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What I've Learned: The Outsider
Comments () | Published August 23, 2010
What do you think of how the Archdiocese of Washington handled the legalization of gay marriage?

The position of the Church is not quite as bad as many portray it. The Church says we should love gay people. They are children of God; they are our children. At the same time, the Church argues that gay sex is against God’s law. And so is sex outside of marriage between heterosexuals. We’re equal-opportunity condemners.

I personally think the Church’s battle against the legalization of gay marriage is misplaced. This idea that gay marriage is somehow a threat to family life or to heterosexual marriage doesn’t make sense.

I just don’t see it as a battle worth fighting. We ought to be concerned about issues like immigration reform, feeding the hungry, climate change. This is a matter of personal morality between two consenting adults. It’s like birth control and divorce: The Church is against birth control and divorce, but it’s not going out there saying they should be illegal.

Why did the argument with the DC government escalate?


The city council, it seems to me, was looking for a fight, too. Traditionally in these areas, governments carve out an exception for religious organizations. We’re in the deepest recession since the Great Depression. Is this the time when you want to kick out the best welfare provider of services? The Catholic Church does pretty well for people—uses the money efficiently, provides good services.

Could the Church have compromised too? Sure. So it was a mess all the way. I think Archbishop Wuerl would have been happier trying to work this out behind closed doors. The council wanted to do it in the newspaper.

Is Archbishop Wuerl more conservative than his predecessor, Cardinal McCarrick?


Catholic bishops don’t fit the regular categories of liberal and conservative. We’re with the right and the Republicans when it comes to gay marriage and abortion. But when it comes to refugees, immigrants, economic justice, labor unions, we’re to the left of Obama.

Is the Church’s fight to outlaw abortion working?


We’ve got to argue it as a human-rights issue. It can’t be presented as a matter of faith or doctrine. It’s got to be presented as the right to life of the unborn child if the Church is going to convince the whole country.

But then, given the real world in which we live, how do you deal with it? Do we make abortion illegal and put people in jail? Or can we work to reduce the number of abortions by helping women to choose to have their children? We know from surveys that most women have abortions for financial reasons. Universal health care will help women choose not to have abortions.

Europe has more-liberal abortion laws than we do, and still they have fewer abortions because they have national health care. They have a good safety net. That was the argument of the pro-life people who supported Obama and the Democrats.

Have the US bishops acknowledged that argument?

Some would privately, but as a whole, no. In a sense, the bishops want both universal health care and the outlawing of abortions. The problem is we don’t have a party that wants both. So then you’ve got to make a prudential judgment about which one you vote for.

The Republicans have been promising to do something and have done nothing. Even their Supreme Court appointments have not been able to do anything. They’re not reversing Roe v. Wade, and they’re not going to. So do you keep betting on that horse that keeps losing, or do you start thinking about betting on another horse that can actually reduce the number of abortions?

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 08/23/2010 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Articles