Archbishop Dolan on Same-Sex 'Marriage' Vote

Speaks of David and Goliath fight, Catholic politicians and the ‘heresy’ of ‘personally opposed but,’ and the role of conscience.

New York state has been teetering on the edge of redefining marriage. With just days, and possibly hours, left before the overextended state Legislature calls it quits for the summer, the Republican leadership in the state Senate is still deciding whether to bring a same-sex “marriage” bill to the floor for a vote.

The state’s most prominent Catholic, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, has been lobbying lawmakers on the issue and speaking out against a radical redefinition of marriage. He spoke about his experience last night, during a reception at his residence behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan; the reception was for the Catholic aid agency Fidesco. At the same time, President Obama was addressing a homosexual-rights fundraiser in New York, and the Senate in Albany was still deadlocked over the issue.

Archbishop Dolan, in a conversation with Register news editor John Burger, made his remarks before state Sen. Greg Ball, one of a few undecided Republicans, announced that he would vote “No” for the measure, bringing the tally to 31 in favor, 29 opposed and two undecided.

We’ve been following what you’ve been saying on your blog and in Catholic New York about the same-sex “marriage” bill. Can you tell me about any experiences you’ve have lobbying legislators, the governor, etc.

It’s very discouraging because the opposition is very well oiled, very well financed. They have all the elites behind them, whether it be the TV talk shows or radio or newspaper columnists. It’s a real David and Goliath battle.

They also claim to speak for the overwhelming majority of people, but they wouldn’t accept my invitation: perhaps to go to Staten Island and visit some backyard barbecues and sense what the people really believe.

And they also run scared about the idea of a referendum. So they will speak to us about an imposition of our views upon them, and this really seems to be a legislative imposition upon the will of the people. I mean, even their early predictions that this was going to be an easy overwhelming victory, and after weeks and weeks and weeks, they’re still tied, 31-31.

Thank God people are standing solid. I know that the governor [Andrew Cuomo] — I mean he’s a shrewd politician, and I have to say that with a certain amount of envy and admiration — but you talk about twisting arms, you talk about using every political tool in the book; he’s doing it, and he’s doing it effectively.

I’m particularly upset that they seem to have been successful in reducing this to a matter of gay rights, where it has nothing to do with it. After Sunday Mass, one of the reporters said, “I talked to two of your people coming in who said you were going to speak out against this legislation to redefine marriage, and they said they were against that. Do you know that some of your people aren’t behind you?” I said, “If you ask people if they are for fair treatment of gays, which you probably did, they’re going to say ‘Yes.’ If you ask people if they’re [for] a radical redefinition of marriage, they’re going to say ‘No.’ Tell me how you phrase the question.”

Because it’s just like the pro-abortionists, who have been very slick in reducing this to a question of “pro-choice”; they’ve reduced it to a question of gay rights. I said to the press last week, “This isn’t gay rights; it has nothing to do with it. If a [heterosexual] wanted the state Legislature to accommodate his desire to have his relationship with two women declared a marriage, we’d be against it. We’re not talking about anti-anybody; we’re talking about pro-marriage. You don’t redefine marriage — a given — just to accommodate people’s lifestyle.” But we have been less than effective in winning that battle.

I’m particularly disappointed in that, once again, the terribly illogical heresy of “personally opposed but have to do this” seems to be dominating some of our Catholic politicians. How in the world, as I said on the feast of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, you could have some Catholic politicians say they’re following their conscience. The heroes of conscience are people like John Fisher and Thomas More. You bet they followed their conscience — a properly formed conscience in conformity with divine revelation and the teaching of the Church. Everybody follows their own conscience. Pol Pot followed his own conscience. We’re talking about a properly formed conscience.

They talk about us imposing our values on others. Who’s imposing on what? We have a set definition of marriage that has been part of the human endeavor from time immemorial. They’re imposing a radically new understanding of that upon something that has served as the bulwark of civilization for thousands and thousands of years.

They talk about bullying? I haven’t seen anybody on our side resort to name calling or threats, but Lord knows they’ve been bullying us.

So it’s been somewhat frustrating.

Have New York Catholics been active on this issue?

I’m immensely grateful for the strong Catholic opposition. … When I will talk to legislators, they will say, “Archbishop, you need to know your people have been extraordinarily effective in bringing their voice to this, and it has not gone unnoticed in the state Capitol. One legislator said the Legislature got over 40,000 emails from Catholics protesting this. That is phenomenal. I think that is what has staved it off this long.

We have a growing fear now — and God knows what’s going to happen — that not only our opposition to this bill on principle will be dismissed, but now the legitimate apprehensions about threats to religious freedom are being dismissed. Because some people are saying, “Oh, you don’t even need that.” Others are saying, “We’ll do a chapter amendment.” Which, you know what that is; that’s awful. After the bill is passed, they’ll say, “Okay, now let’s have a second bill to guard religious freedom — as if our opponents are going to vote for that. That’s totally dismissive.

So, once again, it’s the sentiments of people of faith that seem to be trampled.

It seems that this is going to go through, though, if not this year, eventually. What are your plans for continuing the fight against it?

[The push for same-sex “marriage”] will be relentless, but one wonders. You look back at the Equal Rights Amendment 30 years ago. Remember everybody said this is inevitable; it’s going to pass. It faded away. If every chic cause is going to result in some legislative retampering of what we hold dearest, we’re in big trouble. Sometimes we are dismissed as these chicken littles, who, you know, they say, “Why are you so scared?” I say, “Well, you remember Roe v. Wade? Pro-lifers stood up and said, ‘Mark my words, this is going to lead to infanticide.’ And they laughed at us and said ‘How paranoid can you get?’ And of course it’s true.” You’d like to get a big microphone and yell out, “We told you so.”

And that’s what’s going to happen here. You think it’s going to stop with this? You think now bigamists are going to want their rights to marry? You think somebody that wants to marry his sister is going to now say “I have a right”? I mean, it’s the same principle, isn’t it?

I worry too about government intrusion. On my blog I said this seems to have a lot of traction in places like North Korea and Cuba and China. They’re used to government butting in and telling you, “We’ll tell you what your values are. We’ll tell you what marriage is. We’ll tell you what family is. We’ll tell you what human life is. We’ll tell you what a home means. We’ll tell you where you can live. We’ll tell you where you can work. That’s antithetical to everything the American project stands for. And yet that’s what we’ve got: the government now butting into the most intimate, sacred defined principles of human existence.

The irony is, in a place like China, they would never redefine marriage like this.

Well, they redefine what human life is, see, when you think about it. If you can say the life of the baby in the womb isn’t a human life, where are you going to stop? No wonder you go to marriage. Next thing you know, they’re going to say there’s four outs to every inning of baseball. This is crazy.

Francisco de Zurbarán, “The Family of the Virgin,” ca. 1650

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