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Bishop Taylor responds to amicus brief filing

Published: October 3, 2014   

 Bishop Anthony B. Taylor responded Oct. 3 to his amicus brief being accepted in the Arkansas Supreme Court’s consideration of the appeal in Wright, et al. v. Smith, et al.

On Oct. 2 the Arkansas Supreme Court granted my motion for permission to file an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in the appeal of a trial court’s ruling that Arkansas’ definition of marriage was unconstitutional. My brief is not a moral analysis or judgment on homosexuality or same-sex couples. Rather, it is a legal brief, presenting legal arguments to address the logic and analysis of the trial court’s decision — parts of which directly and indirectly called into question the motives of anyone and everyone who would define marriage as only the union of one man and one woman. (You can read the full version of the brief here).

Some have wondered why Catholic bishops even get involved in such disputes. “This is about marriage, not holy matrimony,” they say.  But the Church’s position in this matter is based primarily on natural law and biological and sociological facts — not on the unique faith perspective of the Catholic Church. Simply because a public policy is consistent with Catholic teaching doesn’t make it a “religious policy.” 

I do not doubt that some proponents of traditional marriage do harbor irrational, hate-filled animosity toward homosexuals. But that is not the Catholic Church’s position, and it is not my position. The Church’s position on marriage is not based in “animosity” toward the LGBT community or same-sex couples. Rather, the Church’s position is a positive view about the nature of marriage and its fundamental role in society. 

It is disappointing (though not unexpected) that some media reports have already taken quotes from the legal brief entirely out of context.  The resulting impression (whether intended or not) is that the Catholic Church and I harbor irrational fears about the dangers of same-sex unions — including that committed, same-sex unions will result in allowing “a mother and a daughter, sister and sister, or brother and brother to marry.” In other words, according to some, I equate “gay marriage” to incest.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The trial court had ruled that there was no “rational basis” for defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The trial court essentially concluded that there is no inherent link between procreation, biological complementarity of the sexes and marriage. That is strange, because other laws on family and domestic relations would make no sense if procreation were removed from the legal equation. After pointing out which Arkansas laws would also crumble under the trial court’s reasoning, my brief — using legal and logical (not moral or theological) analysis — does then expound on various hypothetical scenarios that could result. 

The brief then makes it absolutely clear that the Catholic Church and I do not intend to compare committed monogamous same-sex unions with incestuous or polygamous relationships. Rather, the purpose of my legal argument is to address the legal ramifications of the trial court’s reasoning. The brief takes a firm stance against bigotry and discrimination against homosexuals — at the beginning, at the end and everywhere in between. Those stances have largely been ignored in reports on my brief to date.

Pope Francis weighed in on this issue in 2010 when he was still archbishop of Buenos Aires, calling same-sex “marriage” an “anthropological regression” that threatened “the identity and survival of the family.” Even his now-famous comment — “Who am I to judge?” — has been taken out of context and mischaracterized as a radical shift in Church teaching. It is anything but.  In response to questions about homosexuals in the clergy, Pope Francis simply responded (in accordance with past and present Church teaching) that we must always first consider the person: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”  Pope Francis is simply saying that no one can ultimately judge another person’s conscience or soul, although we can — and, indeed, must at times — judge actions.

And I would agree. That is why my brief noted that for more than 2,000 years, the Catholic Church has consistently distinguished between judging a person’s actions and recognizing the fundamental dignity of the person performing those actions. It may well be that parts of the population view people in same-sex relationships with moral derision, rather than loving and respecting them based on their inherent dignity as human beings.  That said, the trial court unfairly characterized all those who support “traditional marriage” as having nothing but moral derision for same-sex couples.

Again, my amicus brief is not based on moral judgment, but on legal analysis, natural law and common sense. 

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