Growing up with three brothers, I remember a lot of forced apologies being exchanged back and forth between us. My parents would make us say the words before we were actually ready to apologize for (or forgive) whatever nastiness was inflicted that day. But however hurt or angry we were at the moment, there was never a question in our minds about whether we loved one another. We belonged to each other and wouldn’t have had it any other way. Being family and loving one another went hand-in-hand.
Love sees beyond what is broken, rude, selfish, or mean in the other person’s action and reaches out a hand to heal the relationship. By making my brothers and me practice forgiveness in the everyday offenses of life, my parents were leading us to understand mercy: it makes things right between us.
Throughout the Old Testament we see a cycle of betrayal and mercy played out between Israel and the Lord. Over and over, Israel abandons God for their own desires, but the Lord continually draws her back to himself because he chose her and he is faithful to the covenant he made. In the book of Hosea in particular, the relationship of a married couple is used to reveal the steadfastness of God’s love for Israel. No matter what she does, He remains faithful.
A sacramental marriage helps those who witness it to understand God’s fidelity to his people. Indissolubility is a gift of mercy, because it makes the relationship of the couple true to what love is: a complete gift of oneself that can’t be taken back. A person in love does not promise their beloved the next three years; they promise forever! “The gift of indissolubility means that despite the vicissitudes and suffering that come with human failure and sin, the sacramental marriage bond remains an abiding source of mercy, forgiveness, and healing.” To deny the indissolubility of marriage would be an affront against the sacrament of marriage because it would deny the reality of grace and its power to heal and perfect a person.
I came across a beautiful reflection about marriage recently on a blog site. A woman was reflecting on her experience of learning to have mercy on her husband who was struggling with clinical depression. She said, “Through mercy, God taught me to love my husband as we all deserve to be loved—with a love devoid of self, thinking only of the good of the other person.” While her husband was sick, she, “picked up his cross for him, as Jesus does for us, and bore his malaise and withdrawal in loving silence.” By showing mercy rather than demanding justice, the couple was able to maintain peace and goodwill during his illness. Mercy itself is not a cure for depression, but it helped this couple to preserve their relationship in a difficult time. The wife realized that she needed to be kind and selfless, and not seek justice but rather have mercy, and finally when she did that she found, “I no longer cared about justice.”
It can be said of the practice of reconciliation that it “washes away small offenses, but it also protects from great offenses. Pardon confers a habitus of communion.” Mercy towards siblings, in my case, and a husband in the case of the blog contributor is an expression of a disposition toward communion. It is a desire to be united to the other person, even after they have hurt you. A married couple that frequently seeks and offers mercy reinforces their “togetherness” or communion so that when serious trials arise they have already practiced drawing towards one another. The indissoluble bond of marriage not only calls a couple to be merciful toward each other, but indissolubility also reveals God’s own mercy, because when he binds two people together in the sacrament, he gives them the graces they need to live it out.
 There is a new concept about marriage out there these days called a “wed-lease,” which turns marriage into something more like a business contract: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-high-divorce-rate-means-its-time-to-try-wedleases/2013/08/04/f2221c1c-f89e-11e2-b018-5b8251f0c56e_story.html. This is not true to what love is.
 “Ode to Feminine Genius: A Merciful Woman.” Catholic Sistas. Aug. 28, 2014. http://www.catholicsistas.com/2014/08/ode-feminine-genius-merciful-woman/
 Laffitte, J.(2015). The Choice of the Family. New York: Image, p. 143.
Written by the Spring Intern in the Promotion and Defense of Marriage Secretariat.
The bishops of Northern Ireland wrote an open letter to members of the legislative assembly regarding the proposal of same-sex “marriage”
Dear Member of the Legislative Assembly,
Today, Monday 2 November, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly will debate a motion calling on the Northern Ireland Executive ‘to table legislation to allow for same-sex marriage’.
As pastors and teachers we have a responsibility to offer guidance to members of the Church and to participate with other citizens in debating the values and laws that ensure the authentic common good of society.
In public debate about the nature of marriage and the family it can sometimes be lost that the Church’s first words to all who experience homosexual attraction are those of love, understanding and a desire to journey supportively with all who follow Jesus with a sincere heart. The Church teaches that every person must be welcomed with respect for their dignity and with care to avoid “any form of unjust discrimination”(Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 2003, n.4).
In the context of the forthcoming Assembly debate, we wish to express our particular concern that the motion presented provides no detail whatsoever of the scale or scope of the legislation being proposed. It is also completely silent on the vital issue of respect for individual religious conscience and protections for Churches and other religious groups. Those who vote in favour of this motion have no way of knowing what the full consequences of such a vote will be. What will be the impact for services provided by Churches and other faith groups that offer vital support to marriages and families in all kinds of distress and thereby contribute to the well-being of children and society? The failure of legislators to provide any form of protection for Catholic Church-related adoption agencies that have had to close in recent years is a stark warning to all who value the wide range of social and pastoral services that Churches provide. The motion being debated in the Assembly fails completely to protect the future of these services and their right to operate within the religious ethos from which they were founded and continue to provide a valued service to communities.
We ask you especially as a legislator to keep the rights and welfare of children to the forefront of your considerations when voting on the forthcoming motion. Religious and non-religious people alike have long acknowledged and know from their experience that the family, based on the marriage of a woman and a man, is the best and ideal place for children. The proposed motion before the Assembly effectively says to parents, children and society that the State should not, and will not, promote any normative or ideal family environment for raising children. It therefore implies that the biological bond and natural ties between a child and its mother and father have no intrinsic value for the child or for society. As Pope Francis stated recently, “we must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity” (16 April 2014). We also reiterate the objective truth, affirmed by the recent Synod on the Family, that “there is no foundation whatsoever to… establish an even remotely analogous correspondence between homosexual unions and God’s plan for marriage and the family“ (Synod 2015, Relatio Finalis, n.76).
The truth about marriage derives from its intrinsic nature as a relationship based on the complementarity of a man and woman and the unique capacity of this relationship alone to generate new life. This truth does not change with the shifting tides of historical custom or popular opinion.
Finally, we appeal to members of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly to give urgent priority to the many other issues that impact on children, marriage and the family in our society, including the continued failure to lift the distressing levels of child poverty in Northern Ireland, which are among the highest in Western Europe, and the immense stress being caused to many individuals, families and marriages because of proposed welfare cuts and the long term social disadvantage to which so many in Northern Ireland continue to be subjected.
With respect and encouragement for your important work as a public representative.
Archbishop of Armagh
Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor
Bishop of Dromore
Bishop of Clogher
Bishop of Derry
Bishop of Down and Connor
Bishop Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska wrote a column in the Southern Nebraska Register entitled “To Deny Reality” referencing the Supreme Court decision that redefined marriage throughout the country.
Bishop Conley began the column speaking about the call to all human persons to “live in families patterned after the divine communion of the Most Holy Trinity, the divine family of God.” He continued on to say that, “Because God created us to live in the image of his divine communion, children have a natural right to live in families of one man and one woman.”
Bishop Conley used quotes from the 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “Considering Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons” which is still the touchstone Vatican document on this question. The bishop showed that the government has done harm to the common good by ignoring the fundamental value of the natural family, and said that “Catholics cannot deny reality.”
Drawing practical conclusions from the Vatican document, Bishop Conley explained to the faithful: “Catholics cannot directly facilitate any government action to sanction same-sex unions as marriage. And they must resist even cooperation in same-sex marriage.” He noted that this may sometimes mean leaving one’s position, which he called a “heroic witness.” He asked any Catholic who finds him- or herself in this position to speak to his or her pastor about it. And finally, Bishop Conley reminded his readers that God gives us the grace to be faithful to Him, and, “Everything we do should be in gratitude to that grace. And each of us should do all that we can to reveal that truth to the world.”
This Easter, as we celebrate the Resurrection, we may also contemplate the gift of religious freedom; a gift that sometimes requires vigilance.
Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles wrote an article for The Tidings Newspaper in which he highlighted the importance of marriage and family to the plan of God, and the necessity of all citizens to be able to express their views about it. He noted, “Those who govern and shape the way Americans think and behave — in politics and law, education, entertainment and the popular media — form an increasingly secularized elite that has little tolerance for religious institutions or values.”
Regarding marriage, Archbishop Gomez reminded us that, “In his own teaching, Jesus pointed us back to this “beginning.” He told us that the marriage covenant between man and woman is at the heart of God’s design for creation — and that no one has the power to change that design.”
He encouraged us to pray for our country, and said, “But I’m sad to say that right now across the country, others are trying to impose their “faith” — a secularized ideology and an anti-religious morality — on religious believers and it is our rights that are at risk of being denied.”
In light of the cultural phenomenon of Fifty Shades of Grey, the bishops and other religious leaders have responded, reminding us all of the truth and beauty of the gift of sexuality in marriage. Here are some of the responses:
Bishop Richard Malone, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth: Letter to Bishops
Archbishop Dennis Schnurr: Note to Pastors
Bishop Paul Loverde: Porn Goes Mainstream
Religious Alliance against Pornography Statement, signed by several Catholic Bishops
Morality in the Media: Statement
Representative Randy Weber and Senator Ted Cruz reintroduced legislation into the House and Senate that would protect states’ marriage amendments: the State Marriage Defense Act. Archbishop Cordileone sent them each a letter of support (Cruz and Weber) and announced this for the media.
Let us keep praying and fasting!
Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco responded to the announcement on Friday that the Supreme Court will hear the Sixth Circuit marriage cases.
The Archbishop notes, “Only a man and a woman can unite their bodies in a way that creates a new human being. Marriage is thus a unique and beautiful reality which a society respects to its benefit or ignores to its peril.”
Marriage licenses were issue for the first time today in Florida, after the expiration of a stay from the U.S. District Court ruling. The bishops of Florida wrote a statement in response.
The bishops note, “How society understands marriage has great public significance” and that redefining marriage, “advances the notion that marriage is only about the affective gratification of consenting adults. Such a redefinition of marriage does nothing to safeguard a child’s right to a mother and father and to be raised in a stable family where his or her development and well-being is served to the greatest extent possible.”
The bishops also note the wide range of laws that are affected by the change in definition. “These laws also affect and pervasively regulate public and private institutions including religious institutions, such as churches, schools, and hospitals. Besides the predictably disruptive effects, imposing this redefinition of marriage threatens both religious liberty and the freedom of individuals to conscientiously object as already seen in those states that have redefined marriage to accommodate same sex couples.”
This week at the Vatican there is an International & Interreligious gathering centering on “The Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage.” Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco, the Chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage is among those attending.
The Holy Father opened the Colloquium with an address this morning, November 17. He reiterates:
“Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity. That is why I stressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium that the contribution of marriage to society is ‘indispensable’; that it ‘transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple’ (n. 66). And that is why I am grateful to you for your Colloquium’s emphasis on the benefits that marriage can provide to children, the spouses themselves, and to society.”
He continues, “May this colloquium be an inspiration to all who seek to support and strengthen the union of man and woman in marriage as a unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for persons, families, communities, and whole societies.”
Pope Francis also confirmed in this address that he will be coming to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families!
Good news! Judges of the Sixth Circuit upheld marriage in that district. Read Archbishop Cordileone’s comments in the USCCB Media release.
USCCB Chairman Praises Sixth Circuit Decision Upholding Marriage
November 7, 2014
WASHINGTON—Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, praised the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upholding the rights of states to legally recognize and protect the meaning of marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman.
“The Sixth Circuit has upheld the rights of the citizens of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee to protect and defend marriage as the unique relationship of a man and a woman,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “We are particularly heartened by the Court’s acknowledgment of the reasonable arguments for preserving the true definition of marriage and by the Court’s respect for the self-determination of states on this issue.”
The Court’s opinion included an argument grounding marriage in the complementarity of man and woman, saying: “It is not society’s laws or for that matter any one religion’s laws, but nature’s laws (that men and women complement each other biologically), that created the policy imperative.”
The Court’s opinion also argued for the rationality of the states’ protecting marriage’s unique meaning: “By creating a status (marriage) and by subsidizing it (e.g., with tax-filing privileges and deductions), the States created an incentive for two people who procreate together to stay together for purposes of rearing offspring. That does not convict the States of irrationality, only of awareness of the biological reality that couples of the same sex do not have children in the same way as couples of opposite sexes and that couples of the same sex do not run the risk of unintended offspring. That explanation, still relevant today, suffices to allow the States to retain authority over an issue they have regulated from the beginning.”
Archbishop Cordileone said, “The Church continues to support efforts to promote, protect and defend marriage in the law. We pray in solidarity with all people that the authentic meaning of marriage will be protected and honored in this country, for the good of all.”
Those challenging the marriage laws in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee are expected to petition the Supreme Court to review the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Today the Chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, and the chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage released a statement about the Supreme Court’s action.
Also, the Virginia Bishops together responded with their own statement. Virginia’s appeal was one of the many that the Court denied.
UPDATE: Archbishop Cordileone also released a statement on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision on October 7. He characterized the decision as “astonishingly dismissive” of the rights of children and the democratic process.
On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14, 2014) the Holy Father received the vows of 20 couples, joining in the Sacrament of Marriage. This is an excerpt from his homily, highlighting the beauty of sexual difference:
“The love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out. The love of Christ can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together. This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man. This is the task that you both share. “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a woman”; “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a man”. Here we see the reciprocity of differences. The path is not always a smooth one, free of disagreements, otherwise it would not be human. It is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life!”
Cardinal George reflects in the Archdiocese of Chicago’s newspaper on the way that the current American culture requires us to choose between our faith and full civic participation, since the dominant ideology has become like a religion.
He writes: “Swimming against the tide… means that those who choose to live by the Catholic faith will not be welcomed as political candidates to national office, will not sit on editorial boards of major newspapers, will not be at home on most university faculties, will not have successful careers as actors and entertainers…. the practice of medicine and law will become more difficult for faithful Catholics. It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined, as Christians and Jews are fined for their religion in countries governed by Sharia law.”
The Cardinal also points out that, “American civil law has done much to weaken and destroy what is the basic unit of every human society, the family. With the weakening of the internal restraints that healthy family life teaches, the State will need to impose more and more external restraints on everyone’s activities.”
Thanks to the Cardinal who has such a gift for seeing and guiding us! Let’s pray for him and all our bishops!
For the first time since last summer’s Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Windsor, marriage advocates won a marriage case in federal court. In the case of Robicheaux v. Caldwell, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled that Louisiana’s marriage amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman and disallowing the recognition of valid out-of-state same-sex “marriages” does not violate the U.S. Constitution.
Regarding the federal court decisions striking down state marriage laws, Judge Feldman said: “The federal court decisions thus far exemplify a pageant of empathy; decisions impelled by a response of innate pathos” (p. 26 of the opinion, available in full here).
He goes on to say: “Perhaps that is the next frontier, the next phase of some ‘evolving understanding of equality,’ where what is marriage will be explored. . . . For example, must the states permit or recognize a marriage between an aunt and niece? Aunt and nephew? Brother/brother? Father and child? May minors marry? Must marriage be limited to only two people? What about a transgender spouse? Is such a union same-gender or male-female? All such unions would undeniably be equally committed to love and caring for one another, just like the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs’ counsel was unable to answer such kinds of questions; the only hesitant response given was that such unions would result in ‘significant societal harms’ that the states could indeed regulate. But not same-gender unions. This Court is powerless to be indifferent to the unknown and possibly imprudent consequences of such a decision. A decision for which there remains the arena of democratic debate” (pp. 27-29).
Please see the USCCB media release, quoting Archbishop Cordileone!
Over at the Touchstone blog is an article about the Giffords, who have been fined $13,000 by the state of New York because of their refusal to host a lesbian “wedding” on their farm.
A Tennessee state trial court on August 5 upheld Tennessee’s non-recognition of a valid out-of-state same-sex “marriage.” This is the first win for marriage in court since U.S. v. Windsor.
In his decision, the judge said, regarding the definition of marriage: “The Court also finds that this should be the prerogative of each State. That neither the Federal Government nor another state should be allowed to dictate to Tennessee what has traditionally been a state’s responsibility, which is to provide a framework of laws to govern the safety and wellbeing of its citizens.” Regarding Windsor, the judge said, “The Windsor case is concerned with the definition of marriage, only as it applies to federal laws, and does not give an opinion concerning whether one State must accept as valid a same-sex marriage allowed in another State. . . . The Supreme Court does not go the final step and find that a State that defines marriages as a union of one (1) man and one (1) woman is unconstitutional.”
Yesterday, U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R- Wyo.) and Representative Mike Kelly (R- Pa) introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act. This Act is meant to protect organizations who provide child welfare services, such as foster care and adoption, when they have convictions that a child should only be placed with a married mother and father. Currently, a number of organizations are unable to be of service because of their beliefs about marriage.
Three USCCB Chairmen (Archbishops Cordileone, Lori, and Wenski) gave their support to this bill, noting that, “Indeed, women and men who want to place their children for adoption ought to be able to choose from a diversity of adoption agencies, including those that share the parents’ religious beliefs and moral convictions.”
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference also indicated their support for the Bill, noting, “In 2012, Catholic Charities helped complete over 3,000 adoptions and foster care placements, including permanent homes for over 1,600 special needs or “hard-to-place” children. By allowing a diversity of providers through the Inclusion Act, we will be putting the needs of children first and also protecting the religious liberty of long-serving child welfare providers.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled today in a two-to-one decision that Virginia’s marriage law is unconstitutional.
Bishop Paul S. Loverde and Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo released a statement about the ruling, saying, “We will continue to affirm the truth about marriage, the lifelong union of one man and one woman, as well as the importance of marriage to the common good. As pastors, teachers, and faith leaders, we can do nothing less. We will continue to fight this unjust ruling.”