In the face of consistent attacks against the understanding and practice of traditional marriage by a litany of sources, including Hollywood, media and government, Cardinal Dolan’s prescription for countering the prevailing cultural climate involves faith and fortitude.
“We are not alone in our battle to defend the sanctity of marriage. God is on our side,” Cardinal Dolan said in his remarks at an interfaith evening in defense of marriage March 9.
The event was sponsored by the Witherspoon Institute, an independent research center that works to enhance public understanding of the moral foundations of free and democratic societies.
Also making presentations at the Manhattan gathering were Elder David A. Bednar of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Congregation Sheirith Israel in Manhattan, the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States.
The cardinal, in his remarks about calling on faith to aid his personal response on the issue of marriage, said that he invokes St. Michael the Archangel in prayer each morning “to defend us in battle.”
Cardinal Dolan said “faith in the power of the angels” is not limited to Catholics.
The cardinal said that believers can be tempted by fatigue to concede that the battle over marriage understood as the union of one man and one woman is already lost. But pointing to the value of perseverance, he noted that the same might have been said about the battle over abortion, “which the powers that be suggested was over” after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
More than four decades later, the abortion battle is far from settled, and the pro-life witness makes a deep impression on today’s culture, as indicated by recent polling, the cardinal said.
Cardinal Dolan, then president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, received confirmation of that standing from President Barack Obama, who he said told him that the pro-life community is “winning the intellectual battle for abortion.”
Even though God has revealed a true definition of marriage, the cardinal said that people of faith should not hesitate to stress the natural reasons they believe that marriage is between a man and woman and is meant for the generation and procreation of children. “The stressing of that natural, reasonable defense of marriage as traditionally comprehended is going to enhance our credibility,” the cardinal said.
Elder Bednar said that the “vision of marriage as a holy order based on enduring covenants, duties and lifelong sacrifice” stands in contrast to the modern secular concept of marriage, which is increasingly seen as a “purely private contractual model of marriage.” In the latter construction, two parties of whatever gender or sexual orientation “have full freedom and privacy to form, maintain and dissolve their relationship as they see fit,” he said.
Terming the change “no less than a full-fledged revolution,” Elder Bednar said the needs of individuals take priority over the needs of spouses and children, and correspondingly one’s own will has precedence over God’s will.
Rabbi Soloveichik mixed humorous stories about his experiences as a husband and father of six children with a learned interpretation of Hebrew scripture relating to the complementary nature of men and women in an address appreciated by the 60 audience members.
In the question period following the formal presentations, Cardinal Dolan and Rabbi Soloveichik addressed the rise of secularism in today’s society.
“A lot of what we are experiencing is actually a return of a world view that is a religion in its own right,” the rabbi explained. “It is paganism.”
Paganism, the rabbi said, is marked by the divinization of nature and a wholly different approach to sexuality than traditional mores.
“It is not that something entirely new has come to the world. It is that something entirely old has come to the world.”
Cardinal Dolan said, “If we don’t have faith in a God who makes and keeps his promises, other issues become rather compromised and difficult.”