From Wednesday to Friday of this week, all of the bishops in the United States have been meeting together in Atlanta for their biannual general assembly. During this time, a number of bishops present oral reports on the work of their respective committee or subcommittee. Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, presented today, Thursday June 14, to the full body of bishops about the Subcommittee’s work. Below is his talk in full, with hyperlinks added.
Thank you, Your Eminence. Good morning/afternoon, Brother Bishops.
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, during his homily at the closing Mass of the recent Seventh World Meeting of Families in Milan, spoke about the fruitfulness of married love. A husband and a wife, the Holy Father noted, give their “whole lives” to one another. Their love is fruitful for themselves, fruitful in their generous and responsible procreation of children, and fruitful for society, particularly since “family life is the first and irreplaceable school of social virtues.” The Holy Father’s words remind us that the love of husband and wife is a decisive gift for the world, and it calls for stewardship and responsibility.
As I begin my report to you today, I would like to thank in a special way, for their stewardship of the gift of marriage, Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Jugis in North Carolina, Bishop Malone in Maine (soon to be in Buffalo), Cardinal O’Brien, Archbishop Lori, Cardinal Wuerl, Bishop Malooly, and the bishops of Maryland, Archbishop Neinstedt and the bishops of Minnesota, and Archbishop Sartain and the bishops of Washington state. Thank you for your teaching and steadfast witness to the beauty of marriage. Our prayers remain with you and with the many who are working to preserve the unique meaning of marriage in your states’ laws.
Brother Bishops, I am grateful for this time to update you on the work of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. Today I will speak briefly about the Subcommittee’s ongoing catechetical work and the legal landscape before us, and then I will close by highlighting initial findings from a new study on family structures, released just a few days ago.
In its catechetical work, the Subcommittee continues to advance its initiative, Marriage: Unique for a Reason. The current project underway is the Spanish-language video entitled “El matrimonio: Hecho para el amor y la vida” (Marriage: Made for Love and Life). The video, envisioned to be fifteen minutes long, will use a telenovela-style format and will present a story based on a 50th wedding anniversary. The story will introduce all four themes of the Subcommittee’s catechetical messaging: sexual difference, the good of children, the common good, and religious liberty. Additional time and focus groups have been utilized in this video’s development to ensure a culturally effective presentation. We anticipate the video’s completion by the end of this year.
Following the release of the Spanish-language video, the Subcommittee plans to complete the Marriage: Unique for a Reason project with the production of two additional English videos, the first on marriage and the common good and the second on marriage and religious liberty.
The video on the common good will aim to introduce the broader social context and meaning of marriage, grounded in an authentic anthropology. With the help of the witness of young adults, it will also seek to address arguments that falsely employ the language of equality, rights, fairness, non-discrimination, and the like. These arguments can and need to be reframed. The core issue is the meaning of marriage and its significance for the rights and best interests of children and for the common good.
The video on religious liberty will be developed in close collaboration with the ongoing efforts of the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. As described in last January’s open letter signed by various religious leaders, marriage and religious liberty stand or fall together.
Lastly, since last November’s launch of the new website marriageuniqueforareason.org, staff continues to monitor and develop the website to improve its effectiveness. Various resources are available on the site, and more resources will continue to be developed based on current needs.
Moving now to the legal landscape, the urgency around the protection of marriage has not abated.
At the state level, this year is a significant one. The recent victory in North Carolina, 61% to 39% in support of the constitutional amendment protecting the definition of marriage, is a great encouragement. Also encouraging is the outstanding number of signatures being collected in Maryland and Washington State to place their respective referendum on the ballot. Both are reporting breaking state records in the amount of signatures collected. The redefinition of marriage in the law is not, and never will be, inevitable. But ongoing vigilance and effort are needed. Maine, Minnesota, Maryland and Washington State are poised to have crucial votes in November. Also, in Illinois, a lawsuit was recently introduced challenging the current law around civil unions as discriminatory and calling for the full redefinition of marriage. The State Attorney General, who is charged to defend the law of the state, is officially supporting the lawsuit.
At the federal level, recent negative court decisions concerning both the federal Defense of Marriage Act as well as California’s Proposition 8 now open the door for both DOMA and Prop 8 to go before the Supreme Court. The “Roe v. Wade Moment” for marriage that Archbishop Kurtz indicated to this body in November 2010 is ever closer.
And as we learned last month, President Obama has now voiced his official support for the redefinition of marriage in the law.
Cardinal Dolan, we are grateful for your strong words expressing disappointment with the President’s recent comments. You remind us well of the ongoing need to pray for the President and for all our leaders entrusted with the common good.
The Subcommittee continues to monitor all these areas and to seek opportunities to educate our people, advocate for the truth of marriage, and collaborate with ecumenical and interreligious leaders.
Findings from New Family Structures Study
Lastly, I would like to call your attention to an important new social-science study whose initial findings were just released a few days ago. The study, entitled “New Family Structures Study,” was conducted at the University of Texas at Austin. The study has surveyed a very large, nationally-representative, and random sample of American young adults (ages 18 to 39) who were raised in different family or home environments, including homes with a parent in a same-sex relationship, as well as single-parent families, step-families, adoptive families and families where the children were raised by their biological parents married to each other.
In an article recently published in the July issue of the peer-reviewed journal Social Science Research, the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Mark Regnerus, presented initial findings that should serve as significant points for future public discourse. The findings indicate several significant statistical differences when comparing young adults who were raised in an intact home with their married, biological parents and young adults raised in other home environments. The measurable outcomes of the study cover a range of information, including social and economic well-being, psychological and physical health, sexual identity, sexual behavior, and other areas. Twenty-five (25) of the forty (40) areas measured showed significant difference, and in no area were children better off in an alternative arrangement. The differences in outcomes illustrate, as the article notes, “that children appear most apt to succeed well as adults—on multiple counts and across a variety of domains—when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day.”
Promising to be a benchmark for further studies and findings, this study has been noted to empirically call into question other studies with smaller and more restrictive sample sizes that have purported to show that there are no differences between father-mother parenting and other arrangements. Another paper by sociologist Dr. Loren Marks, also published this month in Social Science Research, reviewed fifty-nine (59) previous studies cited by the American Psychological Association (APA). He found these studies to have various limitations, including being based on small, non-random, non-representative, and self-selecting samples, and he concluded that the studies were “insufficient to support a strong generalized claim either way.”
In other words, this New Family Structures Study is being acknowledged as one of the first studies on this topic to have a comprehensive and scientifically respectable approach—so much so that some social science researchers with views supportive of new or so-called alternative family structures have acknowledged the scientific validity of the study. The study itself was developed and conducted by a team of researchers who disagree among themselves about the topic of family structures but agreed to lead an objective study. A website has now been set up to present the study’s findings, which can be accessed at: www.familystructurestudies.com. Although it is not the job of social science to protect the meaning of marriage, nor can correlation be taken as equivalent to causation, social science has an important role to play in the public conversation. In this instance, a well-respected study is attesting to something very basic: fathers and mothers matter, and married fathers and mothers matter for children.
Unfortunately, we have come to a point in Western society where the meaning of marriage is being largely eclipsed by a counterfeit version, by a false idea that marriage is just a matter of adult interests and can be manipulated as a product of arbitrary invention. However, I believe many of our young people, who have experienced firsthand the difficulties of broken families and the absence of a father or a mother, know intuitively that such an understanding of marriage cannot stand the test of time and can only lead to further disappointment and hardships.
As this new study indicates, social science continues to affirm that children thrive and do best with their mother and father in an intact home. The protection of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a work of justice and is foundational to the good of all, especially for those most vulnerable among us, our children. It is the way of true compassion—love in truth and truth in love. Our young people are hungry for this truth and are in a position to witness to it in a uniquely powerful way.
The Subcommittee is grateful to all those who, in charity, hope, and truth, are working to shed light on the true meaning of marriage and to strengthen and protect it. In a special way, Brother Bishops, I thank each one of you for your stewardship of the gift of marriage and family and for all the time and work in your dioceses and eparchies dedicated to strengthening marriage. As always, the Subcommittee seeks to assist you and continues to benefit from your guidance and feedback. On behalf of the Subcommittee as well as Bishop Rhoades and the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, thank you again for this opportunity to update you today.
Video coming soon: stay tuned!