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?”