Monday, November 23, 2009

Marriage, "Manhattan" and DC

Fresh off a Plenary briefing on their efforts to combat same-sex marriage -- and as financial disclosures highlighted the assistance of over 40 dioceses in funding the movement behind this month's citizens' veto of Maine's law permitting the unions -- 15 leading US bishops joined in signing an ecumenical "call to conscience" last week that not only decried the "impulse to redefine marriage," but likewise repented "as we have too easily embraced the culture of divorce."

Released Friday at a Washington press conference, the "Manhattan Declaration" emerged from a group of 150 Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical leaders, ordained and lay alike. For its part, however, the American hierarchy was represented by a veritable A-list flank that included Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, Archbishops Donald Wuerl of Washington, Tim Dolan of New York, Charles Chaput of Denver, Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, John Myers of Newark, John Nienstedt of St Paul and Minneapolis, Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, and Bishops Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, David Zubik of Pittsburgh, and Richard Malone of Portland, who spearheaded Maine's successful repeal push.

Among others, the prelates were joined by several leading lights of the Catholic right, including Ignatius Press chief Fr Joseph Fessio, First Things editor Joseph Bottum, papal biographer George Weigel and Fr Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute.

Beyond its treatment of marriage, the signers pledged their energies to "to roll back the license to kill that began with the abandonment of the unborn to abortion," to "not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent" and "to embrace our obligation to speak and act in defense of these truths."

Of course, the doc rolled out against a heated backdrop in the capital that's seen the DC archdiocese raise the specter of declining city funding for its Catholic Charities if, as expected, Washington's City Council sanctions same-sex marriage -- and, more crucially, mandates the according benefits for city-funded agencies -- as soon as next month.

In an an op-ed on the controversy in yesterday's Washington Post, Wuerl called for a compromise that "more fairly balances different interests," allowing an exemption for religious groups that would allow them to continue city-funded services "without compromising the tenets of their faith."

PHOTO: Basilica of the Assumption, Baltimore