Learning to Live as Dissidents

September 2015

In the aftermath of Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that effectively imposed on Americans a radical redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions, Catholics are barely beginning to grapple with the implications.

Just days after the landmark decision, Donald Cardinal Wuerl proclaimed, “The law of the land is the law of the land. We certainly follow what the law says.” In classic Pope Francis style (“Who am I to judge”), the archbishop of Washington, D.C., dangled this conciliatory soundbite for the media to feast upon, never mind what else he might have said in the same breath. (It must be noted here that Wuerl’s statement was an anomaly. Many American bishops released strong statements of dissent in the days following Obergefell.) Cardinal Wuerl made the media’s job easier. He provided them with the Catholic standard of same-sex-marriage orthodoxy: Catholics must capitulate on the issue. The Supreme Court has spoken; the issue is closed. The right to same-sex marriage is now the “law of the land.”

So, dissidents beware. There’s every indication that those who object to same-sex marriage will be systematically shamed and vilified by authoritarian bullies who, in the same breath, say they are acting in the interest of openness and tolerance of diversity. Even as they have succeeded in expanding the definition of marriage, they have narrowed the understanding of “openness” and “tolerance.” From their perspective, tolerance does not extend to those who do not agree with them; openness is not afforded to those who have reasoned arguments that run contrary to their own.

The first victim of universal vilification following the Obergefell decision was Justice Antonin Scalia, the leading rock star of the nation’s same-sex-marriage dissidents. In his nine-page critique of the majority opinion, Justice Scalia made clear that he thought the Court had overstepped its bounds and that the majority opinion was just plain wrong. The Court’s “naked judicial claim to legislative — indeed, super-legislative — power,” Scalia wrote, was a “judicial Putsch” that “poses a threat to American democracy.” He went on to illustrate the absurdity of the majority opinion: “These Justices know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago, cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry. And they are willing to say that any citizen who does not agree with that, who adheres to what was, until 15 years ago, the unanimous judgment of all generations and all societies, stands against the Constitution.”

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New Oxford Notes: September 2015

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