Catholic Gov. to Sign IL Civil Unions Law

Lest anyone is tempted to think all is well politically in America, look no further than Illinois.  In a shameless rushed lame-duck maneuver, the Illinois legislature rammed through a new law approving so called “civil unions” yesterday.  Even worse, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, a Catholic, helped strong arm legislators into passing the bill, and now intends to sign it.

Newly installed Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki fired back at Gov. Quinn after he argued that his faith was a principal motivation for backing the legislative effort:

“If the governor wishes to pursue a secular agenda for political purposes, that is his prerogative for which he is accountable to the voters. But if he wishes to speak as a Catholic, then he is accountable to Catholic authority, and the Catholic Church does not support civil unions or other measures that are contrary to the natural moral law,” Paprocki said.

Predictably, Quinn dodged the substance of Bishop Paprocki’s critique:

“I follow my conscience. I think everyone should do that. I think that’s the most important thing to do in life, and my conscience is not kicking me in the shins today,” the governor told reporters.

Peter Breen of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society was on the ground in Springfield battling the anti-marriage guns.  The exasperation in an e-mail message from him today was palpable:

I can’t begin to describe to you how differently the other side views the world we live in, how the other side understands the words “justice,” “faith,” and “love.”

The folks on the other side continuously invoked God and faith as their true justification for passage of this bill, one of their representatives even calling for her fellow members to “vote with the angels.” The Governor himself, a practicing Catholic, asserted in the local newspaper that, “My religious faith animates me to support this bill.”

Illinois’ actions this week reportedly came in response to heavy funding from homosexual marriage advocates who helped soften the impact of the November elections by dumping needed cash into multiple state races last month.

Political payoffs are standard business here in Chicago and Illinois.  But some argue, and I think persuasively, that Illinois isn’t your typical east or west coast ‘blue state.’  Republicans win races for high offices, and Midwest “family values” haven’t been entirely destroyed.  In fact, most of the state, outside of Chicago, is strongly pro-life and pro-marriage.  But alas, despite the fact that the state is practically bankrupt, enough legislators believed their time was best spent redefining marriage.

On a brighter note, the controversy did force the issue to the fore among those vying for the Chicago mayoral election next year.  While Rahm Emanuael reportedly made several calls to legislators in support of the law, Democratic candidate and State Senator Rev. James Meeks didn’t mince words:

“I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. This bill is a marriage bill,” Meeks said.

Asked if he thought his vote would damage his standing among gay and lesbian voters and others who favor civil unions, Meeks said, “I don’t know. But I believe in the sanctity of marriage. Perhaps it will help among everybody who believes in the sanctity of marriage.”



  • Phil

    I don’t get the Catholic position on this.

    You oppose same-sex marriage. And then you also oppose civil unions? Is it your position that gay men and women in the U.S. who aren’t Catholic should be forced to live as close to a Catholic lifestyle as you can force them to live? Don’t citizens have a right to not be Catholic, and to not live the way Catholics live, and to not believe what Catholics believe? What happened to the Catholic doctrine of free will? Is it now the Church position that the state should try to nudge free will in the direction of Catholicism, whether or not a given citizen believes any part of your faith?

    • Elaine

      “Don’t citizens have a right to not be Catholic, and to not live the way Catholics live, and to not believe what Catholics believe?”

      Yes, citizens who are not Catholic have a right to not believe or practice as Catholics do. However, CATHOLICS have a duty to uphold their faith at all times to the best of their ability.

      When Catholics who are public figures cite their faith as the very reason why they have gone out of their way to promote something CONTRARY to their faith (such as abortion or same-sex marriage), church authorities have every right to point out where they have gone wrong, and clear up any confusion or scandal that may result. This is not so much a question of constitutional or statutory law as it is simply making sure that the officeholder’s actions don’t give other Catholics the wrong idea.

      • Phil

        Elaine, you’re saying that making something legal is the same thing as promoting it. If a Catholic politician signed a bill that gave people the right to worship any gods that they choose, would you say that politician was “promoting” pantheism? Do Catholic politicians have an obligation to ban everything that is not consistent with Catholic faith?

  • Jason

    “Follow your conscience” is just a fancy way to assert moral relativism, which is ultimately to deny morality altogether.

    • marv!!!

      Jason, our conscience is our connection to Jesus and therefore to God. To not follow our conscience is a breach of ourselves and our own humanity.
      There are those who have totally dis-connected from their conscience and these people do the worst crimes against humanity from murder to rape to massive white collar crime that steals hard earned money from everyone.
      I applaud the Governor for upholding himself rather than to bow down to an outside “authority.”

      • Tom Crowe

        So then, Marv, you would also have applauded Hitler for following his conscience? Or are some people’s definitions of truth and therefore their consciences so warped that they ought not follow their conscience? And if that is the case, what is your barometer for determining what behavior is laudable and what is not? (And be careful not to appeal to any outside “authority” since you discount those). I know: “blah, blah, blah,” right?

      • JE Kaufman

        Remind me what Jesus had to say about same sex relationships, or same sex marriage, or homosexuality? Oh right — not one word.

        Any church, synagogue, mosque, or other house of worship is free not to conduct or sanctify a marriage between two people of the same gender. But this is different than the state acknowledging a relationship in this way and providing the hundreds of benefits (e.g. right to visit one’s loved one in the hospital without argument; inheritance rights; health coverage) that a marriage between a woman and a man triggers.

        The United States of America is not a Jewish nation or a Catholic nation or a Christian nation or a Islamic nation. It is a nation that promotes freedom to worship, and separates church and state. The Civil Unions act or the efforts to allow official same-sex marriages is a matter of civil rights in the conduct of the state and does not impinge on your freedom to worship as you wish.

        And to you, Tom Crowe, don’t you dare equate Adolf Hitler (who murdered gay people) with what you may consider a sin of homosexuality.


    And how does Peter Breen get such insight into the “other side.” Has he ever had any of them over for dinner or vise versa? Gone on a camping trip with any of them. Joined them at thier house of worship? Been with any of them in times of great joy such as the birth of a child, or great tragedy such as the loss of a parent. It’s easy, so terribly easy to pre judge and even dehumanize that which we don’t know. I was travelling with a lesbian friend when she got news of her Grandmother’s death. Yes, I saw that she understands the word *love* just like I do and, I daresay, just like Peter Breen does.

    • Elaine

      Greg, this isn’t about whether or not gays and lesbians understand the word love — I know for a fact that they do. Yes, I personally know people who are gay. I once worked with a woman who had a same-sex partner whom she referred to as her “gay wife.” She was as loving, reliable and friendly as the day is long, and always willing to help out in a crisis. We also were more than willing to help her out in a crisis too. Alongside us both worked a guy who was a very devout, traditional Catholic with 4 kids (number 5 was on the way when I changed jobs). We all got along just fine. I’d want them both on my side in any situation. She respected our convictions and we respected hers.

      No, this isn’t about whether gays or straights understand love, or whether they are capable of having the same hopes, fears, joys, sorrows, and other emotions. Of course they are. But that’s not the point.

      The issues are: first, whether or not an institution that has existed for thousands of years as the basic unit of society ought to be radically redefined; second, whether or not this has the potential to eventually used as a wedge to drive Catholics and other Christians who do not accept such unions out of the public square on the grounds of “hate speech” or non-discrimination; and third, whether or not a Catholic public official ought to be invoking his faith as a reason for supporting a measure his church obviously opposes. I’d say he has the right to do so — he can say whatever he wants and advance any public policy measure he wants to for any reason — but the Church has an equal right to say he’s wrong.

      • Greg Smith

        Elaine – I was refering only to the comment by Mr.Breen.

    • Mortimer

      You bring up a good point Greg. It would be nice if we could all see the humanity we posses first before we start debate. When people look at people as ‘other side’ or ‘enemies’ the debate is already over. But if we come together as brothers and sisters we can at least start talking, explaining and most importantly listening to why we believe what we believe. The hatred when brought to a table of debate builds an insurmountable chasm. But, there can be no debate without listening and accepting truth when a truth comes to light.
      When Kirk says “I follow my conscience. I think everyone should do that. I think that’s the most important thing to do in life, and my conscience is not kicking me in the shins today,” he closed the door to debate. Because the debate is within himself. It would have been nice for him to say why he thinks it’s the right thing to do. Meeks stated that he believes marriage is “between a man and a woman” likely because of his belief in natural law – that is, the only natural way to produce a baby is for a man and woman to procreate. This at least opens debate – is marriage mainly about procreation?
      Now I’m rambling off. Just wanted to say good point.

    • JohnE

      Two words: straw man.

    • Jason

      Powerful insight, Greg. Really. People who sin actually love. Terrific. Really.

      • Grisha

        Jason : good! you and I agree. Now only if we could get Meeks on board!



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