience.

“It is important to note that the Catholic Church has an abiding concern for the dignity of gay persons. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: ‘They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.’ (n. 2358). This respect must be real, not rhetorical, and ever reflective of the Church’s commitment to accompanying all people. For this reason, the Church must extend support to all families, no matter their circumstances, recognizing that we are all relatives, journeying through life under the careful watch of a loving God.”  (From a statement)

Kaya Oakes

Kaya Oakes, Author, The Nones Are Alright (Orbis Books: October, 2015): 

Noting that church leaders risk alienating the whole generation of younger Catholics if their responses to marriage equality are “defensive and strident,”  Oakes stated:

“Catholics under 50 were brought up in a time when same-sex relationships were more and more accepted and presented to them in media, so they’re acclimated to that as a fairly normal thing. When they hear the opposite message coming from faith leaders, it’s alienating. . . . Even just a change of tone would be a step in the right direction.”  (From a news article on Crux)

 

 

Bishop Michael Jarrell

Bishop Michael Jarrell, Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana:

“I realize that this ruling will create conscience problems for many Catholics, especially those in public office. In some cases civil disobedience may be a proper response. No priest or deacon of this Diocese may participate in the civil solemnization of celebration of same-sex marriage. All Catholics are urged not to attend same-sex marriage ceremonies. No Catholic facility or property, including but not limited to parishes, missions, chapels, meeting halls, Catholic educational, health or charitable institutions, or facilities belonging to benevolent orders may be used for the solemnization of same sex marriage.” (From a statement)

SLS Professional
Ish Ruiz

Ish Ruiz, a Catholic school teacher in San Francisco, will begin doctoral studies in the fall at the Graduate Theological Union,Berkeley:

“The Church has always taught that the Holy Spirit speaks through the laity as well as the hierarchy. I hope the decision from the Supreme court, combined with polls that show that the majority of Catholics support same-sex marriage, encourages the hierarchy to be more in touch with the people, the sense of the faithful.

“[Ruiz] wondered if Church leaders might ‘challenge themselves’ to listen to those with different opinions about marriage and relationships, asking themselves, ‘Hey maybe we don’t have all the answers, maybe there’s more to this issue than we’ve been teaching so far.’ ” (From an interview and a news article on Crux)

“Pope Francis encouraged bishops to allow themselves “to be surprised by God, the God of surprises.” I pray the Church continues to engage with the sense of the faithful, especially those that are LGBTQ+, through dialogue. That door must always remain open.”

 

Cardinal Donald Wuerl

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.:

Cardinal Wuerl issued a public statement on the Supreme Court ruling, and he also sent a four-page letter to the archdiocese’s priests, giving directions on their pastoral response in light of the new reality of marriage equality.

The National Catholic Reporter quoted from this letter in a news article by Tom Roberts, Editor-At-Large:

” ‘Are people who share our faith but struggle with the church’s understanding about marriage still welcome at church?’ And he answers, ‘Because Jesus came to save all people, all are invited to be a part of god’s family – his church.’

“The welcome, he said, ‘is extended to everyone: married couples with children, unwed mothers and fathers, the single unmarried, couples who struggle with infertility, men and women with same-sex attraction, individuals facing gender issues, those whose marriages have broken down and suffered the trauma of divorce, people with special needs, immigrants, children born and unborn, the young, seniors, and the terminally ill, sinners and saints alike. If the church were to welcome only those without sin, it would be empty.’

“Accepting the person, however, doesn’t mean accepting everything one does. ‘Church teaching and common sense make a distinction between who a person is and what that person does.’   Condemnation of sin doesn’t mean condemnation of the person, writes Wuerl. ‘The church has and always will meet people where they are to bring them closer to Christ. . . .’

“The practical challenge for the church and its agencies, he said, is the need ‘to balance two important values, the provision of appropriate health care benefits for all church personnel including their spouses, and the avoidance of the perception that by doing so we accept a definition of marriage and spouse contrary to faith and revealed truth.’ (From a news article in The National Catholic Reporter)

Francis DeBernardo
Francis DeBernardo

Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry:

In addition to issuing New Ways Ministry’s official statement on June 26, 2015, DeBernardo also penned an essay on Crux and commented to The National Catholic Reporter on the significance of the decision.

In the Crux essay, DeBernardo wrote:

Instead of continuing to fight political and legal battles, creating bigger and stronger walls against American society, the U.S. bishops should follow instead the way of reconciliation with the larger culture, and with their Church’s own alienated members.

DeBernardo offered the following suggestions for the bishops:

  1. Initiate a dialogue with the vast majority of US Catholics who support marriage equality and LGBT issues.
  2. Institute a moratorium on firing employees from Catholic institutions because of marriage equality.
  3. Give up their campaign for religious liberty they have been waging to oppose marriage equality.
  4. Work toward reconciling Catholics who have been on opposite sides of this issue.
  5. Educate themselves about LGBT people and issues in two ways:
  • Open dialogues with LGBT Catholics and their family members to learn about the everyday reality of their lives and their faith.
  • Avail themselves of the wealth of Catholic theological writing which for the past 40 years has been calling on the Church to recognize the goodness and holiness of gay and lesbian relationships. (From an op-ed on Crux.)

In a National Catholic Reporter article , DeBernardo added the following reaction:

“I think that while the law has changed, people’s hearts and minds are not going to change until they see same-sex marriage in practice. That is the significance of this. It paves the way for people in parts of the country where marriage equality doesn’t exist to see the benefits of same-sex marriage and that it’s nothing to fear. . . . 

“There are still a lot of places in the United States where that education and familiarization still has to happen. One of them being the U.S. Catholic bishops. They have shielded themselves from knowledge of the reality of lesbian and gay couples.”  (From a news article in The National Catholic Reporter)

Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

The Progressive Catholic Voice: Questions for Archbishop Kurtz re. the U.S. Bishops’ Response to the Supreme Court’s Marriage Equality Ruling

Crux:  “In wake of Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling, some bishops call for calm”

Los Angeles Times: “Catholics see same-sex marriage ruling in disparate lights”

 

 

6 thoughts on “Here’s What Catholic Bishops Should Have Said About Marriage Equality Decision

  1. Anton June 30, 2015 / 12:49 pm

    And if Jesus attends a same-gender wedding and makes more wine for them when they run out will he be excommunicated from the Catholic church? Oops! too late, that’s already been done. There’s a wonderful story about Bernard Haring who was giving a talk in a church and in the audience there was a bishop present. He was recounting his experience as a chaplain in the German army in WWII. On the eve of a major battle as he celebrated Mass, he realized that there were more than just Catholics in the congregation and began to wonder what to do if they should approach to receive communion. He stretched out his story by recounting every stage of the Mass prior to communion. One of the audience got impatient when once again Bernard asked himself again “What will I do if they approach to receive communion?”) and shouted out “Well, WHAT DID YOU DO?” Haring said “I did what I thought Jesus would do.” At this the bishop loudly exclaimed “O MY GOD, YOU DIDN’T!” “Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine” especially now when this storm is rocking the boat and you are inviting us not to fear but trust. THANK YOU, JESUS!

    • Jaime R Vidal June 30, 2015 / 8:47 pm

      WONDERFUL anecdote. I will be prayingv for Fr Bernhard on Friday, as i do every year on the anniversary of his death — maybe I will live to see the day when July 3rd will be his feast.

  2. Bishop Carlos Florido, osf June 30, 2015 / 2:16 pm

    I understand Roman Bishops concern about SCOTUS decision, which is a civil law decision. The Prelates can obviously order their clergy not to become involved in same-gender unions/marriages. However, they have no right under civil law to forbid the decisions of non-Roman clergy or persons. Conclusion: Do what you believe you were consecrated to do and don’t attempt to impose your beliefs on others.

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