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The Marriage Marcher

A Guest Opinion Piece by Brian Cahill                                                              

Ignoring the pleas of major political and religious leaders to cancel his attendance, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was the featured speaker at the recent March For Marriage on June 19th in Washington D.C.  Cordileone made his same, flawed and failed argument against civil gay marriage. His impact and that of his fellow speakers was minimal because only two thousand people showed up for the gathering.

Cordileone had no problem associating with the folks at the National Organization For Marriage (NOM) and the Family Research Council (FRC), groups known for their vitriolic rhetoric against gays and lesbians. He tried to assure us that if any individuals were to be “targeted for hatred” at the event, “I most certainly would not be there,” apparently unaware that NOM president Brian Brown recently advised the Russian Parliament in developing a series of anti-gay laws, and the NOM religious liaison, Rev. Bill Owens has continued to insist that same sex marriage will lead to the legalization of bestiality.  He also hasn’t been put off by the fact that FRC has been labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Cordileone stated that he is required “to proclaim the truth—the whole truth—about the human person and God’s will for our flourishing.” He doesn’t explain how he has been gifted with the ultimate answer to the whole truth about the human person. Nor has he ever explained how as an unmarried celibate, he has become such an expert on marriage.

In his Washington talk Cordileone emphasized his love and the love of the Church for gays and lesbians, but pointed out that this love has to be coupled with the truth. Of course his “truth” is that gays and lesbians are objectively disordered and if they engage in sex they are to be condemned. A recent editorial in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) highlighted Cordileone’s failed attempt to reconcile the chasm-like dichotomy between the Church’s expression of love for gays and lesbians and the simultaneous Church condemnation when they act according to their nature.  

Cordileone’s mantra is that children have a right to a mother and father. The NCR editorial stated, “That ideal remains elusive for a growing number; not because of homosexuals, but because of the males and females who are creating the circumstances of single parent families.” And in his attempt to idealize “mothers and fathers” as the only proper care givers, Cordileone continues to ignore the hundreds of thousand of children placed in the foster care system by the abuse and neglect of their heterosexual parents, parents who are living proof that sexual orientation is not a reliable indicator of good parenting.

In his response to those who asked him to cancel his appearance, Cordileone complained about the criticism leveled against supporters of traditional marriage. While he briefly condemned “hateful rhetoric” and “violence” against gays and lesbians, he spent far more time complaining about criticism and attacks directed toward opponents of gay marriage. In doing do he reveals how oblivious he is to the way gays and lesbians have been historically treated in our society. By comparing the criticism and even condemnation that he and his allies have received, he cluelessly and offensively diminishes the suffering and condemnation that most gays and lesbians have experienced at some point in their lives. His attempted comparison diminishes the impact of the isolation felt by many gay and lesbian young adults, the eradication of self worth—experiences that have led to suicide attempts or at least suicidal thoughts, experiences arising from societal rejection and in some cases parental rejection. And of course, much of this condemnation and rejection, much of this hate and ignorance arises from organized religion, and is being perpetuated unintentionally but just as destructively by the actions and words of Salvatore Cordileone and his allies.

Responding to his critics, Cordileone stated,  “You should get to know us.” But this critic, this father of a gay son says Cordileone should come to know our children, should come to know how much pain and suffering they’ve endured. He should come to know that even with their recent political and judicial successes, the pain continues and the scars never heal.

In fairness Cordileone and his fellow traditionalists are not the only ones who have failed gays and lesbians. At a key time in my son’s life I failed to make him feel loved and safe. I know I’m not the only parent who has failed in this way. But Cordileone and those like him are continuing to sustain an environment of ignorance and hate. And while there are thousands of devout, religious individuals who do not support gay marriage and are in no way homophobic, a quick check of the online comments of many conservative religious news outlets reveals the number of homophobic comments being made under the banner of Christianity.

Cordileone appears well intentioned, but his intense crusade against civil gay marriage calls to mind the cautionary words of the great American Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr: “Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith, but in doubt. It is when we are unsure that we are doubly sure.”

By hanging out with bigots on June 19th in Washington, all Cordileone did was to place himself on the wrong side of history, further weaken the credibility of our Church and contradict Jesus’ message of love and inclusiveness. But he did accomplish one thing: he put another nail in the coffin of the flawed and failed church teaching on same sex relationships and marriage.

Brian Cahill is the former executive director of San Francisco Catholic Charities

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