“Same Sex Marriage and the Catholic Church” conference slated at YDS for October 22

Michael Norko ’10 M.A.R. still remembers how he felt after Connecticut’s Catholic bishops issued a statement condemning the state Supreme Court’s 2008 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

Norko“The language of intolerance and ‘othering’ that I perceived in that document grated against my understanding of inspired Catholic social teaching,” recalled Norko, “and was expressed on behalf of all Catholics in the state – which seemed to me contrary to important principles of ecclesiology promulgated in Vatican II.”

He pondered the issue and discussed it with a Yale Divinity School faculty member who suggested that a conference on the subject could provide a good venue for full discussion of the subject.

Norko, a Catholic layperson and associate professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, took up the suggestion and spearheaded efforts to organize a conference at YDS.  Now, after months of planning, that conference is less than three weeks away, scheduled to be held in Marquand Chapel on Oct. 22.

The conference topic is “Same-Sex Marriage and the Catholic Church: Voices from Law, Religion, and the Pews.”  Featured will be an array of legal experts and theologians and also the plaintiffs in the Connecticut Supreme Court case that lead to legalization of marriage in the state, Carol Conklin and Janet Peck.

The conference at YDS is part of a larger, multi-school initiative entitled More Than a Monologue:  Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church.  Joining YDS in that effort are Fordham University and Union Theological Seminary, which have already hosted conferences, and Fairfield University, which will host the last of the four conferences on Oct. 29 on the topic “The Care of Souls: Sexual Diversity, Celibacy, and Ministry.”  The long-term goal of the More Than a Monologue initiative is to encourage a “vigorous, honest, and open debate about sexual diversity within and outside the Catholic Church.”

Emilie Townes, associate dean of academic affairs at YDS and one of the conference planners, said, “Given the richness of God's creation, it is important that we continue to seek to understand the various ways that this is found in our humanity.  One area that we have trouble doing so is in the area of our sexualities.  These conferences provide one model for how we can do so as religious folk.”

She added, “The speakers and respondents promise to offer thoughtful and probing explorations for the roads we have traveled and, more importantly, the way we must explore as we seek to be faithful witnesses to God’s resurrection love.”

Leading participants at the conference include:

  • Michael John Perry, Emory Law School, author of Religion in Politics:  Constitutional and Moral Perspectives (1997); Toward a Theory of Human Rights:  Religion, Law, Courts (2007); and Constitutional Rights, Moral Controversy, and the Supreme Court (2009); among many others
  • Patricia Beattie Jung, St. Paul School of Theology, author of Catholic Sexual Ethics in the Twenty-First Century (2009); editor of Sexual Diversity and Catholicism: Toward the Development of Moral Theology (2001); author of God, Science, Sex and Gender: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Christian Sexual Ethics (2010) 
  • Lisa Sowle Cahill, Boston College, author of Sex, Gender, and Christian Ethics (1996); and Sexuality and the U.S. Catholic Church:  Crisis and Renewal (The Church in the 21st Century) [with John Garvey and T. Frank Kennedy] (2006)
  • Pamela S.  Karlan, Professor of Public Interest Law and Co-Director, Supreme Court litigation Clinic, Stanford Law School, co-author of leading casebooks on constitutional law and litigation, author of “The Gay and the Angry: The Supreme Court and the Battles Surrounding Same-Sex Marriage” in Supreme Court Review (2011)

“To say the least, the civil and religious engagement about same-sex marriage across these two spheres of life (civil and religious) is lively and ongoing,” said Associate Professor of New Testament Diana Swancutt, another conference organizer. “Catholicism is anything but monolithic on the subject of same-sex marriage.  In 2011, 60% of U.S Catholics polled support same-sex marriage, with only 38% opposed. . . . It is the right time for a rigorous, lively dialogue about same-sex marriage in the Catholic Church.”

Attendance at the conference is free, but preregistration is required. Registration can be done online at the conference web site at http://blog.fairfield.edu/morethanamonologue/?page_id=14

Posted: 10/03/2011