New York’s state’s Catholic bishops continue to blast the state’s passage of gay marriage this week, with one bishop calling on Catholic schools and other institutions to shun lawmakers in protest of the vote.
In an op-ed Sunday in the New York Daily News, Nicholas DiMarzio, bishop of Brooklyn, called on members of his diocese to “not to bestow or accept honors, nor to extend a platform of any kind to any state elected official, in all our parishes and churches for the foreseeable future,” a statement that may signal a new era in church-state relations in the Empire State.
Catholic bishops have previously fought high-profile battles with public officials who endorse policy positions contrary to official church teaching. The previous battleground was mostly limited to debates over the right to life, which is seen within Catholicism as a primary, inviolable value. (Catholics, the church teaches, may not vote for pro-choice politicians except for ‘grave reasons.’) But it is new that church leaders such as DiMarzio would include legislation on gay rights as sufficient cause to ostracize politicians.
So do Catholic politicians represent their constituents or the church?
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) personified this debate in 2004 when, during his campaign for president, several bishops said that his pro-choice politics made him ineligible for communion. Kerry said that while he was morally opposed to the procedure he did not feel that it was his role to impose that belief on his constituents. From a 2004 Washington Post report:
“I oppose abortion, personally. I don’t like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception. ... I can’t take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist. We have separation of church and state in the United States of America.”
This is essentially the same approach articulated by State Sen. Mark Grisanti (R) in a speech on the New York Senate floor Friday night. Even though, Grisanti said, his Catholic faith taught him that marriage is between a man and a woman, he does not represent Catholicism in his politics: “I’m not here as a senator who is just Catholic,” Grisanti said. Ultimately, the senator said before casting his vote in favor of the bill, he concluded that gays were entitled to “the same rights that I have with my wife.”
Should the church, or voters, expect Catholic lawmakers to toe the church line? For lawmakers, where do personal beliefs end and public values begin?
More On Faith and gay marriage:
The Spirited Atheist: Gay marriage the new red menace, according to New York archbishop