As gay marriage legislation picks up momentum across the country, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan said the Roman Catholic Church is losing the fight because it’s been “caricatured as anti-gay.”
Dolan, a charismatic cardinal who until recently was president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, talked about gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act with David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in an interview scheduled to air Sunday.
“Regardless of the church teachings, do you think this is evolving in such a way that it’s ultimately going to be legal everywhere?” Gregory asked.
“I think I’d be a Pollyanna to say there doesn’t seem to be kind of a stampede to do this,” Dolan responded. “I regret that.”
Dolan made the comments in the midst of a wave of same-sex marriage legislation across the country. Hawaii and Illinois most recently legalized same-sex marriage in November, and the first weddings under Hawaii’s law will take place Monday. Gay marriages are now legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
While Pope Francis has garnered attention for arguing that the church should devote less energy to fighting gay marriage and focus more on helping the poor, U.S. bishops have been vocally opposed to same-sex marriage legislation.
On the day that Hawaii’s Democratic governor, Neil Abercrombie, signed his state’s gay marriage legislation into law, Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva called same-sex marriage a “manufactured civil right” that was “symptomatic of a profound misreading of the purpose of human sexuality."
And a week later when Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois legalized same-sex marriage, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield held an exorcism for the state to rid it of the “grave sin” of the legislation.
According to a partial transcript of Dolan’s remarks on “Meet the Press,” he explained why he thinks the church is losing the argument on gay marriage.
“We’ve been outmarketed sometimes. We’ve been caricatured as anti-gay,” he said, adding that the church is “pro-traditional-marriage” and “not anti-anybody.”
“When you have forces like Hollywood, when you have forces like politicians, when you have forces like some opinion-molders that are behind it, it’s a tough battle,” Dolan said.
But when Gregory asked Dolan whether the gay marriage debate is a settled question, Dolan said: “I don’t think it’s over. No. I don’t think it is.”
Dolan also talked about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, specifically the “tough place” that U.S. bishops are in as they try to balance their support for universal healthcare and their opposition to the mandate that insurance plans cover contraception.
“We, the bishops of the United States -- can you believe it? -- in 1990 came out for more affordable, more comprehensive, more universal healthcare. That’s how far we go in this battle,” he said. “We’re not Johnny-come-latelies.”
Dolan said, however, that although bishops were early supporters, they started “bristling” at President Obama’s legislation because it was “excluding the undocumented immigrant and it’s excluding the unborn baby.”
He said that the bishops’ general support for universal healthcare is one of the “dictates of our conscience” and that Obama’s stipulations asked them to violate those dictates.
“That’s where we began to worry and draw back and said, ‘Mr. President, please, you’re really kind of pushing aside some of your greatest supporters,’” Dolan said. He said that when Obama didn’t change his mind, the bishops decided they couldn’t be cheerleaders for the law.