Duty of the Laity to Hold Officials Accountable for Same-Sex Votes in New York & Rhode Island
Last Friday night during his celebratory press conference, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D, Catholic) said, “The legacy of this state is that we’re the progressive capital of this nation…That is the power and the beauty of New York. The other states look to New York for the progressive direction.”
Well on Wednesday, June 29, 2011, the Rhode Island General Assembly adopted the “Empire State of Mind” by voting to allow civil unions for same-sex couples while granting the right of religious institutions to ignore its provisions.
The passage of Rhode Island’s language has sent waves through the Ocean State. As Bill Cosby once said “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
Same-sex marriage advocates are furious about the exemption for religious institutions saying it allows them to operate outside or immune from the law. Some advocates are even citing a same-sex couple with one person who works for the Diocese of Providence and her inability to now provide medical care for her partner.
In response to the vote, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island released an extremely articulate statement Thursday, June 30, 2011, on the teachings of the Church regarding civil unions where he said:
“I am deeply disappointed that Rhode Island will establish civil unions in our state. The concept of civil unions is a social experiment that promotes an immoral lifestyle, is a mockery of the institution of marriage as designed by God, undermines the well-being of our families, and poses a threat to religious liberty.
“In this context it is my obligation to remind Catholics of the teachings of the Church on this matter. First, the Church continues to have respect and love for persons with same-sex attraction; they are indeed children of God and our brothers and sisters in the human family. We pray for their well-being and offer them spiritual guidance and pastoral care. We also extend our love and support to families of homosexual persons who sometimes struggle with this difficult emotional issue.
“At the same time, the Church reminds its members that homosexual activity is contrary to the natural law and the will of God and, therefore, is objectively sinful. Persons with same-sex attraction are required to live the Christian virtues of chastity and modesty, as all persons are. The importance of these virtues is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures and in the constant tradition of the Church.
“Because civil unions promote an unacceptable lifestyle, undermine the faith of the Church on holy matrimony, and cause scandal and confusion, Catholics may not participate in civil unions. To do so is a very grave violation of the moral law and, thus, seriously sinful. A civil union can never be accepted as a legitimate alternative to matrimony.
“Can there be any doubt that Almighty God will, in His own time and way, pass judgment upon our state, its leaders and citizens, for abandoning His commands and embracing public immorality? I encourage Catholics to pray for God’s patience, mercy and forgiveness in these distressing times.”
In the wake of last Friday’s late night same-sex marriage vote in New York, there is conversation taking place among the Catholic blogosphere about whether the Bishops will stand up to this assault on marriage and the family – holding those Catholic politicians accountable who are supporting legislation like this across the country.
We have seen now two courageous statements – first from Archbishop Dolan in New York and now from Bishop Tobin in Providence, Rhode Island. They are doing their part articulating the teachings of the Church. If these politicians supporting same-sex marriage or civil unions are to be held accountable – it is the duty of the laity in the voting booth on Election Day.
In his message to the Pontifical Council of the Laity during the “Witnesses to Christ in the political community” gathering last May, the Holy Father said:
“It is also the duty of the laity to participate actively in political life, in a manner coherent with the teaching of the Church, bringing their well-founded reasoning and great ideals into the democratic debate, and into the search for a broad consensus among everyone who cares about the defense of life and freedom, the protection of truth and the good of the family, solidarity with the needy, and the vital search for the common good.”
The Bishops are in leadership positions in the Church. We do have two using that responsibility to engage in the same-sex marriage debate. It is now the duty of the laity to stand behind them and give their voices the strongest chorus possible.
By Matt Smith, vice president of Catholic Advocate