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).
Archbishop Sample from Portland, Oregon, reflected recently on the famous words of Pope Francis, “Who am I to judge?” in light of its context. These words are usually taken out-of-context to imply that the Holy Father sees nothing wrong with sexual acts between two persons of the same sex. Instead, “These words of Pope Francis were delivered in response to a very specific question about a particular individual who was accused of inappropriate homosexual behavior in the past.”
Bishop Sample included the pope’s whole quote: “I see that many times in the Church people search for ‘sins from youth’, for example, and then publish them. They are not crimes, right? No, sins. But if a person, whether it be a lay person, a priest or a religious sister, commits a sin and then converts, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives. When we confess our sins and we truly say, ‘I have sinned in this’, the Lord forgets, and so we have no right not to forget, because otherwise we would run the risk of the Lord not forgetting our sins. That is a danger. This is important: a theology of sin…If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?… The problem is not having this tendency, no, we must be brothers and sisters to one another…”
Indeed, as Bishop Sample points out, Pope Francis is bringing out what the Catholic Church has always taught: that our God is a God of mercy. He then goes on to highlight some of Pope Francis’s other words which show that he is certainly not an advocate for so-called same-sex “marriage.”
Read the full text here.
Today Archbishop Kurtz issued a statement about the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling, calling it a “tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us.” Read the full statement here.
Archbishop Kurtz compared the decision to Roe v. Wade and how it doesn’t change the truth- which is “unchanged and unchangeable.” He continues on to say that, “Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.”
It is a deep truth that the human being is an embodied soul, male and female. The archbishop writes, “The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female” and notes that this is part of what Pope Francis has described as “integral ecology.” “The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.”
The bishops follow Jesus Christ who taught these truths unambiguously, and the president of the USCCB encouraged Catholics to keep speaking for the truth and moving forward with the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. Archbishop Kurtz ended by saying, “I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.”
In addition, a number of other statements have been made:
- Alaska Catholic Conference (Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau)
- Colorado Catholic Conference (Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo)
- Iowa Catholic Conference (Dubuque, Davenport, Des Moines, Sioux City)
- Kansas Catholic Conference (Kansas in Kansas City, Dodge City, Salina, Wichita)
- Louisiana Catholic Conference (Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Houma-Thibodaux, Lafayette, Lake Charles, New Orleans, Shreveport)
- Michigan Catholic Conference (Detroit, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Saginaw, Marquette, Gaylord, Grand Rapids)
- Nebraska Catholic Conference (Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island)
- Ohio Catholic Conference (Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Steubenville, Toledo, Youngstown)
- Texas Catholic Conference (Galveston-Houston, San Antonio, Amarillo, Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Laredo, Lubbock, San Angelo, Tyler, Victoria)
- Virginia Catholic Conference (Arlington, Richmond)
- Wisconsin Catholic Conference (Milwaukee, Green Bay, Madison, La Crosse, Superior)
- His Eminence Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston
- His Eminence Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston
- His Eminence Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, ADW Statement
- Most Reverend Edward B. Scharfenberger, Bishop of Albany
- Most Reverend John O. Barres, Bishop of Allentown
- Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory, Archbishop of Atlanta
- Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin
- Most Reverend William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore, and a radio interview
- Most Reverend Robert J. Baker, Bishop of Birmingham
- Most Reverend David Kagan, Bishop of Bismarck
- Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport
- Most Reverend Daniel Flores, Bishop of Brownsville
- Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn
- Most Reverend Richard J. Malone, Bishop of Buffalo and Chairman of the Committee for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. Also a column on this issue and religious freedom in the diocesan paper.
- Most Reverend Christopher J. Coyne, Bishop of Burlington
- Most Reverend Robert E. Guglielmone, Bishop of Charleston
- Most Reverend Peter Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte
- Most Reverend Paul D. Etienne, Bishop of Cheyenne
- Most Reverend Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago
- Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati
- Most Reverend Richard Lennon, Bishop of Cleveland
- Most Reverend Michael Mulvey, Bishop of Corpus Christi
- Most Reverend Michael J. Hoeppner, Bishop of Crookston
- Most Reverend Kevin Farrell, Bishop of Dallas
- Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit
- Most Reverend Mark Seitz, Bishop of El Paso
- Most Reverend Lawrence Persico, Bishop of Erie
- Most Reverend Chad Zielinski, Bishop of Fairbanks
- Most Reverend John Thomas Foldas, Bishop of Fargo
- Most Reverend Kevin Rhoades, Bishop of Fort Wayne- South Bend
- Most Reverend Armando X. Ochoa, Bishop of Fresno (video link)
- Most Reverend James S. Wall, Bishop of Gallup
- Most Reverend Donald J. Hying, Bishop of Gary
- Most Reverend Steven J. Raica, Bishop of Gaylord
- Most Reverend Walkowiak, Bishop of Grand Rapids
- Most Reverend David L. Ricken, Bishop of Green Bay
- Most Reverend Leonard P. Blair, Archbishop of Hartford
- Most Reverend Larry Silva, Bishop of Honolulu
- Most Reverend Joseph William Tobin, CSsR, Archbishop of Indianapolis
- Most Reverend Joseph Kopacz, Bishop of Jackson
- Most Reverend John R. Gaydos, Bishop of Jefferson City
- Most Reverend R. Daniel Conlon, Diocese of Joliet
- Most Reverend Paul J. Bradley, Bishop of Kalamazoo
- Most Reverend Richard F. Stika, Bishop of Knoxville
- Most Reverend Michael Jarrell, Bishop of Lafayette
- Most Reverend Timothy L. Doherty, Bishop of Lafayette in Indiana
- Most Reverend Glen J. Provost, Bishop of Lake Charles
- Most Reverend James A. Tamayo, Bishop of Laredo
- Most Reverend Joseph A. Pepe, Bishop of Las Vegas
- Most Reverend John Stowe, OFM Conv., Bishop of Lexington
- Most Reverend James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln
- Most Reverend Anthony B. Taylor, Bishop of Little Rock
- Most Reverend Jose H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, also his article “Creation and the Future of Marriage”
- Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of Madison
- Most Reverend J. Terry Steib, SVD, Bishop of Memphis
- Most Reverend Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami
- Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki, Archbishop of Milwaukee and his blog post “Church, State, and Catholicism”
- Most Reverend David R. Choby, Bishop of Nashville
- Most Reverend Gregory Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans
- Most Reverend Terry LaValley, Diocese of Ogdensburg
- Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma
- Most Reverend John Noonan, Bishop of Orlando
- Most Reverend William F. Medley, Bishop of Owensboro, Kentucky
- Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach
- Most Reverend Arthur J. Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson
- Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, also his July 6 column and a special edition column in which he shares “The Importance of Thinking Clearly” by Rev. Dominic Legge, O.P.
- Most Reverend David A. Zubik, Bishop of Pittsburgh
- Most Reverend Alexander Sample, Bishop of Portland
- Most Reverend Robert Deeley, Bishop of Portland, Maine
- Most Reverend Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence, also encouraging conscientious objection
- Most Reverend Michael Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh
- Most Reverend David J. Malloy, Bishop of Rockford
- Most Reverend William Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre
- Most Reverend Jaime Soto, Bishop of Sacramento
- Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of Saint Louis
- Most Reverend Donald J. Kettler, Bishop of Saint Cloud
- Most Reverend Edward Joseph Weisenburger, Bishop of Salina
- Most Reverend Michael J. Sis, Bishop Of San Angelo
- Most Reverend Gustavo García‐Siller, Archbishop of San Antonio; also interviewed for a news story.
- Most Reverend Gerald R. Barnes, Bishop of San Bernardino
- Most Reverend Robert W. McElroy, Bishop of San Diego
- Most Reverend Patrick J. McGrath, Bishop of San Jose
- Most Reverend John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe
- Most Reverend Gregory J. Hartmayer, Bishop of Savannah
- Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton
- Most Reverend Paul J. Swain, Diocese of Sioux Falls
- Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois
- Most Reverend James V. Johnston, Jr, Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau
- Most Reverend Felipe J. Estévez, Diocese of St. Augustine
- Most Reverend Robert J. Cunningham, Bishop of Syracuse
- Most Reverend Daniel E. Thomas, Bishop of Toledo
- Most Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M., Bishop of Trenton
- Most Reverend Gerald Kicanas, Bishop of Tucson
- Most Reverend Edward J. Slattery, Bishop of Tulsa
- Most Reverend J. Strickland, Bishop of Tyler
- Most Reverend Michael J. Bransfield, Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston
- Most Reverend Carl A. Kemme, Bishop of Wichita
- Most Reverend Robert J. McManus, Bishop of Worcester
- Most Reverend George V. Murry, Bishop of Youngstown
- Diocese of Cheyenne
- Diocese of Harrisburg
- Diocese of Salt Lake City
- Diocese of Venice
Also of note are statements from our Ecumenical partners:
The Anglican Church of North America
Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Archbishop Listecki of the Archdioces of Milwaukee wrote a piece on his blog about the recent headlines regarding Bruce Jenner and Rachel Dolezal.
The archbishop reminds us that, “[F]reedom is never exercised in a vacuum. Freedom demands responsibility and that is a responsibility to truth, beauty and goodness…” and “we have characterized “truth” as whatever we want to make of it. Therefore, truth is only accountable to the individual.”
Finally, Archbishop Listecki says, “We have lost the sense of sacred and in so doing, everything becomes profane and is subjected to our own individual appreciation.”
Representative Labrador (R- Idaho) and Senator Lee (R-Utah) introduced the First Amendment Defense Act last week.
Quoting from the letters: “FADA would provide significant protection for religious liberty at the federal level and would be an important measure in extending conscience protection to individuals and organizations who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman. As a non-discrimination Act, FADA would protect these individuals and organizations from federal government discrimination. In a climate of increasing intolerance, these protections are very much needed.”
An article from Archbishop Coakley of Oklahoma City.
The Catholic bishops of Australia are rallying against the increasing acceptance of same-sex “marriage” and the pressure to adopt it. Their Pastoral Letter is named “Don’t Mess with Marriage”.
“A pear is not an apple. Same-sex marriage is not the same as a marriage between a man and a woman. The opinions of media personalities, or politicians, or a parliamentary vote can do what they wish, but no matter how much they say it, a pear remains a pear and does not change into an apple. Equally same-sex marriage is not identical with a marriage between a man and a woman. In the Christian tradition marriage has the two aspects of the mutual support and love of a man and a woman, and the openness to procreation, to bearing life. That is what the word “parent” means in its Latin origin, a bearer, a creator, a life-giver. No matter how you use the word “marriage”, a same-sex union does not have the fundamental possibility of parenting. True marriage remains a vowed union between a man and a woman, a commitment for life, to provide a context in which new life might be born. The nature of marriage cannot be altered by the vote of politicians; it is not their area, it is the plan of God for the natural order.”
Today we are happy to share a blog post from Bishop Seitz of El Paso, Texas! Go to his blog directly to leave a comment!
“Mommy, how are boys different than girls?” Most children ask this question or some variation of it in the early years of their lives. Even now, long after I learned about the physical differences between the two genders, I am still learning about the many differences between men and women and, frankly, I’m still trying to understand the opposite sex. Even science is adding to our knowledge about the differences between the genders. Recently research came out pointing to different ways in which the brains of most men and women are women are wired.
Yes, Johnny, boys and girls are different and I thank God for that! The physical differences between the genders are more than skin deep. They are differences meant to create a complementarity that is directed toward a profound union of life and love. I think we could all agree that the differences between the genders have been overly stereotyped in the past by cultures and that, in many cases, women have not been given their full role in society and the Church. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis recently addressed this in his Wednesday Audience as he continued his teaching on the family. He said much more work is needed to give women their full voice. But he also warned against going to the other extreme and losing sight of the essential complementarity of the genders: “Not only man as such, not only woman as such, but rather man and woman, as a couple, are the image of God. The difference between them is not a question of contrast or subordination, but instead of communion and generation, always in the image and semblance of God.”
According to Pope Francis, the gender difference between man and woman is directed toward their union and through that union, to the potential for the generation of new life. It is not about superiority of one over the other or about competing claims. Our Holy Father sees the differences as a call to unity that is intended to be a model for the rest of humankind. He wonders if the efforts to minimize these differences, to suggest that the differences of our bodies are not important, is perhaps a capitulation to the challenges involved in making the deep, life-giving union of man and woman a reality.
Here is how Pope Francis says it: “Modern and contemporary culture has opened up new spaces, new freedoms and new depths for the enrichment and understanding of this difference. But it has also introduced many doubts and much skepticism. I wonder, for example, if so-called gender theory is not an expression of frustration and resignation, that aims to cancel out sexual difference as it is no longer able to face it.”
The Pope goes on to assert that running from the challenge is not the solution. I’ll let Our Holy Father have the last word: “Yes, we run the risk of taking step backwards. Indeed, the removal of difference is the problem, not the solution. To solve their problems in relating to each other, men and women must instead speak more, listen more, know each other better, value each other more. They must treat each other with respect and cooperate in friendship. With these human bases, supported by God’s grace, it is possible to plan a lifelong matrimonial and family union. The marriage and family bond is a serious matter for all, not only for believers. I would like to encourage intellectuals not to ignore this theme, as if it were secondary to our efforts to promote a freer and more just society.”
This past March, Bishop Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska gave an address for the “Catholics in the Capitol” annual Legislative Advocacy Day at the Nebraska State Capitol. It is entitled: “Martyrs, Witnesses and Public Life: Catholics at the Capitol”
Here are a few sections from his address that are pertinent to the work of the USCCB in promoting and defending marriage. He says, “The freedom to practice the faith is threatened by aggressive unchecked secularism, which stops at almost nothing to establish what Pope Benedict XVI called the ‘dictatorship of relativism.’ Relativism today is veiled by words like ‘tolerance’ and ‘non-discrimination’ and ‘progressivism.'” Indeed, the truth about marriage is currently being portrayed as bigoted or discriminatory.
Bishop Conley notes, “Today, our lives are not threatened in the state of Nebraska. But our liberties are. But in our state, faithful Christians face threats to their livelihood, to the education of their children, and to their family life.” These will only continue and become more serious as time goes by if we do not have the courage to stand up for our religious freedom now.
He reminds us that it is the call of the laity to bring Christ into the public sphere. “The Second Vatican Council said that your [lay] task is to ‘animate the temporal order’ with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. This means that our civil laws should reflect truth: the truth about the dignity of every human person; the truth about the sovereignty of families; the truth about the rights of children, and the disabled, and the elderly.” Catholic laypersons cannot sit on the sidelines on the debate about marriage.
Marriage is part of the common good for society. Bishop Conley notes, “Promoting human dignity is the common good. Promoting the family is the common good. Protecting truth and preserving justice is why we make law.”
And finally, Bishop Conley reminds us that we are in a spiritual battle with demons, “minions of the evil one,” and must fight for the good of all souls, including those who disagree with us. “We need to remember that those who disagree with us are created by God for salvation with him—and we are called to be missionaries to them, in order to invite them to a transformative religious relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Malone, the Chairman of the Committee of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, spoke at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. Watch the video here!
Bishop Perry, a member of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage wrote on the main USCCB blog about the connection between marriage and religious freedom.
At his blog, Archbishop Kurtz reflected on whether the legal system is prepared for ramifications if marriage is redefined in law.
Read the whole statement in the USCCB Media release. Share!
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.”
On April 2, 2015, the USCCB submitted an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, supporting the right of states to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The basic arguments of the brief are as follows:
- The Catholic Bishops support the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman out of love, justice, and concern for the common good
- When it uniquely reinforces the union of one man and one woman, the law furthers the interests and well-being of children.
- When it uniquely reinforces the union of one Man and one Woman, the law furthers the interests and well-being of mothers and fathers.
- The legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is not based on hatred, bigotry, or “animus” or any other impermissible purpose or classification.
- When it draws distinctions based on conduct rather than status or inclination, the law does not reflect hatred, bigotry, or “animus.”
- When it treats one type of conduct differently from conduct with very different practical consequences, the law does not reflect hatred, bigotry, or “animus.”
- When it reinforces norms that happen to correspond with religious beliefs, the law does not impermissibly endorse religion
- When it declines to specially reinforce a particular relationship between persons, the law does not thereby “ban” that relationship or make it “illegal.”
- A holding that the unique affirmation of man-woman marriage is grounded in hatred, bigotry, or “animus” would needlessly create Church-State conflict for generations to Come.