Starting next Thursday, February 7, is National Marriage Week, an annual event with the goal of strengthening individual marriages, reducing the divorce rate, and building a stronger culture of marriage.
Last year during National Marriage Week, Marriage: Unique for a Reason published a series of posts on different marriage-related topics, including a post by Archbishop Cordileone. We’ll do more of the same this year. Also, the USCCB website For Your Marriage will be running a give-away on their Facebook page next week.
USCCB News Release (Jan. 29, 2013)
- Marriage is the union of one man and one woman
- Unique value in children raised by mother and father together
- Redefining marriage would impose burdens on religious liberty and other rights
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on January 29 filed amicus briefs in the United States Supreme Court in support of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, both of which confirm the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
DOMA was passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1996 and defines marriage for federal and inter-state recognition purposes. Proposition 8 is a state constitutional amendment approved by the citizens of California in 2008. Both laws are challenged because they define marriage exclusively as the union of one man and one woman.
Urging the Court to uphold DOMA http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/united-states-v-windsor.pdf the USCCB brief in United States v. Windsor says that “there is no fundamental right to marry a person of the same sex.” The brief also states that “as defined by courts ‘sexual orientation’ is not a classification that should trigger heightened scrutiny,” such as race or ethnicity would.
It added that “civil recognition of same-sex relationships is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition—quite the opposite is true. Nor can the treatment of such relationships as marriages be said to be implicit in the concept of ordered liberty, such that neither liberty nor justice would exist if they were sacrificed.”
USCCB argued that previous Supreme Court decisions “describing marriage as a fundamental right plainly contemplate the union of one man and one woman.”
The USCCB also cautioned that a decision invalidating DOMA “would have adverse consequences in other areas of law.”
In a separate brief filed in Hollingsworth v Perry urging the Court to uphold Proposition 8 http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/hollingsworth-v-perry.pdf, the USCCB states that there are many reasons why the state may reasonably support and encourage marriage, understood as the union of one man and one woman, as distinguished from other relationships. Government support for marriage, so understood, is “recognizing the unique capacity of opposite-sex couples to procreate” and “the unique value to children of being raised by their mother and father together.”
The USCCB brief states that “[T]he People of California could reasonably conclude that a home with a mother and a father is the optimal environment for raising children, an ideal that Proposition 8 encourages and promotes. Given both the unique capacity for reproduction and unique value of homes with a mother and father, it is reasonable for a State to treat the union of one man and one woman as having a public value that is absent from other intimate interpersonal relationships.”
The USCCB brief adds that “While this Court has held that laws forbidding private, consensual, homosexual conduct between adults lack a rational basis, it does not follow that the government has a constitutional duty to encourage or endorse such conduct. Thus, governments may legitimately decide to further the interests of opposite-sex unions only. Similarly, minimum standards of rationality under the Constitution do not require adopting the lower court’s incoherent definition of ‘marriage’ as merely a ‘committed lifelong relationship,’ which is wildly over-inclusive, empties the term of its meaning, and leads to absurd results.”
“Marriage, understood as the union of one man and one woman, is not an historical relic, but a vital and foundational institution of civil society today,” the USCCB brief states. “The government interests in continuing to encourage and support it are not merely legitimate, but compelling. No other institution joins together persons with the natural ability to have children, to assure that those children are properly cared for. No other institution ensures that children will at least have the opportunity of being raised by their mother and father together. Societal ills that flow from the dissolution of marriage and family would not be addressed—indeed, they would only be aggravated—were the government to fail to reinforce the union of one man and one woman with the unique encouragement and support it deserves.”
The USCCB brief also notes that “Proposition 8 is not rendered invalid because some of its supporters were informed by religious or moral considerations. Many, if not most, of the significant social and political movements in our Nation’s history were based on precisely such considerations. Moreover, the argument to redefine marriage to include the union of persons of the same sex is similarly based on a combination of religious and moral considerations (albeit ones that are, in our view, flawed). As is well established in this Court’s precedent, the coincidence of law and morality, or law and religious teaching, does not detract from the rationality of a law.”
USCCB notes that a judicial decision invalidating Proposition 8’s definition of marriage would have adverse consequences in other areas of law.
“[R]edefining marriage—particularly as a matter of constitutional law, rather than legislative process—not only threatens principles of federalism and separation of powers, but would have a widespread adverse impact on other constitutional rights, such as the freedoms of religion, conscience, speech, and association. Affirmance of the judgment below would create an engine of conflict in this area, embroiling this Court and lower courts in a series of otherwise avoidable disputes—pitting constitutional right squarely against constitutional right—for years to come.”
Today is the March for Life in Washington, DC. Today thousands upon thousands of young people, old people, men, women, and children will take to the streets of our nation’s capitol in support of protecting human life at every stage from conception to natural death.
In honor of the continuing efforts to foster a culture of life and civilization of love, over the next few days we’ll showcase five quotes that highlight the role of marriage and the family in protecting and nurturing human life. Both Bl. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have spoken eloquently of the connection between marriage and life, and it is a theme woven through Catholic social teaching.
These quotes certainly aren’t all the Church has to say on the subject! But they were selected because they make crystal clear the important vocation that married couples and families have in advancing a culture of life. Supporting marriage between one man and one woman is a pro-life thing to do!
Quote #1: Bl. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, no. 92
“As the domestic church, the family is summoned to proclaim, celebrate, and serve the Gospel of life. This is a responsibility which first concerns married couples, called to be givers of life, on the basis of an ever greater awareness of the meaning of procreation as a unique event which clearly reveals that human life is a gift received in order then to be given as a gift. In giving origin to new life, parents recognize that the child, ‘as the fruit of their mutual gift of love, is, in turn, a gift for both of them, a gift which flows from them.’”
Quote #2: Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 231
“The family founded on marriage is truly the sanctuary of life, ‘the place in which life – the gift of God – can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth.’ Its role in promoting and building the culture of life against ‘the possibility of a destructive “anti-civilization,” as so many present trends and situations confirm,’ is decisive and irreplaceable.”
Quote #3: Pope Benedict XVI, Address (Feb. 9, 2008)
“God entrusts to women and men, according to their respective capacities, a specific vocation and mission in the Church and in the world. Here I am thinking of the family, a community of love open to life, the fundamental cell of society. In it the woman and the man, thanks to the gift of maternity and paternity, together carry out an irreplaceable role in regard to life. Children from their conception have the right to be able to count on their father and mother to take care of them and to accompany their growth.”
Quote #4: Bl. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, no. 37
“The family is the first and fundamental school of social living: As a community of love, it finds in self-giving the law that guides it and makes it grow. The self-giving that inspires the love of husband and wife for each other is the model and norm for the self-giving that must be practiced in the relationships between brothers and sisters and the different generations living together in the family. And the communion and sharing that are part of everyday life in the home at times of joy and at times of difficulty are the most concrete and effective pedagogy for the active, responsible and fruitful inclusion of the children in the wider horizon of society.”
Quote #5: Pope Benedict XVI, Address (Sept. 22, 2012)
“The commitment to respecting life in all its phases from conception to natural death…is, in fact, interwoven with respecting marriage as an indissoluble union between a man and a woman and, in its turn, as the foundation for the community of family life.”
During his inauguration speech on Monday, January 21st, President Obama indicated that passage of marriage redefinition laws would be a key goal of his second term:
Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
In response, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, gave the following comments to the National Catholic Register:
I honor the President’s concern for the equal dignity of every human being, including those that experience same-sex attraction, who like everyone else, must be protected against any and all violence and hatred.
But the marriage debate is not about equality under the law, but rather the very meaning of marriage. Marriage is the only institution that unites children with their mothers and fathers.
Protecting this understanding of marriage is not discrimination nor is it some kind of pronouncement on how adults live out their intimate relationships; it is standing for the common good.
In the Register article, Archbishop Cordileone added that an urgent matter of justice was “the equal right of all children to grow up knowing and being loved by their mother and father. I pray for the president and for all our nation’s leaders that they will grow to understand and support this enduring truth.”
The Register article also laid out the potential consequences to religious liberty of redefining marriage. As Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, pointed out in an earlier interview with the Register, “The real threat [from redefining marriage law] lies in the area of licensing of Catholic Charities’ adoption agencies and accreditation of schools and universities that maintain their support of traditional marriage.”
Archbishop Lori continues, saying that if the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned, it was “not unthinkable” that defending marriage as the union of one man and one woman “will be regarded as bigotry and hate speech and that all kinds of strictures will be placed on our schools.”
Bishops Call for Increased Prayer, Sacrifice
Two marriage-related cases are currently before the Supreme Court, one involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the other California’s Proposition 8. A ruling is expected by late June 2013. In response to this important judicial decision, as well as other threats to life and liberty such as the HHS Mandate, the bishops have called for a coordinated strategy of prayer and sacrifice involving holy hours, praying the rosary, fasting and abstinence from meat on Fridays, focused Prayers of the Faithful at all Masses, and a second Fortnight for Freedom in summer 2013. More information about the bishops’ Call to Prayer can be found on the Call to Prayer website. Or join the Call to Prayer on Facebook.
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote is a short little quote from Bl. Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio.
Bl. John Paul II: “All members of the family, each according to his or her own gift, have the grace and responsibility of building day by day the communion of persons, making the family ‘a school of deeper humanity’ [GS 52]: This happens where there is care and love for the little ones, the sick, the aged; where there is mutual service every day; when there is a sharing of goods, of joys and of sorrows.”
– Familiaris Consortio, no. 21
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse to Rhode Island Legislature: Remarks on redefining marriage and redefining parenthood
As we have mentioned, Rhode Island is one of several states currently facing proposals to redefine marriage to include two persons of the same sex. Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has spoken forcefully on the subject, urging the Rhode Island Legislature not to redefine marriage.
On Tuesday, the Rhode Island Legislature heard prepared remarks from Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., founder and president of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization of Marriage that aims to promote lifelong marriage to young people. In her statement, Dr. Morse reminded the legislators that she had spoken to them about two years ago, during Rhode Island’s 2011 debate over marriage redefinition, and that many things she predicted in those remarks have since come to pass in places where marriage has been redefined: children with three legal parents, custody disputes with three or more adults, attacks on religious liberty, and removal of gendered language from the law.
In her most recent remarks, Dr. Morse offers another series of predictions about what will happen in law and culture if marriage is redefined. These include:
- continuing the removal of sex differences from the law (example: according to Dr. Morse, the bill being considered in Rhode Island replaces “husbands” and “wives” with the gender-neutral term “parties,” as is anticipated to happen in Washington State; birth certificates in Spain name “Progenitor A” and “Progenitor B,” not “father” and “mother”, a move that the UK is currently debating)
- more aggressive attacks on the natural bond between father, mother, and child (example: blurring the distinction between parent and non-parent, such as if a woman “married” to the mother of a child is considered the child’s second parent, possibly to the exclusion of the child’s father)
Dr. Morse acknowledges that the supporters of marriage redefinition may or may not intend the foregoing. “But I predict,” she continues, “they will be the outcome, the logical result of your marriage policy.” In other words, despite any intentions to the contrary, redefining marriage in law will, as one consequence, entail redefining parenthood. (Dr. Morse details several other consequences.) And how could it not? Saying that men and women are exchangeable as spouses is tantamount to saying that men and women are exchangeable as parents, that fathers and mothers don’t matter to children. (It is commonplace to hear that the number “two” is what matters in parenting, not the gender of the parents, although this prevailing orthodoxy is being challenged by recent studies.) Redefining marriage, and redefining parenthood, are serious matters indeed, and Dr. Morse strongly encouraged the Rhode Island legislators to consider the wide-ranging effects of their decisions.
Dr. Morse’s prescient remarks are worth reading in their entirety. Read them here.
In addition to Illinois and several other states, Rhode Island too is facing a marriage redefinition challenge. There, a bill that would redefine marriage to include two persons of the same sex was introduced on January 3rd in both the House and the Senate. It is expected that the full House could vote on the bill by the end of January.
In response, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence has written a column entitled “The General Assembly Should Reject ‘Same-Sex Marriage’.” In it, he provides a number of reasons why the proposal to redefine marriage in Rhode Island is “immoral and unnecessary.”
Among his reasons, Bishop Tobin writes, “Marriage between a man and a woman was designed by God for two specific reasons: to affirm the complementary roles of males and females in a loving relationship, and to provide a stable foundation for the procreation and raising of children.” Redefining marriage to include two men or two women means that marriage can no longer do either of those goals.
In addition, writes the bishop, redefining marriage “enshrines into civil law immoral activity.” It is also “an untested social experiment with unpredictable long-term outcomes” and it “would pose yet another threat to religious freedom.” Bishop Tobin points out that religious exemptions notwithstanding, in locales where marriage is redefined, religious entities “will be obliged to extend their resources, facilities and benefits to individuals who are living in immoral relationships – contrary to sincerely held religious beliefs.” He continues, “This is not a hypothetical situation; it’s already happening throughout our nation.”
Bishop Tobin argues that if the question of marriage must be raised again in Rhode Island (civil union legislation was passed in the summer of 2011, a move denounced by Archbishop Cordileone), then a referendum should be brought to the general public. He also challenges the ideas that redefining marriage constitutes a civil right and that marriage redefinition is inevitable:
It has been said that ‘the world is changing’ and that we need to get with the times. Well, it’s certainly true that the world is changing, but the truth is that not all change is good. It’s never good to accept and promote immoral activity; it’s never good to experiment dangerously with the long-term well-being of the community; it’s never good to impose a politically-correct, socially-fashionable agenda item on the entire community, especially if it challenges the conscience and religious liberty of many, many citizens.
He ends by urging Rhode Island citizens to contact their legislators and urge them not to redefine marriage.
More from Bishop Tobin:
- Five Reasons Not To Redefine Marriage (March 14, 2012)
- Because We Love, We Preach The Truth (Sept. 30, 2010)
- Why You Should Worry About ‘Gay Marriage’ (Nov 1, 2007)
- Why ‘Gay Marriage’ Is Wrong (April 20, 2006)
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from another recent address by Pope Benedict XVI, this time his homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Jan. 6, 2013). While he does not mention marriage directly, the Holy Father offers guidance and exhortation to bishops (and all of us) to courageously preach the truth, even when it runs against the prevailing cultural headwinds (as the Church’s teaching on marriage most certainly does).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The humility of faith, of sharing the faith of the Church of every age, will constantly be in conflict with the prevailing wisdom of those who cling to what seems certain. Anyone who lives and proclaims the faith of the Church is on many points out of step with the prevalent way of thinking, even in our own day. . . . Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a Bishop today. He must be courageous. And this courage or forcefulness does not consist in striking out or in acting aggressively, but rather in allowing oneself to be struck and to be steadfast before the principles of the prevalent way of thinking. The courage to stand firm in the truth is unavoidably demanded of those whom the Lord sends like sheep among wolves. ‘Those who fear the Lord will not be timid’, says the Book of Sirach (34:16). The fear of God frees us from the fear of men. It liberates.”
– Homily on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Jan. 6, 2013), emphasis added
Rounding out the posts about Illinois this week, today we highlight a letter sent from a number of religious leaders in Illinois to Illinois lawmakers, asking them to preserve the authentic meaning of marriage between one man and one woman.
The letter, dated January 2, is signed by representatives of the Anglican Church in North America, the Catholic Conference of Illinois, The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, and a number of evangelical and independent Illinois churches. According to the press release that accompanied the letter’s release, the signers represent more than 1,700 faith communities in Illinois.
The signers of the letter affirm their shared belief in marriage as the “lifelong, faithful union of one man and one woman, the natural basis of the family.” They enumerate the benefits of marriage for men, women, and children, and call attention to marriage’s fundamental role in fostering the well-being of society.
“The ongoing attempts to alter the definition of marriage in civil law are full of serious danger,” says the letter, “primarily by degrading the cultural understanding of marriage to an emotional bond between any two adults and by giving rise to a profound interference with the exercise of religious freedom for those persons and religious institutions whose faith and doctrine recognize the spiritual foundation of marriage as an authorized union between a man and a woman.”
Regarding threats to religious liberty, the writers agree that exemptions that allow clergy to not officiate at same-sex “weddings” do not solve the problem. The “real peril,” they say, is that marriage redefinition will compel individuals and religious organizations, “regardless of deeply held beliefs,” to “treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries and operations.” This “compulsion,” they assert, “is a violation of personal conscience and of religious liberty.”
In conclusion, the religious leaders “implore all people of good will to protect marriage and religious freedom…Marriage and religious freedom are ideals integral to Illinois, and our elected officials should do all they can to maintain these important principles.”
- Letter from Religious Leaders to Illinois Lawmakers re: Marriage (Jan. 2, 2013)
- Press release: “Illinois faith leaders write lawmakers to urge preservation of marriage” (Jan. 2, 2013)
- Marriage Toolkit from the Catholic Conference of Illinois
- Interview with Carlos Tejeda, director of marriage and family life in Springfield, about the Marriage Toolkit
- Cardinal George of Chicago: “Legislation creating ‘same-sex’ marriage: What’s at stake?”
- Letters to their parishes from Cardinal George and Bishop Paprocki (Springfield): Don’t redefine marriage in Illinois
As was said yesterday, Illinois is one of the current battlegrounds for marriage laws. We’ve already shared some great teaching from Cardinal George of Chicago (a letter to parishioners and an article in the Chicago Catholic paper) and Bishop Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois (a letter to parishioners). Today we’ll look at another effort afoot in Illinois to catechize the faithful on the authentic meaning of marriage.
Marriage Toolkit from the Catholic Conference of Illinois [CCI]
Today we have an exclusive interview with a member of the defense of marriage team in Illinois who helped to develop a Marriage Toolkit, about which we’ve previously posted. Carlos Tejeda, the director of the marriage and family life office in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, spoke with Marriage: Unique for a Reason about the new Toolkit and what CCI hopes to accomplish with it.
Carlos said that the Toolkit was developed by a team of people from across the state, all of whom are members of the CCI’s defense of marriage department. (Other departments include Catholics for life, education, and social services.) Less than two years old, the defense of marriage department’s first major project was the Marriage Toolkit, which has been in the works since the department’s inception.
The Toolkit’s Aim, and Promotion Strategy
The inspiration for the Toolkit was the realization that helping people understand the truth of marriage is, as Carlos described it, “a difficult task.” Taking the successful USCCB Respect Life program as a model, the Marriage Toolkit aims to make that “difficult task” of catechizing about marriage more manageable for priests and laity alike.
According to Carlos, what the CCI hopes to accomplish with the Marriage Toolkit is to get a concrete, usable resource into the hands of parishioners, parish staff, pastors, and even non-Catholics – anyone who desires a resource that can help them articulate the truth of marriage in a difficult cultural setting.
There are a variety of avenues that will be used to promote the Marriage Toolkit. The main channel will be at the parish level, through parish staff and pastors. Carlos said that a long-term goal of the defense of marriage department is to have a designated representative at each parish or parish cluster who can relay information from the CCI to the parish. The Illinois Catholic Advocacy Network, or ICAN, provides another way of promoting the Toolkit. Through ICAN, which is run by the CCI, Illinois residents can receive updates on a variety of issues via text message or email. Monthly mailings to priests and parishes, and a priest gathering in the Spring, provide additional opportunities for sharing the Toolkit. And Carlos said that he is making himself available for presentations to parish staff and other groups to get the word out in a more personal manner.
Specific sections: Q&A and Courage
Speaking of the Toolkit’s content, Carlos said that the Q&A section is particularly important. He said that when people read through the questions and answers silently, away from conversation and the adrenaline such a heated topic brings, they can begin to build their confidence about this topic that will aid them when that “teachable moment” arrives. Quoting another member of the defense of marriage department, Carlos said that the long-term goal is for every Catholic to “understand, articulate, and embrace” the Church’s teaching on marriage. All three are important, but often a person might be comfortable with only one or two. The questions and answers included in the Toolkit help foster all three: understanding, articulating, and embracing what the Church tells us about marriage.
Carlos also highlighted the section of the Toolkit that identifies Courage as a ministry for persons with same-sex attraction who want to live a life of chastity. He noted that the Church is our Mother, and if a mother has a child with a difficulty, she doesn’t just let him be burdened, but instead she helps him. People with same-sex attraction are children of the Church. They need clarity on the Church’s teaching, yes, but they also need to be equipped to live out chastity, a call applicable to everyone. In other words, both clarity and pastoral action – truth and charity – are essential.
Finally, Carlos noted that the main task now for the defense of marriage department is to share and implement the Marriage Toolkit. Depending on what the Illinois legislature does with the pending marriage redefinition bill, the context of the Toolkit could change. For example, religious liberty implications of marriage redefinition could be brought more to the forefront. But regardless of political outcomes, the goal of the Marriage Toolkit remains the same: equipping Catholics and all people of good will to understand, articulate, and embrace the timeless teachings of the Church on marriage and sexual difference.
- Read the Catholic Conference of Illinois’ Marriage Toolkit [PDF]
- Sign up for the Illinois Catholic Advocacy Network
- Read the letters on marriage by Cardinal George and Bishop Paprocki, read at all masses January 5/6 in Chicago and Springfield in Illinois, respectively
- Read Cardinal George’s article: “Legislation creating ‘same-sex’ marriage: What’s at stake?”
More from Illinois, which likely could face a marriage redefinition bill early in the new legislative session. Last week, we featured two letters from prelates in the Land of Lincoln: Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois. Both wrote cogently to their congregants, urging them to resist the redefinition of marriage threatened by their state legislators.
As a complement to his letter, Cardinal George also has an article in the Chicago Catholic newspaper, Catholic New World. Entitled “Legislation creating ‘same-sex’ marriage: What’s at stake?”, the Cardinal’s piece does just that – examine what logically and inevitably follows from redefining marriage to include two persons of the same sex.
If marriage is redefined, argues the Cardinal, three things are at stake:
1. The biological, natural relationship between a child and his/her mother and father: “If the nature of marriage is destroyed in civil law, the natural family goes with it.” In its stead will spring “alternative” family arrangements that cannot provide for a child the fundamental birthright of a father and mother.
2. The ability to believe in man-woman marriage without being labeled a bigot. Cardinal George minces no words here. If marriage is redefined in the law and fully accepted in culture, “Those who know the difference between marriage and same-sex arrangements will be regarded as bigots.” In other words, those who continue to believe and proclaim the true meaning of marriage will be treated with “social opprobrium” and become pariahs, “the equivalent of misguided racists.”
3. Our understanding of the human person: Quoting the Holy Father’s recent address to the Roman Curia, Cardinal George describes the end-game (and engine) of marriage redefinition as denying the created nature of the human person as male and female. Instead, man becomes an “abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be.” Acceptance of one’s sexual identity is rejected in favor of self-creation and manipulation.
The Cardinal raises many more valuable points. Read his entire article here.
On December 21, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the Roman Curia on the occasion of their annual Christmas greetings. His address was something of a year-in-review, looking at key moments from 2012. One such key moment was the World Meeting of Families in Milian from May 30 to June 3, which the Pope said showed that “despite all impressions to the contrary, the family is still strong and vibrant today.” And yet serious challenges remain, challenges that threaten the family “to its very foundations.” Today’s Sunday Pope Quote is actually a collection of quotes drawn from the Holy Father’s Dec. 21 reflections on the family and the human person. Here he goes to the heart of the cultural crisis of marriage and the family: ultimately it is a question of who the human person is and whether the given reality of being created male and female is to be accepted…or rejected.
“The question of the family is not just about a particular social construct, but about man himself – about what he is and what it takes to be authentically human.”
“Only in self-giving does man find himself, and only by opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family, only by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity.”
“The attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question.”
“According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed.”
“Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned.”
“The child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. … From being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain.”
“When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defense of the family is about man himself.”
Illinois is one of several states where legislators voiced plans after the November election to seek marriage redefinition in 2013. (Delaware, Rhode Island, and Minnesota are also on the list.) Illinois had passed civil unions legislation in 2010, a law strongly opposed by the Illinois bishops. While as of this morning it appears that a marriage redefinition bill will not be brought to a vote in the current legislative session, it remains a threat. The Catholic leadership in Illinois has responded quickly and vocally to this new challenge. We have already featured here the new Defense of Marriage Toolkit offered by the Catholic Conference of Illinois. And now this weekend, January 5/6, Cardinal Francis George and Bishop Thomas John Paprocki have asked for letters about marriage to be read at all of the parishes in Chicago and Springfield, respectively.
The message their parishioners will hear is crystal clear: marriage’s reality, rooted in nature, is the union of one man and one woman. It is a reality that no law can change. If the law does change to remove the gender requirement from marriage, Catholics and all those who hold to the authentic meaning of marriage can expect to face legal difficulties and social stigma.
Cardinal George: “‘Same-sex Marriage:’ What do Nature and Nature’s God Say?”
In his letter, co-signed by all the Chicago auxiliary bishops, Cardinal George emphasizes that marriage is not created by the State or by the Church, but that “marriage comes to us from nature. The human species comes in two complementary sexes, male and female. Their sexual union is called marital.” The State cannot change this natural reality of marriage; to try would create a “legal fiction.”
The Cardinal also highlights the various pastoral outreaches to persons with same-sex attraction in Chicago, noting that “the Church offers the means to live chastely in all circumstances, as the love of God both obliges and makes possible.”
Cardinal George says strongly that if the Illinois legislature passes a marriage redefinition law, “it will be acting against the common good of society. We will all have to pretend to accept something that is contrary to the common sense of the human race.” He urges parishioners to visit the website of the Illinois Catholic Conference to stay updated on the latest in the marriage debate and find out how to contact their elected officials.
Bishop Paprocki: Proposed Law Threatens Marriage and Religious Liberty
In his letter, Bishop Paprocki calls attention to the “fraudulent” title of the marriage redefinition bill: “The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.” In fact, writes the bishop, “the proposed law is…a grave assault upon both religious liberty and marriage.” He too emphasizes the natural reality of marriage as the union of a man and a woman: lacking sexual difference, two men or two women “cannot extend a union of hearts by a true bodily union. They cannot turn a friendship into the one-flesh union of marriage. They are not marital.”
The bishop stresses that redefining marriage in the law would do just that – redefine marriage. It is not simply “expand[ing] the eligibility roster for marriage,” as many claim. More specifically, there are three harmful ideas that would be enshrined in law post-marriage redefinition:
- What essentially makes a marriage is romantic-emotional union
- Children don’t need both a mother and father.
- The main purpose of marriage is adult satisfaction.
These three ideas contradict the long-standing consensus that marriage is recognized in civil law precisely because the love between a man and a woman has the capacity to bring a child into the world. As the bishop says, the “love-making acts” of a man and a woman “are life-giving acts.” Marriage involves commitment and intimacy, yes, but commitment and intimacy of a life-giving nature. Preserving marriage in civil law does justice to children by recognizing their need to be reared by a father and mother together.
Bishop Paprocki concludes by stating forcefully that the proposed bill is “a lethal attack upon religious liberty.” For those who are still skeptical, he points to the fact that Illinois has already seen consequences of laws erosive to marriage. As the bishop notes, after civil unions were passed in 2011, Catholic Charities was forced out of foster care and adoption services in Illinois. He adds that broader religious exemptions are not the answer. “There is no way,” he writes, “none whatsoever – for those who believe that marriage is exclusively the union of husband and wife to avoid legal penalties and harsh discriminatory treatment if the bill becomes law. … The only way to protect religious liberty, and to preserve marriage, is to defeat this perilous proposal.”
- Illinois residents can find their elected officials’ contact information at the Illinois Catholic Conference website.
- Defense of Marriage Toolkit from the Illinois Catholic Conference
- Redefinition of Marriage website from the Illinois Catholic Conference
**Whoops! This post was meant to be shared on December 30th, the feast of the Holy Family. Sorry about that. Nonetheless, it’s a lovely reflection for any day.
Today is the feast of the Holy Family. It’s also the first day that Catholics are invited to participate in a special Holy Hour for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty as part of the bishops’ Call to Prayer movement. Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from Bl. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio and is a reflection about the connection between the Holy Family and every family.
Bl. John Paul II: And now, at the end of my pastoral message, which is intended to draw everyone’s attention to the demanding yet fascinating roles of the Christian family, I wish to invoke the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Through God’s mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families. It was unique in the world. Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine. It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile. It glorified God in an incomparably exalted and pure way. And it will not fail to help Christian families – indeed, all the families in the world – to be faithful to their day-to-day duties, to bear the cares and tribulations of life, to be open and generous to the needs of others, and to fulfill with joy the plan of God in their regard.
– Familiaris Consortio, no. 86 (bold added)