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Wuerl vocalizes Church Opposition to Homosexual Marriage

September 1, 2009

Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl is plunging the Catholic Church deeper into the battle over legalizing same-sex marriage in the District, a tactic that could complicate the D.C. Council’s efforts to quickly take up the matter this fall.

Wuerl sent a letter to 300 local Catholic priests Tuesday reminding them about the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, and he launched a round of media interviews to bolster the church’s presence in the debate.

In his efforts to mobilize Catholics, Wuerl joins a group of Baptist, predominantly African American preachers in stepping up the pressure on D.C. officials to allow a public vote on whether same-sex marriage should be legalized.

“We will continue to let the voice of the Church, the teachings of the Church, be heard as clearly as it can be heard,” Wuerl said. “That is why we have sent out so much material to our priests to help them explain this to our faithful people.”

Read the article in its entirety at the Washington Post

Interesting considering his usual low profile. While I agree with the Church’s teaching on the matter, I am not sure what is the most prudent, effective, or compassionate approach. What do you think? I am open to having a reasonable, civil, and respectful dialogue on the issue from a Catholic perspective.

  1. September 2, 2009 1:05 pm

    As you say, Wuerl is certainly not a culture warrior type. I would assume that if he thought it necessary to bring the issue up at this time and in this way, it’s because he believes it’s important to prevent same sex marriage from being enshrined in law in DC.

    Which I guess gives me a couple questions:

    1) Are you concerned that simply opposing institutionalizing same sex marriage in DC is itself imprudent or uncompassionate?

    2) If not, what might be an example of a more prudent and compassionate approach to trying to prevent same sex marriage from being institutionalized in DC?

  2. brettsalkeld permalink
    September 2, 2009 5:26 pm

    While I also support the Church’s teaching in this area, if not the way that teaching is often represented, I too have my concerns.

    It seems to me a little odd to petition for a public vote. There must be some sense that the traditional side would win, but what if they don’t? Have we just conceded that truth is determined by majority vote? And maybe they win this time in this place, but that puts us in an awful bind when it comes to condemning the outcomes we don’t like of similar petitions in different times and different places.

  3. September 2, 2009 11:50 pm


    I have many concerns, and at this hour, I’m not sure I can lucidly explicate them for you.

    Generally speaking, I agree with Church teaching on homosexual activity and “marriage.” However, being that we live in a democratic, pluralistic society, I am not sure how effective it is to state that as a tenet of our beliefs, we oppose this or that practice. We also oppose divorce and contraception, but no one makes a big fuss in the political/legal world about those issues. Frankly, I believe both of them are more fundamental than this one. If unitive and procreative aspects of the nuptial act had not been so successfully divorced from each other (via the broad proliferation and acceptance of contraception), then the homosexual marriage would be a non-starter, in my humble opinion.

    Also, while I agree with the Church’s position, like Brett I have concerns over the manner in which it is often communicated. Homosexuals have been severely persecuted in America and in the Church. That is inexcusable. We need to learn how to charitably and compassionately minister to and with our homosexual brothers and sisters.

    Finally, I agree with Brett on the issue of the DC public vote itself. This does not seem to me to be a wise or prudent petition.

  4. September 3, 2009 11:12 am


    A couple thoughts:

    – I could sort of see the point about not urging for a popular vote against “gay marriage” because that would imply the possibility of a vote _for_ gay marriage being legitimate if there was no current intent by the city council to implement gay marriage. However, given that the current situation appears to be one in which if Wuerl and other religious leaders don’t move to block gay marriage, it will in fact be enacted by the city council, I don’t see how this creates a legitimacy problem. Would it somehow keep marriage less a product of positive law if religious leaders simply sat back and said nothing as gay marriage was enacted?

    – I’d agree that divorce and contraception are more destructive, for the simple reason that they’re more widely used. (95%+ of people have no interest in contracting a same sex marriage regardless.) However, I think it’s also worth noting that there _was_ significant controversy around making divorce more widely available and legalizing contraception in the 1900-1960s periods, and to my knowledge bishops and other religious leaders did indeed make their voices heard on the topic. In the end, they lost that one (for now) and I think we’d all agree that these are simply not viable political issues at this time. But I don’t see why that past failure would make it impossible to speak out against additional evils in the present day which remain viable political issues.

    – I guess I’m unclear on how the necessity of “charitably and compassionately” ministering to our homosexual brothers and sisters is in contradiction with Wuerl’s joining in the push to oppose same sex marriage. While it’s certainly important that this ministry take place, it’s hard to see how it would be successful if it involved actively hiding the Church’s teachings on the matter. And if the Church’s teachings are not being hidden, I’m not clear why it’s problematic for Wuerl to be involved in this at this time. Certainly, if he were to go all crazy-bible-thumper and stand next to people holding “God Hates Fags” signs, that would be totally unacceptable, but I don’t really picture Wuerl doing this.

    – Finally, on being a democratic/pluralistic society — I don’t see how that necessitates our not speaking to what we believe to be to the common good as Catholics. After all, it’s not merely that we think Catholics should abstain from gay marriage just as we fast on Fridays during Lent (something it would be totally inappropriate to impose via law) but rather that we consider same sex marriage to be a social and personal evil, in that it purports to be something which it is not and perpetuates a warped vision of human sexuality and relationships. So while belonging to a democratic/pluralistic society means that we must, as a matter of law, abide by whatever result comes through our civic processes to the extent that doing so does not violate our consciences, I don’t see how it requires us to remain silent on what we believe to be best for society. In this sense, it would be no more appropriate to insist that Wuerl remain silent on gay marriage than it would be insist that he not advocate for greater openness to immigration and greater justice for the poor.

    All of which leads to a bit of a concern: Is there some extent to which our preferences on what issues bishops do and do not speak out on is motivated by political tribalism? Does a discomfort with Wuerl speaking out on gay marriage amount to a general feeling that people who advocate against gay marriage are unsavory, right wing people and we wouldn’t want to “be that guy”? And if so, is opposing Wuerl in this any different from a right wing Catholic being upset at the bishops speaking out on immigration — something which they no doubt associate with unsavory people?

  5. September 4, 2009 11:40 am

    Josh, thanks for posting about this. I found it really difficult to find a compassionat position on homosexual issues until my wife took a course at the JPII Institute that convinced me that homosexual attraction is a psychiatric disorder. More simply – that feelings of attraction for a member of the same sex come from childhood trauma compounded by genetic vulnerability. Moreover, in a society that accepts (and increasingly promotes) homosexual activity, there are fewer reasons for those in homosexual relationships to seek healing.

    Once we see homosexual attraction as a psychiatric illness rather than as a valid personality type, the question of compassion is given a grounded framework. The legal promotion of homosexual activity constitutes a grave injustice against the very people it claims to protect.

  6. September 4, 2009 11:44 am

    My wife’s instructor, I should add, is a psychiatrist who works with seminarians who have unwanted homosexual feelings. He has a 90% success rate in reducing or eliminating those feelings through therapy.

  7. September 4, 2009 11:48 am

    A great music video called “Luca was gay”:

  8. September 6, 2009 3:41 pm


    I think you make good points. I withdraw most of what I have said above.
    I suppose my concern is that in order to make an argument against homosexual marriage which we can reasonable expect society to (at the least) give a fair hearing, that argument must not be “because the Church says so”, but “because its for the good of society.” I think Nate’s points can aid in this. While I have been aware for some time that homosexuality was once considered a psychological disorder in the DSM but was removed by the APA, apparently with no new evidence only social pressure. However, my thought on the issue had apparently been influenced by the rhetoric in the media, and I that important point had slipped from my mind.

    Of course all of this is difficult in a society which not concerned with the common good, but with individual “rights” and the license to do as one pleases.

  9. September 8, 2009 9:45 am

    Of course all of this is difficult in a society which not concerned with the common good, but with individual “rights” and the license to do as one pleases.

    Indeed. In fact, it’s because same sex marriage is normally talked about in the langauge of “rights” while avoiding it is (when talked about responsibly) talked about in terms of the common good, that we have such an uphill fight in this country. The rights talk is simply more appealing to our cultural paradigm.

    Still, one can but try.

  10. Mike Hamann permalink
    September 8, 2009 10:13 pm

    What a thoughtful and charitable conversation! I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot. The participants are to be congratulated. This site is a breath of fresh air compared to many of the other blogs I visit.

  11. Will permalink
    December 6, 2009 9:11 pm

    this is none of the church’s business, keep their nose in their own marriages and let the homosexuals have their own marriage.

  12. December 7, 2009 1:38 pm


    Thanks for reading and commenting. Being that we live in the US, and our govt is democratic in nature, and we have the right to free speech, Catholics in America have as much a right as everyone else in America to express their views on these issues. It is up the people as a whole to vote for representatives who will play the major role in making these decisions. If the Catholics believe that homosexual marriage is detrimental to the common good they have every right to express that belief in the public sphere.

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