Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Questions for Archbishop Kurtz re. the U.S. Bishops' Response to the Supreme Court's Marriage Equality Ruling

The Wild Reed's 2015 Queer Appreciation series continues with a piece originally published last week by The Progressive Catholic Voice.

Attributed to and published by the PCV's editorial board, the questions that comprise this piece were actually written by my friend Paula Ruddy. (Both Paula and I serve on the PCV's editorial board, along with our friend Mary Beckfeld.) As you'll see, Paula eruditely poses a number of important questions to Archbishop Joseph Kurtz in relation to the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops' official statement on last Friday's historic Supreme Court ruling on civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.


We, the members of the editorial board of The Progressive Catholic Voice, object to the clerical leadership of our church declaring adamant disrespect for the law without giving reasons in response to arguments. Our commitment to faith and reason compel us to demand that leadership respond reasonably and with evidence rather than with mere assertions of fact. We ask Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, to encourage Catholics to respect this law for the civil society as well as encouraging them to live according to their own moral convictions. There need be no conflict unless one is created by the U.S. Bishops.

Within the text of the Bishops' statement below, we have interspersed our questions to Archbishop Kurtz in bold.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision, June 26, interpreting the U.S. Constitution to require all states to license and recognize same-sex “marriage” “is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The full statement follows:

Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. How do you address the changes in people’s conceptions and practices and marriage laws over the centuries cited in the Supreme Court’s decision? You assert unchangeableness but you do not back the assertion with evidence or reason. The philosophical turns to the subject and language have disclosed that our knowledge of the nature of the human person and marriage is embedded in cultures and is continually evolving. How do you respond to that point?

Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. If you are a citizen of the U.S. with respect for law, the issue of civil marriage is settled. Why would you encourage Catholics to disrespect the law? It does not affect them except that they now have to live in a society that recognizes same-sex marriage. Is that an intolerable burden? A tragedy?

Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage. What is gratuitously asserted may be gratuitously denied.

The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. What does this mean? What is the necessity for civil marriage to be regulated by physical gender? The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. Are you speaking of the children who will not exist because gay men and women cannot procreate with a same-sex partner? What children are you referring to? What other vulnerable people besides children are you referring to? The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home. Are you suggesting that states enact laws that each child be raised by his/her biological parents in a stable home? In what way would this be possible or good policy? The proponents of banning same-sex marriage had every opportunity to bring evidentiary facts to bear in federal district courts and they have failed to do so. These arguments have failed in federal courts for lack of evidence. Can you substantiate your claims of harm to the common good?

Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. Where did he teach this? As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.

I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, As U.S. citizens we are fortunate enough to be able to do this freely. even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions. Why would you suggest that there are people hating you or trying to punish you for your moral convictions? We are Catholics living among Catholics in the U.S. and we have never experienced hatred and punishment for living according to our moral convictions. Would you please give examples of hatred and punishment you have experienced for your moral convictions? You are now being asked as the public voice of the U.S. Catholic bishops to justify your reasoning. We certainly hope you are not mistaking that for hatred and punishment.

Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth. Can we also respect people who have different understandings of marriage and bear witness to truth in different ways from us?

Related Off-site Links:
Supreme Court Declares Same-Sex Marriage Legal In All 50 States – Bill Chappell (National Public Radio News, June 26, 2015).
Read the 7 Most Memorable Passages in the Gay Marriage Decision – Ryan Teague Beckwith (Time, June 26, 2015).
Catholic Responses to the Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage: Everything from "a Win for Love" to "a Tragic Error" – Vinnie Rotondaro (National Catholic Reporter, June 26, 2015).
New Ways Ministry and U.S. Catholics Rejoice at Supreme Court Marriage Equality Decision – Francis D. DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, June 26, 2015).
What Should the U.S. Bishops Do Now That All 50 States Will Have Marriage Equality? – Francis DeBernardo (Crux, June 26, 2015).
How the Bishops Should Respond to the Same-Sex Marriage Decision – Thomas Reese (National Catholic Reporter, July 2, 2015).
Fortnight of Freedom: Hypocrisy of U.S. Bishops – Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, June 22, 2015).
Why the Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Decision is Not Like Legalizing Abortion – David Gibson (Religion News Service, July 2, 2015).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Marriage: "Part of What is Best in Human Nature"
Rediscovering What Has Been Written on Our Hearts from the Very Beginning
A Head and Heart Response to the Bishops' Opposition to Marriage Equality

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