Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Murphy and Malleability

Bishop William Murphy of the Rockville Centre (New York) Diocese publicly confronted Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi in his column published last week in the Diocese newspaper. Murphy took issue with Suozzi’s stance on gay marriage and abortion rights. Suozzi considers himself a Catholic, went to Catholic schools, and regularly attends Mass. However, he supports a woman’s right to choose, and recently changed his stance from being in favor of civil unions for gays to openly supporting gay marriage. This change is what provoked the column by Bishop Murphy.

Murphy contends that Suozzi’s public stances are contradictory to the teachings of the Catholic church. This is entirely accurate. Roman Catholicism is not accepting of gay relationships, as Murphy explains: “While homosexual orientation is a neutral reality on a moral level, homosexual acts are not morally neutral. They are wrong, and they are sinful. Abortion is wrong, and it is sinful.”[1]

Asked about Murphy’s column, County Executive Suozzi said, “The bishop has a job to do as a leader of the church. I have a job to do as a leader of government.”[2] This is interesting; Suozzi is effectively affirming the separation of church and state. According to Newsday, he still considers himself a practicing Catholic. So is this a matter of a politician really representing the public he serves, rather than his own views? Possibly, just possibly.

Sunday of this week, Newsday reported that Catholics on Long Island generally sided with Murphy on same-sex marriage. This was based on an informal survey of attendees at several Long Island Roman Catholic churches. One parishioner said, “If you're going to be a buffet Catholic, where you pick and choose [what teachings to heed], then don't call yourself a Catholic.”[3] This is a principle I tend to agree with — if you call yourself a Catholic but don’t believe in the tenets of Catholicism, you’re probably not really a Catholic; you’re just labeling yourself.

In related news, a bill in the New York State Assembly failed to advance yesterday. According to Newsday, this was due to an effective lobbying effort led by the abovementioned Bishop William Murphy. The Markey Bill would make it easier for alleged child sex abuse victims to sue their abusers by creating an “open window” in which the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases could be dropped. Murphy’s spokesman Sean Dolan acknowledged that the bishop (not a politician) played a crucial role in opposing the bill.[4]

I find it personally interesting that Murphy condemns Tom Suozzi, a politician (not a clergyperson), for doing his secular job and representing the values of those he represents, but doesn’t hesitate to manipulate the secular system in order to effectively derail a bill that could affect the cash flow of the diocese. Does Murphy consider himself part of the church or part of the state? It’s generally acknowledged that the Roman Catholic Church did all it could to shield pedophile priests (many of whom were homosexual) for decades.[5],[6] Don’t the victims, now adults, deserve some sort of restitution? Why is it more important to protect the Vatican’s coffers than to protect children?

I’m not condemning Murphy, though he seems to deserve it. He’s probably some poor schmuck just trying to do a difficult job, same as you or me or Tom Suozzi. But I would encourage County Executive Tom Suozzi to leave the Roman Catholic Church (hey, he could always try secular humanism). Clearly, Tom Suozzi is capable of growing and changing. The Church is demonstrating itself to be much less capable.

[1] http://www.drvc.org/2009-press-releases/statement-from-bishop-william-murphy-on-nassau-county-executive-thomas-suozzis-support-of-gay-marriage.html
[2] http://www.newsday.com/news/local/ny-libish2112902750jun20,0,512662.story
[3] http://www.newsday.com/news/local/nassau/ny-licath2212904900jun21,0,1741927.story
[4] http://www.newsday.com/news/local/state/ny-stmark2412910436jun23,0,5283269,print.story
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholic_Church_sex_abuse_scandal
[6] http://www.americancatholic.org/News/ClergySexAbuse/

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