Defending Bishop Cordileone
To readers from the Good As You blog, thanks for dropping in. I am responding to this post about Bishop Cordileone, originally posted over there. I thought this was a little much for the “comments” section. So thanks for coming over.
In the first place: Bishop Cordileone has as much right to participate in the political process and public discussion of the definition of marriage as anyone else. You seem to think you have uncovered some deep dark secret that a Catholic bishop believes what the Catholic Church believes, and teaches what the Catholic Church teaches. Catholics lay and clergy alike, have the same right to express their opinion in the public square as anyone else. We have the same responsibility as anyone else to convince our fellow citizens to join with our views.
In the second place: Proposition 8 was not a referendum on Catholic canon law. If it had been, of course, it would never have made it on the ballot. Nor was Proposition 8 a referendum on some point unique to Orthodox Jewish marriage law, such as forbidding sex with a menstruating woman. If it had been, of course, it would have lost. Proposition 8 was not a referendum on some point of Latter Day Saint theology of marriage, such as whether marriages are eternal. No, Prop 8 was not about anything idiosyncratic to one religion or another.
Proposition 8 was a referendum on a point that is common to all the major faith traditions, and to those of no faith at all, including Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Judaism, Islamic, LDS. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman. All these traditions are united on the dual gender requirement for marriage. This fact is what allowed us to work together, and ultimately, to win the referendum. We all consider it a great blessing to have met one another and become friends around this issue. But I digress.
In the third place: Proposition 8 did not win by a “bare majority.” It won by a comfortable margin of nearly 53% to 47%. This is the same percentage by which Barack Obama was anointed the Messiah. Evidently, the coalition of faith traditions and non-religious interested citizens was more successful at convincing their fellow citizens of their views, than your coalition was.
In the fourth place: The radio show you referred to in your post was a call-in show on Catholic Answers Live. That episode was called “Ask a Canon Lawyer,” and people could call in with whatever they wanted to talk about. (This is what gave it the rambling quality mentioned in the original post.) Some of the callers wanted to know whether they were free to marry in the Catholic Church. As you may know, the Church’s rule is roughly speaking, “one man, one woman, for life.” Remarriage while one’s spouse is alive, is forbidden in the Catholic Church. If a person is in a valid marriage, they are not free to end that marriage and remarry. A person is only free to marry if that original union was not a valid union for some reason, or if their spouse has died. There must be an investigation to discover whether that marriage was in fact valid. If the marriage was valid, the individuals are not free to remarry within the Catholic Church, no matter what the civil law might say, no matter what our divorce-prone culture might say. If there is a ‘finding of nullity,” that means there was never a valid marriage in the first place, and the parties are free to marry.
The questions on the radio show were about this topic. In this context, the Bishop said, the Catholic Church recognizes as valid, any marriage between non-Catholics that is recognized in civil law. If a non-Catholic got married by a judge or by a Protestant minister, the Church presumes the validity of that marriage. A person in that situation would have to get the marriage annulled before they were free to marry in a Catholic Church.
Mind you, no one has to get married in the Catholic Church. The only people who are bound by canon law in this matter are people who want to be part of the Church and her sacramental system. The Church knows perfectly well that she has no jurisdiction over people outside her fold. But she is quite willing to apply the label “married” to a man and a woman who have given their consent to be married in accordance with legally accepted norms.
I think that what bothers you is that the Church is not willing to accept a union of two men and two women as a marriage. I will explain in a future post.