For all of the political drama in New York these past weeks, last night’s historic vote in favor of gay marriage by the NYS Senate was actually rather anti-climactic. It was a fight over political and philosophical nomenclature, not over new realities. As the losing side licks its wounds this morning, we should realize that we didn’t lose as much as we think we did last night. We’ve been losing it for decades.
What we call the lived reality that is marriage is important. The name indicates the reality. Nomen est omen, as it is said in latin. “The name is the sign.” What really happened here in New York last night was a recognition that for thirty years we have given the lived reality of marriage to gays and lesbians, by systematically giving them all of the goods and privileges reserved to married people.
There was little, if any, protest as sodomy laws were struck down, when gay/lesbian adoptions were legalized, when partners were entitled to shared employment benefits hitherto reserved for spouses, etc. Society used to reserve these goods for those men and women willing to make a lifetime commitment to one another. What were once rights became entitlements in a nation increasingly debilitated by narcissism and a faux egalitarianism.
We have allowed what was once a brush fire to build to a forest fire that is now raging across the American landscape. Fueling that fire has been the same surrender of marital goods and privileges to cohabiting heterosexuals as well. Add to that no-fault divorce and the all-out war on the greatest of all the goods of marriage:
The abortion of over 53 million babies, because people have been enjoying the sex, but were not prepared mentally, emotionally, or economically to embrace the obvious outcome. Children are the greatest of all the blessings of marriage, yet have been treated as mere accessories by people aping marriage.
This isn’t the fault of gays and lesbians so much as it is our fault for allowing it to happen. Consider the following.
Kansas is poised to become the first state in the nation that is abortion-free. They are down to their last one or two clinics. Juxtapose that with New York, the abortion capital of the nation.
In New York City, 41% of all pregnancies end in abortion (60% among African-Americans).
In New York City, we just passed a law (Bill 371) that targets crisis pregnancy centers, with NARAL NY’s stated goal of shutting them down.
In New York State from 2000-2010, we aborted three times as many babies as the state grew by, losing two seats in Congress as a result of the demographic decline.
New York State pays for over 45,000 abortions per year through Medicaid.
The Catholic Church has been largely missing in action since the death of Cardinal O’Connor. In the fight over Bill 371, there was one priest who showed to give testimony to the New York City Council, Father Peter Pilsner. No religious brothers or sisters. At a rally in Harlem over the bill, there were a few priests who turned out, and that was it. There was no mention of the bill by any bishops in Brooklyn, New York, or Rockville Centre, in the five months of fighting, until a joint statement by Bishop DiMarzio of Brooklyn, and Archbishop Dolan the night before the City Council vote.
To their credit, those missing in action over Bill 371 turned out to fight the gay marriage proposal. However, it was to little, too late. Catholic clergy have been loathe to engage these issues from the pulpit. “Too political,” is the mantra. It wasn’t too political for the Holy Spirit and His partner, Blessed John Paul II, who gave us all the tools we need to reclaim an authentic Christian civilization. Yet, I have never heard a priest discuss any of JP II’s teaching in any substantive manner from the pulpit, or in any adult education program. The disconnect has been breathtaking.
So, while last night’s vote was nothing new in the Rotten Apple, it does portend very bad things to come for the Church. As elsewhere, we will be targets of discrimination suits and run out of the adoption business if we refuse to place children with gay and lesbian couples. We will eventually be accused of bigotry for failing to do gay/lesbian weddings, and our clergy will lose their civil faculties to witness at weddings on behalf of the state. This will force Catholics into requiring two wedding ceremonies: one church, one civil.
If our clergy thought that fighting these forces was “too political,” in the past, the fight will now become one that is existential in the future. Our clergy now face a line drawn in the sand. Retreat from that line, and see the church continue to be coopted, as a majority of New York Catholics favors gay rights, or cross that line and fight for all we are worth.
We haven’t fought for all we are worth, because we have lost sight of our worth. Perhaps if there is a silver lining at all in last nights events, it’s that we have now opened the door to that discussion within the Church. It will be interesting to see how many bishops and their priests are willing to pursue that discussion.