What could Archbishop Dolan have done to fight gay marriage?

I came back from a few days away to see that Archbishop Dolan lit the first “virtual candle” on the St. Patrick’s Cathedral website.

It’s been a busy few weeks for Dolan.

He heard from several priests who don’t want to see their Catholic schools closed.

And he emerged as the face of the anti-gay marriage lobby in NYS. The losing face.

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about the growing social acceptance of — or lack of interest in — homosexuality and gay marriage. There was little public debate that I picked up on in the months leading up to the big vote in Albany.

And, honestly, I didn’t get a sense that the opposition — mostly the Catholic Church and a few evangelical lobbyists — were all that worked up about it. They were, and remain, clearly opposed to gay marriage. But maybe they thought there was little they could do.

I’ve come across a few anti-gay marriage commentators who feel the church could have done more to rally, or at least awaken, the troops.

Academic John Zmirak, writing for the conservative Catholic magazine Crisis, compared the church’s combativeness to France’s capitulation to the Nazis.

He writes: “Instead of pulling out all the stops and calling in all its chips, the Church shrugged off the effort to defend the natural law as a good thing for all New Yorkers — and went scrambling for exemptions to guard its institutional interests. Republicans who were wary of gay marriage spent their political capital not fighting against the bill, but carving out little enclaves of protection for such oddball cults as might not want to solemnize same-sex rites.”

The conservative religion commentator Rod Dreher, a former Catholic-turned-Orthodox Christian, writes that Dolan fought with a stunning half-heartedness.

He writes: “The archbishop was undoubtedly correct to describe the pro-gay forces as “very strong” and “well-financed” — but what is the Archdiocese of New York, chopped liver? Though greatly diminished in power from the glory days of Cardinal Spellman, there is no bully pulpit like the one Dolan has. Given the razor-thin margin of victory for the pro-gay side, it’s entirely possible, even likely, that a fully engaged Archbishop Dolan could have won this round for his side.”

Dreher also takes the Orthodox leadership in the U.S. to task.

He writes: “It’s not just the Catholic leadership. Bishops of the Eastern Orthodox churches, whose teaching on same-sex relations is equally ancient, and equally strong, are possibly even more tongue-tied than their Catholic counterparts. Metropolitan Jonah, the primate of my own church, the Orthodox Church in America, finds his authority effectively shattered by the Synod of Bishops, in part because they resented his signing the Manhattan Declaration in support of traditional marriage.

“True, Michael Dahulich, the OCA bishop of New York and New Jersey, issued an archpastoral letter condemning the New York legislature’s action. But one wonders how active the bishop and Empire State Orthodox clergy were in the fight when their voices might have made a difference?”

And Tom Deignan, a columnist for IrishCentral.com, somehow compares Dolan to Whitey Bulger, the old Boston mobster who got picked up recently. His headline: “How the mighty have fallen.”

Yeesh. He writes that both are Irish-American institutions who were “taken down.”

Deignan writes: “Not too long ago, there would have been an undeniable sense of war in the air, with Catholic leaders vowing to drive out the Catholic vote at election time, if lawmakers chose to stand against church teaching.

“Can you imagine what would have happened if a gay marriage bill was being debated during John Cardinal O’Connor’s reign as New York’s Catholic leader?”

But Deignan concedes that times have changed, even since O’Connor’s time, and there may have been little Dolan could do: “The problem, of course, is that vast numbers of Irish Catholics across New York — and America — are not exactly passionate in their opposition to gay marriage. Sure, some are not enthusiastic supporters.  But what we do know is that they do not simply follow the church’s clear opposition to it.”

And that, it seems to this observer, is the real issue.

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

No Senate vote set yet on gay marriage

As of a half hour ago, there’s no word on whether Senate Republicans will call a vote on gay marriage.

The AP just reported this:

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Two Republican state senators in New York say no decision was made on the fate of gay marriage after a three-hour meeting behind closed doors Monday.

The senators, speaking on condition of anonymity, say gay marriage is tied up in negotiations with other issues including rent control in New York City and a statewide property tax cap.

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Joe Spector of our Albany bureau has an interesting story today about Sen. Steve Saland, a respected Poughkeepsie Republican who could be the 32nd vote needed in the Senate for gay marriage to be passed.

Saland is apparently respected by both sides of the aisle for being a thoughtful veteran of the Senate. His office has been getting 60 or 70 calls an hour from people on all sides of the issue.

Most New Yorkers oppose downtown Islamic cultural center, poll shows

Sixty one percent of New Yorkers oppose the so-called “Ground Zero mosque,” according to a poll released today by the Siena College Research Institute in Loudonville, N.Y.

Institute Director Don Levy says: “Large majorities of all New Yorkers, every party, region and age give a thumbs-down to the Cordoba House Mosque being built near the Ground Zero site. But only just over half of all New Yorkers, even city residents say they have been following the news about the proposed mosque closely.”

By “New Yorkers,” he’s talking about people across the state, not only people in the NYC region.

Here’s the rest of Levy’s comments:

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Two of ten New Yorkers agree more with supporters that say the proposed Cultural Center would demonstrate the presence of moderate Muslims and serve as a monument to religious tolerance than with opponents that say the project is an offense to the memory of those killed in the attacks on 9/11 and that it displays unacceptable insensitivity.  Nearly four in ten agree more with the opponents and 38 percent think both sides have a legitimate case.  Over half of all New Yorkers and NYC residents either agree that the project would promote tolerance or are, at least, willing to listen.

But when it comes to a yes or no vote, more than a quarter of those that agree with the supporters, nearly half of those that see both sides and virtually all of those that question the appropriateness of the Mosque currently vote ‘No’ on the project.

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The Institute also said that 52 percent of New Yorkers would favor an immigration law like the one passed in Arizona.

Other findings on immigration, according to a release:

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Seventy percent of New York residents say that the presence of 10 to 20 million illegal immigrants poses a somewhat (30%) or very significant (40%) problem to the U.S.,  and large majorities call for comprehensive immigration reform that would include enhanced border security (79%), the creation of a process for admitting legal temporary workers (70%), and implementing a tough but fair path to legalization for those already here (65%).

Two Christian groups oppose no-fault divorce

I was kind of stunned the other day to learn that New York is the only state without a no-fault divorce law.

I guess I would have expected a few states in more traditional parts of the country to be sticklers when it comes to “preserving” marriage.

Two days ago, the NY state Senate voted 32-29 to allow “no-fault” divorce after a marriage has “irretrievably” broken down for at least six months. The Assembly is expected to go along.

Right now, one spouse must allege abandonment, adultery or one of a few other reasons in order to seek a divorce.

The only religious group that I have heard react to the Senate passage is the NYS Catholic Conference, which is predictably opposed to any changes that would make divorce more common.

Executive Director Richard Barnes released this statement:

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The Bishops of New York State are disappointed with the Senate action today. Increasingly, society has come to view marriage as disposable and temporary. However, empirical evidence shows that children of divorce tend to suffer many negative consequences throughout their lives, from lower educational achievement rates to higher rates of substance abuse, criminal behavior and imprisonment.

Clearly, not every marriage can be permanent. But when serious reasons exist, such as abuse, adultery or abandonment, the law provides for quick divorces. In cases where no such grounds are present, so-called “no fault” cases, a couple may divorce following a one-year legal separation. The state has a legitimate interest in such a waiting period, where reconciliation is still a feasible possibility, because of the important place of marriage in society, particularly as it relates to the stable rearing of children.

New York State has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. While we see that as a cause for state pride, some sadly may see it as a problem to be corrected. We urge the state Assembly to reject this proposal and, failing that, we call on Gov. Paterson to veto it.

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New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical lobbying group in Albany, has not released a statement on the Senate vote (that I have been able to find).

But the group does have a position on no-fault divorce, which is basically that we’re better off without it. Their position includes this statement about divorce:

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Any divorce, regardless if it occurred under fault or no-fault laws, is one of life’s most painful experiences. It signifies the failure of a dream—a dream of intimacy, of family, of security, of meaning. The consequences of divorce can therefore be severe, not only economically, but particularly physically, emotionally and psychologically.

It would seem logical, therefore, that with the massive increases in divorce rates, the rate of children involved in divorce, and the social consequences of the divorce epidemic, that the Legislature would be looking for ways to strengthen marriages not make divorces easier to obtain.

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I have not been able to find any statements in favor of no-fault divorce from religious groups.

I checked the website of Interfaith IMPACT of New York, a coalition of leaders from liberal religious traditions, but did not come across any mention of divorce.