Yesterday, Sunday August 26, the universal Church heard St. Paul’s beautiful words about marriage in his letter to the Ephesians: “‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ [Gen 2:24] This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.” (Eph 5:31-32)
Yesterday, then, was a fitting Sunday for the Catholic bishops of Scotland to declare “National Marriage Sunday.” In light of a debate about marriage’s definition currently going on in Scotland, they asked all parishes to read aloud the following pastoral letter about marriage.
A Message for Marriage Sunday
from the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland
In all things, we as Catholics look to Jesus Christ as our model and teacher. When asked about marriage He gave a profound and rich reply: “Have you not read that the Creator, from the beginning, ‘made them male and female’, and said: ‘This is why a man must leave father and mother and cling to his wife and the two become one body’.” (Matthew, 19: 4-5)
In the Year of Faith, which begins this October, we wish to place a special emphasis on the role of the family founded on marriage. The family is the domestic Church, and the first place in which the faith is transmitted. For that reason it must have a primary focus in our prayerful considerations during this period of grace.
We write to you having already expressed our deep disappointment that the Scottish Government has decided to redefine marriage and legislate for same-sex marriage. We take this opportunity to thank you for your past support in defense of marriage and hope you will continue to act against efforts to redefine it. We reaffirm before you all the common wisdom of humanity and the revealed faith of the Church that marriage is a unique life-long union of a man and a woman.
In circumstances when the true nature of marriage is being obscured, we wish to affirm and celebrate the truth and beauty of the Sacrament of Matrimony and family life as Jesus revealed it; to do something new to support marriage and family life in the Catholic community and in the country; and to reinforce the vocation of marriage and the pastoral care of families which takes in the everyday life of the Church in dioceses and parishes across the country.
For that reason, in the forthcoming Year of Faith we have decided to establish a new Commission for Marriage and the Family. This Commission will be led by a bishop and will be composed mostly of lay men and women. The Commission will be charged with engaging with those young men and women who will be future husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and with those who already live out their vocation to marriage and parenthood in surroundings which often make it hard to sustain and develop the full Catholic family life we cherish.
We wish to support too, those who are widowed, separated and divorced and all who need to feel the Church’s maternal care in the circumstances in which they find themselves. The new Commission will promote the true nature of marriage as both a human institution and a union blessed by Jesus. The Commission will be asked to develop an online presence so that prayer, reflection, formation and practical information on matters to do with marriage and family life can be quickly accessible to all. It will also work to produce materials and organise events which will support ordinary Catholic families in their daily lives. During the course of the coming year we will ask for your support for these initiatives.
Our faith teaches us that marriage is a great and holy mystery. The Bishops of Scotland will continue to promote and uphold the universally accepted definition of marriage as the union solely of a man and a woman. At the same time, we wish to work positively for the strengthening of marriage within the Church and within our society.
This is an important initiative for all our people, but especially our young people and children. We urge you to join us in this endeavour. Pray for your own family every day, and pray for those families whose lives are made difficult by the problems and cares which they encounter. Finally, we invite you to pray for our elected leaders, invoking the Holy Spirit on them, that they may be moved to safeguard marriage as it has always been understood, for the good of Scotland and of our society.
Read the press release here.
As reported in EWTN News, the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico released a statement on April 18 calling for a vigilant defense of marriage and the family. The statement, entitled “The family: the heart and face of hope for the Church and society in Mexico,” recalled the authentic meaning of marriage and exhorted fellow Mexicans “to open our freedom to the original plan of God, who created man and woman in his image and likeness, different yet complementary, and he bestowed on them the blessing of fertility.”
Continuing, the bishops wrote:
This is the time of the family! The future of evangelization, like humanity itself, depends greatly on it. For this reason, let us make the love and trust Pope John Paul II had for the family our own and say, Family, believe in what you are! Family, be what you are!
They also recalled the importance of both fathers and mothers in the lives of their children, writing that children are the “visible sign and fruit” of their parents’ love. “They need both parents to forge a healthy personality, and this requires stability and co-responsibility in marriage.”
Read the entire news release at EWTN News.
Today, news from “across the pond.” The President and Vice President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales penned a pastoral letter on marriage that was to be read at parishes throughout England and Wales this past weekend, March 10 and 11. In their letter, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark write that they plan to present “the Catholic vision of marriage and the light it casts on the importance of marriage for our society” (all emphasis added).
The Archbishops reflect on marriage both as a natural institution and as a sacrament:
The roots of the institution of marriage lie in our nature. Male and female we have been created, and written into our nature is this pattern of complementarity and fertility.
. . .
As a Sacrament, [marriage] is a place where divine grace flows. Indeed, marriage is a sharing in the mystery of God’s own life: the unending and perfect flow of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The letter also argues that “changing the legal definition of marriage would be a profoundly radical step.” Continuing, they explain:
The law helps to shape and form social and cultural values. A change in the law would gradually and inevitably transform society’s understanding of the purpose of marriage. It would reduce it just to the commitment of the two persons involved. There would be no recognition of the complementarity of male and female or that marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children.
On the Bishops’ Conference website, Archbishop Nichols and Archbishop Smith urge residents of England and Wales to sign an online petition organized by the grass-roots campaign Coalition for Marriage.