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Posted at 5:41 PM ET, 02/28/2011

Catholic leaders urge continued fight against same-sex marriage in Md.

By John Wagner

Thumbnail image for MD-OpeningDay-House.JPGThe Catholic Church isn't giving up its fight against same-sex marriage in Maryland.

The top three church leaders who serve the state issued a joint statement Monday urging their flock to "act at once" to prevent the House of Delegates from passing the same bill legalizing gay nuptials that passed the Senate last week.

"We urge Maryland Catholics throughout the state to act at once to make your voices heard," said the statement issued by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore and Bishop Francis Malooly of Wilmington, the three dioceses that include parts of Maryland.

"The recent decision of a slim majority of Maryland senators to pass legislation that would drastically alter our state's longstanding definition of marriage is regrettable," the Catholic leaders said of the 25 to 21 Senate vote last week. "We believe such a change would lead to the erosion of the family, our society's most valued and important social unit."

The bill is on the verge of passing this year despite the fact that the top three leaders in Annapolis are Catholic: Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert).

As The Post detailed in a story last week, O'Malley has said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk. Busch is planning to vote for it. And though Miller voted against it, he worked to head off a threatened filibuster that could have spelled the bill's defeat.

"We must not allow our legislature to redefine marriage," says the statement of the Catholic leaders, which urges church members to contact their lawmakers. "The word marriage describes the commitment of a man and a woman to come together for life with the possibility of generating and educating children. This is not to say that some people over the ages have not come together in a variety of ways, physical, financial and social. But these various unions have always had other names because they are not marriage."

The complete text of the statement is below.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore, and Bishop Francis Malooly of Wilmington issued the following statement today to Maryland's more than 1.2 million Catholics:

We commend the thousands of Maryland Catholics who have raised their voices in recent weeks in support of our society's foundational institution -- the union of one man and one woman in marriage. In addition to their thousands of emails, phone calls, and visits to legislators, over 500 Catholics came out last week to visit legislators for the Maryland Catholic Conference's Lobby Night. Your efforts must not abate. The time for continued and urgent action is now.

The recent decision of a slim majority of Maryland senators to pass legislation that would drastically alter our state's longstanding definition of marriage is regrettable. We believe such a change would lead to the erosion of the family, our society's most valued and important social unit. The measure would dismantle our state's legal recognition of the true procreative nature of marriage, and contains inadequate conscience protections for religious institutions and individuals. As a result, the measure would jeopardize the religious freedom of all those who cannot in good conscience recognize marriages that conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

The debate is not yet over. A solid number of the members of Maryland's House of Delegates remain opposed to redefining marriage. They need to be assured by you immediately that they have the support of the majority of their constituents in rejecting this legislation.

The haste with which this measure is moving through the legislative process is unprecedented. We urge Maryland Catholics throughout the state to act at once to make your voices heard. Visit the website of the Maryland Catholic Conference today at to contact your legislators, and urge your family, friends, and fellow parishioners to do the same.

We must not allow our legislature to redefine marriage. The word marriage describes the commitment of a man and a woman to come together for life with the possibility of generating and educating children. This is not to say that some people over the ages have not come together in a variety of ways, physical, financial and social. But these various unions have always had other names because they are not marriage.

Thank you for your efforts, and please continue to pray that marriage will be protected in Maryland.

By John Wagner  | February 28, 2011; 5:41 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly, John Wagner, Same-Sex Marriage  
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Next: Updated: Missing delegates stall Md. same-sex marriage bill


How sad that the very people who should be helping and supporting gay citizens have taken the lead in continuing the abuse of them.

When they stand before God to be judged, will they tell him they abused gay citizens to HONOR him?

Posted by: BillJ4321 | February 28, 2011 5:54 PM | Report abuse

This is a bill that would institute CIVIL marriage in the state of Maryland. It would have zero effect on both the religious institution of marriage and the way in which these Catholic (so-called) "leaders" do their jobs. You would think they could better spend their time focusing on things like feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and helping the poor, but apparently they believe the truly Christian thing to do is prevent thousands of gay families from being protected under the law.

And they wonder why Church attendance is declining...

Posted by: boomer400 | February 28, 2011 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Go away marriage cops, and play some golf in the Potomac River....

Onward, Joe Mustich,
CT Justice of the Peace.

Marriage is first a civil and contractual matter in America, and if you want to include your religion or gods, so be it.

Proud member of the UCC, whose parents were Catholic Christians in name only, thank God..

Posted by: cornetmustich | February 28, 2011 6:10 PM | Report abuse

US governments, having ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), are obliged to protect marriage and the natural family.
Article 23 of this Covenant guarantees for 'men and women of marriageable age' the right to marry and to found a family. It's not 'men and men' and its not 'women and women'.
The right to marry and found a family, according to the UN Human Rights Committee (General Comment 19), 'implies, in principle, the possibility to procreate'.
A 2003 decision by the UN Human Rights Committee provides further clarification:
"Article 23, paragraph 2, of the Covenant is the only substantive provision in the Covenant which defines a right by using the term 'men and women', rather than 'every human being', 'everyone' and 'all persons'. Use of the term 'men and women', rather than the general terms used elsewhere in Part III of the Covenant, has been consistently and uniformly understood as indicating that the treaty obligation of States parties stemming from article 23, paragraph 2, of the Covenant is to recognize as marriage only the union between a man and a woman wishing to marry each other."
Regrettably, recent clever propaganda programmes may have produced opinion polls that favour 'same-sex marriage'. But propaganda, however successful, is no basis for changing marriage laws that protect social coherence through responsible procreation, and ensure 'as far as possible, a child’s right to know and be cared for by his or her parents' (i.e. by both parents--not just the maternal parent and her lesbian partner, or the paternal parent and his homosexual partner).
It is rational thought and logic, not homophobia, that requires reasonable people to recognize that 'same-sex marriage' must remain a hollow concept, an elaborate pretence at parity belied by nature itself.

Posted by: ritaJ2 | February 28, 2011 6:36 PM | Report abuse

If I'm not mistaken, the Catholic Church is not the only game in town, and Catholicism is certainly not the Maryland State religion.

How about publishing a story that mentions the growing number of denominations (Christian and otherwise)that are performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couple and have been very supportive of extending marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples?

No one is trying to redefine the definition of marriage as it applies to Catholic teaching. The Catholic Church is free to perform marriages for practicing Catholics as she sees fit. Religious marriage is not the same as civil marriage, and it could be argued that its unjust for the Catholic hierarchy to impose its narrow definition of who is deserving of civil rights and who is not on the entire population.

This bill in now way alters the rights of heterosexuals to marry and takes nothing from them. In fact, the legislature has bent over backwards through a series of amendments to ensure that no religious denomination is required to perform same-sex marriages or require churches to accommodate same-sex couples in their marriage celebrations.

Posted by: jphebus | February 28, 2011 7:30 PM | Report abuse

If Churches want to get involved in state or federal law then they should be taxed. Otherwise they can keep there damn mouth shut.

Posted by: washingtonpost65 | February 28, 2011 7:32 PM | Report abuse

This is the very reason why my family left the Catholic church last year. Because we know too many wonderful families who happen to be gay, and could not subject our children to anti-gay sermons. A family is about more than procreation; it's about love, respect, and a shared responsibility to raise children who care for others...The leaders of the Catholic church are alienating a number of young people and young families with positions like this one. I'm proud of my state and elected officials for their stance so far. I hope to celebrate the bill's passage with straight and gay families alike.

Posted by: KOKensington | February 28, 2011 7:35 PM | Report abuse

They always need a victim to distract from their own failings

Go to to see an expose by someone with 24 years of catholic education.

think of not just all the children molested, but how they hid these crimes for decades.

Google 'Bishop Williamson and holocaust" to see the utter crime of the vatican in 2009 when they unexcommunicated a holocaust denier/minimizer.

Google "Christian brothers Ireland" to see why Ireland now has civil unions and is talking about changing to marriage, and may elect a gay president

Posted by: SJames6621 | February 28, 2011 7:41 PM | Report abuse

And I might add - join the tens of millions who are Lapsed catholics.

Join virtually every country in Western Europe in granting gays marriage or an equivalent.

Join Argentina . Columbia, and Mexico with marriage, and Equador, Uruguay, and most of Brazil in having civil unions.

Add Israel, Nepal, and RSAfrica with marriage. Australia seems to be headed for marriage to replace civil unions.

All in all about 15 c ountries - almost all western with marriage equality for gay people, and 20+ with civil unions.

If only the church would go forward rather then go backwards

Posted by: SJames6621 | February 28, 2011 7:46 PM | Report abuse

After reading the previous comments on this article, it does not surprise me how poorly catechized the average US catholic seems to be. A lot of people here do not seem to have grasped the anthropological, societal or religious roots of marriage that are common across the world. One does not even have to be a Catholic to recognize these things. As one commentator has pointed out even the UN through it's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) has incorporated into it's articles, the inalienable right of marriage as undertaken by one woman and one man to be fully recognised.

Posted by: geraldodoire | March 1, 2011 7:12 AM | Report abuse

As some of the comments here make apparent, this is not about whether to help or abuse people who with a same-sex attraction, it is about attacking an institution in order to destroy a societal norm.

Posted by: BruceinKansas | March 1, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

It is this simple: The Catholic Church (and any other church) simply do not have a dog in this fight. This is a civil, secular issue and does not involve any religious organization.

No one is even contemplating forcing churches to perform same-sex marriages. The church may or may not do so. It is entirely up to them. They do not, however, have any say when it comes to weddings performed by a Justice of the Peace, a Judge, a Clerk, or even another church, for that matter.

I would like to hear one, just one, valid reasonable argument against same-sex marriage that does not involve the perceived violation of some religious doctrine.

Posted by: CharlesGage | March 1, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

geraldo: I checked the UN document you cited from 1966. I see nothing of "one man and one woman," with emphasis on the "one" aspect. Here is the closest I could find:


Article 23

1. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

2. The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized.

3. No marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

4. States Parties to the present Covenant shall take appropriate steps to ensure equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. In the case of dissolution, provision shall be made for the necessary protection of any children.


Item 2 says, "...the right of men and marry." Law is nitpicking. This does not state "to each other" or in any way depicts your "ONE man/ONE woman" premise. It states that men and women can marry, and for 1966, it would imply "together," but technically it does not say that. It should have said "human beings" or "people."

I suspect if this were reviewed today by the UN, the statement would be more generic.

Posted by: CharlesGage | March 1, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

ritaj2: I am not seeing from Article 23 the supposition you are making. Nowhere does it say "natural family."

Reading the actual Article, I would say the Article is silent on same-sex marriage. You cannot imply exclusion unless it is so stated. It is simply silent on the matter. Most laws are written with the definition of a concept (e.g. marriage), followed by specific exclusions. This is not the case here.

Given this was written in 1966 when the idea of same-sex marriage probably did not exist (any more than did legal inter-racial marriage decades before), it is not in the least surprising it is written in the manner it is.

I would say that given the large number of member states who currently have legal same-sex marriage, and with no complaints from the UN of a violation of ICCPR, I can only conclude there is no implied exclusion of same-sex marriage. It is not specifically included, but it is not excluded, either.

Posted by: CharlesGage | March 1, 2011 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Just to clarify - there is a difference between, "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society..." and a "natural family."

The latter implies a biological function while the former implies that families (with no mention as to how these are created) are a "fundamental GROUP UNIT of society."

Adopted children, for example, are not a "natural family" but indeed are a "family unit."

I clarify this for the nitpickers out there who might find fault with my prior comments.

Posted by: CharlesGage | March 1, 2011 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Article 23:2 of the states:
..''The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized''
It is clear to me that the pre-supposition(however subconscious) on the part of the legislators was for a man to marry a woman and start a family. It seems that you are the one who is nit-picking and wrapping himself up in knots to see something in the above words that were not intended. It seems clear to me at least that the pro-creative intent at the end of the article would rule out any same-sex component to the meaning of the paragraph in question. Your example of the historic issues surrounding mixed-raced marriages are not really relevant here as those marriages were still sacred ceremonies performed to unite one man with one woman. You also state that this is a civic affair which will not directly effect the Church. But the understanding of marriage as understood by all the great Monotheistic faiths( Christianity,Judaism and Islamic) is being overturned by the law-makers of the Maryland state. This will have profound significance for the standing of marriage as it has been commonly understood in wider society. This can only ring alarm bells for committed believers in this hallowed institution. It is the overturning of sincerely-held, core beliefs.

Posted by: geraldodoire | March 1, 2011 8:09 PM | Report abuse

geraldo: I believe we are just going to have to disagree on this. The State looks at marriage as a contract. That has been determined in countless court cases. These cases, of course, have nothing to do with any religion. I hope we can agree on this point. Marriage consists, like it or not, of two parts - the State contractual, secular, legal, aspect and (often, but not required) some type of religious ceremony. This is evidenced by a couple (let's say a male/female couple) having obtained a state-issued marriage license and then having a marriage ceremony performed by a Justice of the Peace. Clearly, no church or religion is involved in this type of marriage. Regardless, in the eyes of the State, that couple is married. In the eyes of many churches, they are not. Still, the couple obtains all legal rights of marriage recognized by the State.

I fail to see how the State accepting same-sex marriage (SSM) will have any effect whatsoever on any church or religious group. The churches may continue to perform whatever ceremonies they may wish to perform and certainly may decline to perform any SSM ceremonies.

I cannot imagine that this "overturning of sincerely-held, core beliefs" as you put it is any different than the arguments used in the past against inter-racial marriages and marriages when one or more parties was divorced. Moreover, these are not my core beliefs.

Over history, the intent and meaning of marriage has changed countless times. Was it between a man and a woman? Well, yes, of course. But, times change and this will, too.

I suggest looking at the other countries which have had SSM for decades and see how little this has affected them. I also would look at the sheer minuscule numbers. It is generally accepted that 10% of population is gay. The religious crowd says it's 3%. Let's go with 5%. Okay, of that 5%, I would take a wild guess and say less than half actually would get married. So, let's say it's 2%. Are you telling me that 2% of the population is going to destroy the institution of marriage? With a current 50% divorce rate and an even higher percentage of couples who live together out of wedlock and have children out of wedlock? Where is the real threat to the institution of marriage?

The SSM group is small potatoes to the straight crowd. And, yet, all we are asking for are the legal rights granted by the State. We have no interest (I do not, anyway) in trying to force churches to perform (or accept) SSM. That would be between an individual couple and their church. It has nothing to do with the secular world.

I realize this is an affront to many who are religious but so, too, to some, is a woman walking around with her head bare and her face uncovered.

For me, I never was raised in any type of religious background but I aced a recent test given on religious knowledge. I no more care about the edicts of the Catholic Church than I do the laws of Islam, as I am not a part of them.

Posted by: CharlesGage | March 1, 2011 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Shenanigans! I claim shenanigans on the Bishops' statement. It uses emotional language to falsely imply some nebulous threat to religion. Shame on these unmarried men in dresses. Shenanigans!

Posted by: marcluxjd | March 3, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Now they're just making stuff up! The bishops stated: The word marriage describes the commitment of a man and a woman to come together for life with the possibility of generating and educating children." It seems like the kettle is calling the pot black when the bishops are calling for a redefinition of marriage along with proponents of civil marriage equality.

Civil marriage is a contract - the basic terms are implied by law. The civil marriage contract has no terms regarding "generating children", "educating children" or "for life", like the bishops state. You can try to put these terms in a pre-nup, but they're not inherently in the civil marriage contract.

However, bishops can redefine the marriage sacrament within their very limited jurisdiction [I wonder if their new definition has the OK from Rome], but their position is inapplicable the civil rights of all the citizens of MD who choose not to suject themselve to the bishops' authority.

Posted by: marcluxjd | March 3, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

This, right here, is the reason that I have not given to the Cardinal's appeal in the DC Archdiocese for the second straight year.

Posted by: vtavgjoe | March 4, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

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