My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
The world was forever changed on July 14th. Bastille Day marked the opening of the French Revolution and the ushering in of an era of radical secularism. The only law that mattered in the late 18th-century France was the law of the mob and as so it was not suprising that soon after came the Reign of Terror. In his work, Dialogue of the Carmelites, George Bernanos recounts how the excesses of the period sent a small band of nuns to the guillotine. The work is, of course, much more about our shared human struggle, not only fear and cowardice but also courage and faith.
Our own history stands in contrast to that of France. New York State has the honor of being one of the original 13 colonies to rebel against the English Crown and form a representative democracy. Our forefathers risked life and property so as not to be slaves. Their consent was demanded if they were to be governed. Today, we respect the right of the majority to govern precisely because the rights and protections of the minority are enshrined in our formative legislative texts. The democractic process is entirely dependent upon dialogue that at times leads to compromise. However, it must always be marked by cooperation and respect for the views of others.
The recent passage of the same-sex marriage legislation in the State of New York underlines the fact that, at least here in New York, the state of our democracy is weak, at best. First there was a lack of true debate on the momentous decision to redefine marriage in New York State. There were no legislative hearings and all sides of the issue were not presented to the legislators for their consideration. Secondly, the whole process was marked by back-room politics. Not that politics are always transparent, however, the closed-door political dealings, the threats and the promises which forced many legislators to vote against their own consciences is certainly not something worthy of our state. Thirdly, the clear influence of special interest groups that bought the process, at least as reported in the major news media, is truly disheartening. The large contributions of Wall St. hedge funds seems to have had a major effect on the voting patterns of our legislators. Fourthly, the fact the passage of this legislation took place on the the last day of the legislative session, and truly at the 11th hour, before the Senate closed for recess is an example of the sorry state of affairs in New York State. The debate was cut off, legislators were locked in their chamber, and the general state of pressure and panic consumed the process.
In March, the major newspapers in our state decried the corruption of our political process. It’s a case of the proverbial three men in a room. King David asks the Almighty in a Psalm, “If the foundations be destroyed, what shall the righteous do?” For too long, Catholics and all New Yorkers have stood idly by as our legislature has grown increasingly corrupt. We must commit ourselves to be educated about the process and demand it be changed. I truly believe in the democratic process and am proud to be an American. However, I must confess that I am rather ashamed to be a New Yorker after the spectacle that the same-sex marriage passage revealed.
Marriage is the foundation of civil society. Fundamentally, it is the stable union between man and woman where new life is brought into the world. It is in marriage that children learn to become good citizens of our society. While we as Christians recognize that marriage is also for the mutual consolation of wife and husband, the interest of the state in marriage has little to do with love and affection. Rather it is entirely about new life that is brought into the world in an environment that will facilitate their becoming productive members of the state and society.
Have any of our families been spared the pain of divorce? Are we all just a little diminished by the coarsening of human sexuality that manifests itself in casual sex and by the pervasiveness of cohabitation? If we were to put aside the question of rights for a moment, can we ponder aloud if our children deserve more than what we are offering? These are the questions that merited a debate. Unfortunately, we are lacking statesmen willing to engage in open, honest dialogue.
All democracy is an exercise of putting out into the deep. A real democratic process brings individuals to the unknown junctures that always necessitate dialogue and sometimes compromise in order to bring about justice which is the characteristic of a democratic society.