Monday, June 27, 2011

"I've Been Down a Little Recently": In New York, the Aftermath

Making his first personal comments since Friday night's Albany cliffhanger that legalized same-sex marriage in New York state over a high-octane ecclesial protest, the Empire State's chief prelate (and USCCB president) faced the cameras following yesterday's Corpus Christi Mass and procession in St Patrick's Cathedral, the tumult having gone unaddressed during the liturgy itself.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan's question time came as a throng estimated in the range of a half-million people began to pack Fifth Avenue outside the cathedral's doors for what's been roundly described as a "triumphant" edition of the Big Apple's annual Gay Pride Parade (above), featuring the bill's champion, Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- a Catholic Democrat -- basking in the gratitude of the crowd. Elsewhere in the color department, group of gay Catholics came early to stand outside the Cathedral during the mid-morning Mass traditionally celebrated by the archbishop, saying they bore "no animosity" toward him and wished to enter into "dialogue."

All that said, here's Dolan's presser, in full:

(On a completely unrelated note, the sight at the clip's start of Joe Zwilling -- for 28 years and over four tenures now, the venerable spokesman of the archbishops of New York -- walking with the Boss' crozier, crook "open": Priceless... and rather fitting, to boot.)

Back to the matter at hand, while the national Chief took to refining his message, sounding some conciliatory notes in the wake of a historic policy defeat for the church, across the East River, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the 1.7 million-member Brooklyn church remained in full-on "protest" mode, penning an editorial for the region's most-read Sunday paper, the Daily News:
Tragically, we no longer understand the primary purpose of marriage as the institution by which a man and woman bring new life into the world and teach the child to become a productive citizen.

In striving for that end, the man and woman discover their own mutual consolation. Tragically, we somehow have come to view marriage as legitimizing our individual need for love and affection.

As a consequence we have all witnessed the surge in numbers of divorce, single parenthood and cohabitation outside of marriage. Not even thirty years ago this would have been almost unthinkable and certainly scandalous.

I believe the passage of same sex marriage is another "nail in the coffin" of marriage.

It is destructive because we fail to view marriage in the context of a vocation: a calling to participate in the great enterprise of forming the next generation.

Marriage is reduced to an empty honor.

We who opposes [sic] Same-sex Marriage are not callous to the very real human longings for friendship, affection and belonging that proponents of this legislation espouse as the rational "Marriage Equality".

Indeed, we like other New Yorker discuss these issues with our friends, family, co-workers and loved ones who have same-sex attractions. We have in part failed as the proponents of the historical understanding of marriage as that between a man and a woman precisely because we have sought to be sensitive to those who have same-sex attractions. Perhaps we must now speak more forcefully and clearly.

As the chief shepherd of the Catholics in our City's two most populous boroughs, Brooklyn and Queens, the decision of our Catholic Governor and State Legislature to overturn the common understanding of marriage that, despite many developments over thousands of years, has always been understood between a man and woman. That there was virtually no public debate on the issue and that the entire matter was concluded in just over thirty-minutes late on a Friday evening is disgraceful.

As a protest, I have asked my collaborators not to bestow or accept honors, nor to extend a platform of any kind to any state elected official, in all our parishes and churches for the foreseeable future.

Our children in NY State deserve the best and unfortunately there seem to be very few if any "Profiles in Courage."
Back to Fifth Avenue, in his own remarks, Dolan noted the experience of other places where gay couples have received full legal sanction, vouching "that our own apprehension" on the matter of protections for religious groups opposing the unions "is not paranoia." And coincidentally enough given the backdrop, on full display at the archbishop's left hand during yesterday's Mass was a visiting figure who's likewise made headlines for sounding alarm bells on the proverbial "slippery slope" many church leaders fear will spring from redefining marriage.

To be sure, the Gotham seat's 10.15 Sunday liturgy invariably attracts prominent ecclesiastics on New York trips as its main concelebrants. In keeping with the custom, yesterday's Mass saw the cathedra flanked to one side by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem -- the longtime Vatican diplomat Archbishop Fouad Twal -- and to the other, Archbishop Terence Prendergast SJ of Ottawa, who was in New York to lead lectio divina during a Biblical celebration the day before at archdiocesan headquarters.

Even if the timing of his St Pat's turn was, again, purely a coincidence, it's still worth noting that in a 2007 interview -- two years after Canada legalized same-sex marriages nationwide -- the Jesuit prelate cited the parliamentary move as potentially paving the way toward polygamy in parts North.

While he had heard the argument that the shift of the institution "hasn't caused any great effects," Prendergast said, "Well, just give it time."

Citing 1968's still-controversial landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae, B16's man in Canada's capital added that "Pope Paul VI said if you separate sexual communion from procreation you are opening yourself to a whole series of ills... If you read that text, what he foretold would take place is taking place."

In late 2006, months prior to his transfer to Ottawa, the Montreal native took the extraordinary step of barring a gay couple from receiving the Eucharist, citing the mens' placement of a newspaper announcement of their civil wedding as creating "public scandal." (In New York, unless a coordinated strategy is agreed to -- and, given the spread, that would seem unlikely -- any potential decisions on that front would fall to the respective diocesan bishops.)

Prendergast was named to head the church encompassing Parliament Hill a year after the Pope, in an ad limina speech to the bishops of Canada's largest province, portrayed the scene in the country as follows:
Today, the impediments to the spread of Christ's Kingdom are experienced most dramatically in the split between the Gospel and culture, with the exclusion of God from the public sphere. Canada has a well-earned reputation for a generous and practical commitment to justice and peace, and there is an enticing sense of vibrancy and opportunity in your multicultural cities. At the same time, however, certain values detached from their moral roots and full significance found in Christ have evolved in the most disturbing of ways. In the name of 'tolerance' your country has had to endure the folly of the redefinition of spouse, and in the name of 'freedom of choice' it is confronted with the daily destruction of unborn children. When the Creator's divine plan is ignored the truth of human nature is lost.

False dichotomies are not unknown within the Christian community itself. They are particularly damaging when Christian civic leaders sacrifice the unity of faith and sanction the disintegration of reason and the principles of natural ethics, by yielding to ephemeral social trends and the spurious demands of opinion polls. Democracy succeeds only to the extent that it is based on truth and a correct understanding of the human person. Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle; otherwise Christian witness to the splendor of truth in the public sphere would be silenced and an autonomy from morality proclaimed. In your discussions with politicians and civic leaders I encourage you to demonstrate that our Christian faith, far from being an impediment to dialogue, is a bridge, precisely because it brings together reason and culture.
In a rarity for an ad limina address, the Vatican arranged to have the talk recorded for television and radio broadcast.

Given recent domestic developments on the marriage front, smart money would bet on the issue resurfacing from the Pope come late year, as the US bishops begin their long-awaited report to Rome for the first time in the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

SVILUPPO: Same church, six blocks up Fifth Avenue from St Pat's, but bearing a drastically different emphasis, the freshly-released edition of the Stateside church's publication of record -- the Jesuits' America magazine -- features the following, unsigned "Current Comment" on the church's tack on marriage:
The church’s stance on same-sex marriage is very well known. It has been made well known by the Vatican; and it has been made clear by many bishops in this country. The church teaches, in short, that same-sex marriage is not permissible because it promotes homosexual activity and redefines the traditional concept of marriage. There can be few Catholics, and non-Catholics, who do not know this.

What is less well known is the church’s teaching on gay and lesbian people themselves. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that gays and lesbians are to be accepted with “respect, compassion and sensitivity.” Jesus Christ asks us to love everyone, not simply those with whom we agree, not simply those in our churches and not simply those who “follow the rules.” But the church’s message on gays and lesbians is often obscured by its vocal opposition to same-sex marriage. Gays and lesbians hear about little else in church circles. And with no other group does the church speak almost exclusively the language of prohibition, rather than that of welcome.

That is why bishops who speak of love and acceptance should be praised, like Joseph M. Sullivan, a retired auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn, who wrote in the Buffalo News on June 2: “For most Catholics, there can be no statement that better summarizes an attitude of welcoming of our LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] brothers and sisters than those of Jesus, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’” There is nothing wrong with telling people that they are loved and lovable. And that all are, indeed, welcome.
Along those lines, while it's seemingly gone forgotten in the haze of the recent fight, it's worth recalling that last year's New York Pride Week conspicuously coincided with a high-profile Dolan visit to a place the archbishop termed "a booster-shot of hope": Chelsea's St Francis Xavier -- the city's leading gay-friendly parish....

PHOTO: Getty