Former papal candidate Cardinal Timothy Dolan told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week Sunday that while the Catholic Church does not believe in same-sex marriage, it must do a better job of accepting its gay and lesbian followers. While maintaining traditional Church rhetoric, Cardinal Dolan's relatively progressive views are what the Catholic Church should strive to accept in order to enter the 21st century.
Although Dolan has long been an opponent of same-sex marriage, his religious defense of his beliefs stresses that gays and lesbians should still feel welcome in church even though he believes marriage is meant for procreative purposes.
"The first thing I'd say to [gays and lesbians] is, 'I love you, too. And God loves you,' he said, replying to Stephanopoulos' questioning his response to a gay couple saying they love God and the Catholic Church. "'And you are made in God's image and likeness. And we want your happiness. 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."
The Church's staunch opposition to gay marriage has never been lost on Dolan, who lobbied against New York's marriage equality law, prohibited any same-sex marriage ceremonies from being performed by Church personnel or on its property under pain of "canonical sanctions," and has compared the "threat" of same-sex marriage to incest, polygamy, and forced marriage. As much as his words may seem comforting to gay and lesbian Catholics, they should not interpret them as entirely welcoming.
Dolan's appearance on This Week showed, if anything, that he is willing to push his fellow Catholics toward more progressive beliefs: teaching them to not hate or abandon same-sex couples, but still opposing their right to marry. Although the Church has recognized that being gay is not a choice, it still bans celibate gay men from the priesthood and rejects adoption by gay and lesbian couples. Still, this is a big difference from its 1983 references to homosexuality as a "social maladaptation" and a "disorder."
In addition to his expected "traditional marriage" verbiage, Dolan also bemoaned the fact that the Church is still seen as a primary assailant of homosexuals.
"[The Church must] do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people," he said. "I admit, we haven't been too good at that. We try our darndest to make sure we're not an anti-anybody. We're in the defense of what God has taught us about marriage. And it's one man, one woman, forever, to bring about new life. We've got to better ... to try to take that away from being anti-anybody."
Interestingly, Dolan also stressed that it's the Church's business to "think of the beyond" and prepare for the future, despite common criticism that it is stuck in the past. But this seemed to backfire quickly, as he mentioned that the "disconnect" between what gay people go through today and what Jesus taught is what most people dislike about the Church. Evidently, Jesus' documented words on traditional marriage (none of which were about homosexuality — more about not judging and always loving others) apply more to the 21st century than the struggles of today's people.
While Cardinal Dolan still agonizes with weighing the words of the Church against the words of the people — most of whom support same-sex marriage — his overall message that gays and lesbians should not be hated for what they cannot control is a good takeaway from his TV appearance. Church-approved groups like Courage International, which strive to suppress homosexual inclinations, may become more like LGBT-friendly (but unrecognized by the Church) groups such as DignityUSA. In spite of their Catholic rhetoric, taking Dolan's words to heart and acting upon them may make the world a little better for LGBT people.