What is it about sex that so riles the Catholic Church?
Larry Silva, the bishop of Honolulu, is urging all Catholics in Hawaii to contact their state legislators to let them know how they feel about same-sex marriage — and he hopes they don’t feel good about it.
If lawmakers move to legalize same-sex marriage in Hawaii, Silva warns of serious “long term and definitive changes in our entire culture.” (The purported consequences are detailed in an Aug. 22 letter from the bishop, reproduced below.)
Silva says that one of his greatest concerns is that children will be “the greatest casualties, in that they will be deprived of being raised in a loving home by a mother and a father who loves them and whose love cooperated with God’s plan in creating them. When children are deprived of such a home, there will be more poverty, more social ills, more juvenile suicides, and more problems than we can imagine.”
Whoa! The Apocalypse is upon us.
Silva says that the stakes are so dire that he must passionately advocate for discrimination against gays and lesbians, even if they worship the same god as he does:
“People with same-sex attraction are a part of our community, even our Catholic community, and they deserve dignity and respect. Unjust discrimination against them is not acceptable. However, not all discrimination — that is, making distinctions — is unjust.”
Silva’s edict, which was sent to all pastors and parish administrators in the Diocese of Honolulu, comes as Gov. Neil Abercrombie considers whether to order the Hawaii Legislature into special session this fall to take up marriage equality legislation. Groups like Hawaii United for Marriage are aggressively pushing for action on a bill that would legalize marriage for everyone as of this year, rather than wait until the 2014 session begins in January.
Silva’s assault on gay marriage could shift some hearts and minds. The Roman Catholic Church is a large, historic and influential presence in the islands.
Bishop Larry Silva
In his letter, Silva points out that society makes distinctions between children and adults, professor and students, the married and unmarried.
“We must therefore be discriminating about the very language of discrimination, because there are those who demonize the word and who presume that any kind of discrimination is unjust,” he concludes (italics added). “To discriminate between heterosexual and same-sex couples regarding marriage is not, despite the hype on the streets, unjust discrimination.”
If same-sex marriage becomes law, Silva envisions a world where nondiscrimination will become “the norm,” a world where boys could invite other boys to a school dance rather than ask girls. If that weren’t horrible enough, Silva fears that parents would have to alter how they raise their kids and that family members could marry one another, even minors.
Most dreadful of all, it seems, Silva is concerned that gay marriage would lead to a “re-education” of the public so that “homosexual ACTS” are no longer regarded sinful.
To channel the voice of his faithful, the bishop includes a convenient list of contact information for all 76 legislators and the Office of the Governor.
“Several legislators who are not in favor of same-sex marriage have told me that the loudest voices on the issue are those who favor it, while those who say they are opposed are relatively silent,” he explains. “They pointed out that legislators do respond to their constituents and do care what they have to say, but if they only hear from one side of the issue, they presume that everyone is fine with same-sex marriage.”
The bishop closes with these words: “Pray for a change of heart and the formation of an informed conscience, and let your love be the most powerful agent of change. After all, God is love!”
This column began by asking why the Catholic church gets so upset over homosexuality. Mind you, this is the same church that demands a vow of celibacy for clergy, won’t allow priests to marry or be female, and struggles with the awful reality that a lot of priests have committed statutory rape — or worse — on boys.
Marc Alexander, Silva’s former vicar general, stepped down, ostensibly to take another job. It was later revealed that he had sex with a woman while he was a priest.
It’s not just the Catholic Church that is fighting to stop gay marriage in Hawaii.
The Hawaii Family Forum, a 501(c)3 that has previously been affiliated with the Catholic Church, is also urging the faithful to contact government officials to “Say NO to Special Session and NO to Same-Sex ‘Marriage.'” It states:
On August 19th, 30 churches supposedly came out in support of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. This is not surprising since many of these liberal churches have been pretty vocal in their zeal to redefine marriage; however, we must keep in mind that historically, many mainline churches including the Roman Catholic Church, the LDS Church, Calvary Chapels, Assemblies of God, Hope Chapels, New Hope, Missionary Alliance, Baptist and other non-denominational churches have consistently remained committed to supporting marriage between one man and one woman. Those churches, standing together, number in the hundreds.
The Hawaii Family Forum would prefer that lawmaker put the question of gay marriage on the ballot, in the hope that a majority will do as they did in 1998, when they gave the Legislature the power to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
“Whether we like it or not, the institution of marriage is morphing into a whole new thing,” the forum’s executive director, Eva Andrade, posted on the forum’s site late last month. “Although the battle over the redefinition of marriage continues, each of us should pray for our nation because this is only one family issue that touches children from every race and creed.”
Garret Hashimoto, state chairman of the Hawaii Christian Coalition, is also busy mobilizing against any legislation that would lead to marriage equality. In an Aug. 23 email to supporters, Hashimoto claims that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “would not support same sex marriage as a ‘civil right'” and that Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas would not support “an unjust law.”
Meanwhile, Mitch Kahle and Holly Huber, the plaintiffs in that lawsuit targeting New Hope churches for allegedly short-changing Hawaii’s public schools on rental fees, say that Pastor Wayne Cordeiro of New Hope Oahu spent a fair amount of time this weekend trashing not only the lawsuit but the notion of legalizing same-sex marriage. Kahle and Huber say that Cordeiro said, “Thank goodness for our Governor. There’s some things that I differ in opinion with him, but I tell ya, I’m gonna see if I can win him to Christ… He’s a friend of our church and we’re glad.”
In fact, same-sex marriage isn’t really about sex; it’s about the U.S. Constitution, as the U.S. Supreme Court found in striking down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. That’s what prompted Catholics and Christians in the Legislature — people like Sen. Will Espero and Rep. John Mizuno, who opposed civil unions — to recognize they have to comport state law with federal law.
Our lawmakers are trying to craft a bill that would allow churches and other faith-based groups to opt out of allowing their facilities to be used for gay marriage ceremonies, and to give clergy who oppose marriage equality the ability to refuse to officiate at weddings. Similar exemptions were made in Hawaii’s civil unions law.
At issue here, of course, is the religious freedom protected under the First Amendment versus equal protection covered under the Fourteenth Amendment.
But courts do not look kindly on discrimination, as was clear from the DOMA decision. Just last week, New Mexico’s highest court ruled that the owners of an Albuquerque wedding photography company violated state law when they turned away a lesbian couple.
“Upholding a lower-court ruling, the New Mexico Supreme Court held that the company’s refusal was an act of discrimination,” according to the Wall Street Journal’s law blog. “They rejected the argument of the devout Christian owners of Elane Photography who claimed they had a free speech and religious right not to shoot the ceremony.”
Marriage is also, at its most fundamental level, about love. I don’t see much love in Bishop Silva’s letter, however. I see fear, ignorance, arrogance and bigotry. I also see a religious leader obsessed with homosexuality.
Silva’s actions stand in sharp contrast to that of Pope Francis, who just a few weeks ago told reporters, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
“God is love,” Bishop Silva contends.
It’s been a long time since I attended Bible school, but I think Silva is referring to John 4:8 — “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” If so, I hope Silva can learn to love God’s gay and lesbian children as much as he loves the straight ones.