As I paged through Monday's New York Times, a surprising headline greeted me: "Dolan Says the Catholic Church Should Be More Welcoming to Gay People." I was incredibly intrigued, of course -- considering that Dolan is notorious for homophobic comments -- so I read on.
Don't get me wrong, I'm nowhere near naïve enough to have expected a departure from the Catholic Church's anti-gay teachings. But I wondered after reading the headline if perhaps Dolan might be advocating that his church soften its bigotry by shifting focus away from its worldwide crusade against LGBT rights and onto something that Jesus actually talked about, like feeding the hungry and serving the poor.
It didn't take Cardinal Dolan long to disappoint. According to the Times, Dolan implied in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos that the Catholic Church's opposition to equality will continue unabated. What he thinks needs improvement is the messaging around the hierarchy's homophobia:
He defined marriage as "one man, one woman, forever, to bring about new life," but, he told Mr. Stephanopoulos, "we've got to do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people."
"And I admit, we haven't been too good at that," the cardinal continued. "We try our darnedest to make sure we're not an anti-anybody."
Translation: we still oppose your right to legally enter into a civil marriage with the person you love and intend to continue spending time and money fighting against your equality, but we're not anti-gay! And for heaven's sake, please don't think we're attacking you!
Seriously. Remember last year when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, of which Dolan is president, decided to launch an "ambitious public relations drive" in an attempt to rehabilitate the American Catholic Church's tattered public image? This strikes me as a continuation of that strategy.
The conversation between Stephanopoulos and Dolan continued (transcript provided by Igor Volsky at ThinkProgress):
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you know, especially this week -- because it's been at the top of the news - for many gay and lesbian Americans -- gay and lesbian Catholics, they feel unwelcome -- in the Church. And what do you say as a minister, as a pastor -- to a gay couple that comes to you and say, "We love God. We love the Church. But we also love each other, and we -- want to raise a family in faith. What do you say to them?
DOLAN: Well, the first thing I'd say to them is, "I love you, too. And God loves you. And you are made in God's image and likeness. And -- and we -- we want your happiness. But -- and you're entitled to friendship." But we also know that God has told us that the way to happiness, that -- especially when it comes to sexual love -- that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally.
Did you get that? As far as Cardinal Dolan is concerned, gay and lesbian couples don't really have marriages or families. In his mind, same-sex marriages like mine are undeserving of the same civil benefits, protections, and recognition that all other marriages in this country enjoy... because they aren't real marriages. But in his magnanimity, Dolan is now apparently willing to concede that couples like Michael and me -- who have dedicated our lives to loving each other and committed ourselves to one another forever -- are "entitled" to "friendship."
Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that successful relationships aren't based on friendship. They are. Michael is my best friend -- but it doesn't stop there. He's my husband (whether Dolan likes it or not), which means he's my best friend, my confidante, my joy, my inspiration, and my lover. (Yes, Cardinal Dolan, we have sex. Hot, sweaty, passionate, beautiful, fulfilling gay sex.)
With respect, sir, you say that you "love" gays and lesbians, but if trivializing our relationships as mere friendships and opposing our basic rights is how you define the word "love," you can keep it. If you believe that God is the author of love, you can't honestly say that gays and lesbians are "made in God's image" while also believing that our love for each other and its sexual expression is disordered and inferior. I realize that claiming to "love" LGBT people helps you rationalize your bigotry and sleep better at night, but it doesn't change the fact that you don't "love" someone by denigrating and dehumanizing them or by denying the reality and the beauty of that person's most important relationship.
And if that kind of "love" is how you make others feel welcome, it's no wonder that so many Catholics are voting with their feet and heading out the door.
Cardinal Dolan, your self-righteous belittling of same-sex relationships harkens back to a troubling time not long ago when LGBT people were so invisible that couples living together were referred to as "roommates" and "friends" so as not to make straight people squeamish. I understand that that's the world you'd prefer to live in, but it's a world that no longer exists. It's 2013, and gays and lesbians are out, proud, and forming not only friendships, but loving, committed, lifelong relationships -- and even marriages! -- with one another. And you're fighting a losing battle: three-fourths of American Catholics support civil marriage equality for same-sex couples, as do 81 percent of adults under 30.
So you go right on ahead pretending that your patronizing doublespeak constitutes some kind of welcoming, loving outreach to the LGBT community and our straight allies. We see right through it, and the rest of the country does as well. The longer you persist in your spiritual bullying, the more quickly you're bringing about your own utter irrelevance.
History is passing you by, Cardinal Dolan. Enjoy the view.