Cardinal Dolan Demeans Gay Relationships As He Says Church Should Be More Welcoming to Gays

TimDolanAs I paged through today’s New York Times, a surprising headline greeted me: “Dolan Says the Catholic Church Should Be More Welcoming to Gay People.” I was incredibly intrigued, of course — considering that Dolan is one of the American Catholic Church’s most outspoken homophobes — so I read on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m nowhere near naïve enough to have expected a departure from the Catholic Church’s anti-gay teachings. But I wondered after reading the headline if perhaps Dolan might be advocating that his church soften its bigotry by shifting focus away from its worldwide crusade against LGBT rights and onto something that Jesus actually talked about, like feeding the hungry and serving the poor.

It didn’t take Cardinal Dolan long to disappoint. According to the Times, Dolan implied in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that the Catholic Church’s opposition to equality will continue unabated. What he thinks needs improvement is the messaging around the hierarchy’s homophobia:

He defined marriage as “one man, one woman, forever, to bring about new life,” but, he told Mr. Stephanopoulos, “we’ve got to do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people.”

“And I admit, we haven’t been too good at that,” the cardinal continued. “We try our darnedest to make sure we’re not an anti-anybody.”

Translation: we still oppose your right to legally enter into a civil marriage with the person you love and intend to continue spending time and money fighting against your equality, but we’re not anti-gay! And for heaven’s sake, please don’t think we’re attacking you!

Seriously. Remember last year when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, of which Dolan is president, decided to launch an “ambitious public relations drive” in an attempt to rehabilitate the American Catholic Church’s tattered public image? This strikes me as a continuation of that strategy.

The conversation between Stephanopoulos and Dolan continued (transcript provided by Igor Volsky at ThinkProgress):

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you know, especially this week – because it’s been at the top of the news – for many gay and lesbian Americans –– gay and lesbian Catholics, they feel unwelcome –– in the Church. And what do you say as a minister, as a pastor – to a gay couple that comes to you and say, “We love God. We love the Church. But we also love each other, and we –– want to raise a family in faith. What do you say to them?

DOLAN: Well, the first thing I’d say to them is, “I love you, too. And God loves you. And you are made in God’s image and likeness. And – and we – we want your happiness. But – and you’re entitled to friendship.” But we also know that God has told us that the way to happiness, that – especially when it comes to sexual love – that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally.

Did you get that? As far as Cardinal Dolan is concerned, gay and lesbian couples don’t really have marriages or families. In his mind, same-sex marriages like mine are undeserving of the same civil benefits, protections, and recognition that all other marriages in this country enjoy… because they aren’t real marriages. But in his magnanimity, Dolan is now apparently willing to concede that couples like Michael and me — who have dedicated our lives to loving each other and committed ourselves to one another forever — are “entitled” to “friendship.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that successful relationships aren’t based on friendship. They are. Michael is my best friend — but it doesn’t stop there. He’s my husband (whether Dolan likes it or not), which means he’s my best friend, my confidante, my joy, my inspiration, and my lover. (Yes, Cardinal Dolan, we have sex. Hot, sweaty, passionate, beautiful, fulfilling gay sex.)

With respect, sir, you say that you “love” gays and lesbians, but if trivializing our relationships as mere friendships and opposing our basic rights is how you define the word “love,” you can keep it. If you believe that God is the author of love, you can’t honestly say that gays and lesbians are “made in God’s image” while also believing that our love for each other and its sexual expression is disordered and inferior. I realize that claiming to “love” LGBT people helps you rationalize your bigotry and sleep better at night, but it doesn’t change the fact that you don’t “love” someone by denigrating and dehumanizing them or by denying the reality and the beauty of that person’s most important relationship.

And if that kind of “love” is how you make others feel welcome, it’s no wonder that so many Catholics are voting with their feet and heading out the door.

tim_dolan_thisweekCardinal Dolan, your self-righteous belittling of same-sex relationships harkens back to a troubling time not long ago when LGBT people were so invisible that couples living together were referred to as “roommates” and “friends” so as not to make straight people squeamish. I understand that that’s the world you’d prefer to live in, but it’s a world that no longer exists. It’s 2013, and gays and lesbians are out, proud, and forming not only friendships, but loving, committed, lifelong relationships — and even marriages! — with one another. And you’re fighting a losing battle: three-fourths of American Catholics support civil marriage equality for same-sex couples, as do 81% of adults under 30.

So you go right on ahead pretending that your patronizing doublespeak constitutes some kind of welcoming, loving outreach to the LGBT community and our straight allies. We see right through it, and the rest of the country does as well. The longer you persist in your spiritual bullying, the more quickly you’re bringing about your own utter irrelevance.

History is passing you by, Cardinal Dolan. Enjoy the view.

Cross-posted on my personal blog,
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John M. Becker

John M. Becker is an LGBT activist, writer, and blogger. In addition to his full-time work as an LGBT rights activist, Becker is an accomplished classical musician, holding the master of music degree in vocal performance. A native of Wisconsin, Becker now lives in Vermont with his beloved husband Michael.


Facebook comments

  • Is there some reason that that statement can’t be taken at face value? Quick to take offense, I’ve noticed a patten that gays and lesbians have; a thin -kin-understandably so; but it’s only made worse when a statement by Cardinal Dolan can’t be taken at face value., as open as he is to suspicion. the

    Furthermore, because of this inability to take things at face value, respect isn’t established and the cycle continue. I love gays but they’re their own worst enemy.

    The definition of marriage is a union between a man and a woman. When there is a union between 2 men/2 women, please call it something else. and please don’t get on this hight horse of “Did you get that? As far as Cardinal Dolan is concerned, gay and lesbian couples don’t really have marriages or families. In his mind, same-sex marriages like mine are undeserving of the same civil benefits, protections, and recognition that all other marriages in this country enjoy…” Drop it and move on.

    Use your imagination and come up/think of a different WORD to describe that union. (gay sacrament?) I think that’s why a fair number of people disapprove of same sex unions. NOT because they don’t believe in giving rights to those unions, and not because they are same-sexed; but because the name that their union claims to represent is a same sex union, not a heterosexual union.

    Rights ought to be conferred on any couple who seriously plans to devote themselves to the marriage/sacrament/whatever you want to call it. But don’t call homosexual unions, marriages. May sound like strictly semantics, but it is semantics that is causing an unnecessary brawl.

    Rights bestowed, Gay and lesbian _______________
    Rights bestowed, Heterosexual MARRIAGES.

    It’s just use of marriage in a context in which I don’t and many don’t believe it applies. So, find your own GD word; The word, “MARRIAGE” is taken, but not it’s benefits. Long way of saying what I think you should be able to glean.

    • John M. Becker

      Wrong. You’re erroneously conflating Holy matrimony, which is a sacrament, and marriage, which is not.

      Holy matrimony is what happens in a church. Marriage is a social and legal contract that provides rights, privileges, obligations and protections that are unavailable to those who are unwed. Even when people are married in a church, the actual *marriage* happens when the officiant says “by the power vested in me by the STATE of…” Notice how they don’t say “by the power vested in me by the *church* of…” ?? That’s because churches don’t legally marry people. States do. Therefore marriage is a civil right, not a religious privilege.

      And frankly, I’m not going to “drop it and move on,” Annie. (How dare you?) My husband and I have been married for seven years and counting. I’m going to keep fighting until our marriage is equal in recognition and rights to yours and everyone else’s, because my marriage is every bit as valid, every bit as beautiful, every bit as worthy as yours. You’re the one who needs to drop your prejudice and get with the program. Thanks!

      • Eric

        It is my understanding that the sacrament of holy matrimony (union) is conferred by the ones to be married on one another. It is the one sacrament that the Church does not confer rather it acts as a witness and a support….If only the “churched” would study and contemplate their own tradition…

      • I’m simply saying that MARRIAGE is an contract between one man and one woman, upon which certain rights and privileges are bestowed.. Marriage is also loosely used to describe the sacrament and ceremony performed in a church.-BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN who are heterosexuals.

        If those two people are of the same sex and they want these same rights and privileges, they ought to be able to get them, but their contract SHOULD NOT be called a MARRIAGE, but some other word. It changes the MEANING of the word MARRIAGE..That contractual agreement is reserved for the union between a man and a woman.

        I’m heterosexual, have been married not quite as long as you, but don’t feel that homosexuals who decide they want the same rights and privileges and responsibilities as I have with regard to my marriage, should be denied those rights/responsibilities/privileges. But their union should not be called a marriage. I’m not prejudiced and I’m not really in love with being judged; I’ll let that statement pass by, but what is the saying, “judge not lest ye be judged” and “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones…”

      • Patrick Sean

        Dear Annie, you are a bigoted loon pretending to be “considerate” when all you really are is a bigot.

      • Franciscus

        Annie, why do you think you and other heterosexuals have a right to dictate what a word means and who is privileged to use it? Your hostile refusal to extend the word in acknowledgement of unions that don’t resemble your own is, indeed, bigotry. Get over yourself and your prejudicial definition of the term “marriage”: drop it and move on.

  • Donna Krause

    For a short history of the religious orders in the Catholic Church, you must know about the vow of celibacy. That means that there is no sex or sexual relationship or sexual union for a priest, nun or monk, cardinal, bishop or pope or other ordained male or female in the Catholic Church. Celibacy is one of the most important of three vows. The other two are obedience and poverty. A Catholic Religious can’t get married while being a religious. This is totally different from the behaviors of other religious organization’s leaders. This means for the Catholic religious they will have a life of no children, no sex, no love affairs, no sexual interest in the opposite sex and no spouse. Self denial of one’s sexual needs is predominant. Total and complete dedication to God and His followers is required. However, what is interesting about the religious in the Catholic Church is that many of them are lesbians and gays or homosexuals. Many of the nuns in the convents were lesbians as books about it written by former nuns have told us. Also priests who practiced homosexual behavior on young boys has become publicly known within the past decade. The alleged practice of homosexual prostitution rings by bishops in Rome is now a scandal however, homosexuality may be a common practice by so called “celibate” priests. The hypocracy of the Catholic Church’s religious leaders in this regard must be called to everyone’s attention. Their homosexuality as a way of their religious life has been a tightly preserved secret. Would social customs of the past have dictated that those who found male female relationships and marriage distasteful would find solace, peace and a safe haven in entering the Catholic religious life where they wouldn’t be ridiculed and ostracized for their lack of interest in the opposite gender but instead would be respected and honored for their dedication to their faith and to God? Religious orders have silence and secrecy as one of their many traits. The Catholic Church is slow to move on everything as it was with divorce, birth control and the ordination of women priests. It will take 80-90% of the population support of same sex marriages before the Catholic Church will even begin to think about honoring and accepting same sex marriage.

  • Nancy

    Don’t confuse homosexuality with pedophilia.

    • John M. Becker

      I’m not and I haven’t. Where are you getting this?

      • Franciscus

        I believe Nancy’s comment was in response to Donna Krause’s statement, “Also priests who practiced homosexual behavior on young boys has become publicly known within the past decade.”

  • Alicia Lamb

    Kudos to you for a beautiful marraige. But you didn’t really think that the guy who is speaking on behalf of the church would condone it did you ? The church won’t probably ever do so. It’s the church. They stand by the bible no matter how ridiculous the logic. So you can’t condemn a guy who doesn’t share your opinion, because you already knew he didn’t. However backwards his opinion, it IS a free country and he can believe whatever crap he wants to. And pretend he doesn’t if he wants to as well !! Pressing forward on your/our cause is a far better use of your time and energies. We will prevail. But I do love your statement about history passing by, enjoy the view. Excellent. Carry on !!!

  • Marion Nelson

    As if some jerk in a dress has any bearing on me anyway.
    Unless the new Pope is willing to call ALL the priests, bishops, and archbishops involved in ANY facet of the systematic child molestation that has occurred in the Roman Catholic Church to the Vatican; ex-communicate them; and then call on the nations where the complaints were lodged to come get them; they have not only lost their relevance but any scrap of legitimacy they hope to have. I no longer need, nor desire, moral advice from old men that have SHOWN both myself and the world that they have no morals or ethics.
    As of now, the only relevant information that they can share with me is where they get heels to match those hats.