On September 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark released a new pastoral letter about marriage: “When Two Become One: A Pastoral Teaching on the Definition, Purpose and Sanctity of Marriage.”
The Archdiocese of Newark blog explained that the pastoral reflection “was written to help the faithful of the Archdiocese form their consciences, discern their vocations and, for the married, fulfill their vows.” It also noted that clergy in the Archdiocese of Newark would read a letter from Archbishop Myers about the pastoral at all masses this weekend, September 29-30, and that copies of the one-page Executive Summary would be sent to all parishes. In addition, all Catholic high schools in Newark will receive a copy of the pastoral letter and be asked to incorporate it into the Family Life curriculum.
Throughout his 16-page letter, Archbishop Myers quotes from Scripture, papal encyclicals, modern theologians, and even social science research to explain and reinforce the Church’s timeless teaching on marriage. The letter is set up as responses to a series of familiar questions:
What is marriage?
“Marriage is a natural and pre-political institution. . . . We cannot define and redefine marriage to suit our personal tastes or goals. We cannot make forms of relationships or types of conduct marital simply by attaching to them the word ‘marriage.’ The defining features and structuring norms of marriage are written in the design of creation and revealed to us by a loving God who has made marriage a powerful symbol of the mystery of his love for us.”
Can the truth about marriage be known through reason alone?
“The short answer to this question is ‘yes’ . . . Philosophers, both secular and religious, have from antiquity recognized the existence of the ‘natural law': a body of moral norms ‘written on the heart,’ as St. Paul said, that serve as the universal rational standard for human behavior.”
What does the Catholic Church teach about persons with homosexual attraction?
“Some mistakenly charge that Christ and His Church condemn or fail to love persons who experience romantic or sexual attraction to members of the same sex. On the contrary, while calling us to renounce all sinful behavior, Christ and His Church unequivocally love every last human person, in every condition of life: the unborn and the dying; the able-bodied and the sick; the young and the old; and men and women, whatever their inclinations.”
Don’t equality and justice require the state to recognize same-sex unions as marriages?
“Because same-sex couples cannot enter into the one-flesh unity of marriage – they cannot participate in reproductive type acts – they cannot marry in any meaningful sense of the term. Marriage is not mere sexual-romantic domestic partnership. It is, at its very foundation, a one-flesh union. And it is because an essential element in authentic marriage is the capacity to participate in reproductive-type acts that can, and often do, lead to children that the state has a vital interest in recognizing and promoting marriages.”
Should civil law reflect the natural law?
“Civil law should reflect the natural law to the extent that public order allows. . . . Any attempt to change the definition of marriage at the political level represents an overreaching of the competence of politicians and, indeed, of civil positive law.”
Should faithful Catholics defend the traditional teaching on marriage in the public square?
“I write as the Archbishop of Newark with the responsibility to teach the truth about the faith, including the truth about marriage, ‘in season and out,’ as St. Paul admonished Timothy. . . But I also write as a citizen of the United States with responsibilities to help promote the true common good for all. . . . Along with our commitments to defend life and serve the poor, the protection and promotion of the family serves as the core principle of our social commitment.”
- “When Two Become One: A Pastoral Teaching on the Definition, Purpose and Sanctity of Marriage”
- One-page Executive Summary
- Earlier pastoral statements from Archbishop Myers
- “A Meditation on Pope Paul VI’s Humanae vitae” (August 13, 2003)
- “And the Word became Flesh: A Theological Reflection on the Human Body” (December 8, 2002)
- Interview: Archbishop Myers talks to Vatican Radio