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