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Wineke: Bishops fail to convince public on same-sex marriage

Published On: Nov 19 2012 08:51:22 AM CST   Updated On: Nov 19 2012 10:04:40 AM CST
Gay marriage, same-sex marriage


Republican leaders seem to agree on just one thing: They didn’t do a very good job of convincing voters that conservative principles are in those voters’ best interest.

That’s one perspective; another is that voters understand those conservative principles very well and have decided that those principles are not in their best interest.

But the Republicans are now joined by some Roman Catholic bishops who have seen their "non-negotiable" principles ignored by a majority of Catholic voters.

Reacting in dismay to news that voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington have decided to make same-sex marriage legal, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, of San Francisco, told a press conference that "people don’t understand what marriage is" and that the church must do a better job of educating them.

"Marriage," Cordileone continued, "is an institution of one man and one woman for the purpose of developing a family."

Cordileone is chairman of the bishops’ committee for the protection and defense of marriage and far be it from me to question that celibate cleric’s superior understanding of marriage.

But I think he may be referring to the Catholic sacramental definition of marriage.

I understand the church teaches that marriage is a sacrament and that its purpose is creating new little Catholics. And I understand that bishops have a profound aversion to homosexuality and, particularly, to the idea that gays and lesbians might find license (literally) to live together in matrimony.

Here’s where I have a problem with the good bishop.

If he is speaking of marriage as a Catholic sacrament, then why are the bishops pouring money and other resources into lobbying efforts to impose their religious views on everyone else?

No one is telling the bishops they must allow same-sex marriages before their altars.  If they want to impose their religious definitions of marriage on their own members, they have every right to do so. Those members will either obey or walk away.

If the bishops want to try to convince non-Catholics that they will be better off in traditional forms of marriage, they have every right to do that, too.

The problem is that they have done a spectacularly bad job of convincing either their own members or the public at large that their position makes sense in today’s world.

Now they are spending vast sums trying to do by legislation what they have been unable to do by persuasion. That works only so long as those who make the laws believe the bishops actually represent the voting public.

And it is obvious that they don’t.

And, not to get too snarky, but I’d be willing to bet Bishop Cordileone probably doesn’t represent the views of a majority of the people of San Francisco.