As you know, one of my main reasons for supporting Proposition 8, which amended the California constitution to define marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, was because I believe that the move to redefine marriage has the potential to put the State and religious organizations — especially the Catholic church — into a head-on collision.
Liberals, when confronted with this notion, will often argue that, while the Catholic Church objects to abortion, that’s never created a constitutional crisis. What they ignore is the fact that, while the church is not in the business of providing abortions, it is in the business of providing marriages. It also ignores the fact that abortion is a legal right, not a constitutional one, while gay marriage proponents have been framing their issue in the opposite way: they say gay marriage is a constitutional, rather than a mere legal right.
Keep in mind that, for Catholics, marriage isn’t just a white dress, cake and Mendelssohn’s wedding march. Instead, it’s a sacrament. A basic tenet of the religion is the joining of man and woman before God. Marriage is one of the sacraments.
So imagine this scenario: Two men go to the local Catholic parish and demand that it marry them. The priest, sympathetic to their love for each other, nevertheless states that he cannot, at a purely religious level, marry them. The men turn around and sue the Church for violating their Constitutional rights. Suddenly, the judicial system is called upon to examine doctrinal issues to determine whether they mesh with Constitutional issues. It’s a scary scenario for anyone who takes seriously the principle that government may not interfere with religious doctrine.
Increasingly, too, that scenario is becoming less far-fetched. In Connecticut, the legislature has before it a bill aimed specifically at the management structure of Roman Catholic parishes. One of the legislators behind the bill admits that this is his goal: to exert state control over Roman Catholic organizations. His excuse is that some parishioners have been complaining that the existing parishes were so badly run that funds got stolen. As the Captain points out, if this is true, it’s a criminal matter, and does not require state interference in church business. It’s that simple.
The legislator’s excuse is also specious because it’s also impossible to imagine that other religions (sadly) don’t also fall victim to this type of embezzlement — yet the bill targets only Roman Catholics. I wonder if this narrow targeting has to do with the fact that the Catholic church, unlike other, more fragmented religions, remains a large, loud-voiced conservative bulwark. Both the bill’s sponsors, incidentally — Rep. Michael Lawlor and Sen. Andrew McDonald — are Democrats.