The day after the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law of the land, J. Patrick Hornbeck II married Patrick Anthony Bergquist at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan.
This would hardly be newsworthy, except for the fact that Hornbeck is the Chairman of the Theology Department at Fordham University, a Catholic university run by the Jesuits.
The New York Times, which wrote up a glowing report of the couple’s marriage, described Hornbeck, as “the chairman of the theology department and an associate professor of medieval and reformation history at Fordham University.”
The article somehow failed to mention that the only course he actually taught last semester was titled “Christianity & Sexual Diversity.”
One wonders how Fordham expects its Catholic theology to be “taught in a manner faithful to Scripture, Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium,” as required by Catholic discipline, when the head of the department stands in open opposition to the Church’s teaching on marriage.
The wedding ceremony took place just days before the Episcopal Church in America voted to allow same-sex marriage rites in its churches, effectively sacramentalizing sodomy.
Fordham in turn has defended Hornbeck’s “constitutional right to marriage,” saying that his lifestyle choice is irrelevant to his role as a teacher of Catholic Theology.
“While Catholic teachings do not support same-sex marriage, we wish Professor Hornbeck and his spouse a rich life filled with many blessings on the occasion of their wedding in the Episcopal Church,” said Bob Howe, Fordham’s senior director of communications.
“Professor Hornbeck is a member of the Fordham community, and like all University employees, students and alumni, is entitled to human dignity without regard to race, creed, gender, and sexual orientation,” he said.
Howe stressed that same-sex unions are “now the law of the land, and Professor Hornbeck has the same constitutional right to marriage as all Americans.”
Last fall, Hornbeck spoke at a symposium at Fordham titled “Who Am I to Judge? How Pope Francis Is Changing the Church.”
“In the last 18 months Pope Francis has taken the Catholic world by storm,” said Hornbeck. “We’re seeing a shift in the way the Vatican does its business, so it’s a great time to reflect on what’s happening.”
Described as an expert on “Francis and all things Vatican,” promotional materials said that Hornbeck would be “offering a Jesuit analysis.”
Hornbeck said that he would speak about “the future of Catholicism as well as examine recent public statements from the pope on subjects that range from the role of LGBT persons in the church, to the restructuring of the Vatican Bank, to unmarried couples and divorce.”
“American Catholics and their church have not been on the same page for some time,” said Hornbeck. “But now the pope is opening up space for dialogue.”
What is uncertain is how Hornbeck squared his particular take on Pope Francis, especially regarding same-sex marriage, with the pontiff’s own public statements on the matter.
He has characterized projects to legalize same-sex marriage as “the envy of the devil” and “an attempt to destroy God’s plan.”
In April, the Pope reflected on Jesus’ first miracle at Cana, which took place “in a marriage, in a wedding party: a man and a woman. So Jesus teaches us that the masterpiece of society is the family: the man and woman who love each other! This is a masterpiece!” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome