The legalization of gay marriage in Wisconsin -- and in the United States -- will eventually spell the "end of democracy" and the whole idea is the work of Satan, according to Bishop Robert Morlino, of the Madison Catholic Diocese.

Holy smokes! That's quite an indictment. We're talking about some poor schmucks who want to get married here. We're not talking about Al Qaeda terrorists.

Writing in the Catholic Herald, the diocesan newspaper Thursday, Morlino explained his reasoning:

"I believe that our mission to purify the culture in the United States is down the tubes if we cannot protect marriage. I think for our country, that's the end of it, in terms of having a Godly, decent culture."

He went on to say he doesn't want to be identified with "gay bashers" and added he is not trying to side with conservatives who see the issue as one that will win Republican votes in the fall.

But, Morlino continued, "marriage has to be protected, it's a truth of natural reason, it has nothing to do with gay-bashing and it should have nothing to do with politics as usual."

If gays and lesbians are allowed to marry, he said, the state will end up determining custody battles and "how the kids get taught. And when the state does that, rather than the natural parents, that's the end of democracy."

And why is all this happening? "Satan has a plan to destroy our country from within," the bishop said, adding that divorce and proposals to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance are part of that plan.

Well ... wow!

I accept the bishop's declaration he isn't a gay-basher. I've known him since he came to Madison and I've never known him to bash anyone. He has an admirable determination to see everyone as a valued child of God, whether he agrees with them or not.

That being said, he's also wrong.

For one thing, when parents have custody battles, the state already determines who wins. Custody battles are fought in court. The state also determines how children are taught, at least in the public schools and, to a good extent, in private schools.

For another -- just to keep this argument straight -- there is no proposal on the November ballot to legalize gay marriage. The proposal is to adopt a constitutional amendment outlawing not only same-sex marriage but, also, anything that approximates same-sex marriage. Satan is not pounding on our gates demanding to be let in.

Personally, I'm not a proponent of gay marriage. I don't think our society is ready for it. I am a proponent of civil unions -- and that puts me exactly where President Bush says he is on the issue.

But I don't think those gays and lesbians who want the right to marry are carrying on the work of Satan, either.

I can appreciate the bishop doesn't mean to "bash" gays -- but what does it mean when he links their aspirations to Satan and predicts they will destroy the country if they prevail?

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