USCCB News Release (May 8, 2013)
- Redefining marriage in law is a serious injustice
- Children have a right to be raised by mother and father
- Changes meaning of terms regarding marriage, affects birth certificates
“The Delaware Senate passed an unjust bill that attempts to redefine marriage,” said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
“The claim of this bill to redefine marriage is in vain; marriage cannot be redefined, because its unique meaning lies in our very nature. It is also a serious injustice to the most vulnerable among us: children,” said Archbishop Cordileone.
Archbishop Cordileone went on to emphasize the importance of marriage for children. “Marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any child conceived of their union,” he said. “Our society either preserves laws that respect the fundamental right of children to be raised by their moms and dads together in marriage, or it does not.”
The Delaware bill also includes further implications of marriage redefinition in the law. For example, the bill states that terms such as “husband” and “wife” denoting a spousal relationship in Delaware law are to apply equally to persons in an opposite-sex or same-sex relationship. The bill also allows two “parents” of the same sex to be entered on the original birth certificate, thus allowing for two mothers or two fathers to be on the certificate.
The Governor of Delaware signed it into law.
Archbishop, if “marriage cannot be redefined,” why are you making such a big fuss about the folks who are changing the law?
Hi Paul, here’s what we said on the Facebook page to the same question (why the fuss?): Because truth matters. Because reality matters. Because enshrining a falsehood in the law is unjust. Because mothers and fathers both matter for children. Because the Church cares not just about her own members or her own institutions, but all persons. Because changing marriage law to include two persons of the same sex obscures the meaning of marriage as total, one-flesh communion of a man and a woman, a union open to the gift of life.
But canon law regarding marriage *isn’t* being changed… only civil law. And while I’m sure that all non-Roman Catholics appreciate your care for them, your religious laws do not apply to anyone but your followers. (And trying to prevent a change to the civil law because it conflicts with your doctrine is just un-American.)
But marriage is not *just* a religious issue, if that means it’s solely a matter of religious doctrine. Part of Catholic teaching on marriage itself is that marriage is a natural institution based on human nature, the creation of the human person as male and female (see the Catechism, no. 1603). The Catholic argument against so-called same-sex “marriage” is not “that doesn’t follow Catholic teaching” (even though it doesn’t) but rather “that is enshrining in law as “marriage” a non-marital relationship, since marriage requires both a man and a woman to be the one-flesh union that it is.” Another example: to say that a child has a right to a mom and a dad united in marriage is not a “religious” truth but one that we can know by right reason from reality itself, the fact that every child *has* a mom and a dad.
Marriage matters to everyone. It matters to the common good. The Church speaks out because she cares about the common good.
Perhaps it’s worthwhile to note that the substantive question hasn’t been addressed: What is marriage? Is the Archbishop right? Is marriage the kind of thing that requires a man and a woman…or not? If not, how does that affect the contours, purposes, and meaning of marriage? And if the answer is, “It doesn’t,” then what philosophy of the person is presupposed in seeing a male-female relationship as identical in every way to a male-male or female-female relationship? (All that is to say that it’s not enough to say “That’s your truth / your religion.” Some fundamental questions remain.)
I very much appreciate your thoughtful responses. 🙂 I think the answer to the Archbishop’s question is “Marriage is a word useed to describe the religious covenant of holy matrimony and the civil contract of marriage.” If the Roman Catholic Church says that the religious covenant of marriage requires a single man and a single woman, then that is what marriage means to the followers of the Bishop of Rome.
In the same fashion, the civil contract of marriage is what the civil authority says it is. The state can say people must reach the age of consent before they can enter the contract of marriage. The state can say that the persons in a marriage have exactly the same responsibilities and roles in law (while a Church may hold that wives must be in submission to husbands).
Marriage, as defined by the civil law, has changed many times; for instance, once only adultery or abuse were grounds for divorce; now we permit either party to dissolve the marriage. Women used to lose all their legal rights upon their marriage; that is no longer the case. Women used to automatically get both children and alimony upon the dissolution of a marriage; again, that has changed.
So here’s my question: “Why are gay Americans denied the protections and benefits of civil marriage, when straight Americans ( equally situated citizens) are permitted to enjoy them?”
Hey Paul, no offence but some times i feel the majority of you people in the USA are just too smart for your own good, every fabric of society is being eroded due to your extraordinary justifications on any thing and everything and the world going to the dogs. At least keep the institution of marriage a Sacred act between a man and a woman.
Gay children are a product of one man and one woman too (married or not). Why would you instruct their parents to put restrictions on the natural human instinct to fall in love?
Would you force a child with left hand dominance to use their right hand, or not to eat or write at all if they didn’t? It was not too long ago when we told these children their natural human instinct to use their left hand was caused by the devil. It was not unusual for teachers to use corporal punishment as a method to force them to change. We stopped the practice because it caused other more serious problems, including emotional and learning difficulties.
Gay children face a similar attack on their natural instinct to fall in love, only the consequences are far more serious and deadly. They are bullied at school, suffer from extreme depression and despair often resulting in attempted and successful suicides. Where is the justice for them?
Children do not need a mother and a father more than they need compassion and acceptance from the adults who raise them. People who demonize behaviors that stem from human nature have no right to parenthood. The cost is too great.
Civil marriage is a legal contract between two people, as defined by the state. Religious marriage is a spiritual contract between two people within the rites of their church. I’m not a member of your church, and my church believes a family is defined by love, whatever gender the parents are. So kindly keep your religion out of government affairs. My religious beliefs are as valid as yours before the law.
‘Contract’ is an insufficient word for marriage–true, the state uses that word and allows for quick dissolution of such a contract.
But marriage, as an institution either civil or religious, is a ‘covenant’. ‘Covenant’ in the sense that it is an ‘exchange of persons’. Such an exchange normally results in a brand new person–a baby.
Same sex couples are physically incapable of this ‘exchange of persons’ because they are biologically the same. A covenant requires difference of persons–such that they compliment each other and not mirror each other.
Samwise, the fact that the state uses the word ‘contract’ for civil marriage, and governs its establishment and dissolution, means that the state may, in fact, regulate civil marriage. I’m not sure why you think that “covenant” means ‘exchange of persons’… but the Bible very clearly says two men can make a covenant between them: “Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant.” (Genesis 21) “So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let the LORD even require it at the hand of David’s enemies. And they two made a covenant before the LORD. and David abode in the wood , and Jonathan went to his house .” (1 Samuel 20 and 23) “And Benhadad said unto him, The cities , which my father took from thy father, I will restore; and thou shalt make streets for thee in Damascus , as my father made in Samaria. Then [said Ahab], I will send thee away with this covenant. So he made a covenant with him, and sent him away.” (1 Kings)
I could go on– but these verses clearly establish that ‘covenant’ means ‘contract.’
The problem is in your use of the word ‘normally’. Having children is neither a prerequisite nor a mandatory fulfillment of marriage. Two people married in Church, sacralised, who decide never to, or are incapable of, having children are still considered married. Marriage is something beyond having children.
If a same sex couple are less likely to have children, how does their marriage deprive a child of a mother or a father? Ridiculous argument. This is why equal marriage now holds in a growing number of states.