Why Catholics Have The Fight to Protect Marriage Backwards (+5 Ways To Move Forward)

I’m heartened by the outpouring of commentary in the wake of New York’s move to legalize gay “marriage.” Truly, I am. It means that Catholics care about marriage and are distressed when they see it under attack (as they should).

But the sudden uptick in volume of Catholic voices talking about the threat to marriage represented by its redefinition in New York confuses me, for this reason: we could have stopped it.

Over the past weeks (and months) I’ve worked closely with the National Organization for Marriage to oppose gay marriage bills in Maryland, Rhode Island and New York. We won in Maryland and Rhode Island. And we just lost in New York. And yet, instead of trumpeting the victories in these first two states when they happened, far more ink has been spilt by Catholic voices bemoaning the final result in New York.

There’s a reason for this: Catholic commentary follows mainstream media commentary. The number of headlines earned by a victory for gay marriage far outweighs (I would bet by a ratio of at least 10-to-1) the number of stories written about gay marriage defeats. So a part of this phenomenon is due to Catholics sensing a major shift has happened in the fight to protect marriage only when the media signals us a shift has happened — and the media is careful to only signal such shifts when they like where they think they see things headed.

Thus we are left with the distinctly odd situation where marriage defeats have a thousand Catholic fathers, and marriage victories are made to be Catholic orphans. It should, of course, be just the other way around.

[I should make clear before I go on: I am tremendously pleased with the active role CatholicVote has taken leading up to the vote to activate our members to defend marriage and pray for the legislators in New York to make the right choice!]

Another reason that Catholics talk more about marriage defeats than our victories is that, sadly, many of us –almost always quite unintentionally– have fallen into the careful trap laid by proponents of gay marriage of believing that it is inevitable.

As I briefly outlined in my post earlier this week, gay marriage is not inevitable. In fact, despite the defeat for marriage in New York, this year has been a very good year for marriage: two deep-blue states shut down efforts to redefine marriage (Democrats, by the way, were responsible in both states for this), and several other states (Minnesota, Indiana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa and Pennsylvania — off the top of my head) are moving forward with enacting greater measures to establish one-man, one-woman marriage as the only type of union recognized as marriage in their state constitutions and statutory law.

This is the bird’s-eye view of the marriage fight I see. Unfortunately, I think many Catholics are being presented with a different picture because of how the media portrays the battle, and, in addition, because even Catholic voices they trust often mirror this negative attitude about the real ability we have to protect marriage.

So what CAN we do to protect mariage, besides bemoan when we have setbacks? Simple:

1. If you haven’t yet, become a member of CatholicVote and subscribe to their newsletter. CatholicVote has their fingers on the pulse of this issue and will always keep you up to date.

2. Follow and support the work of the National Organization for Marriage (and their frequently-updated blog). NOM is the most successful national organization fighting to defend marriage and the faith communities that believe in marriage.

3. Find the website for your state’s Catholic Conference of Bishops and see what is happening in your state now which either threatens or supports marriage.

4. As you begin to think about the November 2012 elections, get into the habit now of evaluating candidates and issues in terms of how they impact marriage and the family.

5. Pray for those who fight to protect marriage and family and work to learn more about why marriage is only between one man and one woman for good reasons.

If we all commit ourselves to these five simple steps, the next time we’ll be talking about a major piece of marriage news we’ll be talking about it for the right reason: because we won.



  • Kyle

    It’s great the traditional marriage victories occurred in Maryland and Rhode Island, and it is a shame that gay-marriage was approved in New York. If the New York politicians who voted in favor of gay-marriage were atheists, we would understand that traditional marriage was defeated by non-believers and it would just go to show that we needed to evangelize more. But this is not the case, traditional marriage was defeated by self-professed Catholics, just as protections for the unborn have been defeated by these same Catholics over the years.

    How about the Bishops explain when they would use their authority to ex-communicate or deny the sacraments to those Catholics who defend and manifest that which goes against the teachings of Christ? How much more will the Church allow “Catholics” to get away with?

    • pamela

      Yeah, let’s deprive the eucharist to other Catholics and sit in judgement of them, as Jesus taught us. Did I get that right Kyle?

      • Patricia

        We don’t have the authority to deprive anyone of The Body and Blood of Christ, the Holy Eucharist. That authority lies with the local Bishop. We must be free of mortal sin to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and, obviously, a practicing catholic. To receive The Body and Blood of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist in mortal sin is a more serious sin called a sacrilege. Then we are really not deriving the great graces from Our Communion with Our Lord, but offending Him even more and causing spiritual harm to our soul. This should be known for our own spiritual welfare.

      • Bruce

        Hmmm….methinks you don’t understand the actual teaching regarding Christ and judging. Here is a tip: It is perfectly okay to judge other’s actions. In fact, if Christ did not allow us to do that, His very next words after that Scripture passage would not make sense. We don’t judge souls, but we most certainly judge actions, and should. :)

        • Slats

          Yes. We as Catholics do not know the state of another’s soul. But we do know what’s right and wrong. We don’t know whether another person is acting in full knowledge and consent or not. But we do know what grave matter is. And if someone is persistently committing grave matter and moseying on up to the Communion line, it creates scandal in those who are consisting trying to avoid grave matter and live a good Catholic Christian life. Then it’s time for the bishop to do something about the situation. And the faithful Catholics who are being scandalized have every right to feel further scandalized if their bishop refuses to act.

  • Steve

    While political organization and advocacy is no doubt crucial, I think our failure lies more on the cultural side rather than the legal or political. And this is not to say Tom isn’t fitting an important fight (quite the contrary).

    Rather, as a Church, we do not know what we are…we have tried to be everything to everybody. We’ve sacrificed our internal sacramental and liturgical discipline in order to dialogue with the world and now, as in the case of the NY bishops, we are seeing that the world doesn’t want to dialogue and that our voice, reduced to the mere political, is far less effective. We can argue all we want as to why gay marriage is immoral, contrary to the natural law, etc. We can press our political case. But what are we doing to show this or propose an alternative? We are failing to bring the beauty of the Eucharist to the world. We are losing our cultural case.

    This is not to say our Church has not witnessed renewal. Quite the contrary. But look around at your average parish these days…the guitars and bongo drums, the inappropriate attire, the talking and lack of reverance, the design of our churches, the way we approach our Lord…these are all manifestations of the same problem. The NY bishops spoke, argued, and they lost. Why? Not because they didn’t speak enough.

  • Davide

    Pamela “gays” and “lesbians” have ben marrying for thousands of years and will continue to marry. Should heterosexual couples of the same-sex be able to marry? Or does a same-sex “marriage” have to consummate to be valid?
    Can two straight buddies partake in “marriage equality” you are ranting about?

    • Jeremy

      As the law currently stands, I could walk into a courthouse and marry a woman I had just met ten minutes ago. The law does not require prospective married couples to prove that they are in love or anything of that sort. Nor should it – that would be an impossible test for the state to administer. So, to answer your question, Davide, in any jurisdiction that permits same-sex marriage, two straight men could marry. A sham of a marriage, to be sure, but similar marriages are perfectly legal regardless of whether or not same-sex couples are permitted to marry.

      • Joe M

        Jeremy. If room-mates have lived together for 7 years, should they have a common law marriage?

        • Jeremy

          “Should” implies an imperative – that they ought to enter a common-law marriage. Obviously, I cannot say whether such roommates “should” have a common-law marriage, given that 1) it generally isn’t my business whether a given couple gets married or not; 2) 7-year roommates is an awfully broad category, so it would depend on the nature of their relationship; 3) it depends on the jurisdiction. Not all states permit common-law marriages (although all states must recognize common-law marriages contracted in states where it is legal.)

          • Joe M

            Jeremy. What about the “nature of their relationship” dictates whether or not they should qualify for a common-law marriage?

  • Gregory Armis

    I’m really tired of this. 58% of New Yorkers supported the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry in New York. Around 60% of Catholics similarly support these rights for gays and lesbians. Of the remaining 40%, less than 25% feel strongly that marriage should be denied to GLBT people. Why is it that those are the only people that we hear from? It’s time that the majority of Catholics stand up and be heard! We can support our faith, while respecting the rights of others to live their lives according to their beliefs. We can teach our children Catholic values without using the laws to deprive legal protections to other people’s families. We should be secure enough in our faith without having to resort to forcing our religious beliefs onto others using the laws of America. The 60% of Catholics that believe in equality and justice need to stand up and be heard, or the church we have loved will be lost forever to those that seek to harm others instead of charitably helping them.

    • Linda Y

      Catholics deserve better. I support civil marriage equality, and I wish you would stop dragging Catholicism into this political issue. This isn’t catholicism. It’s discrimination, hatred, and hurtful to others. It has nothing to do with catholic values.

      • Joe M

        Linda Y. Do you also wish that Catholic leadership all the way to the Vatican would stop bringing the issue up? Do you reject their authority to speak on behalf of the Church about what Catholic values are?

    • Slats

      Gregory, you aren’t nearly as tired of it as I am. Those 60% of Catholics do not know their faith, period. Someone along the line failed to properly catechize them. Legalized same-gendered marriage is evil. Objectively. Period. It is cataclysmically damaging to human society. Once again, to be Catholic in a spiritually and intellectually meaningful sense, one must hold and believe that genital acts between two people of the same gender are grave matter. A person who fails to do so, were they to present themselves as “Catholic” for the purpose of any public debate, would be lying. For Catholics to sit there and fail to work to prevent the evil of same-gendered marriage from coming about is simply heinous. We live in a democratic society. We can prevent evil from coming about, and we have the responsibility to do so.

    • Slats

      And Gregory, let’s qualify it even further and more directly. I’ll bet if we narrow that demographic down to those “Catholics” who attend Church at least every Sunday and holy day – the baseline minimal prayer commitment for faithful Catholicism and remaining in the state of grace (assuming full knowledge and consent!) – that we find a direct correspondence, down to the statistical margin for error, with those who do NOT favor the travesty of legal same-gendered marriage. Sorry!

    • Joe M

      Gregory Armis. You write about the Church as if its definition of marriage as being between a man and woman is a new thing. Also, you seem to have the situation backward. Marriage has been defined in our society as being between a man and woman since before any of us were alive. The act of imposing values on others is being carried out by the gay marriage movement. I agree that values should not be imposed on others. But, that’s exactly what the gay marriage movement is doing. Furthermore, if the numbers you cite are correct and you support gay marriage, then you should have no problem putting the issue to public vote. It doesn’t do a service to anyone to legislate an issue like this without a public vote.

      • ScottSawIt

        I know my faith and I support marriage equality. The church has been horribly wrong in other issues (remember the inquisition?) and they are wring in this fight too. The church is a human endeavor, and the hierarchy chooses the wrong path sometimes. We need to wake up and stand against this injustice.

      • GrettaH

        Did we get to vote on whether black people could ride in the front of the bus too?

        • Joe M

          GrettaH. Do you think that racially discriminating people is equivalent to defining what relationships are? If a mother tells her child who has a high-school crush that she doesn’t know what love is, is she violating her childs civil rights? Should the mother be sued?

  • Pamela

    Marriage is NOT under attack by the millions of gay and lesbian couples that wish to partake in it. It is under attack by those that seek to deprive it’s benefits to others. We all have an interest in seeing that the laws of our nation treat everyone in our pluralistic society as equals. We should, as Catholics, be celebrating that our Nation’s dedication to equality and religious liberty has been upheld in New York. Marriage equality, and equal treatment, for ALL AMERICANS! Amen.

    • Bruce

      Two questions, Pamela. You say that everyone should have marriage equality. 1.) What is marriage? and 2.) Where does it say in Catholic doctrine that Catholics must support homosexual friendships being recognized as marriage? Thanks in advance. :)

      • pamela

        I believe that Jesus taught us to love and respect all of our neighbors, even those that are outcasts. There is absolutely nothing loving about depriving others of the ability to protect their loved ones and families under the laws of our nation. This world is big enough for all of us Bruce and depriving gays and lesbians of civil marriage does nothing to promote Catholic values or help catholic families. Absolutely nothing.

      • Jeremy

        Before this goes any further, Bruce, I’d like to point out that 2) is question-begging. You ask “what is marriage?” ostensibly so that Pamela will provide a definition of marriage that can include same-sex couples. But the phrase “homosexual friendships being recognized as marriage” in 2) (somewhat implicitly) eliminates the possibility of same-sex couples being eligible for marriage. You cannot cast such serious doubt on the possibility before the question of what marriage is has been answered. So if Pamela can provide an answer to 1) that does allow same-sex couples to be married, you would have to re-word 2) so that the question itself does not contradict the answer to 1). Perhaps “Where does it say in Catholic doctrine that Catholics must support same-sex marriages?” would be more appropriate.

        • Bruce

          The trouble is, Jeremy and Pamela, that no definition of marriage, outside of the conjugal, is defensible logically. It always opens the door to polyamory, incest, and other arrangements, thus rendering the institution meaningless. This is precisely why folks like yourself, and Pamela, never provide a definition. It is simply ignorance cloaked in cowardice.

          • Jeremy

            You are quick to charge “folks like [my]self” (whatever that means) with “ignorance cloaked in cowardice” (quite a serious charge!) but I think you missed the point of my previous comment. I did not propose to give a definition of marriage (you and I have had that discussion in the past, if you recall.) My goal was to show that you were begging the question – you were giving a definitive answer before anyone got the chance to explore the question. Now, you hold that only one definition of marriage is logically defensible (by “logically defensible,” do you mean “can withstand scrutiny” or “logically valid?”) You must, however, provide arguments to defend this point. If you intend to prove your point using the brief slippery slope argument you gave above, then let me caution you: slippery slope arguments RARELY successfully prove their conclusion. They are often (again, not always, but often) shining examples of bad moral reasoning. Keep that in mind.

    • Pamela

      Please respond to my comment, not just vote it down. If you believe that the laws of our nation should discriminate against gay couples, what is the rational reason for doing so? (a real reason, not a soundbite about “protecting marriage” or promoting “responsible procreation”). What actual benefit does it give to society to deny legal to some families, but not others.

    • Joe M

      Pamela. Our laws already do treat gay people as equals. The definition of a relationship is not a person.

      • pamela

        Is the gay couple down the street given the same benefits that the married couple is? Is their child protected in the same manner? Is their house, savings, and money protected like every married couple? Are they given the same rights to see their loved ones in the hospital as every married couple? NO, they aren’t, and you know it.

        • Slats

          Because anyone not directly suppressing their fundamental common sense knows that 1) attraction to the people of the same gender is a defect and disorder in human sexuality (hint: human sexuality is attached to the reproductive system, and two people of the same gender cannot naturally reproduce), that 2) saying that sexual relationships are about selfish fulfillment and emotions rather than commitment, responsibility, and the raising of children is massively damaging to human society, and that 3) putting a relationship based on the unfettered exercise of a disordered human faculty on the same level as the institution of marriage between a man and woman for (or at least fundamentally ordered toward) the raising of children is a bone-smashing slap to said institution.

          Supporting the legalization of same-gendered marriage is a fundamentally and diametrically anti-Catholic stance. Once cannot be Catholic in the intellectual and spiritual sense (i.e., of one heart and one mind with Christ) while failing to believe that genital acts between two people of the same gender are grave matter – that is to say, that if they’re done with full knowledge and consent of the will, they’re mortal sins and deprive the individuals of the state of grace so that if they died unrepentant, they would go to hell. If you don’t believe such, you are no Catholic in any argumentatively coherent or meaningful sense, and asserting that you are in the context of such an argument is breaching the eighth commandment.

        • Joe M

          Pamela. Do you receive the same subsidies for your work that farmers receive? Do you get hazard pay like US soldiers on dangerous assignments? Are you taxed the same amount of money as someone who makes less than you do? There are literally thousands of circumstances and choices that lead to the government treating you differently than someone else. Besides, the vast majority of the “benefits” that you allude to can be worked around with no more effort than an additional signature or two (to add beneficiaries to a will or insurance policy for example). The “benefits” argument is a red herring and you know it.

  • Davide

    Dear Tom and other Catholic Vote folk: I want to sincerely thank you for a job well done. You are always in my prayers. I wish to tell you guys something: Friday night all of us (family) were gathered in my parents living room, glued to the television (Fox News) we knew the voting would be announced soon. My four baby siblings snugged tight in their sleeping bags, 17 year-old brother texting on his cell with his girl. The news broke and the room went silent. Most in my family are italian, and italians are never silent. My five year old baby sister sits straight up and asked Maria (my older sister) how can two princesses (she thinks all girls are princesses) get married? Tom this says it all doesn’t it? When a five year old child can not wrap her brain around it; it says volumes!!!

    • Sammy

      I did indeed pray. I prayed that fairness, equality, and love would overcome ignorance and fear. I prayed that my gay son would be able to marry the love of his life, just like his straight siblings. I prayed my 5 year old granddaughter would know the security and protection that only marriage will bring to her. God answered my prayers on Friday night. Love will win.

      • Davide

        Sammy, persons with SSA must make awesome and heavily burden decision: to live a life that is pleasing to God or one that is pleasing to self. But when you think about gays are really not much different than other folk, for everyone must also make a decision. As Catholics we are children of God first. We are Catholic above everything else-above being a parent, a child, a brother or sister and certainly above a sexual orientation and in some cases sexual preference. I am a man with SSA just like your son. But unlike your son I did not have a father who prayed that his son “marry the love of his life”. My father prayed that his son would be at peace.

        • james d

          Every scientific study ever done has shown that people with same sex attractions that undergo anti-gay therapy and try to lead chaste lonely lives are depressed and over 100 times more likely to commit suicide. That’s not peace, and praying for that for your child isn’t love.

          • Charles P

            Writing laws that require city hall clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples doesn’t protect marriage. That’s a clear fallacy. Denying gay couples the civil rights and responsibilities that go along with marriage clearly causes them harm. This fight doesn’t protect anything while it causes harm to many. It’s very uncatholic. We are called to love and care for others. This does neither.

          • Davide

            @James D. If you are going to address “facts” with me, get your “facts” straight first, than lie about it. Otherwise I will make you feel quite silly (I’m a total narcissist). “Every scientific study” does NOT say orientation reassignment AKA “anti-gay therapy” leads to “chaste lonely lives are depressed and over 100 times more likely to commit suicide.” That is simple BS. The success rate is around 30 percent and many end up marrying the opposite sex and having babies (I know-EWW having sex with the opposite sex-that is so GROSS-filthy breaders-right John?). What we do know is men who engage in homosexual behavior (gays, queers, homo’s fags) have significant higher rates of: depression, STDS, anal and rectal cancers, suicides, domestic violence in relationships,infidelity and high promiscuity, drug addiction, live average 20 years younger than heterosexual counterparts, and 67 percent of men (2/3) who sexually abuse boys are homosexuals, even though they make up only 2 percent of the adult population (mainly because of sexual immaturity). And these are FACTS. We can lie about these facts we can even attempt to cover them up. But history, ongoing research, law enforcement findings, and stats do not lie. Now my father never prayed (as far as I am aware) for me to be chaste he only prayed that I was at peace and I am at peace. Okay cupcake see you.

          • Jeremy

            Wait a minute, Davide. Did you seriously just refer to some people as “gays, queers, homo’s [and] fags?” Word of caution: if you expect to have a reasonable debate, you would do well to abandon the use of such epithets and snide remarks (your “filthy breaders” [sic] comment comes to mind. As for the statistics you mention, two points: 1) sources would be nice, and 2) correlation does not imply causation. You will need further arguments to show that the statistics prove that homosexuality itself is the cause of such ills.

          • davide

            Jeremy I was being sarcastic (I’m sappy) I assumed James was a gay man cause he had the typical gay “response” to everything-denial. Gays identify themselves as “homo, gay, queer and even fag” the “breeder” comment is self explanatory gays always refer to heterosexuals as “breeders”. It was not to mean to offend. However I realize my mouth at times is offensive. Can’t tell you how many times mother has put a bar of soap in my mouth as a child.. I will do better not to offend. I have no interest in debating anything. James came after me and my father any good son would defend his father. You asked for links below you will find the links. Of course there are dozens of such links but I do not have the time or even the desire to entertain you. However please look over the info and do with it as pleases you. I would encourage you to look more deeply into these matters and remember your “feelings” regarding this are not facts. I will no longer rebuttal anything more you have to say to me cause I feel you are not the bit interested in Truth. Okay see you.





          • Bruce

            Saddened and dismayed that CV allowed such a disrespectful comment to be published. Is this the respect that we are called to exhibit to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ? It is not.

          • davide

            Dear Bruce, please do not go after Tom or Catholic vote. It is fine to come after me I am the one that made the comment. I can not speak for catholic vote, but I think they might have understood why I said what I did or it did get past the censors. Bruce was my comment “Christ like” of course it was not. But friend some of your comments made on this blog could hardly be considered “Christ like” I will work on my grammer but tell me Bruce if someone came after your father would you not honor him and defend his honor. My father is a good and holy man, I am neither of these things. My father prays for his children everyday and prolly especially for me. Tomorrow evening I am returning to Italy for a week, so all this will cool down by then. Okay see you

          • Bruce

            That post above was not me, for I am not a homosexualist.

          • DB the R

            Gosh, people who try to be lonely are more depressed? Really? C’mon, dude, what “scientific study” has researched people who “try to lead chaste, lonely lives”? I’d love to read the population sample and research method they used. Gimmeabreak!



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