In an interview with USA Today‘s Richard Wolf, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who chairs the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, starts right off the bat by not answering the first question he’s asked: “What is the greatest threat posed by allowing gays and lesbians to marry?” His response: “The better question is: What is the great good in protecting the public understanding that to make a marriage you need a husband and a wife?”
He rephrased the question to his own liking rather than answer the question he was asked. This sets the tone for the entire interview: Catch me if you can. In a marriage (and in any relationship, whether with a child, a co-worker or a neighbor), we call this deflection. It is a hallmark of passive-aggressiveness; it’s a distance-creating strategy; and its use stonewalls any attempt at honest and effective communication. Every counselor worth his or her weight in wedding rings will tell you that using the Archbishop’s method to talk with your spouse is acid to your marriage.
Let’s look at how he answered his own question: To legalize marriage between two people of the same sex would enshrine in the law the principle that mothers and fathers are interchangeable or irrelevant, and that marriage is essentially an institution about adults, not children; marriage would mean nothing more than giving adults recognition and benefits in their most significant relationship.
Are there any single parents out there who take issue with this assertion? You should. He’s calling all of you out. If you’ve remarried, you’re treating the idea of a spouse as “interchangeable.” If you’ve not remarried (or married at all), you’re treating the idea of a spouse as “irrelevant.” He further states, “[…] a child’s heart longs for the love of both his or her mother and father. Even if the Supreme Court rules against this truth, the controversy will not die out…” If however, one of the parents dies, what then? He doesn’t say. He skirts the issue entirely.
Alas, single parents, you’re not alone in his scolding. He’s also calling out those who, for whatever reason, don’t have children. Being childless is treating marriage as “an institution about adults.” You should be having kids by whatever Church-sanctioned means you can muster. This includes all of you childless married folk and married folk who never had kids and are past childbearing age. You could adopt to keep your marriage from becoming adult-focused.
Those couples in heterosexual unions who regard their marriage as the foundation of the family and their children as an extension of their bond: You’re wrong, too. Get child-centric already. (And someone really should talk to the folks at the Catholic Church’s marriage restoration programs, Retrouvaille and Marriage Encounter, because they clearly aren’t on board with the whole idea of a marriage being child-centric.)
The more the Archbishop talks, the more apparent it becomes he’s not just against gay marriage; he is rigidly anti-marriage. He is only pro-child and this, in direct reflection of the Catholic Church’s teaching, can and must only take place within the confines of a Church-blessed union between a man and a woman – a union so narrowly defined by the Church that it excludes many devout Catholic couples who are married.
In direct reflection of the Catholic Church’s teaching, he makes the distinction between heterosexual married couples who can and can’t have children by saying the latter are an “exception to the rule.“ However, “When a husband and wife adopt, they are mirroring the pattern set in nature itself.” (No pressure?) And the reason same-sex couples are not part of the exception or acceptable adoptive parents: “Treating same-sex relationships as marriage is the final severing by government of the natural link between marriage and the great task of bringing together male and female to make and raise the next generation together in love.” To repeat a key phrase here: “final severing.” He doesn’t say what natural links were severed prior to this “final severing,” and in those states and countries where gay marriage is allowed, he offers no proof of it having severed anything.
All this, ladies and gentlemen, is from someone who has never married a human being and has never had children. Additionally, when he received the sacrament of Holy Orders, he entered into a marriage with Christ – a man. Not only is he one of many, many (male and female) spouses of Christ, his union with Christ has borne no children. (I was raised Catholic and was told by the priests and nuns serving my school within my parish that they were married to Christ, so anyone seeking to correct me on this point would be better served by talking to every priest and nun who told me as much.)
The Archbishop has failed to do his homework and/or simply does not believe what he has been told or read when answering the question, “If the Supreme Court opens the floodgates to gay marriage in California (or beyond), what will be the result?” His prophecy is that “We will have a bitterly polarized country divided on the marriage issue for years if not generations to come.“ He is already wrong and has been for some time.
He further compares the defense of marriage as a man/woman only gig to the civil rights movement, which is at best incongruous. The civil rights movement resulted in rights being made law. If the Defense of Marriage camp gets its way, a denial of rights will be law.
The Archbishop again deflects the need to answer when asked, “Why is this of such importance to children?” Instead he responds with his own question: “Why has virtually every known civilization across time and history recognized the need to bring together men and women to make and raise the next generation together?”
His answer to his own carefully crafted question? “Clearly something important is at stake, or human beings of such different cultures, histories and religions would not come up with the basic idea of marriage as a male-female union over and over again.” Wait a minute. As early as Genesis 2:22-24, the Bible clearly states marriage is a divinely-inspired idea; not a human idea. It doesn’t even matter what other “cultures, histories and religions” have to say on the matter. It’s right there in the Bible: Marriage is God’s idea. Way to violate copyright law on the grandest scale ever, Archbishop.
He says, “We all know heroic single mothers who do a great job raising their kids (just as there are gay people who take good care of their children). But the question of the definition of marriage is not about success or failure in parenting in any particular case.“ He then explains, in detail, the nature of the very failure he just denied is part of the equation: “The job of single mothers is hard precisely because we aren’t as a society raising boys to believe they need to become faithful husbands and fathers, men who care for and protect their children, and the mother of their children, in marriage. And we aren’t raising girls to be the kind of young women with the high standards and the self-worth to expect and appreciate such men, and not to settle for less.“
I personally take great offense to what the Archbishop has said because my sister is a Catholic single mother who has done an exceptional job of raising her child and has done so within a community of both fellow Catholics and non-Catholics that includes single parents. She has succeeded in teaching her child all that the Archbishop strongly insinuates can’t be taught by just one parent and is instead a built-in failure of single parenting. My sister doesn’t take issue with what the Archbishop has said, and that’s her choice. His choice, however, to use people like my sister as an example of why gay marriage is wrong and to further do so by lambasting people’s circumstances and decisions, like my sister’s, is beyond the pale.
I’ll leave it to you to read (or re-read) and decide if the rest of what the Archbishop has to say holds any holy water. I give you one final quote from him, a George Bush-esque comment about heterosexual and homosexual marriage: “Whoever is for one, is opposed to the other.”