Wednesday, December 10, 2008

“Pastoral Message To Homosexual Catholics in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles”

Gay activists at the Vatican December 6, 2008.
Not to be outdone by the Archbishop of San Francisco, his counterpart in Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, and his six auxiliary bishops have issued their own apologia for supporting Proposition 8.

They posted their “Pastoral Message to Homosexual Catholics in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles” on the archdiocesan website December 3 and in the online version of The Tidings, the archdiocesan newspaper, on December 5.

The December 3rd posting offers complete .pdf versions in English and Spanish. They are followed by a 19-page appendix in English that tries to support a central argument of the document: that the Hebrew scriptures, the Christian Scriptures and the Muslim Koran have always understood marriage “as the life-long relationship of a man and a woman ordered to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of their children.”

The appendix includes: four pages of “Jewish Scripture References to Marriage,” one page of “Christian References to Marriage,” and 12 pages of “Qur’an References to Marriage” (the last made available in English, Arabic, English transliteration of the Arabic, and listening-reciting versions in three Arabic dialects).

A final page of the appendix tries to document another key theme—that “California affords domestic partnerships most of the same rights and responsibilities as marriages under state law (Cal. Fam. Code §297.5).” It duplicates a Wikipedia list of those rights.

The pastoral message is effusive in repeatedly assuring gay Catholics “that you are cherished members of the Catholic Church;” that “passage of Proposition 8…does not diminish in any way the importance of you, our homosexual brothers and sisters in the Church;” that “Proposition 8 was never intended, directly or indirectly, to lessen the value and importance of gay and lesbian persons;” and that “We are committed to find ways to eliminate discrimination against homosexual persons…”

However, like the apologia from San Francisco, the Los Angeles statement never addresses the California Supreme Court’s finding that refusal to call the state’s domestic partnerships marriages rendered them lesser arrangements, which denied gay partners first-class citizenship with equivalent rights under the state constitution.

Moreover, to claim that the three monotheistic world religions have an identical understanding of marriage today, or that their understanding has been identical in the past, is a canard both inaccurate and dishonest. The most obvious contrast is the historic encouragement of polygamy by Jews and Muslims, and the contemporary belief by at least some Muslim males that their reward in heaven will include endless polygamous bliss.

Compounding that inaccuracy, the document announces that “‘Marriage’ is not merely a religious concept, but is so fundamental to human experience that it cannot be redefined legally." This does violence to several facts, including: (1) that marriage has been redefined legally in numerous times and places over centuries; (2) that the California Supreme Court found that marriage had already been redefined by the California State Constitution as a set of rights to which all couples were entitled; and (3) that Proposition 8 itself was yet another effort to redefine marriage legally.

Those three misrepresentations speak much more loudly than the pastoral commitment the bishops claim to have toward gay people. And, like the Archbishop of San Francisco, the L.A. bishops never considered if the California Supreme Court’s finding could be remedied by some equitable alternative instead of Proposition 8, or how they plan to achieve equity if the Court allows Proposition 8 to remain in the state constitution.

It does not help that Cardinal Mahony, the lead signer of the pastoral message, has also been accused numerous times and in multiple venues of facilitating and failing to stop the activity of hundreds of pedophile priests in Stockton and Los Angeles, and that he and the archdiocese have agreed to a $660 million settlement with 508 victims.

Adding insult to those injuries, Mahony joined Catholic officials in Rome to scapegoat gay priests as the main perpetrators of the pedophilia, when it is well known that the preponderance of male pedophiles are heterosexuals with arrested emotional or psychological development, many of them also abused as children.

Meanwhile, in a timely rejoinder to the religious thinking behind Proposition 8, Newsweek posted on December 6 one of the cover stories of its December 15 edition, which focuses on gay rights. In a link to the article yesterday, MSNBC characterized it aptly as a religious argument for gay marriage.

The authors do an excellent job contrasting what the Hebrew and Christian Bibles say about marriage with the definition of marriage that Catholics, Mormons and other religious-right devotees imposed on California November 4.

After offering several specific examples that do not support the Proposition 8 model, they conclude:

“First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else's—to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes.”

They add: “We cannot look to the Bible as a marriage manual, but we can read it for universal truths as we struggle toward a more just future. The Bible offers inspiration and warning on the subjects of love, marriage, family and community. It speaks eloquently of the crucial role of families in a fair society and the risks we incur to ourselves and our children should we cease trying to bind ourselves together in loving pairs.”

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