Matt C. Abbott
Catholic bishop troubled by gay marriage survey results; Priests (and pope?) support Kim Davis
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By Matt C. Abbott
September 7, 2015

A fairly recent survey conducted by the Barna Group contains the following finding:
    There is a substantial minority ... among Americans under 40 (26%) who believe the law should compel religious institutions and clergy members to perform same-sex weddings.
I asked Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., to comment on this finding. He responded:
    The survey results are troubling in that they show a lack of appreciation or understanding of the constitutional right protecting the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Catholics and all American citizens should address this by speaking out for religious liberty.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis, who will visit the U.S. later this month, might give his support to Rowan County clerk Kim Davis, currently in jail for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

According to Dr. Robert B. Moynihan, founder and editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican magazine, "a Church source advises that Francis may soon decide to delegate a personal representative to visit Kim on his behalf."

He writes:
    The pope has in recent months – echoing positions he has taken for many years – given unswerving support to the family composed of a father, mother and children....

    'It is necessary to insist on the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its intangible assets,' Francis said on November 17, 2014 in a talk in Rome. 'The family is the foundation of co-existence and a guarantee against social fragmentation. Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's growth and emotional development.'

    As cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, before his election as pope in March of 2013, Jorge Bergoglio took pains to condemn homosexual marriage as the work of the 'Father of Lies' seeking to 'destroy God's plan,' warning that in jeopardy are 'the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and mother and willed by God.'
Here in the U.S., at least two Catholic priests are publicly voicing their support for the jailed clerk.

Father Richard Perozich, a priest of the Diocese of San Diego, wrote in an email (slightly edited):
    The dry martyrdom of Christians in the U.S. is now emerging. Kim Davis, the Christian cake bakers, the Christian flower providers, the Little Sisters of the Poor – all are dry martyrs. The oppressors are the government, homosexual activists, abortionists, activist judges, corrupt legislators and executives. They're coming after the clergy next. The only way to fight is with Christ – as Kim Davis is doing – to show the evil of the oppressors, and to convert their hearts by patient suffering.
Father John Trigilio Jr., president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, wrote in an email (slightly edited):
    Some important points have been overlooked by the secular media in this case.

    One, Kim Davis was elected to this office in 2014 and sworn into office on January 5, 2015, five months before the Supreme Court decision. At the time of her election, the Commonwealth of Kentucky outlawed same-sex marriage. Since 1998, the state defined marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman and in 2004 citizens approved a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. Hence, at the time of election, same-sex marriages were illegal. She took an oath to uphold the state constitution.

    Two, the Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that abortion-on-demand was legal. The highest court in the land had also ruled slavery to be legal in the infamous Dred Scott decision (1857) and legalized racial segregation in Plessy v Ferguson (1896). These decisions were wrong then, and they are wrong now. Likewise, many believe Obergefell v Hodges to be equally wrong. Rosa Parks considered the racial segregation laws unlawful so she refused to sit in the back of the bus. She violated the law and was arreste . Peaceful civil disobedience is a tradition in our country and in many parts of the world. Kim Davis chose to disobey a law she believed violated her religious beliefs and which contradicted the State Constitution of Kentucky.

    Three, as an elected official, she cannot be fired but she can be impeached or voted out of office. Her moral right to refuse to comply with a law her conscience refuses to allow her to follow does not exempt her from being arrested and imprisoned. She accepted the consequences of her action. She could have been suspended and put on leave of absence by the governor, but that did not happen. She has a moral right to oppose a law she sees as wrong. She could have also chosen to resign from office.

    Four, her constitutional right of freedom of religion was not surrendered when she ran for or when she took an oath of public office. These inalienable rights come from God and are not creations of the government. Same-sex marriage is opposed by many Judeo-Christian religions as the Bible, sacred tradition and church doctrine define marriage as an exclusive union of one man and one woman. If the Supreme Court were to legalize bigamy, Kim Davis would have every right to oppose that and refuse to issue marriage licenses. She can resign from office on religious grounds or the state can authorize someone else to sign the licenses instead of her.

    Five, this is not a civil rights issue for homosexuals. Persons as human beings have inalienable rights, not groups of persons. Each citizen possesses their right to free speech, to free assembly, to bear arms, to address wrongs in a court of law and to freely practice one's religion. There are no rights as white persons or as black persons. There are merely human rights which apply to all persons since all persons are created equal.

    That said, marriage is not an automatic right; otherwise, it would have been mentioned as such in the U.S. Constitution. Marriage is regulated by both the state and the church since the family is based on marriage. Marriage is the foundation of both church and state. Hence, there are laws that require a legal age in order to be married. Likewise, one cannot obtain a license if one is still legally married to someone else (who is not dead or missing). Civil divorce is required by the state before a marriage license is issued to someone previously married. Are these not regulations?

    Persons with same-sex attraction do not have an inalienable right to marriage any more than someone who considers bigamy legitimate. Consanguinity laws prohibit incestuous marriages, e.g., between brother and sister or parent and child. These are restrictions recognized and upheld by religious and civil law. Restricting marriage to one man and one woman is based on tradition and common law.

    Some in the press erroneously associate the opposition to same-sex marriage to the opposition of bi-racial marriages. This is a total non sequitur. The marital union between husband and wife transcends race, ethnicity and creed. It cannot and does not transcend biology. Only men and women can conceive and have children. Family is the foundation of society, hence marriage, which is the foundation of family, is equally sacrosanct.

    While there are legal adoptions and surrogate pregnancies, society has a right, a duty and obligation to promote and defend traditional marriage in which a child optimally grows up in the same home with his or her mother and father, who are optimally simultaneously husband and wife. Being pro-traditional marriage is not de facto being prejudiced or bigoted toward persons who have a same-sex attraction.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it clear that persons with a homosexual orientation/inclination 'must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.' The Catechism also teaches, however, that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered' and 'are contrary to the natural law.' It is not unjust discrimination to restrict marriage to one man and one woman any more than it would be unjust to restrict marriage to one person and not many or to one person not closely related by blood.

    If Kim Davis were my parishioner, I would counsel her to either resign or take this case to court as far as it can go. It's her choice. I commend her, however, for being brave enough to suffer imprisonment and persecution. I hope we hear of Catholics refusing to sell contraceptives at pharmacies, of hospital personnel refusing to perform abortions, sterilizations or gender-changing operations, and so on.
© Matt C. Abbott

 

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.


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