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Autumn in New York Print E-mail
By Robert Royal   
Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Even people who deplored it were predicting, long before the vote last week, that gay “marriage” was coming to the Empire State. And we owe it ultimately to a few Republican state senators, several Catholic, who gave up the fight though they were in a majority that might have stopped it. And why not? Andrew Cuomo, also a Catholic, has been pushing the issue and is eager to sign the bill into law. He marched in New York’s Gay Pride Parade this weekend with his live-in girlfriend – and is still receiving Communion at public Masses.

In political circles, it’s common to quote Thomas More’s rebuke of Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons, who betrayed More and was rewarded with being named Attorney General of Wales: “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world . . . but for Wales?”

By all accounts, the people who cast the deciding votes in New York didn’t even get the equivalent of Wales. They seem to have gotten nothing at all, except a respite from having to stand up against ugly and relentless pressures.

I don’t know exactly why, but this development has depressed me more than just about any social decision in recent years. The pols in New York are no better than anywhere else, but probably not much worse either. The fact that they could be so easily turned on such a momentous issue bodes ill.

One measure of how weak the political will to resist has become is that Michele Bachmann – Miss Tea Party 2011 and the strongest social conservative running for president – said after the decision that while she “personally believed” that marriage is between a man and a woman, the Tenth Amendment allows states to decide things like this not among the enumerated powers in the Constitution.

True enough, and who wants the Federal government legislating everything. But there’s something strangely tone-deaf and outright bizarre in our political culture when a woman like Bachmann, who’s a smart cookie in many ways, seems to back off from the fight because of the Tenth Amendment, as if what was primarily at stake was something like the balance of powers.  


           Archbishop Dolan spoke out forcefully against same-sex marriage in New York

We’re now living in a world where Maureen Dowd, who mans (so to speak) the anti-Catholic desk at The New York Times, took President Obama to task after the vote for his failure to show up “on the front lines of the civil rights issue of our time.”

Let that sink in for a second. Most people reading this probably belong to social groups who regard abortion as the civil rights issue of our time. But to me, it almost beggars belief that there are people who say, and I think believe, that denying people with same-sex attractions the right to “marry” – which most won’t do anyway – is close to being on par with women getting the vote or the civil rights movement of half a century ago. 

That’s why, I think, I find this whole development so depressing. A view that is quite radical has been slowly worked into our society in an incredibly short time. Not that long ago, it would have seemed unthinkable. We’re like a political body stripped of its immune system. Our colleague Austin Ruse often reminds me that we should not accept the gay argument of inevitability. And he’s right – nothing is fated if enough people band together and work hard. We’ve seen some success of this kind over abortion. 

But the first thing you need to fight the good fight is to see the disposition of forces clearly. And it’s not a happy picture. Until recently, we could console ourselves that the people usually reject gay marriage, given a chance to vote on it. That may be allowed to happen less and less as gay activists and their supporters size up the political landscape better. A harbinger: the D.C. city government’s ethics commission blocked an effort, mostly by black churches, to hold a referendum last year, arguing that it would be unethical and violate the city non-discrimination statutes to allow the people to vote on gay marriage.

In Maryland, a governor who boasted of having gone to Catholic schools his whole life and sent all his kids to similar schools was the leading proponent of gay marriage in the state, observing that the bishops were against it only because it’s kind of their job to hold on to the past. (He’s near sixty. Imagine what the schools that graduated him with so little knowledge about the Church teach now.) He was overconfident and the black preachers in Baltimore stopped him. But we’ll see what happens in the long run.

And speaking of the churches, in the long run, and even the short run, we’re reaching a critical juncture. There are exemptions for churches in the New York law, but for how long, and of what sort? If it’s true that gay marriage is “the civil rights issue of our time” for many influential people and institutions, doesn’t that make the Church and its allies look like the Klan resisting de-segregation? 

It’s autumn in New York and evening in America – unless we act swiftly.


Robert Royal
is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is
The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, now available in paperback from Encounter Books. 

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Comments (25)Add Comment
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written by Father Benedict, June 27, 2011
Wise, true and depressing. As Hilaire Belloc said, the time has come for fighting - and as he also said, outside the Faith, "all is night."
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written by Michele McAloon, June 28, 2011
Dr. Royal

I deplore the passage of this law. However from what I have read is that the legislation ensures religious freedom by protecting religious institutions which do not condone homosexual behavior such as our beloved Catholic Church. If this is accurate than the burden of teaching shifts squarely to those who have a clear understanding as to why homosexual behavior does not permit human beings to florish and to fulfill a destiny as a Created being. The understanding of the sin of homosexuality begins deep within the Catholic Tradition and from a teaching point the philisophical anthropolgy of ST Thomas Aquinas is a good place to start. It is time to stop the hand wringing and apply the learning and the philosophy of the ages and the teachings of the founder of the Church in order to articulate a message of truth about human behavior. Catholics are not fundamentalists and and the resorting to "because the Bibles says so or even the Church says so..." is not Catholtic Tradition Tradition. In the end I hope New York's marriage law will inspire committed Catholics to begin to articualte and teach the wisdom, love and charity of the Church not just in the area of homosexuality but in all areas of sexual sin. As Catholics we know our freedom is based on the understanding of the truth. The legislation, although reprehesible, gives the Church the room to teach and articualate with faith and reason the truth of the message of Jesus Christ.

Very Respectfully
mrs. Michele McAloon
Brussels, Belgium
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written by James, June 28, 2011
Conservatives have failed to win the hearts of independents and the young who may have been swayed on this issue. For all the Robert George arguments and Maggie Gallagher activism, apparently nothing matches the "how does gay marriage affect your marriage" rhetoric; or "interracial marriage was once illegal too". And it's hard to blame judicial fiat as this was the legislative process at work. Conservatives need to regroup and think of effective ways to gain back ground on this issue.
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written by Joe, June 28, 2011
I take exception to calling Cuomo a Catholic. If you dont live the faith, you arent the faith. As far as I am concerened his "membership" has been revoked until a change of heart is evident.
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written by Ars Artium, June 28, 2011
I too am deeply saddened. A pillar of civilization is being removed and the structure certainly will not stand if this continues. The process is very far advanced when people of good will do not have the resources to defend the fact that marriage is fundamental to the good of children.

The bishops could proclaim a year of prayer and fasting for Catholics. I think that they should. God grant that they will. That is my prayer. Meanwhile we can intensify our works of mercy while not losing hope.

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written by Manfred, June 28, 2011
@Dr. Royal: Thank you or a well done piece. "-unless we act swiftly." What do you propose we do? I believe a deal was made between the NY bishops and Cuomo the Catholic-he would continue State support of parochial schools if they would "look the other way" on same-sex "marriage". The only weapon the Church has is excommunication. If the Church fails to use it, the Church becomes just one more toothless, silly bureaucracy. If Cuomo the Catholic, with all his public SINS, can't even be denied Communion, the Church should close Its doors. The Great Chastisement promised at Akita and Fatima becomes more of a reality with each passing day.
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written by Jim O'Connor, June 28, 2011
In addition to a year of fasting, the Bishops should issue a call to repentance to all Christians. In 2 Chronicles 7:12 the Lord gives the answer to our nation's problems to Soloman; "If my people, who are called by my name, (Christians today) will humble themselves, turn from their wicked ways (contraception etc.) seek my face and pray, I will hear their prayer and forgive and heal their land. The problem isn't the pagans, it is those of us who claim to follow Christ. We must repent and pray.
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written by James Tyma, June 28, 2011
Dr. Royal

I fully share your reaction of depression in respect to the NY vote. The only exception I take with the column is the criticism of Michelle Bachman in respect to "gay marriage" (actually a misnomer as traditional marriage does not discriminate against gays in any way - a discussion for another day).

Actually she is the only prominent person that I have seen that has stood steadfast to her religious precepts. Her statement that the 10th Amendment reserves the definition of marriage to the States is indisputably correct. Mrs. Bachman did not simply proffer the standard answer of simply ignoring the clear meaning of the Constitution and reading into it a right to define marriage for the States that does not exist. That is nefarious and how we ended up with Roe v Wade and the millions of slaughtered babies.

Mrs. Bachman went further than her correct statement about the 10th Amendment. She said, w/ no hint of apology or embarrassment, that she supports a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. This is absolutely the proper way to handle the problem at the Federal level. Dealing with it any other way is to legitimize Roe v Wade type rulings. Michelle Bachman has showed all too rare courage and we should recognize this courage and give her our full support.

James Tyma
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written by Ars Artium, June 28, 2011
Thank you to Mrs. McAloon for her encouragement and inspiration. She understands that this is not only a defeat but - Deo Gratias - an opportunity - just as Pope Benedict saw the terrible offenses against the priesthood as an opportunity for penance and renewal.
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written by Joe C, June 28, 2011
Mr. Royal, as a born-and-bred New Yorker long since departed, I'm even more depressed than you and vow never to return to the placeof my birth.

That Republicans, supposedly the party of traditional family values, could have tipped the scales is especially disturbing.

It is only a matter of time before more states, egged on by the left-dominated media infatuated with expanding so-called "rights," adopt "gay marriage" -- an oxymoron if there ever was one.

One way the Church could make a statement is to excommunicate Cuomo, Pelosi and all other prominent fake Catholics who take positions that are antithetical to the faith.

Likewise, voters can strike back by pulling a lever against those who supported this latest example of depravity. Alas, however, the tide is turning and I am willing to bet that Obama will edge closer to endorsing an "equal rights" amendment to the Constitution formalizing what an increasing number of states will do.
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written by Louise, June 28, 2011
" . . . we should not accept the gay argument of inevitability."

Well, here's a large part of the problem right here. You have accepted the homosexual language--trippingly off the tongue--without even a modest or shamefast (some might say prudish) hesitation. When you accept your opponents' language you accept his world view and, inevitably his agenda. It appalls me to hear their language used by bishops and even archbishops in a sorry attempt to exhibit a misguided compassion.

This debate was lost a long time ago--from the first time a Catholic conceded his position by accepting their language. Words matter.

Tears. Tears. Tears.

As much as I respect you (and it's a tremendous amount of respect), I can't even finish your essay. Maybe later when my blood pressure drops. Now I will go out and pull weeds.
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written by Jacob R, June 28, 2011
Bring on the revolution! This country isn't worth saving anyway..unless we spend quite a bit of effort pretending away the present and future and romancing the past.

It needs to be cleansed by fire like Sodom and Gomorrah. Until then we shall remain part of a country which, despite the multitudes still in denial, does infinitely more to further the cause of Satan than of God.
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written by Dennis Larkin, June 28, 2011
Buggery is on the march becauses the bishops tolerated it in our midst and have effectively been silenced.

When the Catholic bishops call an extraordinary meeting to deal with abomination, then I'll believe that they're serious about the Gospel. For now, it's routine semi-annual meetings with committee reports and votes and so on... a long way from John the Baptist and Christ Himself. For these bishops, everything is Business As Usual. God help us all.
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written by Ray Hunkins, June 28, 2011
Well stated Dr. Royal.For this issue, in New York, it is the culmination of dialectical materialism. Thesis, antithesis, and synthesis at work. One wonders, what kind of Republicans gave their vote to such a proposal? And the answer is those who are always seeking "synthesis", at the expense of First Principals.
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written by Chris in Maryland, June 28, 2011
Catholics and like-minded Christians and Jews need to declare reality: the state has absolutely no competency nor authority respecting marriage or children - period.

What the society of Catholics and like-minded Christians and Jews need to face up to is that if we don't say we are in charge of marriage and children - then we are incompetent as people of faith.

Of course - for Catholics, this would mean a smaller place-setting at the Al Smith Dinner, etc. Tsk, tsk...
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written by Martial Artist, June 28, 2011
@Ray Hunkins,

I am inclined to disagree with your assessment that the Republicans who sought "synthesis, at the expense of First Principles," is accurate. I have noted over the course of the 48 years of my adult life to date that an increasing plurality (if not majority) of career elected officials (including Republicans and some so-called conservatives) have as their First Principle, that they do whatever is necessary and (they hope) sufficient to ensure their reelection—a pattern not significantly different than their Democratic counterparts. This is most particularly true at the national level, but in the states where I have resided during that nearly half century, it seems almost equally true of state and local politicians as well.

I also think that a majority of the electorate also have no internally consistent set of "first principles," which suggests that the politicians simply play the odds to maximize their opportunity to continue feeding at the public trough, and thereby avoid having to do any productive work.

I would offer as suggestive evidence that my analysis has merit the degree to which we have become increasingly a nation of people who endeavor to live at the expense of everyone else.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer
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written by Manfred, June 28, 2011
I just got off the phone with a Catholic scholar friend who reminded me that ALL marriages up until the Reformation were under the jurisdiction of the Church. It was Henry VIII who usurped the authority of marriage to the State.The Church's response always was, and is in the Traditional Church, that God and His Church only recognize Church marriages. That is why there is so much pressure to force the Catholic Church to perform aberrosexual (not homosexual, gay or same sex) "weddings". The most exciting thing to me is to see the wheat being separated from the cockles right before our eyes!
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written by Aeneas, June 28, 2011
Very sad indeed. But what can we do? It would be nice if someone formulated some kind of plan for us. We can't win a defensive war, or at least we need offensive action as well.

But you know, something in me tends to agree with what Jacob R said: "Bring on the revolution! This country isn't worth saving anyway..unless we spend quite a bit of effort pretending away the present and future and romancing the past. It needs to be cleansed by fire like Sodom and Gomorrah. Until then we shall remain part of a country which, despite the multitudes still in denial, does infinitely more to further the cause of Satan than of God."

I think he is more write than wrong here. This country does seem hopeless nowadays, and I for one have always longed for Old Christendom.
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written by Louise, June 28, 2011
Dear Mr. Aeneas,

I think we all long for Old Christendom. That's why we must continue to remind ourselves and each other that this is the time chosen by God for us to whom He has given it. We are here now because God put us here now. Judging by the strength of character and intelligence and faith that I read here, He chose rightly.

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written by Chris in Maryland, June 28, 2011
I think I am beginning to see the silver lining pointed out by Manfred, and at the same time I would caution Aeneas about "this country isn't worth saving...." The Constitutional Republic called the United States of America desrves to be saved. What we need to do is to begin and never cease calling the Wilsonian/progressive state/collectivist leviathan a bankrupt counterfeit, which is what it is. Note that the big and/or densely populated welfare states like New York State, California, Illinois, and New Jersey are actually bankrupt - they aren't even competent to balance their budgets.

The move by the govt of New York state actually gives the Archdiocese of New York the opportunity to threaten severing ties with the state. It is time to push back.
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written by Graham Combs, June 28, 2011
There is a sacramental argument: marriage is a sacrament and all that that means and not a side dish on the cultural menu. The assault on marriage over the past half century or more in story and song, film and tv, and editorials and legal briefs raises the question of why marriage matters now that gays would be denied full citizenship without it. I lived in New York for over 17 years -- no one enforces its orthodoxy like the left. Primarily through intimidation, and political, cultural, religious tests, and, yes, black listing. I knew this day was coming but yes, my heart sunk. But it was at mass on Saturday evening that I realized just how ugly it may get. My parish is three miles from a suburb with a gay mayor and large gay community. The hostility to the Church is vocal and without any social restraint. During mass I noticed two men doing passable but fumbling responses to the liturgy. And they made it clear they were a couple. I grew anxious as communion neared. I took communion and immediately left the sanctuary. In the past I had heard from the wife of a eucharistic minister that they were finding communion wafers after mass that had been dropped on the floor. Consequently they had begun refusing communion to those obviously unfamiliar with it. Were we "monitored" by activists at mass last Saturday? Will it get worse? It was obvious when the Church was denied its obligations to provided adoption services that same-sex marriage would also mean legal restrictions on the Church's freedom to practice the faith and Christ's commandments. As I've said before, the First Amendment experiment is indeed winding down. For most of history there have always been powers opposed to its intent and meaning because its opposite has been and is the norm. That norm will soon be ours if we don't force the issue -- just as civil rights activists do. I no longer believe that abortion or the health, education and safety our our children are civil rights issues -- no, they are moral imperatives and we must pursue them as such. The law and civic order are no more on our side than they were when William Wilberforce and other Christian forebears confronted slavery. It follows that marriage is above all a moral institution responsible for life and the nurturing of that life.
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written by Fr. Frank, June 28, 2011
People can and do make momentous decisions, but they can no longer think.

With respect to the bishops and withholding the Blessed Sacrament from pols who defy Church teaching, the time is past. Long past. Nothing will be done. If the shepherds would do nothing to those who directly enable the butchery of innocent children, why would one think they'd do anything to those who vote for contractual buggery and call it marriage? As reprehensible as the new law is, it doesn't compare with the evil done by abortion. It's too late. Sorry - wish it weren't - but it is.
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written by Ben H, June 28, 2011
Robert - one NY times story highlighted several 'libertarian,' 'pro-Israel' wall street types who usually go Republican who decided to 'help' junior Cuomo by undermining the republican opposition to blasphemarriage. Social conservatives (the votes) are again undermined by the money wing of the party. Let me suggest that the 'money' people will not learn to change their ways until the 'vote' people go on strike, and maybe the 'vote' people should oppose the special interests of the 'money' people until the 'vote' people start getting their way for once (or at least until the 'money' people stop deliberately undermining the efforts of the 'vote' people to start).

Also, because the 'money' people are right now picking who they will allow to run for the Republican nomination, you can see how Mrs Bachman would not want to step on their toes.

We live in a country where government agents will touch an elderly woman's private parts because doing so will help political appointees appear to be keeping these same ladies safe from terrorists (who are themselves always young Muslim men). So yeah, living in a world of lies, we got problems.

That's the political side. On the more important spiritual side we will have to prepare ourselves for persecution. Many people see persecution as something that is only physical abuse. More likely the persecution that will come to us will be financial and social. I fear that many people do not see suffering in this way to be 'real' persecution and will be unprepared for it. I hope our Bishops are able to prepare our people to suffer in these ways.
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written by Alecto, June 29, 2011
If the Catholic Church is opposed to this, an effective message would be to excommunicate Cuomo and ANY Catholic legislator who supports gay marriage. However, the bishops won't excommunicate Nanny Pelosi, or Biden or other so-called Catholic legislators who not only support abortion, but want other Catholics to pay for them. So I ask you what exactly does it take to actually BE excommunicated these days? Is the Catholic Church so desperate to hold onto contributors they'll tolerate anything? These anti-Catholics confuse and mislead other Catholics. Bishops have a DUTY to excommunicate them for leading their own astray. Is excommunication for Catholic governors and others who support abortion, fornicate, promote and sign legislation changing marriage principles too harsh? I have had it with Catholic bishops and their perversion-loving double-standards. They're spineless, worthless and weak - not leaders. It isn't enough to denounce it, they might actually have to stand behind their words and take action. Guess Maggie Thatcher was right: if you want something said, get a man; if you want something done, get a woman.
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written by liz, June 30, 2011
Dr. Royal this situation also depressed and disheartened me especially in view of the fact tht the northeast is about 805 Catholic. I think the RC Church needs to draw a line in the sand - all the bishops must agree and enforce I believe it is Canon 915. This warm & fuzzy treatment of wayward Catholics has not worked. Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple and used a whip. I say, lead on bishops, lead on!!

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