Mark Silk suggests that Roman Catholic bishops stop talking smack about marriage equality. After noting that the bishops and their allies were outmaneuvered in New York, he writes:
One hopes, however, that in the days to come New York’s bishops will calm down and think more carefully about what happened and what lies ahead. Powerful elites may have done their part, but at bottom what carried the day were two of the most powerful principles in U.S. society: equality under the law and religious freedom. Americans, including New York legislators, find it difficult to resist a claim to the same rights as other citizens. At the same time, we are far more ready than, say, Europeans, to carve out exemptions on religious grounds, and once these were hammered into acceptable form in Albany, the necessary votes were there.
I am not unmindful of the challenge faced by religious leaders opposed to the incoming tide of SSM in American society. Same-sex couples are going to be showing up all over the place, wanting to belong to your churches and synagogues and mosques, expecting to send their children to your schools, and having no patience with your telling them that their relationships are immoral. But if you’ve got to make the case, make it on your own doctrinal terms. And spare the hyperbole and incivility.
That’s been the approach of Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who since 2004 has had to operate his archdiocese with SSM as the law of the land. Even as he has defended the church’s position on marriage, he has made it clear that he wants “all baptized Catholics to come to Mass and be part of our community,” and has established a policy that his parochial schools must not “discriminate or exclude any categories of students.” He also does not refer to same-sex marriage as same-sex “marriage.” The Catholic Church declines to recognize civil divorce. Should it therefore refer to your formerly married spouse as your “wife” or “husband”?
Reading the statements of New York’s Roman Catholic bishops and most of its Episcopal bishops in the wake of the approval of marriage equality gave one a strong sense of the differences between the two churches. I wonder if it is worth calling that difference to people’s attention?