The Catholic Thing
Long Island’s Bishop Murphy: Fighting the Good Fight Print E-mail
By George J. Marlin   
Wednesday, 15 May 2013

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For over a decade, I have lived in New York’s Diocese of Rockville Centre.  Created by Pope Pius XII in 1957, it encompasses Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk counties, and with 133 parishes it is home to 1.5 million Catholics, about 52 percent of the total population.

After the Second World War, Long Island’s Catholic population skyrocketed. GI Bill of Rights benefits and FHA/VA housing loans caused a mass exodus from New York City’s old Catholic ethnic neighborhoods to what historian Kenneth Jackson called the “Crabgrass Frontier.”

The first suburban “bedroom” community was built in the late 1940s by Levitt and Sons, Inc. in Nassau County. The 4,000 cookie-cutter homes developed on former potato and onion fields and named Levittown, were populated mostly by newly married Catholic GIs.

Because of the large Catholic population, Long Island was very conservative – politically and culturally. In the 1950s, Eisenhower received over 70 percent of Long Island’s vote, Nixon garnered 65 percent of votes cast in 1972, as did Reagan in 1984. Catholics have controlled the Republican Party and a vast majority of federal, state, and local elected positions.

But over the last three decades, Long Island’s Catholic community has seen its demography change. The surviving Catholic members of the “Greatest Generation” are north of eighty. Baby Boomers are retiring to sunny tax-friendly states. The demise of New York’s manufacturing sector has forced many blue-collar Catholics to seek jobs in the south and southwest. Young Catholic families can’t afford to live on Long Island because it has the highest state and local taxes in the nation. And there are growing numbers of cafeteria Catholics.

Since 2001, dealing with these challenges has been the responsibility of Rockville Centre’s fourth Ordinary, the most Reverend William F. Murphy, STD, LHD. Bishop Murphy, a native of Boston, earned advance degrees at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and served from 1980 to 1987 as Under Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He also taught theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas and at the Gregorian.

Bishop Murphy has not been bashful when it has come to defending Church teachings in the public square. He has spoken out against the anti-Catholic HHS mandates, New York’s same-sex “marriage” act, and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Reproductive Health Care Act, which would make abortion a right and abolish time limitations.

Reacting to the ever-growing government leviathan, Murphy has observed: “More and more, government becomes the regulator and then the administrator of seemingly endless new social positions and policies to the detriment of intermediate institutions and local free initiatives.”

He went on to argue that the Nanny State was violating subsidiarity, which holds that government exists to protect and guarantee the freedom of every person to perform social activities, and that those are best performed by the lowest and smallest groups capable of carrying them out.

Recently, the Diocese of Rockville Centre made national headlines after Bishop Murphy supported a pastor’s decision to remove an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, who was also a religious education instructor to fifth graders, because he’s a male homosexual who “married” a man.

To considerable media hoopla, Faithful America, an online leftist, social-justice political organization, submitted to the chancery an online-generated petition that read: 

Dear Bishop Murphy:
Please let Nicolas Coppola resume volunteering at his parish – and make it clear that faithful gay and lesbian Catholics are welcome to participate fully in parish life in your diocese.
18,603 members of Faithful America

Refusing to back down, the diocesan office of communications confirmed it received the petition, which “did not as it would appear, fill the three large boxes that were received. In fact, two of the boxes were empty.”

The statement went on to say:

The Catholic Church recognizes that all persons share equally in the dignity of being human and are entitled to have that human dignity protected. This does not, however, justify the creation of a new definition for marriage, a term whose traditional meaning is of critical importance to the furtherance of fundamental societal interests. Well-settled Church teaching recognizes marriage to be the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, holy and loving union that is open to children, ordered for the good of the children and the spouses themselves. Regardless of civil pronouncements, this definition does not, and indeed cannot, change in the eyes of the Church because it is rooted in biological teleology and natural law. . . .As Bishop Murphy has said:  “Church teaching is not discriminate against homosexual men and women.  No one has a right to discriminate against persons because of sexual orientation.”  It is, however, the case that all Church institutions and teachers of the faith are bound to support this teaching, particularly by their public action.

Being an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion is not a right; it is a privilege. The granting of that privilege pre-supposes that someone is well instructed in Church teachings, subscribes to them privately and publicly, and is in good standing with the Church. People married outside the Church, heterosexual or homosexual, do not meet the basic requirements to serve as an extraordinary minister or to teach the faithful in a parish CCD program.

It would be nice to think this is an isolated incident. But it’s more likely the opening round of what will be a protracted conflict. Gay “marriage” threatens to become a tool not only for those who want to undermine Catholic moral teaching from the outside, but from inside as well.           

Let’s hope bishops throughout the nation are getting ready for this onslaught. And that they follow Bishop Murphy’s brave example in defending Church rights and Catholic teaching in an increasingly hostile public square.


George J. Marlin is an editor of The Quotable Fulton Sheen and the author of The American Catholic VoterHis most recent book is Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (12)Add Comment
written by Manfred, May 15, 2013
An excellent article, as usual, Mr. Marlin. One point: If an "extraordinary" minister of Holy Communion distributes Communion each Sunday at the 11 AM Mass, is he "Extraordinary" or "Ordinary"? This position was created as a novelty after Vat. II in order to allow greater participation by the laity in the Novus Ordo Mass. That is why there are altar rails in Traditional churches. It is to keep out anyone who is not ORDAINED, i.e., having been previously screened by the seminary process, or, in the case of acolytes, screened by those who have been ordained. Otherwise this honor(?) is often awarded to a layman in the parish who is active or who donates heavily and you end up with the problem you cite above. As the saying goes: Before you take down an altar rail, recall why it was placed there in the first place.
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, May 15, 2013
It is indeed a sad, sad commentary on ecclesial life when a bishop is commended for standing up in defense of the faith. Referring to the use of the term "extraordinary ministers," I would suggest that bishops acting thusly is an "ordinary" exercise of their ministry and there should be nothing extraordinary about the bishop's public stance and the action he took. Our reaction in cases like these should be: "Isn't that what a bishop is supposed to be doing?"
written by Richard A, May 15, 2013
Well, the diocese could simply have said that it agrees with Faithful America's standards in making 'it clear that faithful gay and lesbian Catholics are welcome to participate fully in parish life'. Too bad Nicolas Coppola revealed himself to be not a faithful Catholic.
written by Tomas, May 15, 2013
Long Island bishops share a lot in common with bishops from Yugoslavia in that they both have flocks that have suffered ethnic cleansing as described in E. Michael Jones' book "Slaughter of the Cities."

Elsewhere in the States, a bishop faces jail time for alleged "homophobia."

I agree, we should get rid of EMHCs. There's nothing extraordinary about them in your typical suburban parish.
written by Athanasius, May 15, 2013
Thank God for Bishop Murphy. He is standing up for truth. While the left will portray this as harsh, it is actually a mercy to point out the inconsistency of the man in question's lifestyle and Church teaching. To ignore this would be to let the man continue to live in a sinful state without the proper admonishment. That is not a merciful act.
written by Stanley Anderson, May 15, 2013
I suppose we should expect that at some point the very act of putting the word "marriage" in quotes when referring to same-sex "marriage" will be declared hate-speech because it implies that the writer who used the quotes is suggesting that the word does not really apply to the politically assigned meaning of the phrase.
written by Thomas C.Coleman, Jr., May 15, 2013
I suspect that Bishop Murphy knows that the homosexual agenda is less about the dignity of persons afflicted with Same Sex Attraction Disorder thas it is about denouncing the Chruch as a hate insitution. As stated by others, the Church and our nation are in sad states if defending the Faith is perceieved as unusual. Where did all Catholic who reject Church teaching get thier outlandsih notions? Many of them got thier ideas from sixteen years, grade school through college, of so-called Catholic education, during which they were taught that the only sin is being rich. Let us pray for more Bishop Murphys and Abp Chaputs.
written by Ken Tremendous, May 15, 2013
This piece is a jumble. First, the fact that Long Island--like most suburbs outside of the South--have been trending away from Republicans has more to do with the crazy drift of the GOP post-Reagan than anything else.

People in suburbs usually want to pay higher taxes for better public services, Mr. Marlin--particularly schools which outside of New York city produce some of the most talented students in the country. This keeps property values high and this perversely makes only the highest income families of childbearing age able to afford the mortgage payments. The main net influx of new people into greater New York is low income immigrants who provide most of the cheap grunt work to make Long Island pleasant for everyone else.

This increasing social stratification based on class--which is detrimental to the whole country in many ways--should be the focus of Catholic concerns on political economy.

Instead we get yet another tone deaf, out of date and irrelevant broadside against "Leviathan" and the "nanny state" with another weird appeal to "subsidiarity."

Here's a dirty little secret, Mr. Marlin. "Subsidiarity" in Long Island means local governments and communities enacting zoning laws to prevent higher density development of the sort people of modest means could afford...all to jack property values sky high and insure that only the very wealthy can afford to live there. They have to ensure the "character of their neighborhoods" after all. Then the brahmins make sure that there is a steady flow of cheap labor from Latin America to make sure all the restaurants are staffed, houses are clean and lawns well manicured. You can't have subsidiarity in any meaningful sense if there's no Catholic community left!

This is how you get a society where only the rich and poor live there--and the great Catholic middle who would have provided the opposition to gay "marriage" is long gone.

And we wonder why middle class Catholic life has disappeared from broad swaths of the country. All the while conservative Catholic thought leaders keep echoing GOP talking points.
written by DS, May 15, 2013
Unfortunately, "discriminate" has become a loaded word and in common usage is now equated with hatred. A more accurate and less inflammatory definition would be "to differentiate" or "to treat differently."

With this in mind, the bishop is simply not correct when he says "Church teaching is not discriminate against homosexual men and women. No one has a right to discriminate against persons because of sexual orientation."

The Church itself discriminates against celibate homosexual men with respect to Holy Orders. The Church has articulated its reasons for doing so, and the bishop should be honest and forthright about it.
written by Thomas C.Ccoleman, Jr., May 15, 2013
@Mr. Ken T. The idea that there would be some great Catholic middle class to oppose homosexual marriage if certain other conditions existed, I'm afrais, a pipe dream. All across the the various socio-ecomic-educational and ethnic spectra large numbers of self-idenitfied Catholics have been raised as good citizens of the Tyranny of Relativism. They belieeve, as John Kerry said in 2004 that "Ever since Vatican II and Pope Pius XIII (SIC) Catholics have been allowed to make up thier minds on such issues..." Your socicological musings might make sociological sense, but they do ot address the phenmonon of of millions of Catholics from once devout Catholic families becoming virutal Unitarians in less than two generations.
written by Layman Tom, May 16, 2013
"Instead we get yet another tone deaf, out of date and irrelevant broadside against "Leviathan" and the "nanny state" with another weird appeal to "subsidiarity.""

Mr. Tremendous, do you really believe that these are tone- deaf, irrelevant and out-of-date arguments, or are you just stirring something up. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for a little stink-raising on occasion. Sometimes it frees people up to say what they really want to. I rather hope that you are, actually; because if not you might just be too blind to help. I would rather think your moniker is eponymous. Either way, I will pray for you.

Oh, and just to prove my street cred on this, "Marriage" "Marriage" "Marriage"! Let them come for me Stanley

written by Felini, May 22, 2013
The Church's own misapplication of the teachings of Vatican II have gone a long way toward Catholic relativism. Once done it's hard getting the genie back in the bottle. It brought us cafeteria homilies from one parish to the next, disrobed altars and clergy who robbed the innocence of the children. It's going to take a lot of evangelization and correct catechesis to overcome years of pastoral oddities which still exist in many parishes. The same-sex marriage debate is a red-herring agenda thrown on top of the Churches efforts to stem this hemorage.

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