The USCCB joined a number of other religious organizations in filing an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court for the case Gloucester County School Board v. G.G.
The case involves a “transgender boy” (biological girl), identified as “G.G.,” who seeks to use the boys’ restroom at her public high school. The student sued under Title IX (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex) and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The district court dismissed the case, but the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, ruled in favor of the student. The Gloucester County School Board sought review before the U.S. Supreme Court and received a temporary stay from the high Court that prohibits the student from using the boys’ restroom while the case is on review. In October, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. Other federal lawsuits of the same kind (student vs. school board) are on hold until this case is settled.
The religious organizations on the brief note, “The religious liberty we cherish is threatened by the Fourth Circuit’s decision adopting the Department of Education’s expansion of Title IX beyond any plausible interpretation.” For, “Major religious traditions—including those represented by amici—share the belief that a person’s identity as male or female is created by God and immutable.”
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.”
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
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 the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the constitutionality of marriage laws, one of the justices said: “I thought that was the whole purpose of marriage. It bestows dignity on both man and woman in a traditional marriage… It’s dignity-bestowing, and these parties say they want to have that same ennoblement.”
It is important to define terms like dignity. The Oxford English Dictionary defines dignity this way: “The state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads, “The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God” (CCC 1700). Every human person has intrinsic dignity; it is not bestowed by any government or institution.
The civil recognition of marriage has traditionally acknowledged the commitment of one man and one woman to one another in the interests of strengthening that bond and establishing the parentage of children. It was not instituted in order to confer dignity on the man or woman. Other relationships that are important to people’s lives, such as friendships, do not seek or require governmental intervention. The state has a compelling interest and responsibility to protect marriage—it does not have such a compelling interest or responsibility with other relationships.
If the law treats marriage as dignity-bestowing to persons, then there can be no rational limit to who can ask the state for a marriage license because every person or even every friendship deserves dignity. Four single women who are friends and share a house should be able to marry, since they are entitled to the same dignity as everyone else, for example. To not allow these four to marry is not a denial of their dignity or reducing them to “second-class” citizens. Rather it acknowledges that their relationships, no matter how personally fulfilling, are not of compelling interest to the state such that the state needs to formally recognize and support them.
In the marriage debate, let us not imagine that marriage is any more important than it is. It is important enough to fight for, but it is certainly not where human dignity comes from.
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.
Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco responded to the announcement on Friday that the Supreme Court will hear the Sixth Circuit marriage cases.
The Archbishop notes, “Only a man and a woman can unite their bodies in a way that creates a new human being. Marriage is thus a unique and beautiful reality which a society respects to its benefit or ignores to its peril.”
Today the Chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, and the chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage released a statement about the Supreme Court’s action.
Also, the Virginia Bishops together responded with their own statement. Virginia’s appeal was one of the many that the Court denied.
UPDATE: Archbishop Cordileone also released a statement on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision on October 7. He characterized the decision as “astonishingly dismissive” of the rights of children and the democratic process.
Reprinted from CNS News Brief
Utah to appeal ruling on same-sex marriage ban to U.S. Supreme Court
SALT LAKE CITY (CNS) — Utah’s attorney general said July 9 the state will go straight to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of overturning a federal appellate court’s ruling that overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. On the same day in neighboring Colorado, a judge overturned that state’s ban on same-sex marriage. The decision by Colorado District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree “advances a misinterpretation of the institution of marriage in modern society, reducing marriage to a sheer emotional arrangement that can simply be redefined to accommodate the impulses of culture,” said a July 10 statement by Colorado’s Catholic bishops. “As Catholics, we have a duty to protect and preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman in our laws and policies. We are called to make this stand because redefining marriage will only further erode the family structure of our society,” the bishops added. Colorado and Utah were two of six states affected by a 2-1 decision issued June 25 by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said states could not deprive people of the right to marry because they chose partners of the same sex. The other four states are Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming. It marked the first time a federal appellate court had struck down state same-sex marriage bans. Crabtree’s ruling marked the 16th time a state judge had overturned its state’s same-sex marriage prohibition. In both cases, the judges put their rulings on hold pending probable appeals.
A state judge in Colorado’s Adams County district court struck down the ban on gay “marriage” on July 9th. Judge Crabtree wrote that, “The Court rejects the State’s attempt to too narrowly describe the marital right at issue to the right to marry a person of the same sex.” He immediately stayed his ruling, reaffirming that this issue will largely be up to the Supreme Court to determine.
The bishops of Colorado joined in a statement after the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby case. They say,
“We are hopeful that today’s decision will cast a favorable light on the ongoing non-profit cases still making their way through the legal process. The Church has an obligation to serve, and therefore, it needs the freedom to serve without government coercion of conscience and intrusion into religious beliefs. We encourage all people of good will to continue to pray for the protection of religious freedom in every sector of our society as guaranteed by the first amendment.”
We encourage you to read Bishop Aquila’s pastoral letter on the Family as well.
The SCOTUS has determined not to block Oregon’s same-sex “marriages”.
The second March for Marriage will be held in Washington, D.C. on June 19, 2014. This is a great opportunity to visibly and powerfully demonstrate your support of the true definition of marriage as a unique bond between a man and a woman.
The March begins with a Rally from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the grounds of the Capitol before going to the Supreme Court. Archbishop Cordileone is one of the featured speakers.
The details for the event, including information about the “virtual march”, lobbying, and the gala that evening are available at www.marriagemarch.org.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, Chairman for the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, strongly endorsed the State Marriage Defense Act of 2014 (S. 2024) introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). A companion bill (H.R. 3829) was previously introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Randy Weber (R-TX).
In a February 28 letter of support to Senator Cruz, Archbishop Cordileone noted that the Department of Justice is the most recent federal agency “to use a ‘place of celebration’ rule rather than a ‘place of domicile’ rule when determining the validity of a marriage for purposes of federal rights, benefits, and privileges.”
“By employing a ‘place of celebration’ rule, these agencies have chosen to ignore the law of the state in which people reside in determining whether they are married. The effect, if not the intent, of this choice is to circumvent state laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” said Archbishop Cordileone.
Archbishop Cordileone urged the U.S. Senate to pass the State Marriage Defense Act of 2014 and encouraged members to join as cosponsors of the bill stating, “Marriage needs to be preserved and strengthened, not redefined. Every just effort to stand for the unique meaning of marriage is worthy of support.”
The full press release can be found here.
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
The flawed anthropology of "sexual orientation" & the need for a renewal of anthropology and chastity (4th of 7 in a series)
Note: This post is fourth 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
In its decision on DOMA, the Court continued the trend of treating sexual orientation as a “class” marker. In other words, people who define themselves as having a homosexual orientation are de facto part of a “class” that deserves special protections from the government. The term “continued the trend” was used because it is common now to see, for example, in anti-discrimination legislation the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” used as two discrete categories of persons that may not be discriminated against.
The Catechism states that “every sign of unjust discrimination must be avoided” in regards to persons with same-sex attraction (no. 2358).
But the problem with treating “sexual orientation” as a description of a class of people is that it proposes a deeply flawed [understanding of] anthropology, or understanding of the human person. Christian anthropology teaches that each person is called to accept his or her sexual identity as a man or as a woman (Catechism, no. 2333). This is consistent with the understanding that man – male and female – is a unity of body and soul (Catechism, no. 362-368). Our identity as human persons is intimately connected with our identity as a man or as a woman. In short, the body matters.
What the language of “sexual orientation” does, anthropologically, is separate one’s identity from one’s bodily nature as a man or woman, placing a premium on one’s desires and inclinations. The body then becomes a “bottom layer” – essentially meaningless matter – over which one’s “real” identity – comprised of desires and inclinations – is super-imposed. 
Practically speaking, treating “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as classes of persons is problematic because courts and laws tend to treat these categories not only in terms of inclinations but also behaviors. This in turn leads to religious liberty conflicts, such as questions for Catholic institutions about non-discrimination in hiring those involved in same-sex “marriages”, since they could be (and have been) sued under non-discrimination laws for firing an employee who publicly entered a same-sex “marriage.”
Tip number three: Keep talking about Christian anthropology and chastity.
Even more than the question “what is marriage?” perhaps, the question “who is the human person?” goes unasked and thus unanswered (see FAQ #1). As Catholics, we have an immense treasury of insight into who the human person is – a study called anthropology, a treasury of truth about the human condition that applies to everyone, not only Catholics. As faulty anthropologies work themselves more deeply into our nation’s laws and policies, we must be tireless in present what Bl. John Paul II called an “adequate anthropology,” that is, an understanding of the human person that fits who man is as a unity of body and soul, created male and female and called to love (see Bl. John Paul II’s audiences of Jan. 16, 1980 and April 2, 1980).
Bringing it back to the human person also helps defend against the charge that the Church is being selective and only cares about married people. Not true. Christian anthropology, rightly understood, is a message of freedom for every person. In particular, Church teaching on the universal vocation to chastity is an avenue through which to approach questions of sexuality, gender, love, and marriage. Everyone – married and single, those who struggle with same-sex attraction and those who don’t – is called to chastity, because everyone is called to integrate their sexuality within themselves and to love authentically (see Catechism, nos. 2337-2347).
Note: This post is third 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.
PART ONE: What we can learn from the Supreme Court
Post #3: What do you say that marriage is? The need for a comprehensive vision
The marriage debate consists of two competing, mutually exclusive visions of marriage. Justice Alito made this point in his dissent. He wrote, “By asking the Court to strike down DOMA…[the plaintiff is] really seeking to have the Court resolve a debate between two competing views of marriage” (p. 13, Alito dissent).
Often we hear that the marriage debate is not about redefining marriage; it’s about expanding marriage. But consider the way in which the Court describes marriage (although it doesn’t come right out with a clear, comprehensive definition; that is not its focus). Marriage is the “legal acknowledgement of the intimate relationship between two people” (p. 20). Marriage happens when two people “affirm their commitment to one another” (p. 14). It grants persons “a status of equality” (p. 14) and “a dignity and status of immense import” (p. 18), allowing them to “live with pride in themselves and their union” (p. 14).
Reading through the majority opinion, one could be excused for thinking that marriage’s purpose is to validate adults’ feelings for one another, and to make sure they feel that their relationship is “worthy” and not “second-class” (terms also used by the Court: pp. 25, 22). Indeed, the word “dignity” is used eight times in the majority opinion. Gender, of course, has no rational connection with this.
In contrast, the definition of marriage held by Catholics and many others has everything to do with gender and sexual difference because at its heart is the one-flesh bond of husband and wife, a union open to the gift of life (see FAQ #3).
These two views of marriage – which have been called by various names, such as “revisionist” or “genderless” versus “natural” or “conjugal” – are not compatible. Either marriage has at its heart a one-flesh communion made possible by the presence of a husband and a wife, or it doesn’t. To “expand” marriage is really to flatten it – to reduce it to the state’s recognition of adults’ romantic relationships.
Tip number two: present as comprehensive vision of marriage as possible.
It’s no secret that the push to redefine marriage to include two persons of the same sex is just the latest assault on marriage. Contraception, divorce, and cohabitation have each contributed to erode marriage’s meaning. We need to reclaim not just the truth that marriage takes a man and a woman – we need to reclaim all of the truths about marriage, that it is open to life, faithful, indissoluble, and at its heart a complete gift of one’s self, time, body, possessions, and so on, to one’s spouse.
Presenting the fullness of marriage provides a counter to the alternative view of marriage that has gained such traction. And it also provides a way for everyone, in whatever ministry or situation they are in, to help rebuild marriage. For example, NFP teachers can help people see the fruitfulness of marriage; those who help to heal struggling marriages can help people see marriage’s indissolubility; married persons can witness to marriage by living it faithfully, and so forth.
We must be clear that neutrality is not an option. We have been given by our Church such a beautiful, comprehensive vision of marriage, and we should look for every opportunity to proclaim it.
Note: This post is second 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.
PART ONE: What we can learn from the Supreme Court
Post #2: Unspoken assumptions & reframing the debate
In the marriage debate, there are many, many unspoken assumptions. It’s often the case that the most important questions go unasked and thus unanswered, chief among them the most important question of all – What is marriage?
For example: the opening line of the majority opinion says, “Two women then resident in New York were married in a lawful ceremony in Ontario, Canada in 2007” (p. 1). It goes on to argue that it was wrong of the U.S. federal government not to recognize this marriage and grant the attendant federal benefits.
The assumption hidden here is huge: the Court has taken it as a given that if these two women were “lawfully wed” in Canada, then they’re married. End of discussion. A marriage is a marriage is a marriage because the government (or a governing body) says it is. But for those of us who believe that marriage’s meaning is rooted in the meaning of the human person, created male and female (see Catechism, nos. 1602 – 1605), the question is: “Is it even possible for two women to be married? Is marriage the kind of thing that can actually exist between two persons of the same sex?” But the Court elides those questions, taking for granted that these two women – Edith and Thea – were lawfully, actually married, no question.
We can dig down deeper and uncover other hidden assumptions: assumptions about the body, assumptions about children and procreation, assumptions about freedom and the meaning of rights, and so forth.
So here’s tip number one: We must bring to light what is hidden in the dark by uncovering hidden assumptions and offering alternative readings that do justice to the human person. In other words, we must reframe the arguments to get at the deeper questions, questions that go all the way to the root: Who is the human person?
As another example, the Court argues that the real issue at stake in the marriage debate is equality. The Court doesn’t mince words here. It says, “DOMA writes inequality into the entire United States code” and the “principal purpose” of DOMA is to “impose inequality” (p. 22). In contrast, allowing two persons of the same sex to marry gives them a “status of equality” (p. 14).
The looming, unasked question here is: are these two situations really identical, such that equality demands identical treatment? The Court assumes that the marriage of a husband and wife and the “marriage” of two persons of the same sex are exactly the same thing. (And “assumes” is the right word – the Court does not make an argument that this is the case but just presents it as such).
But we can only address the question of equality after first addressing the question of marriage, a question that is going both unasked and unanswered. In our conversations and communications, we must insist on bringing the debate back to the fundamental question: What is marriage? (see FAQ #3) A phrase we use in our work is: “Treating different things differently is not discrimination.” We can make a case for the uniqueness of marriage between a man and a woman by pointing out that only a man and a woman can form a one-flesh communion and can give themselves fully to each other, including on a bodily level (see FAQ #8). Only a man and a woman are capable of welcoming new life into the world, even though there are times, sadly, when this doesn’t happen for reasons beyond their control. And so forth.
Reframing means not accepting the terms of the debate as given, but digging deeper to get at the real issues, the real questions. So if someone asks you, “Are you for marriage equality?” an answer could be: “Well, what do you think marriage is?” or, less Socratically, “I’m for equality, sure – but I think marriage is unique and needs both a man and a woman; it’s not wrong to treat different things differently,” etc.
Note: this series of posts is based on a talk given by staff of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage at a conference for Catholic marriage and family life ministers in July 2013. It is broken into two parts, with seven posts total.
PART ONE: What we can learn from the Supreme Court
Post #1: Background: June 2013 Supreme Court decisions on marriage
Two major Supreme Court decisions on marriage were handed down at the end of June 2013: one on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA (United States v. Windsor), and the other on California’s Proposition 8 (Hollingsworth v. Perry). While the decisions were not the “Roe v. Wade moment” for marriage as they could have been – marriage was not redefined throughout the entire country – they were very damaging, to say the least.
The decision regarding Proposition 8 was that the defenders of Prop 8 had no standing in Court, meaning that the Court could not rule on the merits of the case – whether or not Prop 8 was unconstitutional – because the party defending Prop 8 didn’t have the legal ability (or right) to do so.
On the one hand, this was a relief. The Court could have said that Proposition 8 – which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman in the California state constitution – was unconstitutional, which would have called into question the over 30 state constitutional amendments and statutes saying the same thing.
But the Court in effect gave that question a “pass,” and legal experts are currently parsing out what exactly the ruling means for California. [Update: To date, the net effect of the ‘no standing’ decision has been the State of California applying statewide the August 2010 ruling by the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. That ruling found Prop 8 unconstitutional, and applying it statewide means that same-sex ‘marriage’ licenses can be issued throughout the state. We await whether a state official with ‘standing’ will challenge the statewide application of this earlier U.S. District Court decision.]
The ruling in the DOMA case was more substantial and thus more problematic. The Court ruled that section 3 of DOMA, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman for purposes of federal law, is unconstitutional. In effect, this means that any marriage recognized by a state – including a “marriage” between two persons of the same sex – will also be recognized by the federal government, such that the 1,000 or so federal laws which use the word marriage – affecting things like estate taxes, immigration, military benefits, and so on – will now define marriage not as the union of one man and one woman but as a state-recognized relationship of any two persons.
For our purposes here, we won’t get into the potential legal ramifications of the Prop 8 or DOMA decision – we’ll leave that to the lawyers and policy experts. Instead, we’re going to use four key themes from the Court’s DOMA decision as a window of sorts into what we’re up against in terms of the current marriage debate. After all, only when we accurately diagnose our culture’s malaise and distortions can we offer an appropriate antidote. For each of the challenges, we’ll offer a tip or tool as a suggestion of how to best promote and defend marriage in your sphere of influence.
(As an explanatory note, when we say “the Court,” we mean the majority opinion of the DOMA decision, delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined by four other Justices. We’ll also share some counterpoints from Justice Alito and Justice Scalia, both of whom dissented to the Court’s majority opinion.)
Next: Post #2: Unspoken assumptions & reframing the debate
From Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s blog:
A Call to Counter Cultural Witness
Sad . . . worrisome . . . but hardly surprising.
That’s how I answered another concerned person who asked my sentiments about Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision allowing the redefinition of marriage.
Sad, because the ominous erosion of the pivotal institution of society and civilization — marriage – has been accelerated. Yes, the decision could have been more troublesome, but it’s still somber.
The understanding of marriage as the lifelong, faithful, loving union of one man and one woman, as a husband and a wife become a mom and dad to their babies, and bring about a family, is a given in the human heart, a constant in history, flowing from what philosophers term the natural law, a definition embedded in reasoned reflection on the human person, antedating any government, written law, or religion.