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Fortnight for Freedom, Day 10: Open letter from ecumenical and interreligious leaders

Posted Jun. 30, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

In January 2012, 39 leaders of 33 religious communities jointly issued an open letter about the importance of marriage and religious freedom. This letter, together with the December 2010 letter “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment” demonstrate that marriage and religious freedom are not concerns only for Catholics, or even for Christians, but for many people of differing faiths. Below is the full text of the January 2012 and a list of signers.

More: News release *** Backgrounder on the open letter *** Printable PDF version *** Executive Summary

Marriage and Religious Freedom:

Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together

Dear Friends:

The promotion and protection of marriage—the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife—is a matter of the common good and serves the wellbeing of the couple, of children, of civil society and all people.The meaning and value of marriage precedes and transcends any particular society, government, or religious community.It is a universal good and the foundational institution of all societies.It is bound up with the nature of the human person as male and female, and with the essential task of bearing and nurturing children.

As religious leaders across a wide variety of faith communities, we join together to affirm that marriage in its true definition must be protected for its own sake and for the good of society. We also recognize the grave consequences of altering this definition. One of these consequences—the interference with the religious freedom of those who continue to affirm the true definition of “marriage”—warrants special attention within our faith communities and throughout society as a whole.For this reason, we come together with one voice in this letter.

Some posit that the principal threat to religious freedom posed by same-sex “marriage” is the possibility of government’s forcing religious ministers to preside over such “weddings,” on pain of civil or criminal liability.While we cannot rule out this possibility entirely, we believe that the First Amendment creates a very high bar to such attempts.

Instead, we believe the most urgent peril is this:forcing or pressuring both individuals and religious organizations—throughout their operations, well beyond religious ceremonies—to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct.There is no doubt that the many people and groups whose moral and religious convictions forbid same-sex sexual conduct will resist the compulsion of the law, and church-state conflicts will result.

These conflicts bear serious consequences.They will arise in a broad range of legal contexts, because altering the civil definition of “marriage” does not change one law, but hundreds, even thousands, at once.By a single stroke, every law where rights depend on marital status—such as employment discrimination, employment benefits, adoption, education, healthcare, elder care, housing, property, and taxation—will change so that same-sex sexual relationships must be treated as if they were marriage.That requirement, in turn, will apply to religious people and groups in the ordinary course of their many private or public occupations and ministries—including running schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other housing facilities, providing adoption and counseling services, and many others.

So, for example, religious adoption services that place children exclusively with married couples would be required by law to place children with persons of the same sex who are civilly “married.”Religious marriage counselors would be denied their professional accreditation for refusing to provide counseling in support of same-sex “married” relationships.Religious employers who provide special health benefits to married employees would be required by law to extend those benefits to same-sex “spouses.”Religious employers would also face lawsuits for taking any adverse employment action—no matter how modest—against an employee for the public act of obtaining a civil “marriage” with a member of the same sex.This is not idle speculation, as these sorts of situations have already come to pass.

Even where religious people and groups succeed in avoiding civil liability in cases like these, they would face other government sanctions—the targeted withdrawal of government co-operation, grants, or other benefits.

For example, in New Jersey, the state cancelled the tax-exempt status of a Methodist-run boardwalk pavilion used for religious services because the religious organization would not host a same-sex “wedding” there.San Francisco dropped its $3.5 million in social service contracts with the Salvation Army because it refused to recognize same-sex “domestic partnerships” in its employee benefits policies.Similarly, Portland, Maine, required Catholic Charities to extend spousal employee benefits to same-sex “domestic partners” as a condition of receiving city housing and community development funds.

In short, the refusal of these religious organizations to treat a same-sex sexual relationship as if it were a marriage marked them and their members as bigots, subjecting them to the full arsenal of government punishments and pressures reserved for racists.These punishments will only grow more frequent and more severe if civil “marriage” is redefined in additional jurisdictions.For then, government will compel special recognition of relationships that we the undersigned religious leaders and the communities of faith that we represent cannot, in conscience, affirm.Because law and government not only coerce and incentivize but also teach, these sanctions would lend greater moral legitimacy to private efforts to punish those who defend marriage.

Therefore, we encourage all people of good will to protect marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and to consider carefully the far-reaching consequences for the religious freedom of all Americans if marriage is redefined.We especially urge those entrusted with the public good to support laws that uphold the time-honored definition of marriage, and so avoid threatening the religious freedom of countless institutions and citizens in this country.Marriage and religious freedom are both deeply woven into the fabric of this nation.

May we all work together to strengthen and preserve the unique meaning of marriage and the precious gift of religious freedom.

Sincerely Yours:

Rev. Leith Anderson
National Association of Evangelicals

Johann Christoph Arnold
Senior Pastor
Bruderhof Communities

Randall A. Bach
Open Bible Churches

Dr. Gary M. Benedict
The Christian and Missionary Alliance

The Rev. John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church

Glenn Burris, Jr.
The Foursquare Church

Bishop H. David Burton
Presiding Bishop
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Dr. Ronald W. Carpenter, Sr.
Presiding Bishop
International Pentecostal Holiness Church

Rabbi Abba Cohen
Vice President for Federal Affairs
Washington Director
Agudath Israel of America

Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone
Bishop of Oakland
USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage

Nathan J. Diament
Executive Director for Public Policy
Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The Most Rev. Robert Duncan
Archbishop, Anglican Church in North America
Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh

Dr. Barrett Duke
Vice President for Public Policy and Research
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Rev. Jim Eschenbrenner
Executive Pastor
General Council of Christian Union Churches

Dr. William J. Hamel
Evangelical Free Church of America

Rev. Dr. Ron Hamilton
Conference Minister
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference

Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison
Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod

John Hopler
Great Commission Churches

Dr. Bill Hossler
Missionary Church, Inc.

Clyde M. Hughes
General Overseer
International Pentecostal Church of Christ

Rev. Kenneth D. Hunn
Executive Director
The Brethren Church

David W. Kendall
Free Methodist Church USA

Dr. Richard Land
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Most Rev. William E. Lori
Bishop of Bridgeport
USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty

Dr. Jo Anne Lyon
Chair Board of General Superintendents
The Wesleyan Church

James W. Murray
Executive Director
General Association of General Baptists

Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades
Bishop of Ft. Wayne – South Bend
USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth

Commissioner William A. Roberts
National Commander
The Salvation Army

Rocky Rocholl
Fellowship of Evangelical Churches

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

David T. Roller
Free Methodist Church USA

Matthew A. Thomas
Free Methodist Church USA

Dr. Joseph Tkach
President & Pastor General
Grace Communion International

Berten A. Waggoner
National Director
Vineyard USA

W. Phillip Whipple
United Brethren in Christ Church, USA

Dr. John P. Williams, Jr.
General Superintendent
Evangelical Friends Church – Eastern Region

David P. Wilson
General Secretary
Church of the Nazarene

Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent
Assemblies of God

Fortnight for Freedom posts:


Fortnight for Freedom, Day 9: Two handouts about marriage and religious freedom

Posted Jun. 29, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

The Fortnight for Freedom offers a number of helpful resources, websites, and downloadable handouts at its Educational Resources webpage. We encourage you to consult this page for the big picture about religious freedom and current challenges faced by it today.

We’d like to highlight two resources that speak specifically about the connection between marriage and religious freedom. These are both PDFs that can be downloaded, printed, and handed out at your parish, to family and friends, or in a classroom.

USCCB Fact Sheet: Forcing Religious Groups to Host Same-Sex “Marriage” Ceremonies (Summer 2012)

  • Part of the Fortnight for Freedom series “Religious Liberty Under Attack: A Concrete Example.” Read the rest of the flyers at the Educational Resources webpage.

FAQs: Religious Liberty and Marriage

Next: an open letter on marriage and religious freedom from ecumenical and interreligious leaders

Fortnight for Freedom posts:


Fortnight for Freedom, Day 7: A Red Herring…and the Real Threats to Religious Liberty

Posted Jun. 27, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Two related FAQs today: #4 and #5

But would ministers really be forced to officiate at the “wedding” of two persons of the same sex?

This question is a red herring. In other words, it is a false caricature of the real concerns about religious liberty, and is actually used to distract from the real concerns. It is unlikely in the extreme that the State will force ministers and churches to officiate same-sex “marriage” ceremonies, although it is easily foreseeable that many church ministers and communities could be sued in court over this question. There are, however, other more probable and pervasive concerns.

Red herring (n): something intended to divert attention from the real matter at hand; a misleading clue. (Word buffs would be interested to know that this – literally – colorful phrase received its meaning from the supposed use of smoked fish by fugitives to put bloodhounds off the scent.) In this context, the “red herring” is the assertion that the threat to religious liberty by redefining marriage is that ministers would be forced to officiate at ceremonies contrary to their beliefs about marriage. While laws mandating churches to hold same-sex “weddings” have been passed or proposed in a few countries, so far this threat to religious liberty has not surfaced seriously in the United States. All the same, as the above paragraph states, it is “easily foreseeable” that litigation could commence against churches that continue refusing to host same-sex “weddings.” Only time will tell.

What’s the real threat to religious liberty posed by same-sex “marriage”?

The legal redefinition of marriage can threaten the religious liberty of religious institutions and individuals in potentially numerous ways, involving various forms of government sanction, ranging from court orders compelling action against conscience, to awards of money damages and other financial penalties, to marginalization in public life:

Note the open-ended phrase “potentially numerous” as a descriptor for how changing marriage law could affect religious liberty. Given the pervasiveness of marriage throughout the law (see earlier post), there is no way to know exhaustively exactly what religious liberty conflicts could occur where marriage is redefined.

The following is a categorization of sorts of the various types of religious liberty conflicts that could emerge as a consequence of marriage redefinition laws, with real-life examples.

Compelled Association: the government forces religious institutions to retain as leaders, employees, or members those who obtain legalized same-sex “marriage”; or obligates wedding-related businesses to provide services for same-sex “couples.”

Example: Christian organization in New Jersey found guilty of violating state’s nondiscrimination law for not permitting the civil union ceremony of two women on its property.

Compelled Provision of Special Benefits: the government forces religious institutions to extend any special benefit they afford to actual marriage to same-sex “marriage” as well.

Example: Catholic hospital in New York sued by employee for not providing health benefits to her female “spouse.”

Punishment for Speech: preaching, political action, or conversation reflecting moral opposition to same-sex “marriage” represents actionable “harassment” or “discrimination,” or forbidden “hate speech”.

Example: Consultant for California-based business fired for writing a book in which he argued against redefining marriage.

Exclusion from Accreditation and Licensure: those who adhere to the definition of marriage are excluded from participation in highly regulated professions and quasi-governmental functions, as licenses are revoked and religious institutions lose accredited status.

Example: In New York, town clerks who object to signing same-sex “marriage” licenses have chosen to resign or have faced pressure because of their views.

Exclusion from Government Funding, Religious Accommodations, and Other Benefits: those who adhere to the definition of marriage are excluded from receiving government grants and contracts to provide secular social services, and from various tax exemptions.

Example: Catholic Charities in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington, DC have closed their adoption and foster care services because of laws that would require them to place children with same-sex couples.

Finally, Religious Liberty FAQ #6 lists several more examples of threats to religious liberty that have taken place over the last decade or so:

Have any of these threats come to pass?

Yes. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following: the extension of married student housing to same-sex “married” couples (a Catholic college in MA); the extension of spousal employment benefits to same-sex “domestic partners” (Catholic Charities in Portland, ME); the loss of funding and licenses to provide adoptions for refusal to place with same-sex couples (Catholic Charities in Massachusetts, DC, and Illinois); the imposition of tax penalties for preaching about marriage amendments (Montana); and the loss of state tax exempt status for a religiously-affiliated camp (New Jersey). These threats have been manifest in other countries as well, often to an even more persistent and invasive extent.

Regarding the last sentence’s mention of “persistent and invasive” threats to religious liberty in other countries, just one example would be that of Canada. A recent article cited a number of conflicts between Christians and the government related to marriage law. For example, the bishop of Calgary, Alberta, “was threatened with litigation and charged with a human-rights violation after he wrote a letter to local churches outlining standard Catholic teaching on marriage.” As the author of the article summarizes, “What we’ve discovered in Canada is that…once gay marriage becomes law, critics are often silenced by the force of the law.”

Next: Two handouts on marriage and religious liberty

Fortnight for Freedom posts:




Fortnight for Freedom, Day 6: How could changing the legal definition of marriage have any effect on religious liberty?

Posted Jun. 26, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 1 comment

Changing the legal term “marriage” is not one change in the law, but rather amounts to thousands of changes at once. The term “marriage” can be found in family law, employment law, trusts and estates, healthcare law, tax law, property law, and many others.

The fact that marriage is deeply embedded in so many aspects of society should come as no surprise to students of Catholic social teaching. Marriage is the foundation of the family, which is the “key cell” of society (CCC, no. 2207; see also CSDC, no. 209ff). Either by its presence or its absence, marriage touches many aspects of everyone’s lives, including aspects that are also regulated by various laws and policies.

These laws affect and pervasively regulate religious institutions, such as churches, religiously-affiliated schools, hospitals, and families.

Note that changes in marriage law will affect not only individuals, but also groups of individuals, i.e. institutions. As we saw in an earlier post, man’s social nature means that religious liberty applies not only to solitary believers but to believers worshiping, acting, and serving as a religious community. By the same token, changing marriage law will jeopardize the religious liberty of both individuals and communities or institutions: hospitals, adoption agencies, etc.

When Church and State agree on what the legal term “marriage” means (the union of one man and one woman), there is harmony between the law and religious institutions. When Church and State disagree on what the term “marriage” means (e.g., if the State redefines marriage in order to recognize so-called same-sex “marriage”), conflict results on a massive scale between the law and religious institutions and families, as the State will apply various sanctions against the Church for its refusal to comply with the State’s definition. Religious liberty is then threatened.

Legal experts on both sides of the marriage debate have agreed that changing the legal definition of marriage will have consequences for religious liberty. See, for example, the 2008 collection of essays in Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts. Co-editor of that volume and current Associate General Secretary of the USCCB Anthony Picarello has described the potential threats to religious liberty as “severe and pervasive.” Continuing, he added that redefining marriage “is going to affect every aspect of church-state relations…because marriage affects just about every area of the law” (“Banned in Boston,” p. 3). Regarding the “various sanctions” available for the State to use against the Church for disagreeing with its stated definition of marriage, we’ll discuss those in a forthcoming post.

(Answer in bold from: Marriage & Religious Liberty FAQ #3)

Next: A red herring…and the real threats to religious liberty

Fortnight for Freedom posts:


Fortnight for Freedom, Day 5: How are marriage and religious liberty connected?

Posted Jun. 25, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 4 comments

Marriage (the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife) and religious liberty are two distinct goods that are also related to each other.

Marriage and religious liberty are both goods in their own right, meaning that both deserve our care and protection. The Church does not promote and defend marriage simply out of a concern for possible consequences to religious freedom if marriage were redefined. As said elsewhere on the website, “Marriage must be protected for its own sake, and not just for the sake of preserving religious liberty.” Marriage contributes greatly to the common good and is worth protecting, period.

The protection of each good follows from the duty to protect the inviolable dignity of the human person.

The Church’s teaching on marriage and on religious liberty both find their roots in Christian anthropology, that is, the understanding of the human person and his or her dignity. Concerning marriage, upholding the meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman upholds human dignity by, among other things, honoring the uniquely complementary natures of man and woman, their capacity for union and fruitfulness, and the child’s birthright of being given the best chance to know and be raised by his own father and mother. Concerning religious liberty, as was said in a previous post, man’s ability – and responsibility – to seek truth and conform his life to it necessitates religious freedom. In fact, Bl. Pope John Paul II saw religious freedom as so important to human dignity that he called it the “source and synthesis” of rights basic to human flourishing (Centesimus Annus, no. 47). Concern for the human person means concern for marriage, and for religious liberty.

But even more directly, the legal protection of marriage as the union of one man and one woman also protects the religious freedom of those who adhere to that vision of marriage.

More on this later. Suffice it to say that changing the legal definition of marriage will have – and already has had – a direct effect on the ability of persons and institutions who hold a definition of marriage other than that of the state to “live in the truth of [their] faith,” as Bl. John Paul II put it.

Answer from: Marriage & Religious Liberty FAQ #2

Next: How could changing the legal definition of marriage have any effect on religious liberty?

Fortnight for Freedom posts:



Sunday Pope Quote: Fortnight for Freedom edition

Posted Jun. 24, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

For today’s Sunday Pope Quote, seeing as we are in the midst of the Fortnight for Freedom, we’re revisiting an address given by Pope Benedict XVI to a group of visiting U.S. bishops on January 19, 2012. In it, he discusses threats to religious freedom and speaks specifically of the need for lay involvement in evangelizing the culture. In light of the connection between marriage and religious liberty, the Holy Father’s words are timely and much needed.

Pope Benedict XVI: In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society. The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level.

Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops of the United States on their “Ad Limina” Visit, Rome (January 19, 2012)

All Sunday Pope Quotes

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VIDEO: Bishop Cordileone's address to bishops' general assembly on promotion and defense of marriage

Posted Jun. 23, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 2 comments

On Thursday, June 14, Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, delivered the above address to the U.S. bishops gathered in Atlanta for their biannual general assembly. He spoke about the current cultural situation, the catechetical efforts being advanced by the Subcommittee, impending legal and political issues, and a new social science study on children raised in various family structures.

Read the text of Bishop Cordileone’s speech here.


Fortnight for Freedom, Day 2: St. Thomas More, Married Saint and Hero of Religious Liberty

Posted Jun. 22, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 2 comments

Picture of St. Thomas More

England has no lack of married saints, or saints that were martyred for defending religious liberty. Earlier, we profiled St. Philip Howard, one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI. And today, on the second day of the Fortnight for Freedom, we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas More, husband, father, and martyr under King Henry VIII in 1535. (Today is also the feast day of St. John Fisher, a bishop also martyred in 1535, but here we confine ourselves to married saints.)

The basics:

  • Born February 7, 1478, in London
  • Married Jane Colt in 1505; she died in 1511
  • Married Alice Middleton in 1511
  • Father of four children
  • Imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1534
  • Executed by beheading on July 6, 1535
  • Canonized May 19, 1935 by Pius XI

The Fortnight for Freedom began yesterday, on the vigil of today’s feast day of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. The timing is intentional. Both men faced suffering, imprisonment, and ultimately death because of their allegiance to their faith.

The contours of St. Thomas More’s life are familiar to many, thanks in large part to the 1966 movie A Man for All Seasons. Born into a well situated family, St. Thomas was educated at Oxford University and, after a period of discerning the religious life, became a lawyer and married Jane Colt, daughter of a country nobleman. The two lived an exceptionally happy marriage and welcomed four children into their family, but their life together on earth was cut short with Jane’s death at the age of twenty-two. For the sake of the children, St. Thomas remarried quickly and his new wife, Alice Middleton, proved to be a more than capable stepmother and household manager. St. Thomas grew to love Alice as well, and in his epitaph wrote, “This one [Jane] so lived with me, and the other one [Alice] now so liveth, that it is doubtful whether this or the other were dearer to me” (as quoted by Ferdinand Holbock in Married Saints and Blesseds Through the Centuries, 323).

Difficulties began to besiege St. Thomas in 1522. The current ruler of England, King Henry VIII, was seeking to annul his marriage with his wife Catherine and marry a lady-in-waiting by the name of Anne Boleyn. Catherine, the widow of King Henry’s brother, had borne a number of children, but each died at birth or shortly thereafter, with the exception of Princess Mary. Seeking an heir to the throne, King Henry petitioned Rome in vain to grant him an annulment.

Enter Thomas More. As a well-respected lawyer, St. Thomas was asked by the King for counsel in the “Great Matter” of his desire for an annulment. After reflection and consultation, St. Thomas replied that his opinion was with the pope – the marriage was valid and could not be annulled. This was not the answer King Henry was hoping to hear. And yet not long after, the King appointed St. Thomas to the weighty position of Lord Chancellor, promising him that his conscience in the matter of the marriage would be respected.

Unfortunately for St. Thomas, his stance became a very lonely one, and the King’s promise of protection began to seem very thin. In short order, leading English lords petitioned Rome to change its decision on the marriage; the bishops (save St. John Fisher) officially broke with Rome; Archbishop Cranmer declared the King’s marriage to Catherine annulled; and in 1533 King Henry’s new bride Anne Boleyn was declared Queen of England. St. Thomas declined to attend the coronation.

Finally, events came to a head for St. Thomas. In March 1534 a law was passed that declared potential heirs only the offspring of King Henry and his new wife Anne. The law also declared the King’s marriage to Catherine invalid and blatantly rejected papal authority. All citizens of England – including Thomas More – were obliged to assent to the so-called Succession Oath. On April 13, St. Thomas appeared before the archbishop of Canterbury and refused to take the oath, saying that he could not swear to it without imperiling his eternal soul. The former lord chancellor of England was then thrown into the Tower of London.

There St. Thomas languished, besieged by constant visitors trying to elicit a treasonous statement against the King of England, now declared the head of the newly formed Church of England. All attempts were unsuccessful. Finally, on the basis of false testimony from one Master Rich, St. Thomas was convicted guilty and sentenced to be hung, drawn, and quartered. King Henry altered this punishment to beheading, and on July 6, 1535, St. Thomas More was martyred.

A faithful husband and father, and a faithful witness to the indissolubility of marriage against immense political pressure, St. Thomas stands as a model for husbands, fathers, lawyers, and all those seeking to preserve the precious right of religious liberty.

Prayer Resource: St. Thomas More holy card from Fortnight for Freedom

Patron of: lawyers, politicians

St. Thomas More, pray for us!


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Fortnight for Freedom, Day 1: What is religious freedom?

Posted Jun. 21, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 2 comments

Today marks the beginning of the Fortnight for Freedom, a special two-week period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action focused on the topic of religious freedom, a core principle in both Christian and American traditions. On the Marriage: Unique for a Reason blog, we’ll be exploring in a particular way the connections between marriage and religious freedom (also called religious liberty).

Today’s topic: What is religious liberty?

Bl. Pope John Paul II described religious liberty as “the right to live in the truth of one’s faith and in conformity with one’s transcendent dignity as a person” (Centesimus Annus, no. 47). As the Holy Father says, religious liberty has much to do with human dignity, specifically with the dignity that men and women have because of their ability – and responsibility – to freely seek the truth, assent to it, and conform their lives to it. The key Second Vatican Council declaration on religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae (DH), put it this way:

“It is in accordance with their dignity as persons – that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility – that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth” (DH, no. 2).

In other words, religious liberty is a consequence of man’s identity as truth-seeker: “the right to religious freedom has its foundation…in man’s very nature” (DH, no. 2); “every man has the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in matters religious” (DH, no. 3). Society and government, as ordered to the human person, are bound to respect everyone’s right “to live in the truth of [their] faith,” as Bl. John Paul II put it.

What does religious liberty look like?

Because free assent to truth lies at the heart of man’s identity, the Church maintains that “nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others, within due limits” (CCC, no. 2106, quoting DH, no. 2). Note the important descriptors offered here: man cannot be compelled to act against his faith, nor can he be prohibited from acting in harmony with his faith. Also, these considerations apply to both private and public actions. In other words, religious freedom is more than just “freedom to worship” or freedom to practice one’s faith alone. It also includes the ability to live out one’s faith in community and in the public sphere. This, too, is a consequence of human nature, as Dignitatis Humanae points out:

“The social nature of man itself requires that he should give external expression to his internal acts of religion…Injury, therefore, is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in society” (DH, no. 3).

Later, Dignitatis Humanae specifies that “the social nature of man and the very nature of religion afford the foundation of the right of men freely to hold meetings and to establish educational, cultural, charitable, and social organizations, under the impulse of their own religious sense” (DH, no. 4). By extension, religious liberty applies not only to individuals but also to groups of individuals who practice their faith together (a Church, ecclesial community, or other religious organization).

In conclusion, religious liberty is not an arbitrary right or a “privilege” generously (or grudgingly) bestowed by the government. It is something owed to each and every person due to the human person’s ability and responsibility to order his or her life and action in accordance with his or her faith.

Learn more:

Stay tuned for more about marriage and religious freedom!



"What is Marriage?" / "Marriage is a Matter of Justice" – Two recent bishops' columns

Posted Jun. 19, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 1 comment

Today we’d like to highlight two recent pieces by bishops about marriage, both written in May but still eminently relevant.

“What Exactly Is Marriage?”

By Bishop James V. Johnston, Springfield-Cape Girardeau

Excerpts, emphasis added:

“By redefining marriage, putting marriage between a man and a woman on an equal footing with same-sex unions, the state would be saying that the former is no better than the latter. This is fundamentally unjust. It will also likely lead to further tyranny of the state over those institutions which do not subscribe to the new definition, as has already occurred in Canada and Europe. In the US, the Catholic Church has experienced the first wave of this governmental encroachment in several states – being forced out of the charitable work of facilitating adoptions, for example.”

“Is marriage only ‘Who do you love?’ Catholics, most other Christians, and many non-religious people for that matter, believe it is much more. In fact, while love is the goal, and is typically what one would expect of a marriage, strictly speaking, marriage is a reality that exists even in those instances when the spouses may stop feeling love for one another, precisely because it is much more than just ‘Who do you love?’

Read Bishop Johnston’s entire column


“Defending the Truth About Marriage: A Matter of Justice”

By Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Fort Wayne – South Bend

Excerpts, emphasis added:

“The institution of marriage is the very cornerstone of our society. We must speak out against all attempts to redefine marriage.”

“Marriage has two fundamental ends or purposes: the good of the spouses and the procreation of children. It is inseparably both unitive and procreative. Same-sex unions cannot qualify as marriages.”

Bishop Rhoades then quotes from the USCCB 2009 pastoral letter on marriage, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan, which deals with so-called same-sex “marriage” on pages 21-23.

“Marriage is a unique union, a relationship different from all others. It is the permanent bond between one man and one woman whose two-in-one-flesh communion of persons is an indispensable good at the heart of every family and every society. Same-sex unions are incapable of realizing this specific communion of persons. Therefore, attempting to redefine marriage to include such relationships empties the term of its meaning, for it excludes the essential complementarity between man and woman, treating sexual difference as if it were irrelevant to what marriage is.”

Read Bishop Rhoade’s entire column


Sunday Pope Quote: Father's Day Edition

Posted Jun. 17, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from an address given by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 at the 5th World Meeting of Families in Valencia, Spain. As we reflect on the gift of fathers today, the Holy Father’s words encourage fathers (and mothers) to recognize and fulfill their great responsibility as models of love and acceptance for their children.

Pope Benedict XVI: Would that our children might experience more the harmony and affection between their parents, rather than disagreements and discord, since the love between father and mother is a source of great security for children and it teaches them the beauty of a faithful and lasting love.

. . .

Father and mother have said a complete “yes” in the sight of God, which constitutes the basis of the sacrament which joins them together. Likewise, for the inner relationship of the family to be complete, they also need to say a “yes” of acceptance to the children whom they have given birth to or adopted, and each of which has his or her own personality and character. In this way, children will grow up in a climate of acceptance and love, and upon reaching sufficient maturity, will then want to say “yes” in turn to those who gave them life.

– Pope Benedict XVI, Address during Vigil of Prayer, Fifth World Meeting of Families in Valencia, Spain (July 8, 2006)

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Bishop Cordileone Addresses Full Body of Bishops on Defense of Marriage

Posted Jun. 14, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 3 comments

From Wednesday to Friday of this week, all of the bishops in the United States have been meeting together in Atlanta for their biannual general assembly. During this time, a number of bishops present oral reports on the work of their respective committee or subcommittee. Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, presented today, Thursday June 14, to the full body of bishops about the Subcommittee’s work. Below is his talk in full, with hyperlinks added.

Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone


 Thank you, Your Eminence. Good morning/afternoon, Brother Bishops.

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, during his homily at the closing Mass of the recent Seventh World Meeting of Families in Milan, spoke about the fruitfulness of married love. A husband and a wife, the Holy Father noted, give their “whole lives” to one another. Their love is fruitful for themselves, fruitful in their generous and responsible procreation of children, and fruitful for society, particularly since “family life is the first and irreplaceable school of social virtues.” The Holy Father’s words remind us that the love of husband and wife is a decisive gift for the world, and it calls for stewardship and responsibility.

As I begin my report to you today, I would like to thank in a special way, for their stewardship of the gift of marriage, Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Jugis in North Carolina, Bishop Malone in Maine (soon to be in Buffalo), Cardinal O’Brien, Archbishop Lori, Cardinal Wuerl, Bishop Malooly, and the bishops of Maryland, Archbishop Neinstedt and the bishops of Minnesota, and Archbishop Sartain and the bishops of Washington state. Thank you for your teaching and steadfast witness to the beauty of marriage. Our prayers remain with you and with the many who are working to preserve the unique meaning of marriage in your states’ laws.


Brother Bishops, I am grateful for this time to update you on the work of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. Today I will speak briefly about the Subcommittee’s ongoing catechetical work and the legal landscape before us, and then I will close by highlighting initial findings from a new study on family structures, released just a few days ago.

Catechetical Update

In its catechetical work, the Subcommittee continues to advance its initiative, Marriage: Unique for a Reason. The current project underway is the Spanish-language video entitled “El matrimonio: Hecho para el amor y la vida” (Marriage: Made for Love and Life). The video, envisioned to be fifteen minutes long, will use a telenovela-style format and will present a story based on a 50th wedding anniversary. The story will introduce all four themes of the Subcommittee’s catechetical messaging: sexual difference, the good of children, the common good, and religious liberty. Additional time and focus groups have been utilized in this video’s development to ensure a culturally effective presentation. We anticipate the video’s completion by the end of this year.

Following the release of the Spanish-language video, the Subcommittee plans to complete the Marriage: Unique for a Reason project with the production of two additional English videos, the first on marriage and the common good and the second on marriage and religious liberty.

The video on the common good will aim to introduce the broader social context and meaning of marriage, grounded in an authentic anthropology. With the help of the witness of young adults, it will also seek to address arguments that falsely employ the language of equality, rights, fairness, non-discrimination, and the like. These arguments can and need to be reframed. The core issue is the meaning of marriage and its significance for the rights and best interests of children and for the common good.

The video on religious liberty will be developed in close collaboration with the ongoing efforts of the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. As described in last January’s open letter signed by various religious leaders, marriage and religious liberty stand or fall together.

Lastly, since last November’s launch of the new website, staff continues to monitor and develop the website to improve its effectiveness. Various resources are available on the site, and more resources will continue to be developed based on current needs.

Legal Landscape

Moving now to the legal landscape, the urgency around the protection of marriage has not abated.

At the state level, this year is a significant one. The recent victory in North Carolina, 61% to 39% in support of the constitutional amendment protecting the definition of marriage, is a great encouragement. Also encouraging is the outstanding number of signatures being collected in Maryland and Washington State to place their respective referendum on the ballot. Both are reporting breaking state records in the amount of signatures collected. The redefinition of marriage in the law is not, and never will be, inevitable. But ongoing vigilance and effort are needed. Maine, Minnesota, Maryland and Washington State are poised to have crucial votes in November. Also, in Illinois, a lawsuit was recently introduced challenging the current law around civil unions as discriminatory and calling for the full redefinition of marriage. The State Attorney General, who is charged to defend the law of the state, is officially supporting the lawsuit.

At the federal level, recent negative court decisions concerning both the federal Defense of Marriage Act as well as California’s Proposition 8 now open the door for both DOMA and Prop 8 to go before the Supreme Court. The “Roe v. Wade Moment” for marriage that Archbishop Kurtz indicated to this body in November 2010 is ever closer.

And as we learned last month, President Obama has now voiced his official support for the redefinition of marriage in the law.

Cardinal Dolan, we are grateful for your strong words expressing disappointment with the President’s recent comments. You remind us well of the ongoing need to pray for the President and for all our leaders entrusted with the common good.

The Subcommittee continues to monitor all these areas and to seek opportunities to educate our people, advocate for the truth of marriage, and collaborate with ecumenical and interreligious leaders.

Findings from New Family Structures Study

Lastly, I would like to call your attention to an important new social-science study whose initial findings were just released a few days ago. The study, entitled “New Family Structures Study,” was conducted at the University of Texas at Austin. The study has surveyed a very large, nationally-representative, and random sample of American young adults (ages 18 to 39) who were raised in different family or home environments, including homes with a parent in a same-sex relationship, as well as single-parent families, step-families, adoptive families and families where the children were raised by their biological parents married to each other.

In an article recently published in the July issue of the peer-reviewed journal Social Science Research, the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Mark Regnerus, presented initial findings that should serve as significant points for future public discourse. The findings indicate several significant statistical differences when comparing young adults who were raised in an intact home with their married, biological parents and young adults raised in other home environments. The measurable outcomes of the study cover a range of information, including social and economic well-being, psychological and physical health, sexual identity, sexual behavior, and other areas. Twenty-five (25) of the forty (40) areas measured showed significant difference, and in no area were children better off in an alternative arrangement. The differences in outcomes illustrate, as the article notes, “that children appear most apt to succeed well as adults—on multiple counts and across a variety of domains—when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day.”

Promising to be a benchmark for further studies and findings, this study has been noted to empirically call into question other studies with smaller and more restrictive sample sizes that have purported to show that there are no differences between father-mother parenting and other arrangements. Another paper by sociologist Dr. Loren Marks, also published this month in Social Science Research, reviewed fifty-nine (59) previous studies cited by the American Psychological Association (APA). He found these studies to have various limitations, including being based on small, non-random, non-representative, and self-selecting samples, and he concluded that the studies were “insufficient to support a strong generalized claim either way.”

In other words, this New Family Structures Study is being acknowledged as one of the first studies on this topic to have a comprehensive and scientifically respectable approach—so much so that some social science researchers with views supportive of new or so-called alternative family structures have acknowledged the scientific validity of the study. The study itself was developed and conducted by a team of researchers who disagree among themselves about the topic of family structures but agreed to lead an objective study. A website has now been set up to present the study’s findings, which can be accessed at: Although it is not the job of social science to protect the meaning of marriage, nor can correlation be taken as equivalent to causation, social science has an important role to play in the public conversation. In this instance, a well-respected study is attesting to something very basic: fathers and mothers matter, and married fathers and mothers matter for children.

Unfortunately, we have come to a point in Western society where the meaning of marriage is being largely eclipsed by a counterfeit version, by a false idea that marriage is just a matter of adult interests and can be manipulated as a product of arbitrary invention. However, I believe many of our young people, who have experienced firsthand the difficulties of broken families and the absence of a father or a mother, know intuitively that such an understanding of marriage cannot stand the test of time and can only lead to further disappointment and hardships.

As this new study indicates, social science continues to affirm that children thrive and do best with their mother and father in an intact home. The protection of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a work of justice and is foundational to the good of all, especially for those most vulnerable among us, our children. It is the way of true compassion—love in truth and truth in love. Our young people are hungry for this truth and are in a position to witness to it in a uniquely powerful way.

The Subcommittee is grateful to all those who, in charity, hope, and truth, are working to shed light on the true meaning of marriage and to strengthen and protect it.  In a special way, Brother Bishops, I thank each one of you for your stewardship of the gift of marriage and family and for all the time and work in your dioceses and eparchies dedicated to strengthening marriage. As always, the Subcommittee seeks to assist you and continues to benefit from your guidance and feedback. On behalf of the Subcommittee as well as Bishop Rhoades and the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, thank you again for this opportunity to update you today.

Video coming soon: stay tuned!


Sunday Pope Quote: Corpus Christi edition

Posted Jun. 10, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, or the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, a feast universally instituted by Pope Urban IV in 1264. St. Thomas Aquinas composed the office – or prayers – for this feast day, which includes the words for the well-known hymns Pange Lingua and Panis Angelicus. (n.b. In some areas of the world, such as Rome, Corpus Christi is celebrated on the Thursday following Most Holy Trinity Sunday.)

Today’s Pope Quote is from Bl. John Paul II’s 1988 apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem. Here the Holy Father speaks about the connection between marriage and the Eucharist, something we’ve highlighted before in the Sunday Pope Quotes.

Bl. John Paul II: We find ourselves at the very heart of the Paschal Mystery, which completely reveals the spousal love of God. Christ is the Bridegroom because “he has given himself”: his body has been “given”, his blood has been “poured out” (cf. Lk 22:19-20). In this way “he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1). The “sincere gift” contained in the Sacrifice of the Cross gives definitive prominence to the spousal meaning of God’s love. As the Redeemer of the world, Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of our Redemption. It is the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride. The Eucharist makes present and realizes anew in a sacramental manner the redemptive act of Christ, who “creates” the Church, his body. Christ is united with this “body” as the bridegroom with the bride. All this is contained in the Letter to the Ephesians. The perennial “unity of the two” that exists between man and woman from the very “beginning” is introduced into this “great mystery” of Christ and of the Church.

Mulieris Dignitatem, no. 26

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Pope Benedict XVI: Homily at 7th World Meeting of Families

Posted Jun. 6, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

The seventh World Meeting of Families, an international event organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family, was held May 30 to June 3 in Milan, Italy. Pope Benedict XVI delivered the homily at the meeting’s closing mass on Sunday, June 3, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. In his words, the Pope reflected on the nature and mission of marriage and the family, with a particular emphasis on the meeting’s themes of work and celebration.

After calling to mind the Trinitarian nature of the family, the Holy Father highlighted the importance of sexual difference in marriage:

“God created us male and female, equal in dignity, but also with respective and complementary characteristics, so that the two might be a gift for each other, might value each other and might bring into being a community of love and life.”

He then reflected on the multi-faceted fruitfulness of married love:

“Dear married couples,…your love is fruitful first and foremost for yourselves, because you desire and accomplish one another’s good, you experience the joy of receiving and giving. It is also fruitful in your generous and responsible procreation of children, in your attentive care for them, and in their vigilant and wise education. And lastly, it is fruitful for society, because family life is the first and irreplaceable school of social virtues, such as respect for persons, gratuitousness, trust, responsibility, solidarity, cooperation” (emphasis added).

The Holy Father also commented on the sacramental nature of marriage, noting that “by means of a special gift of the Holy Spirit, Christ gives you [married couples] a share in his spousal love, making you a sign of his faithful and all-embracing love for the Church.”

In respect to the meeting’s theme of “Family: Work and Celebration,” Pope Benedict encouraged the families present to recognize and accept their task of collaborating with God in the transformation of the world through work, science, and technology. At the same time, he exhorted everyone to take seriously the call to rest and celebration:

“Dear families, despite the relentless rhythms of the modern world, do not lose a sense of the Lord’s Day! It is like an oasis in which to pause, so as to taste the joy of encounter and to quench our thirst for God.”

The next World Meeting of Families, in 2015, will be held in Philadelphia.

Read Pope Benedict’s entire homily.

Watch the closing mass on Vatican TV. (Select audio_eng to hear it in English.)


USCCB Press Release: "Bishops' Committee For Defense of Marriage Disappointed Over DOMA Ruling"

Posted Jun. 5, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 2 comments

June 1, 2012

  • U.S. Courts of Appeals decision ‘grave injustice’
  • Respecting marriage as the union of a man and a woman protects children
  • Marriage a cornerstone of our society, notes Bishop Cordileone

WASHINGTON—A federal appeals court decision May 31 to strike down part of the Defense of Marriage Act is a matter of “grave injustice,” said Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

He voiced his disappointment following the May 31 decision of the federal appeals court in Boston to strike down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“Marriage, the union of one man and one woman, is the cornerstone of society,” Bishop Cordileone said. “It is also the foundation of a just society, as it protects the most vulnerable segment of the population, children. Every child longs for and deserves a mother and a father, and marriage is the only institution that insures that children grow up knowing and being known by their mother and father. The public good demands that this truth of marriage be respected in law and society, not rejected.”

On May 31, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in Boston, upheld an earlier U.S. District Court decision claiming section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional. Section 3 defines marriage for purposes of federal law as the union of one man and one woman.

Bishop Cordileone noted, “The federal appeals court in Boston did a grave injustice yesterday by striking down that part of the Defense of Marriage Act that reasonably recognizes the reality that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. DOMA is part of our nation’s long-established body of law rooted in the true meaning of marriage. Hopefully, this unjust ruling will be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, for the benefit of our nation’s children, and our nation as a whole.”

DOMA was approved by a broad, bi-partisan majority of Congress in 1996, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. DOMA recognizes for purposes of federal law that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and it also protects the rights of states to uphold this definition of marriage in the face of laws from other states that might be adverse to such definition.

Original press release found here.

Why marriage matters to the common good: FAQs


Sunday Pope Quote: Trinity Sunday Edition

Posted Jun. 3, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

Today, on the Sunday dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity, here are two Pope Quotes that reflect on the connection between Trinitarian theology and anthropology, that is, between who God is (three Persons, one God) and who man is (created in God’s image).

Bl. John Paul II: “Being a person in the image and likeness of God thus also involves existing in a relationship, in relation to the other ‘I’. This is a prelude to the definitive self-revelation of the Triune God: a living unity in the communion of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Mulieris Dignitatem, no. 7

Pope Benedict XVI: “In Mulieris Dignitatem, John Paul II wished to deepen the fundamental anthropological truths of man and woman, the equality of their dignity and the unity of both, the well-rooted and profound diversity between the masculine and the feminine and their vocation to reciprocity and complementarity, to collaboration and to communion (cf. n. 6). This “uni-duality” of man and woman is based on the foundation of the dignity of every person created in the image and likeness of God, who “male and female he created them” (Gn 1: 27), avoiding an indistinct uniformity and a dull and impoverishing equality as much as an irreconcilable and conflictual difference (cf. John Paul II, Letter to Women, n. 8).

“This dual unity brings with it, inscribed in body and soul, the relationship with the other, love for the other, interpersonal communion that implies “that the creation of man is also marked by a certain likeness to the divine communion” (Mulieris dignitatem, n. 7). Therefore, when men and women demand to be autonomous and totally self-sufficient, they run the risk of being closed in a self-reliance that considers ignoring every natural, social or religious bond as an expression of freedom, but which, in fact, reduces them to an oppressive solitude. To promote and sustain the real advancement of women and men one cannot fail to take this reality into account.”

Address to the Participants in the International Convention on the Theme “Woman and Man, the Humanum In Its Entirety” (Feb. 9, 2008)