Activist: Many Maryland Catholics support same-sex marriage, extending legal protections to all families

By Francis DeBernardo Faithful Catholics who follow the debate on same-sex marriage have grown accustomed to our bishops making embarrassing … Continued

By Francis DeBernardo

Faithful Catholics who follow the debate on same-sex marriage have grown accustomed to our bishops making embarrassing and insensitive statements, and Monday’s missive from the three bishops who exercise jurisdiction in the state of Maryland was no exception.

The trio advance hoary and discredited arguments steeped in ignorance.

There is, for instance, no evidence of any sort that allowing same-sex couples to marry will lead to a further erosion of the two-parent household. Indeed, many of these couples already live in two-parent households with their children, only without the legal protection that the law bestows on straight couples.

Likewise, the notion that marriage is intended primarily for procreation finds no support in Catholic theology, and conflicts with the Church’s own willingness to marry couples who cannot have biological children.

The bishops’ other arguments range from the disingenuous to the disquieting. They acknowledge that “over the ages” couples have “come together in a variety of ways, physical, financial and social,” but say “these various unions have always had other names because they are not marriage.” The implication is that Catholic bishops could live with the legal recognition of some other sort of union, but you will look in vain for an instance in which this has happened.

The most disturbing of the bishops’ arguments is that the bill currently before the state’s House of Delegates impinges on the religious freedom of those who oppose same-sex marriage on theological grounds. Catholics manage to live untroubled lives in a society that permits its citizens to purchase birth control and to remarry without the benefit of an annulment. Our political leaders frequently pursue actions at odds with Catholic teaching without much protest from the hierarchy. Yet, we are to believe that making civil marriage available to same-sex couples violates the bishops’ freedom of religion. How?

The bishops don’t say, preferring to raise the specter of religious persecution without attempting to persuade us whether it should be taken seriously. They cast themselves, rather than those they discriminate against, as the victims in this struggle. But the bishops are not being persecuted; they are simply being disagreed with. And anyone who has ever been persecuted can tell the difference.

Most Catholic voters in Maryland support marriage equality–not in spite of our faith, but because of it. We do not seek to change the definition of traditional marriage; we simply want to expand the definition of who may participate. In this we are influenced by Catholic social teaching which requires that people be treated with dignity, regardless of their state in life or their beliefs. Our moral tradition values increased access to health care benefits, the protection of children and dignity in end-of-life choices. All of these values would be expanded if marriage equality were written into law.

In my work with Catholic parishes, schools, colleges and universities, hospitals and many other institutions, I have learned that there is a tremendous concern about the protection of same-gender couples among the “middle managers” of the church–principals, pastors, leaders of communities of priests, nuns, brothers–in spite of what you hear from the hierarchy. It is clear to them, as it is to me, that without marriage equality, families that are headed by lesbian or gay adults will never have the full protection of the law. And what is more Catholic than wanting to protect families and children?

We Catholics are told repeatedly that the Church is not a democracy. But Maryland is. And in a democracy, the views of a church hierarchy that has been on the wrong side of issues ranging from slavery to the charging of interest on loans to the position of the sun in the solar system, are due no special deference. Most Catholics, and, I hope, most Catholic politicians, will do as Catholic moral teaching urges them to do and follow the dictates of their own well-formed, faithfully Catholic consciences when making decisions about marriage equality.

–Francis DeBernardo is executive director of New Ways Ministry, a national Roman Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for lesbian/gay Catholics and the wider church community, and is a leader of Equally Blessed, a coalition of Catholics that joins the work of four national Catholic organizations who have a combined history of working for over 112 years on LGBT issues in the Catholic church.

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  • WmarkW

    Ok, so when a male-male couple approaches a fertility clinic and says:We want to have a child together. The only thing preventing it is technology. We want the doctor to procure a donor egg, strip out all its DNA content, replace it with Joe’s DNA, that Jim will then fertilize with his sperm.You prepared for the biological mating of two men (or women)?

  • TerrenceDoyle

    @WmarkW I got to give it to you, that scenario for two males reproducing biologically is certainly great science fiction.But, the Maryland General Assembly is debating in the context of real lives. Now, if it were possible to strip DNA from an egg and insert the DNA information from another person, could not the same thing happen in a heterosexual relationship? John and Mary love one another deeply, but they are very concerned about Mary’s wacko family. John does not want his offspring to carry that DNA. So, given WmarkW’s scenario, they could go to the same egg stripping lab and have inserted the DNA of a person whose DNA and family history seem more to John’s liking.Have you created a rationale for banning marriage, altogether? Ban straight marriage NOW as well as prevent civil marriage equality for same-sex couples because the technology of the future is very scary!

  • WmarkW

    @TerrenceDoyle, but the heterosexual couple doesn’t need to strip DNA. They’d just take a donor egg. The homosexual couple needs the carrying ability of an egg, but wants to insert the DNA characteristics from a sperm.Who knows what kind of offspring that would produce?

  • cornetmustich

    Cool, onward to full civil and contractual marriage rights for same-sex couples…Cheers, Joe Mustich,And kudos to CT for supporting SSM since 2008.

  • Sara121

    “Who knows what kind of offspring that would produce?”Probably no different than any other kind of offspring. DNA is DNA is DNA. The fundamental difference between a sperm and an egg is the amount of resources they bring to the developing zygote. There’s no qualitative difference in the DNA they carry.

  • soleil100

    Mr Debernado post a nothing to do with the theology of the Catholic Church or even the content of the bible. He is more in line with George Soros, who as an atheist subidizes organizations to undermine the Catholic Church. Here are a few: Catholics United, Catholics for Life, Catholics for Equality,Catholics for marriage Equality, Faithful America, Faith in public life, People for the American Way, Catholics in alliance for the common good etc

  • pzummo

    At first I thought DeBernado was just yet another dissident Catholic wrong in theology, but the closing paragraph just confirms that this man is a complete ignoramus. The Church never officially taught geocentrism, but it’s a nice club to use to bash the Church by those who have no other arguments. Why do you even bother calling yourself Catholic when you so obviously can’t stand what the Church teaches? Oh, that’s right, because no one would pay any attention to you if you called yourself an Episcopalian, and the Washington Post certainly wouldn’t publish you.

  • jayrok876

    MAYBE OBAMA HAS FINALLY DONE SOMETHING FOR THE GAY COMMUNITYWILL THE GOVERNMENT CHANGE ITS DEFINITION OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE FOR IMMIGRATION PURPOSES? MAYBE YES.Please Help!We invite potential DOMA project participants to contact us if they are same-sex binational couples who are married (or planning to marry) and who want to join our campaign to end discrimination in immigration law.Visit us today

  • Skulander

    Great! I’m glad to see that there are a lot of Catholics who do favor equality and justice, who agree that everyone should be treated equally. The growing number of our Catholic allies (some of which are gay and lesbian themselves) is growing year by year and it is really heartwarming to see all of this.