Monday, November 2, 2009

News Round-Up: Times Editorial Supporting Same-Sex Marriage, D.C. Catholic Legal Arguments vs. Same-Sex Marriage, Resurgence of Religious Left

I’d like to draw readers’ attention to several noteworthy articles today dealing with issues frequently discussed on Bilgrimage.

First, I take heart that today’s New York Times editorial “Six Tests for Equality and Fairness” identifies initiatives to ban same-sex marriage or to remove that right from gay citizens in states where it now exists as “mean-spirited” and antithetical to “tolerance and justice.”

Yes. And if we want to build a better society, one in which everyone has opportunity, gay or straight, black or white, we all need to concern ourselves with mean-spirited attacks on any targeted minority. Even when we dont happen to belong to that particular minority. We’re not going to build the society of which our founders dreamed as long as we permit these attacks to go unchallenged whenever and wherever they occur.

I’m struck, too, by a report on the Clerical Whispers blog about a 26 October hearing at which representatives of the Catholic archdiocese of Washington, D.C., addressed the D.C. city council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. They did so to argue against recognition of same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia.

According to the report at Clerical Whispers, central to the case that the archdiocese of D.C. presented at this hearing was a letter from Williams and Connolly law firm, which argues that acceptance of same-sex marriage by civil society will result in litigation that will threaten Catholic coffers. Clerical Whispers states that the D.C. archdiocese augmented this argument by the law firm with opinions from “six prominent legal scholars” who concur with the viewpoint pushed by Williams and Connolly.

So that’s what it comes down to in the end, with the bitter attack of many Catholic leaders today on gay human beings and gay human rights? Money? Fear of lawsuits?

When the best argument a religious group can offer regarding an issue of pastoral and ethical importance—an issue affecting real human beings, real human lives, and real human families—is a legal argument crafted by high-powered lawyers, then that religious group seems to be on shaky pastoral and ethical ground, indeed. When and why have lawyers and their opinions become so centrally important to the Catholic response to the pastoral needs of a group of marginalized human beings?

Finally, I want to take note of Candace Chellew-Hodge’s analysis at Religion Dispatches today of the resurgence of a progressive coalition within American Christianity. In my view, that resurgence is still radically threatened by the powerful coalition of the religious right with a well-heeled political right. Still, it’s heartening to read that this coalition may be challenged in days to come by progressive groups within the churches who are finding their voices again after several decades of neocon and religious right dominance of the media and political life.