From CNS, Staff and other sources
Boston’s Archbishop Troubled by Ruling on Gay Marriage

Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley of Boston said the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s expanded ruling on gay marriage is more troubling than its initial decision. The court’s decision on Nov. 18 struck down the state’s opposite-sex-only marriage laws, but the new ruling, issued Feb. 4, declared that same-sex couples have the right to get married. The 4-to-3 ruling, delivered in an advisory opinion sought by the State Senate, clearly demonstrates the overly activist stance of the four-judge majority, said the archbishop in a statement on Feb. 5.

After the November ruling, the Senate was considering a bill that would have given same-sex couples all the protections, benefits and obligations of civil marriage but would have called the unions something else. But before voting on the measure, the Senate asked the court if the bill would comply with its ruling on Nov. 18. In its opinion of Feb. 4, the court said no. This court’s majority answer deserves a commensurately strong response, added Archbishop O’Malley.

The archbishop urged Catholics and all those who value the traditional, positive and forthright understanding of marriage to take action against the ruling by contacting their state senators and representatives to point out their concern and urge them to support an amendment to the state constitution that would define marriage as an institution for a man and woman only.

Speaking at a rally on Feb. 8 in support of traditional marriage, the archbishop told the crowd: We are not here, as some people have characterized this, for hate-mongering.... We are here because we are concerned about marriage and about family...good, strong marriage and family are good for our country, for society.

The legalization of same-sex marriage will not cause strong, loving marriages to fall apart, but it will influence how marriage and family are thought of in the future, said Archbishop O’Malley. Ideas are very powerful, and the law teaches, he said, noting that currently one-third of American children are born out of wedlock. If we redefine marriage, I can predict to you that in 10 or 20 years many more children will be born out of wedlock, many more divorces will take place, fewer people will be getting married because we will have weakened the institution of marriage.

Archbishop O’Malley went on to read a statement in support of marriage issued by more than 3,000 Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Greek Orthodox and Muslim congregations in Massachusetts. The court’s redefinition of marriage explicitly divorces the institution of marriage from the procreation and education of children, the statement warned. Despite the experience of all human cultures and the empirical data of sociological studies, the court ignores the fact that the stable, permanent relationship of a husband and wife is the optimal basis for child rearing.

On Feb. 11, the State Legislature voted down a proposed state constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Jesuit Journal Defends Vatican on Gay Marriages

In defense of a recent Vatican document against gay marriage, an influential Jesuit journal said homosexuals deserve respect and understanding, but that legally recognizing their unions would cause grave damage to society. The magazine, La Civiltà Cattolica, said in the issue of Feb. 7 that recent research confirms homosexuality as a condition clearly outside the limits of normal sexuality, with likely biological causes. This situation, it should be underlined, does not imply any responsibility or, even less, condemnation for those who find themselves involuntarily and truly in such a condition.

The Catholic Church is not against people who experience a state of suffering when...the orientation of the potent force that renders them man’ or woman’ becomes altered. On the contrary, it welcomes them with a deep sense of understanding, love and assistance, it said. However, when faced with certain trends in society, the church feels a duty to remind political leaders of the risks of grave damage that would result from conceding to homosexual couples the rights proper to marriage between a man and a woman.

The magazine’s articles are reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State prior to publication and are thought to reflect Vatican opinion.

Written by Angelo Serra, S.J., a retired professor of genetics and honorary member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the article reviewed recent research on homosexuality, especially by geneticists. Father Serra said the research increasingly has implicated genetic and other biological factors as important in the development of homosexuality in men and women. For many people homosexuality is an involuntary pathological state, he said, and they deserve the greatest respect.

The article suggested that for these people the biological or psychological sciences may eventually find a way to intervene and correct the situation, in order to give back to everyone the sense and dignity of a person capable of recognizing oneself as man’ or woman.’

The article said that even those who see their homosexual behavior as a natural right also deserve the greatest understanding, but that the church must clearly and forcefully state its arguments against their position. The claim to civil recognition of gay marriage reflects a culture that wants to elevate the right of absolute autonomy and limitless freedom, denying or refusing the value of a natural law whose principles ought to be recognized and accepted by a truly human society, it said.

Clergy Unite to Influence Supermarket Strike

Members of the clergy have become more involved in the California strike that has idled 70,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union at more than 850 supermarkets, including Safeway’s stores and the Kroger Company’s stores. Some are openly urging congregations not to cross the picket line. Other churches are adopting stores and helping striking families with food and rent.

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles faxed a letter on Jan. 28 to Safeway’s C.E.O. Steven Burd and to Ricardo Icaza, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, urging both men to return to the bargaining table and to negotiate in good faith until a fair contract is attained. Religious leaders from Jewish and Christian traditions have been issuing statements as the strike has progressed calling on Burd to reconsider workers’ demands for affordable health care.

Linda Gregory, who has worked for Safeway for 15 years, said she welcomed religious leaders offering their support. The 42-year-old mother of two said that the strike has been difficult. Financially we’re struggling. Emotionally we’re losing it. It’s a struggle to stay strong, she said. The Rev. Mike Gutierrez, pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church in Santa Monica, said the strike was about middle-class workers fighting to preserve their lifestyle. This is not a poor person’s strike, he said, adding that the middle class is becoming a vanishing breed.

News Briefs

Twenty-three priests in the Diocese of Rochester, like 35 of their peers in the Chicago Archdiocese several weeks earlier, issued an open letter criticizing the language of some church officials and documents regarding homosexuals. It called the documents’ language violent and abusive and expressed concern that Vatican stances were driving gay and lesbian Catholics from the church. The letter was especially critical of a Vatican document published in July opposing gay marriages. The document, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, called homosexuality a troubling moral and social phenomenon and a serious depravity and characterized the movement toward gay marriages as approval or legalization of evil.

The Motion Picture Association of America has given actor-director Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ an R rating because of its sequences showing graphic violence.

Testifying on the witness stand for five hours at his hit-and-run trial, retired Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien of Phoenix, Ariz., explained that even after he heard police were looking for him, he did not think he had really hit and killed a pedestrian.

After witnessing the aftermath of a massacre in northern Uganda, the head of the Rome-based MISNA news agency said the lack of media attention to Uganda’s decades-long rebel conflict was a sin. The killing, the devastation, it is absolute hell, said Giulio Albanese, of the Comboni Fathers. He visited a hospital where dozens of people were being treated after rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army attacked and burned the Abia refugee camp on Feb. 4. The majority of the people in the hospital had been cut into slices; they were in very serious condition and lacked so much blood. Those who could told us about the situation in the village, and they said there were others still there in need of help, he said.

The Vatican has completed a draft of a 150-page minicatechism and is sending the text to cardinals and bishops’ conferences for review, a Vatican source said.

The $17.6 billion funding of foreign aid in the U.S. omnibus appropriations bill signed into law on Jan. 23 is a significant victory, according to the U.S. bishops’ conference and Catholic Relief Services.

Zambian nuns and bishops have criticized the government for corruption and squandering the country’s limited resources. The Zambia Association of Sisterhoods said it was concerned that poverty levels are rising dramatically and the quality of life has deteriorated drastically in the country. We implore the government to do everything possible to alleviate the suffering of our people, the Zambian bishops’ conference said in a statement following its plenary meeting on Jan. 27-30.

Comments

Robert Zubek | 2/20/2004 - 11:05am
I was deeply disturbed by the tenor of the February the 23rd edition of your news section, "Signs of the Times." Between the anti-gay rally of Archbishop O’Malley, the report of an article by Angelo Serra, claiming homosexuality to be an "involuntary pathological state" and "a state of suffering", and anchored together with a picture of demonstrators carrying signs such as "homosexuality is not normal", the tone of the entire section was surprisingly mean-spirited.

I have always enjoyed America for your honest reasoning and nuanced understanding; the unexpected hostility towards the understanding of homosexuality, society, and faith, was the last thing I would expect from this publication. I can only hope it was a singular blunder.

Secondly, in regard to the news themselves - I was particularly saddened, though not surprised, by O’Malley’s remarks at the rally. The Archdiocese of Boston deserves a leader with great moral resolve, but surely not one who takes easy shots at defenseless innocents.

O’Malley’s claims that gay marriage hurts the family are as contradictory as they are headstrong. He claims that gay marriage goes against the family and the raising of children, but this is prima facie absurd: gays and lesbians seek marriage rights not merely to solidify lifelong monogamous relationships – a virtuous goal all by itself – but, more importantly, to support the rearing and education of their children. They struggle precisely for the good of the family. The least we can do is support these parents, and their children, in obtaining the tangible social benefits of civil marriage.

The Archbishop further insists that gay marriage will have disastrous effects on society – not anything concrete, of course, but vague threats of the weakening of the institution. His rhetoric is grounded in muddled, slippery-slope fallacies, and fails to demonstrate any real link between gay marriage and negative social effects. The truth of the matter is that no such link exists, and there is no rational reason to believe that gay marriage would be detrimental to anyone.

The gay marriage struggle is actually testament to the strength of marriage. Countless gays and lesbians have been willing to endure suffering and public humiliation, including from the Church hierarchy, in order to achieve the mere right to raise a family. They do not seek to weaken marriage, nor do they want to live in the world of rampant divorce and fatherless children - to even suggest that is laughable. They seek marriage to build stable and loving families, and it seems depraved to deny them for no good reason.

It is abhorrent that a Catholic bishop should frighten his flock with phantom threats and wrathfully sentence millions of innocent people to lifelong suffering. Signs of the times, indeed.

Robert Zubek | 2/20/2004 - 11:05am
I was deeply disturbed by the tenor of the February the 23rd edition of your news section, "Signs of the Times." Between the anti-gay rally of Archbishop O’Malley, the report of an article by Angelo Serra, claiming homosexuality to be an "involuntary pathological state" and "a state of suffering", and anchored together with a picture of demonstrators carrying signs such as "homosexuality is not normal", the tone of the entire section was surprisingly mean-spirited.

I have always enjoyed America for your honest reasoning and nuanced understanding; the unexpected hostility towards the understanding of homosexuality, society, and faith, was the last thing I would expect from this publication. I can only hope it was a singular blunder.

Secondly, in regard to the news themselves - I was particularly saddened, though not surprised, by O’Malley’s remarks at the rally. The Archdiocese of Boston deserves a leader with great moral resolve, but surely not one who takes easy shots at defenseless innocents.

O’Malley’s claims that gay marriage hurts the family are as contradictory as they are headstrong. He claims that gay marriage goes against the family and the raising of children, but this is prima facie absurd: gays and lesbians seek marriage rights not merely to solidify lifelong monogamous relationships – a virtuous goal all by itself – but, more importantly, to support the rearing and education of their children. They struggle precisely for the good of the family. The least we can do is support these parents, and their children, in obtaining the tangible social benefits of civil marriage.

The Archbishop further insists that gay marriage will have disastrous effects on society – not anything concrete, of course, but vague threats of the weakening of the institution. His rhetoric is grounded in muddled, slippery-slope fallacies, and fails to demonstrate any real link between gay marriage and negative social effects. The truth of the matter is that no such link exists, and there is no rational reason to believe that gay marriage would be detrimental to anyone.

The gay marriage struggle is actually testament to the strength of marriage. Countless gays and lesbians have been willing to endure suffering and public humiliation, including from the Church hierarchy, in order to achieve the mere right to raise a family. They do not seek to weaken marriage, nor do they want to live in the world of rampant divorce and fatherless children - to even suggest that is laughable. They seek marriage to build stable and loving families, and it seems depraved to deny them for no good reason.

It is abhorrent that a Catholic bishop should frighten his flock with phantom threats and wrathfully sentence millions of innocent people to lifelong suffering. Signs of the times, indeed.