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Defense of Marriage in Rhode Island: Helpful Web Resource

Posted Apr. 30, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 1 comment

A great webpage from the Diocese of Providence: “Protecting Marriage in Rhode Island.”

Resources include columns by Bishop Thomas Tobin:

And articles by others:

There is a link for Rhode Islanders to contact their state representative and urge them to protect marriage: “Let’s Fix the Economy and Protect, Not Redefine, Marriage”

(Rhode Island is facing a legislative challenge to marriage, and on Wednesday April 24, the State Senate voted in favor of a bill that would redefine marriage to include persons of the same sex. The bill goes back to the House for a vote, and is expected to be sent to the governor for his signature. Pray for Rhode Island!)


Bishop Tobin (Providence): Don't Redefine Marriage in Rhode Island

Posted Jan. 14, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 3 comments

In addition to Illinois and several other states, Rhode Island too is facing a marriage redefinition challenge. There, a bill that would redefine marriage to include two persons of the same sex was introduced on January 3rd in both the House and the Senate. It is expected that the full House could vote on the bill by the end of January.

In response, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence has written a column entitled “The General Assembly Should Reject ‘Same-Sex Marriage’.” In it, he provides a number of reasons why the proposal to redefine marriage in Rhode Island is “immoral and unnecessary.”

Among his reasons, Bishop Tobin writes, “Marriage between a man and a woman was designed by God for two specific reasons: to affirm the complementary roles of males and females in a loving relationship, and to provide a stable foundation for the procreation and raising of children.” Redefining marriage to include two men or two women means that marriage can no longer do either of those goals.

In addition, writes the bishop, redefining marriage “enshrines into civil law immoral activity.” It is also “an untested social experiment with unpredictable long-term outcomes” and it “would pose yet another threat to religious freedom.” Bishop Tobin points out that religious exemptions notwithstanding, in locales where marriage is redefined, religious entities “will be obliged to extend their resources, facilities and benefits to individuals who are living in immoral relationships – contrary to sincerely held religious beliefs.” He continues, “This is not a hypothetical situation; it’s already happening throughout our nation.”

Bishop Tobin argues that if the question of marriage must be raised again in Rhode Island (civil union legislation was passed in the summer of 2011, a move denounced by Archbishop Cordileone), then a referendum should be brought to the general public. He also challenges the ideas that redefining marriage constitutes a civil right and that marriage redefinition is inevitable:

It has been said that ‘the world is changing’ and that we need to get with the times. Well, it’s certainly true that the world is changing, but the truth is that not all change is good. It’s never good to accept and promote immoral activity; it’s never good to experiment dangerously with the long-term well-being of the community; it’s never good to impose a politically-correct, socially-fashionable agenda item on the entire community, especially if it challenges the conscience and religious liberty of many, many citizens.

He ends by urging Rhode Island citizens to contact their legislators and urge them not to redefine marriage.

More from Bishop Tobin:


More from Illinois: An In-depth Look at the Defense of Marriage Toolkit

Posted Jan. 9, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 3 comments

As was said yesterday, Illinois is one of the current battlegrounds for marriage laws. We’ve already shared some great teaching from Cardinal George of Chicago (a letter to parishioners and an article in the Chicago Catholic paper) and Bishop Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois (a letter to parishioners). Today we’ll look at another effort afoot in Illinois to catechize the faithful on the authentic meaning of marriage.

Marriage Toolkit from the Catholic Conference of Illinois [CCI]

Today we have an exclusive interview with a member of the defense of marriage team in Illinois who helped to develop a Marriage Toolkit, about which we’ve previously posted. Carlos Tejeda, the director of the marriage and family life office in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, spoke with Marriage: Unique for a Reason about the new Toolkit and what CCI hopes to accomplish with it.

Carlos said that the Toolkit was developed by a team of people from across the state, all of whom are members of the CCI’s defense of marriage department. (Other departments include Catholics for life, education, and social services.) Less than two years old, the defense of marriage department’s first major project was the Marriage Toolkit, which has been in the works since the department’s inception.

The Toolkit’s Aim, and Promotion Strategy

The inspiration for the Toolkit was the realization that helping people understand the truth of marriage is, as Carlos described it, “a difficult task.” Taking the successful USCCB Respect Life program as a model, the Marriage Toolkit aims to make that “difficult task” of catechizing about marriage more manageable for priests and laity alike.

According to Carlos, what the CCI hopes to accomplish with the Marriage Toolkit is to get a concrete, usable resource into the hands of parishioners, parish staff, pastors, and even non-Catholics – anyone who desires a resource that can help them articulate the truth of marriage in a difficult cultural setting.

There are a variety of avenues that will be used to promote the Marriage Toolkit. The main channel will be at the parish level, through parish staff and pastors. Carlos said that a long-term goal of the defense of marriage department is to have a designated representative at each parish or parish cluster who can relay information from the CCI to the parish. The Illinois Catholic Advocacy Network, or ICAN, provides another way of promoting the Toolkit. Through ICAN, which is run by the CCI, Illinois residents can receive updates on a variety of issues via text message or email. Monthly mailings to priests and parishes, and a priest gathering in the Spring, provide additional opportunities for sharing the Toolkit. And Carlos said that he is making himself available for presentations to parish staff and other groups to get the word out in a more personal manner.

Specific sections: Q&A and Courage

Speaking of the Toolkit’s content, Carlos said that the Q&A section is particularly important. He said that when people read through the questions and answers silently, away from conversation and the adrenaline such a heated topic brings, they can begin to build their confidence about this topic that will aid them when that “teachable moment” arrives. Quoting another member of the defense of marriage department, Carlos said that the long-term goal is for every Catholic to “understand, articulate, and embrace” the Church’s teaching on marriage. All three are important, but often a person might be comfortable with only one or two. The questions and answers included in the Toolkit help foster all three: understanding, articulating, and embracing what the Church tells us about marriage.

Carlos also highlighted the section of the Toolkit that identifies Courage as a ministry for persons with same-sex attraction who want to live a life of chastity. He noted that the Church is our Mother, and if a mother has a child with a difficulty, she doesn’t just let him be burdened, but instead she helps him. People with same-sex attraction are children of the Church. They need clarity on the Church’s teaching, yes, but they also need to be equipped to live out chastity, a call applicable to everyone. In other words, both clarity and pastoral action – truth and charity – are essential.

Finally, Carlos noted that the main task now for the defense of marriage department is to share and implement the Marriage Toolkit. Depending on what the Illinois legislature does with the pending marriage redefinition bill, the context of the Toolkit could change. For example, religious liberty implications of marriage redefinition could be brought more to the forefront. But regardless of political outcomes, the goal of the Marriage Toolkit remains the same: equipping Catholics and all people of good will to understand, articulate, and embrace the timeless teachings of the Church on marriage and sexual difference.



Cardinal George and Bishop Paprocki: Don't Redefine Marriage in Illinois

Posted Jan. 4, 2013 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 2 comments

Illinois is one of several states where legislators voiced plans after the November election to seek marriage redefinition in 2013. (Delaware, Rhode Island, and Minnesota are also on the list.) Illinois had passed civil unions legislation in 2010, a law strongly opposed by the Illinois bishops. While as of this morning it appears that a marriage redefinition bill will not be brought to a vote in the current legislative session, it remains a threat. The Catholic leadership in Illinois has responded quickly and vocally to this new challenge. We have already featured here the new Defense of Marriage Toolkit offered by the Catholic Conference of Illinois. And now this weekend, January 5/6, Cardinal Francis George and Bishop Thomas John Paprocki have asked for letters about marriage to be read at all of the parishes in Chicago and Springfield, respectively.

The message their parishioners will hear is crystal clear: marriage’s reality, rooted in nature, is the union of one man and one woman. It is a reality that no law can change. If the law does change to remove the gender requirement from marriage, Catholics and all those who hold to the authentic meaning of marriage can expect to face legal difficulties and social stigma.

Cardinal George: “‘Same-sex Marriage:’ What do Nature and Nature’s God Say?”

In his letter, co-signed by all the Chicago auxiliary bishops, Cardinal George emphasizes that marriage is not created by the State or by the Church, but that “marriage comes to us from nature. The human species comes in two complementary sexes, male and female. Their sexual union is called marital.” The State cannot change this natural reality of marriage; to try would create a “legal fiction.”

The Cardinal also highlights the various pastoral outreaches to persons with same-sex attraction in Chicago, noting that “the Church offers the means to live chastely in all circumstances, as the love of God both obliges and makes possible.”

Cardinal George says strongly that if the Illinois legislature passes a marriage redefinition law, “it will be acting against the common good of society. We will all have to pretend to accept something that is contrary to the common sense of the human race.” He urges parishioners to visit the website of the Illinois Catholic Conference to stay updated on the latest in the marriage debate and find out how to contact their elected officials.

Bishop Paprocki: Proposed Law Threatens Marriage and Religious Liberty

In his letter, Bishop Paprocki calls attention to the “fraudulent” title of the marriage redefinition bill: “The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.” In fact, writes the bishop, “the proposed law is…a grave assault upon both religious liberty and marriage.” He too emphasizes the natural reality of marriage as the union of a man and a woman: lacking sexual difference, two men or two women “cannot extend a union of hearts by a true bodily union. They cannot turn a friendship into the one-flesh union of marriage. They are not marital.”

The bishop stresses that redefining marriage in the law would do just that – redefine marriage. It is not simply “expand[ing] the eligibility roster for marriage,” as many claim. More specifically, there are three harmful ideas that would be enshrined in law post-marriage redefinition:

  1. What essentially makes a marriage is romantic-emotional union
  2. Children don’t need both a mother and father.
  3. The main purpose of marriage is adult satisfaction.

These three ideas contradict the long-standing consensus that marriage is recognized in civil law precisely because the love between a man and a woman has the capacity to bring a child into the world. As the bishop says, the “love-making acts” of a man and a woman “are life-giving acts.” Marriage involves commitment and intimacy, yes, but commitment and intimacy of a life-giving nature. Preserving marriage in civil law does justice to children by recognizing their need to be reared by a father and mother together.

Bishop Paprocki concludes by stating forcefully that the proposed bill is “a lethal attack upon religious liberty.” For those who are still skeptical, he points to the fact that Illinois has already seen consequences of laws erosive to marriage. As the bishop notes, after civil unions were passed in 2011, Catholic Charities was forced out of foster care and adoption services in Illinois. He adds that broader religious exemptions are not the answer. “There is no way,” he writes, “none whatsoever – for those who believe that marriage is exclusively the union of husband and wife to avoid legal penalties and harsh discriminatory treatment if the bill becomes law. … The only way to protect religious liberty, and to preserve marriage, is to defeat this perilous proposal.”




New Resource: Defense of Marriage Toolkit

Posted Nov. 30, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 1 comment

The Catholic Conference of Illinois [CCI] has released a valuable new resource for clergy and the laity in their efforts to promote and defend marriage: a Marriage Toolkit entitled Understanding & Promoting the Catholic Church’s Teaching on Marriage [PDF]. As explained in a press release, “The toolkit is designed to help Catholic individuals and parish communities understand, explain and promote the Catholic Church’s teaching to the following questions:

  • What is marriage?
  • Why is the definition of marriage important?
  • Why does the Church endure the repercussions of taking a stance on marriage which is contrary to popular social trends and media advocacy?
  • And, most importantly, why should you care about marriage?”

In order to answer these questions, the Toolkit provides an extensive Q&A on the subject, suggestions for further resources (including the Marriage: Unique for a Reason website), tips for homilists and catechists on giving marriage-related homilies and reflections, and information about the apostolate Courage, a ministry for persons with same-sex attraction. All of these components are available as stand-alone hand-outs.

The Toolkit is a joint effort developed by the Defense of Marriage Department of the CCI. Previously in 2009, the CCI produced a pamphlet explaining the link between civil union legislation and full marriage redefinition: “Promotion Civil Unions to Undermine Marriage” [PDF].

We encourage you to check out this valuable new resource. The entire toolkit can be downloaded as a PDF here.


Post-election round-up: Statements from (Arch)bishops and Catholic Conferences: Disappointment, gratitude, resolve

Posted Nov. 9, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 16 comments

In addition to Archbishop Cordileone’s statement expressing disappointment about the results of the four marriage referenda, Archbishops, Bishops, and Catholic Conferences in the four states where voters voted to redefine marriage on Tuesday have released statements. Their words echo Cardinal Dolan’s conviction, expressed in a statement released after the election: “We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage, and our first, most cherished liberty, religious freedom.”


Bishop Richard Malone (Buffalo), Apostolic Administrator of Portland, Maine

I am deeply disappointed that a majority of Maine voters have redefined marriage from what we have understood it to be for millennia by civilizations and religions around the world. I am thankful for those who engaged in sincere and civil discourse on this matter of such serious consequence to our society. I am grateful to those who supported and recognize the value of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. I especially want to thank the Catholic faithful who did not abandon Catholic teachings on the nature of marriage.

These past few months have served as a teaching opportunity to explain to parishioners and the wider community about how and why the Church views and values marriage as the union of one man and one woman open to new life.

It has also been an opportunity for learning. I trust that those who voted for such a radical change did so out of concern for our brothers and sisters who struggle with same-sex attraction. Respect and acceptance of all people regardless of sexual orientation is not a point of controversy. It is a teaching of the Church, but so is the authentic meaning and definition of marriage. That is why the Catholic Church will continue its commitment to work for the basic human rights to which all people are entitled, while remaining devoted to preserving and strengthening the precious gift of marriage. (Source: Statement from Bishop Malone Regarding ‘Question 1’ Results, Diocese of Portland website)


Archbishop William Lori (Baltimore)

“So much hard work went into this, and I’m very, very grateful to everyone who worked so hard. We will continue to witness to the values of marriage as understood as the union of one man and one woman, as the most sound, secure and loving way to bring children into the world.”

The election results on same-sex marriage should serve as a “wake up call” for Catholics, Archbishop Lori said, demonstrating “our need to redouble our efforts to defend marriage, to preach about what marriage is, and to help people understand it as a unique relationship that does not discriminate against anyone, but is for the good of children and for the good of society.” (Source: Maria Wiering, “Archbishop Lori calls same-sex marriage passage ‘a wake-up call’,” The Catholic Review)

Archdiocese of Washington

The Archdiocese of Washington is disappointed and deeply concerned that marriage in the state of Maryland has been redefined as a result of passage of the ballot issue put before voters yesterday. At the heart of the archdiocese’s opposition to this law is the Church’s unchanging teaching that marriage is a unique, exclusive, lifelong relationship created by God and reserved for one man and one woman. The complementarity of man and woman is intrinsic to the meaning of marriage.

Despite the outcome of this referendum issue, the archdiocese is grateful for the efforts undertaken by those who uphold the traditional meaning of marriage, and will continue to inform and educate its faithful and the members of the wider community about the truth of marriage as the union between one man and one woman. (Source: Statement of the Archdiocese of Washington on Maryland Referenda, Archdiocese of Washington website)

Maryland Catholic Conference

Regrettably, Marylanders decided by the narrowest of margins not to repeal the law that redefines marriage. The ballot language they encountered masked the fact that this law does not simply assign civil benefits to gay and lesbian couples, but drastically dismantles in our state law the fundamental family unit of mother, father and child. The people of Maryland were promised that this law would protect religious institutions and individuals who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and we will remain vigilant in ensuring that those promises are upheld. (Source: “Maryland Upholds DREAM but Fails to Uphold Marriage,” Maryland Catholic Conference website)


Minnesota Catholic Conference

The Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, is disappointed that Amendment 1 did not pass. Despite this setback, our efforts to promote and defend the cornerstone social institution of marriage will continue.

MCC’s support of Amendment 1 was rooted in the complementarity of the sexes, the public significance of their ability to procreate, and the fundamental right of all children to be born into an intact family with a married mother and a father, even though this is not always possible. These basic human truths remain with or without the passage of this amendment.

Our position on the amendment was never “anti” anyone, but “for” marriage. We continue to emphasize that everyone, including those with same-sex attraction, must be treated with charity, dignity, and respect. The Catholic Church welcomes all and remains committed to affirming the irrevocable dignity of all persons created in the image and likeness of God.

We thank the thousands of Minnesotans, particularly our partners in the Minnesota for Marriage coalition, who worked tirelessly to bring about the amendment’s passage.

MCC will continue to support and advocate for public policy that best serves all of society, human dignity and the basic rights of children. Marriage needs to be strengthened, not redefined. We look forward to finding ways we can all work together as Minnesotans to strengthen marriage and family life. (Source: MCC Statement on the Defeat of the Marriage Protection Amendment, Minnesota Catholic Conference website)

Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis

Minnesota’s voters have spoken. Although the defeat of the amendment is a very serious concern to us, it will not deter us from continuing to serve this community and the whole state in pursuit of the common good. We are grateful to the thousands of Minnesotans, particularly those who lent their support to Minnesota for Marriage, for their commitment to proactively protect the timeless definition of marriage.

The Church’s public advocacy of support for the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment has always been rooted in our commitment to advance the common good for human society. This is the same spirit that guides the Church’s unwavering pursuit of economic justice, healthcare and immigration reform, and the defense of human life and dignity from conception to natural death.

We proposed, and continue to do so, that the good of society is best served by maintaining the traditional understanding of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. This proposition finds its intelligibility in the order of reason and in the testimony of the Bible.

The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis will continue to build up this community according to our principles, including giving voice and unwavering defense to the unborn, the poor and forgotten, the abused and the lonely. And we will continue to work to strengthen marriage, and defend it against all forms of its weakening, for the good of all society. We can do nothing less than continue to propose and do our best to live out what we believe. (Source: Statement on the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment Vote, Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis website)


Bishop Joseph Tyson (Yakima):

Bishop Tyson joined the other Roman Catholic bishops in Washington State who expressed their disappointment that “so many voters failed to recognize marriage between a man and a woman as the natural institution for the permanent, faithful covenant of love for a couple, for bringing children into the world, and for nurturing and educating those children. This change in civil law is not in the best interest of children or society.”

“I intend to work with the other bishops of the state and in the region to continue to uplift marriage between one man and one woman as the best proposal for everyone in our society,” Bishop Tyson said. He noted that despite the election results, the campaign has been an opportunity for the Church to reaffirm its consistent teaching on marriage. “This represents a starting point for a long-term effort to educate Catholics about its meaning and purpose.” (Source: Msgr. Robert Siler, “Measure Appears to Have Passed Statewide,” Diocese of Yakima website)

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain (Seattle)

It appears that Referendum 74, a measure that redefines marriage in Washington state, has been approved. I am disappointed that so many voters failed to recognize marriage between a man and a woman as the natural institution for the permanent, faithful covenant of love for a couple, for bringing children into the world, and for nurturing and educating those children. This change in civil law is not in the best interest of children or society.

Despite the election results, the campaign has been an opportunity for the Church to reaffirm its consistent teaching on marriage. The campaign to preserve marriage as a union between a man and a woman represents a starting point for a long-term effort to educate Catholics about its meaning and purpose. The Church offers a vision of marriage and family life that enriches our communities and society and we remain committed to that vision while respecting the dignity of all persons.

I thank all those who supported the effort to preserve marriage in Washington, and hope that despite this vote, all people will come to recognize the importance of marriage between a man and a woman for children and society. (Source: Statement from Archbishop Sartain regarding Referendum 74, Archdiocese of Seattle website)





News Release: Archbishop Cordileone Calls for Prayer, Renewed Culture of Marriage

Posted Nov. 8, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 3 comments

USCCB News Release (Nov. 7, 2012):

  • Marriage protection efforts in state referenda not successful
  • “Marriage needs to be strengthened…not redefined,” Archbishop Cordileone says
  • All people called “to build a renewed culture of marriage and the family”

WASHINGTON—In response to the November 6 statewide referenda results in Washington State, Minnesota, Maryland, and Maine regarding marriage, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, called for renewed efforts to strengthen and protect marriage and family life and expressed gratitude to marriage protection supporters.

“Yesterday, November 6, was a disappointing day for marriage, as the effort to preserve the unique meaning of marriage in the law lost by only a narrow margin in four states, even though vastly outspent by those who promote the redefinition of marriage,” Archbishop Cordileone said.

“The meaning of marriage, though, cannot be redefined because it lies within our very nature. No matter what policy, law or judicial decision is put into place, marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any children born of their union. It is either this, or it is nothing at all. In view of the fact that every child has a mother and a father, our society either respects the basic right of every child to be raised by his or her mother and father together and so supports the true and unique meaning of marriage for the good of children, or it does not. In a society marked by increasing poverty and family fragmentation, marriage needs to be strengthened, promoted, and defended, not redefined. I hope and pray that political leaders, judges, and all people will seek to honor this foundational and common sense truth of marriage,” the archbishop said.

Earlier this year, the Washington State and Maryland legislatures voted in favor of bills to redefine marriage and the governors of these states signed the respective bills into law; however, before these laws could take effect, enough voters in each state signed a petition to put these laws before the voters in yesterday’s referenda. In Minnesota, the state legislature in 2011 voted to adopt a marriage protection amendment to the state constitution, which went before the voters yesterday.

In Maine, earlier this year, supporters of marriage redefinition submitted a petition with enough signatures to have a referendum on marriage redefinition in an attempt to counter the 2009 vote of the people that protected the meaning of marriage. In Maryland and Maine, voters yesterday voted in favor of redefining marriage (votes are still being confirmed in Washington State, though it is projected that voters did the same there as well). In Minnesota, voters rejected the proposed state constitutional amendment, though Minnesota still protects marriage as the union of one man and one woman through state statute.

“I extend heartfelt gratitude to all those who dedicated and sacrificed time, energy and resources to protect marriage,” Archbishop Cordileone said. “I especially call on all people to pray and to build a renewed culture of marriage and the family. This is a fundamental task on which the future good and stability of our society, and particularly that of our children, rest.”


Election Eve: Prayers, reflections, and more

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

Tomorrow is Election Day. Tomorrow voters in four states will face referendums on marriage: Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington State. The bishops in those states have been energetically preaching and teaching about the authentic meaning of marriage, as we showed in a recap post two weeks ago. Today, on the eve of the election, we share with you timely prayers, reflections on the importance of protecting marriage for the sake of the common good, and words of wisdom to consider when voting tomorrow.



Words of wisdom about marriage and the common good:

“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.” – Pope Benedict XVI, address to U.S. bishops

“Some may suggest that our society’s traditional understanding of marriage has already unraveled and that redefining marriage won’t harm it further. But this radical redefinition of marriage will irreparably undermine the irreplaceable role that both a mother and father play in the life of a child and relegate their relationship to an arbitrary status among many other family arrangements.” – Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, Baltimore (emeritus): article, “A radical redefinition of marriage

“To promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman is itself a matter of justice.” “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.” – Bishop Richard Malone, Buffalo (formerly Portland, Maine): Pastoral letter, “Marriage: Yesterday-Today-Always

“The obvious and intimate connection between the conjugal act and conception, along with the universally recognized importance of stable marriages for the education and formation of children, removes marriage from the private sphere and places it into the public realm, an institution very much part of the common good and therefore a concern of the state.” – Minnesota Bishops, “A Brief Catechesis on Marriage

“Let us not allow ourselves or others to be fooled by false reasoning. Protecting the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman does not make marriage ‘discriminatory.’ It recognizes marriage between one man and one woman to be unique – unique among all other kinds of human relationships.” – Bishop Joseph Tyson, Yakima: “A Pastoral Letter on Marriage and Referendum 74


As Four States Prepare to Vote on the Definition of Marriage, the Bishops Teach

Posted Oct. 25, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 1 comment

This November voters in four states will face ballot questions about the definition of marriage. In Maryland and Washington State, voters will have the chance to stop legislation redefining marriage to include two persons of the same sex, while in Maine proponents of the redefinition of marriage are getting a second chance after a 2009 referendum stopped a similar law.  Minnesotans, on the other hand, will have the opportunity to enshrine the definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman in their constitution.

Since the Church teaches that “No human law can abolish the natural and original right of marriage, nor in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage ordained by God’s authority from the beginning: ‘Increase and multiply,'” (Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 12) it is only fitting that the bishops in these states have responded with pastoral teaching.


In Maryland, where Question 6 asks voters whether they are ‘for’ or ‘against’ the legislature’s attempt to redefine marriage, Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, then apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, wrote a column in the Baltimore Sun, “A radical redefinition of marriage”. The Cardinal called marriage a “unique human relationship — the only such one capable of bringing life into the world.” We are trying to protect the definition of marriage because it is “what is best for society — not out of some hostility toward our sisters and brothers who are attracted to others of the same sex.”

Earlier bishops’ columns, as well as handouts prepared by the Maryland Catholic Conference, can be found on the Maryland Catholic Conference’s website.


Question 1 in Maine asks voters: “Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?” Portland’s Bishop Richard J. Malone (now of Buffalo) sent a 26-pages letter to his flock, “Marriage: Yesterday – Today – Always” (PDF). He uses this letter as an opportunity “to reflect with you, through this pastoral letter, 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.” We looked at highlights from the bishop’s letter in an earlier blog post. Bishop Malone also spoke about marriage as the building block of civilization in this video:


Minnesotans will have a chance to adopt Amendment 1 this November, which would amend Minnesota’s state constitution to read that “only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.” The state’s bishops collectively published A Brief Catechesis on Marriage, where they explain that marriage is “a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman in an enduring bond of love.” Bishop John Quinn of Winona testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee (PDF) and Bishop Paul Sirba of Duluth testified before the House of Representatives Civil Law Committee (PDF). Catholics in Crookston received a letter from Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner. In New Ulm, Bishop John M. Levoir produced a video. Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis gave an interview to the National Catholic Register about the marriage referendum, and wrote a column about why the marriage amendment “deserves our support.” Archbishop Nienstedt had earlier produced a video about marriage and the importance of the marriage amendment (below) that was sent to Catholics throughout Minnesota.

The Minnesota Catholic Conference website has a page dedicated to the marriage referendum with many additional articles, handouts, and resources.

Washington State

Referendum 74 in Washington State gives voters a chance to “approve” or “reject” a bill to redefine marriage to include two persons of the same-sex. The state’s bishops collectively issued a pastoral statement, Marriage and the Good of Society: A Pastoral statement regarding Referendum 74 (PDF). Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle and his auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S. sent a letter to the faithful (PDF) this past April. In August, Spokane Bishop Blase J. Cupich published three documents about the definition of marriage: A Letter to Parishioners: Referendum 74Some Reflections on Referendum 74, and “Believing in Marriage”. And in October, Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima sent A Pastoral Letter on Marriage and Referendum 74 (PDF) to his flock.

Archbishop Sartain (Seattle) and Bishop Cupich (Spokane) have also produced videos about marriage and Referendum 74:

The website of the Washington State Catholic Conference has additional resources, including handouts.



Yakima, Wash. Bishop Writes a Pastoral Letter on Marriage

Posted Oct. 10, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 3 comments

Bishop Joseph J. Tyson (Yakima)

Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington sent a pastoral letter about marriage to his flock this past Sunday. The letter, Marriage and Referendum 74, reflects on the week’s Gospel in which Jesus says, “…from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh…” (Mark 10: 6-8)

The bishop asked that his pastoral letter be read at all Sunday masses this past weekend (October 6/7). Also recommended for distribution were two one-page handouts: “What Every Catholic Needs to Know Before Voting” (a Q&A about Referendum 74) and “Redefining Marriage: What Are the Consequences?”

Voters in Washington State are considering whether to accept a bill passed earlier this year redefining marriage to include two persons of the same sex. Referendum 74 gives voters a chance to accept or reject this change. Last month, we shared videos by the other two bishops in Washington State on the same issue. Both of these bishops, Archbishop Sartain of Seattle and Bishop Cupich of Spokane, have also written pastoral letters encouraging the faithful to defend marriage.

Highlights of Bishop Tyson’s Letter

In his letter, Bishop Tyson told his flock that “R-74’s conception of marriage is wrong from the start, since it presumes that marriage is simply a matter of what any two consenting adults desire. But this has never been the meaning of marriage, nor has it been the reason why marriage is recognized as essential to the common good.”

He also warned of the potential consequences to the Church if the law is allowed to go into effect. “This law will challenge our right to educate about the unique value of children being raised by their own mothers and fathers,” he wrote.

“The acceptance of R-74 means that so-called same-sex ‘marriage’ will replace real marriage – the union of a man and a woman – as the legal frame of reference for all public discourse.”

The Church’s opposition to redefining marriage has the common good in mind. The letter clarifies that “the starting point for understanding marriage’s meaning and public purpose is not the desires of adults but the meaning of the human person and the rights of children to be known and loved by their mothers and fathers. The true good is always what’s best.”

Bishop Tyson was careful to mention that “some of us have friends and family with same-sex attraction. And we are aware of a painful pattern of unjust discrimination and personal reject[ion]. We love them. We do not want to lose them. We do not want them to feel rejected again.”

Toward the end of the letter, he calls for Catholics to go beyond opposing the new law. “We need to find ways to replant our Church’s moral proposal for human happiness that flows from marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

Read Bishop Tyson’s letter in English or en Español.


Welcome to San Francisco, Archbishop Cordileone!

Posted Oct. 5, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 1 comment

Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone

Yesterday on October 4th, the feast of St. Francis, the Archdiocese of San Francisco welcomed their new shepherd, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. Archbishop Cordileone is also chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, which is responsible for the Marriage: Unique for a Reason project, so we wish him all the best in his new pastoral role.

In a news release posted on the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s website, it says that at his installation mass, the new Archbishop “encouraged renewal of the Church in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, the city’s patron.” Archbishop Cordileone also noted that Francis’ response to the problems of his time was holiness. “He focused on the universal call to holiness, each person according to their vocation in life.”

Video of the Installation Mass at San Francisco Archdiocese video site

Homily at Installation Mass:

Catholic San Francisco newspaper: “Welcoming Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone”


"When Two Become One": New Pastoral Letter on Marriage from Newark's Archbishop Myers

Posted Sep. 27, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 2 comments

Archbishop John J. Myers

On September 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark released a new pastoral letter about marriage: When Two Become One: A Pastoral Teaching on the Definition, Purpose and Sanctity of Marriage.”

The Archdiocese of Newark blog explained that the pastoral reflection “was written to help the faithful of the Archdiocese form their consciences, discern their vocations and, for the married, fulfill their vows.” It also noted that clergy in the Archdiocese of Newark would read a letter from Archbishop Myers about the pastoral at all masses this weekend, September 29-30, and that copies of the one-page Executive Summary would be sent to all parishes. In addition, all Catholic high schools in Newark will receive a copy of the pastoral letter and be asked to incorporate it into the Family Life curriculum.

Throughout his 16-page letter, Archbishop Myers quotes from Scripture, papal encyclicals, modern theologians, and even social science research to explain and reinforce the Church’s timeless teaching on marriage. The letter is set up as responses to a series of familiar questions:

What is marriage?

“Marriage is a natural and pre-political institution. . . . We cannot define and redefine marriage to suit our personal tastes or goals. We cannot make forms of relationships or types of conduct marital simply by attaching to them the word ‘marriage.’ The defining features and structuring norms of marriage are written in the design of creation and revealed to us by a loving God who has made marriage a powerful symbol of the mystery of his love for us.”

Can the truth about marriage be known through reason alone?

“The short answer to this question is ‘yes’ . . . Philosophers, both secular and religious, have from antiquity recognized the existence of the ‘natural law’: a body of moral norms ‘written on the heart,’ as St. Paul said, that serve as the universal rational standard for human behavior.”

What does the Catholic Church teach about persons with homosexual attraction?

“Some mistakenly charge that Christ and His Church condemn or fail to love persons who experience romantic or sexual attraction to members of the same sex. On the contrary, while calling us to renounce all sinful behavior, Christ and His Church unequivocally love every last human person, in every condition of life: the unborn and the dying; the able-bodied and the sick; the young and the old; and men and women, whatever their inclinations.”

Don’t equality and justice require the state to recognize same-sex unions as marriages?

“Because same-sex couples cannot enter into the one-flesh unity of marriage – they cannot participate in reproductive type acts – they cannot marry in any meaningful sense of the term. Marriage is not mere sexual-romantic domestic partnership. It is, at its very foundation, a one-flesh union. And it is because an essential element in authentic marriage is the capacity to participate in reproductive-type acts that can, and often do, lead to children that the state has a vital interest in recognizing and promoting marriages.”

Should civil law reflect the natural law?

“Civil law should reflect the natural law to the extent that public order allows. . . . Any attempt to change the definition of marriage at the political level represents an overreaching of the competence of politicians and, indeed, of civil positive law.”

Should faithful Catholics defend the traditional teaching on marriage in the public square?

“I write as the Archbishop of Newark with the responsibility to teach the truth about the faith, including the truth about marriage, ‘in season and out,’ as St. Paul admonished Timothy. . . But I also write as a citizen of the United States with responsibilities to help promote the true common good for all. . . . Along with our commitments to defend life and serve the poor, the protection and promotion of the family serves as the core principle of our social commitment.”





New Videos: Washington State Bishops Defend Marriage

Posted Sep. 26, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason No comments yet

In four new videos, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle and Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane urge Catholics in Washington state to uphold marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Background: In the upcoming November election, Referendum 74 will give voters in Washington state the chance to reject or approve a law passed in February 2012 that redefined marriage to include two persons of the same sex.

For more information: See the website of the Washington State Catholic Conference.


Bishop Cupich of Spokane: Reflections on Referendum 74

Posted Aug. 9, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 2 comments

Washington State is one of four states with marriage referendums on the ballot in November. Specifically, Referendum 74 offers voters a chance to repeal the marriage redefinition law signed by Governor Gregoire in February 2012. Bishop Blase J. Cupich wrote an August 3 letter to his parishioners about Referendum 74, including reflections on why the Church urges voter to reject the marriage redefinition law.

In his letter, Bishop Cupich acknowledges the strong emotions and convictions present on both sides of the debate. He writes, “My genuine hope is that we all can value the coming vote on Referendum 74 as an opportunity to have a substantial public debate regarding this critical issue, carried on with respect, honesty and conviction.” He affirms the Church’s teaching on the human dignity of all persons and reminds parishioners that no one may “misuse…this moment” to incite hostility towards persons with same-sex attraction.

As an attachment to his letter, Bishop Cupich offers six points of consideration “based on the light of reason” why voting “no” to the marriage redefinition law is the best choice, in the hopes that readers can calmly and reasonably discuss with their friends and family the potential societal consequences of redefining marriage.

Bishop Cupich’s points include:

  • The new marriage law does not expand marriage but redefines it “in terms of a relationship between two people” without reference to union of man and woman or to that union’s potential to create new life.
  • Redefining marriage leads to redefining parenthood, as has been seen in places like Canada and Spain, where words like “father” and “mother” have been replaced by terms like “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” or “Progenitor A” and “Progenitor B.” As the Bishop puts it, “words matter, especially words like mother and father, which have real depth and meaning.”
  • If marriage is redefined so that sexual difference is not essential, why, logically, would marriage not be open for further redefinition, such as allowing more than two persons to be married, allowing close kin to be married, and so on?
  • Marriage is not a product of either the church or the state, but “is written in our human nature.”

In conclusion, Bishop Cupich promised that in the weeks to come he would provide more reflections about marriage “based on what we believe God has revealed to us about creation, the meaning and value of marriage and family, and the way we are called to live as Christ’s disciples.” These reflections will be accessible at the Inland Register, the website of the Spokane diocese, and the website of the Washington State Catholic Conference.




Preparing for the Marriage Amendment in North Carolina

Posted May. 3, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 1 comment

This coming Tuesday, May 8, voters in North Carolina will have the opportunity to vote for an amendment that would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman in the state Constitution. Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh and Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte have encouraged the faithful to support the marriage amendment and have sought to catechize them about the authentic meaning of marriage. For example, we posted earlier about two videos made by Bishop Burbidge  Bishop Jugis that explained the importance of the marriage amendment.

In anticipation of the May 8 vote, here are more resources from the bishops of North Carolina:

Also, for North Carolina readers, there are several events planned to educate the faithful about marriage:

  • Friday, May 4: Presentation by Fr. Paul Check, National Director of Courage: “The Catholic Church, Marriage, and Homosexuality” at St. Ann Church in Charlotte (more information here)
  • Saturday, May 5: Symposium on Marriage at St. Patrick Cathedral in Charlotte (more information here)



Seattle Archbishop and Bishop Urge Washington State Faithful to Participate in Marriage Referendum

Posted Apr. 18, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 3 comments

Background: In February of this year, the state of Washington passed a bill that would redefine marriage to exclude sexual difference. Governor Christine Gregoire promptly signed the bill into law, but opponents are able to present the bill for voter approval or rejection this November by collecting 120,000 signatures by June 6.

The latest: Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of the Archdiocese of Seattle have issued a brief letter stating their support for the marriage referendum (Referendum 74) and some basic reasons why all people should support this referendum.


  • “The key to understanding the Church’s view of marriage can be found in the two fundamental ends or purposes toward which it is oriented: the good of the spouses and the procreation of children.”
  • “Some have suggested that the Catholic Church’s opposition to the redefinition of marriage amounts to discrimination. That is not the case. Treating different things differently is not unjust discrimination. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman because of its unique ends, purpose and place in society.”
  • “Why does the Catholic Church care so much about marriage? Because marriage is a fundamental good in itself and foundational to human existence and flourishing.”

Read the entire letter.

Find more about protecting marriage in Washington State by visiting the Washington Catholic Conference website.



NC Bishops Register Disappointment with President's Statement

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

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.



Bishop Tobin of Providence: Five Reasons NOT to Redefine Marriage

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

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.


Videos on Marriage from North Carolina Bishops

Posted Mar. 14, 2012 by Marriage Unique for a Reason 1 comment

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.


Bishop Malone Interviewed by CNN about Marriage Pastoral Letter

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

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:

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).