SF Archbishop Niederauer Wants Gays to Accept Second-Class Status



“Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” In the weeks since the adoption of this amendment the media have carried many speculations about the role of the Catholic bishops in California, and about my role in particular, in the passage of this proposition. It is my wish to clarify here what was done and why it was done, and offer some thoughts about the way forward amid so many misunderstandings and hard feelings.

Five years before my appointment as Archbishop of San Francisco, in the year 2000, Proposition 22 was placed on the California ballot. This statute, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, passed with 61% of the vote. On May 15th of this year, the California State Supreme Court declared that statute unconstitutional and legalized same-sex marriage in California. Around the same time, Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment qualified for the ballot.

The Catholic bishops of California, organized as the California Catholic Conference, and speaking through their office of public policy in Sacramento, endorsed Proposition 8 and urged Catholics, and organizations of lay Catholics, to work for its passage, by means of grass roots activity and contributions from their resources. We bishops also endorsed Proposition 4, regarding parental notification of a minor child’s intended abortion (defeated at the polls) and we opposed Proposition 6, a “tough on crime” initiative inconsistent with the principles of restorative justice (defeated).

The Archdiocese of San Francisco did not donate or transfer any Archdiocesan funds to the campaign in favor of Proposition 8. As far as I know, that is also true of other Catholic dioceses in California. The Archdiocese did pay, and appropriately disclose, printing and distribution of flyers to parishes.

Last May the staff of the Conference office informed me that leaders and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) had given their support to the campaign for Proposition 22 in the year 2000, and were already considering an involvement in connection with Proposition 8. Accordingly, I was asked to contact leaders of the LDS Church whom I had come to know during my eleven years as Bishop of Salt Lake City, to ask them to cooperate again, in this election cycle. I did write to them and they urged the members of their Church, especially those in California, to become involved.

It is important to point out here that a wide range of churches became active in favor of Proposition 8: in addition to Catholics and LDS members, evangelical Protestant churches and churches with many African-American members joined the effort, and, among the Orthodox churches, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of San Francisco and three other Orthodox bishops signed and published a joint statement in favor of Proposition 8.

That is what was done. Why was it done? Some voices in the wider community declare that there could be only one motive: hatred, prejudice and bigotry against gays, along with a determination to discriminate against them and deny them their civil rights. That is not so. The churches that worked in favor of Proposition 8 did so because of their belief that the traditional understanding and definition of marriage is in need of defense and support, and not in need of being re-designed or re-configured.

Some of our opponents respond with this question: Even if these churches saw the California State Supreme Court decision in May as damaging to the institution of marriage as they understood and valued it, shouldn’t they have kept quiet and stayed on the sidelines? Some would say that, in light of the separation of church and state, churches should remain silent about any political matter. However, religious leaders in America have the constitutional right to speak out on issues of public policy. Catholic bishops, specifically, also have a responsibility to teach the faith, and our beliefs about marriage and family are part of this faith.

Indeed, to insist that citizens be silent about their religious beliefs when they are participating in the public square is to go against the constant American political tradition. Such a gag order would have silenced many abolitionists in the nineteenth century and many civil rights advocates in the twentieth. Quite a number of important political issues regularly touch upon the ethical, moral, and religious convictions of citizens: immigration policy, the death penalty, torture of prisoners, abortion, euthanasia, and the right to health care are some such issues.

Members of churches who supported Proposition 8 sincerely believe that defining marriage as only between a man and a woman is one such issue. They see marriage and the family as the basic building blocks of human society, existing before government and not created by it. Marriage is for us the ideal relationship between a man and woman, in which, through their unique sexual complementarity, the spouses offer themselves to God as co-creators of new human persons, a father and mother giving them life and enabling them to thrive in the family setting.

Are there many instances in which this ideal fails to be realized? Of course there are. Single parents, grandparents, foster parents and others deserve praise and support for their courage, sacrifice and devotion in raising the children for whom they are responsible. Still, the proponents of Proposition 8 subscribe to a definition of marriage that recognizes and protects its potential to create and nurture new human life, not merely a contract for the benefit of a relationship between adults.

Whatever others may say, the proponents of Proposition 8 supported it as a defense of the traditional understanding and definition of marriage, not as an attack on any group, or as an attempt to deprive others of their civil rights. The fact remains that, under California law, after the passage of Proposition 8, same sex couples who register as domestic partners will continue to have “the same rights, protections and benefits” as married couples. Proposition 8 simply recognizes that there is a difference between traditional marriage and a same sex partnership.

What is the way forward for all of us together? Even though we supporters of Proposition 8 did not intend to hurt or offend our opponents, still many of them, especially in the gay community, feel hurt and offended. What is to be done?

Tolerance, respect, and trust are always two-way streets, and tolerance respect and trust often do not include agreement, or even approval. We need to be able to disagree without being disagreeable. We need to stop talking as if we are experts on the real motives of people with whom we have never even spoken. We need to stop hurling names like “bigot” and “pervert” at each other. And we need to stop it now.

For our part, we churchgoers need to speak and act out of the truth that all people are God’s children and are unconditionally loved by God. While we argue among ourselves, the people who need our help with hunger, unemployment, homelessness and other problems wait for us to turn together toward them. More particularly, we Catholics in the Archdiocese of San Francisco need to minister to the needs of all Catholics in this local Church. Whoever they are, and whatever their circumstances, their spiritual and pastoral rights should be respected, together with their membership in the Church. In that spirit, with God’s grace and much prayer, perhaps we can all move forward together.



  1. Nick says

    Again-given their history-the Catholic Church has no moral authority to speak for this country at all.
    Clean your own house first and keep your mythological reasons out of civil law.

  2. says

    Tho I was under the impression that marriage was a contract of love… evidently it’s only a license to reproduce.
    The religious bigots pervert the sanctity of marriage as a sexual contract.

  3. Fabrizio says

    Good for the Archbishop.
    the more they publish their admittance of involvement in the passage of discriminatory propositions, or oppose the ones that would create the dialogue he claims he wants to have with their opposing parts, the easier is to point out to the growing number of intelligent people that are seeing if not bigotry, the very closed mindedness typicallly retrogressive, more than conservative, of the leaders of religious organizations that see the failure of their proselytizing the real values of Christ, and take it on their favorite minority du’ jour.
    Keep the conversation going.

  4. ggreen says

    This is the same ass hat that ran to Bill O’Reilly after the Castro drag queens came to church for communion. He even provided Fox news with the video tape.

  5. Disgusted American says

    Fuck this Bishop and the Cross he rode in on…the Catholic church can go pound sand…the liars,thieves,and molestors that they are….he expects LGBT people to just sit back and “TAKE IT”? Nah….don’t think so Bishop…a call out to all….OUT ALL PRIEST and CLERGY…OUT THEM LIKE NEVER BEFORE! It’s a WAR they want – they’ve got it! No more playing nice….”like the ” They’ll come around eventually mentality”….he can go Fuck himself.

  6. sheck says

    Just to remind folks there is a Catholic Church at 18th and Diamond Street in the heart of the Castro in San Francisco. (Most Holy Redeemer) The members of this church pay this guy’s salary and fund a cult that wants us heterosexual or dead.

  7. DNashty says

    “Tolerance, respect, and trust are always two-way streets” – That’s right, Mr. Niederauer, they are. And since you’ve GIVEN none of them, you’ll GET none of them from me.

  8. Bruce says

    Fuck him. He got his way and now we should just step back in the closet and accept his bigoted ways. He didn’t know we’d be upset about losing our rights…what exactly did he expect?? Again, FUCK HIM!!

  9. Michael Bedwell says

    THANK YOU, Andy, for drawing readers’ attention to this. Someone please tell me again why the SF “Impact” demo was at City Hall and not at:

    The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco
    One Peter Yorke Way
    San Francisco, CA 94109?

    THAT’S where [in addition to the Mormon Tabernacle in Oakland] demonstrations and nonviolent civil disobedience should be occuring NAMING the Bigots for all to understand [and not fantasizing about changing their minds]. NOT at SF City Hall, and, for fuck’s sake, NOT in the middle of 18th & Castro [NOR Most Holy Redeemer]. Those places, repeat, THEY are not the center of the problem!

    Until someone does stop wasting our time finger fucking themselves with retarded ideas like “A Day Without A Gay” and organizes disruptions of the business as usual of the sources of our oppression [as the black civil rights movement did, hint hint], here’s the ReichArchbishop’s office phone number and e-mail address:

    (415) 614-5500

    Harvey 2008 would be shouting:



  10. says

    “We need to stop talking as if we are experts on the real motives of people with whom we have never even spoken.”

    Gotta grant him that one. The Catholic Church should just shut up about gay people and stop talking as if they are experts on homosexuality. They’re not.

  11. says

    “‘What is the way forward for all of us together? Even though we supporters of Proposition 8 did not intend to hurt or offend our opponents, still many of them, especially in the gay community, feel hurt and offended. What is to be done?'”

    Hmmm, didn’t intend to hurt or offend? Did he think we’d enjoy being stripped of our civil rights? The pure arrogance of religious bigots. Sorry, Archbigot, there is no “way forward for all of us together” until you realize that you, and the Catholic church, and all the other churches should have absolutely no role in determining our equality based on your misguided religion-based prejudices. “What is to be done” is for the Catholic church to stop meddling in a civil marriage issue that is not about procreation, not about Catholicism, and certainly not about the personal beliefs of supposedly celibate priests who have their own relationship issues to deal with.

  12. Rick in Ohio says

    “We need to stop hurling names like ‘bigot’ and ‘pervert’ at each other. And we need to stop it now.”

    C’mon, Archbishop. Where the hell were you when we were being called ‘pervert’ and you were still being called ‘most reverend’?

  13. MAJeff says

    “We need to stop hurling names like ‘bigot’ and ‘pervert’ at each other. And we need to stop it now.”

    But, we must also keep in mind that we queers are “objectively disordered” and are engaging in “intrinsic evil.” When we raise children, we are doing “violence” to them according to the RCC. But that’s all said in love, of course.

    They hate us. They want to destroy our ability to live gay lives.

  14. says

    I echo what ERNIE said.

    One thing that I love about this terrible situation is that it has awakened the GLBT community’s spirit of activism and protest. I love our tribe the most when we are filled with righteous indignation.

    The catholic and mormon churches stirred up this shitstorm, and my fervent hope is that they are consumed by the tempest of their own making. May we all keep up the good fight, and make the world a better place.

    Out of the blogs and into the streets, indeed.

  15. ggreen says

    George Niederauer has found a socially acceptable way to hide his homosexual tendencies and his lust for wearing dresses, lace, furs and heavy jewelry. Look at that photo, besides carb face it screams, closet case.

  16. Timmmeeeeyyyyu says

    And I’m sure that the KKK are sincere in “their belief that the traditional understanding and definition of [race] is in need of defense and support, and not in need of being re-designed or re-configured.”

  17. says

    Quoting Professor Germain Grisez

    “Though a male and a female are complete individuals with respect to other functions – for example nutrition, sensation, and locomotion- with respect to reproduction they are only potential parts of a mated pair, which is the complete organism capable of reproducing sexually. Even if the mated pair is sterile, intercourse, provided it is the reproductive behavior characteristic of the species, makes the copulating male and female one organism”

    “it is a plain matter of biological fact that reproduction is a single function, yet it cannot be carried out by an individual male or female human being, but by a male and female as a mated pair….”

    Note a though experiment by Grisez

    “Imagine a type of bodily, rational being that reproduces, not by mating but by some individual performance. Imagine that for these beings, however, locomotion or digestion is performed not by individuals, but only by biologically complementary pairs that unite for this purpose. Would anybody have any difficulty understanding that in respect to reproduction the organism performing the function is the individual, while in respect of locomotion or digestion the organism performing the function is the united pair?”

    If an apple is different than an orange…
    Than two apples are different than two oranges
    & each is distinct from an apple an orange.

  18. MAJeff says

    Fitz is a notorious anti-gay troll, always willing to support the bigots in the RCC and working to stigmatize homosexuality and make the living of gay lives impossible.

  19. says

    “If an apple is different than an orange…
    Than two apples are different than two oranges
    & each is distinct from an apple an orange.”

    And a banana is quite unlike both a kumquat and a pomegranate. And human beings aren’t fruits. And procreation isn’t the basis for marriage in the 21st century.

  20. So Left I'm Right says

    The Catholic bigots like Niederauer and the rest of the kid-fuckers, along with the Moron Church, can go fuck themselves. You get to believe, whatever the hell you want about God, Jesus, and the proper way to live your lives, just like we do. You have no right to force us through law to live your Biblical (or Book of Moron) vision, and we have no right to tell you how to live either, through legal or other means. Shut the fuck up and stay out of our lives, and then you’ll get the respect and tollerance that you deserve…because right now, you deserve NONE!

  21. Thad says

    I haven’t met my Bishop yet.

    But seriously, from all the remarks on here from all the people who are furious and demand their rights be recognized I’m going to be interested to see exactly how many of these people actually do something about. I want to see pictures of these people in front of their local Catholic Church protesting.

  22. Thad says

    Of course it is not only the Catholic Church that is hindering the GLBT community but also Angilcans, Methodist, Baptist and then you have the Islamic faith (who in some of the Muslim countries put gays to death).

    So someone has alot of protesting to do.

  23. Rick says

    Archbishop Niederauer’s response to his involvement in the passage of Prop 8 frankly leaves me stunned and angry.

    Niederauer tells us that Prop 8 proponents supported it “as a defense of the traditional understanding and definition of marriage”. Despite his assurance that there was no “attempt to deprive others of their civil rights” the reality is that this is exactly what has happened.

    Can someone explain to me how after campaigning to remove the rights of the gay and lesbian community to marry he believes we are supposed to find reconcilliation based on trust, respect and tolerance? Archbishop, with all due respect, the two things are mutually exclusive.

    Let the catholic church decide whose marriages it will sanctify and which families it will support. But to profess that what has been done was done to protect the family unit is either an outright lie or willfully ignorant. No heterosexual marriage is endangered by my loving relationship to my partner of 22 years, who I married in August. Every gay and lesbian family (and yes some of these do include children) was hurt by the passage of Prop 8. A simple internet search taking less than 30 seconds will reveal the 1000+ ways that a domestic partnership is not equal to a marriage.

    And really, exactly what “common cause” does he now want us to move towards? I’m fine with not hurling epithets at those of the Catholic (or Mormon) faith but please spare me the platitudes that all people are God’s children and are unconditionally loved by God while you insist that we deserve less than equal protection under civil law. If Niederauer is acting out of love, thanks but no thanks.

  24. RedCedar says

    Given that that church is now led by its former chief inquisitor, I’m not surprised at the archbishop’s disgusting, BIGOTED, PERVERTED, theocratic attitude towards all this.

    Perhaps he should move to a theocracy where he can be happy. He sure as hell has no place living in a secular constitutional republic!

  25. Ted says

    I thought I was cooling off after weeks of foaming at the mouth on the Prop 8 vote, and now I’m all hot about it again.

    His statement is filled with inaccuracies but he makes one bold faced lie which the Catholic sheep will accept as fact, that is, that in California the rights of same sex and opposite sex couples are the same. What a fucking fucking fucking load of crap. Even if that lie were true, there are so many rights [and obligations for that matter] conferred at the Federal level that there is no equality and so we must fight on.

    No one was asking to be married in a Catholic Church, Mormon Church, etc. All we wanted was equal rights under civil law. And they went after us with all they had.

    This douchebag bishop and all his ilk will have to face our maker and explain why they hate.

    Isnt 2000 years of represession, lies, and corruption enough? Here’s to the end of the Catholic Church.

    One more thing, since they can’t prove that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, who’s to say sex with my boyfriend won’t lead to procreation? Just ’cause its in a book don’t mean its true. As soon as they prove the former, I’ll prove the latter.

  26. GR says

    I agree with a comment below: “Fuck Him!”

    He wants to have the tongue to suppress people as many have done to the religious then let him wear his own garments! No one! No one has the right to say what we are doing as humans is wrong or be placed on hold! We are human beings – whatever god they believe in has never been apart of my life and will never be.

    I live for now – I want my rights and my friends and family who are also gays and lesbians to be proud to be who they are.


  27. duane Harrison says

    I sit here being depressed because, I can’t petition my partner to live with me for us to be happy, you straight people don’t deserve happiness either. I sit here day after day trying to see things in a good way, but how can I do that when you kind of narrow minded people tell me i cant have my partner and love happily ever after and believe in my own country for caring of me. I am sorry but the animosity I am feeling for the laws are overwhelming. How dare you people tell me to live my life in dispare. FULL EQUALITY ALL THE WAY BABE

  28. duane Harrison says

    Give me that right to have him. As long as I am unhappy my whole world is in caos, so until I have my man to care about the USA can remain in this gay war.

  29. MarkF says

    Can I tell my story? I was a totally out gay guy for over thirty years when I came back to the Catholic Church about a year ago. I struggled with the Church’s teachings on homosexuality a lot, but could not find a true way to be both in the Church and not accept all of her teachings. My own homosexuality was the one thing in my life that was a constant and I was very open about it. But I came to accept the Church, first as a matter of faith and then in the last year the reasons behind the Church’s position became a lot more clear. The only thing I really have to say is that the Church does not expect people with same-sex attraction to become straight. All we’re asked to do is to live a chaste life, just as other single people are asked to do. This is hard to understand in a secular society that promotes sex so much, but that is the standard none the less. Leaving homosexuality has been a fantastic thing for my life, but that’s not what I really want to say. What I’m bothered about most is the hatred on here, the vulgarity, the obscenities.

    Here’s a sample of comments made on here about the Church:

    “mythological…enemy…bigot…pervert…BOYS RAPED BY ARCHBISHOP NIEDERAURE…assholes…the same ass…Fuck this Bishop and the Cross he rode in on…It’s a WAR…he can go fuck himself…those out to destroy us…a church filled with boy rapers…a cult that wants us heterosexual or dead…he is the one that will be going to hell…Fuck him…Again, FUCK HIM!!… the pedophile mafia…his lust for wearing dresses…closet case…a jackass…the KKK…PERVERT…kid-fuckers…go fuck themselves…disgusting, BIGOTED, PERVERTED…a fucking fucking fucking load of crap…douchebag bishop…

    Is this the tolerance that we’ve asked for?

    As a former gay man I know all the hypocrisy that’s out there towards gay people. I see how some people make this into the biggest sin, and forget all about their own sins.

    But that’s not Christianity as a whole. I’ve never once experienced any discrimination for my homosexual past or my inclination. I have experienced much more hostility by gay people for leaving homosexuality then I ever did for publicly embracing it in 1978.

    You’re going to have to accept that there are lots of people who see homosexuality as a dangerous thing, and they are not bigoted for thinking that. I lived as out of a life as possible and I saw firsthand how destructive a force it is. I know that a lot here won’t agree with that, but even if you don’t believe that, please accept that this is the motivation for the Church’s beliefs.

  30. rudy says

    MarkF, You are not now and will never be “a FORMER gay man”. You will always be homosexual. Being homosexual is an intrinsic part of who you are as a person. You can no more “leave” homosexuality than you can “leave” the replication of cellular biology. You can choose not to act on your sexual attraction to men but you cannot change such inherent characteristic. The reason that you are rightfully the subject of disgust by gay men is that you are in willful denial.

    The Church can impose any rules it chooses ON ITS MEMBERS but is rightfully subject to criticism–in the strongest terms–nay ridicule and scorn, when it attempts to impose those rules upon society as a whole. Belonging to the Catholic Church and abiding by its doctrines is a choice; being homosexual is not. You cannot change that and for that reason Archbishop Neiderauer’s pathetic plea for capitulation to his ideologically imputed second-class status for gays, cloaked inartfully as seeking common ground is rightfully ridiculed and scorned by those who choose not to hide from ourselves who we are. And, more importantly, to demand our basic human rights without interference by so-called religious authorities that stray from their proper role in a secular system of governance.

    Hide in your closet if you so choose but I will not let you imprison me or my brethren there. Resquiet en pacem.

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