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NEW YORK/ Bishops’ Statements on Same-Sex Marriage in New York attract criticisms

Catholic bishops’ firm statements against New York State’s allowing same-sex marriage have attracted criticisms from even Catholic publications. Have bishops lost their pedagogic power?

Archbishop Timothy Dolan Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Once dubbed the “American Pope,” Archbishop Timothy Dolan, along with some of his fellow prelates, has attracted widespread attention—and criticism—for his tenacious efforts to defend traditional marriage in the United States. Dolan, current president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and head of the Archdiocese of New York, which, home to over 2.5 million Catholics, is one of the largest, is a frequent guest on media programs, has over 8,300 fans on his Facebook page, and authors a popular blog on the Archdiocese website, entitled “The Gospel in the Digital Age”. At 61, Dolan is well liked by young people and the general public; his deliberate yet charismatically straight-talking style has even earned him a comparison to the role of a CEO or U.S. Senator.

During the months and weeks counting down to the New York State legislature’s vote to pass a bill allowing same-sex marriage, Archbishop Dolan was one of the Catholic Church’s strongest voices within the public arena communicating continued support of traditional marriage. He encouraged Catholic legislators not to waver in their commitments to traditional marriage, even though political pressure was high and “the stampede [was] on”. Through various public appearances and social media platforms, the Archbishop worked to present and defend the Catholic Church’s position on marriage versus New York’s recent legislation. Notwithstanding his more 21st-century means, Dolan preaches an age-old message that the Catholic Church has officially espoused for over two thousand years. Yet, even acting within the traditionally and intentionally didactic role of Archbishop, Dolan’s efforts have attracted national critique from Catholics and non-believers alike.

For example, Catholic blogs have criticized Dolan’s own blogging of appearing to waver on what marriage actually is because the Archbishop describes the institution using slightly different terms within one post. Others have commented that Dolan’s blogging does not delve deep enough into rational arguments to support the Catholic view of marriage, but instead only grazes the surface of the issue in the same way that most politicians use catchphrases and slogans to gain support of particular political agendas.