Talk about separation of church and state!
The Diocese of Brooklyn banned state officials who voted for same-sex marriage from honoring students or even appearing at Catholic schools and parishes as punishment for their role in destructing “the single most important institution in human history.”
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio announced the ban two days after New York State passed a law allowing gay couples to tie the knot, igniting a war of words between the church and lawmakers.
Calling the bill another “nail in the coffin” of traditional marriage, DiMarzio asked Catholic schools and parishes to refuse any awards from Gov. Andrew Cuomo or state legislators who supported the measure, which passed June 24 and takes effect later this month.
DiMarzio also demanded “all pastors and principals to not invite any state legislator to speak or be present at any parish or school celebration.”
The ban was for the “foreseeable future,” and is already having an impact.
Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Williamsburg) told us the $50 check he sent for a student at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s parish school on Withers Street in Williamsburg was returned — along with a copy of the bishop’s statement.
“I’m disappointed,” said Lentol, a Catholic who voted for the bill, and often attends services at the church. “They’ve always accepted my checks.”
Mt. Carmel’s pastor, Joseph Calise, said he was following orders from DiMarzio.
“It couldn’t be done in Joe’s name,” Calise said of the annual award from Lentol. Calise added that a parishioner provided a matching award.
Lawmakers in the bishop’s dog house bristled at his hard stance.
They pointed to the exception in the law, secured by Republican leaders in exchange for their vote, that exempts religious institutions from accepting same-sex marriage.
“We would never force a Catholic priest to marry anyone they do not approve of,” said state Sen. Diane Savino (D–Bensonhurst).
And anger from the church shouldn’t stop Borough President Markowitz from following through on his plan to open Borough Hall for a slew of gay nuptials on July 25, the first day they’re legal.
“Whatever your convictions, love is love,” Markowitz said.
In an indication of how the ban will be enforced, Calise said state lawmakers were still welcome to attend regular church services and special events, such as Mt. Carmel’s beloved Feast of the Giglio.
“We wouldn’t stop them from coming” to pray, he said.
State Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge), the lone Brooklyn senator to vote against the bill, will be spared the cold shoulder.
Churchgoers we spoke to Tuesday afternoon were supporting their bishop, saying DiMarzio made the right call.
“Inviting people that voted for [same-sex marriage] into schools is not appropriate,” said Lorenzo Regalado, a parishioner at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James in Downtown Brooklyn, and an opponent of the new law.
Charles Greene agreed.
“I wish more bishops would take steps like that,” he said.
— with Jared Foretek, Aaron Short and Thomas Tracy