The USCCB continues to oppose the Equality Act in Congress. The House passed the act on May 17, 2019.
Five Bishop Chairmen spoke out against it on behalf of their committees:
- Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, Committee on Pro-Life Activities
- Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development
- Bishop Michael C. Barber, Committee on Catholic Education
- Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Committee for Religious Liberty
- Bishop James D. Conley, Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage
“Our faith calls us to uphold every individual’s dignity and rights against unjust discrimination – including in employment, housing, and services – regardless of characteristics or background. Rather than offering meaningful protections for individuals, the Equality Act would impose sweeping new norms that negatively impact the unborn, health care, charitable services, schools, personal privacy, athletics, free speech, religious liberties, and parental rights. The Act’s unsound definitions of ‘sex’ and ’gender identity’ would erase women’s distinct, hard-won recognition in federal laws. Its sex-based nondiscrimination terms would end women’s shelters and many single-sex schools. It would close faith-based foster care and adoption agencies that honor children’s rights to a mother and father. The bill would even act as an abortion mandate. We must pursue justice and equality for anyone denied it; but this is a regrettable approach. We are gravely disappointed with the Act’s passage in the U.S. House.”
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.”
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.”
A federal appeals court in Denver struck down Oklahoma’s marriage amendment today. This is the same court responsible for striking Utah’s amendment down. They argue that the U.S. Constitution protects same-sex marriage.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin released a statement, reaffirming her commitment to natural marriage. She said: “In 2004, voters had an opportunity to decide whether or not to allow same-sex marriage in Oklahoma. Seventy-six percent voted not to, and to instead define marriage as the union between one man and one woman. I was one of the many voters who cast my ballot in favor of traditional marriage.”
On July 16th, 2014 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that not extending the right to marry to same-sex couples does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights.
The petitioner to the court in this case was a man in Finland who had gone through a sex change and wanted to change his identity. He was told that if he was to do so, he would no longer be recognized as married to his wife: that marriage could be dissolved or transformed into a civil partnership.
The court explained that the European Convention “enshrines the traditional concept of marriage as being between a man and a woman.” Therefore it does not require acceptance of same-sex unions.The majority of the countries in the European Union maintain the true meaning of marriage as a bond between one man and one woman.
There’s an article about this ruling and its possible implications for American at Aleteia.
The National Organization for Marriage has put out this promotional video for the March on June 19th. Check it out and join us for the March for Marriage!
The USCCB sent out this media release in response to the Oregon and Pennsylvania rulings this week.
An excerpt: “Children deserve a mother and a father, and marriage is the only institution that unites children to their own moms and dads,” the Archbishop said. “We need policies and laws that encourage strong, permanent and faithful marriages, and that help young people marry before having children.”
Read the statement on the recent marriage ruling from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. You may also be interested in Archbishop Chaput’s commentary on his Facebook page or Bishop Bambera’s statement as well.
Please read the Oregon Catholic Conference’s response to the ruling redefining marriage on May 19, 2014.
The Bishops of Virginia, represented by the Virginia Catholic Conference, filed an amicus curiae brief today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In January, District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen struck down the provision in Virginia’s constitution that affirms marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The brief filed on behalf of the Virginia Catholic Conference explains, “Virginia’s interest in marriage is based in the Commonwealth’s foresight that changing the legal definition of marriage would unavoidably change the way Virginia’s citizens view marriage and make the Commonwealth’s marriage laws adult-focused rather than child-focused. If the message and function of marriage is changed in concept, the cultural significance attached to marriage will also change.”
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage voiced his support of the legal action. “The Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States are united in their desire to preserve the institution of marriage, and we support the Virginia bishops in their effort to defend Virginia’s recognition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. For the good of children, it is critical that society preserve the true meaning of marriage.”
With the Virginia Catholic Conference, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) also filed an amicus brief in Bostic v. Schaefer, along with four other institutions. Oral arguments in this case were heard on May 13, 2014. The audio is available at the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Updated Monday, May 19, 2014
Is defending marriage just about injuring others? No. Marriage matters for everyone. (5th of 7 in a series)
Note: This post is fifth in a series of posts about what we can learn from the Supreme Court’s June 2013 DOMA decision, and how that can help us better promote and defend marriage. This series is based on a July 2013 talk by staff of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
- #1: Background to the Supreme Court cases
- #2: Unspoken assumptions & reframing the debate
- #3: What do you say that marriage is? The need for a comprehensive vision
- #4: The flawed anthropology of “sexual orientation”
PART ONE: What we can learn from the Supreme Court
Post #5: Is defending marriage just about injuring others? No. Marriage is good for everyone.
In its ruling on DOMA, the Supreme Court said that laws that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman are inherently suspect because their only justification is a desire to “injure” a class of persons. Indeed, the Court does not mince words when it talks about the purpose of DOMA: “The principle purpose and the necessary effect of this law are to demean those persons who are in a lawful same-sex marriage” (p. 25, emphasis added). DOMA gave a “stigma” to such persons (p. 21) and it instructed them that their marriage is “less worthy” than other marriages (p. 25).
Worse, the Court said that DOMA – and presumably any law that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman – lacks a “legitimate purpose” (p. 25). In other words, no rational reason exists that would justify a law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. No reason, for example, such as the fact that only male-female relationships are capable of conceiving children, who have a vested interest in being raised by their married father and mother.
In his dissent, Justice Scalia rails against the Court’s dismissal of marriage proponents’ arguments as merely cloaks for irrational prejudice against those who desire to marry someone of the same sex. Scalia says that the Court thus made those who still argue for man-woman marriage “enemies of the human race” (p. 21, Scalia dissent). He writes, “In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement” (p. 21). In other words, the book is closed. There is no room for disagreement. Scalia also said, “In the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or come along with us” (p. 25).
Clearly that attitude is a daunting obstacle for those of us who seek to promote marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Tip number four: Emphasize that promoting and defending marriage is good for everyone.
As stated already, one challenge we face is criticism that the Church is “obsessed” with marriage because she really only cares about married people; she is pro-married couples, but anti-everyone else. Of course we know this is false.
Catholic Social Teaching is a great help here, because it is very clear that marriage and the family matter to society. (And there is no question at all that “marriage” means what it always had for the Church: the union of one man and one woman). For example, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church [CSDC] describes the family (founded on marriage) as “the primary place of humanization” (no. 209), the “cradle of life and love” (no. 209), the “first and vital cell of society” (no. 2), the place where “one learns social responsibility and solidarity” (no. 213) and so on.
Marriage benefits society, first, by being what it is. The Compendium speaks beautifully of the “dynamism of love” that radiates out from the irrevocable vow that husband and wife give to each other (CSDC, no. 221). Their “yes” to each other lays the foundation for them to say “yes” to any children God gives them, and to say “yes” to all persons, seeing them as valuable for their own sake and not for what they can do and contribute.
And marriage of course benefits society by giving children the best possible chance to be born into a situation where their mother and father have already committed to each other and to any children born from their union. Not every married couple is blessed with children, but every child has a mom and a dad. As the quip goes, “When a child is born, chances are there’s a mother close by. The problem is: Who’s the father?” Marriage solves this cultural dilemma by bringing men and women together before children are conceived, to lay a solid foundation where they can be welcomed into a “sanctuary of life” (CSDC, no. 231ff).
Another way to show that marriage matters for everyone, and is not a mean-spirited jab at those who can’t or won’t get married, is to point out that all of us are sons or daughters. All of us have a father and a mother, and whether those two persons were and still are married to each other makes a great impact on our lives. This is a universal truth, and one that the Church argues should matter for public policy.
Finally, the fact that marriage matters for everyone gives us a way to connect promoting and defending marriage with the New Evangelization. Yes, the New Evangelization means reaching and re-catechizing those who have been baptized but not formed. Those who serve in various ministries can probably think of ways that they are doing this kind of evangelization. Our Catholic people certainly need instruction in the full meaning of marriage; one poll in March 2013 found that over half of Catholics support redefining marriage (although critics pointed out that only 36% of regular mass-goers said they were for redefining marriage). And they need to be given encouragement to stand firm in these teachings, a difficult task in the face of the Supreme Court’s judgment that defending marriage means harming and demeaning others. We of course need to dig deep into the rich, life-giving teaching of the Church on marriage and give it generously to those within the Church.
But there is another connection between the New Evangelization and marriage. In the face of such severe challenges to marriage, it can be tempting to throw up our hands and retreat from the public square, shutting the Church doors tight and vowing to “protect the Sacrament” come what may, but effectively giving up on marriage outside the Church walls. This might seem like a fix – you have your marriage, we have ours – but it would mean giving up on our responsibility to evangelize and it would mean giving up on the fact that marriage matters for everyone.
Contrary to what the Supreme Court said, the bishops are very clear that “to promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman is itself a matter of justice.” (USCCB, Pastoral letter, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan : p. 23)
In sum, the challenge of marriage redefinition isn’t going away. On the legal front, we can expect more court battles over marriage’s meaning, more ballot initiatives to defend or redefine marriage, and more challenges to other aspects of marriage. For example, one polygamy activist group celebrated the Court’s ruling, saying, “I think [the court] has taken a step in correcting some inequality, and that’s certainly something that’s going to trickle down and impact us.”
Even more soberly, it seems reasonable to expect continuing clashes between the Church and the government over what marriage is and how much freedom the Church has to hold to the authentic meaning of marriage. Today these challenges are being felt by wedding businesses and government officials, among others. Tomorrow, could they be felt by marriage ministries such as marriage preparation and healing ministries? We say that not to speculate or be fear-mongers, but only to point out that the trend seems to be the government strong-arming people of faith to treat people in same-sex relationships as if they were married husbands and wives.
And on the pastoral front, we can expect more confusion about marriage’s meaning and purpose, evidenced by the quotes we’ve shared from the highest Court in the land. Unfortunately, that’s the situation we find ourselves in. As Justice Scalia stated in his dissent: “…we will have to live with the chaos created by this [decision]” (p. 8, Scalia dissent). But are we just going to live with this chaos? Not us. How about you?
Next: On to Part Two: Practical Ways to Promote and Defend Marriage
USCCB News Release: Supreme Court Decisions on Marriage: "Tragic Day for Marriage and Our Nation," State U.S. Bishops
The U.S. Supreme Court decisions June 26 striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and refusing to rule on the merits of a challenge to California’s Proposition 8 mark a “tragic day for marriage and our nation,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
The statement follows.
“Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Court got it wrong. The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage. It is also unfortunate that the Court did not take the opportunity to uphold California’s Proposition 8 but instead decided not to rule on the matter. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth. These decisions are part of a public debate of great consequence. The future of marriage and the well-being of our society hang in the balance.
“Marriage is the only institution that brings together a man and a woman for life, providing any child who comes from their union with the secure foundation of a mother and a father.
“Our culture has taken for granted for far too long what human nature, experience, common sense, and God’s wise design all confirm: the difference between a man and a woman matters, and the difference between a mom and a dad matters. While the culture has failed in many ways to be marriage-strengthening, this is no reason to give up. Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it.
“When Jesus taught about the meaning of marriage – the lifelong, exclusive union of husband and wife – he pointed back to “the beginning” of God’s creation of the human person as male and female (see Matthew 19). In the face of the customs and laws of his time, Jesus taught an unpopular truth that everyone could understand. The truth of marriage endures, and we will continue to boldly proclaim it with confidence and charity.
“Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decisions, with renewed purpose we call upon all of our leaders and the people of this good nation to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life. We also ask for prayers as the Court’s decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified.”
Editors: Background information can be found at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/backgrounder-on-proposition-8-and-doma.cfm
- Redefining marriage in law is a serious injustice
- Children have a right to be raised by mother and father
- Changes meaning of terms regarding marriage, affects birth certificates
“The Delaware Senate passed an unjust bill that attempts to redefine marriage,” said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
“The claim of this bill to redefine marriage is in vain; marriage cannot be redefined, because its unique meaning lies in our very nature. It is also a serious injustice to the most vulnerable among us: children,” said Archbishop Cordileone.
Archbishop Cordileone went on to emphasize the importance of marriage for children. “Marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any child conceived of their union,” he said. “Our society either preserves laws that respect the fundamental right of children to be raised by their moms and dads together in marriage, or it does not.”
The Delaware bill also includes further implications of marriage redefinition in the law. For example, the bill states that terms such as “husband” and “wife” denoting a spousal relationship in Delaware law are to apply equally to persons in an opposite-sex or same-sex relationship. The bill also allows two “parents” of the same sex to be entered on the original birth certificate, thus allowing for two mothers or two fathers to be on the certificate.
The Governor of Delaware signed it into law.
In a recent interview with Catholic News Agency, Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, offered several reasons why the Church works tirelessly to preserve the meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
“Marriage is about fundamental justice for children,” said the bishop. “Children do best with a mother and a father.” He cited a recent research article published in Social Science Research, which affirmed, again, the benefits to children of being raised by their own biological mother and father. The article was based on a representative group of young adults raised in different familial arrangements. As the bishop says, “In no area were children better off in an alternative arrangement [than their own mother and father].”
Bishop Cordileone also drew attention to the fact that redefining marriage poses a serious threat to religious freedom, a topic we treated in the Fortnight for Freedom series. The bishop emphasized that the proposal to redefine marriage is not an isolated problem but is intimately connected with broader misunderstanding of sexuality. “This isn’t a new threat to marriage,” he explained. “It’s a huge problem, and it’s gone on for decades.” Contraception, divorce, and promiscuity all eroded the characteristic marks of marriage – fidelity, permanence, and openness to life. Now people have a hard time seeing marriage as a lifelong child-centered institution instead of an affirmation of adult relationships.
Finally, Bishop Cordileone encouraged society to defend marriage in civil law, noting the unique contribution that marriage makes to society, and especially to children.
Today we’d like to highlight two recent pieces by bishops about marriage, both written in May but still eminently relevant.
By Bishop James V. Johnston, Springfield-Cape Girardeau
Excerpts, emphasis added:
“By redefining marriage, putting marriage between a man and a woman on an equal footing with same-sex unions, the state would be saying that the former is no better than the latter. This is fundamentally unjust. It will also likely lead to further tyranny of the state over those institutions which do not subscribe to the new definition, as has already occurred in Canada and Europe. In the US, the Catholic Church has experienced the first wave of this governmental encroachment in several states – being forced out of the charitable work of facilitating adoptions, for example.”
“Is marriage only ‘Who do you love?’ Catholics, most other Christians, and many non-religious people for that matter, believe it is much more. In fact, while love is the goal, and is typically what one would expect of a marriage, strictly speaking, marriage is a reality that exists even in those instances when the spouses may stop feeling love for one another, precisely because it is much more than just ‘Who do you love?’“
Excerpts, emphasis added:
“The institution of marriage is the very cornerstone of our society. We must speak out against all attempts to redefine marriage.”
“Marriage has two fundamental ends or purposes: the good of the spouses and the procreation of children. It is inseparably both unitive and procreative. Same-sex unions cannot qualify as marriages.”
Bishop Rhoades then quotes from the USCCB 2009 pastoral letter on marriage, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan, which deals with so-called same-sex “marriage” on pages 21-23.
“Marriage is a unique union, a relationship different from all others. It is the permanent bond between one man and one woman whose two-in-one-flesh communion of persons is an indispensable good at the heart of every family and every society. Same-sex unions are incapable of realizing this specific communion of persons. Therefore, attempting to redefine marriage to include such relationships empties the term of its meaning, for it excludes the essential complementarity between man and woman, treating sexual difference as if it were irrelevant to what marriage is.”
June 1, 2012
- U.S. Courts of Appeals decision ‘grave injustice’
- Respecting marriage as the union of a man and a woman protects children
- Marriage a cornerstone of our society, notes Bishop Cordileone
WASHINGTON—A federal appeals court decision May 31 to strike down part of the Defense of Marriage Act is a matter of “grave injustice,” said Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
He voiced his disappointment following the May 31 decision of the federal appeals court in Boston to strike down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
“Marriage, the union of one man and one woman, is the cornerstone of society,” Bishop Cordileone said. “It is also the foundation of a just society, as it protects the most vulnerable segment of the population, children. Every child longs for and deserves a mother and a father, and marriage is the only institution that insures that children grow up knowing and being known by their mother and father. The public good demands that this truth of marriage be respected in law and society, not rejected.”
On May 31, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in Boston, upheld an earlier U.S. District Court decision claiming section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional. Section 3 defines marriage for purposes of federal law as the union of one man and one woman.
Bishop Cordileone noted, “The federal appeals court in Boston did a grave injustice yesterday by striking down that part of the Defense of Marriage Act that reasonably recognizes the reality that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. DOMA is part of our nation’s long-established body of law rooted in the true meaning of marriage. Hopefully, this unjust ruling will be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, for the benefit of our nation’s children, and our nation as a whole.”
DOMA was approved by a broad, bi-partisan majority of Congress in 1996, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. DOMA recognizes for purposes of federal law that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and it also protects the rights of states to uphold this definition of marriage in the face of laws from other states that might be adverse to such definition.
Strengthening and Defending Marriage is a Matter of Justice: from "Catholics Care. Catholics Vote." series
Over at the USCCB Media Relations blog, there’s a series underway called “Catholics Care. Catholics Vote.” The posts in this series discuss various aspects of the 2007 USCCB document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, which was reissued in 2011 with a new introductory note. Today’s post treats the topic of marriage, which is identified by the bishops as a key public policy concern.
Catholics Care. Catholics Vote: Strengthening and Defending Marriage is a Matter of Justice
Marriage is clearly a big deal for Catholics.
Even many non-Catholics know that, for instance, the Catholic Church doesn’t recognize divorce and that being married in the Church is important to Catholics. Delving into Catholic teaching itself, Scripture is filled with references to marriage, and the Church presents it as a vocation and as one of the Sacraments, a visible sign of God’s gift of grace.
What might be more surprising is that, for Catholics, marriage is also a key public policy issue, in fact one of six raised by the U.S. bishops when they reissued Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, their call to political responsibility. This means marriage is not only something that matters to the doctrine of the Church and the private lives of the people entering into it. It matters to all society.
Keep reading at the USCCB media relations blog.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, addressed the UN Human Rights Council on March 9 regarding a report on “Discriminatory Laws and Practices and Acts of Violence against Individuals based on their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” In his remarks, Archbishop Tomasi emphasized that the Catholic Church rejects violence against any one for any reason. In addition, the Church has repeatedly and specifically condemned violence against persons who experience same-sex attraction, calling such violence “deplorable,” for example, in a 1986 letter sent from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to all bishops. As that letter stated, “The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action, and in law.”
At the same time, Archbishop Tomasi raised a concern that the language of the above-mentioned UN report confused the just protection of persons from treatment antithetical to their dignity with the unjust proposal to redefine or further erode marriage. So while the report asserts that “States are not required, under international law, to allow same-sex couples to marry,” it goes on to say that States have an obligation “to ensure that unmarried same-sex couples are treated in the same way and entitled to the same benefits as unmarried opposite-sex couples.”
Commenting on this passage, Archbishop Tomasi told the Human Rights Council,
In this regard, the Holy See expresses grave concern that, under the guise of “protecting” people from discrimination and violence on the basis of perceived sexual differences, this Council may be running the risk of demeaning the sacred and time-honoured legal institution of marriage between man and woman, between husband and wife, which enjoyed special protection from time immemorial.”
Continuing, the Archbishop reminded those assembled that marriage makes a key and irreplaceable contribution to society:
Marriage contributes to society because it models the way in which women and men live interdependently and commit, for the whole of life, to seek the good of each other. The marital union also provides the best conditions for raising children; namely, the stable, loving relationship of a mother and a father; it is the foundation of the natural family, the basic cell of society.
Marriage’s identity explains the state’s responsibility toward it, explained Archbishop Tomasi: “States confer legal recognition on the marital relationship between husband and wife because it makes a unique and essential contribution to the public good.”
Finally, the Archbishop cautioned against the consequences of redefining marriage:
If marriage were to be re-defined in a way that makes other relationships equivalent to it, as has occurred in some countries and as the High Commissioner seems to be encouraging in her Report, the institution of marriage, and consequently the natural family itself, will be both devalued and weakened.
- Read the entire text of Archbishop Silvano Tomasi’s speech at News.Va: “Holy See addresses UN Human Rights Council on Gender”
- As reported by Catholic News Service: “Recognizing gay unions devalues marriage, official tells UN council“
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from an address given yesterday, March 9, from the Holy Father to U.S. bishops from Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota who were in Rome for their “ad limina” visit. (All emphasis added.)
Pope Benedict began his talk by referencing the other meetings he’s had this year with other bishops from the United States, in which they discussed current threats to freedom of conscience, religion, and worship. He continued:
In this talk I would like to discuss another serious issue which you raised with me during my Pastoral Visit to America, namely, the contemporary crisis of marriage and the family, and, more generally, of the Christian vision of human sexuality. It is in fact increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, and the widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic grounded in the practice of chastity, have led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.
The Holy Father went out to specifically address the current proposals in the United States to redefine marriage by exiling sexual difference from the marriage covenant:
In this regard, particular mention must be made of the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage. The Church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation. Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage. Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.
He then spoke beautifully about the virtue of chastity, needed by married and unmarried people alike:
In this great pastoral effort there is an urgent need for the entire Christian community to recover an appreciation of the virtue of chastity. The integrating and liberating function of this virtue (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2338-2343) should be emphasized by a formation of the heart, which presents the Christian understanding of sexuality as a source of genuine freedom, happiness and the fulfilment of our fundamental and innate human vocation to love. It is not merely a question of presenting arguments, but of appealing to an integrated, consistent and uplifting vision of human sexuality.
Finally, the Holy Father reiterated again the Church’s great concern for the littlest among us, children, who inordinately suffer from the eclipse of chastity and marriage in American society:
Let me conclude by recalling that all our efforts in this area are ultimately concerned with the good of children, who have a fundamental right to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. Children are the greatest treasure and the future of every society: truly caring for them means recognizing our responsibility to teach, defend and live the moral virtues which are the key to human fulfillment.
Pope Benedict’s words – so current and so rich – provide a faithful compass for the work of the Marriage: Unique for a Reason project. They deserve to be read and re-read and contemplated in depth
Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine wrote a pastoral letter on marriage on the occasion of World Marriage Day, this past February 12, 2012: “Marriage: Yesterday – Today – Always.” The letter clearly reflects the bishop’s role as teacher (see CCC, nos. 888-892): it lays out the foundations for the Church’s teaching on marriage as found in sacred Scripture, sacred Tradition, and the natural law. It responds to the contemporary challenge of the proposal to redefine marriage but does so in the context of an expansive vision of marriage’s timeless beauty and essential place in society. In sum, Bishop Malone’s letter serves as a timely “mini catechesis” on marriage and a firm but gentle reminder of what society stands to lose if marriage is redefined in the law.
Part One: Introduction
- Goal: “to reflect with you…upon the greatness and the beauty of marriage – as an original gift of the Lord’s creation and, consequently, as a vocation and as the foundational institution of family and society” (p. 1)
- All are called to the vocation of holiness. Within this universal vocation is the call to holy orders, consecrated virginity, and marriage. (p. 2)
- Challenges to marriage: cohabitation, divorce, contraception, and marriage redefinition that rejects the essential place of sexual difference (p. 3-4; see USCCB, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan , pp. 17-27).
- Maine law currently defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, a union it describes as “of inestimable value to society” (p. 5).
Part Two: What is Marriage?
- A basic definition: “Marriage is the lifelong exclusive union of one man and one woman – a font of unitive life and love as well as the foundation of a stable family and society” (p. 6).
- Marriage is rooted in creation: “God created marriage in the very same breath as He created the human person” (p. 8).
- Every heart longs for communion; marriage is a unique kind of communion where man and woman “truly become one” (p. 9).
- Sexual difference matters to parenting, that is, to fathering and mothering: “The mother and the father, each in her/his own way, provide a loving space for the child, one by accenting union, the other by accenting distinction” (p. 10).
- “A child is meant to have a mother and a father. Children long for this and it is their right” (p. 10).
- Infertility does not diminish the goodness of a marriage: “The marital union of a man and a woman is a distinctive and complementary communion of persons. An infertile couple continues to manifest this attribute” (p. 12; see Love and Life, p. 14).
- Children are a gift and not something that spouses have a “right” to (p. 12).
Part Three: Marriage and the Natural Law
- Going to the roots: “Even the Church’s teaching about marriage is rooted in something far older and more fundamental than religious doctrine: it is the law of nature which furthers the order of creation and establishes the activities of all creatures” (p. 13).
- About natural law: Natural law is our participation in God’s eternal law (p. 12); natural law shows us what conforms to our human nature (good actions) and what is at variance with our nature (bad actions) (p. 13-14); natural law is immutable, enduring and unchangeable (p. 14); and natural law is “the source from which both civil law and Church law emerge” (p. 15).
- Natural law guides civil law to properly respect and foster the common good; marriage plays a key role in furthering the common good for all people (p. 17-18).
Part Four: Marriage: A Unique Relationship
- “Marriage is a unique union, a relationship different from all others. It is the permanent bond between one man and one woman whose two-in-one-flesh communion of persons is an indispensable good at the heart of every family and every society” (p. 18).
- Marriage is not… “the appearance of a union”… “a partial commitment”… “simply friendship” (p. 19).
- Marriage is… “more than just a loving relationship”… “more than just a committed relationship”… “more than just about access to certain state-sponsored benefits” (p. 20).
- What about benefits for unmarried persons? “The state has various legal means at its disposal to facilitate people’s ability to care for and support each other. We do not need to redefine marriage to accomplish this” (p. 20).
- The place of justice in the marriage debate: “To promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman is itself a matter of justice” (p. 21).
Part Five: Marriage and the Good of Society
- For the good of children: “When we recognize true marriage and support it, we ensure that as many children as possible know and are known by, love and are loved by, the mother and father in the exclusive marital embrace” (p. 22).
- For all of society: “Everyone has a stake in a stable, flourishing, and loving society created and sustained in no small part by marriage between a man and a woman” (p. 22).
A Final Word
- “As your bishop, whose primary responsibility is that of teacher, it is my hope that this document will challenge everyone who reads it to embrace anew the truth, beauty and goodness of marriage as it has always been and always will be” (p. 23).
Read Bishop Malone’s pastoral letter, “Marriage: Yesterday – Today – Always“