On March 16, President Obama issued a statement in which he registered his opposition to the proposed North Carolina marriage amendment, which we have previously highlighted here. In response, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh and Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte have released a statement that reiterates the importance of marriage. In it, the bishops write:
As Catholics, we are FOR marriage, as we believe it is a vocation in which God calls couples to faithfully and permanently embrace a fruitful union in a mutual self-giving bond of love, according to His purposes. It is not only the union itself that is essential to these purposes, but also the life to which spouses are called to be open, the gift of children. Children have the right to the indispensable place of fatherhood and motherhood in their lives as they grow, are loved, nurtured and formed by those whose unique vocation it is to be a father and a mother through the bond of one man and one woman in marriage.
In addition, write Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Jugis:
In his comments on the upcoming referendum in our State, the President regrettably characterized the marriage amendment as a matter of discrimination. While we are respectful of the Office of the President, we strongly disagree with this assessment.
Read the entire statement.
Visit the Catholic Voice NC website.
Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Annunciation , the “announcement” given to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of the Lord:
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”
. . .
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 30-31, 38).
For Christians, Mary’s “yes” to the angel marks the beginning of our salvation. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. The Son of God became flesh in Mary’s womb. In this way, the Annunciation also draws our attention to the astounding mystery of motherhood and pregnancy, that brief time when the unborn child is present but hidden from view, entirely nourished by his or her mother in an incredibly intimate relationship.
Bl. John Paul II spoke beautifully about motherhood – and the Annunciation – in his 1988 apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem:
Motherhood implies from the beginning a special openness to the new person: and this is precisely the woman’s “part”. In this openness, in conceiving and giving birth to a child, the woman “discovers herself through a sincere gift of self”. [Gaudium et Spes, no. 24]
. . .
Mary’s words at the Annunciation – “Let it be to me according to your word” – signify the woman’s readiness for the gift of self and her readiness to accept a new life (no. 18).
For John Paul, then, pregnancy and motherhood are not merely biological facts or processes. Instead, they constitute a very special sharing on the part of the mother – an openness and a welcome to the new child growing in her womb. John Paul goes on to say that this “special communion” with the unborn child “profoundly marks the woman’s personality,” developing her capacity to pay attention and attend to other persons (MD, no. 18).
The father, of course, is present too from the very beginning of a child’s life; it was the mutual gift of husband and wife in marriage that opened the couple to the gift of the child. But the father’s participation in pregnancy is in a real sense “outside” of the woman’s participation. As John Paul says, “in many ways [the father] has to learn his own ‘fatherhood’ from the mother” as he shares in her wonder and openness to the child in the womb (MD, no. 18, emphasis original).
The feast of the Annunciation provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the gift of children and the wonder of pregnancy, of mothering and fathering. We invite you to watch the short film “Made for Life,” which features married couples of various ages reflecting on openness to life, children, and their identities as fathers and mothers. The video is accompanied by a Viewer’s Guide that develops many of the points raised in the film.
 The Annunciation is normally celebrated on March 25, nine months before Christmas, but the fact that March 25, 2012 is a Sunday (the Fifth Sunday of Lent) means that the Annunciation is celebrated instead on March 26.
The Church teaches that a valid marriage bond is indissoluble, that is, it’s unable to be broken: “The love of the spouses requires, of its very nature, the unity and indissolubility of the spouses’ community of persons, which embraces their entire life: ‘so they are no longer two, but one flesh'” (CCC, no. 1644). In today’s Sunday Pope Quote, Pope Pius XII gives a beautiful word-picture of what indissolubility does and why it is a gift and a blessing.
Pope Pius XII: In the face of such a law of indissolubility, human passion in every age, chained and repressed in the free satisfaction of its inordinate appetites, has sought in every way to throw off its yoke. Passion sees in this law only a hard tyranny, arbitrarily weighing down conscience with an unsupportable burden, with a slavery repugnant to the sacred rights of the human person. It is true; a bond can at times constitute a burden, a slavery, like the chains which bind the prisoner. But it can also be a powerful aid and a sure guarantee, like the rope which binds the alpine climber to his companion during the ascent, or the ligaments which unite the parts of the human body, making its movements free and easy. This is clearly the case with the indissoluble bond of marriage” (emphasis added).
– Audience with newlywed couples on April 22, 1942, from Dear Newlyweds: Pope Pius XII Speaks to Married Couples, trans. James F. Murray Jr. and Bianca M. Murray (Kansas City, MO: Sarto House, 1961), p. 88.
Check out this new website filled with resources about the meaning of marriage: Marriage Ecosystem. From the home page:
Marriage is like an ecosystem. An ecosystem is a functional unit consisting of living things in a given area, linked together in a particular way. One of the wonderful things about an ecosystem is how it can be perceived as a unit, with each creature contributing to the welfare of the entire system. If one of the species dies in an ecosystem, the entire ecosystem is affected.
This critical social institution is more than the sum of many parts. When one part is removed or altered, the entire ecosystem begins to wobble and threatens to collapse. It plays a stabilizing role in society, both in people’s day to day lives and also in our society as a unit. We hope by reading our site, you will understand why we call it an ecosystem. We also hope you’ll understand why it’s important to treat it as we might treat any other ecosystem: with respect, care, and appreciation (emphasis original).
This train of thought – marriage as an ecosystem – is reminiscent of the concept of “human ecology” used by Pope Benedict in his encyclical 2009 Caritas in Veritate. There, the Holy Father writes:
There is need for what might be called a human ecology, correctly understood. The deterioration of nature is in fact closely connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence: when “human ecology” is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits.
. . .
It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development (no. 51, emphasis added).
Pope Benedict has spoken of “human ecology” elsewhere, for example in his 2007 message for the World Day of Peace:
Alongside the ecology of nature, there exists what can be called a “human” ecology, which in turn demands a “social” ecology. All this means that humanity, if it truly desires peace, must be increasingly conscious of the links between natural ecology, or respect for nature, and human ecology (no. 8).
The thread running through the Holy Father’s words – and through the concept of marriage as an “ecosystem” – is that the realities of creation (including men, women, and the particularly human sphere of action called “culture”) are deeply and fundamentally interconnected. Ignoring, overlooking, or misunderstanding one part has vast implications for the whole of reality.
In a March 14 column in the Rhode Island Catholic, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence gave five reasons why redefining marriage to exclude sexual difference is problematic and ill-advised.
Among his reasons, the bishop wrote that redefining marriage presumes to alter an institution that is based on the nature of the human person, created male and female:
Marriage between a man and woman was designed by God and has two fundamental purposes: It affirms the difference and the complementarity of males and females in a loving relationship, and it provides the foundation for the procreation and raising of children. Marriage thus described has been the fundamental unit, the building block of every human culture and society.
Bishop Tobin also noted that altering the definition of marriage “is a significant change in the human landscape; it’s a social experiment, the consequences of which may not be realized for many years to come.”
And the bishop highlighted the fact that changing the definition of marriage invariably leads to conflicts with religious liberty, as those who hold the immemorial definition of marriage, including the Church, would be viewed by the law as “intolerant” or “bigoted.” (The connection between marriage and religious liberty is a main theme of the Marriage: Unique for a Reason initiative, which includes a series of FAQs on marriage and religious liberty.)
In conclusion, Bishop Tobin promised that if the question of marriage redefinition surfaces again in the Rhode Island legislature, “the Diocese of Providence, joined by its allies in our community, will be fully engaged in the battle.”
- Background: the Rhode Island Legislature approved civil unions for two persons of the same sex in 2011 but many proponents for marriage redefinition expressed discontent with civil unions and vowed to continue proposing marriage redefinition bills.
- Read Bishop Thomas J. Tobin’s entire column.
- Visit the Rhode Island Catholic Conference’s webpage on marriage.
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote is from the collection of addresses by Bl. Pope John Paul II known popularly as the “theology of the body.” In this brief quote, the Holy Father is concluding his exegesis on Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisees about divorce in Matthew 19:3-8. He’s calling attention to a phrase used by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae and re-emphasizing its importance.
Bl. John Paul II: “In the answer to the Pharisees, Christ laid out before his interlocutors also this ‘integral vision of man,’ without which no adequate answer can be given to the questions connected with marriage and procreation. Precisely this integral vision of man must be built from the ‘beginning.’
“This point is valid for the contemporary mentality just as it was, though in a different way, for Christ’s interlocutors. We are, in fact, the children of an age in which, due to the development of various disciplines, this integral vision of man can easily be rejected and replaced by many partial conceptions that dwell on one or another aspect of the compositum humanum but do not reach man’s integrum or leave it outside their field of vision.”
Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body (sec. 23.3)
About this series:
Every Sunday, the Marriage: Unique for a Reason blog will feature a short quote from either our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, or our late Holy Father, Bl. John Paul II (or occasionally another pope). These two men have given the world an immense treasury of wisdom about marriage, love, and the meaning of the human person, all of which are topics integral to the Church’s witness today. Their words are well worth reflecting on, as we have much to learn from these wise successors of St. Peter.
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“
In North Carolina, citizens will be asked on May 8th to vote on a marriage amendment that would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman in the state’s Constitution. In anticipation of the marriage amendment vote, both Catholic bishops in North Carolina have produced videos explaining what marriage is and why the marriage amendment matters.
Watch the North Carolina Bishops’ Videos:
Bishop Peter Jugis from Diocese of Charlotte
Bishop Michael Burbidge from Diocese of Raleigh
For more information about the Catholic efforts to defend marriage in North Carolina, see the Catholic Voice NC website.
Today, news from “across the pond.” The President and Vice President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales penned a pastoral letter on marriage that was to be read at parishes throughout England and Wales this past weekend, March 10 and 11. In their letter, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark write that they plan to present “the Catholic vision of marriage and the light it casts on the importance of marriage for our society” (all emphasis added).
The Archbishops reflect on marriage both as a natural institution and as a sacrament:
The roots of the institution of marriage lie in our nature. Male and female we have been created, and written into our nature is this pattern of complementarity and fertility.
. . .
As a Sacrament, [marriage] is a place where divine grace flows. Indeed, marriage is a sharing in the mystery of God’s own life: the unending and perfect flow of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The letter also argues that “changing the legal definition of marriage would be a profoundly radical step.” Continuing, they explain:
The law helps to shape and form social and cultural values. A change in the law would gradually and inevitably transform society’s understanding of the purpose of marriage. It would reduce it just to the commitment of the two persons involved. There would be no recognition of the complementarity of male and female or that marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children.
On the Bishops’ Conference website, Archbishop Nichols and Archbishop Smith urge residents of England and Wales to sign an online petition organized by the grass-roots campaign Coalition for Marriage.
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
Earlier this week, we shared the news of a new pastoral letter about marriage by Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine, and a new marriage website connected with the letter: www.beautyofmarriage.org.
Unfortunately, Bishop Malone’s approach to the current debate in Maine about the meaning of marriage has been widely misunderstood. Many media sources are interpreting the fact that the diocese of Portland will not be contributing financially to the referendum process underway as a sign of “retreat” or “backing down” on the question of marriage. But according to Bishop Malone, this is far from accurate.
Case in point: on Thursday, Bishop Malone was interviewed over the phone by CNN. During the interview, Bishop Malone asserted that the diocese’s approach to the marriage referendum is in no way a “retreat” from protecting marriage:
“Let there be no confusion about the fact that the diocese and I will still be very involved in the effort to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. But we’ve decided this year that our best efforts can be to put our energies and resources into education our Catholic community better about the very nature of marriage.”
Later in the interview, in response to the question whether he was “softening” his stance on marriage redefinition, the Bishop said: “Not at all. It will be even stronger and more vigorous.” Continuing, he explained,
“One of our discoveries in 2009 was that really, many of our Catholic people in Maine could use a bit more profound understanding of how the Church has understood marriage for 2,000 years. So, I decided, while we will certainly be in close contact with our allies who will lead the political battle, we intend to focus on the education and formation of consciences of our people.”
The interviewer then pointed out that recent polls have indicated that many Catholics nationwide support marriage redefinition. She asked whether this factor influenced Bishop Malone’s strategy. He responded that to the extent that the numbers can be trusted, the polls “prove exactly the motivation for the approach that we’re taking. We’re taking no chances that our people will not have a really accurate understanding of what marriage is and to the impact on society should anyone try to challenge that definition of marriage.”
Finally, to the interviewer’s question of why the Bishop doesn’t just “get on board” with the Catholics who support redefining marriage, Bishop Malone said,
“Well, their thinking is outside the realm of Catholic teaching for 2,000 years. And those are the folks that we want to focus on so they’ll perhaps be able to have what I would call an intellectual conversion about a very key building block of society, that is the nature of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Read the entire transcript of the CNN interview with Bishop Malone on the Beauty of Marriage website (under Blog).
Today the Church honors St. Frances of Rome, an Italian married woman who lived an exemplary life as a wife and mother during difficult times of plague and war. She serves as a model for all married women who strive to integrate their devotion to God with their vocation as a wife and mother.
- Born in 1384 in Rome
- Married Lorenzo dei Ponziani in 1396
- Mother of six children
- Died March 9, 1440
- Canonized May 29, 1608
Read the story of St. Frances of Rome in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
St. Frances’ sufferings:
- Five out of her six children did not survive childhood. Two died during the plague of 1410.
- During a war between the Papal States and Naples, her surviving child, Battista, was taken hostage, and her husband suffered a serious stab wound. Also during this war, St. Frances’ husband’s ancestral palace burnt to the ground.
- Her son Battista married an arrogant woman who deliberately insulted and offended her mother-in-law. St. Frances eventually won her over through patience and humility.
- Despite her high birth, St. Frances dressed simply and modestly. She was known to travel the streets of Rome in shabby attire, collecting alms and firewood for the poor.
- Stories relate that St. Frances enjoyed mystical experiences, in which she would talk with Jesus, Mary, and her own guardian angel.
- In her later years, St. Frances formed a community of Roman women who cared for the poor, sick, and homeless of Rome.
- A church in the Roman Forum section of Rome is dedicated to St. Frances: Santa Francesca Romana. Relics of the saint are housed here.
- “A married woman must leave all her devotions when the household demands it.” – St. Frances
- “She did not cease to be mindful of the things of God during her marriage, so that she pleased God in her husband and her husband in God.” – from the prayer book of the community founded by St. Frances
Patron saint of those who lose a child to death, people ridiculed for their piety, lay people, and taxi drivers. (About the latter – while St. Frances never even saw a car, legend says that when she walked the streets of Rome at night, her guardian angel went before her, lighting the roads and keeping her safe.)
St. Frances of Rome, wife and mother, pray for us!
As was shared here on the blog yesterday, Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine recently released a pastoral letter about marriage: “Marriage: Yesterday – Today – Always.” As it turns out, Bishop Malone’s pastoral letter also has a website component with many more resources about what marriage is and why it matters. The website can be found at www.beautyofmarriage.org. The pastoral letter is located here, as well as a blog and links to other marriage-related sites (including Marriage: Unique for a Reason!).
Highlighted themes on Beauty of Marriage website:
- Marriage is a Unique Relationship
- The True Nature of Marriage
- A Child is a Gift
- Marriage and the Good of Society
Check it out!
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“
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from a recent address of Pope Benedict XVI, given February 24th to the scientists and members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who were convening for their 18th general assembly with the topic “The diagnosis and treatment of infertility.” While the topic of infertility and moral responses to it fall beyond the purview of Marriage: Unique for a Reason, the comments given by the Holy Father address a point very much at home here: the unique beauty and dignity of the gift of human life, a gift that springs from the intimate communion of man and woman.
Pope Benedict XVI: “The human and Christian dignity of procreation, in fact, does not consist in a ‘product,’ but in its connection with the conjugal act, the expression of the love of the husband and wife, of their union that is not only biological but also spiritual. The instruction ‘Donum vitae’ reminds us in this regard, that by its ‘intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and of woman’ (n. 126).”
“The union of the man and woman in that community of life that is matrimony constitutes the only dignified ‘place’ in which a new human being, which is always a gift, may be called into existence.”
“I would like again to remind the spouses who experience infertility that their vocation to marriage is not frustrated because of this. The husband and wife, because of their baptismal and matrimonial vocations themselves, are always called to work together with God in creating a new humanity. The vocation to love, in fact, is a vocation to the gift of self and this is a possibility that cannot be impeded by any organic condition. Therefore, where science cannot find an answer, the answer that brings light comes from Christ.”
Address to Pontifical Academy for Life, Rome, February 24, 2012 (Zenit translation)
This November in Minnesota, voters will be asked whether they approve a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The Catholic Church has joined with others in hearty support of this amendment, and a leading voice in this effort has been that of Archbishop Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Previously in 2010, the Archbishop wrote to the faithful in his diocese about marriage and distributed DVDs to Catholics throughout Minnesota explaining the Church’s teaching on marriage and why that teaching matters to public policy.
In a March 1st interview, Archbishop Nienstedt spoke with Barb Ernster of the National Catholic Registerabout the meaning of marriage, its importance to society, and why the marriage amendment matters.
Why is [the marriage amendment] such an important issue?
The other Minnesota Catholic bishops and I see the erosion of healthy, happy marriages all around us: the high degree of marriages ending in divorce, the rising number of couples cohabitating with no intention to marry, and the spike in the number of children born out of wedlock, many to single mothers living in poverty. The true importance of marriage as a natural and, for us as Catholics, a sacramental reality is being eclipsed throughout our society.Now there is a driving force, with full media support, to redefine or, in truth, “undefine” marriage from a child-centered institution that unites one man and one woman together with any children born from their union into something different altogether: a system of domestic partnerships based on the romantic inclinations of adults. We understand this to be yet another assault against the dignity of marriage that will likely reinforce some of the negative cultural trends I previously mentioned, developments that research clearly shows are having very bad effects on children and, in turn, all of society.
What do you hope will be accomplished within the parishes?
We hope to educate our Catholic people on why our understanding of marriage matters for the good of the couple, for the good of children and for the common good of the society in which we all live. In short, we hope to show to our people that this is not just a “Catholic” or “Christian” issue. This is a question that touches upon the foundational principles of our society.
Some religious groups have come out against the amendment, and some have remained neutral, stating it is up to individuals to vote their consciences.
How would you address this issue with Catholics?First of all, I remind our Catholic people that an understanding of marriage is not something the bishops or the Church made up. Marriage between a man and a woman predates any civil government or even religion, for that matter. The state simply recognizes and supports marriage; it has no power to redefine it.It is unreasonable and, I dare say, unnatural to think that changing the definition of a word has the power to change the reality that underlies that word — it does not; it cannot. And it becomes a pretense to argue differently.
How do you address the claim that the Church is getting too political and detracting from its spiritual mission?
What is more central to the spiritual mission of the Church than fostering good, healthy marriages between husbands and wives and ministering to the varied challenges that they and their children face in their family life?
We have to remember, too, as the Holy Father has been reminding us of late, that the Church’s work in the public square contributes to the New Evangelization. It is not just the Church “doing politics,” but instead, constitutes her perennial task of forming consciences, promoting justice and announcing truths that are written on the human heart. In this way, we also point to the source of those truths — the eternal Word who has written them into the fabric of our human nature.
- Read the entire interview with Archbishop Nienstedt.
- Find out more about the efforts in Minnesota to defend marriage by visiting the Minnesota Catholic Conference’s Marriage and Family webpage.