Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The bishops on marriage: right message, wrong timing

Go to Media, my son, for I fully believe what Jonah the prophet said about Nineveh, that it will be overthrown. But in Media there will be peace for a time.
 – Tobit 14:4
The US bishops have just released a letter to President Obama signed by Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the President of the USCCB, that is strongly critical of the administration's policy towards marriage.

Now, if a similar letter had been released shortly before the vote on "homosexual marriage" in New York State, or while DADT was being debated in Congress, or at some critical time during the Prop 8 hearing, or shortly before the recent special elections ... then I would have applauded it.

But it almost seems as if the release of the letter was timed for when it could make the most minimal impact. So far the only ones to have taken any notice of it at all are the folks at the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). They have posted a story on their blog which is how I became aware of it.

I suppose its possible that I'm just getting to this story a bit early. But wouldn't an organization like USCCB want to have some sort of PR event around such a major statement? Wouldn't they want to get in touch with their contacts in the press to make sure that they filed stories on this letter at the very moment of its release? Even the Catholic News Service (CNS) which is affiliated with the USCCB doesn't have a story at this time.

So, I seem to have managed to out-scoop all major news agencies on this story, which somehow isn't making me happy the way it should. I guess AP and the rest of the media don't pay too much attention to news releases from the USCCB or they would have noticed the official announcement by now. Maybe they have seen it and are still figuring out how they can spin the story to include some reference to the sex abuse scandal.

Let's just hope that this is a sign that the US Catholic bishops intend to become more vocal on the issue of marriage in the future. And let's pray that they use their influence to urge Catholic voters to make this a major issue in the upcoming 2012 elections.

Here are some key excerpts from the letter:
I write with a growing sense of urgency about recent actions taken by your Administration that both escalate the threat to marriage and imperil the religious freedom of those who promote and defend marriage. This past spring the Justice Department announced that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court, a decision strongly opposed by the Catholic Bishops of the United States and many others. Now the Justice Department has shifted from not defending DOMA—which is problem enough, given the duty of the executive branch to enforce even laws it disfavors—to actively attacking DOMA's constitutionality.
The Administration‟s failure to change course on this matter will, as the attached analysis indicates, precipitate a national conflict between Church and State of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions.
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UPDATE 1 (Sep 21):

For those who are, in my opinion, overly excited about this statement, I would like to point out a very similar statement earlier this year in March from Archbishop Dolan. I wish I could provide a link to the document on the USCCB website, but it seems that they don't have archives of news releases going back that far. But I was able to find the full text at the website of the Diocese of Saginaw.

Here is a key excerpt with a similar tone and content to today's letter:
The Administration’s current position is not only a grave threat to marriage, but to religious liberty and the integrity of our democracy as well. Our nation and government have the duty to recognize and protect marriage, not tamper with and redefine it, nor to caricature the deeply held beliefs of so many citizens as “discrimination.” On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I express my deep disappointment over the Administration’s recent decision. I have written of these concerns to the President in separate correspondence, and I pray that he and the Department of Justice may yet make the right choice to carry out their constitutional responsibility, defending the irreplaceable institution of marriage, and in so doing protect the future generations of our children.
It's not that I'm cynical about the ability to reverse this trend of destroying the institution of marriage. It's just that the approach of the US bishops of writing a letter now and then after the fact is not an effective one. This letter came out some weeks after the President announced that the Dept. of Justice would no longer defend DOMA on February 23. As close as I can tell this statement was released March 6.

And again it feels like the timing of the statement was designed to have a minimal impact. It is almost like the bishops really don't want to defend marriage at all, but they still want to be able to say to the Catholic faithful that they have "tried their best". Well, I just don't buy it.

If you want to take a look at what an effective defense of marriage looks like, then take a look at the work of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Or take a look at the Orthodox Jewish Rabbis that told their fellow Orthodox Jews in the latest special election in New York to vote for the Republican candidate and not vote for the Democratic candidate even though he was an Orthodox Jew. Why? Because he voted for "homosexual marriage", that's why. And what the Rabbis said was that they would not support a candidate that betrayed the basic religious principles of Orthodox Jews.

Or else take a look at the work of Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. He specifically instructs Catholics to look not only at the individual candidate, but also at their political party's platform. And in the case of the Democrat Party, the platform is pro-abortion and in favor of "homosexual marriage". So if you consider yourself a faithful Catholic, then you cannot vote for the Democrats. End of story.

If Catholics stopped supporting the Democrats and giving them a pass on the "social issues" then they would be forced to change those policies or disappear from history.

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Pray for the Church.

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  1. UPDATE 1: I discovered a very similar letter that Archbishop Dolan sent out in March with questionable timing and updated the article.

  2. I agree 100%. The "charism of exhortation" that Pope Paul VI used to describe Catherine of Siena is sorely lacking today.

    St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!

  3. Hi M. How are you? I have been reading about the two typhoons and the flooding in the Philippines. I hope that you and your family are well.

    Thank you for the link about St. Catherine of Siena. Yes, I think this is applicable. In my mind, I see a schism in the Church. Many of the bishops are not loyal to the Pope. Perhaps Mother Angelica is our modern day St. Catherine. She could be very direct and even irreverential towards the bishops. This got her into trouble a few times and the Church hierarchy struggled to wrestle EWTN from her control, but somehow she was able to prevail.

    One of the saddest things in today's Church is to see how the Jesuits are in open revolt. The Jesuits are supposed to be protectors of the Papacy. What would St. Ignatius say?

    I am praying for Father Frank Pavone. He is another St. Catherine in my eye. And he is being persecuted because of it.

    Pray for the bishops. Pray for the Holy Father. Pray for the Church.

  4. Thanks Michael! We're doing fine, but, sadly, other parts of the Philippines have been devasted by back to back typhoons. As a response for the future, I hope the government realizes that it should prioritize disaster-prevention and relief (since we are typhoon-prone), not contraceptives. Regarding the RH bill, this just came out yesterday:

    After hemming and hawing, Cayetano [pro-RH senator] admitted during interpellations on Senate Bill 2865 that the Department of Health (DOH) had asked for P13.7 billion to implement the RH bill for the year 2012 alone – an amount bigger than the individual budgets of the departments of energy, finance, foreign affairs, justice, labor, science, tourism, and trade. The figure also dwarfs the budgets proposed for the Office of the President and Congress, as well as for the entire Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

    If you're interested, full story here:


    You are right regarding the Jesuits. The prominent Jesuits are no different in the Philippines. Here is a quote from the former president of Ateneo de Manila University (I went there for two years!), Fr. Joaquin Bernas, a supporter of the RH bill:

    Having said all this I must also put on my hat as priest of the Catholic Church. I accept the teaching of the Catholic Church which prohibits not only abortion but also artificial contraception. Yet one might say that through this article I am in fact approving artificial contraception. I am not doing such a thing. Aside from being a Catholic priest in good standing I am also a lawyer and teacher and student of Constitutional Law. What I am doing is to place all this in the context of our constitutionally mandated pluralistic society. Not all citizens of the Philippines are Catholics. Many of them therefore do not consider artificial contraception immoral or anti-life. The teaching of my Church is that I must respect the belief of other religions even if I do not agree with them. That is how Catholics and non-Catholics can live together in harmony. The alternative, which God forbid, is the restoration of the Inquisition.

    Full story here:


    I will pray for Father Frank, the bishops, Pope Benedict and the Church.

    God bless.

  5. M. Thank you for the links. I read both of them. The RH bill is much bigger in terms of impact to the Philippine budget than I could have ever imagined. I hope that the people in the Philippines can hold out until after the 2012 US presidential elections. I fully expect to see a Republican in the White House as a result of the elections. President Obama has been a disaster for the US economy and for pro-Life causes.

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    The excuse that Fr. Joaquin Bernas offers for supporting the RH bill is the same excuse used to justify the "pro-choice" position by Catholics in the US. We must stand up for our beliefs now or we will lose our rights to even express Christian beliefs in the future. That is what is happening with the anti-family campaign in the US. Catholics are being called "bigots" for simply standing up for marriage. Anyone who can't see the agenda of the "pro-choice" crowd by now is simply blind.

    Contraception leads to abortion; abortion "rights" leads to "rights" to "homosexual marriage"; "homosexual marriage" leads to a direct attack on Christianity...