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Friday Fast: March 28

Posted Mar. 27, 2014 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

fridayfastmarch28 jpgReflection: “Pope Francis has observed that ‘religion [cannot] be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life.’ …Every Christian is called to practice charity in a manner corresponding to his or her vocation. Some Catholics, like the Little Sisters of the Poor who run nursing homes for the elderly poor, devote their entire lives to helping others and embrace a vow of poverty themselves” (Archbishop Kurtz).

Yet the HHS mandate compels objecting employers to provide coverage for drugs and devices which are against their consciences and threatens the ministries of the Little Sisters of the Poor and many others.

As this and many other lawsuits progress, let us continue our prayer efforts for the protection of the religious freedom so we may practice charity and live out our faith without penalty.

Did You Know? This Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases brought by families who are seeking protection of their religious freedom.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, shares comments in his op-ed, “Will the Owners of Hobby Lobby Have to Check Their Faith at Their Own Door?”

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The Annunciation and Freedom

Posted Mar. 25, 2014 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1: 38).”

Today we celebrate that great event when the Angel Gabriel visited Mary and asked her to be the Mother of God. The Annunciation is a huge solemnity in the Church because it commemorates that moment when God took on human flesh. This day exemplifies God’s love for us in so many ways. All throughout the Old Testament we read about examples when God’s love was rejected by His people. Time and time again, He offered opportunities to accept His love, all the while, allowing His people to choose Him freely (or not choose Him as was often the case). Mary’s fiat or “yes” is celebrated because unlike anyone in history before her, she was completely and unreservedly open to God’s will in her life.

The event of the Annunciation teaches us a great deal about freedom. Often times, when we think of freedom, we see it as the ability to choose between “a” or “b,” without any pressure or influence to choose either one. We often believe that such an influence would be considered an infringement on our freedom. But when we look closer, this view of freedom is devoid of all truth. It assumes there is no difference between the options “a” and “b” and that the only good is the ability to choose. It never considers what is being chosen.

Authentic freedom, on the other hand, is shaped by truth. In the words of John Paul II, “Truth enlightens man’s intelligence and shapes his freedom.” Apart from truth, freedom cannot exist. Take for example persons considered “free” to “express their sexuality” through the use of pornography, a medium that completely disregards the truth of human dignity and what human sexuality is made for. Through this addicting “expression,” a person can quickly become a slave to the sin of pornography. Contrarily, we are most free when we are living according to the truth of our existence.  Because she had never been touched by the stain of sin, Mary was completely free to embrace the will of God. She was completely free to live the life she was made to live.

Another lie society tells us is that our ability to choose is simply that, our choice. No one else needs to be involved and no one else should matter. We are autonomous, self-determining individuals, so the theory goes. The Annunciation shows us this is not the case. Mary’s willingness to participate in the event of the Incarnation has affected all of history. All of creation waited in anticipation of Mary’s “Yes.” We are all sharers in the benefit of Mary’s decision to choose the will of God. No choice we make is ever merely personal because we are all connected through our common humanity.

Finally, the Annunciation shows us that we can never truly separate faith and life. This is sometimes difficult to accept, especially within a culture that emphasizes the importance and necessity of separating “Church and state.” Today, it is considered normal to be “personally opposed” to something, but okay with it happening in the public realm. Our Catholic faith is different, however. There is no distinction between the public and private realm when it comes to living out our faith. Everything we do, whether it be eating, sleeping, talking or reading, should be done with an eye to who we are as created beings and why God made us. The Incarnation shows us that the physical matters. Salvation history occurs within history, it is a physical event.

There is a poem by Rev. John Duffy, C.S.s.R. which describes Mary’s first awakening after the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. In describing Mary, the poem explains “She was the Mother of the wandering Word, little and terrifying in her laboring womb. And nothing would again be casual and small, but everything with light invested (italics mine).” The Incarnation displays for us how involved God is in our daily lives. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16).” He is not some distant God who creates us and leaves us to figure things out on our own. Instead, God is invested in our lives at every moment. He holds us in being through love, in love, and for love. As John Paul II explained, “man remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love (Redemptor Hominis, no 10).” So nothing we do should be separated from this realization that God is Love and desires each of us to be united with Him in Love. When we realize this, “nothing [will] again be casual and small.”

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USCCB Subcommittee Chairman Strongly Supports Amending U.S. Constitution to Protect Marriage

Posted Feb. 20, 2014 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Archbishop Cordileone: Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is needed

Amendment is only remedy against judicial activism

Elemental truth of marriage deserves highest protection in law

February 19, 2014

WASHINGTON—Expressing strong support for the federal Marriage Protection Amendment (H. J. Res. 51) introduced by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) in the U.S. House of Representatives, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said, “The amendment would secure in law throughout the country the basic truth known to reason that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”  Archbishop Cordileone , chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, made the comments in a February 19 letter of support to Rep. Huelskamp.

Referencing recent federal court decisions striking down a number of state marriage laws, Archbishop Cordileone said, “An amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the only remedy in law against this judicial activism that may ultimately end with federal judges declaring that the U.S. Constitution requires states, and consequently the federal government, to redefine marriage.”  He added, “Just as Roe v. Wade mandated a constitutional right to abortion throughout the country, we now have the possibility of another bad decision mandating a constitutional change in the meaning of marriage in order to promote (at least to begin with) ‘marriages’ between two people of the same sex throughout the country. Your proposed Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is, therefore, a needed remedy.”

Archbishop Cordileone also said, “Preserving this elemental truth is necessary for the good of society at large and for the good of children who deserve the love of both a mother and a father, neither of whom is expendable.  Indeed, marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any child conceived of their union.”  Archbishop Cordileone also commented on the nature of the recent federal court decisions by saying, “Federal court opinions that essentially redefine marriage to be merely a state recognized arrangement of intimate adult relationships ignore the truth about marriage, which deserves the highest protection in law.”

Archbishop Cordileone urged the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and encouraged members to join the resolution as cosponsors.

Archbishop Cordileone’s letter can be found online.

For H.J. Res. 51 to amend the U.S. Constitution, it must be approved by two-thirds of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and then be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

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Friday Fast: February 21

Posted Feb. 20, 2014 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Intention: This week, we ask martyrs who have died for Christ to intercede for people around the world who suffer persecution so that they can continue to witness to the faith.

Reflection: Saturday, February 22 marks the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, whom we remember as the first Pope and head of the Roman Catholic Church.  St. Peter suffered a martyr’s death, which Origen, a scholar and early Christian theologian, described as follows: “Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer.”

The testimony we learn of St. Peter and all Catholic martyrs reminds us to remain ever ardent in our faith even in the face of persecution in the modern world.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: “Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness unto death.”  (CCC, no. 2473)  In this way, we follow Christ who came into the world to proclaim the truth.

At a recent U.S. congressional hearing, the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to the United Nations testified that “flagrant and widespread persecution of Christians rages in the Middle East even as we meet.”  Other speakers at the hearing spoke about violence against Christians in Indonesia, Vietnam, Nigeria, Myanmar, Sudan, Eritrea, and elsewhere.  We must continue to pray for those who suffer persecution on account of their faith.

Did You Know? Pope Francis remarked on the Syrian crisis last year, asking for prayers for those killed.  He recognized the great courage of those who have kept their faith despite suffering and persecution and said, “To all those who are suffering, I say: Never lose hope! The church is alongside you, accompanies you and supports you.”

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Friday Fast: January 31

Posted Jan. 30, 2014 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Intention: We pray that we can continue to educate students in the fullness of our Catholic faith.

Reflection: In his proclamation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis praises the efforts of Catholic schools and charities that promote peace, social harmony, and the protection of human and civil rights. He states, “Yet, we find it difficult to make people see that when we raise other questions less palatable to public opinion, we are doing so out of fidelity to precisely the same convictions about human dignity and the common good.” The role of Catholic schools, the Holy Father emphasizes, is to remain in dialogue with the formative teachings of the Church. In this way, all the sciences are embedded with Catholic theology, and these disciplines become instruments “for enlightening and renewing the world.” In his address to trustees of the University of Notre Dame on Thursday, Pope Francis explained, “Essential…is the uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the Church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors.”

In light of Catholic Schools Week, let us remember the role of Catholic schools in striving to proclaim the Gospel message in all areas of study through first knowing and loving Christ.

Did You Know? Catholic Schools Week is being observed in dioceses around the country from January 26 through February 1. This year’s theme, “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service,” focuses on the principles of a Catholic education.

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Friday Fast: January 17

Posted Jan. 16, 2014 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Intention: We pray that we can continue to serve the poor and needy while living out the fullness of our faith. 

Reflection: In his exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis urges Catholics and non-Catholics alike to serve the poorest among us. As Christians, we are called to serve Christ by serving and caring for our brothers and sisters. We do this every day in our schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations that seek to alleviate the suffering of the vulnerable.Pope Francis

Read Pope Francis’ recent words regarding Christ’s love for humanity and living out this love in our daily lives.

Archbishop Kurtz, President of the USCCB, has explained how the HHS mandate threatens our ability to serve the poor and vulnerable and how “forcing our ministries to divert funds from serving their neighbors to paying government fines will have real consequences for real people.” Let us pray that the administration, Congress, and the courts will allow us to serve others while living out the fullness of the Catholic faith.

Did You Know? Each year, the President declares January 16th to be Religious Freedom Day, which commemorates the landmark adoption in 1786 of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, drafted by Thomas Jefferson. The goal of this day is to promote and protect religious expression and to “observe this day through appropriate events and activities in homes, schools, and places of worship.”

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Friday Fast: November 22

Posted Nov. 25, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Christ the KingIntention: Let us pray that the right to religious liberty may be honored and upheld so that all may be able to worship and follow God freely.

Reflection: On Sunday November 24, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, which reminds us that no earthly power can override man’s desire and freedom to worship the Creator. As Christians, we believe in this right and in every person’s intrinsic yearning to seek and worship God in all things and above all else.

In 1925, Pope Pius XI wrote in his encyclical Quas Primas, which instituted the Feast of Christ the King, that “Christ reign[s] ‘in the hearts of men,’ both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind.”

In the core document Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty, the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty “urge[d] that the Solemnity of Christ the King—a feast born out of resistance to totalitarian incursions against religious liberty—be a day specifically employed by bishops and priests to preach about religious liberty, both here and abroad.”

Did You Know? Last week, at the conclusion of their fall General Assembly, the U.S. bishops unanimously issued a “Special Message” on the HHS mandate.They stated, “As the government’s implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and protect our religious freedom.” Go to the USCCB website to learn more about the bishops’ work to preserve religious freedom.

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What now? Practical ways to promote and defend marriage (6th of 7 in a series)

Posted Aug. 30, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 3 comments

Note: This post is sixth 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.

Earlier posts:

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PART TWO: Practical ways to promote and defend marriage

Post #6: Doing your ministry well, and Marriage: Unique for a Reason

The current challenges we face in regards to marriage, as evidenced by the June 2013 Supreme Court decisions on two marriage cases (regarding DOMA and Proposition 8), does not mean that you have to fundamentally shift gears in your ministry or – worse – start several new programs to address these issues! That’s not what we’re suggesting, although we are going to tell you about what resources the USCCB has to offer that you may find helpful.

Instead, we encourage you to think about how the ministry you are doing right now can more effectively combat the growing sense that gender is irrelevant to marriage, and all the faulty anthropology that goes with that.

For example, perhaps a marriage preparation program could more intentionally teach the engaged couples about the distinct gifts of men and women, mothers and fathers. It could help them see the uniqueness of their roles as husbands and wives. Or perhaps in programs for young adults or even high school students, you could integrate more teaching on chastity and Christian anthropology, especially the theology of the body.  We know many of you have been doing this yet so much more needs to be done.

We know you are abundantly aware that the people you serve are not coming to you as a “blank slate,” as it were, and have already been heavily influenced by the ideas we spoke about earlier, that the Supreme Court put so clearly for us. Being “neutral” toward marriage redefinition is no longer an option; being proactive is. Defending and promoting marriage go hand in hand, and while not everyone is called to engage in public policy advocacy work, all of us can intentionally promote and defend the uniqueness of marriage and help people see and articulate alternative responses to the dominant cultural messages on marriage.

Marriage: Unique for a Reason

One specific resource that may be of help to you in your ministry is the bishops’ initiative Marriage: Unique for a Reason. I imagine that many of you are somewhat familiar with this resource already, and may have already used it in your ministries.

Marriage: Unique for a Reason has four themes: sexual difference and complementarity, the gift of children and the need for fathers and mothers, marriage and the common good, and marriage and religious liberty. The order is important. The series starts with sexual difference because that is the most fundamental component – and the one most often overlooked – of marriage’s meaning. Starting with sexual difference helps to get at the roots of the issue and address the often unspoken assumptions. It also provides a solid anthropological grounding for the other three themes.

The video about sexual difference is called “Made for Each Other.” Like all of the videos, it comes with a Viewer’s Guide and a Resource Booklet for priests, deacons, catechists, and leaders.

The second theme is about children and the need for fathers and mothers. This theme includes examining what fruitfulness is and why it’s at the heart of marriage. It considers the often overlooked justice issue in the marriage debate: justice for children, to have the best chance at having a mom and a dad. It also addresses the issues of infertility and single parents (see FAQs #3 and #5). The video for this theme is called “Made for Life.” It also comes with a Viewer’s Guide and Resource Booklet.

The third theme, marriage and the common good, relies heavily on Catholic Social Teaching about marriage and the family and their contribution to society (see FAQ #5). It also aims to reframe the debate about equality, rights, and so on, by reinforcing the inherent goodness of marriage for everyone in society (see FAQ #13). The video in this theme is forthcoming, but there are already FAQs available at Marriage Unique for a Reason.org.

The fourth and final theme, marriage and religious liberty, addresses the fact that redefining marriage in the law directly affects religious liberty (see FAQ #3). This video is also forthcoming, but FAQs are available.

And lastly, there is one video in Spanish – to be released later in 2013 – that incorporates all four themes in a longer, dramatic style. It’s called “El Matrimonio: Hecho para el amor y la vida” (Marriage: Made for Love and Life). The final version will be subtitled in English, and the accompanying Study Guide will be bilingual, so these resources will be suitable for mixed-language audiences.

I already mentioned the website: Marriage: Unique for a Reason.org. On that site are many FAQs about marriage, a regularly updated blog, a library of Church teaching, and more. We are in the process of updating the website to be more user-friendly and easy to navigate.

Next: Post #7: How to use Marriage: Unique for a Reason (and the importance of prayer)

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Friday Fast: Pray and fast for fair treatment for houses of worship damaged in natural disasters

Posted Aug. 29, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Click here for printable version.

Intention: For those who provide aid in times of tragedy – that they may help all those in need, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Reflection: The months of June to November are fraught with peril for those who fear the devastating effects of hurricanes. Just last year, Hurricane Sandy left in its wake damages totaling over $68 billion in 24 states.

Without reservation, we offer our hearts and prayers to those who suffer from natural disasters. Hurricane Sandy destroyed homes and lives. The storm damaged every type of building, regardless of the building’s purpose. Unfortunately, adding insult to injury, in Sandy’s aftermath, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which provides financial assistance to a wide array of nonprofit institutions, has excluded aid for houses of worship. This discrimination against religious institutions stems from a flawed interpretation of the separation of church and state.

Today, let us not only pray for the safety of all who are facing threats from natural disasters but also for those who provide aid in times of tragedy – that they may help all those in need, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Did you know? On July 29, Archbishop William Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore, and Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, hailed the introduction of a Senate bill, S. 1274, the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013. This bill would ensure fair and equal treatment for houses of worship damaged in natural disasters by enabling them to receive aid from FEMA.

More:

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Is defending marriage just about injuring others? No. Marriage matters for everyone. (5th of 7 in a series)

Posted Aug. 29, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 1 comment

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.

Earlier posts:

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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 [2009]: 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