In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court which legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country, one professor got married. His announcement was made in The New York Times for anyone to see. It so happened to be though that this professor, Dr. Patrick Hornbeck II, who is the chairman of the theology department and a professor at Fordham University, married another man.
Dr. Hornbeck and his husband (also named Patrick) got married at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Manhattan. Same-sex marriage has already been legal in the state prior to the Court's decision, since 2011. The couple married on Saturday, June 27, however, one day after the ruling came, and the couple were able to have their ceremony in the church since the
Episcopal Church had recently voted to perform such ceremonies.
With same-sex marriage now legal in both New York State and the nation, some may wonder what the big deal is that two men would get married. The big deal is not so much about the marriage, as it is about Fordham's response.
Responding to Aleteia, Bob Howe, the senior director of communications for Fordham acknowledged that "Catholic teachings do not support same-sex marriage," but still wished "Professor Hornbeck and his spouse a rich life filled with many blessings on the occasions of their wedding in the Episcopal Church." He emphasized that Professor Hornbeck is "entitled to human dignity without regard to race, creed, gender, and sexual orientation" and mentioned that same-sex marriage is "now the law of the land, and Professor Hornbeck has the same constitutional right to marriage as all Americans."
It is true that Catholic teachings do not support same-sex marriages and that such marriages may now be the law of the land, thanks to five justices on the Court interpreting that there is a constitutional right of marriage. It is of course true that Professor Hornbeck, just like any and every other human being, homosexual or not, has an equal right to human dignity. That last point already goes without saying though. The Catholic teaching that needs to be emphasized here then is that same-sex marriages are not supported.
It sounds as if Fordham is supporting Professor Hornbeck's marriage, which would put the institution at odds with Catholic teaching, which Howe himself has acknowledged does not support such marriages. One can certainly recognize the human dignity of a person while still keeping with the Church's teaching on marriage.
Fordham is a Jesuit, Catholic university. The university's message I worry communicates confusion about the Church's teaching and thus there is the potential for scandal. The Catholic Church, notably and recently through the words of Pope Francis, has remained clear on what the Church teaches about marriage. Fordham ought to remain consistent with its Catholic teaching, especially since the Vatican has issued a statement about Catholic universities.
I myself attended Fordham University. I did not have Professor Hornbeck for any classes, though I have heard good things. In addition to being Catholic, Fordham is also in New York and I noticed a liberal sentiment there. Its location and politics should have no relevance if Fordham truly wishes to remain a Catholic institution, however. I am disappointed at Fordham not acting with consistency according to the Catholic teaching it ought to abide by, especially since we shouldn't even have to question, as we do now, if a Catholic institution will actually act Catholic.