Catholics are Pro-Marriage; Not Anti Anybody

Archbishop Dolan – “Social Engineering
About The Nature and Purpose of
Marriage Is Perilous To All Of Us.”

By Archbishop Dolan – It was one of the more uncomfortable moments in my life.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Outside of St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Milwaukee, where I, as archbishop, was celebrating Sunday Mass on an otherwise magnificent Wisconsin autumn day, were a couple dozen very vocal protestors, representing some off-brand denomination, shouting vicious chants and holding hateful signs with words I thought had gone the way of burning-crosses and white hoods.

This frenzied group, taunting the people as they left Mass, were rabid in criticizing the Catholic Church, especially her bishops, for our teaching that homosexuals deserve dignity and respect.

To be more precise, this group was yelling at us because, they objected, the Catholic Church was so friendly, welcoming, and defensive of gay (they used other foul words) people.  They waved placards explicitly quoting and condemning #2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which affirms the dignity of those with same-sex attraction, and warns against any form of prejudice, hatred, or unjust discrimination against them, and insists that homosexual acts, not persons, are not in conformity with God’s design.

Never have I faced such a vitriolic crowd, blasting the Church for simply following the teaching of Jesus by loving and respecting people regardless of anything, including their sexual orientation.

When a reporter asked me for a comment, I replied, “They’re right:  we do love and respect homosexual people.  These protestors understand Church teaching very well.”

I’ve been recalling that episode often of late, because now I hear Catholics, — and, I am quick to add, Jews, other Christians, Muslims, and men and women of no faith at all — who have thoughtfully expressed grave disapproval of the current rush to redefine marriage, branded as bigots and bullies who hate gays.

Nonsense!  We are not anti anybody; we are pro-marriage. The definition of marriage is a given:  it is a lifelong union of love and fidelity leading, please God, to children, between one man and one woman.

History, Natural Law, the Bible (if you’re so inclined), the religions of the world, human experience, and just plain gumption tell us this is so.  The definition of marriage is hardwired into our human reason.

To uphold that traditional definition, to strengthen it, and to defend it is not a posture of bigotry or bullying.  Nor is it a denial of the “right” of anybody.  As the philosophers remind us, in a civilized, moral society, we have the right to do what we ought, not to do whatever we want.  Not every desire is a right.

To tamper with that definition, or to engage in some Orwellian social engineering about the nature and purpose of marriage, is perilous to all of us. If the definition of marriage is continually being altered, could it not in the future be morphed again to include multiple spouses or even family members?

Nor is it “imposing” some narrow outmoded religious conviction.  One might well ask just who is doing the “imposing” here: those who simply defend what the human drama has accepted from the start, a belief embedded in nature and at the core of every civilization — the definition of marriage — or those who all of a sudden want to scrap it because “progressive, enlightened, tolerant culture” calls for it.

Sadly, as we see in countries where such a redefinition has occurred, “tolerance” is hardly the result, as those who hold to the given definition of marriage now become harassed and penalized.

If big, intrusive government can re-define the most basic, accepted, revealed truth that marriage simply means one man + one woman + (hopefully) children, in a loving family, then, I’m afraid, Orwell’s works will no longer be on the fiction shelf.  As someone commented to me the other day, “Wouldn’t it be better for our government to work on fixing schools than on redefining marriage?”

And resistance to this rush to radically redefining the ingrained meaning of marriage cannot be reduced to an act of prejudice against people with a same-sex attraction.


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6 comments to Catholics are Pro-Marriage; Not Anti Anybody

  • Andy

    Oh great the arguement that it will open up marriage to members of your family or worse. Really????

  • Trout

    Cardinal Dolan,

    Thank you for being a strong leader in the Church during this confusing time. Your example of charity and critical thought is encouraging for the flock.

    Thank you so much.

  • Chris


    I would encourage you to listen to or read a soundbite or article from the opening remarks of the supreme court justices concerning them hearing the case against California’s Prop 8 Amendment. Many of the questions and comments they pose are rooted in legitimate concerns of the uncertainty for how same-sex marriage would effect the social structure. They are concerns that any responsible society should be contemplating when considering changing the foundation upon which it is built. I am glad they brought up these points since supporters of same-sex marriage neglect to acknowledge that there are far greater implications to this issue than the two guys next door getting married. Marriages and families have long been changing and are in their current fragile state due in large part(but certainly not entirely) because of the conveniences that state governments offer people in getting married and divorced quickly and easily. With this line of thinking in mind, should the government be so quick to change the structure of our society?

  • I can’t believe all that buzz over a rhetoric question. No one in the Catholic Church is against gay rights. Gays are entitled to the same rights as anybody else, so this is what gays should be fighting for, with the GOVERNMENT. In the UK and in Brazil this is called CIVIL PARTNERSHIP, and entitle people living together to same rights as married couples: tax breaks, hospital visits, inheritance rights, pension, descendant’s rights. It’s valid for homosexual or heterosexual couples, friends who want to protect a loved one, also it grants immigratory rights if one of the parts is a foreigner. I guess those are the rights that gay groups are after, right? Call it anyway you want, make up a new word for it and fight for it. Why waste all that time and effort to change the meaning of the word and the institution of “marriage”? Go about your lives and do something more productive than attacking the Church.

  • Dan


    As a Catholic I think you misunderstand Cardinal Dolan and the Church. The Church isn’t declaring that because marriage is between one man and one woman that gay couples shouldn’t have the same legal benefits with questions of estate, or visitation, or treatment of their own ceremony declaring them bonded to each other in whatever religious way or secular way they’ve decided to be.

    The problems you are mentioning could be solved by legalizing gay marriage, but they bring with them a host of worse problems, problems you are not considering or addressing, all for the sake of an emotional plea. Perhaps the Supreme Court could address estate laws? Perhaps they could address visitation laws? We already have anti-discrimination laws protecting people against discrimination the likes of which you address as well.

    This debate isn’t over the treatment of homosexual people. It’s over acceptance of something many do not accept. Marriage, in it’s primary function, is for the fruits of a heterosexual union, children. Homosexual people cannot, by definition, copulate. By changing this primary, basic, and reasonable understanding of the purpose of marriage we face a fallout already witnessed by those who have tried to do so.

    Closing of Catholic orphanages and adoption agencies. Discrimination against those who raise their children to believe what their religion teaches about marriage by the state in public schools. The threat of imprisoning priests and other religiously affiliated people for denying ceremonies. And so on. That mixed with the well documented extreme promiscuity of the average homosexual individual which flies in the face of the argument that they would like to be allowed access to a sacrament that expects monogamy and fidelity, thus potentially changing the very fabric of the sacrament as well as the economic benefits that the state chooses to recognize, I’d call that a fair amount of harm.

    If you are really interested in changing the rights of gay people that should be changed, estate law, hospital visitation, medical insurance coverage, and so on, then fight for that. Don’t fight for the fundamental change of an institution that is older than homosexuality itself.

  • Jessica

    As a member of a Catholic Household, I can certainly see where you are coming from. Getting harassed for your beliefs is certainly something nobody wants to go through, and I agree that those who protest should do so respectfully. Aware of a large portions of the teachings of a Catholic household, I also understand the incredibly powerful connection that you have with God, and the connection you try to improve in those around you through powerful sermons, efforts to reach out, and through peaceful measures.

    However, I do disagree with you, and I disagree on a couple of very distinct points. The first being that while I recognize the sacredness of marriage in your religion, marriage is a state controlled process. While priests are often involved in marriages, ultimately the bonding of a man and woman has consequences outside of the church. Such as questions of estate, visitation in hospitals, and even treatment of the marriage.

    And yes, your definiton states that marriage is a union between a man and woman, but in our country we do not discriminate against gender. Because the government is involved in marriage, they cannot discriminate based upon the gender of the couple involved.

    And while defining marriage, government wide, as a union between a man and a woman will deny couples their right to the same treatment as every other couple based on their gender, allowing marriage between any gender does not directly harm or discriminate against any member of your congregations.

    And I know, based on history and personal discussions with others, that you are obligated by your faith to speak out against what you perceive as a violation of your faith. And I understand that. It makes sense when someone is incredibly passionate about their religion and their god to defend that religion and its doctrines, which honestly is only admirable. However, your support of the definition of marriage is actively increasing the discrimination against a group of people. And that, in America, is not how we try to actively pursue equality.

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