Last week there was plenty of coverage of the interview with Wolf Blitzer and Theodore Cardinal McCarrick on the Federal Marriage Amendment. I’d did not post about the Cardinal’s remarks because I figured within a short time he would issue a statement clarifying them. The part of the transcript that made the rounds was the following:
BLITZER: Another very sensitive issue that’s being dealt with in the Senate right now involves a constitutional ban on same sex marriage. Senator Ted Kennedy said this yesterday. He said, "A vote for this amendment is a vote for bigotry, pure and simple." You disagree with him, don’t you?
MCCARRICK: On this one, I do. Ted and I have — do have differences from time to time. And this is a real big one. It seems to me that we really have to continue to define marriage as we’ve defined marriage for thousands of years as a union between a man and a woman.
Now, I think the legislation as it is proposed would not throw out the possibility of a civil union. And I think we can — we can live with that if this is what — if this is what the Constitution will provide for. But to say that you can take this concept of marriage, this word of marriage and use it in ways that it has never been used before, as far as I know, in the history of the world, I think that makes no sense.
BLITZER: So just explain. You think that you could live with — you could support civil unions between gays and lesbians, but you wouldn’t like them to get formally married, is that right?
MCCARRICK: Yes. I think — I think basically the ideal would be that everybody was — was able to enter a union with a man and a woman and bring children into the world and have the wonderful relationship of man and wife that is so mutually supportive and is really so much part of our society and what keeps our society together. That’s the ideal.
If you can’t meet that ideal, if there are people who for one reason or another just cannot do that or feel they cannot do that, then in order to protect their right to take care of each other, in order to take care of their right to have visitation in a hospital or something like that, I think that you could allow, not the ideal, but you could allow for that for a civil union.
But if you begin to fool around with the whole — the whole nature of marriage, then you’re doing something which effects the whole culture and denigrates what is so important for us. Marriage is the basic foundation of our family structure. And if we lose that, then I think we become a society that’s in real trouble.
The Cardinal starts off pretty good, but it goes down hill from there. Some have described the Cardinal as a man of the middle, but from his previous statements I think he is more of a man of the muddle. He didn’t quite translate the direct wording of then-Cardinal Ratzinger leader to him to the other bishops and in this case he again quite muddled on Catholic teaching. Besides the whole issue of requiring civil unions to provide for hospital visitations is a red-herring in the first place. As if this would be the only legal remedy for such situations which are mainly hyped up anyway.
Now the expected clarification has arrived.
“I’m afraid that I misspoke last Wednesday when I was being interviewed on CNN.
“We were talking about the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment and the protection of marriage between a man and a woman. Here is what I said: ‘We really have to continue to define marriage as we have defined marriage for thousands of years as a union between a man and a woman.’
“After that, I spoke of the legislation as it had been proposed and that it would not eliminate the possibility of civil unions. I said, ‘If this is what the legislation would provide for, I think we can live with that.’
“My point was that the wording of the proposed legislation to protect marriage, which did not eliminate civil unions, might be necessary in order to have the votes needed to pass it. I added, ‘to say that you can take the concept of marriage and use it in ways that it has never been used before, as far as I know, in the history of the world, I think makes no sense.’
“When probed further on the question of civil unions, which came up because the wording of the constitutional amendment did not seem to eliminate them, I returned to the ideal – that everybody should be ‘able to enter a union with a man and a woman and that would bring children into the world and have the wonderful relationship of man and wife that is so mutually supportive and is really so much part of our society and what keeps society together.’
“I added, ‘If you fool around with the whole nature of marriage, then you are doing something which affects the whole culture and denigrates what is so important for us. Marriage is the basic foundation of our family structure and if we lose that, then I think we become a society that is in real trouble.’
“In trying to reply to a question, I mentioned people who may need the right to take care of each other when they are grievously ill and hospitalized, but it was always in the context of the proposed legislation and in no way in favor of a lifestyle that is contrary to the teaching of the Church and Scripture. I realized that my words could have given the wrong impression to someone who did not take my remarks in context.
“I regret any confusion my words may have caused because I did not make myself sufficiently clear.”
All clear now? Man of the muddle indeed. Noticeably absent is any clarification about people "who can’t make the idea" or "feel that" they can’t make it. Instead he concentrated on the later part of the same paragraph. Also noticeably absent is any theological point of view or any restatement of Catholic teaching, instead there is a more generic defense of marriage from societies view.
It will be interesting to see how Bishop Wuerl will handle his responsibilities as the face of the Catholic Church as he Theodore Cardinal McCarrick’s place on the 22nd of this month.
One thing I can say though is that the good Bishop can really swing a thurible.
Civil unions, which are essentially gay marriage without the word “marriage,” will inevitably lead to gay marriage itself. If civil unions should become universal, gay rights groups will simply scream “Separate but equal!” and will quickly get their way. And they’d have a point given that civil unions are essentially a duplicate of the institution of marriage just for gays.
I guess you could call the Cardinal’s affliction “Muddle Aged Spread.” There’s a lot of it going around, these days.
Where is the bishop’s deacon? or assistant priest? or even the thurifer satnding next to him?
At least he is holding it correctly..
I wish Benedict would sentence McCarrick to a vow of perpetual silence.
Or perhaps to talk continuously until a panel of fifteen scholars can all agree on what exactly he means.
It would be nice if an obedience of silence could be imposed on certain retired clergy, ah, ah, ahGUMBLETON..sniff, Whoo my allergies are getting out of control.
Really, if you cannot contribute to the strengthening of catholics’ understanding of, and fidelity to, Catholic doctrine, stay home and get a hobby. Like building little schooners in Heineken bottles, or maybe scrimshaw, or weaving hair shirts. Anything but this dribbling of pet heterodoxies to the Press. Active duty clergy are bad enough.
Not you too.
C’mon. I think the clarification should be sufficient for people of good will.
1. The point is precisely that the category of people “who can’t make the idea” or “feel that” they can’t is very broad, and isn’t meant to be taken as a reference to “gay couples.”
2. It is precisely the Church’s teaching that marriage/family is the basic starting point for healthy society. There’s no dichotomy between “society’s view” (rightly understood!!!) and “Catholic teaching.”
I’m really tired of these reflexive attacks on McCarrick, no matter what he says.
He has – on multiple occasions – made a point of promoting the Federal marriage amendment, and he has made a point of reiterating his assent to the Church’s teaching on marriage. He has explained that he doesn’t support “civil unions” specifically based on (immoral) sexual relationships, but rather is suggesting the possibility of something like the arrangement that social conservatives are supporting in Colorado.
Take “yes” for an answer, and move on.
You’re part of the problem, not part of the solution, just like poor, old, muddled (not really, I think he knows exactly what he’s doing) McCarrick. You just want that old tent to open so wide it accommodates everything until marriage doesn’t mean a damn thing anymore. What does it even mean to say you can’t “make it fit” or you don’t “feel” you can do it according to normative marriage? In other words, you want an “alternative” lifestyle. So just come out and say that. You and McCarrick should have the courage of your “convictions” and advocate for the gay lifestyle.
That’s an evil, slanderous thing to say. I think that the “gay lifestyle” is immoral. And so, as far as I know, does McCarrick. I think that it is a moral imperative that we pass the marriage protection amendment (I’ve been advocating it). And so, clearly, does McCarrick (he’s been advocating it). Or if you actually have serious evidence to the contrary, then put up or shut up.
And by the way, let me repeat: Serious social conservatives – like James Dobson and his Focus on the Family – have been supporting a bill in Colorado that would create the sort of “civil unions” system that McC is talking about. Do you really think that they favor the gay lifestyle?
Let me add one more thing. Would such a law be wise? I don’t know. Maybe not. But when morally serious social conservatives are supporting it, it’s at least worth thinking about. And in any case, the idea that supporting it is somehow intrinsically evil simply doesn’t work.
Civil unions are not needed for somebody to be able to have hospital visitation rights etc… There are provisions in the law to be able to do such a thing without marrying. Of course it requires more effort than getting a wedding license and it doesn’t validate gay couples in their sin… The bottom line is that anybody that thinks there can be an alternative to gay “marriage” is misguided.
Replace gay civil union with child-adult civil union and tell me the state should support that. There is no need for a civil union for gays. The fact that the government should protect their rights does not mean that it should encourage them.
Unfortunately, I think, HIPAA greatly restricts who can get information about a hospital patient, who can visit, etc.
If you’re conscious when you go to the hospital, you can give the hospital a list of people who have permission to receive information about your condition, to visit you, etc.
But if you’re taken to the hospital unconscious (and haven’t yet recovered), and if you haven’t executed some sort of advance directive to which the hospital will certainly have access regarding who has permission to do those things – akin to a “civil union” – then – unfortunately, I think – you and those whom you’d want to have that permission are out of luck.
For more information on what’s being proposed in Colorado – and what McCarrick says he has in mind – see here.
By the way – again – maybe these arrangements really are (pace the serious social conservatives who support them) unnecessary and/or unwise. Even if that’s true, it still isn’t the same thing as saying that McCarrick is somehow a dissenter from the Church’s teaching for supporting them! Thus, in fact, much of this conversation is a red herring.
There is nothing in that “clarification” that is any way clarifying. In fact I think I’m even more confused now, and I’m trying as hard as I can to charitably interpret Cardinal McCarrick’s position as I can.
Let’s see if I have this straight. He would accept a stripped-down version of the marriage ammendment that allowed the state’s to legalize civil unions. Fair enough, you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
It’s also clear that he’s not providing moral sanction in any way to gay unions. That’s fine. But that last full paragraph again seems to affirm an acceptance of civil unions. In fact, I am not sure how you can read that any other way.
Kevin tries to assert, The point is precisely that the category of people “who can’t make the idea” or “feel that” they can’t is very broad, and isn’t meant to be taken as a reference to “gay couples.” But then why make such a statement in the context of a debate over gay marriage/civil unions if you’re not also going to include homosexuals as part of the broader category. At the very least that would be a non sequiter.
It seems to me that there are those that reflexively defend Cardinal McCarrick, no matter what he says. I’m not one who is particularly “anti” McCarrick, though I have my issues. It just seems that needlessly muddles issues, as Jeff has said. His explanation doesn’t really clarify his position.
*waves her pompoms for Bishop Wuerl*
We’re going to miss him in Pittsburgh, but he’s just so awesome that I’m happy to see him become more prominent!
There is marriage which can only happen between a man and a woman. It’s a sacrament.
And then there is non-marriage.
There’s not anything in between. Being sort-of married is like being sort of pregnant or sort of dead. You either are or you aren’t.
I don’t think these euphemisms to placate immoral behavior will get anyone anywhere to be honest. They’re just cave-ins to emotional nonsense. Civil unions are what, exactly, if not emotional pandering? Maybe you can have a civil union with a bicycle or an iguana next? Wouldn’t that be nifty? You could dress up in lizard-skin with a spiky hat and everything. Pah.
And there’s always the sob story. The “partner” trying to visit the mortally injured civil partner is a little like the pregnant 6-yr old of the old abortion argument. Are you sure they aren’t the same hackneyed fictional entity???? =) Sheer emotional bullroar.
There is marriage which can only happen between a man and a woman. It’s a sacrament.
And then there is non-marriage.
While your general point is sound, you’re wrong that there’s nothing between sacramental marriage and non-marriage. Marriages in which one or both of the spouses isn’t baptized are recognized by the Church as non-sacramental natural-bond marriages.
As always, I intended the second paragraph of the quotation in my last post to be italicized too. MovableType seems to prevent italics tags from spanning beyond one paragraph and I can’t seem to remember to individually italicize each paragraph.
This hospital thing is such a weak argument in favor of gay marriage. How about we just change the rules at hospitals? Let people agree to share their medical information. Maybe just sign something indentifying your legal guardian in case of incapacity. Lots of unmarried people may have a need for this, not just homosexuals. Priests may want to appoint their bishop or superiors to make end-of-life decisions on their behalf. In fact, my wife and I have often wondered if we could assign guardianship to our local bishop instead of our own parents in the event we are both incapacitated. Our parents don’t share our Catholic faith, and we don’t want them pulling the plug or the tube on us.
But back to my point, there is absolutely no need to allow gay marriages so that gay lovers can visit each other in the hospital.
I mean, you could just keep a copy of your written directives in a safe deposit box, or even send a copy to your health insurance company, so no matter which hospital you end up in, “partners” or roommates or friends or whomever could show up and the hospital would know that they were allowed. What am I missing that makes this fairly simple solution impractical?
I think the real question and the real struggle here is a cultural one. It is up to us to define “civil unions”. Unlike marriage, the meaning of the term “civil union” is still under debate. Nobody really knows what a “civil union” is because they are so new.
If Catholics set out to promote an ideal of civil unions as a way for people of all kinds to take on legal guardianship of each other, we could introduce a social good (to resist the growing isolation and fragmentation of social life in America) without giving any approval to illicit sexual acts (hetero- or homo-). As long as civil unions are promoted in the right way and as long as the Church teaches about them carefully, they could be not only tolerable, but also really beneficial. Yes, I know that one can get power of attorney and all that, but why not cut through some of the red tape?
Of course, we would have to be really careful to make it extremely difficult to dissolve such unions and to present SOME serious hurdles to contracting them in order to avoid predatory uses which would allow unscrupulous neighbors from entering unions with vulnerable elderly folks, etc. All that is well within the realm of possibility, however. Civil unions in no way require us to approve of extramarital sex. In fact, they seem to me to offer a unique opportunity to strengthen social bonds in ways that fulfill Catholic social doctrine.
On the other hand, I certainly don’t defend McCarrick’s ofuscatory way of talking about this issue (and almost all controversial issues). He makes my knee jerk because he keeps hitting it in just the right spot. Clarity and precision are tough when you are on the spot, but he’s had plenty of time to get used to the spotlight and learn to teach the faith clearly without waffling in the public view.
Please pardon my typos in the previous post. ofuscatory = obfuscatory
Ƒuck you all.