Homosexuality, Like Short Tempers, Is Merely a Character Flaw


Thems be the words of New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who’s making a sport out of faith-based bigotry. The leader of America’s second largest Roman Catholic diocese, who took the post in April, wasted no time jumping into the gay marriage debate. The man trafficking in flawed science is one of those “smiling bigots” you’ve been hearing so much about. In fact, New York magazine just dubbed him “The Archbishop of Charm” in a new piece that puts the Washington Post‘s lauding profile of NOM’s Brian Brown to shame.

(One line from the article reads, “Dolan has worked hard not to attract controversy in his first few months.” Which is a laughable conclusion, given Dolan’s immediate war with Gov. David Paterson over gay marriage.)

Dolan believes we’re all “hardwired” to act a certain way sexually. It’s just that when it comes to gay men and women, their “companionship” should not be considered a valid marriage. The church “must respect” gay relationships, he says, just not so much that it violates this sacred institution called marriage — which, to be sure, 12th century European aristocrats happened to believe was incompatible with love. But what did they know?

You see, this pleasant old man — “a glad-hander and a backslapper, a tall, energetic, portly Irish-Catholic lug who likes smoking cigars and sipping Jameson’s,” as New York‘s Robert Kolker sheepishly describes him — doesn’t want gay Americans to suffer just because the church wants to protect its dictionary. Well, okay, that’s not entirely accurate … because Dolan himself doesn’t know how finely to tread on the issue.

But now Dolan senses that he may have said something disappointing. So he strikes a conciliatory note. “It’s not that we’re saying, ‘You don’t have the right.’ We would say that if people feel that the concomitant rights of friendship and companionship are being violated—for instance, insurance coverage, or the ability of one to visit a sick partner—we would defend those rights. There are ways to ameliorate some of the disadvantages that same-sex couples feel without tampering with the very definition of marriage.”

That, I say, sounds a lot like domestic partnerships.

Dolan straightens up suddenly. “It does sound like that,” he says. “And thank you for pointing that out. Because I wouldn’t want to go there.”

But go there, we shall. Particularly because Dolan is a man who, as the auxiliary bishop of the St. Louis archdiocese, refused to remove obvious child molesters from the church, making his stature as a respected public figure all the more heinous.

So let’s have it out, Dolan. Preach to us your thoughts on homosexuality.

Dolan explains the church’s intractable position on this issue by describing homosexuality as a compulsion that should be controlled, much the same way as premarital sex should be. Forget about gay and straight sex; both are wrong, he says, simply because they take place outside the confines of marriage.

“If you have been gay your whole life and feel that that’s the way God made you, God bless you,” Dolan says. “But I would still say that that doesn’t mean you should act on that. I would happen to say, for instance, that God made me with a pretty short temper. Now, I still think God loves me, but I can’t act on that. I would think that God made me with a particular soft spot in my heart for a martini. Now, I’d better be careful about that.”

So, I ask, is being gay a character flaw?

“Yeah, it would be,” Dolan says—his smile broadening. “And we are all born with certain character flaws, aren’t we?”

But this leaves gay men and lesbians no choice but to form sexual partnerships that will always be seen as sinful. Isn’t that unfair?

Dolan takes a moment to think this over. “There’s no option,” he agrees, still smiling. “But I don’t know if that’s unfairness.”

Discrimination, whether by the state or before god, then, is not unfair? Nor unjust? Nor reprehensible? Fine. But it is amusing to see the Roman Catholic Church and the Mormon Church differ so widely on whether being gay is in-born.

So what, then, are we supposed to do if we have this homosexual character flaw?

Sex, he goes on to say, is not a human right, even if modern culture has made it appear that way. But this, he adds, is actually good news. His eyes light up. He seems excited—both by what he’s saying and by the fresh way he’s found to say it.

“The church—this hopeless romantic that she is—holds that sexual love is so exalted that it is the very mirror of the passion and the intimate excitement that God has for us and our relationship. We actually believe that when a man and a woman say ‘I do’ forever, that our love will be faithful, forever freeing, liberating, life-giving. We believe they mean it and they can do it! That’s exciting, that’s enriching, that’s ennobling. That’s a big, fat yes—yes!”

Well c’mon, Dolan. This is a very new concept! Even within the church! If we’re talking about human history, which you religious types so enjoy, then let’s be clear: love and marriage used to be mutually exclusive things. They were not inexorably tied to each other. And the only reason that all changed, friend, was because of politics, not faith. And even then, marriage evolved (yes, the definition of marriage has changed over the centuries!) into a financial pact between a groom and his bride’s father. It took even more time before anyone gave the M-word the clout you do today.

But carry on, soldier of hatred. You may smile at us. You may say you respect us. And, like NOM’s Brian Brown, you might be an excellent manipulator of messages. But you are not a good person.

(NB: We’ve put a word in to New York magazine to see if they have any regrets about publishing a glowing article of Dolan, and whether they think the Washington Post‘s error just became their own. We’ll let you know what we hear. UPDATE: After an off-the-record conversation, a New York publicist provided this on-the-record statement: “No comment.”)

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