Bishop Bambera rebukes Sen. Bob Casey’s support of gay marriage

Senator Bob Casey pictured in the Times Leader

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has recently announced his support of gay marriage following a campaign of passionate letters authored by Pennsylvanians.In the Times Leader article announcing Casey’s cognitive shift, Bishop Bambera of the Diocese of Scranton chimed in with some sour grapes. The article explains,

In a prepared statement, Bishop of Scranton Joseph Bambera Casey’s position is contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Bambera called it unfortunate and disappointing that Casey “set aside the Catholic belief and teaching that the sacrament of marriage, rooted in the natural law, is a faithful, exclusive, lifelong, loving union of a man and a woman open to the transmission of human life. The dual purpose of marriage: the unity and love of a man and a woman, and procreation has been rooted in human history long before any religion, nation or law was established.”

Bambera added that the church’s “defense of marriage should not be interpreted as an attack on individuals with same sex attractions. … Like all human beings, our lesbian or gay sisters and brothers are beloved children of God (and) must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in this regard should be avoided,” he said, quoting church teaching.

Bambera said the Church asserts that “the fundamental human rights of all persons must be defended, and encourages the elimination of any form of injustice, oppression, or violence against all people, regardless of sexual orientation.”

I continue to be bewildered by religious opposition to governmental recognition of gay marriage. Religious individuals like Bambera may oppose gay marriage on religious grounds, but why are they so insistent on their theological beliefs being ‘privileged’ on a governmental level irrespective of secular laws and governance?

Individuals who want to oppose gay marriage on a governmental level ought to provide secular reasons for opposition. Religious individuals may ‘translate’ their religious beliefs into secular concerns. Bambera, perhaps to his credit in this case, at least provides arguments [mostly] outside a religious context.

What reasons does Bambera provide for opposition of gay marriage? Bambera explains that marriage should be the “unity and love of a man and a woman.” It’s not clear that marriage, on a governmental level, is about love. After all, individuals can marry solely for financial reasons and not love each other. Love is just something which may be added and is irrelevant when considering a governmental contract. Similarly, procreation is not a necessary function of marriage.

Marriage or no marriage, there will be love and procreation. The issue at hand, though is whether the government should deny rights to people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender. I see no reason, if the government will grant marriage to a man and a woman, for the government to deny rights to a man and a man or a woman and a woman who wish to reap the legal benefits of marriage.

Bambera encourages the elimination of injustice of any form regardless of sexual orientation, but he is not consistent as long as he opposes same-sex marriage on a governmental level because opposition of same-sex marriage comes with injustice (a denial of certain benefits on the basis of sexual orientation or gender).

Bambera, as a religious man, does not have to marry same sex couples or even approve of government-granted marriages. He should be happy that church and state are separate, lest he would have to marry same-sex couples.  The tides are turning against religious individuals like Bambera who — perhaps in ten or twenty years — will be on the wrong side of history.

Justin Vacula

Justin Vacula hosts the Stoic Philosophy Podcast; serves as co-organizer and spokesperson for the Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Freethought Society; and has hosted monthly Stoic Philosophy discussion groups for the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia. He has appeared on and hosted various radio shows and podcasts; participated in formal debates and discussions; was a guest speaker for college-level courses; was featured in local, national, and international news; and has been invited to speak at various national, local, and statewide events. Vacula received bachelor's degrees in Philosophy and Psychology, a minor in Professional Writing, and the distinguished W.A. Kilburn Memorial Award for Philosophy from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is currently living in the Scranton, PA area attending Marywood University's graduate-level Mental Health Counseling program and has worked with the Arc of Luzerne County's Transition to Community Employment program as a teacher's assistant and job coach alongside adult learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He also plays poker; volunteers as a member of the website and media team for the Greyhawk Reborn Dungeons & Dragons campaign while playing at events in the Eastern United States; and enjoys metal music.