DC Archbishop Goes on the Offensive on Gay Marriage
By Jacqueline L. Salmon
He isn't as polarizing as Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino, but Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., sure has kicked up some dust with his highly-publicized battle against a same-sex initiative in the city.
Wuerl sent a letter to 300 local Catholic priests and called in the media to remind everybody yesterday about the Church's opposition to same-sex marriage. He made the move on the same day that opponents of same-sex marriage filed a request with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics to hold an initiative next year defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. It is an effort to head off an effort by the D.C. Council to take up the issue this fall.
It seems like an unusual move for the quiet-spoken archbishop, whom Stephen Schneck, director of the Life Cycle Center at Catholic University, calls a "raging pragmatist." (As opposed to the combative Martino, who announced his resignation this week, who could probably just be called ragin.')
But Wuerl insists this isn't out of the ordinary.
"We have to remember--and I think everybody knows this--that the bishop's obligation is to present the teachings of the church. It's not an option for the bishop."
While in Pittsburgh, he did similar outreach when he was making controversial decisions on closing churches. In D.C., he sent out letters to parents and called in the media to announce plans to convert some of the struggling inner-city Catholic schools to charter schools. He also sent a letter to the archdiocese' priests laying out the Church's position on stem-cell research in 2006.
But this is by far a position mostly closely tied to a hot-button, highly politicized issue in the District--and, by extension, the nation, since this is happening in the nation's capital. And so far Wuerl has deftly steered through those dangerous shoals. It'll be interesting to see how how does in this one.
Jacqueline L. Salmon
September 2, 2009; 2:14 PM ET
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