(CNSNews.com) -- Catholic leaders refuted Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling earlier this month that California must stop enforcing Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and which blames religious institutions’ beliefs, including those of the Catholic Church, for harming homosexuals and lesbians.
Cardinal Francis George, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), rejected Walker’s claims, stating that “no court of civil law has the authority to reach into areas of human experience that nature itself has defined.”
The Aug. 4 ruling, which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put an emergency stay on this week, stated that, “Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.”
This finding cited, among other things, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons.
When asked for comment on the judge’s ruling, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said in an e-mail to CNSNews.com that, “Judge Walker, in his decision, backed his bigotry with errors, including the misstatement that the ‘Catholic Church views homosexuality as sinful.’ The fact is, the Catholic Church sees homosexuality as a condition, an inclination in a person, something not intrinsically sinful.”
“The church calls for pastoral support, not condemnation, for people with this inclination,” said Sister Walsh. “The Catholic Church makes clear that it is homosexual activities it deems sinful, because it holds that all sexual activity belongs within marriage between a man and a woman.”
Sr. Mary Ann defended the Church against the judge’s claim that its religious teachings “harm” gays and lesbians, saying, “the Catholic Church opposes all unjust discrimination against gays and lesbians and abhors violence against them.”
But, admitting that anti-gay bigots exist, she added, “bigoted people are an unfortunate result but not a reason to upend the U.S. Constitution.”
Fr. Francis de Rosa, parochial administrator of two parishes in Virginia, responded to the judge’s ruling in an e-mail to CNSNews.com. “We are not opposed to the human rights of someone with same-sex attraction,” he wrote. “Rather, we assert that there is no such thing as a special category of ‘gay’ rights. Why? Because homosexuality is a pyscho-sexual disorder that harms the person and society.”
“Condoning such behavior and encouraging people to engage in it by the passage of permissive and protective laws does the real harm, not the position that warns people of the destructive consequences and nature of homosexual acts,” wrote Fr. De Rosa.
The judge’s ruling concluded that “moral disapproval alone” was an “improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians.”
William Donahue, president of the Catholic League, told CNSNews.com: “Law is only the imposition of morality. That the law requires you to wear seatbelts is the imposition of morality, but this is a bogus argument to suggest that one side is imposing morality and the other side is not.”
Judge Walker also wrote in his decision that, “In the absence of a rational basis, what remains of proponents’ case is an inference, amply supported by evidence in the record, that Proposition 8 was premised on the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples.”
Walker continued, “Whether that belief is based on moral disapproval of homosexuality, animus towards gays and lesbians or simply a belief that a relationship between a man and a woman is inherently better than a relationship between two men or two women, this belief is not a proper basis on which to legislate.”
In response to Judge Walker’s statement that, “A state’s interest in an enactment must of course be secular in nature,” Donahue said that the state does indeed have an invested, secular interest in upholding traditional marriage.
The traditional family is the anchor of society and teaches children citizenship, said Donahue. “All the psychological data show that children need a father and a mother.”
Other Catholic clergy have made public statements disapproving of Judge Walker’s decision. Calling heterosexual marriage “the bedrock of any society,” Cardinal Francis George said, “It is tragic that a federal judge would overturn the clear and expressed will of the people in their support for the institution of marriage. No court of civil law has the authority to reach into areas of human experience that nature itself has defined.”
And Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, who chairs the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, joined Cardinal George in his statement and added, “Citizens of this nation have uniformly voted to uphold the understanding of marriage as a union of one man and one woman in every jurisdiction where the issue has been on the ballot.”
The archbishop also said, “Marriage is more fundamental and essential to the well being of society than perhaps any other institution. It is simply unimaginable that the court could now claim a conflict between marriage and the Constitution.”
Supporters of Proposition 8 cite that voters have upheld traditional marriage in all of the more than 30 opportunities to vote on it throughout the United States. However, Judge Walker wrote in his ruling that without “some support in evidence,” voters’ “conjecture, speculation and fears are not enough.”
He continued, “Still less will the moral disapprobation of a group or class of citizens suffice, no matter how large the majority that shares that view. The evidence demonstrated beyond serious reckoning that Proposition 8 finds support only in such disapproval. As such, Proposition 8 is beyond the constitutional reach of the voters or their representatives.”
Fr. de Rosa, also addressed this, saying, “Vaughn Walker’s ruling asserts that the Catholic argument against homosexual acts is without a ‘rational basis,’ yet that teaching is not based solely upon principles of faith. It is certainly possible to argue from pure reason that it is against the nature of the human person to engage in homosexuality.”
“One very obvious point is the manifest lack of bodily and sexual complementarity in homosexual acts,” said Fr. De Rosa. “Furthermore, there is plenty of clinical psychological data to show that same-sex attraction is the result of a developmental disorder. Were one to make an argument from the theory of evolution, homosexuality is most certainly an inferior, dead-end phenomenon.”
Bishop Jaime Soto of the Diocese of Sacramento has also weighed in on the issue. He decried the “hysteria” that, he says, “has, unfortunately, become the hallmark of California discourse. … It is important for the Catholic community and all Californians of good will not to be intimidated into silence and accommodation.”
In 2003, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then-headed by Cardinal Josepf Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, issued a letter on homosexual unions that was cited by Judge Walker as harmful to the social progress of homosexuals. The letter, in part, states, “No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman” who “mutually perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives.”
“Homosexual unions are totally lacking in the biological and anthropological elements of marriage and family which would be the basis, on the level of reason, for granting them legal recognition,” states the letter. “Such unions are not able to contribute in a proper way to the procreation and survival of the human race. … Society owes its continued survival to the family, founded on marriage. … If, from the legal standpoint, marriage between a man and a woman were to be considered just one possible for of marriage, the concept of marriage would undergo a radical transformation, with grave detriment to the common good.”
Proposition 8 was passed after a fierce political battle in California in 2008. Although Judge Walker’s ruling, handed down earlier this month, had been scheduled to go into effect on Wednesday, Aug. 18, an emergency stay was imposed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday. The Associated Press reported that oral arguments begin in the appeals court on Dec. 6.