Marriage equality seems like a real possibility in New York, with only one more vote needed in the State Senate. The bill has stalled, however, as religious leaders call for more “carve-outs.” I’m hopeful, but it’s far from certain that the bill will pass. Recall that marriage equality looked almost inevitable in Maryland earlier this year, too, until some highly bizarre last-minute flake-outs from a handful of Democrats shelved the bill till the next legislative session.
Ultimately, the Maryland Catholic Conference–through no lack of time, money, or lobbying on its part–played a smaller role than socially conservative preachers from some black churches in Prince George’s County in derailing same-gender marriage legislation in Maryland. But the MCC was, as state Catholic conferences always are, a major player in the fight against marriage equality. And the institutional Church is an even bigger player, it seems, in New York.
Yes, some conservative Protestant and Orthodox Jewish leaders in New York are fighting marriage equality, too, but the loudest and folksiest voice has been that of Archbishop Timothy Dolan, recently-elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and down-home, Midwestern back-slapper extraordinaire.
Let me tell you what I hate, ladies. Let me tell you what I have no time for. I have no time for the use of a folksy, chortling, beer swilling, man-of-the-people act to make one’s political or religious severity more palatable. I don’t like it when Sarah Palin does it. I don’t like it when Mike Huckabee does it. And I for damn sure don’t like it when Timothy Dolan does it. It gives me the creeps, and it insults my intelligence. The only thing more offensive than the charade itself is the underlying assumption that people are buying it.
Beyond making right-wing severity easier to swallow, though, the good ole boy act provides a cover for intellectual dishonesty. It lets politicians (and you don’t get to be Archbishop, much less president of the USCCB, without being a politician) put forth disingenuous arguments and still seem like decent, honest guys. It lets them advance disparaging and discredited stereotypes about groups of people–in this case, the gays–without seeming mean-spirited. Because, gee, they’re not trying to hurt anybody. They’re just good, simple, traditional folks.
I like examples, dykes. Allow me to share a few.
From the May 13, 2011 post on the official blog of the Archbishop of New York:
We are not anti anybody; we are pro-marriage. The definition of marriage is a given: it is a lifelong union of love and fidelity leading, please God, to children, between one man and one woman.
History, Natural Law, the Bible (if you’re so inclined), the religions of the world, human experience, and just plain gumption tell us this is so. The definition of marriage is hardwired into our human reason.
In case you missed it, the Archbishop–heir to the 2,000-year-old Catholic intellectual tradition–just appealed to “gumption” as a source of moral authority in his argument against a piece of proposed legislation. Is this the way we honor the legacy of St. Augustine, St. Thomas, St. Catherine of Sienna, and Erasmus?
I should also mention that, a couple of paragraphs later, Archbishop Dolan characterizes marriage equality legislation as “Orwellian social engineering.” He uses that term about as appropriately as Sarah Palin did.
It’s been over a month since his post on gumption and Orwell. On June 14, he posted once again on marriage.
“The stampede is on,” his post begins. I won’t go through and discuss the whole thing–Mary Hunt nailed it today in her post for Religion Dispatches. But there’s one paragraph in particular that I must share. Apparently unsatisfied with the extent of his earlier hyperbole, the Archbishop writes:
Last time I consulted an atlas, it is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America – not in China or North Korea. In those countries, government presumes daily to “redefine” rights, relationships, values, and natural law. There, communiqués from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of “family” and “marriage” means.
Yes, dykes. The effort to expand the legal definition of marriage in New York state through the democratic legislative process, in a way that is supported by public opinion, is equivalent to the “communiqués” sent out by the totalitarian, Stalinist dictatorship of North Korea.
The Archbishop does not possess a subtle or scholarly mind. His arguments are at best, weak, and at worse, deliberately misleading. And while his cringe-inducing Regular Joe persona indicates to me that he does not wish to be mistaken for an intellectual, it is equally clear to me that Timothy Dolan is not stupid.
He just thinks you are.