NCR Editorial and Columnist Support Bishop Robinson’s Symposium Call to Re-think Sexuality

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson speaking at New Ways Ministry's Seventh National Symposium

New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in Baltimore two weeks ago continues to make headlines.   The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) has editorialized in support of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s call to re-think the Catholic Church’s official teaching on sexuality, which he made during a talk at the Symposium.  An NCR columnist, Eugene Kennedy, the renowned psychologist and church observer, has also praised the Australian bishop’s proposal.

After summarizing Bishop Robinson’s main points (which can be read in the same newspaper’s article about the talk), the NCR editorial notes:

“Robinson is not the first to articulate the need for a responsible reexamination of sexual ethics, one that takes seriously the radical call to selfless love, but the addition of a bishop’s voice adds new dimension to the conversation. By rebuilding Christian morality in the area of sexuality in the way Robinson suggests, we will achieve a teaching that can better challenge the message about sexuality trumpeted by the dominant culture in television, music and advertising, a sexuality that idolizes self-gratification and that puts ‘me’ before ‘you.’ By placing the needs of the other first, our sexual ethic would reject sexual violence — physical and psychological, the idolatry of self-gratification, the objectification of people, and the trivializing of sex when it is separated from love.”

The NCR rightly points out that Robinson’s approach is not one of a wild-eyed radical:

“In the end, Robinson is making a profoundly traditional suggestion about sexuality, because what he proposes is rooted in genuine personal responsibility. He writes: ‘Many would object that what I have proposed would not give a clear and simple rule to people. But God never promised us that everything in the moral life would be clear and simple. Morality is not just about doing right things; it is also about struggling to know what is the right thing to do. … It is about taking a genuine personal responsibility for everything I do.’ ”

The tradition that Robinson is following is the tradition of Jesus in the Scriptures:

“Robinson’s take on sexuality — that it deserves deeper consideration than the narrow, rule-bound approach that has evolved in Christian circles — takes us to the heart of the radical approach Jesus took toward human relationships.”

NCR columnist Eugene Kennedy has also praised Bishop Robinson’s proposal.  In an essay entitled “Bishop Robinson and the redemption of eros,” Kennedy writes:

“Bishop Robinson’s purpose is, in fact, that set out by Pope John XXIII as his reason for convening Vatican II, “To make the human sojourn on earth less sad.”

“Indeed, in urging a much needed review of what and how the church teaches about human sexuality, Bishop Robinson draws on themes central to Vatican II. The first of these is found in placing the reality of the human person rather than the abstraction of natural law as the central reference point in church teachings and papal pronouncements about marriage and sexual activity.

“The second is found in the shift from an emphasis on objective acts to subjective intentions and dispositions in making judgments on the badness or goodness of how people behave. This rightfully emphasizes the impact that our actions or omissions have on other persons rather than on the ire that has idled within so many church leaders who have been so preoccupied with sin. . . .

“Robinson’s convictions on the need for a thorough examination of the church’s teaching on sexuality are significant in themselves but also because he has found a way to speak about this essential matter from within the church, even if in the mannered traditional way that dialogue moves, however slowly, toward a wider circle of prelates.”

After Bishop Robinson spoke at the Symposium, many people told me that they felt something new and remarkable had taken place. One person told me that it felt  like a new chapter had been opened in the church’s discussion on sexuality.  His talk offered not only hope, but a way forward that people felt was authentically human and authentically Catholic.

His experience as the Australian Bishops’ Conference coordinator of pastoral responses to that nation’s sexual abuse crisis transformed his thinking on how Catholicism approached sexuality and how that approach can be improved.  As was evident from the style and content of his talk, Bishop Robinson had one three things that more bishops should emulate:  he opened his ears, his mind, and his heart.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Priest’s Defense of His Communion Denial is Contradicted by Statements from Lesbian Woman and Her Brother

Rev. Marcel Guranizo, the priest who denied communion to a lesbian woman, Barbara Johnson, at her mother’s funeral has issued a statement defending his decision.  In separate statements responding to Rev. Guarnizo, Barbara Johnson and Larry Johnson, her brother, refute a number of Guarnizo’s facts.

The Washington Post carries a news story about Guarntizo’s first public statement, which comes less than a week after he was removed from ministry by the Archdiocese of Washington.  You can read excerpts from his statement in this report.

The texts of the statements by Larry Johnson and Barbara Johnson follow:

Larry Johnson

Arrogant, Repugnant, Deceitful – Just a few of the adjectives that describe the written statement of Father Marcel Guarnizo. I am the oldest son of Loetta Johnson and the brother of Barbara Johnson. Barbara has been characterized, among other things, as a social activist. I am decidedly not. My goal is simply to ensure that the truth be told.

My family had finally hoped some sense of peace regarding my mother’s funeral had been achieved and we could finally grieve her loss. But the reprehensible Fr. Guarnizo has reinforced and confirmed how egregious his conduct was and how repugnant a person he is.

His “first time” public statement had clearly been disseminated by him from the beginning of the public dialogue; one need only read reported witness accounts that were posted on the internet that from the outset contained his fabrications.

And what of this “public statement.” My sister introduced her partner as her “lover.” An outrageous lie. Fr. Guarnizo did not “walk out” of my mother’s funeral, he just “quietly slipped for some minutes into the sacristy” (coincidentally when my sister’s eulogy began). He communicated to “our funeral director” that he was “incapacitated;” there was nothing “our” about this person, he was simply the representative of the funeral home that my family engaged to oversee my mother’s burial. And Fr. Guarnizo’s incapacity – another coincidence?

This is not a he said, she said. I personally witnessed these events. And anyone seeking to objectively evaluate this matter should consider one irrefutable fact. The only two people who have any first-hand knowledge of these events, exclusive of Fr. Guarnizo and my family, are the same two people that even Father Guarnizo has acknowledged are the source of the “intimidation” assertions about his conduct. Still another coincidence?

And finally, consider what Fr. Guarnizo has said about Bishop Knestout. The statement of Bishop Knestout that was read at St. John Neumann’s was itself a lie according to Fr. Guarnizo. There are no bounds to this man’s arrogance and deceit.

So Fr. Guarnizo has been busily collecting testimonies and affidavits (and intimidating?) rather than seeing to his ministry while at the same time refusing to speak in any public forum. And as to Fr. Guarnizo’s statement that contains “a warning to the Church” that these circumstances “can and will be repeated multiple times over,” I can only say the real warning is that which attaches to the conduct of someone like this priest who acts in such an un-Christian manner and then attempts to bully others into participating in his cover-up. I am truly grateful that this diocese (even though “Cardinal Wuehrl is not [his] bishop”) has seen him for who he really is.

Fr. Guarnizo has offered to discuss this publicly with any of the persons involved. Said most simply, where and when do you want to do this?

Barbara Johnson

I am once again deeply saddened by the actions of Father Marcel Guarnizo. At a time when my family should have been allowed to begin our mourning in peace, he has chosen instead to politicize my mother’s death once again.

I stand by every word I have spoken in the press, and in private, regarding the events of February 25th 2012.

When my 9 year old great-nephew who recently received his First Communion, and was present at my mother’s funeral, heard Father Guarnizo’s statement, he asked his mother, “Mommy, why is the priest lying?” His mother responded, “You know how sometimes when you get in trouble you tell a lie to try to get out of it?” He understood and then he asked, “Can we complain to the government?”

Since the government in this case is the Archdiocese, we have indeed brought our case to “the government.” And as we all know, this body has acted appropriately.

Please, Father Guarnizo, let my mother rest in peace, and let my family move past the traumas you have already visited upon us.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

“From Water to Wine: Lesbian/Gay Catholics and Relationships” Starts Today!

It’s here!  After months and months of planning, today is the day that New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium begins!  Entitled From Water to Wine:  Lesbian/Gay Catholics and Relationships, the three-day meeting will be held at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, 202 East Pratt Street,Baltimore, Maryland. Over 350 Catholic leaders from across the country will gather to discuss the state of LGBT issues in the church and society.

You’ll be able to follow the Symposium on Twitter by checking out its hashtag: #NWM12.

The Baltimore Sun carries a  news report today announcing the Symposium, citing the need for discussion on LGBT issues in the Catholic church:

” ‘Across the country, Catholics are facing the issues of marriage equality, bullying, whether or not lesbian and gay people can work in church institutions,’ Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, said Wednesday. ‘All of these items need further discussion in the church, and people are eager to discuss them. . . .’

“DeBernardo says support among churchgoing Catholics for lesbian and gay church members is growing. He predicts that the issue will go the way of artificial birth control, which is prohibited by the church but practiced widely by Catholics.

” ‘The Catholic people are supporting lesbian and gay issues not in spite of their faith but because of their faith,’ he said. ‘Catholic laypeople see this is an issue of human dignity, of justice, of equality.’

” ‘The statistics keep showing that the next generation is far more supportive than previous generations. I think that the bishops have to start realizing that these are not dissenters of the Catholic faith. These are solid Catholic people’ “

The meeting’s timely theme of “relationships” will be examined from a variety of different perspectives from national and international Catholic speakers and thinkers:

1)      Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia, author, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church

2)      Patricia Beattie Jung, Professor of Christian Ethics, St. Paul School of Theology, author,Catholic Sexual Ethics in the 21st Century;

3)      Luke Timothy Johnson, Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, Emory University, author, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation;

4)      Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, author of Failing America’s Faithful: How Today’s Churches Are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way;

5)      Richard Rodriguez, a gay author, whose book Days of Obligation: An Argument With My Mexican Father was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Additionally, eight workshops facilitated by national leaders on Catholic LGBT issues will focus on: youth and young adults; African-American issues; Latino/a issues, marriage, transgender issues; gay priests; lesbian nuns; and coalition-building.

Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic, who recently signed a law establishing marriage equality in Maryland, will address the gathering at a luncheon on Friday, March 16th. 

“As Catholics, we are proud of Governor O’Malley’s ardent support of marriage equality,” said DeBernardo in a press statement. “His support is in the best tradition of Catholicism’s legacy of social justice for all. We are happy to have this opportunity to thank him for his work and to show how faithful Catholics support full equality for LGBT people.”

Barbara Johnson, the Catholic lesbian woman who made national news recently when she was denied communion at her mother’s funeral Mass will also be addressing the Symposium, to offer thanks for the outpouring of support she has received from Catholics around the country.

“We are honored Ms. Johnson will be present at our meeting,”DeBernardo added. “Her presence will help heal the pain that so many Catholics have felt because of the disgraceful way she was treated.”  Ms. Johnson will speak during the morning on Saturday, March 17th.

Bondings 2.0 will try to provide Symposium updates over the next few days.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Priest Who Denied Communion to Lesbian Woman Is Removed from Parish Ministry

Rev. Marcel Guarnizo

Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, the priest who denied communion to Barbara Johnson, a Catholic lesbian woman, at her mother’s funeral, has been temporarily removed from pastoral duties and has had his priestly faculties suspended, because of “credible allegations” that he has intimidated pastoral staff and others, according to a letter from Washington, DC, Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout.

The letter, dated March 9, 2012, is addressed to priests in the Archdiocese of Washington. No mention of Ms. Johnson’s case is made in the letter.  According to The Washington Post’s blog posting on this development, Fr. Thomas LaHood, pastor of St. John Neumann parish, Gaithersburg, where Fr. Guarnizo was assigned and where Ms. Johnson’s mother’s funeral Mass took place, announced the news to parishioners on Sunday,

“including noting — and repeating — that the removal was not related to the Communion standoff, but ‘pertains to actions over the past week or two.’  He did not elaborate.”

The Washington Post report adds that the pastor told the parishioners:

” ‘As we know there’s been disagreement within the parish over how and to whom Communion is distributed. From my perspective this disagreement and related emotions flow from love. Love for Christ, really and truly present in the Eucharist. However, how we live out this love is important. The Scriptures tell us that we are known above all by how we love,’ he said before reading the letter. After, he said ‘I realize this letter is hard to hear. Please keep mind that this is a first personnel issue, dealing with issues of ministry in the church. Father Guarnizo will have every opportunity to present his position.’

“An archdiocesan spokeswoman Sunday would not clarify if LaHood’s comments meant that Guarnizo would not be penalized for his handling of Barbara Johnson at the funeral.”

Barbara Johnson

Ms. Johnson has issued the following statement:

“The Johnson family continues to pray for the Archdiocese of Washington, Father Guarnizo, and all Catholics during this time of upheaval. While we understand this letter does not pertain to the events that occurred at our mother’s funeral, we are hopeful that Bishop Knestout’s decision will ensure that no others will have to undergo the traumatic experiences brought upon our family. We urge all Catholics to put aside political points of view, and pray that our Church will remain in Christ’s love.”

New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director, Francis DeBernardo, made the following statement about this development:

“The Archdiocese of Washington’s removal of Fr. Marcel Guarnizo from priestly duties and parish life pending an investigation is a good first step towards ensuring that full and just reconciliation can occur for Barbara Johnson, her family,  and the people of St. John Neumann parish.  Though the cruel and insensitive way that Fr. Guarnizo treated Ms. Johnson at her mother’s funeral is not mentioned in Bishop Knestout’s letter, it should definitely be included in any investigation of “intimidating behavior,” since that label can be accurately applied to his denial of communion to Ms. Johnson at her mother’s funeral.  For that reason, Ms. Johnson and her family most certainly should be consulted in this investigation.

“This first step is necessary towards determining any future and permanent actions for Fr. Guarnizo.  The Archdiocese of Washington also needs to take the important step of providing better training for priests and church professionals for ministering to and with LGBT people and their family members.  The funeral incident caused tremendous pain for Ms. Johnson and her family, but it also revealed that training in pastoral care for LGBT people is sorely needed for all church professionals.  Administering justice for Fr. Guarnizo’s actions is one step, but the only way to guarantee that such an incident doesn’t happen again is for better education on LGBT issues to be part of the church’s preparation for pastoral ministers.”

As Bondings 2.0 reported two days ago, Ms. Johnson will be a special guest at New Ways Ministry’s upcoming Seventh National Symposium, From Water to Wine: Lesbian/Gay Catholics and Relationships, March 15-17, 2012, Baltimore, Maryland. Ms. Johnson will address the Symposium participants and receive a blessing from them at the closing session on the morning of Saturday, March 17th.

“Barbara Johnson’s faith witness has been strong throughout this whole ugly incident,” said DeBernardo. “We are honored and humbled that she will be with us for the Symposium, and we are sure that all will benefit greatly from her presence.”

For more information about the Symposium, click here.  For other past Bondings2.0posts about Barbara Johnson’s story, click on any of the following titles:

“Communion Denied to Lesbian Woman at Her Mother’s Funeral”

“Is It Possible to Find Hope in This Week’s Painful New”

“Lesbian Denied Communion Explains How Her Faith Has Been Strengthened”

“Barbara Johnson to Address New Ways Ministry Symposium!”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

QUOTE TO NOTE: Himes on Marriage for Lesbian and Gay Couples

Sometimes the relevant part of a news story is simply a single quotation or two.  When that’s the case, we will share those quotes with you through this feature, “QUOTE TO NOTE.”

After delivering a lecture on sacramentality at Boston College, Rev. Michael Himes, one of the leading theologians in the country, was asked a question about marriage for lesbian and gay couples.  The Heights, the school’s student newspaper reported his answer:

“If it is true that there are people who are irretrievably homosexual, then it is vicious to tell them they can’t get married. To tell someone they have to be celibate is absolutely mad.”

To read the entire article, click here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Is It Possible to Find Hope in This Week’s Painful News?

Some weeks it’s harder to be a Catholic than other weeks.  This is one of those weeks, with two painful stories: 1) a lesbian is denied communion at her mother’s funeral Mass in Gaithersburg, Maryland;  2) a gay music teacher is fired from a Catholic school near St. Louis, Missouri.  Can we find hope in either or both of these terrible situations?

This long post is divided into three sections: 1) the Maryland story; 2) the Missouri story; 3) possibilities for finding hope.

Gaithersburg, Maryland

The week began with the story of Barbara Johnson, the lesbian woman who was denied communion at her mother’s funeral at St John Neumann parish, Gaithersburg, Maryland.  You can read the initial story here.  Since then,  news outlets across the country have run with the story.  The Washington Post’s article was printed on the front page, and contains a link to the apology letter sent to Ms. Johnson by Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Washington. Catholic and other religious leaders have responded to this outrage through the National Gay and Lesbian Religious Leaders’ Roundtable in a conglomerate statement of opinions.

Of all the things I’ve read about this disgraceful incident, the best piece of journalism comes from National Catholic Reporter “Young Voices” columnist, Kate Childs-Graham.  Probably because of her strong connections in the Catholic LGBT community, she was able to achieve what more seasoned journalists failed to do:  she interviewed Barbara Johnson herself.  This expanded excerpt from her column provides details that no one else has reported:

“. . . [I]n a compelling phone interview Wednesday, Johnson said the denial was just the climax of a series of unfortunate and uncompassionate events surrounding her mother’s funeral.

“In the weeks and months leading up to her mother’s death, Johnson, who was raised Catholic and has attended and taught at Catholic schools, said she was virtually unaware of the fight for same-sex marriage in her home state of Maryland, which is set to legalize the practice this week following the state senate’s Feb. 23 approval.

“Instead, Johnson said she spent every one of her waking hours in the past weeks making sure her mother had the care she needed after a severe heart attack that led her to the ICU.

” ‘We worked hard to take care of her,’ Johnson said.

“When her mother died last week, Johnson said she worked hard to honor her death the same way she did her life. ‘It was my mother’s funeral, not my funeral. We did the exact funeral that my mother wished, at the exact place,’ she said.

“Johnson said she and her family met with St. John Neumann’s music director, who assured them they would be able to deliver two eulogies. However, in a brief meeting with Guarnizo before the Mass, Johnson said the priest said there could only be one eulogy — that ‘this is how it is done all the time.’

“Johnson said her brother responded: ‘Well, we don’t bury our mother all the time.’

“In that meeting, Johnson said Guarnizo never offered his condolences for her mother’s passing. And when he asked Johnson’s partner who she was, she replied, ‘I’m her partner.’ “

What makes Childs-Graham’s piece so unique is that she elicited the personal details of a story whose power has been that it has affected so many people so personally. Childs-Graham’s informative piece also highlights that, sadly, the denial of communion was not the only pastorally incompetent thing to have happened to Ms. Johnson and her family.

Saint Louis, Missouri

While Catholics were still just learning about the Maryland incident, when a story broke in Saint Louis that a Catholic school teacher had been fired  because he was planning a wedding to his partner of 20 years.  A St. Louis Post-Dispatch article reports that Michael Fischer, a music teacher at St. Ann’s Catholic school in north St. Louis county, and his partner, Charlie Robin, are to be wed in New York state on March 9th.  The story further explains:

“. . . the couple’s relationship was in no way a secret at St. Ann and that Fischer was fired after a representative of the St. Louis Archdiocese overheard him talking to co-workers about his wedding plans.

“Shortly thereafter, according to Robin, Fischer was told he would be fired March 9, the couple’s 20th anniversary and the day of their planned nuptials. But after Robin posted the news of Fischer’s soon-to-come firing on Facebook on Feb. 16, Fischer was fired the next day, Robin said.”

In a poignant and insightful commentary on the incident, Robin, a practicing Catholic commented to the Post-Dispatch:

” ‘Everyone involved in this process I know is committed to good,’ he said. ‘The problem is blindly following the doctrine isn’t committed to good.’ “

What makes this case even more disturbing is that it comes so soon after a North Carolina parish music director was fired, also for marrying his long-time partner in New York.  Bondings 2.0 carried news and commentary on this incident, and it can be accessed here.


As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it’s been a hard week.  Is it possible to find hope in any of this?  I can think of three ways:

1) Take action:  We nourish our hope when we take some action for change.  One reaction to negative stories is that people feel powerless to do anything about the situation.  To feed our hope, we must struggle against this natural reaction.

Our job isn’t necessarily to correct the situation, but it is our responsibility to do what we can.  We need to lift our voices, both in prayer and in communication with church leaders.   These negative situations must become opportunities for Catholic people to let our leaders know we support LGBT people and relationships.

2) Stay Connected: Barbara Johnson and Michael Fischer, the main victims of these abusive situations have not let these abusive actions devastate them or sever their relationships with the church.  The National Catholic Reporter column reports that Ms. Johnson had only praise for the priest who eventually accompanied her and her family to the cemetery, Fr. Peter Sweeney:

“He was an angel, a balm on our hearts. . . .He was everything I knew the Catholic church to be.”

She also praised the parish’s pastor, Fr. Thomas LaHood

“. . . who had come to the funeral home to provide pastoral support to the family the evening before the Mass, has been ‘wonderful and apologetic and graceful and Christ-like.’ “

“Johnson said LaHood told her, ‘I wish I could take it all back.’ “

Moreover, she plans to work toward receiving an apology from the priest and seeing that he is removed from ministry, so that no one else can be similarly hurt:

“The fact that this has resonated shows that the church is in need of healing. . . . My family will continue to urge for more awareness until this man is removed from parish life and has apologized to my family. Our mission is to make sure no other family will experience this kind of tragedy.”

Similarly in St. Louis, Michael Fischer states that he bears no animosity towards the pastor who fired him and he hopes that parents will make this incident a teaching moment for the children;

“In his letter to parents, Fischer wrote: ‘I think the word has been well spread that this is not the fault of St. Ann School or its leadership, and I want to emphasize that I get that, too.’  It added that the school’s principal and the parish priest ‘are still there for me in a big way.’

“The letter encouraged parents to talk to their children. ‘A family conversation about whether or not justice was served here could be a great thing,’ it read. ‘I do not want the lesson from this for the kids to be, “Keep your mouth shut, hide who you are or what you think if it will get you in trouble.” ‘ “

3) Share your thoughts and feelings: We nourish hope when we share our thoughts and feelings with others.  As always, you are invited to do so here in the “Comments” section.  Expressing your reactions, and reading how others have expressed their reactions, can sometimes help to heal any pain we may feel.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Maryland Moves One Step Closer to Marriage Equality Law with Senate Approval; DC Catholic Pastor Responds to Gramick and DeBernardo

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