Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and Richmond Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo made a statement on the governor’s veto of a bill defending the right of religious organizations to practice their faith in various ways. Read the whole statement at the Arlington Catholic Herald.
“The bill merely sought to preserve fair access to public resources – like tax exempt status, contracts, grants and licensure — for religious charities and schools that hold to their longstanding belief that marriage is between a man and a woman…
“Just as serving the most vulnerable is inherent to our Catholic faith, so is our understanding about the nature of marriage. We cannot sever one from the other. We are dismayed that with this veto the governor fails to recognize the right of these organizations to profess and practice their faith.”
Bishop Mark Davies in Shrewsbury, UK, wrote to his Catholic schools at the end of September regarding gender ideology. Excerpts of his letter follow:
Dear Headteachers, Chairs of Governors and Heads of Religious Education,
There are now many questions arising in the world of education concerning the ideology of gender which underlies transgenderism. I am not thinking in this letter of individuals who, for a variety of complex reasons, experience difficulty identifying with their biological sex, be that of male or female. Our Christian approach to persons in any kind of confusion and suffering must always be one of respect, compassion and understanding, together with a commitment to seeking appropriate help.
However, today we are being encouraged – sometimes forcefully – not only to accept but to embrace an ideology of gender which is beginning to permeate social consciousness with farreaching consequences. I have often warned that, in that vacuum left by the loss of Christian faith within contemporary society, new ideologies would emerge. For decades the Popes, from Saint John Paul II to Pope Francis, have warned that the radical ideology of gender would challenge the truth about the human person. In this short letter, I write to remind you of their words: When Pope Francis spoke to Bishops at World Youth Day 2016, his comments gained widespread attention in the secular media.
“We are living a moment of the annihilation of man as image of God,” the Holy Father observed, “of ideological colonisations … one of these I say clearly with name and surname is gender! Today children – children! – are being taught in school that one can choose one’s sex.”
Echoing Pope Benedict’s words, Pope Francis went on to urge us to reflect that we are living in “the time of sin against God the Creator” (cf. transcript of the Holy Father’s dialogue with the Polish Bishops, 27th July 2016). At Christmas 2012, Pope Benedict had already spoken of this ideology:
“According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of; it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, whereas in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being” (Christmas Address to the Roman Curia, 12th December 2012).
We are thus faced with claims that our physical characteristics do not determine who we are as a man or as a woman, and that gender is no more than a ‘social construct.’ And yet we know that sex is determined by physical characteristics which start to develop from conception. The Scriptures speak of these sexual differences being willed by God from the beginning (Genesis 1:26-27); they come into existence when we are conceived, as science universally affirms; and this complementarity of man and woman is ordered to procreation in which father and mother collaborate with God in the coming to be of a new person.
(Read the full letter at the Catholic Herald UK)
Archbishop Chaput, Chairman-Elect for the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth at the USCCB, gave the Tocqueville Lecture at the University of Notre Dame on September 15th, 2016. The full text is available here. The middle section, reprinted here, examines the importance of a true understanding of human sexuality:
So, what does any of this have to do with sex, family and the liberty of the Church? I’ll answer the question this way.
I’ve been a priest for 46 years. During that time I’ve heard something more than 12,000 personal confessions and done hundreds of spiritual direction sessions. That’s a lot of listening. When you spend several thousand hours of your life, as most priests do, hearing the failures and hurts in people’s lives – men who beat their wives; women who cheat on their husbands; the addicts to porn or alcohol or drugs; the thieves, the hopeless, the self-satisfied and the self-hating – you get a pretty good picture of the world as it really is, and its effect on the human soul. The confessional is more real than any reality show because nobody’s watching. It’s just you, God and the penitents, and the suffering they bring with them.
As a priest, what’s most striking to me about the last five decades is the huge spike in people – both men and women — confessing promiscuity, infidelity, sexual violence and sexual confusion as an ordinary part of life, and the massive role of pornography in wrecking marriages, families and even the vocations of clergy and religious.
In a sense, this shouldn’t surprise. Sex is powerful. Sex is attractive. Sex is a basic appetite and instinct. Our sexuality is tied intimately to who we are; how we search for love and happiness; how we defeat the pervasive loneliness in life; and, for most people, how we claim some little bit of permanence in the world and its story by having children. The reason Pope Francis so forcefully rejects “gender theory” is not just because it lacks scientific support — though it certainly has that problem. Gender theory is a kind of metaphysics that subverts the very nature of sexuality by denying the male-female complementarity encoded into our bodies. In doing that, it attacks a basic building block of human identity and meaning — and by extension, the foundation of human social organization.
But let’s get back to the confessional. Listening to people’s sexual sins in the Sacrament of Penance is hardly new news. But the scope, the novelty, the violence and the compulsiveness of the sins are. And remember that people only come to Confession when they already have some sense of right and wrong; when they already understand, at least dimly, that they need to change their lives and seek God’s mercy.
That word “mercy” is worth examining. Mercy is one of the defining and most beautiful qualities of God. Pope Francis rightly calls us to incarnate it in our own lives this year. Unfortunately, it’s also a word we can easily misuse to avoid the hard work of moral reasoning and judgment. Mercy means nothing – it’s just an exercise in sentimentality – without clarity about moral truth.
We can’t show mercy to someone who owes us nothing; someone who’s done nothing wrong. Mercy implies a pre-existing act of injustice that must be corrected. And satisfying justice requires a framework of higher truth about human meaning and behavior. It requires an understanding of truth that establishes some things as good and others as evil; some things as life-giving and others that are destructive.
Here’s why that’s important. The truth about our sexuality is that infidelity, promiscuity, sexual confusion and mass pornography create human wreckage. Multiply that wreckage by tens of millions of persons over five decades. Then compound it with media nonsense about the innocence of casual sex and the “happy” children of friendly divorces. What you get is what we have now: a dysfunctional culture of frustrated and wounded people increasingly incapable of permanent commitments, self-sacrifice and sustained intimacy, and unwilling to face the reality of their own problems.
This has political consequences. People unwilling to rule their appetites will inevitably be ruled by them — and eventually, they’ll be ruled by someone else. People too weak to sustain faithful relationships are also too weak to be free. Sooner or later they surrender themselves to a state that compensates for their narcissism and immaturity with its own forms of social control.
People too worried or self-focused to welcome new life, to bear and raise children in a loving family, and to form them in virtue and moral character, are writing themselves out of the human story. They’re extinguishing their own future. This is what makes the resistance of so many millennials to having children so troubling.
The future belongs to people who believe in something beyond themselves, and who live and sacrifice accordingly. It belongs to people who think and hope inter-generationally. If you want a portrait of what I mean, consider this: The most common name given to newborn male babies in London for the past four years in a row is Muhammad. This, in the city of Thomas More.
Weak and selfish individuals make weak and selfish marriages. Weak and selfish marriages make broken families. And broken families continue and spread the cycle of dysfunction. They do it by creating more and more wounded individuals. A vast amount of social data shows that children from broken families are much more likely to live in poverty, to be poorly educated, and to have more emotional and physical health issues than children from intact families. In other words, when healthy marriages and families decline, the social costs rise.
The family is where children discover how to be human. It’s where they learn how to respect and love other people; where they see their parents sacrificing for the common good of the household; and where they discover their place in a family story larger than themselves. Raising children is beautiful but also hard work. It’s a task for unselfish, devoted parents. And parents need the friendship and support of other likeminded parents. It takes parents to raise a child, not a legion of professional experts, as helpful as they can sometimes be.
Only a mother and father can provide the intimacy of maternal and paternal love. Many single parents do a heroic job of raising good children, and they deserve our admiration and praise. But only a mother and father can offer the unique kind of human love rooted in flesh and blood; the kind that comes from mutual submission and self-giving; the kind that comes from the complementarity of sexual difference.
No parents do this perfectly. Some fail badly. Too often the nature of modern American life helps and encourages them to fail. But in trying, parents pass along to the next generation an absolutely basic truth. It’s the truth that things like love, faith, trust, patience, understanding, tenderness, fidelity and courage really do matter, and they provide the foundation for a fully human life.
Of course some of the worst pressures on family life come from outside the home. They come in the form of unemployment, low pay, crime, poor housing, chronic illness and bad schools.
These are vitally important issues with real human consequences. And in Catholic thought, government has a role to play in easing such problems – but not if a government works from a crippled idea of who man is, what marriage is, and what a family is. And not if a government deliberately shapes its policies to interfere with and control the mediating institutions in civil society that already serve the public well. Yet this could arguably describe many of the current administration’s actions over the past seven years.
The counterweight to intrusive government is a populace of mature citizens who push back and defend the autonomy of their civil space. The problem with a consumer economy though – as Christopher Lasch saw nearly 40 years ago — is that it creates and relies on dependent, self-absorbed consumers. It needs and breeds what Lasch called a “culture of narcissism,” forgetful of the past, addicted to the present and disinterested in the future. And it’s hard to argue with the evidence. In his inaugural speech of 1961, John F. Kennedy could still tell Americans, quite confidently, to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Today I wonder how many of us might find his words not only naïve and annoying, but an inversion of priorities.
If we want strong families, we need strong men and women to create and sustain them with maturity and love. And as a family of families, the Church is no different. The Church is strong when her families and individual sons and daughters are strong; when they believe what she teaches, and then witness her message with courage and zeal.
She’s weak when her people are too tepid or comfortable, too eager to “fit in” or frankly too afraid of public disapproval, to see the world as it really is. The Church is “ours” only in the sense that we belong to her as our mother and teacher in the family of God. The Church does not belong to us. We belong to her. And the Church in turn belongs to Jesus Christ who guarantees her freedom whether Caesar likes it or not.
The Church is free even in the worst persecution. She’s free even when many of her children desert her. She’s free because God does exist, and the Church depends not on numbers or resources but on her fidelity to God’s Word. But her practical liberty — her credibility and effectiveness, here and now, in our wider society — depends on us. So we should turn to that issue in the time remaining.
More than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage, and despite recent statements from the campaign trail, the Catholic Church’s 2000-year-old teaching to the truth about what constitutes marriage remains unchanged and resolute.
As Catholics, we believe, all humans warrant dignity and deserve love and respect, and unjust discrimination is always wrong. Our understanding of marriage, however, is a matter of justice and fidelity to our Creator’s original design. Marriage is the only institution uniting one man and one woman with each other and with any child who comes from their union. Redefining marriage furthers no one’s rights, least of all those of children, who should not purposely be deprived of the right to be nurtured and loved by a mother and a father.
We call on Catholics and all those concerned for preserving this sacred union to unite in prayer, to live and speak out with compassion and charity about the true nature of marriage – the heart of family life.
From September 15, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.
This is the first in a series of six articles by Archbishop Cordileone on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (the Joy of Love).
“The Christian proclamation on the family is good news indeed.” These words are among the opening statements of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (the Joy of Love). An Apostolic Exhortation is the document issued by the Pope following on a Synod of Bishops which recapitulates and gives direction to the deliberations of the participating bishops, a sort of universal pastoral plan for the specific topic treated at the Synod affecting the life and ministry of the Church. Amoris Laeititia, the longest such document yet, follows up on the Synods on the Family of 2014 and 2015.
The Christian understanding of the family, marriage, and the human person are indeed good news. It stands in stark contrast to the view held by many today, according to which we are fundamentally alone in life (Mother Theresa has said that, particularly in the West, “loneliness… is the greatest poverty”), and that society is held together largely by a collection of individual rights. As Christians, however, we believe that every human person is, in the words of Saint John Paul II, “unique and unrepeatable,” and that each of us is created “in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:17).
What does it mean to be in the image and likeness of God? We know from Scripture that God is Love (1 John 4:8), and love always means making a gift of oneself for the good of the other. We also know from Revelation that God is not alone – God is a Trinity of Persons. On reflection, this makes sense, because to have love, to “be love,” requires more than one person. The Father loves the Son, everything He is and has He gives to the Son; the Son in turn loves the Father and returns this to the Father; and, because love is always other-centered and life-giving, the love between them generates the Holy Spirit, the “Lord and giver of life,” who “proceeds from the Father and the Son,” as we profess every Sunday at Mass.
Thus, the most fundamental and true statement to be made about any person is that we are made for love (with others on earth, and with God – Love Himself – in heaven). The Second Vatican Council teaches us that the human person “cannot fully find himself, except through a sincere gift of himself” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, n. 24), that is, except through loving others.
Further, to love and to be loved is not only essential to our human nature, but it is the very end for which we are designed, that is, to live in union with others. In contrast to Enlightenment philosophers such as Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, who claim that human nature is essentially solitary, the Christian understanding – and one of the basic principles of Catholic Social Teaching – is that we are social beings. (We can recognize, for example, that the most severe punishment in prison is solitary confinement, as this is the denial of our basic human need for others – thus the movement to mollify this extreme penalty.) We are made in the image of God, who Himself is a “communion of persons,” according to Pope Francis.
All of Catholic teaching on marriage and family, all of Catholic Social Teaching, is based on this understanding of the human person. We can only truly flourish as a person in relation to others. Even our salvation depends on this – we are saved not so much as individuals, but in being joined to the Body of Christ (cf 1 Cor 12:27).
The Holy Father urges a “patient and careful reading” of the text by families and those in ministry to families. I hope in this upcoming series of brief articles to offer some useful reflections on Amoris Laetitia, and apply it to current issues around marriage, family life and sexuality. In the end, however, I must echo the words of Pope Francis, by strongly encouraging couples to read the document themselves slowly and prayerfully. At the very least, I ask all couples to please read excerpts from Chapter 4 (“Love in Marriage”), already published in the April 14, 2016, issue of Catholic San Francisco.
Archbishop Chaput, incoming chairman for the Bishops’ Committee for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, shares segments from the report on sexuality and gender from The New Atlantis in his column this week.
He notes: “We live in a time when fundamental elements of human identity are routinely challenged and reimagined, with consequences impossible to predict. The New Atlantis does all of us a service by publishing the ‘Sexuality and Gender’ report, and restoring some badly needed clarity, scientific substance and prudence to our discussions.”
This article was originally posted on the USCCB blog here.
By Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Bishop Richard J. Malone and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski
Questions revolving around marriage and human sexuality are deeply felt in our homes and communities. We join with our Holy Father Pope Francis in affirming the inviolable dignity of all people and the Church’s important role in accompanying all those in need. In doing so, we also stand with Pope Francis in preserving the dignity and meaning of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The two strands of the dignity of the person and the dignity of marriage and the family are interwoven. To pull apart one is to unravel the whole fabric.
When a prominent Catholic politician publicly and voluntarily officiates at a ceremony to solemnize the relationship of two people of the same-sex, confusion arises regarding Catholic teaching on marriage and the corresponding moral obligations of Catholics. What we see is a counter witness, instead of a faithful one founded in the truth.
Pope Francis has been very clear in affirming the truth and constant teaching of the Church that same-sex relationships cannot be considered “in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”(1) Laws that redefine marriage to deny its essential meaning are among those that Catholics must oppose, including in their application after they are passed.(2) Such witness is always for the sake of the common good.
During our Holy Father’s remarkable visit to us last year, he reminded us that all politicians “are called to defend and preserve the dignity of [their] fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.”(3) Catholic politicians in particular are called to “a heroic commitment” on behalf of the common good and to “recognize their grave responsibility in society to support laws shaped by these fundamental human values and oppose laws and policies that violate [them].”(4)
Faithful witness can be challenging—and it will only grow more challenging in the years to come—but it is also the joy and responsibility of all Catholics, especially those who have embraced positions of leadership and public service.
Let us pray for our Catholic leaders in public life, that they may fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to them with grace and courage and offer a faithful witness that will bring much needed light to the world. And may all of us as Catholics help each other be faithful and joyful witnesses wherever we are called.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
1 Amoris Laetitia (2016), no. 251.
2 See USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (2015), no. 23; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons (2003), no. 5
3 Address to Congress, September 24, 2015.
4 Faithful Citizenship, no. 39.
Urging support for the First Amendment Defense Act Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, issued the following statement on July 12, 2016:
Today the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). The USCCB has been vocal in support of this legislation, as it would provide a measure of protection for religious freedom at the federal level. FADA is a modest but important step in ensuring conscience protection to faith-based organizations and people of all faiths and of no faith who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, protecting them from discrimination by the federal government. The increasing intolerance toward religious belief and belief in the conjugal meaning of marriage makes these protections essential for continuing faith-based charitable work, which supports the common good of our society. Faith-based agencies and schools should not lose their licenses or accreditation simply because they hold reasonable views on marriage that differ from the federal government’s view.
The definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, universally held for centuries, has nothing to do with disrespect for others, nor does it depend on religious belief. Rather, it is based on truths about the human person that are understandable by reason. Faithful to its commitment to serve the best interests of society, the Catholic Church will continue to promote and protect the truth of marriage as foundational to the common good. The Church will also continue to stand for the ability of all to exercise their religious beliefs and moral convictions in public life without fear, and to witness to the truth.
We are pleased to support the First Amendment Defense Act, and we urge Congress to pass this important legislation.
by Archbishop William E. Lori
(This article was originally posted at The Catholic Review.
A few weeks ago, I attended a symposium on the efforts of the church to address the deep and longstanding problems in Baltimore’s poorest neighborhoods. Various speakers told how the church is helping to address these problems. I am proud of all that our Catholic hospitals, schools, parishes and social service agencies are doing to address major needs in many areas of the city.
The heads of these Catholic service agencies were impressive. However, the most important comments of the day were made by a group of students from a local Catholic high school. These five young men spoke about growing up in neighborhoods rife with violence, drugs, high unemployment and abandoned row houses. They told how, with the help of Catholic schools, they were pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. You could tell that these young men were seeking to fulfill their God-given potential in a future full of hope.
One person in the audience asked, “What does it mean to have a male role model in your life?” One of the young men, intent on pursuing a career in financial services, answered, “It would have been ‘magical’ to have a dad who was engaged.” Another said that having a dad and mom would have made “a huge difference” for him and for his brothers and sisters. Still another said, “Having a man to look up to makes you think you can succeed.” Still others told us they had found male role models and mentors at their school and said how grateful they were to them.
These young men were speaking from their experience – much of it very difficult. They conveyed a sense of awareness that by God’s grace they’ve been pulled from the brink; that they are among the most fortunate. Key to their good fortune is a father or a father figure.
What is true of these young men from inner-city Baltimore is true of all young people. As children grow toward adulthood, their fathers play – or should play – a crucial role in their development. Absent a father, young people at least need to have a father figure whose virtue and wisdom in some way reflects the wisdom and love of God the Father. Yet it is not only inner-city fathers that tend to be missing-in-action. Fatherly absence cuts across all socio-economic lines.
Fathers help their children to be open to the challenges of the wider world while demonstrating the goodness of an authentically masculine love and concern for his wife and for his family. As mothers and fathers love each other and their children in distinct yet complementary ways, children learn how men and women should relate to one another – with deep respect for each other’s dignity and worth. And research shows that when a father practices his faith, his children are far more likely to grow up to be practicing Catholics.
Throughout my own life, I have been blessed by a loving father. My dad, a veteran of World War II, a man who worked hard all his life to provide for his family, taught us more by example than by word about the meaning of love. And his love and concern for his sons continues to this very day. Just recently my older brother died and I saw once again how deeply my father loves us.
As we celebrate Father’s Day this month, let us celebrate the role of our dads in building the domestic church, working hand in hand with their wives in making our homes places of prayer, learning, virtue and service, and in handing on the faith to the next generation.
Cardinal Wuerl has published a piece on his blog regarding the nature of man as male and female.
He writes, “This body is not extraneous, but goes to our very essence… Before all else in this world, before we are able to form a single thought or make any decisions, from the very moment of our origin and conception, we have a body that is intrinsically sexually differentiated and constituted male or female in a way that cannot really be changed. Furthermore, the body reveals that man and woman are made to complement one another – they are made for love, the reality that forms the basis of family.”
Addressing the current cultural situation, Cardinal Wuerl says, “Last year we saw a societal redefinition of marriage and family. Today, the concept of humanity itself is called into question with an aggressive ‘gender’ ideology which holds that whether a person is male or female is not an objective reality, but is subjectively determined. Increasingly, those who do not go along with this new order are denounced and ostracized as bigoted. It is as if we all must now affirm that the world is flat lest we be condemned of discrimination.”
The Cardinal’s piece echoes parts of the MUR video Made for Freedom, released last week. He also cites the statement from Bishop Malone and Archbishop Lucas regarding the “transgender” directives to public schools.
USCCB Chairmen Respond to Administration’s New Guidance Letter on Title IX Application
WASHINGTON—Two Committee chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued the following statement in response to guidance issued May 13 by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education entitled “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students”:
The Catholic Church consistently affirms the inherent dignity of each and every human person and advocates for the wellbeing of all people, particularly the most vulnerable. Especially at a young age and in schools, it is important that our children understand the depth of God’s love for them and their intrinsic worth and beauty. Children should always be and feel safe and secure and know they are loved.
The guidance issued May 13 by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education that treats “a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex” is deeply disturbing. The guidance fails to address a number of important concerns and contradicts a basic understanding of human formation so well expressed by Pope Francis: that “the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created” (Amoris Laetitia [AL], no. 285).
Children, youth, and parents in these difficult situations deserve compassion, sensitivity, and respect. All of these can be expressed without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security on the part of the other young students and parents. The federal regulatory guidance issued on May 13 does not even attempt to achieve this balance. It unfortunately does not respect the ongoing political discussion at the state and local levels and in Congress, or the broader cultural discussion, about how best to address these sensitive issues. Rather, the guidance short-circuits those discussions entirely.
As Pope Francis has recently indicated, “‘biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated'” (AL, no. 56, emphasis added). We pray that the government make room for more just and compassionate approaches and policies in this sensitive area, in order to serve the good of all students and parents, as well as the common good. We will be studying the guidance further to understand the full extent of its implications.
The statement was issued by Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; and Archbishop George Lucas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Catholic Education.
Consultant Dr. Theresa Farnan also wrote an article about this issue for OSV.
If you’d like to know what the bishops think about the new apostolic exhortation, read their statements!
First, from the Chairman of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, Bishop Malone of Buffalo
Echoing the themes of the Bishops’ Call to Prayer, Archbishop Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas wrote an article in the diocesan paper about the current threats to life, marriage and religious freedom– particularly the latter in light of the former!
On January 4, 2016, the Catholic bishops of Nebraska issued a statement regarding the immanent vote of the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) regarding whether high school students who experience gender dysphoria may participate in sports according to their chosen “gender identity”. They said that allowing biological male students to play women’s sports, or vice versa, would “allow a harmful and deceptive gender ideology” to determine a schools’ activities. “This would certainly have a negative impact on students’ and society’s attitudes towards the fundamental nature of the human person and the family,” they wrote.
The bishops note that every person who experiences gender dysphoria is entitled to respect, dignity, support and concern, but that this support must not compromise the safety, privacy, or rights of all the other students. Read the whole statement here.
The U.S. Bishops overwhelmingly approved a pastoral response to pornography entitled “Create in Me a Clean Heart” at their general assembly on November 17. The full text is available on the USCCB page, as well as many additional resources.
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
Below is the expanded intervention given by Archbishop Kurtz, President of the USCCB, at the Synod on the Family:
In one of Pope Francis’ weekly reflections on marriage and the family leading up to the synod on the family, he spoke of the need “to give back a leading role to the family that listens to the word of God and puts it into practice” (Sept. 2, 2015). This theme – of giving leadership to the family – is also raised in the working document for the synod, which described the family as “an essential agent in the work of evangelization” and as having a “missionary identity” (“Instrumentum Laboris” 2, 5). I believe that a priority of the church, both at the synod and beyond, must be to call forth the indispensable witness of Christian families, and to form families to live their missionary vocation. In other words, the family should not only receive the church’s pastoral care (though it is essential that proper care be offered), but should also actively participate in the church’s mission. To that end, I propose two considerations.
First, we must trust in and announce anew the powerful, redemptive grace of Jesus Christ. Our way forward must always look to him with confidence. In the sacrament of marriage, Jesus himself abides with Christian spouses. The Holy Spirit penetrates the life of the spouses who are consecrated and equipped for their mission. We must trust in God’s grace as we help Christian husbands and wives embrace and live the truth of the sacrament they have received.
Second, as the synod seeks to offer concrete solutions to the many difficulties families face, we must enlist the help of the family itself in a very deliberate way and provide families with the formation they need to be active agents of evangelization.
We need families who can witness – even through their own wounds and difficulties – to the beauty of marriage and family life. The need for such families was made clear by Pope Francis in his homily at the opening Mass of the synod (Oct. 4, 2015). He pointed out a paradox: People today often ridicule the plan of God for marriage and family, but at the same time they “continue to be attracted and fascinated by every authentic love, by every steadfast love, by every fruitful love, by every faithful and enduring love.” Families who by the grace of God model tenderness, forgiveness and the joy of family life make marriage credible and show that the Gospel of the family is truly good news.
Evangelising as a family is done in the very midst of family life, “a place where evangelical holiness is lived out in the most ordinary conditions” (Pope Francis, address at prayer vigil for the synod, Oct. 3, 2015). Missionary families reach out to others. They can participate in the church’s mission as a field hospital, described beautifully by Pope Francis as: “doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support … to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer” (homily, Oct. 4, 2015).
How do we promote this compelling vision of missionary families? Solid formation and support for families are essential. Just as the local church invests years of effort into future priests’ education and preparation for ministry, so, too, must we offer intentional and ongoing formation so that the family can truly live its missionary identity. Important here would be small groups of families who encourage each other in the ups and downs of family life and strong connections between the church in the parish and the church in the home (the domestic church).
Moving forward, I also believe the way we speak is important. We must not speak only “about” the family, but also “to and with” the family. We must “learn from the family, readily acknowledging its dignity, its strength and its value, despite all its problems and difficulties” (Pope Francis, address at prayer vigil, Oct. 3, 2015). Families face challenges and are wounded, yes, but they also possess incredible vitality and strength.
In sum, my hope is that the synod takes up and furthers the vision of families as active agents of evangelisation and missionaries, especially to other families. Even more, I hope that one fruit of the synod is increased attention to calling forth, forming and supporting families in their missionary vocation. Let us give back a leading role to the Christian family. In Christ is our confidence.
Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix, Arizona released a pastoral letter to men entitled “Into the Breach”; it is a profound reflection on what it means to be a Catholic Christian man in today’s world.
There’s a video to accompany it. Check them out!
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.”
Bishop David M. O’Connell, CM of the Diocese of Trenton has issued a pastoral letter for the Jubilee of Mercy, entitled, “Mercy and Truth Shall Meet.”
In the letter, Bishop O’Connell reflects upon Pope Francis’ letter on the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and what living by mercy indicates in terms of “intentions, attitudes and behaviors” (VM, 9). The bishop highlights numerous passages of Sacred Scripture that speak about mercy and its revelation as a free gift of God in the Church.
Bishop O’Connell illuminates the intrinsic relationship between mercy and truth. For truth, he uses the definition of St. Thomas Aquinas: “Truth is the conformity of the mind to that which exists in reality” (ST I, 16.1). Truth is being able to see what is, and Jesus announces Himself as “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). Walking with Christ, and thus walking with the Truth, the Catholic Church “is still responsibly for revealing truth, presenting truth, teaching truth, and witnessing truth, day in and day out, every day” (p. 6).
Quoting the Second Letter to Timothy, Bishop O’Connell addresses the temptation that all human beings have to “have their ears tickled,” in other words, to look around for teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. On the contrary, the bishop notes, the Catechism teaches that all persons “are bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth” (CCC 2467). He emphasizes, “Truth is not truth because we believe it. Truth is true whether we believe it or not [emphasis original]”(p. 7).
Despite the current narrative, mercy is nothing “new” in the Church, Bishop O’Connell says. To teach that “anything goes” is neither true nor merciful– neither, he says, is it “pastoral” to neglect doctrine. He asks, “How can something truly ‘pastoral’ or ‘merciful’ not flow from what we profess and believe?” (p. 7).
Bishop O’Connell uses the story of the woman caught in adultery as the epitome of the conjunction of mercy and truth. In this episode (Jn 8:1-11), Jesus does not abolish the law or deny the woman’s sin; rather, he refuses to condemn her and admonishes her to live differently in the future. “Go. From now on, sin no more” (Jn 8:10-11). The bishop writes, “He sent her on her way, without compromise, reminding her to follow truth.”
In conclusion, Bishop O’Connell tells the faithful of the Diocese of Trenton, “We should never abandon truth simply because it is not easy, convenient or popular” (p. 8). Mercy and truth meet in the person of Christ, “And mercy, authentic mercy, always includes and never denies truth” (p. 8).