HRC Blog

New Jersey Archbishop Likens Support for Marriage Equality to Incest

HRC, Call It OutPost submitted by Sharon Groves, former HRC Director, Religion and Faith Program

Newark Archbishop John Myers issued a letter today in which he equates support for marriage equality to incest. In describing marriage equality as not in line with natural law, Archbishop Myers wrote: “Even those who propose radically altering the definition of marriage would not advocate allowing two brothers or sisters or an uncle and his nephew to marry (say, for the tax benefits, or for hospital visiting privileges).”

Archbishop Myers’ remarks represent a fundamental misunderstanding of how we are called to love all of God’s children – not just a select few. To equate marriage equality for a loving, committed same-sex couple to incest is one of the most demeaning and reprehensible things a faith leader could do. Archbishop Myers’ words highlight the disconnect between the Catholic Church hierarchy and the majority of every-day parishioners who sit in the pews. In fact, more than 50 percent of Catholics support marriage equality for their LGBT sisters and brothers.  There is a very different dialogue happening in this country among lay Catholics concerning LGBT equality and faith, and we see the laity leading the Church. 

As Micahel O’Loughlin  at America magazine writes: “.... there something about Catholicism in particular that would lead to acceptance of same-sex marriage, even as some church leaders rail against it? I think the sacramental nature of our faith, the belief that the world is good and infused with God’s grace, and the understanding of family and community as pivotal to living out the Gospel might compel Catholics to reject the call to take up a fight against same-sex marriage. Perhaps some of the laity have taken to heart the church’s emphasis on social justice, its call to protect the marginalized, and its preached message of inclusivity for all, and are now applying these themes to a specific, modern situation. Some bishops may lament this break between shepherd and flock, but in some ways perhaps it is not so troubling? If Catholics are following what they believe to be well-formed consciences and standing up for those they see as victimized and marginalized, the Gospel message lives.”

Catholics in the pews will not allow themselves to be bullied by a misguided hierarchy, whether it is the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, the Vatican, or Archbishop Myers. Their faith is far too sacred to them to see it misused to cause harm. 

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