Cardinal George’s Sad Attempt at Bashing Illinois Marriage Equality Law

As a newly adopted Illinoisan who is also super gay, I was overjoyed when my favorite state finally passed marriage equality earlier this month. This was long time coming for Illinois, historically one of the nation’s more liberal states, and many legislators and citizens alike were getting antsy and jealous as states around us began passing their own laws at a record pace. When the votes were finally counted, I had no qualms about running tearfully through my workplace to tell everyone the great news that minute.

That’s why it bums me out that, almost immediately, Christian groups started flailing left and right about how terrible same-sex marriage is for Illinois. For one, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield is actually holding an exorcism tomorrow, the day the marriage bill will be signed, as a means of condemning same-sex marriage. So there’s that.

But while some folks might write the bishop off as a little bit extreme, people may just listen to Francis Cardinal George, the Archbishop of Chicago, who found it necessary to pen a letter to the state’s Catholics about why marriage equality is so bad. Unfortunately for him, like most pieces of Catholic PR lately, his letter doesn’t actually make much sense. Rather, it proves that now is exactly the right time to pass marriage equality in Illinois and hopefully nationwide.

Cardinal George of Chicago

Let go piece by piece, shall we?

The Cardinal first reminds his audiences that marriage equality has become the law of the land in Illinois and that the Catholic Church, for whatever reason, played a substantial role in public discussion on the issue.

We tried to explain that this is not primarily a religious issue, since marriage comes to us from nature as the union of a man and a woman, long before Christ walked the earth or the state came into being.

You’re right about one thing: this is not primarily a religious issue. This isn’t actually a religious issue at all, except for the few groups who think their beliefs should dictate other people’s rights.

Nevertheless, there will be consequences for the Church and society that will become clearer as the law is used to sue for discrimination. The law has made some gays and lesbians happy, and that is not a bad thing in itself.

Aww, Cardinal George, that’s so sweet of you! But really, it’s actually a major strength that this law will hold institutions accountable for discrimination. Groups that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity (or any other factor) should face consequences for their actions. And for those of the mindset that religion makes it okay to discriminate: while I disagree, your opinion is actually the more popular one in the eyes of the law.

As with most state marriage laws, the marriage equality law in Illinois provides fully and completely for religious institutions who wish not to partake in the recognition of equal rights. The law itself is called the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, and it’s been praised by state faith leaders for its protections of religious liberties.

Most notably, it doesn’t require any religious institution to participate in a marriage ceremony that conflicts with its beliefs, including merely hosting a wedding, and it “holds these institutions immune” from civil or legal action that could arise from said exclusion. According to Illinois Unites for Marriage:

In their letter, Rev. Dr. Moss and Rev. Dr. Martin also made the point: “We deeply respect the right of religious institutions to define marriage in accordance with their practices, beliefs, and doctrines, and this law in no way infringes upon that freedom. The religious exemption language in the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act is clear that members of the clergy or religious institutions are held legally harmless should they elect not to acknowledge any civil marriage that is not compatible with their religious beliefs.”

It literally gives religious groups a legal loophole allowing them to discriminate against LGBT people. What more could the Cardinal want? I’m not sure, but he’s still pretty upset:

The law, however, is bad law because it will contribute over the long run to the further dissolution of marriage and family life, which are the bedrock of any society. The Church will therefore continue and strengthen her ministry to families.

Again, the Cardinal is using a pretty restrictive definition of “families” here. I’d love for him tell the thousands of same-sex couples in Illinois who are leading happy, healthy and productive lives, some with children, that their families aren’t worth the Church’s protection or blessing. And before you ask for proof that marriage equality will lead to the “dissolution of marriage and family life,” here’s George’s main piece of evidence:

One of the consequences for our religion is already evident in the misuse of Pope Francis’ words, spoken last summer, about our attitude toward an individual gay person who has asked God for forgiveness. The Pope was not speaking about approving gay marriage. To use his words against his teaching, as they were used on the floor of the State House of Representatives on November 5, is less than intellectually honest.

Except that’s not exactly what happened. Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, himself Catholic, cited Pope Francis‘s now-famous “Who am I to judge?” statement to explain his own reasons for supporting marriage equality. First, the Pope has made plenty of comments lately that led some to believe he holds some radically progressive views on homosexuality, which isn’t really true. In the Illinois case, nobody interpreted the mention to mean that the Pope also supports same-sex marriage, nor was Speaker Madigan trying to imply that. Give us some credit, Cardinal — we know the difference.

In closing, Cardinal George would like to remind us all to love thy neighbor and whatnot, but really, he’s only saying it because he has to.

We are called, by reason of our belief that every person is made in God’s image and likeness, to love and respect all of our brothers and sisters, without exception. But we express this respect within the context of our belief in how God has made us and made the world. This belief and this love is the basis of our joy in living the Catholic faith with integrity of mind and heart.

You heard it here first, kids: Respect everyone, but, you know, not too much. Not so much that we give gay people equal rights or anything. Because that’s just foolish.

Once again, the Catholic Church is doing a pretty terrible job of defending its deteriorating principles. Good thing Illinois didn’t need its help to get this done.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at

  • C Peterson

    Guys like this truly demonstrate the weakness of their own faith when they find it necessary to demand the force of law to impose that faith on those who don’t naturally share it.

  • Sven2547

    …to love and respect all of our brothers and sisters, without exception. But…

    He seriously followed a “without exception” with a “but”. The mental backflips these people are capable of is astonishing.

  • Stev84

    Celibate priests “contribute [...] to the dissolution of marriage and family life”

  • Holytape

    His beautifully written letter forgets to answer the most important question I can think of asking: Why the fuck should anyone care what Cardinal Uncle Fester thinks about anything ever?

  • Rationalist1

    We had the same type of episcopal pronouncements in Canada ten years ago when same sex marriages were legalized by the courts. The Catholic Church will stop fussy over it eventually, as they find that more and more of their parishioners are okay with gay marriage. They may not want gay marriage themselves, and most don’t want their church to have it, but they see no reason why others religions or the state can’t have same sex marriage.

    What the church hierarchy fears most is just that. The social stigma against gays and gay marriage is disappearing and it’s hard to fear monger over a activity that most people are adopting a live and let live approach because they realize gay marriage in now way affects them except in a positive way. They see gay people forming lasting unions and raising happy, healthy, well adjusted children.

    It’s hard on the gays now, but in ten years (or less) society will be amazed there was such a fuss about it all.

  • Erp

    To be fair not all Christian groups are in agreement with the cardinal. The Episcopal bishop of Chicago’s letter stated

    “The scriptures tell us to testify to what we have seen, and in
    communities and congregations across our diocese, we have seen that
    extending legal protection and respect to same-sex couples has created
    stronger, happier households and contributed to the common good. Now in
    Illinois, the respect afforded by civil unions has been extended to the
    dignity of true equality. I rejoice that it is now easier for our gay
    and lesbian sisters and brothers to order their lives together, to care
    for one another and to raise children in a stable home. Justice has been

  • Howie51

    Like a voice whimpering in the wilderness .. “what’s that you say Cardinal?”

  • Rationalist1

    This nullifies the attack on religion argument that so many conservative Christians claim. Many progressive Christians and non Christians have no problem with gay marriage, and indeed celebrate it as equal with heterosexual marriage.

  • Godlessheathen

    Ah, gotta love the celibate old farts with a penchant for raping children commenting on other people’s relationships.

  • Rationalist1

    Cardinal Spellman of New York was apparently asked in the 1960′s if he wanted the state to keep the restrictions on contraception in place. He replied that he did not need the state to enforce Catholic doctrine. Cardinal George realizes he does need the state’s help, but he is not going to get it.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    ” since marriage comes to us from nature”

    I find this funny since we do not see in any other animal species, ok some birds mate for life, and would look evidence that marriage is part of nature. Nature shows that there is lots of homosexuality and lots of animals having multiple partners. So if we were to follow nature then we should all be in pansexual polyamorous relationships.

  • Neko

    Nature and the RCC’s version of “natural law” are not the same thing.

  • katiehippie

    The LCMS Lutheran church does this too. They sound almost sad that they are supposed to forgive.

  • newavocation

    If the church isn’t fighting against something and doesn’t have good us versus them dilemmas, who’s going to give them their money to feel superior or first in line at heavens gate? Take the fights away and all you have is a countryclub without a golf course.

  • Richard Wade

    Has any cleric blamed the devastating tornadoes in Illinois on the passage of this law yet? I’m surprised I haven’t heard that so far. Are the worshippers of Chalchihuitlicue/Set/Poseidon/Thor/Tawhirimatea/etc. asleep at their posts?

    I noticed that the Archbishop slipped a time qualifier into his dire warning:

    The law, however, is bad law because it will contribute over the long run to the further dissolution of marriage and family life, which are the bedrock of any society.

    “Over the long run” can be any amount of time from the day after tomorrow to thousands of years from now. Same-sex marriages have been legal in several countries and several U.S. states for several years now, and the doomsayers’ predictions of the imminent collapse of marriage, then society, and then civilization have become embarrassingly past their “best if used by” date. If these scary prophesies were milk, they’d be stinking up the whole ‘fridge. So now I expect the prognosticating bigots will be using such qualifiers as “in the long run,” or “eventually,” or “in God’s good time,” but marriage, society, and civilization will just continue on, leaving them behind, sitting like a little kid playing in the dust of the past.

    Only the religious can be disappointed when catastrophe doesn’t strike.

  • trj

    He’s doing it out of love for those poor misguided gays. Except he doesn’t actually love or respect them. So I guess he’s just spouting mindless doctrine.

  • Kristi

    There are many species (more than just birds) which “mate for life” and would become depressed and die when their mates die. However, you are correct in saying this and that there are numerous species which display homosexual behavior as well. Both display certain levels of commitment to their sexual partners. In that sense, we do follow nature, as not all of us conform to the societal “norms” which many adhere to.

    My personal view is that marriage is more of a legal position than anything else. I have been with my hubby for 14 years now and we are not married. We have 4 kids as of last week and neither of us see our relationship as anything that would require marriage at this point. We are 100% committed to one another and our family and the only reasons we have ever discussed getting married is for legal issues. Although, us not being gay really leaves us free from the battles the LGBT community faces.

    I don’t think a lot of people realize that for many, being able to marry their partners IS more for the legal reasons, as the majority of gay or lesbian people I know (whom have been in long term relationships) are quite content with just being with one another. We don’t need marriage to prove commitment and love. We do, however, need it to claim certain rights to one another concerning major legal issues.

    It sickens me how these religious people think that discriminating against same sex marriage helps their communities. Some do not realize that these same sex relationships are not just about sex. Some are not about sex at all, but rather the companionship itself.

    It’s really nice to see yet another state adopting same sex marriage rights. What is disappointing though, is the protection from the state for religious organizations to discriminate. I understand why… but were the tables turned, the religious would be throwing fits.

    It’s come a long way, but there is still twice as long of a road in front of us, as a country. EVERYONE should be treated equally and given the SAME rights for everything, no matter who agrees with their personal business or not.

  • Kristi

    Right! lol. People with no experience in these personal relationships attempting to tell others how theirs should be handled.

  • ufo42

    Cardinal George is the poster child for my assertion that you can be a good person or you can be a “good Christian” but you can’t be both. If you want to be a good person and call yourself a Christian, you have to be able ignore vast swaths of your religion’s dogma. Fortunately, most Christians are able to do this, leaving only a tiny minority of self-righteous assholes who agree with Cardinal Asshat George.

  • ufo42

    Not considering that pretending the Bible is self-consistent requires even more astonishing mental backflips.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    super gay

    How does that work? Do you wear a cape?

  • ufo42

    Even in species which mate for life, there is no marriage ceremony with some puffed up self-important member of that species “blessing” the union. So Christian marriage is decidedly not of nature except to the extent that the Homo Sapiens’ penchant for creating cultures is part of our nature.

  • ufo42

    Right, expect Pope Zaphod the 14th, 400 years from now to apologize for the steadfast promotion of homophobia for the past 2800 years or so. :)

  • James Stevenson

    I’m not TOO inclined to take everything from nature. Especially if you look at spiders who have the females eat the males a not insignificant portion of the time. Guess we know why catholic priests are all male and notionally celibate.

  • Jeff

    I thought he was more of an Archbishop Saladfingers.

  • Rationalist1

    No, expect him to say the Catholic Church was always in favour of it, just like they were always against slavery, always against capital punishment, never approved of the inquisition, etc.

  • Hurricane Ditka

    I have seen a number of posts blaming the passage of the law for the tornados in Illinois. You done ticked off the sky daddy!

  • Jeff

    Oh, there has to be at least ONE golf course amongst all their vast real estate holdings….

  • Timmah

    And for the love of baby Thor, nobody at this point Google “Saladfingers” if you don’t know what that is and you want to sleep at some point in the next month or so.

  • Feminerd

    Remember, kiddies, when you say “I’m not a bigot, but …”, you are about to say something bigoted. You need to stop and reevaluate what you were about say and then probably not say it.

  • Timmah

    Yeah cause wiping out small towns in southern IL, which are probobly FAR more religious than us heathans up here in Chicago/Burbs SURE SHOWED US A LESSION.

  • islandbrewer

    Oh, but I so totally love Saladfingers!

  • momtarkle

    I wondered about that, too, but I’m not sure I want to know the answer.

  • islandbrewer

    I think you have to take a course and pass some sort of super gay test. Then you get a super gay license. If it’s revoked, you are merely gay, again.

  • Stev84

    Even in species that bond for life, the partners often have something going on on the side.

  • smrnda

    Natural Law is this sleight of hand used to ‘prove’ that nature obviously tells us homosexuality and contraception and such are bad. I’ve never seen more convoluted reasoning ‘nonprocreative sex cannot achieve the wholeness of Being qua Being blah blah’

  • smrnda

    Yes, the Boystown area has not been beset by disaster. This god has terrible aim.

  • EuropeanCommunist

    Well, he has “Cardinal” in his name, that makes him a really smart person! We aren’t as smart as he is so god help us if we were to actually think about anything for ourselves. Luckily the almighty Yahweh has provided us with Mr. Cardinal who can do all the thinking for us.

  • EuropeanCommunist

    No offense but only an idiot would say that.

  • busterggi

    So just how long have either Cardinal George or Bishop Paprocki been married anyway? I just want to know how much marital experience they bring to the game.

  • busterggi

    Liberace did.

  • ShoeUnited

    You may not like it, Camille, but I’m all for letting these churches have their legal loopholes to discriminate. They’ll crash and burn under the weight of their own bigotry.

    It’s like all the other things they do to push people out of the church, and then stand around confused.

    I can agree, it’s not kind. But it’s good for atheists and LGBT people, either the church evolves or it dies.

  • Zeke

    The pronouncement will no doubt begin with “as the Church has always taught…..”

  • Holytape

    Since he has the word “Cardinal” in his name, he should stop talking about gay marriage and start doing more cardinal-ly things, like going around in a bright red suit to all the local bird feeders and climbing the tallest tree in the neighbor and singing so that all of the other cardinals in the neighbor know this territory is his.

  • The Other Weirdo

    All I got from is that “super gay” is an actual thing. What, pray tell, is it?

  • The Other Weirdo

    Wait, there is an even more cardinal-y thing he can do: seek out the child-abusing miscreants among his employees and shuffle them off to other churches so they can miscreate there instead of there there.

  • ufo42

    I would agree with you as long as those Churches do not run hospitals or provide other services to the general public. If they do that, they should not be exempt from anti-discrimination legislation. There are far too many cases of women with an unsurvivable pregnancy being murdered by church policy which prohibits a medically necessary abortion even if failing to provide it ensures both fetus and mother die.

  • The Other Weirdo

    I do. I asked.

  • ShoeUnited

    I view things like hospitals differently. It’s not a church, but a public service. If a church so happens to own a building that provides a public service then it should be subject to public rules.

  • The Other Weirdo

    You’ve obviously never read “Warm Bodies”.

  • ShoeUnited

    Hey now. You try to hit a medium sized town, on a medium sized planet, spinning around a medium class star, spinning around a medium sized galaxy, in a medium sized cluster, which appears as a single dot of light, from outside the universe.

    We should just be thankful that God loves us enough to not accidentally cause The Sun to go nova prematurely.

  • Anymouse

    Is it like ladyfingers or fishfingers? I’ll look it up when I’m not at work. Thanks for the heads up.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Premature ennovation?

  • The Other Weirdo

    Too late, cannot be unseen.

  • trj

    Wait, are you saying Liberace was gay?

  • Sunny Day

    Maybe he thinks a period is some kind of magic shield that protects him from bigotry.

  • Feminerd

    Li’l bit.

  • Rain

    We tried to explain that this is not primarily a religious issue, since marriage comes to us from nature as the union of a man and a woman, long before Christ walked the earth or the state came into being.

    This doesn’t seem to make very much sense. He should know better, so presumably he’s lying his tail off, lol.

  • Dave

    Exorcism, the perfect response. Drive the evil spirits into some pigs and chase them off a cliff.
    And really, how do you know god isn’t gay? At best god is asexual. You can’t be heterosexual when there is only one of you.
    Unless he has a rib woman, which he would have if we are made in his image. Equally he could have a clay man. Or both.
    And have threesomes.
    And what about his son, jesus never married or had a girlfriend, except for the hooker.
    Weird family, who knows what they get up to behind closed doors.

  • JT Rager

    It’s funny how the definition of “law” varies so much between the RCC and people who study nature (scientist).

  • wmdkitty

    Huh. Wasn’t expecting a green animated dude. Was expecting something more like this:

  • wmdkitty

    Queer as a three-dollar bill.

  • Anna

    The law, however, is bad law because it will contribute over the long run to the further dissolution of marriage and family life, which are the bedrock of any society. The Church will therefore continue and strengthen her ministry to families.

    It just doesn’t make any sense. Why would giving legal marriage rights to same-sex couples weaken marriage and family life? It strengthens it. It allows those couples to have proper legal ties to each other and ensures that any children they have grow up in a family that is recognized and legitimized by the government. How does providing equal rights and equal status negatively affect those couples? And how on earth would it negatively affect heterosexual couples and families?

  • meatbubble

    He should go f#ck himself. That’s really all there is to say.

  • Anathema

    I suspect that Cardinal George is using the word “family” in the same way that the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family do. In other words, he’s not talking about actual families at all. For social conservatives, “family” is just a friendly-sounding way of saying “heteronormative patriarchy.”

  • Jeff

    Wow. That was was someone actually following the commands of their faith and coming to the correct conclusion. Bravo.

  • Dan Robinson

    good grief I hope in 400 years the idea of a pope will be laughable.

  • Dan Robinson

    Try the Masters and Johnson squeeze technique on a sun!

  • The Other Weirdo

    Do I want to know what that is? Is it safe to look up at work?


    Sounds like the start of a bad joke “God, a rib woman, and a clay man walk into a bar…”


    Half a golf course, perhaps. Everyone knows that putting things in the holes on the back nine is against nature.

  • Dan Robinson

    Well not at work maybe. It’s a method for dealing with premature ejaculation. You wait until the moment is nigh and squeeze the little bugger to stop the semen coming out. Seems sort of uncomfortable to me. Not sure if it works or not. Never tried it. Or needed to…

  • Jeff

    And he loves rusty spoons!

  • Miss_Beara

    As a life long Illinoisan – Chicagoan – May I welcome you to my state. Just do not look in the comment sections of the news stories about this.

  • Irish82

    Why do you hate my Church? What did we do to you? We don’t hate Gay people. We just believe marriage is a sacrament. Yes and we believe everybody has a right to live from conception to natural death.