Archbishop O’Brien vs. Governor O’Malley

Maryland gov’s office releases correspondence on same-sex marriage

Over at Catholic Vote, Thomas Peters picks up a Washington Post report on Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s decision to release letters exchanged between himself and Baltimore’s Archbishop Edwin O’Brien on the subject of same-sex marriage. O’Brien sent his letter to O’Malley encouraging the Catholic governor to “refrain from using the power of your office to promote the redefinition of marriage in Maryland.”

After the correspondence was released by O’Malley to the media, it was posted on the website of the Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan newspaper. A particularly interesting paragraph from O’Brien’s letter (PDF) that didn’t make it into the Post story reads:

Our voices are not motivated by hate or ignorance, but by a faithful adherence to the nature of men and women and their unique capacities as mothers and fathers. Nor do we speak solely from religious principles. Preserving the central role of the natural family unit has always been – and should continue to be – the reason why our government recognizes marriage as existing between one man and one woman.

Two days later, O’Malley announced his intention to sponsor legislation that would make same-sex marriage legal in his state. Peters notes:

An important part of the backstory here is that Gov. O’Brien probably feels encouraged by the adulation heaped on Catholic governor Andrew Cuomo of New York after he ignored the Catholic bishops to push same-sex marriage into law there.

There’s a lesson here: when one Catholic governor gets away with ignoring the warnings of his bishops, other Catholic governors and elected officials feel emboldened to do the same.

Almost two weeks after making his announcement, O’Malley responded to his archbishop’s letter, which was also released to the press. That letter can be read here (PDF). Without addressing O’Brien’s claim that the traditional-marriage argument is being made on the basis, not of Catholic theology, but of natural law, O’Malley states:

I do not presume, nor would I ever presume as Governor, to question or infringe upon your freedom to define, to preach about, and to administer the Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. But on the public issue of granting equal civil marital rights to same sex couples, you and I disagree…

The Catholic Review also has a column by Archbishop O’Brien on the subject of same-sex marriage, published after O’Malley’s decision to push the legislation and before the letters were released to the media.

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About Catherine Harmon 577 Articles
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.