In blunt letter, Catholic bishops push for ‘reset’ on marriage
The nation’s Catholic bishops have urged President Obama to “push the reset button” on his administration’s treatment of a federal marriage law, or face an enormous national conflict between church and state.
“I wr ite with a growing sense of urgency about recent actions taken by your Administration that both escalate the threat to marriage and imperil the religious freedom of those who promote and defend marriage,” New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan wrote in a direct letter addressed to Mr. Obama on Sept. 20.
The Obama administration is not only refusing to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — which defines marriage as only the union of one man and one woman — it is “actively attacking” the law’s constitutionality, wrote Archbishop Dolan, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Another “grave” concern is that people of faith who support marriage and the rights of children to be raised by a mother and a father are being accused of being prejudiced and biased.
“While all persons merit our full respect, no other relationships provide for the common good what marriage between husband and wife provides. The law should reflect this reality,” he wrote.
The prelate added that “millions of citizens” have voted for state DOMAs, and “thereby endorsed marriage as the union of man and woman.”
“Mr. President, I respectfully urge you to push the reset button on your Administration’s approach to DOMA,” he wrote. If the Obama administration does not “change course” on these marriage and family matters, it will “precipitate a national conflict between Church and State of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions.”
A comment from the White House was not immediately available.
On CatholicVote.org, Thomas Peters wrote: “Wow. This [letter] definitely represents a significant escalation of tone and includes the threat of consequences.” Over at CatholicOnline.org, Deacon Keith Fournier called the letter a “masterful” defense of marriage and religious freedom, and noted that Pope Benedict XVI has “connected the moral collapse of the West to what he termed a ‘Dictatorship of Relativism.’ ”
However, at the Human Rights Campaign, which is featuring Mr. Obama at its Oct. 1 gala, communications director Michael Cole-Schwartz said that, “Americans — including the major ity of Amer ican Catholics — want to see the church hierarchy push the reset button on their hostility toward gay and lesbian couples. It’s time for the bishops to realize the people in the pews don’t support discrimination and neither should they.”
Rick Jacobs, president of Courage Campaign, who attended a White House meeting Sept. 23 with other California domestic-policy advocates, said homosexuals who want to get married are actually “venerating the institution,” and others who support marriage should support them as well.
“Thirty U.S. senators now support a bill to repeal DOMA,” added Mr. Jacobs. If DOMA can be repealed, the country can go back to “the American way,” which is to allow states to make decisions about their marriage laws, he said.
The nation’s estimated 69 million Catholics are a volatile voting bloc. In November 2008, they voted for Mr. Obama by a margin of 54 percent to 45 percent. In 2004, they voted in the opposite direction, giving President George W. Bush, a Republican, their support, 52 percent to 47 percent.
Letter to Obama: New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan