Social Ills Linked to Marriage Equality? Really?

The new Catholic bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts, spoke against marriage equality, and seemed to name it as the cause for a variety of social ills.

Bishop Mitchell Rozanski

It seems odd that Bishop Mitchell Rozanski, formerly an auxiliary bishop in Baltimore, would use this opportunity to speak out a about a political issue which was decided 12 years ago in Massachusetts, when it became the first state to institute marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.

What’s even more surprising is, according to the report of the interview on, Rozanski brought up the topic of marriage in response to a question about social ills:

“In terms of secular culture, he said, today’s ‘crime, drugs, general lack of respect for one another, is really based on in the disintegration of family life.’

” ‘What we offer as Catholics is to strengthen the family as the basis of society. When there is a solid family life, there is less likelihood of crime, there is less likelihood of drug use. The children grow up with a solid foundation. And that is a foundation they can take all through their lives,’ Rozanski said. ‘And, as a Church, what we are saying is that God made us male and female, and that the institution of marriage is so crucial. It is a sacrament of the Church, if the sacrament is well lived, then the children and future generations will benefit.’ “

(You can read the entire interview here.)

Taken in this context, it seems like the bishop is including marriage for lesbian and gay people as part of the reason that many other aspects of society are disintegrating. The news reporter noted that Pope Francis has asked bishops not to “obsess” about gay marriage:

“Last September, Francis, in an interview, said abortion, contraception and gay marriage had become an “obsessed” focus in the Church.”

The reporter also noted that U.S. bishops have not followed this advice:

“U.S. bishops continue to speak out against abortion, oppose same sex marriages, and to support legislation that would ban them.”

From his statement, it looks like Bishop Rozanski fits this profile.

Besides the dubious connection of marriage equality to social ills, Rozanski’s comments are flawed in three more ways.

First, he attributes the major parts of society’s ills on the disintegration of the family.  While family problems almost certainly contribute to these problems, other problems such as unemployment, poverty, homelessness, untreated mental illness also are major contributing factors.  Why select a personal issue, such as family, and not one of these more social issues, to highlight the causes of society’s problems?

Second, while Rozanski may lament the disintegration of the family, he fails to recognize that marriage equality actually strengthens families rather than contributing to their disintegration.  Marriage equality provides protections for all families, not just those headed by heterosexual couples.  And marriage equality teaches respect for lesbian and gay people, which is an important factor in strengthening their families of origin.

Third, the bishop notes that marriage is a sacrament, but that is not a view that is shared by all people in our pluralistic nation.  While Catholics view marriage as a sacrament, others see it as purely a civil matter, governed by legal realities, not ecclesial or spiritual ones.   Confusion of church marriage with civil marriage is one of the most insidious strategies that marriage equality opponents employ.

Let’s pray that Bishop Rozanski’s tenure in Springfield, Massachusetts will be met with more enlightened and pastoral approaches to LGBT issues than he has already displayed.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

9 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    Oh, no! This guy is the newly appointed bishop whose jurisdiction includes the UMass Newman Catholic Center in Amherst, where I’m an active participant. One thing I can tell you is that Catholic students at the university are not going to accept this kind of nonsense. If he ever tries to push it, most of them will simply discontinue their active participation, and will be lost to the Church. I believe the correct term for what he’s doing is “counterproductive”, to put it mildly. I’ll keep our folks informed of future developments.

  2. Albert de zutter
    Albert de zutter says:

    What this bishop’s childish social analysis amounts to is: If everyone were brought up in ideal family circumstances according to his standards, then society would have fewer problems. Very possibly true, but completely unhelpful. It reminds me of the shrewd analysis of the right-wing Catholics’ favorite “expert,” George Weigel, who opined at the height of the coverage of the clergy sex scandals that the solution to the problem was for every priest to obey his clerical vows. Brilliant, no?

  3. Judith Navetta
    Judith Navetta says:

    Here we go again. Our bishops leave my head spinning while asking the question, “Did he really make that statement?” Being a retired teacher from a city where you were not asked what part of the city you came from, but what parish you came from I saw life unfolding in a very Catholic setting. Through the years I saw many, many, many children who came from undesirable homes and suffered through it. These were all part of the Catholic community there. While the bishops talk about “family life and family values” they never say not ALL families enjoy the Ossie and Harriet Nelson TV family life. Life happens and it’s not always pleasant! Being a heterosexual parent does NOT mean that your family life will be an asset to our society.

    Come on, Bishops…stop the discrimination and judgement. As a life-long Catholic and former religious I want to know why our Catholic bishops have such an obsession against the LGBT community. Bishops, listen to Pope Francis and don’t obsess. Be pastoral. Leave the comforts of your residences and be with us as we all struggle in our world today.


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  1. […] in Massachusetts, which legalized equal marriage a decade before, Rozanski told a reporter that marriage equality contributed to society’s disintegration like crime and substance […]

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