Archbishop Cordileone Asks Senators to Vote Against Enshrining Marriage Equality into Law

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

A U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) committee chair has written to U.S. Senators asking them to vote against the Respect for Marriage Act should it come before them.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who chairs the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, wrote the July 22nd letter to senators ahead of a possible vote on the Respect for Marriage Act, which has passed the House of Representatives already, with bi-partisan support.

In his letter, Cordileone called the Act an “unnecessary bill to create a statutory right to same-sex civil marriage.” He rejected claims that marriage equality was threatened after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which ended the constitutional right to abortion care and has caused many advocates to worry LGBTQ rights could be the court’s conservative wing’s next target, as hinted at by Justice Clarence Thomas in a.concurring decision in the case.

Cordileone also stated that enshrining marriage equality into law would lead to different forms of discrimination, opining:

“[G]overnments continue to use marriage redefinition laws to threaten the conscience and religious freedom of individuals such as wedding vendors, and entities such as foster care and other social service providers, who seek to serve their communities without being punished for their longstanding and well-founded beliefs. This bill would lend weight to those efforts and further marginalize ‘millions of reasonable and sincere people.'”

The archbishop also speculated that civil marriage rights for same-gender couples would lead to recognition of polyamorous partners, writing:

“The ‘Respect for Marriage Act,’ would do the opposite of what its name implies, codifying a demand for states and the federal government to honor whatever may be deemed ‘marriage’ by any other state. The concern that the bill could require federal recognition of ‘marriages’ of more than two persons is not far-fetched, as at least three cities in Massachusetts have already legally enshrined so-called polyamorous domestic partnerships. By making federal recognition of such relationships automatic upon their recognition by any state, the bill would create a massive incentive for radical activists to concentrate their efforts in a single state – further lending plausibility to this potentially disastrous scenario.”

It has been seven years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision legalized marriage equality nationwide. While the bishops and their conservative allies keep litigating over alleged discrimination and religious liberty claims, surveys consistently show that most people in the U.S. now consider equal marriage rights a positive development. Meanwhile, the bishops’ opposition to marriage equality cost the church millions of dollars and weakened its credibility.

It is plausible the Supreme Court’s right wing justices will seek to upend LGBTQ rights now. Church leaders like Archbishop Cordileone should reconsider whether this fight is one worth re-engaging. They would do better to focus on real injustices, like threats to democracy and climate change, instead.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, July 28, 2022

6 replies
  1. Paul Morrissey
    Paul Morrissey says:

    Thank you.
    So many people, especially the young, have left the Church because of this concentration on LGBTQ issues as though they were actually a threat, and as though this is the only issue–that is, sex–that Catholics get our identity from.

  2. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    While I have long given up hope that the cardinal of San Francisco is deserving of any respect, I really must ask that whoever advises him on dress remember that this is not the 1550s or even the 1950s and if he wants to be taken seriously he needs to dress the part. What is with the out-sized miter and the white gloves? His brother cardinals and even the Pope don’t dress this way. If his statements weren’t so hateful, I would forgive him for being such an out of style joke. Jesus wept.

  3. Steven G Stencil
    Steven G Stencil says:

    U.S. Catholic Bishops do more to divide Catholic families, parishes & schools then invite them to come together as a welcoming community. The U.S. Bishops can learn much from the Episcopalian Bishops and come down from their self-proclaimed loftiness of righteousness and lack of compassion. So many Catholic bishops & prieats are totally caught up in their dysfunctional psychosexual development since their youth, and the People of God continue to suffer as a result.

  4. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    While the Cardinal is entitled to his opinion, I find it odd that he does not seem to grasp that marriage is a Civil function. Any couple wishing to marry must obtain a Marriage License from a governmental agency, i.e. , a County Office. Marriage in a religious setting can only take place with license in hand.

  5. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    I appreciate the generous place from which Thomas Ellison comes to say that the Cardinal has a right to his opinion, but I must challenge that right when it is publicly presented. An opinion that only effects the Cardinal is one thing, but the cardinal’s freedom to have an opinion must stop when he speaks as an authority and condemns the right of others to live their lives in peace. He wishes harm on others (that they might benefit from a state authorized marriage) with no supporting argument and that is not a right I would grant him.

    DON E SIEGAL says:

    On Roman Catholic and Anglian-Lutheran Episcopal Polity

    Within the episcopal polity of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops—indeed all episcopies of both the Western and Eastern Rites of the Roman and Orthodox Churches—is a principal of an obedience to the bishop. This comes from the overlay of civil “Constantinian” civil authority of the Roman Empire from 305 until 363 CE. This primacy of civil authority is exercised even over the authority of the Universal Church.

    One can see and hear it in the text of the Rites of Holy Orders whether they be for the transitional or permanent diaconate, the priesthood, or the rite of consecration of a new bishop. The candidate for Holy Orders always prostrate themselves to the conferring bishop or metropolitan.

    On the other hand, within the episcopal polity of the Anglian (Episcopalian – U.S.A.) communion of the universal church and the members of the episcopal polity of the World Lutheran Federation communion of the universal church is service to the entire universal church. Again, this emphasis is in the texts of the ordination rites of these communions of the universal church.

    Remember, Vatican Council II stated in “Lumen gentium,” the fundamental document on the Church, that the universal church “subsit in” the Roman Catholic Church that means to have existence within. The broad implication of this statement is, if the universal church can exist in the Roman Catholic Church, it can also exist in all the other communions of the universal church. The alt-right of the Roman Catholic Church do not accept this new Vatican II Council description of the universal church.

    That was a radical change from the previous belief that the universal church “subsit” the Roman Catholic Church, meaning that universal church “is” the Roman Catholic Church.


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