The Catholic Factor of Proposition 8

The reaction of the Catholic hierarchy to the news yesterday that a federal court has declared California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional has been, predictably, negative.  After all, the hierarchy, aided by over a million dollars from the Knights of Columbus, worked so furiously to get Proposition 8’s constitutional ban against marriage equality passed into law.

Bishop Gerald E. Wilkerson, president of the California Catholic Conference, and auxiliary bishop from Los Angeles, issued a response yesterday which included the following:

“We are disappointed by the ruling today by a panel of the Ninth Circuit that would invalidate the action taken by the people of California affirming that marriage unites a woman and a man and any children from their union. However, given the issues involved and the nature of the legal process, it’s always been clear that this case would very likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Marriage between one man and one woman has been—and always will be—the most basic building block of the family and of our society.”

But a reaction from an usher at Our Lady of Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles may indicate better where Catholics in the pew stand on this issue–even those who initially voted for Proposition 8.  Ruben Garcia is quoted on the public radio website,

” ‘As a parishioner and a Catholic and a married man, I do believe in the sanctity of marriage,’ Garcia said, ‘and I do believe that it should be between a man and a woman, but I’m torn because I also believe in the separation of church and state.’ “

Cathy Lynn Grossman, religion editor at USA Today, posted a story on their website that contains a variety of religious reactions to yesterday’s court decision, including that of Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who called the ruling a “grave injustice.”

The possibility that this ruling will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court would put the fate of marriage equality into the hands of Catholics, who currently make up a  six-person majority on the Court (Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor).  Though many of the news reports on the decision made it seem like a U.S. Supreme Court case on the matter is likely, Adam Nagourney’s article in The New York Times  was more cautionary in outlook:

“Both sides in the case made clear that they intended to take the case before the Supreme Court in hopes of prompting it to settle once and for all an issue that has been fought out in courts, legislatures and ballot boxes since at least a 1971 case in Minnesota. That said, there is no guarantee the court will take it. The narrow parameters of the ruling’s reasoning — and the fact that it was written to apply only to California — may prompt the court to wait for a clearer dispute before weighing in.”

Though this case temporarily provides a victory for the marriage equality movement in California, there is still work of reconciliation work to be done in the Catholic Church there.  In a post two weeks ago, I mentioned that a California friend told me that the hierarchy’s heavily funded campaign to pass Proposition 8 has had a harmful effect on the pastoral life of LGBT Catholics and their allies in California.  Many have become alienated from the church and left it because of the vociferous anti-gay nature of the campaign and its rhetoric.  While the hierarchy has been focused on the political nature of the marriage debate, it’s time that they started to look at the pastoral component of it, too, and begin the much needed work of reconciliation–for the good of the entire church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry






0 replies
  1. Steve
    Steve says:

    I don’t know….maybe we should first try explaining to people that thousands of years ago marriage was a political movement, not religious one and Jesus never really said that all men must marry women and live together on Pine Drive in a nice house with a picket fence?

    From my perspective, the Catholic Catechism needs to be changed and other forms of regulation in other denominations also need serious revisions. If you examine them closely, you find that Jesus didn’t teach many of the things we hold so tightly and defend to the death today — one of them being this marriage issue. It’s sad that the Buddhists and Taoists understand Jesus more than we do. They just don’t go where we go with some of this crazy nonsense.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] and lesbian couples, but could pave the way for a Supreme Court decision. (This decision joins an earlier federal court decision supporting marriage equality in California this past year which also makes a Supreme Court review […]

  2. […] The Catholic Factor of Proposition 8 ( […]

  3. […] ” As a parishioner and a Catholic and a married man, I do believe in the sanctity of marriage,’ Garcia said, ‘and I do believe that it should be between a man and a woman, but I’m torn because I also believe in the separation of church and state. “ That may be the crux of the argument. Catholics are twisted by the legal/moral argument of the hierarchy- if it’s immoral, it must be/become illegal. The problem in a deomocratic society is this: morals cannot be legislated effectively as representative of the entire population- because they are not representative of the entire population. Despite what bishops want to believe, the reality is that morals are not universal- there is no clear agreement on any number of moral issues. And ignoring reality by trying to persuade by legislation will only make the remaining few points of agreement much less accessible. Full post here. […]

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