|St. Paul – Vatican statue|
I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable.... I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.The Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, was profiled in a New York Magazine article titled "The Archbishop of Charm" when he first took over the position in 2009. In it he discusses the issue of "homosexual marriage". The tag line underneath the title of the article is very revealing: "If anyone can repair the church’s image, it’s Timothy Dolan. Except there are only so many nice ways to say no."
– Acts 20:20,27
He is a glad-hander and a backslapper, a tall, energetic, portly Irish-Catholic lug who likes smoking cigars and sipping Jameson’s. He makes a point of saying he’d be far happier talking to me at a parish fish fry than here, jamming himself sideways into an ornate, narrow chair. And before long, Dolan is eagerly discussing some of the more controversial issues he’ll have to weigh in on—like gay marriage, blocked during the last legislative session in Albany but almost certain to be reintroduced. As early as his first week, he went on record saying he believed the union between a man and a woman was “hardwired” into us. Now, with a smile, he anticipates the question of where that leaves gay men and lesbians. “Do I hear you saying, ‘Well, if something’s hardwired into us, wouldn’t it be hardwired into them?’ ” he asks.I haven't highlighted any part of this excerpt because I think the whole thing needs to be read carefully and pondered on.
There is a narrow range of responses that contemporary Catholic leaders have made to a question like this—ranging from a 2006 conference of American bishops concluding that “homosexual acts … violate the true purpose of sexuality,” to the 1990 Catholic Encyclopedia’s declaration that being gay is “not a normal condition, the acts being against nature are objectively wrong.” Dolan goes in another direction. “I would say likewise hardwired into us is the desire for friendship and a desire for companionship,” he says. “And I think the church would say, ‘We must respect that.’ So we would not take that away from anybody, whatever their sexual preferences might be.”
Friendships of the sort that Dolan is describing—leaving aside any sexual component—are all right in his eyes, he explains, as long as they aren’t called a marriage. “We’re more into the defense of marriage itself,” he explains, “so that even though people would have the right to companionship, the right to marriage would only be, by its very definition, between a man and a woman.”
But now Dolan senses that he may have said something disappointing. So he strikes a conciliatory note. “It’s not that we’re saying, ‘You don’t have the right.’ We would say that if people feel that the concomitant rights of friendship and companionship are being violated—for instance, insurance coverage, or the ability of one to visit a sick partner—we would defend those rights. There are ways to ameliorate some of the disadvantages that same-sex couples feel without tampering with the very definition of marriage.”
That, I say, sounds a lot like domestic partnerships.
Dolan straightens up suddenly. “It does sound like that,” he says. “And thank you for pointing that out. Because I wouldn’t want to go there.”
Personally, when I read this it made me quite sad. I don't see how Archbishop Dolan is ever going to be able to lead an effective fight against "homosexual marriage" in the state of New York while taking this type of stance. I'm beyond disappointed. I'm devastated. Keep in mind that Dolan is not just the Archbishop of New York, he is also the recently elected head of the American bishops.
If I could make one suggestion to Archbishop Dolan, it would be that he consider these words of our Holy Father Benedict XVI delivered on March 10, 2011 to a gathering of the priests of the Diocese of Rome.
We have listened to the passage from the Acts of the Apostles (20:17-38) in which St Paul speaks to the priests of Ephesus, deliberately recounted by St Luke as a testament of the Apostle, as a discourse not only intended for the priests of Ephesus but for priests in every epoch. St Paul does not only speak to those who were present in that place, he truly speaks to us. Let us, therefore, endeavour to understand a little of what he is saying to us at this moment.Please, Archbishop. No "a la carte" Christianity. Let God's will be done.
We do [not] seek praise, we do not want to attract attention, it does not matter to us what may be said of us in the newspapers or elsewhere; what matters is what God says. This is true humility, not to appear before men and women but to be in God’s presence, to work humbly for God and thus really to serve humanity and men and women.
“I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public” (Acts 20:20). After a few more sentences St Paul returns to this point and says: “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (v. 27). This is important; the Apostle did not preach an “à la carte” Christianity to suit his own inclinations, he did not preach a Gospel to suit his own favourite theological ideas; he did not shrink from the commitment to proclaiming the whole of God’s will, even an inconvenient will and even topics of which he was personally not so enamoured.
It is our mission to proclaim the whole of God’s will, in its totality and ultimate simplicity. But it is important that we teach and preach — as St Paul says here — and really propose the will of God in its entirety. And I think that if the contemporary world is curious to know everything, even we ourselves must be more curious to know God’s: what could be more interesting, more important, more essential for us than knowing God’s wishes, knowing God’s will and God’s face?