Surrendering Marriage

June is a good month for surrenders. On June 25, 1940, France capitulated after Germany’s lightning defeat of Allied armies. The armistice that took effect that day ceded more than half the country to foreign occupation, and relegated the rest to management by those Frenchmen willing to collaborate with Germany — supposedly to preserve some shred of French sovereignty and save the country from even more ruthless treatment.

On June 25, 2011, the New York Times reported that the forces resisting gay marriage in New York State had collapsed, and one of the largest states in the union enacted same-sex unions. The bill had passed narrowly the night before: In New York’s state senate, just three votes made the difference. These votes came through heavy arm-twisting by New York’s ethnically Catholic governor, Andrew Cuomo, the son of Mario “Personally Opposed to Abortion” Cuomo. Sadly, there was no one with upper body strength trying to twist those arms back straight.

Three votes, and now every state in the Union faces the choice of acknowledging gay marriages made in New York, or violating the “full faith and credit” clause of the U.S. Constitution. What is worse, gay marriage in New York was not imposed by judges, as in Massachusetts, but by the free deliberations of a duly elected legislature, in accord with the Catholic principle of subsidiarity. This means that (barring an extremely unlikely constitutional amendment, for which we should fight, of course) gay marriage is here to stay. The institution of marriage — which has been so disfigured by the sexual revolution, and feminism, then the lax divorce laws born of both — now bears no resemblance at all to the natural, sacramental reality that Western laws once were written to acknowledge and support. We really should call it something else. May I suggest “frenemies with benefits”?

What made the victory possible, analysts told the New York Times, were the pitifully tepid efforts of its religious opponents, in particular the local Church. As the Times reported, “It was befuddling to gay-rights advocates: The Catholic Church, arguably the only institution with the authority and reach to derail same-sex marriage, seemed to shrink from the fight.” Instead of pulling out all the stops and calling in all its chips, the Church shrugged off the effort to defend the natural law as a good thing for all New Yorkers — and went scrambling for exemptions to guard its institutional interests. Republicans who were wary of gay marriage spent their political capital not fighting against the bill, but carving out little enclaves of protection for such oddball cults as might not want to solemnize same-sex rites. Indeed, as the Times reported, inserting these exceptions won the bill the votes it needed to pass.

This willingness to retreat in return for hollow promises of protection is nothing new for Catholics in the Northeast. In the one book essential for understanding today’s American Church, The Faithful Departed, Philip Lawler noted how Church leaders and their political allies have pursued such Vichy diplomacy for some 40 years. When the Massachusetts legislature acted to legalize contraception, Lawler notes, Richard Cardinal Cushing declined to make the natural law arguments against it — and instead got his lobbyists working to make sure Catholic hospitals would be exempt from dispensing the Pill.

While fighting contraception might have been futile, refusing battle became a habit: When abortion became the issue, instead of striving to outlaw it entirely, Catholic legislators in that state carved out exemptions for Catholic health-care workers. As Lawler sadly concluded, for Catholics to abandon arguments against evil practices based on natural law, and instead to beg for scraps of toleration, amounts not to prudent compromise but to unconditional surrender. The little “opt-outs” we win in return amount to little more than the bones that the Nazis threw Marshal Petain; we got to keep our police chief in Casablanca.

Political philosopher and convert Hadley Arkes explains that when we cease to say, “This is evil, and no one must engage in it,” and instead say, “This goes against our religion,” we as good as admit that our position is not based in reason and justice. It’s merely a peculiar tenet of our own sectarian creed, an oddment of revelation with which we’d never expect rational non-believers to agree — akin to the messages at Fatima. Indeed, if this were true, then the secularists would be right: We’d have no more authority to outlaw abortion or homosexual marriage than we would to lock up restauranteurs for selling meat on Fridays.


Well, it’s all over now. We have lost the support of the law. Our conquerors are singing “Lili Marlene” as they march past the Arc de Triomphe. Having crawled back into the sacristy and won the reluctant toleration that is all we dared to ask for, is there anything Catholics can do to preserve at least among our own flock the real understanding of marriage?

Oh yes. There is plenty, all of it long overdue. I recall that in the 1990s some Evangelical activists proposed laws (one passed in Louisiana and two other states) allowing couples the option of contracting “covenant marriage.” This amounts in essence to marriage as it had been defined before the onslaught of lax divorce laws — with few conditions permitting divorce (abandonment, abuse, and adultery), with custody preferences for mothers and guarantees of alimony for wives and children. Once it was enacted in Louisiana, bishops lauded it — but issued a statement assuring Catholic couples that it was merely optional.

It is time for us to revive this idea and encode still stricter provisions that mirror Canon Law, eschewing divorce and remarriage, in a standard prenuptial covenant that must be signed by Roman Catholics if they wish to be married in the Church. No pastor should be allowed to witness the Catholic marriage of any couple who will not sign such a pact — since, by refusing to do so, they would be in essence confessing that they intend not a sacrament but a charade. Rogue marriages conducted without this agreement should be, in the Church’s eyes, null and void. Catholics who still wanted elaborate ceremonies in Gothic environs could go off and rent some empty Episcopalian building.

These covenants, in their intent, should be legally enforceable — though, of course, American courts might throw them out. (The freedom of contract is only applied when it furthers leftist goals.) Still, even if judges invalidate our prenups, the Church should still demand them — and use their existence as prima facie evidence blocking future attempts at annulment. If we could make of marriage an obligation as solemn as, say, one’s credit card debt, we’d go a long way toward making it seem almost…sacred. The day that divorce is tougher and rarer than bankruptcy is the day that our values are rightly aligned.

Alongside these prenuptial covenants, American dioceses must make training in natural family planning a non-negotiable part of every pre-Cana course — since the routine use of contraception by Catholics is one of the key factors undermining lasting marriage. In fact, the way many churchmen respond with dissent or neglect to Humanae Vitae is one of the reasons that no one else takes us seriously. How dare we tell same-sex couples that they have no right to wed, when we barely trouble to teach our own congregations which kinds of sex it’s a sin to have? We wonder why no one listens to us. It could be because we are winking.

John Zmirak


John Zmirak is the author, most recently, of The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins (Crossroad). He served from October 2011 to February 2012 as Editor of Crisis.

  • I’m not sure what your motive is here.

    The same-sex civil union argument is made in the secular realm, so the Church has no more right to prohibit than it does to prohibit the polygamy of the Mohammedans.

    Or, if you feel the Church has universal legal jurisdiction, why are you so much more irate about the Church’s recent failure to de-rail same-sex civil unions than about the Church’s millennia of failure to get to grips with pagan polygamy?

    • Richard A

      Probably because homosexual “marriage” is much farther down the slippery slope than polygamy. Actually, it’s what the slippery slope is slipping towards.

      By “polygamy”, by the way, you really mean “polygyny” (“many wives”). “Polyandry” – many husbands – is demonstrably wrong on natural law grounds. The wrongness of polygyny might be suggested by a natural law appeal to justice, but is really only considered wrong because Christian revelation shows that a man should have only one wife because Christ only has one Church.

    • Max

      The Church has not only the right, but the given by God responsibility to preach the truth about the evil of constituting men sodomizing each other as “a marriage” as well as preaching against divorce and polygamy.

    • Don L

      There is no divide between the secular realm and the moral realm. Our very constitution recongnizes that our rights come only from our Creator – which we seem to be more than willing to trade for a free lunch, deviant sex, or a guilt free abortion.

      The goal of same sex marriage is little more that a foot in the door to take down God’s Church. You didn’t think it was about fairness did you? With this “homosexuality is a right” wedge – will go marriage (a communist goal) and Catholic rights of conscience to dissent in hospitals, Church, parochial schools hiring etc.

      There is a wall called separation of Chruch and state – but the Godless state alone has a one-way door in that wall through which it seeks to enter and tear down the competition it hates; the authority of God -His goodness and His truth.

  • Kathryn

    Two more suggestions:

    1) Mandatory and regular in-service training in NFP for doctors (nurses) in “Catholic” hosptials as a condition of hospital priviledges/employement. They don’t have to become experts in it, but they should at least know it is out there and works. This is nothing different than drug company product reps who come in every day to advise on/sell the latest drug or medical device.

    (It should go without our saying that our priests, bishops, various diocese, and hosptial bureacrats need the same training as well. On yearly basis.)

    2) Catholic lawyers who take divorces cases should not be allowed lay leadership roles in the parish. Or be lectors, cantors, choir, E.M. of Euchartist, etc. Dittos Catholic doctors who advertise/permform vasectomies, tubal ligation, and routinely prescribe contraceptive drugs. The same should hold for doctors who do IVF.

    • crazylikeknoxes

      I’ve actually thought about your second point for some time. Don’t you think Catholic judges, who must preside over gay marriages, divorces, adoptions, custody fights, etc., are faced with an ethical dilemma?

      • Kathryn

        I thought about that one too and have no good answer. So I left them off the list. But you are correct.

        I would not want to exclude a Catholic from being a judge. After all, it isn’t his (her) fault that someone comes before them demanding a divorce or gay marriage. Judges have a more limited abiIity to pick and choose cases than a doctor clients etc. Ditto a public defender. (I would hope conscience protections would prevail and they would not be required to do so).

        • SylviaMarie

          I don’t know how it is in other states, but where I live, performing marriages is a personal option for district court judges, There is a list of judges who agree to perform marriages, and it is definitely not the majority of sitting judges who agree to do this. It would be very easy for a Catholic judge to just not put their name on the list of judges who are avaliable to perform civil marriages. Actually, I have always assumed that that is exactly what Catholic judges already do, but I’ve never actually asked — since asking a judge’s religion is not considered PC. Unless they happen to attend my parish, I would have no way of knowing which judges are Catholic and if any of them are already agreeing to perform civil marriages. If they are already on the list to provide that service, then they are probably the kind of “Catholic” that may not mind performing a same-sex marriage.

  • Margaret

    In 2004, according to a Quinnipiac poll, 37 percent of the state’s residents supported allowing same-sex couples to wed. This year, 58 percent of them did. I don’t think Catholics are victims of the “elites.” This is just the new normal. Society will survive, just as it did thousands of years ago in the Old Testament when all those patriarchs had multiple wives and concubines.

    • Tertullian

      ‘….just the new normal’??? Excuse me, but God’s laws are not and will never be subject to polls or popular vote. Maybe normal for the immoral. By the way, in the old testament Sodom and Gomorrah’s vote on abomination topped 99% and as you said…’society will survive’.

      • Margaret

        Tertullian, how literally does anyone want to take the Sodom and Gomorrah story, which in any case supposedly concerns the sin of inhospitality? God does not appear to express disapproval of Abraham either for impregnating Hagar or for failing to protect her and her child from Sarai’s treatment. And no, God’s laws (however we may see them) are not subject to popular vote. Civil law, on the other hand, is.

        • Andy

          Sodom and Gomorrah story, which in any case supposedly concerns the sin of inhospitality?

          Can we please put that BS to bed immediately? Only cultural revisionists could possibly think that men trying to rape other men is only sinful because it’s inhospitable.

          • Michael PS

            Ezekiel. 16.49, 50 “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.”

    • Michael Brennick

      The “new abnormal” is a phenomenon of the elites.

      As Kierkegaard showed in “the Present Age”, mass consensus is a construct–a product of manipulation. The Left has been adept at socially marginalizing anyone who is not in sync with the “new abnormal”.

      • Jason Fairfield

        Your quote does not preclude homosexual sex, it only puts another list of wrongs commited by Sodom.

        Shall we look at the quote in question. I am unsure of the translation, it came from, I think it’s the Douay.

        From Genesis 19

        4 But before they went to bed, the men of the city beset the house, both young and old, all the people together. 5 And they called Lot, and said to him: Where are the men that came in to you at night? Bring them out hither, that we may know them: 6 Lot went out to them, and shut the door after him, and said: 7 Do not so, I beseech you, my brethren, do not commit this evil. 8 I have two daughters who, as yet, have not known man; I will bring them out to you, and abuse you them as it shall please you, so that you do no evil to these men, because they have come in under the shadow of my roof. 9 But they said: Get you back thither. And again: You came in, said they, as a stranger, was it to be a judge? Therefore we will afflict you more than them. And they pressed very violently upon Lot: and they were even at the point of breaking open the doors. 10 And behold the men put out their hand, and drew in Lot unto them, and shut the door. 11 And them, that were without, they struck with blindness from the least to the greatest, so that they could not find the door.

        If you look in the context of what this mob wanted by “knowing” the visitors them it’s clear that it wasn’t hospitality (in that context, it would be argued that the mob demanded to show hospitality). The “know” meaning sexual relations context is reinforced since Lot offered his daughters “who did not know man.” to placate them.

        The hospitality context simply falls apart.

        There are quotations from St Paul as well, but I’m afraid I cannot specifically locate them.

        • Jason Fairfield

          I’m sorry, this quote was meant for Michael PS

          • Michael PS

            Well, Ezekiel provides us with an inspired commentary on the story of the destruction of Sodom, which appears to stress, neither lack of hospitality (which he does not mention at all) nor homosexual sex (which he merely hints at), but pride, which he mentions twice – “pride” and “haughty” – and the results or manifestations of pride – idleness, excessive diet and contempt for the poor, as well as committing “toeveh,” a word used in different senses by different places, as any good Hebrew dictionary or concordance will show, e.g. it has a rather different meaning in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

            St Paul never mentions Sodom by name; perhaps, you are thinking of St Jude 1:7?

            Where one inspired writer comments on another, this, surely, should be our starting-point in elucidating the meaning of the narrative.

  • John has gone too far concerning annullments. “Covenants…. the Church should still demand them — and use their existence as prima facie evidence blocking future attempts at annulment.”. It is the Church that allows annullments if John does not.

    There is a natural law basis to annullments….even if Catholic annullment boards give them too easily in a given country. Their basis is that God does not accept the marriage vow in the first place of a person He knows to be
    radically unfit for marriage. To rule out all annullments,
    you would be keeping in existence marriages that God
    never recognized even though the Church did since She did
    not know the hidden problems that God knew concerning
    that person and which only showed up later.

  • Charles

    That’s a shame because the religious protections doesn’t offer much protection. It redefined religion, that when exempted from same-sex marriage, to be limited to the sanctuary and its marriage ceremonies. Post-marriage counseling, health benefits for same-sex partners, adoption and foster care (already mandated by another law), and any and all church-related ministries even for those faiths, such as Catholicism, that see a life of service a religious ministry and tenet of the faith. Only the sanctuary at the time of a marriage ceremony is protected. The law imposes a very narrow view on religion. So narrow it could risk a court challenge of establishing religion.

    • Gail Finke

      Is that correct? Because if it is, what a load of garbage it is for anyone to talk about “exemptions.”

  • Ender

    “The Catholic Church, arguably the only institution with the authority and reach to derail same-sex marriage, seemed to shrink from the fight.”

    One is more likely to see unicorns and jackalopes than to see bishops take on the popular culture.

    • Don L

      To play with your wording a bit, If I may, I suspect that much of the problem in the Church today is that far to many bishops have already “taken on” the popular culture!

  • Richard M

    I like your suggestions – a good place to start now that we try to pick up the pieces after this collapse. The numbers speak for themselves, and they are likewise grim: Far fewer Catholics are getting married in the Church. That may be unlikely to change, but at least we can make sure that those who *do* get married in the Church preserve the true understanding of the sacrament – and have a much better chance at making the marriage survive.

    Why are the bishops so gutless on this? Some of it is ecclesiastical ladder-climbing. That is to say, the kinds of priests who end up getting promoted are careerist, not usually characterized by bold teaching. Many of which, especially the older ones, may not truly agree with the doctrines they nominally sign on to (but do so anyway so as not to run afoul of Rome). But I also wonder just how many are same-sex attracted themselves.

    The New York state bench of bishops is and has been particularly lackluster, still dominated by a “Spirit of Vatican II” mindset, most vividly typified by Matthew Clark of Rochester and Howard Hubbard of Albany. That hasn’t helped matters either. Consider the kinds of priests some of these seminaries were turning out (and young men they were rejecting) 20, 30, 40 years ago.

  • Richard M

    Charles said: “That’s a shame because the religious protections doesn’t offer much protection.” They don’t offer *any* protection not already offered by the New York constitution. They are simply fig leaves to protect nervous Republicans from primary challenges.

    And they offer no protection at all to Catholic-owned businesses who choose to refuse business of same-sex couples planning to get “married.” Caterers, photographers, reception halls, printers, now all face the prospect of civil suits for standing up for their religious beliefs. These suits have already happened in other states.

    • sophie

      Can’t Catholic owned wedding providers simply tell a homosexual couple they are booked, busy, too far outside the budget etc. etc. to work with them?
      To what extent are we obligated by our faith to discuss reasons for not participating in such unions?
      I live in a state with legal same-sex marriage etc. and I had an experience where I very much got the ‘vibe’ that I was being baited by a homosexual couple. I believed their intent was for me to refuse providing the services of my business to them so they could sue me. I ended up simply avoiding them and waiting them out but I do wonder about obligations as a Catholic in such matters.

  • Richard M

    One postscript: You mention covenant marriages. Three states (AZ, AR, LA) actually have these enshrined as options in the civil law.

    It’s disappointing to see that less than 1% of couples in each state opt for these. One wonders what the numbers might look like if the Church really pushed this approach.

    Of course, you are arguing that the Church insist on this regardless of the civil law. It may have to do that in the end. Having a civil law so contrary to that of the Church can be a challenge and an opportunity. I’d prefer not to have the challenge, honestly, but one benefit of the coming days is that the Church will be forced to have a clearer sense of her identity and teaching – as will Catholics who must decide whether they will align with her or with the world.

  • Richard A

    As I understand it, in these united States, a clergyman who performs the religious ceremony of marriage without also performing the state-sanctioned civil ceremony is the one who risks imprisonment. It seems to me reasonable, then, that in the state of New York, marriage is so far different from the Catholic Church’s understanding that her ministers can no longer participate in that charade. Each bishop in New York should find a scheduled Catholic wedding in his diocese this weekend and require of the priest that he, the bishop, be the principal celebrant at the coming nuptials, and then not sign the civil document. The couple, of course, can and probably should get the civil crap taken care of anyway, but if not, maybe the good bishop can run his diocese from a jail cell for few weeks or months.

    Actually, that would probably inconvenience the jails in New York enough to prompt a reconsideration of the law.

  • John Zmirak

    Re: Bill Bannon, I’m sorry if I was ambiguous; I certainly didn’t mean that no legitimate annulments would ever be granted. The goal of the covenants would be at once to minimize FALSE annulments of valid marriages, but even more to avoid FALSE marriages which later would deserve REAL annulments. I think that many of the annulments currently granted are valid, since one or both of the partners (uncatechized or insincere) did NOT intend an indissoluble sacramental marriage.

  • crazylikeknoxes

    I agree the focus needs to be preserving (restoring) a real understanding of marriage among the faithful. We become too distracted by the state and its politics. Jesus said his Kingdom is not of this world (and there no conquering army will be heard to sing Lil’ Marlene) and St. Paul chided his congregation for looking to the civil courts to redress their problems. Civil marriage long ceased to resemble anything like sacramental marriage and the legalization of “gay marriage” (which has about as much reality as “women priests”) is merely a postscript to the process of secularization that began many centuries ago.

  • Brilliant. Great post, John.

  • Vicki

    “Why are the bishops so gutless on this?” It’s very simple: he who pays the piper calls the tune. The bishops were seduced into taking government money to run their institutions a very long time ago. Since then they have been playing the game. There’s not one of them willing to refuse govt. subsidies and fight the good fight. The system is corrupt and one can only hope that this latest proof of the complete moral bankruptcy of govt. will help them to see it for what it is. But I’m not holding my breath.

  • Confederate Papist

    I was astounded how the Church was attacked in the comboxes of the NY Post and Times….even more so now that I read this article on how the bishops in the state just ducked and covered…

    Yet more reason to believe the NY is a lost cause, and another reason for me to never, ever step foot in, nor spend money in that city or state…rat hole!!

  • Mark these words:
    1. Within a year, all religions in NY will have to marry gays in the “church” or face jail and fines.
    2. Within a decade, there will be NO RCC in NY state, having been outlawed for being a hate group the same as the KKK.
    3. Within 20 years, humanism/atheism will be the overwhelming ethical system of the US, with religious believers being an ostracised, tiny minority living in the Ozarks.

    • crazylikeknoxes

      Or we could live in Cleveland. It’s a little more desolate.

      • Jason Fairfield

        I think I might try for the island of Malta.

        Or barring that, figuring out privately how to break the light speed barrier…. 😛

    • David Philippart

      OK, your words are marked. Now when none of this happens–as it will not–will you admit that you were being hysterical? You folks sure like feeling persecuted.

      • mike cliffson

        Dear David
        Maybe not in detail, but Mr Marx is but assuming that has happened elsewhere will repeat in NY. In Europe, I don’t think that Catholic adoption agencies forced to close, Christian foster couples flayed in the media , or B&B owner refusing bookings for a double bed for other than male+female maried couples, and a long unreprted etc, ENJOY being persecuted.Or look at Canada: you cousins share a continent and a commonlaw based legal system with them.

    • Chris in Maryland

      Mr. Marx may just be off in terms of time, or he may be wrong that this is the outcome.

      But he is exactly correct that this is what is intended by the “will of the collective.” It intends to absorb everything. The question is – will it succeed?

      It is anathema to the “Rousseaus” that any man thinks he has rights ordained by God – such men must be silenced, or if need be, eliminated.

      The question is – will New York State go financially bankrupt before The Church in NYS goes morally bankrupt? And…

      “When the Son of Man comes…?”

    • Fr. Frank

      But on the bright side, the Ozarks are beautiful and the people are kind and God-fearing. Flannery O’Connor was right when she spoke of “the Christ-haunted South.”

    • Cord Hamrick

      Mr. Marx:

      I think your order of events is quite plausible, but I think your timeline is rather too quick.

      Item 1 might happen as soon as a year, but ten years is more likely, and twenty more likely still. (Apart from an overall societal reversal, I’d be surprised if it took forty.)

      Item 2 is right and wrong; the Catholic church worships in North Korea, so it will certainly continue to worship in New York. But it might have been forced by lawsuits and the like to go underground to a degree. And a decade is too short a time, but a hundred years (barring a reversal of social conscience) seems pretty likely.

      Item 3 is already here, in some segments of society; in others, the non-religious are the minority. If over time (fifty years, but not twenty) all segments of society go in the direction you suggest, then in all segments of society the the religious will be a minority, tolerated and considered distasteful and backward by the majority. If that happens, then the tiny minority will probably not be living in the Ozarks literally, but in a figurative way they will: ghettoized within each community, having social connections only among themselves.

  • Chris in Maryland

    The New York homosexual “marriage” vote was a victory made possible by “Notre Dame Catholicism,” the new Albigensianism.

    Disordered Catholics who follow the Cuomos and Kennedys are lead by the nose thinking that government has authority to define marriage.

    Catholics who follow Christ know that the state has no authority or competence to define marriage. Only The Church can define marriage – everything else called “marriage” by anyone else means absolutely nothing.

    Such is the state of vast expanses of the Catholic realm in America: gleaming golden dome, no “real presence.” But at least its all out in the open now…no more can the Hesburg’s conspire in secret with those who hate the Gospel.

    “When the Son of Man comes…”

  • Ninov

    I believe the true teaching of the church is that NFP should only be used in grave and serious circumstances. IE – we are to be open to life in all but serious cases. We are two steps away from this. Contraception started this. We seperated sex from pro-creation from marriage. We are suppose to be fruitful and multiply. That is sex and that is marriage. It’s been defined. Only in RARE cases should anyone use NFP. You have all slipt already, down the slope thinking NFP is Catholic birth control is error.

  • Patricia

    Wow! Thanks for this great article. This is a sharer. I believed long ago that if natural family planning was a requirement of PreCana instruction, couples would be armed with the truth and the material needed to rejecte contraception from the beginning. It seems once a married life gets rolling into everyday routine, the temptation to use contraception is immediate. Couples need the teaching of the holy calling of their vocation and everything that goes with it to make it possible. This is a big undertaking, bigger than compatibility, likes and dislikes, etc.

    • Would it be that much of an improvement if Catholics stopped using artificial contraception because they all switched to using NFP instead to delay pregnancy and have their 2.1 kids per family?

      NFP is supposed to be used in rare cases, like when the health of the mother would be endangered by pregnancy or when desperate poverty (not the inability to afford a second minivan) would make it difficult to feed another mouth. Most couples in the West, even in today’s economy, have no need to know NFP. (A soon-to-be-married couple going through preCana is especially unlikely to need it, since the inability to support children right away should be a red flag against marriage in the first place.) Those few who do need it will have no trouble finding books and classes to learn.

      Catholics aren’t using contraception because they don’t know NFP; they’re using it because they reject (or don’t know) the Church’s teaching on the purpose of marriage and being open to new life. That’s what needs to change.

  • Charles

    So…let me get this straight. Mathematics (rhythm method) is approved, but not Physics (condoms) or Chemistry (pill, foam). Thanks for the clarification!

    • Kathryn

      Charles: modern day NFP is a long way from the old Vatican Roulette…which in fact is quite workable for some people.

      Check out or esp (a medical model of NFP that is appealing to physicians.)

  • Charles

    Contraception is terrible, destructive and love-denying. However, SSM is a major leap. It completely dismisses the prospect (or adopting the contraceptive mindset, threat) of fertility within marriage. Whether a marriage by 1 or 100 percent fertile or 0 by artificial means, it is a marriage where SSM can not.

  • Bill Russell

    From the National Catholic Reporter:

    Jamie L Manson on Jun. 28, 2011

    It took nearly two days for Archbishop Timothy Dolan to comment on the historic passage of legislation allowing gays and lesbian to marry in the state of New York.

    He waited until he had concluded Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s on the Feast of Corpus Christi. As chance, or the Holy Spirit, would have it, this was also Gay Pride Sunday.

    Dolan met with reporters in a rear corner of the cathedral. When asked why he didn’t mention gay marriage in his homily, Dolan said he thought it would be a distraction to the Sabbath day, which is meant for prayer.

    The first Republican senator to break ranks and agree to vote in favor of the bill was Joseph Alesi, who was raised Catholic and graduated from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y.

    And, of course, Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose commitment, political influence, and impeccable organizational skills were the most powerful force behind the bill’s approval, was raised in a Catholic home. A pro-choice, cohabitating divorcee, Cuomo receives communion when he attends Mass and reportedly takes his Catholicism seriously.

    After expressing his disappointment with the bill’s passage, Dolan stated:
    To the gay community, I love you very much. If anything I ever said or did would lead you to believe that I have anything less than love or respect for you, I apologize.

  • FWIW, Abp. Dolan was never a strong voice in Wisconsin, either, on matters of morality.

  • kathy

    This is all very depressing.


    It is time for the American bishops and the Catholic faithful to divorce the church from the New American State. NO clergy should perform civil or government agreements to co habitation in a Catholic church. Catholics who want the sacatrament of matrimony will do so in the Church. The legal or State marriage should be done in a government office much like the Napolenic code in Europe. Let us separate sacramental marriage from American contract law.This will protect our clergy from the wrath of the Cuomites and their ilk for at least a little while. As Catholics we must choose whether to stand for the city of God or to stand for the city of man(the Cuomite culture of American depravity) Unfortunately too many bishops and their clergy identify themselves as Cuomite ethnic Catholics. Let the schism begin.

  • Bill Russell

    Three Months Before the Sam Sex Vote

    USCCB President Timothy Dolan on Cuomo Concubinage Controversy: Tempest in Teapot

    As the USCCB president and a high-profile Catholic bishop in the same state in which Cuomo lives, Timothy Dolan had no choice except to jump into the fray. Dolan and several other bishops had lunch with Gov. Cuomo Tuesday, and here’s the USCCB president’s take on the Cuomo-concubinage-communion controversy following the lunch: asked whether the concubinage came up during lunch, and the question of communion, Dolan states,

    “Thank God it didn’t, because it was a bit of a tempest in a teapot. We were just happy to be there, and he obviously was, too. We got lunch out of it.”

  • There is something that the Church has that the secular world does not have which is in fact revelation. I cannot deny that many are clearly aware that there is in fact a spiritual descent that has taken over the world. We are talking about outright absurdities like ‘gay-marriage’, legalized pornography and aboriton on demand when in fact as little as twelve weeks the childs heart beat can be heard but it is called ‘fetal tones’. The realization that people are not behaving at all rationally or dare I say fairly and have the support of the government does say a lot about the situation. I wouldn’t call it a submission to futility but rather to the inevitablity of prophecy.

  • Sad to note the insip comment and reluctance, on the part of Abp Dolan,to address issues that require response and guidance for the average Catholic in the pew.
    God bless you all.

  • TeaPot562

    Cultures that reject the command of God in Genesis to “increase and multiply” – in nonbiblical terms, bearing fewer than 2.1 children per womqn of child-bearing ages (15 to 45) are replaced by cultures that preach female inferiority, and force their adult females to bear many children. This is already underway in Western Europe, and will follow in the US and Canada.
    So the popular majority in NA in 2100 is more likely to be Muslim than atheist.
    May the Lord delight in proving this forcecast wrong..

  • mrd

    Did his Emminence really say ” he thought it would be a distraction to the Sabbath day, which is meant for prayer. ” This is proof positive the hierarchy no longer believes the what the Church historically has taught . The last I heard homosexual acts were objectively mortal sins. Those individuals who take advantage of the new ability to enter into a faux marriage will be engaged in what the Church teaches are objectively mortally sinful activities, placing their immortal soul in peril. Archbishop Dolan , one would think cares about theses souls, so it would seem an act of spirtual mercy to preach about it. ( Remember “admonish the sinner” ). What part of this is not correct? Is sodomy no longer sinful? Good thing St Paul’s letter to the Romans was not being read, I am not sure how it would fit into this new paradigm about not preaching about sin on Sunday. Chapter 1 is not particularly conducive to gay marriage. I guess maybe the USCCB can eliminate it.

    Frankly I think gay marriage is much less a threat to the republic than the things which are destroying real marriage ( divorce, contraception, adultery). There are not all that many gay people who believe that sodomy is ok but “divorce” or adultery would be a sin. So we will have gay folks doing pretty much what they do now. Whether they do this under a veneer of faux marriage is not really very important to me. In fact they can not enter into a “marriage” as understood by God anymore than pigs can fly. No legislature can change this. to the extent its a bad thing the real injury is done to those who might take advantage of the law. It might encourage some souls who would otherwise find the courage to remain chaste to commit sexual sins under the cover of a faux marriage. Nonetheless I can not personally get too worried about the fate of these people ( mea culpa) I dont know them, and their fate is up to God. I am not their Sheppherd.

    No, the really interesting thing about this is the relative nonchalance of the Archbishop, who is their sheppherd, spiritual father and all that “bishop stuff” . I am not sure if this means he does not think gay sex is a sin, or if he is not particularly worried about their souls. What is the logic here? I would really like to see it spelled out. At the very least He should excommunicate Gov Coumo. ( Not that Coumo would care, but it would show the Church still takes it self seriously ,and is not completely comatose. )

    I am not sure what exactly the answer is, to this obvious meltdown of the Church. This is clear evidence that anyone who refers to the current state of the post Vatican II Church using phrases like “New springtime” is delusional. The Church is critically ill and it will take heroic intervention to resuscitate her.

    • Andy

      The last I heard homosexual acts were objectively mortal sins.

      Hang on. I agree with you that the gravity of this subject has not been taken seriously by those in authority, but there is no such thing as an “objectively mortal sin.” Homosex is objectively disordered, to be sure, but unless we can go around reading souls, we have no way of knowing that its practitioners are in a state of mortal sin.

      Does it meet the requirement of grave matter? To be sure. However, the requirements of knowledge and full consent of will are known to God alone.

      And that, my friends is why we are called not to judge. We can know that something is wrong, but not if it is damnable to a specific person.

      • mrd

        your post shows that in you zeal not to judge you are confused. Or perhaps I was less than clear.

        What I mean by objectively mortal sin is what the Church used to call material mortal sin ( something that violates the moral law in a grave matter) The other two characteristics of formal mortal sin ( that is sin for which you incur full guilt) are full knowledge and full consent. While we can never know on an individual basis whether someone is guilty of these things, since consent and knowledge are subjective states, one would be crazy to not realize some of the people engaged in the material sin of sodomy are also guilty of formal sin and if they do not repent will go to hell. Unless we have disregarded this teaching, but that has been, and to my knowledge still is the teaching re sodomy. If anyone knows differently please say so.

        It is not a spiritual work of mercy to see someone engaged in activities which are sinful and to say “well… he might not be going to hell because he may not be formally guilty. ” It seems better to suggest they avoid the sin. I do not say to a smoker, “well go ahead and smoke after all most smokers will not get lung cancer”. Enough get cancer even if I do not know which ones, to advise against smoking. Similar logic exists in re committing mortal sin. If you see the objectively sinful action you need to presume some of the people are guilty of formal sin and you should probably admonish the sinner.

        • Andy

          I agree with everything you’ve said. I’ve never heard of the distinction “material mortal sin,” and by that category, you are correct.

  • digdigby

    Reply to MRD:

    Gay marriage is a Trojan horse. Two terrifying realities: 1) The radical Homosexuals are itching to deeply corrupt the minds of children. They have a truly inhuman hatred of purity, innocence and simplicity of heart. 2) These same radicals who are the ruthless core of the movement are out to destroy the Catholic Church which they LOATHE with an unholy passion. They will use hate speech laws, coercion of every sort and a relentless campaign of lies and mockery via the mass media. We are up against the Father of Lies.

  • There is precedent for upholding Sharia marriage contracts as a point of contract law. Ecclesial contracts are an excellent idea and I’ve been arguing for them informally myself. This presents an opportunity to make ecclesial law more robust.

    It surprises me always that we all seem to suffer from a positive law addiction–not realizing that the more lax the positive law the more robust ecclesial law can be in contrast, if people have the courage to make it so and stick by it.

  • Gail Finke

    “Political philosopher and convert Hadley Arkes explains that when we cease to say, “This is evil, and no one must engage in it,” and instead say, “This goes against our religion,” we as good as admit that our position is not based in reason and justice.”

    That is something to put front and center, and I am going to remember it well.

  • Christianus

    Presuming to err in favor of “women and children” in case of a divorce may sound chivalrous but it is absolutely insane.

    Women cause most of the divorces; they leave their husbands because they are “unhappy.”

    Husbands are being raped financially and estranged from their children precisely because our courts are in thrall to feminist ideology.

    The Church must not officially surrender to feminism by adopting an insane plan to give “preference in custody” to mothers who too often deprive fathers of rights, then take the supports and laugh.

    Mr. Zmirak should know better. He needs to do some reading. His suggestion shows that he doesn’t know much about divorce.

  • Margaret

    Gail Finke writes, “when we … say, ‘This goes against our religion,’ we as good as admit that our position is not based in reason and justice.”

    Perhaps it isn’t based in reason and justice in this case. It’s one thing to make decisions for ourselves, but quite another to hubristically decide how others should conduct their private lives. Marriage is probably in a better state now than it was in Abraham’s day of polygamy and concubinage.

  • Liz

    Margaret: and when you die to whom will you answer? You need to read Render unto Caesar by Archbishop Chaput

    • Margaret

      Liz, I generally disagree with Chaput, so I doubt I’d be moved by his book.

  • William Taylor

    1) Catholics need to give up on trying to make or stop laws and work in house to explain to young people why marriage is sacred. And then it needs to work much harder on supporting married couples, especially young married couples.

    2) A priest or bishop talking about the sanctity of marriage is like a vegetarian commenting on a good hamburger. A historical study shows that for most centuries, the Church put marriage in second place, after celibacy. So, the real Church tradition is anti-marriage. Maybe if Father was married, I would pay more attention to his sermons on marriage. I just celebrated my fiftieth anniversary, attended by my six kids and all my long married friends with their kids. We had a good laugh about youngsters in the Church pushing NP again. I love my kids, but the biggest arguments in our marriage were about whether we could afford more kids.

  • John Mack

    Dolan’s mantra on gay marriage is so weird – that marriage is sacred, and practiced everywhere and in all ages as an institution for for one man and one woman, etc. What about Muslims, allowing for four wives, being at least one quarter of the world’s population? What about the Biblical patriarchs and their multiple wives? Etc. Etc. How credible can anyone be if he cannot get such basic facts right?

    The Catholic Church used to have no problem articulating what marriage is all about. In my Catholic school I was taught that marriage had these purposes:

    1. Companionable love. Tenderness and mutual respect and nurturing between the spouses. In sacramental marriage (which is not universal) this companionable love becomes a source of grace and as such is reflective of Christ’s love for his church and God’s lovingkindness towards all of humanity. The problem here is that gay marriage can fulfill the companionable love for which marriage exists, and in the view of liberal Christians and Catholics who believe in sacramental marriage (not all Christians do) gay marriage can also fulfill the sacramental aspect of marriage.

    2. Generative love. The companionable love of the spouses extends out to the creation and nurturing of the next generation. The most common expression of this is procreation followed up by active care and nurturing of the children brought into this world. But childless couples can fulfill this purpose of marriage in other ways – teaching, paying taxes for schools and programs benefitting children, non-profit and volunteer work, adoption, etc. Active concern for future generations is a binding obligation for all married couples, even if a couple is childless. The problm here is that gay marriage can fulfill this purpose of marriage.

    3. Stabilizing how people live, protecting them from temptation. To stabilize the life of the couple, enabling them to restrain from promiscuity and the sin of sex without love and responsibility. The problem here is that gay marriage can fulfill this purpose of marriage.

    4. Building and stabilizing communities and society. Good families are the foundation of a good society that can provide justice for its members. The problem here is that gay marriage can fulfill this purpose of marriage.

    Perhaps the Catholic church is now afraid to talk about marriage and its purposes and spiritual benefits as it used to do because gay marriage can begin to make theological, not just civic and sociological, sense.

    • Cherie

      I can’t speak to why this definition has fallen out of use, because it would be extremely useful in opposing same-sex marriage. It’s much more useful, in fact, than the more commonly used explanations.

      Point 3 is the most direct and effective argument against gay marriage that I’ve encountered. Same-sex marriage admits and strengthen’s the couple’s temptation toward sexual relations with one another; an intrinsically disordered act. The entire marriage is a “near occasion of sin,” which is why the Church has the duty to warn and protect people from same sex marriage as much as possible.

    • mrd

      This is one of the craziest things I have ever read. Gay marriage can not make sense and the Church be what it claims to be because sodomy has for all 2000 years of the Church been considered a serious sin. Love and responsibility is not what the Church teaches makes sex not sinful per se. ( Otherwise premarital heterosexual sex, AKA fornication would be ok, and last I heard ,as much fun as it might be, it is still sinful.) So sodomy even among people who deeply “love” one another is a mortal sin period. That’s the teaching. In fact people who sodomize do not really “love” one another, because they are not willing the eternal good, of the partner, but rather putting their soul at risk. The same is true for heterosexual couples who fornicate etc.. That also is the teaching, like it or not. I plead guilty to not liking it at times.

      Moreover St Paul’s Letter to the Romans Ch 1 is pretty tough to square with gay marriage. If you disagree with this then you must conclude a couple of things:

      1) The Bible is not inspired ( I mean St Paul is calling homosexual activity obviously gravely sinful so one must say he was wrong period)
      2) The Church is wrong ( if the Church is wrong in what it calls a sin or not a sin then it is not what it claims to be ( a reliable source for our contact with Christ and transmitter of his word)

      If you believe this, well then I imagine you can go ahead take your chances and after death see if you were correct. but you can not remain intellectually honest and remain a Catholic, it would be illogical.

      It would obviously make no sense for the Church to say ” You know.. We were wrong about this homosexual thing its not so bad…” I am not sure than what sin the same logic would not potentially apply. I am not to crazy about the teachings re greed ( I like my stuff…) And I am confident my teenage boys could do without the teaching re lust, but the teachings are what the teachings are, you either believe em or you don’t.

  • Kathryn


    I’m sympathetic with your view that the Church has put celibacy before marriage. I remember when the new orthodox bishop come in after the former not quite as orthodox one retired.

    He immediately started work on the sorry state of our vocations and pushing celibacy and the like, while marriages continued to crumble and NFP services were not available, at least through the diocese. The divorce ministry seemed to be in good shape, of course. Nowhere was contraception as a problem mentioned, and this was a bishop who had written in his former diocese about the issue. Very depressing.

    This is how Richard Hogan and John LeVoir put it in their book Covenant of Love “[T]hose who have embraced the evangelical counsels serve Christian families by their example. Their virginal and celibate lives testify to the inherent goodness of marriage. The religious do not remain unmarried because marriage is meaningless, but rather because it is such an unfathomable treasure. They show their love for God in surrendering an inherently good and noble way of life, marriage.” (page 291)

    I must confess that this explanation doesn’t do much for me. I understand it intellectually, but when the kids are acting up…well. ..the grass is certainly greener on the celibate side of the fence isn’t it?

    Ironically, it was an ex-Catholic who made me understand celibacy’s value. We don’t see it today because despite the attacks on Christianity in general and our Church in particular, we are actually pretty safe and cozy and have much more freedom to speak the truth than Christians in other countries and especially in past times. Sts Peter and Paul didn’t have body guards to hide behind as they preached the Word. No bullet proof Popemobile or Kevlar vest. Ditto missionaries like St. Francis, or the Black Robes who came to this country to preach among the Indians. Very hazardous work and not something one wanted to necessarily expose a wife and little kids to.

  • Rebecca Teti

    Whenever I post an argument about same-sex marriage, there are two responses. The pious Catholics write lovely apologetics for the sacrament of marriage in terms that could not be used in debate in the public square and which reveal they do not understand natural marriage as an institution that pre-dates both the Church and the state. They have nothing to say about marriage to non-Christians. The more lax Catholics write, “Eh, it doesn’t effect me.” This has happened so often that I have come to believe that neither side has the capacity to think in terms of the common good and civil society. They are both in essence thinking about themselves (and their little circle). I’m not sure this is cowardice on the part of the Catholics so much as intellectual incapacity. You could see it in the floor debate in NY. A Senator Grisanti made exactly the mistake Arkes refers to, and I think he did it utterly sincerely. “Fairness to all” will trump “my personal faith” in the public square every time. You can’t make an argument you don’t understand. There is, with the exception of a few figures such as Arkes and Archbishop Chaput, a complete absence of Catholic engagement with either the natural law or the common good. We do apologetics well, but there is more to moral formation than catechesis. There’s a reason everywhere he goes, Benedict XVI says there is a crying need for lay people capable of engaging the political world.

  • Michael PS

    Rebecca Tait makes an excellent point.

    Now, what we are talking about here is civil marriage and it is worth asking what public purpose this serves and why the legislator establishes it in the first place. Quite simply, marriage is the ordinary means of establishing men’s responsibility for their children.

    The state has a clear interest in the filiation of children being clear, certain and incontestable. It is central to its concern for the upbringing and welfare of the child, for protecting rights and enforcing obligations between family members and for an orderly succession to property. To date, no better, simpler and less intrusive means have been found for ensuring, as far as possible, that the legal, biological and social realities of fatherhood coincide. And that is no small thing.

    The presumption of paternity of the husband rests, in turn, on the obligation of fidelity between spouses and reflects the commitment made by the husband during the celebration of marriage, to raise the couple’s children. That is why the presumption does not apply to civil unions, even of opposite-sex couples or to unregulated cohabitation.

    This led the courts in France to conclude that “…clearly, same-sex couples whom nature had not made potentially fertile are consequently not concerned by the institution [of marriage] (ne sont en conséquence pas concernés par cette institution). This is differential legal treatment because their situation is not analogous.” To summarise their conclusions: (1) Mandatory civil marriage, makes the institution a pillar of the secular Republic, standing clear of the religious sacrament [(2) The institution of republican marriage is inconceivable, absent the idea of filiation, enshrined, not in Church dogma, but in the Civil Code (3) The sex difference is central to filiation.. I suspect that there is a profound difference of philosophy, between those who view civil marriage as a “pillar of the Republic,” to be valued for the public purposes it serves, rather than for the incidental benefits it confers on individuals and those who regard it as a means of access to certain personal advantages

    It is significant that, in a country so committed to the principle of laïcité as France, no one has suggested that finding is either the result of religious convictions or an attempt to import them into the interpretation of the Civil Code.

  • Tom

    This amounts in essence to marriage as it had been defined before the onslaught of lax divorce laws — with few conditions permitting divorce (abandonment, abuse, and adultery), with custody preferences for mothers and guarantees of alimony for wives and children.

    Gee, and men did not sign up for this? I wonder why?

    Marriage is the bedrock of civilized society, and its preservation is necessary to the continuation of that society. It must benefit BOTH sexes, however, to do so. If the covenantal marriage laws specified that MEN were the default “owners” of the “produce” of a marriage, and that alimony would not be forthcoming except in cases of male adultery, you’d find a lot more men willing to risk the legal minefield that modern marriage represents.

    Some interesting wording, John: what exactly did you mean by “abuse?” If you meant physical abuse to the level of bruises and injuries, we’re agreed. But in an age where simple yelling can be considered “abuse” by the courts, this is an open invitation to a woman to break up her marriage on flimsy grounds to profit from child support, which you have curiously termed “alimony… for children,” which it frankly is in this day and age.

    Some cultures have solved the problem of low birth rate, notably the Amish. Women are expected to marry young, and chaste, which solves a lot of the problem of polyandry that afflicts modern couples. The greater power, however, is in shunning, and the ability of adultery or sinful behavior to have the individual cast not just out of his family, but out of society. What we need is a Church whose attraction is so strong that the threat of excommunication for those who frivolously divorce, civilly, is enough to strengthen the bonds of marriage when they grow weak.

  • Titus

    Many of Mr. Zmirak’s articles and suggestions are quite stimulating and offer good advice. This one gets out to a good start. But the bit about prenuptial agreements is actually just silly. Prenuptial agreements are actually grounds for annulment, because they demonstrate that the spouses contemplated that their marriage would not be permanent. So it’s simply goofball to say that the Church should compel spouses to contemplate the termination of their lifelong commitment in order to make that commitment. The other canonical problems with such a suggestion go on further.

    Similar criticism can be levied against the sudden canonization of alimony and child support regimens. Divorce courts are feminist fever swamps: strengthening tools such as these in their hands is not a path towards a revitalization of Christian society. Mr. Zmirak’s suggestion reflects the sort of nonsense thinking that already prevails in family litigation: men always abuse women and women never bear any fault for anything bad that happens between married persons. These are not mechanisms to promote equality and permanence in marriage: they’re tools for adulteresses and hussies to use in preying upon husbands and families.

  • John Zmirak

    Our goal shouldn’t be to discriminate against men, but to attempt to restore the pre-feminist reality of women as primary caregivers of young children. In a proper legal arrangement, divorce would be rare, confined to causes like adultery, real physical abuse, abandonment, and lack of support–in which case the guilty party (male or female) would lose custody and come out financially behind. In “no-fault” separations (not divorces, which shouldn’t exist without serious fault) I think it makes sense for mothers to be the default care-givers for young children, barring unfitness on their parts.

  • Mark Rutledge

    Don’t run up the white flag just yet, Monsieur Zmirak. DOMA is still the law of the land and prevents the other states from having to recognize homosexual “marriages” enacted by other states. The Obama administration openly abdicated on its duty to defend DOMA, and there is a real chance it may be thrown out by the courts. Even at that, 31 states, and soon to be more, have enacted legislation defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Does the US Constitution automatically place the actions of one state’s legislature over the actions of another state’s legislature? Or, worse yet, another state’s popular initiative? A great battle awaits. Perhaps keeping in the theme of John’s opening analogy, this will be the D-Day for marriage in our country.

    • Michael PS

      It will certainly be interesting to see how the courts of states that do not recognize same-sex marriage deal with the legal problems that will, inevitably, ensue.

      To take an obvious example, suppose one spouse in a same-sex marriage dies intestate, domiciled in New York, leaving assets (bank accounts, stock, land or whatever) in a state that does not recognize SSM. Will that state hold that NY law applies to the distribution of his or her assets, thus, in effect, recognising the claim of the surviving spouse to succeed, or will it apply local law, even though the deceased was neither resident nor domiciled in that state? Would different rules apply to moveable and immovable property?

      Again, will the courts of a non-SSM state apply the presumption of paternity to a child born of a female couple, married according to the laws of the state of their domicile, making them “co-parents” for the purposes of succession to the non-birth parent, or, if she predeceases them, from her parents? Will they enforce a maintenance order at the suit of the birth mother against the other spouse, obtained in a jurisdiction that recognises SSM?

      Would the answers be different, if the parties were not US citizens but, say, Belgian or Dutch nationals, married in those countries and owning assets in the US?

      In Europe, the problem of “limping marriages,” resulting from non-recognition of other countries’ divorce laws, kept the courts busy for much of the 20th century. Now, of course, they are having to deal with actual or potentially polygamous marriages, as well as the questions thrown up by SSM. Marriage, after all, is not just about the couple, but about civil status as parent, child, heir, statutory guardian and a host of others.

  • St. Louisan

    As a catholic from St. Louis, I am very angry at St. Louisan Archbishop Dolan of NY. He is a fake ‘conservative’. He should have threatened Gov. Cuomo and any catholic in the legislature with public excommunication if they pushed this bill forward. Instead, Cuomo has had years of license, and all we get from the bishops is more ink on paper and no action. Archbishop Dolan is a disgrace. God save us, because our shepherds do not care for us.

  • louise

    Why don’t we begin by cleaning up our language. If you mean homosexual, say homosexual. When you accept the language of your opponent, you have already conceded your position. You have allowed him to frame the debate and you are debating on his terms and on his turf. The battle was lost the first time a Catholic refused to call homosexuality by its real name and thereby participated in its lies. In this article, the word “homosexual” does not appear until the end of the seventh paragraph. By that time, “gayness” was already well established as truth just as it has already been accepted in our culture. Words matter.

    • John2

      Good point. Because there is no real sex going on here, I have been using the term homo”sex”ual.

      Ask me about the quotes? That opens the door to explaining that these practices are just masturbation with a partner. Intrinsically disordered, inherently hateful toward the partner(s), cheap, dangerous to health, unsanitary, tawdry, pathetic, lazy substitute for the real thing,… You get the picture.

      That makes it worse for the practitioners of such arts in debate. They do not like it at all, but I am just one little voice. I would be happy to see the term used more widely and, one fine day, universally…?

  • orthros

    Dr. Zmirak, with all due respect, while you are completely correct on the homosexual movement, the NFP Movement is largely a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing issue amongst neo-Catholics.

    NFP should be safe, legal and rare. Most devout Catholics now see this as “Catholic birth control” and tout how “effective” it is, when the vast majority of people should not be using any means of avoiding birth.

    We can talk exceptions all day, but 99% of married couples in the States should not be using NFP, and mandating NFP classes would have raised my blood pressure about 50 points.

  • John Zmirak

    The teaching on NFP is regularly distorted by right-wing dissenters, who use an old mistranslation of HV to cite “grave and serious” reasons as the only occasion when it may be used. That language came not from HV, but from Pius XII’s Address to Italian Midwives, when he described the grounds for having NO CHILDREN AT ALL using NFP.

    In the later, accurate translation, Humanae Vitae says that “just” and “rational” reasons must motivate the use of NFP. Such circumstances may well arise in the life of any couple, and they should be prepared with the only licit response–NFP–lest they fall into the occasion of sin of contraception.

    • mike cliffson

      Dear John
      Your rapid defence of marriage and public willingness to throw out gungho ideas honor you.
      But I suspect I come under the heading of a distorting rightwing dissenter. I suspect mandatory premarital NFP training in the would be by and large a disaster anywhere in western christendom,( perhaps in the USA ,not?) Despite my many and appalling sins and everworse memory, I remember the words of the archbishop who blessed our wedding “the magnificent task of Parents in collaborating with God in God’s plan for his creation …./.. responsably accept those children God gives you…”
      NFP is a misnomer. Fertilty awareness would be far better. It isn’t about planning, it’s about avoiding a baby , maybe protem, maybe for licit reasons. It is thus highly dangerous as an idea to have floating around in your head .You will have fireworks this 4th.How many will you let your toddler in diapers set off?
      Supernatural family planning is another matter. It is not ours to plan in this way.
      I know it’s a hard question, but where would you have your smallville RC Parish fertility awareness trainers place” just and rational reasons ” examples on a spectrum between between wife has uterine cancer, passing thru out of work and mortgage foreclosure , to weakened by ingrowing toenail?

    • Do you think that most contraception-using Catholics are using it for “just” and “rational” reasons that would justify using NFP if they simply knew how? Or are they using it for reasons of convenience or peer pressure, and because they’ve accepted the contraceptive mentality and have been taught that the prohibition on artificial contraception sort of faded away in the 60s somehow? If most are in the latter camp, as I suspect they are, then NFP is not the answer to their problem.

      I find the idea that couples — especially newlyweds — need to be “prepared” with NFP a little weird. I get a mental image of a couple that suddenly one day — maybe due to a lost job or a doctor’s verdict — decide they can’t handle a pregnancy. That’s not unreasonable. But apparently they can’t agree to abstinence for a few weeks while they learn NFP, so they need to already be graduates of a required NFP course, so they don’t have to go without for even a moment.

  • mrd

    If you go on the Vatican website and read Human Vitae its clear that NFP or natural methods can be used whenever serious, reasons broadly defined exist for deferring further children, even indefinitely.

    Catholics can not enter into a valid marriage however with the intent to never have any children. ( Obviously couples who know they can not have children because of age, infertility etc.. can enter into a valid marriage because their intent is not the issue, the lack of children is beyond their control)

    Anyway the relevant passages in HV are:

    “With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time. ”

    As well as:
    “If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained”

    So we need not get into NFP being catholic “birth control” it is not. As a right wing Catholic however I think some among the traditionalist set are really upset more by a style among some NFP teachers rather than a substantive disagreement. Style does matter though. NFP can sometimes come across as if it is “catholic birth control” because of the excessive focus on “effectiveness”

    There is an element of the Catholic teaching on birth control that should suggest that if the NFP method should “fail” and the couple find themselves expecting another child, this child too is a gift. An excess focus on effectiveness, ( comparing pregnancy rates of couples using NFP with those using contraceptives) is not entirely appropriate. There is a fundamental difference in attitude with NFP or should be. When you are focused on “effectiveness” your attitude is something like this: ”
    I want sex, but do not want, absolutely and completely, 1000% NO! to another child” I need a method that most completely assures me of this, because a child would be a bad bad, bad thing. Using NFP its is more like: We don’t think we are ready for another child at this time so we are going to only engage in sex when we think it is very unlikely for us to conceive, but if we do happen to conceive then “thy will not ours be done”..) Now ask yourself which is the attitude more loving to a child in general and in which setting will “every child be a wanted child” ( Granted this contrast is a bit of a caricature to make the point, but in broad strokes I do think it gets to the central point.)

    I think if this distinction could be maintained the teaching on contraception becomes clearer.

    • Yes, the “effectiveness” argument is a problem. I was always taught that artificial contraception is wrong because it shuts God out of the process (as if that’s truly possible). Put those two things together and you have a logic problem: if NFP is more effective than artificial contraception, then it shuts God out of the process even better. But if God can make a woman conceive when all biological indications are that she couldn’t, then He can make a condom fail. In fact, it starts to seem like using a 97% effective condom would be more “open to life” than using 99+% NFP. (I just pulled those numbers from a random NFP site.) So what’s the big deal?

      NFP isn’t acceptable because it’s more effective; that’s not the point at all, so they should stop crowing about it. It’s acceptable because it’s based on a different attitude, that says sometimes you have to sacrifice present pleasure for future good.

  • I have posted a reaction to this post and acouple others here at the Ruth Institute.
    Bottom line: attack your enemies, not your friends. Quit complaining and start doing something. How many of you were on the battle lines in NY? I have many friends who were.
    And at the Ruth Institute, we are dealing with the whole range of issues around the sexual revolution. Come on over!

    • John Zmirak

      While I did spend most of my life attending Mass in the NY Archdiocese, I was not on the battle lines in NY, because I now teach in New Hampshire and when the vote came I was in Texas. Miss Morse in the post to which she linked suggested that the NY times was lying about the efforts of the local Church to stop the same-sex marriage bill. I wouldn’t put it past them, or gay activists, to do that. But in this case, where they won, it would hardly suit their interests to lie–asserting that the Church could have stopped them, but didn’t try. Much more likely that they would exaggerate the Church’s efforts, to magnify their conquest and paint the Church as a paper tiger. So if Miss Morse has actual information on vigorous Church efforts that the Times either missed or lied about, she owes it to Abp. Dolan to reveal it. I would love to learn that the Times report was wrong.

      In any case, the thrust of my argument is the need to re-establish marital norms WITHIN the Church, as a prelude to civic action.

    • MRD

      Problem is that its not immediately clear who our friends are. The very fact that Gov Coumo is not excommunicated proves the essential point of Mr Zmiraks piece.

      The larger issue is until the clergy is willing to say point blank, If you Mr politician by your political actions directly support grave immorality, abortion “rights”, gay marriage etc, etc you are committing mortal sin, just like if you murder, fornicate, steal, etc. Those politicians who use their power to promote evil are risking eternal damnation. A corrolary to this is you Mr voter or Ms Voter, if you put such people in power when a viable alternative exists you share the guilt.

      Then medicinally excommunicate the politicians who continue to basically thumb their nose at the Church.

      Until the Bishops do something like Mr Zmiraks main points are valid, and the job of saving the culture harder.

  • This was a good point:

    “Political philosopher and convert Hadley Arkes explains that when we cease to say, “This is evil, and no one must engage in it,” and instead say, “This goes against our religion,” we as good as admit that our position is not based in reason and justice. It’s merely a peculiar tenet of our own sectarian creed, an oddment of revelation with which we’d never expect rational non-believers to agree — akin to the messages at Fatima. Indeed, if this were true, then the secularists would be right: We’d have no more authority to outlaw abortion or homosexual marriage than we would to lock up restauranteurs for selling meat on Fridays.”

    I don’t think we should say “this is evil” though, because that again brings it into Fatima territory. Instead, I say that same-sex reproduction is unethical and unsafe and unsustainable and the genetic engineering that it would require will destroy the basis of equality, and so it should be prohibited, and that marriage should continue to affirm the right to reproduce offspring of the marriage.

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