The press has attempted at times to suggest that there is a cozy relationship between the US Bishops and the White House. But the statement released by Abp. Timothy Dolan today could not make it any more clear that, at least on the issue of marriage, the bishops and the President hold opposing views:
The announcement on February 23 that the President has instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is an alarming and grave injustice.
… DOMA is not “unjust discrimination”; rather, it merely affirms and protects the time-tested and unalterable meaning of marriage. The suggestion that this definition amounts to “discrimination” is grossly false and represents an affront to millions of citizens in this country.
Abp. Dolan’s full statement is well worth reading. He goes on to say that the decision “does not stand the test of common sense” and that “protecting the definition of marriage is not merely permissible, but actually necessary as a matter of justice”:
Having laws that affirm the vital importance of mothers and fathers—laws that reinforce, rather than undermine, the ideal that children should be raised by their own mother and father—is essential for any just society. Those laws serve not only the good of the spouses and their children, but the common good. Those laws are now under relentless attack. If we forget the meaning of marriage, we forget what it means to be a human person, what it means to be a man or a woman. Have we wandered away so far in our society as to forget why men and women matter, and eroded the most central institution for our children and for our future?
Dolan continues in this vein:
The Administration’s current position is not only a grave threat to marriage, but to religious liberty and the integrity of our democracy as well. Our nation and government have the duty to recognize and protect marriage, not tamper with and redefine it, nor to caricature the deeply held beliefs of so many citizens as “discrimination.” On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I express my deep disappointment over the Administration’s recent decision.
He concludes by noting that he has written Obama personally about these concerns and will continue to pray that the President and the Department of Justice will reverse course.
The simple point here is that there is no “middle ground” between the bishops and the President on the issue of marriage. Obama has said, through his instructions to the Department of Justice, that he believes the traditional understanding of marriage – understood by Catholics and a majority of Americans – is tantamount to bigotry and discrimination. That’s a big deal.
I should note in passing that the Catholyc group “Catholics for Equality” published an open letter to Archbishop Dolan accusing him of “bearing false witness” in this debate. For good measure, they also go after Archbishop Timothy Broglio.
At least the boundaries of this debate are becoming unavoidably clear: in the view of the opposing side, belief in marriage is “bearing false witness,” bigotry, and discrimination. To hold anything different about marriage is … well, to be Catholic.