The Catholic Conference of Illinois [CCI] has released a valuable new resource for clergy and the laity in their efforts to promote and defend marriage: a Marriage Toolkit entitled “Understanding & Promoting the Catholic Church’s Teaching on Marriage“ [PDF]. As explained in a press release, “The toolkit is designed to help Catholic individuals and parish communities understand, explain and promote the Catholic Church’s teaching to the following questions:
- What is marriage?
- Why is the definition of marriage important?
- Why does the Church endure the repercussions of taking a stance on marriage which is contrary to popular social trends and media advocacy?
- And, most importantly, why should you care about marriage?”
In order to answer these questions, the Toolkit provides an extensive Q&A on the subject, suggestions for further resources (including the Marriage: Unique for a Reason website), tips for homilists and catechists on giving marriage-related homilies and reflections, and information about the apostolate Courage, a ministry for persons with same-sex attraction. All of these components are available as stand-alone hand-outs.
The Toolkit is a joint effort developed by the Defense of Marriage Department of the CCI. Previously in 2009, the CCI produced a pamphlet explaining the link between civil union legislation and full marriage redefinition: “Promotion Civil Unions to Undermine Marriage” [PDF].
We encourage you to check out this valuable new resource. The entire toolkit can be downloaded as a PDF here.
Made for Life, Part 5: "We were open to life, whether through…giving birth or through the adoption process."
Background: This is part 5 of the Viewer’s Guide that accompanies the video “Made for Life.” Previous sections include: 1) openness to life; 2) gift of self and gift of life; 3) children as a gift; 4) the call to welcome a child and be a child. In part 5, we’ll look at the witness of infertile couples and of those couples who adopt a child. In that context, we’ll reflect on how openness to life is essential for all marriages, not just those that are blessed with children.
“We were open to life, whether through…giving birth or through the adoption process.”
As Kevin and Brenda witness in the video, openness to life has a meaning more profound than popularly recognized today. In the midst of recent attempts to “redefine” marriage, the objection is sometimes raised that there are many husbands and wives who are unable to have children. What makes them different from a relationship between two persons of the same sex, who also can’t have children of their own?
The truth is, there is an unbridgeable difference between a spousal union (a male-female couple united as husband and wife) and a relationship between two men or two women. This difference is sexual difference. First, conceiving a child requires the joint action of both a man and a woman. This intimate participation in conceiving a child is simply impossible for two persons of the same sex. Two men or two women cannot—ever—have a child together. [i]
Second, sexual union between a husband and wife is the kind of union apt for generation. That is, male-female intimacy is the natural route through which a child comes into the world. There are times when a husband and wife may be unable to conceive a child due to infertility or sterility (for reasons beyond their control) or advanced age. Still, their sexual union remains the kind of union that expresses total self-gift and openness to the gift of the child. [ii] The situation is very different for two persons of the same sex. Even if both are young and perfectly healthy, any sexual behavior between them can never form a true union and will never be able to welcome a new child into the world.
The painful cross of infertility does not mean that a couple’s marriage is not fruitful. As Pope John Paul II taught, “Physical sterility . . . can be for spouses the occasion for other important services to the life of the human person, for example, adoption, various forms of educational work, and assistance to other families and to poor or handicapped children.” [iii] In particular, the Church praises adoption as an expression of “true parental love,” which “is ready to go beyond the bonds of flesh and blood in order to accept children from other families.” [iv]
Adoption, as a response to a tragedy or loss, is never meant to be held up as an “alternative” to the natural family of father, mother, and their children. Instead, adoption “takes its form” from the natural family. There is a difference between generously responding to an abandoned child’s need for a mother and a father, on the one hand, and deliberately depriving a child of a mother and a father by placing him or her in the care of two men or two women.
In sum, openness to life is essential to every marriage. Husbands and wives who are not blessed with children of their own still exemplify the fruitful communion of persons in a way two persons of the same sex never can. This communion, built on the sexual difference between husband and wife, opens the door to adoption and to other generous forms of service while still respecting the beauty of sexual difference, the needs of children, and the indispensable place of mothers and fathers.
Background: The following is an excerpt from the Viewer’s Guide to the video “Made for Life.” Earlier sections include reflections on openness to life, the gift of self and the gift of life, and children as a supreme gift. In this section, we’ll look at the call to welcome a child, the call to be a child, and how children bring hope and joy to the world.
“The idea that we were adding on to our family brought great joy.”
“Since having children, it’s been the best reflection of God’s love that I could ever define or try to describe.”
To welcome a child is to welcome hope. Lashawntra and Kevin both attest to the love, joy, and hope experienced when a husband and wife welcome a child. The child stands as a sign at odds with the doomsdayers, those who turn life into constant worry and fretfulness, and counter to the overly self-assured, those who presume upon their own capacities without trusting and hoping in God. The child points to the higher way of hope, beyond despair and presumption, because the child reminds us, by his or her very existence, that life and love are stronger than death, [i] and that life is worth living.
How does this relate to marriage? Recall the scene in the video where the wife joyfully announces to her husband that a new little baby is on the way. Marriage, as the union of husband and wife, is the only relationship that, by its very nature, is made to welcome the hope that comes with each new human life, and to connect a child with his or her biological father and mother. The call—the vocation—to welcome a child is uniquely built within the essence of marriage. Husbands and wives who stand ready to welcome children are a decisive witness to joyful hope, despite whatever hardships and sufferings come in this life.
Jesus regularly pointed to the child. [ii] He knew that the child reveals to us our deepest identity and calling. This may seem ironic, since a little child is helpless, defenseless, and “non-productive” by worldly standards. Even the disciples had a difficult time understanding this at first. The great temptation over the centuries has been to overlook and dismiss the child. And yet remember Jesus’ words: “‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Mt 18:3-4). All the successes and riches of the world don’t add up to the gift of being a child of God, the fundamental calling that unlocks the meaning of life. We are all called to become children of God (see 1 Jn 3:1), sons and daughters in Jesus, the Son of God (see Gal 4:4-7).
In the presence of an infant, we are reminded that we do not create ourselves, but are given by God, through the help of both our mother and father. The child unlocks for us the beauty of life as a sheer, undeserved, abundant gift from our heavenly Father. Life is meant to be lived in hope and in joy. Marriage, as the total, faithful, and life-giving union of a man and a woman, has the distinctive mission to share this hope and joy with the world.
Pope Pius XI: “By matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies, and that not by any passing affection of sense of spirit, but by a deliberate and firm act of the will; and from this union of souls by God’s decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises. Hence the nature of this contract, which is proper and peculiar to it alone, makes it entirely different both from the union of animals entered into by the blind instinct of nature alone in which neither reason nor free will plays a part, and also from the haphazard unions of men, which are far removed from all true and honorable unions of will and enjoy none of the rights of family life.”
– Encyclical Casti Connubii, no. 7 (December 31, 1930), emphasis added
On Saturday, November 10, Fr. Federico Lombardi, a Jesuit who is the director of the Vatican Television Centre and Vatican Radio, published an editorial regarding the Church’s ongoing efforts to preserve the authentic meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman in the law. Fr. Lombardi writes, “In recent days there have been three worrying events concerning legislation on marriage.” He references events in Spain and France, as well as the November 6 referendums on marriage in the United States.
Fr. Lombardi continues, saying, “It is therefore clear that in western countries there is a widespread tendency to modify the classic vision of marriage between a man and a woman, or rather to try to give it up, erasing its specific and privileged legal recognition compared to other forms of union.” He notes that this tendency “is nothing new” but that “the matter does not cease to amaze” because “the logic of it cannot have a far-sighted outlook for the common good.”
He cites the support of non-Christian leaders, such as the Chief Rabbi in France, and then offers a basic catechesis on why marriage as the union of one man and one woman ought to be protected in the law:
It is not, in fact, a question of avoiding unfair discrimination for homosexuals, since this must and can be guaranteed in other ways. It is a question of admitting that a husband and a wife are publicly recognised as such; and that children who come into the world can know, and say they have, a father and a mother. In short, preserving a vision of the human person and of human relationships where there is a public acknowledgment of monogamous marriage between a man and a woman [as] an achievement of civilization (emphasis added).
Fr. Lombardi points out that if sexual difference is removed from the definition of marriage, the question opens of why not recognize other forms of relationships like polygamy and polyandry. He concludes by affirming that in light of marriage’s essential role in society, “It is not expected, then, the Church will give up proposing that society recognise a specific place for marriage between a man and a woman.”
Read the full text of Fr. Lombardi’s editorial (Vatican Radio website)
The U.S. bishops met at their bi-annual plenary assembly in Baltimore this week, November 12-14. On Monday, November 12, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage and Archbishop of San Francisco, gave an oral report to the bishops on the work of the Subcommittee. His address touched on both catechetical initiatives and public policy advocacy work.
Marriage and the New Evangelization
The Archbishop began by referencing Pope Benedict XVI’s homily on October 7, where the Holy Father linked marriage and the New Evangelization. “Matrimony is a gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today,” the Pope said. “Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way…There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage…Marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the new evangelization.” Archbishop Cordileone commented that Pope Benedict’s words are “sobering but also encouraging.” He added, “To forget the truth of marriage is to forget the truth of the human person and the very truth of God Himself. To rediscover marriage, on the other hand, and to faithfully live it out, hold a key to advancing the New Evangelization and the renewal of our culture.”
Archbishop Cordileone then updated the bishops on the ongoing catechetical work of the Subcommittee. He explained that two video resources have already been released: “Made for Each Other,” about sexual difference and complementarity, and “Made for Life,” about the gift of children and the need for fathers and mothers. He made special mention of the next video to be released, a Spanish-language video called “El Matrimonio: Hecho para el amor y la vida.” (Marriage: Made for Love and Life). This video will be in a “telenovela” dramatic style and, as the Archbishop explained, will include all four themes of the Subcommittee’s messaging: sexual difference, the gift of children, the common good, and religious liberty. The plot is based on a 50th anniversary party and the gentle witness of the long-married grandparents to their grandson and his girlfriend.
The Archbishop also made note that two more English videos are in development, one about marriage and the common good, and one about marriage and religious liberty. Regarding the Marriage: Unique for a Reason website, he thanked those bishops whose archdiocesan or diocesan websites include a Marriage: Unique for a Reason web banner.
Legal and Policy Issues
Remarking on the current legal and policy landscape, Archbishop Cordileone noted that “the urgency around the protection of marriage has grown and is reaching what could be called a critical mass.” He highlighted the referendums held on Election Day, saying that while voters have affirmed the authentic meaning of marriage 32 times in the past, unfortunately on November 6, three states (MD, WA, and ME) voted to redefine marriage in the law, while a fourth (MN) rejected a constitutional amendment that would have added an extra layer of protection to marriage. The Archbishop pointed out that in all four states, “heroic efforts were made in the face of being vastly outspent by those seeking to redefine marriage. . . . We were narrowing the gap and lost by just a small margin in all four states.”
The Archbishop thanked the pertinent bishops in referendum states, saying, “I know how hard you worked. We are in your debt and in debt to all the people who devoted great time, energy, sacrifice, and love in witnessing to the unique meaning of marriage and seeking its protection in your states. . . . This work is not in vain.” He added, “This is not a time to give up, but rather a time to re-double our efforts.”
Moving to the federal level, Archbishop Cordileone said that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was overwhelmingly passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, faces “sustained attack” in federal courts. He told the bishops that it is likely that the Supreme Court will choose at least one DOMA case to consider, with a decision by June 2013.
A second marriage-related case that could end up in the Supreme Court is California’s Proposition 8 case. (Background: Proposition 8, which defines marriage in the California state constitution as the union of one man and one woman, was approved by voters in 2008 but has been challenged in federal court and found unconstitutional.) The Archbishop pointed out that a negative decision by the Supreme Court in either the DOMA case or the Prop 8 case “would bring serious negative consequences to the institution of marriage, ultimately leading in all likelihood to marriage redefinition nationwide. In other words,” he added, “the ‘Roe‘ decision for marriage,” referencing the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion throughout the country.
Finally, Archbishop Cordileone highlighted the fact that the executive branch has pursued “considerable erosive activity” regarding the definition of marriage, “and it sadly has shown no signs of letting up.” He concluded by saying, “This is a situation of grave concern that requires our vigilant attention as well as our prayers.”
Spanish-language video trailer
Archbishop Cordileone ended his presentation by sharing with the bishops an extended trailer of the forthcoming Spanish-language video “El Matrimonio: Hecho para el amor y la vida” (Marriage: Made for Love and Life) that is currently in post-production. He explained that the storyline focuses on Hector and Rosa, a husband and wife celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, and their grandson Miguel, who is cohabiting with his girlfriend Maria. Miguel and Maria spend the night before the anniversary celebration at Hector and Rosa’s house, and their loving and faithful witness to the meaning of marriage challenges the two young people to re-examine their assumptions about marriage. Currently, the trailer can be viewed via the USCCB footage of Archbishop Cordileone’s presentation (fast forward to 1 hour 43 minutes).
In closing, Archbishop Cordileone thanked each of the bishops for their stewardship of the gift of marriage and family. He assured them of the Subcommittee’s assistance and invited their ongoing guidance and feedback.
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from a homily given by Pope Benedict at the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid. The context is a reflection on vocations.
Pope Benedict XVI: During this prayer vigil, I urge you to ask God to help you find your vocation in society and in the Church, and to persevere in that vocation with joy and fidelity. It is a good thing to open our hearts to Christ’s call and to follow with courage and generosity the path he maps out for us.
“The Lord calls many people to marriage, in which a man and a woman, in becoming one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24), find fulfilment in a profound life of communion. It is a prospect that is both bright and demanding. It is a project for true love which is daily renewed and deepened by sharing joys and sorrows, one marked by complete self-giving. For this reason, to acknowledge the beauty and goodness of marriage is to realize that only a setting of fidelity and indissolubility, along with openness to God’s gift of life, is adequate to the grandeur and dignity of marital love.”
– Homily at Prayer Vigil with Young People, World Youth Day, Madrid (Aug. 20, 2011), emphasis added
Post-election round-up: Statements from (Arch)bishops and Catholic Conferences: Disappointment, gratitude, resolve
In addition to Archbishop Cordileone’s statement expressing disappointment about the results of the four marriage referenda, Archbishops, Bishops, and Catholic Conferences in the four states where voters voted to redefine marriage on Tuesday have released statements. Their words echo Cardinal Dolan’s conviction, expressed in a statement released after the election: “We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage, and our first, most cherished liberty, religious freedom.”
Bishop Richard Malone (Buffalo), Apostolic Administrator of Portland, Maine
I am deeply disappointed that a majority of Maine voters have redefined marriage from what we have understood it to be for millennia by civilizations and religions around the world. I am thankful for those who engaged in sincere and civil discourse on this matter of such serious consequence to our society. I am grateful to those who supported and recognize the value of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. I especially want to thank the Catholic faithful who did not abandon Catholic teachings on the nature of marriage.
These past few months have served as a teaching opportunity to explain to parishioners and the wider community about how and why the Church views and values marriage as the union of one man and one woman open to new life.
It has also been an opportunity for learning. I trust that those who voted for such a radical change did so out of concern for our brothers and sisters who struggle with same-sex attraction. Respect and acceptance of all people regardless of sexual orientation is not a point of controversy. It is a teaching of the Church, but so is the authentic meaning and definition of marriage. That is why the Catholic Church will continue its commitment to work for the basic human rights to which all people are entitled, while remaining devoted to preserving and strengthening the precious gift of marriage. (Source: Statement from Bishop Malone Regarding ‘Question 1’ Results, Diocese of Portland website)
Archbishop William Lori (Baltimore)
“So much hard work went into this, and I’m very, very grateful to everyone who worked so hard. We will continue to witness to the values of marriage as understood as the union of one man and one woman, as the most sound, secure and loving way to bring children into the world.”
The election results on same-sex marriage should serve as a “wake up call” for Catholics, Archbishop Lori said, demonstrating “our need to redouble our efforts to defend marriage, to preach about what marriage is, and to help people understand it as a unique relationship that does not discriminate against anyone, but is for the good of children and for the good of society.” (Source: Maria Wiering, “Archbishop Lori calls same-sex marriage passage ‘a wake-up call’,” The Catholic Review)
Archdiocese of Washington
The Archdiocese of Washington is disappointed and deeply concerned that marriage in the state of Maryland has been redefined as a result of passage of the ballot issue put before voters yesterday. At the heart of the archdiocese’s opposition to this law is the Church’s unchanging teaching that marriage is a unique, exclusive, lifelong relationship created by God and reserved for one man and one woman. The complementarity of man and woman is intrinsic to the meaning of marriage.
Despite the outcome of this referendum issue, the archdiocese is grateful for the efforts undertaken by those who uphold the traditional meaning of marriage, and will continue to inform and educate its faithful and the members of the wider community about the truth of marriage as the union between one man and one woman. (Source: Statement of the Archdiocese of Washington on Maryland Referenda, Archdiocese of Washington website)
Maryland Catholic Conference
Regrettably, Marylanders decided by the narrowest of margins not to repeal the law that redefines marriage. The ballot language they encountered masked the fact that this law does not simply assign civil benefits to gay and lesbian couples, but drastically dismantles in our state law the fundamental family unit of mother, father and child. The people of Maryland were promised that this law would protect religious institutions and individuals who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and we will remain vigilant in ensuring that those promises are upheld. (Source: “Maryland Upholds DREAM but Fails to Uphold Marriage,” Maryland Catholic Conference website)
Minnesota Catholic Conference
The Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, is disappointed that Amendment 1 did not pass. Despite this setback, our efforts to promote and defend the cornerstone social institution of marriage will continue.
MCC’s support of Amendment 1 was rooted in the complementarity of the sexes, the public significance of their ability to procreate, and the fundamental right of all children to be born into an intact family with a married mother and a father, even though this is not always possible. These basic human truths remain with or without the passage of this amendment.
Our position on the amendment was never “anti” anyone, but “for” marriage. We continue to emphasize that everyone, including those with same-sex attraction, must be treated with charity, dignity, and respect. The Catholic Church welcomes all and remains committed to affirming the irrevocable dignity of all persons created in the image and likeness of God.
We thank the thousands of Minnesotans, particularly our partners in the Minnesota for Marriage coalition, who worked tirelessly to bring about the amendment’s passage.
MCC will continue to support and advocate for public policy that best serves all of society, human dignity and the basic rights of children. Marriage needs to be strengthened, not redefined. We look forward to finding ways we can all work together as Minnesotans to strengthen marriage and family life. (Source: MCC Statement on the Defeat of the Marriage Protection Amendment, Minnesota Catholic Conference website)
Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis
Minnesota’s voters have spoken. Although the defeat of the amendment is a very serious concern to us, it will not deter us from continuing to serve this community and the whole state in pursuit of the common good. We are grateful to the thousands of Minnesotans, particularly those who lent their support to Minnesota for Marriage, for their commitment to proactively protect the timeless definition of marriage.
The Church’s public advocacy of support for the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment has always been rooted in our commitment to advance the common good for human society. This is the same spirit that guides the Church’s unwavering pursuit of economic justice, healthcare and immigration reform, and the defense of human life and dignity from conception to natural death.
We proposed, and continue to do so, that the good of society is best served by maintaining the traditional understanding of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. This proposition finds its intelligibility in the order of reason and in the testimony of the Bible.
The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis will continue to build up this community according to our principles, including giving voice and unwavering defense to the unborn, the poor and forgotten, the abused and the lonely. And we will continue to work to strengthen marriage, and defend it against all forms of its weakening, for the good of all society. We can do nothing less than continue to propose and do our best to live out what we believe. (Source: Statement on the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment Vote, Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis website)
Bishop Joseph Tyson (Yakima):
Bishop Tyson joined the other Roman Catholic bishops in Washington State who expressed their disappointment that “so many voters failed to recognize marriage between a man and a woman as the natural institution for the permanent, faithful covenant of love for a couple, for bringing children into the world, and for nurturing and educating those children. This change in civil law is not in the best interest of children or society.”
“I intend to work with the other bishops of the state and in the region to continue to uplift marriage between one man and one woman as the best proposal for everyone in our society,” Bishop Tyson said. He noted that despite the election results, the campaign has been an opportunity for the Church to reaffirm its consistent teaching on marriage. “This represents a starting point for a long-term effort to educate Catholics about its meaning and purpose.” (Source: Msgr. Robert Siler, “Measure Appears to Have Passed Statewide,” Diocese of Yakima website)
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain (Seattle)
It appears that Referendum 74, a measure that redefines marriage in Washington state, has been approved. I am disappointed that so many voters failed to recognize marriage between a man and a woman as the natural institution for the permanent, faithful covenant of love for a couple, for bringing children into the world, and for nurturing and educating those children. This change in civil law is not in the best interest of children or society.
Despite the election results, the campaign has been an opportunity for the Church to reaffirm its consistent teaching on marriage. The campaign to preserve marriage as a union between a man and a woman represents a starting point for a long-term effort to educate Catholics about its meaning and purpose. The Church offers a vision of marriage and family life that enriches our communities and society and we remain committed to that vision while respecting the dignity of all persons.
I thank all those who supported the effort to preserve marriage in Washington, and hope that despite this vote, all people will come to recognize the importance of marriage between a man and a woman for children and society. (Source: Statement from Archbishop Sartain regarding Referendum 74, Archdiocese of Seattle website)
USCCB News Release (Nov. 7, 2012):
- Marriage protection efforts in state referenda not successful
- “Marriage needs to be strengthened…not redefined,” Archbishop Cordileone says
- All people called “to build a renewed culture of marriage and the family”
WASHINGTON—In response to the November 6 statewide referenda results in Washington State, Minnesota, Maryland, and Maine regarding marriage, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, called for renewed efforts to strengthen and protect marriage and family life and expressed gratitude to marriage protection supporters.
“Yesterday, November 6, was a disappointing day for marriage, as the effort to preserve the unique meaning of marriage in the law lost by only a narrow margin in four states, even though vastly outspent by those who promote the redefinition of marriage,” Archbishop Cordileone said.
“The meaning of marriage, though, cannot be redefined because it lies within our very nature. No matter what policy, law or judicial decision is put into place, marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any children born of their union. It is either this, or it is nothing at all. In view of the fact that every child has a mother and a father, our society either respects the basic right of every child to be raised by his or her mother and father together and so supports the true and unique meaning of marriage for the good of children, or it does not. In a society marked by increasing poverty and family fragmentation, marriage needs to be strengthened, promoted, and defended, not redefined. I hope and pray that political leaders, judges, and all people will seek to honor this foundational and common sense truth of marriage,” the archbishop said.
Earlier this year, the Washington State and Maryland legislatures voted in favor of bills to redefine marriage and the governors of these states signed the respective bills into law; however, before these laws could take effect, enough voters in each state signed a petition to put these laws before the voters in yesterday’s referenda. In Minnesota, the state legislature in 2011 voted to adopt a marriage protection amendment to the state constitution, which went before the voters yesterday.
In Maine, earlier this year, supporters of marriage redefinition submitted a petition with enough signatures to have a referendum on marriage redefinition in an attempt to counter the 2009 vote of the people that protected the meaning of marriage. In Maryland and Maine, voters yesterday voted in favor of redefining marriage (votes are still being confirmed in Washington State, though it is projected that voters did the same there as well). In Minnesota, voters rejected the proposed state constitutional amendment, though Minnesota still protects marriage as the union of one man and one woman through state statute.
“I extend heartfelt gratitude to all those who dedicated and sacrificed time, energy and resources to protect marriage,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “I especially call on all people to pray and to build a renewed culture of marriage and the family. This is a fundamental task on which the future good and stability of our society, and particularly that of our children, rest.”
A great blog post from Cardinal Donald Wuerl (Washington, DC) on marriage and why it matters for society:
The Gift of Married Love
Marriage is a private relationship with a public significance. In the human love that brings a woman and man to marriage, we already hear God speaking to us of the beauty and fidelity of love, its transforming power, and its creative energy. In the sacrament of matrimony, God speaks to us of a fullness of human love. Our limited experience of love is only a sign and beginning of love that changes us into children of God, who share his own wondrous and unending life in love.
Christ’s love for the Church is the pattern for married life. “Love one another as I love you!” (John 15:12). Perhaps, this sounds a bit impossible. To a young couple preparing for marriage, the reality of Christ’s love being the pattern of their own love gets lost in the dream-like quality of what is thought to be a perfect love. Real teachers of this truth of married love are the couples with whom we celebrate our annual Jubilarian Mass, some of whom have been married for more than sixty years. These couples speak simply and beautifully of learning to love in a self-giving, self-sacrificing kind of way, of nurturing a love that can weather the stresses and strains of married love and family life. I invite you to listen to some of their wisdom.
In a society that is intent on changing the very definition of marriage and family, we must never tire of preaching the good news that “the intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws. God himself is the author of marriage” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1603).
This Christian understanding of marriage has a very public benefit. Christian marriage is for the good of society, not just the married couple and the Church. In a society where family life is collapsing and our social order is unraveling, the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the obligation of parents to their children is a timely remedy. First, it ensures that every child will have the benefit of having a mother and a father. Second, it creates a stable environment for children in a world in which we see many children generated by parents who take no responsibility for them. We observe the proliferation of gangs and individuals who feel alienated and often react violently by hurting others. Family life is under assault because marriage is devalued within our culture. As members of the Church, we are obliged to be all the more attentive to the challenges that weaken marriage as a social institution and an expression of God’s plan for the well-being of the human race. Residents of Maryland have the opportunity to address this issue at the ballot box this week. Insuring that the definition of marriage does not change is a gift to our children and to society.
Living marriage as a vocation with a life-long mission requires commitment, faithfulness, and sacrifice on the part of each of the spouses. This is a gift that flows from the gift they make of themselves to each other, which has to be definitive if it is to endure in the face of difficulties. At every stage marriages need to be nurtured through prayer and reflection and formation. I hope you will take advantage of the spiritual and educational resources for strengthening your marriage which may be found on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Website, “For Your Marriage.”
From Seek First the Kingdom, Cardinal Wuerl’s blog
Tomorrow is Election Day. Tomorrow voters in four states will face referendums on marriage: Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington State. The bishops in those states have been energetically preaching and teaching about the authentic meaning of marriage, as we showed in a recap post two weeks ago. Today, on the eve of the election, we share with you timely prayers, reflections on the importance of protecting marriage for the sake of the common good, and words of wisdom to consider when voting tomorrow.
- Prayer Before An Election (USCCB website)
- Prayer for the Promotion and Protection of Marriage (MUR website)
- Catholics Care. Catholics Vote: Strengthening and Defending Marriage is a Matter of Justice (USCCB website)
- Columns, letters, videos, and more from Bishops in states with a marriage referendum tomorrow (MUR website)
Words of wisdom about marriage and the common good:
“Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage. Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.” – Pope Benedict XVI, address to U.S. bishops
“Some may suggest that our society’s traditional understanding of marriage has already unraveled and that redefining marriage won’t harm it further. But this radical redefinition of marriage will irreparably undermine the irreplaceable role that both a mother and father play in the life of a child and relegate their relationship to an arbitrary status among many other family arrangements.” – Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, Baltimore (emeritus): article, “A radical redefinition of marriage”
“To promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman is itself a matter of justice.” “Everyone has a stake in a stable, flourishing, and loving society created and sustained in no small part by marriage between a man and a woman.” – Bishop Richard Malone, Buffalo (formerly Portland, Maine): Pastoral letter, “Marriage: Yesterday-Today-Always”
“The obvious and intimate connection between the conjugal act and conception, along with the universally recognized importance of stable marriages for the education and formation of children, removes marriage from the private sphere and places it into the public realm, an institution very much part of the common good and therefore a concern of the state.” – Minnesota Bishops, “A Brief Catechesis on Marriage”
“Let us not allow ourselves or others to be fooled by false reasoning. Protecting the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman does not make marriage ‘discriminatory.’ It recognizes marriage between one man and one woman to be unique – unique among all other kinds of human relationships.” – Bishop Joseph Tyson, Yakima: “A Pastoral Letter on Marriage and Referendum 74“
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote is another oldie-but-goodie. It comes from Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, well known as the first modern “social encyclical.” Perhaps lesser known is the fact that Pope Leo spoke in this encyclical of marriage as a “right” not able to be tampered with by the State, and as playing a key role vis a vis the State. His latter point is picked up at length in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, which spills much ink discussing “the family, the first natural society” (see nos. 209ff, esp. 216).
Pope Leo XIII: “In choosing a state of life, it is indisputable that all are at full liberty to follow the counsel of Jesus Christ as to observing virginity, or to bind themselves by the marriage tie. No human law can abolish the natural and original right of marriage, nor in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage ordained by God’s authority from the beginning: ‘Increase and multiply.’ [Gen 1:28] Hence we have the family, the ‘society’ of a man’s house – a society very small, one must admit, but none the less a true society, and one older than any State. Consequently, it has rights and duties peculiar to itself which are quite independent of the State.”
– Rerum Novarum, no. 12 (emphasis added)