The bishops of New York have spoken out, through the state Catholic Conference, about a bill in the state legislature that would legalize commercial surrogacy.
Here is the statement from Kathleen M. Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference: Statement on Commercial Surrogacy Proposal
In the statement, Gallagher links to the fuller memo of opposition to gestational surrogacy, that includes the following points:
- It treats children as commodities to be manufactured, bought and sold.
- It exploits women, particularly poor women.
- Insufficient evidence of safety for women involved.
- It intentionally fractures families.
The bishops of Colorado joined in a statement after the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby case. They say,
“We are hopeful that today’s decision will cast a favorable light on the ongoing non-profit cases still making their way through the legal process. The Church has an obligation to serve, and therefore, it needs the freedom to serve without government coercion of conscience and intrusion into religious beliefs. We encourage all people of good will to continue to pray for the protection of religious freedom in every sector of our society as guaranteed by the first amendment.”
We encourage you to read Bishop Aquila’s pastoral letter on the Family as well.
The SCOTUS has determined not to block Oregon’s same-sex “marriages”.
The Bishops of Virginia, represented by the Virginia Catholic Conference, filed an amicus curiae brief today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In January, District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen struck down the provision in Virginia’s constitution that affirms marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The brief filed on behalf of the Virginia Catholic Conference explains, “Virginia’s interest in marriage is based in the Commonwealth’s foresight that changing the legal definition of marriage would unavoidably change the way Virginia’s citizens view marriage and make the Commonwealth’s marriage laws adult-focused rather than child-focused. If the message and function of marriage is changed in concept, the cultural significance attached to marriage will also change.”
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage voiced his support of the legal action. “The Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States are united in their desire to preserve the institution of marriage, and we support the Virginia bishops in their effort to defend Virginia’s recognition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. For the good of children, it is critical that society preserve the true meaning of marriage.”
With the Virginia Catholic Conference, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) also filed an amicus brief in Bostic v. Schaefer, along with four other institutions. Oral arguments in this case were heard on May 13, 2014. The audio is available at the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Updated Monday, May 19, 2014
Colorado is one of a number of states that are currently facing marriage redefinition challenges. More specifically, a bill has been proposed in Colorado (or rather, re-proposed; it failed last year) that would establish civil unions for two persons of the same sex. As of March 6, the bill has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Finance Committee. According to CBS Denver, the bill could be voted on by the full House as early as next week, the last stop before the governor’s desk.
Two key things to know about the Colorado civil unions bill:
1. This bill IS about redefining marriage.
Don’t let the bill’s name fool you, said Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila. In a January 23 column for the Denver Catholic Register, Archbishop Aquila wrote, “Make no mistake, the Colorado Civil Unions Act, and all civil union legislation, is an attempt to redefine marriage – to undercut the long-standing human understanding that the stable, fruitful partnerships between men and women should be promoted and protected.”
The Archbishop points out that “in every state where civil union legislation has passed, its proponents have pushed to redefine marriage itself.” One example is Illinois, which approved civil unions in 2011 and is now debating full marriage redefinition.
Archbishop Aquila also pointed out that “in Colorado, same-sex couples can already attain the legal benefits civil unions would bring. The real goal of civil union legislation is social endorsement of same-sex unions, and, soon enough, the redefinition of marriage.” An example of this is Rhode Island, where civil unions were approved in 2011 but met with little enthusiasm, even though the bill granted the same benefits to those who entered civil unions as to married couples. The Rhode Island legislature subsequently proposed full marriage redefinition, which was passed by the House in January 2013 and has yet to be voted on by the Senate.
2. The bill lacks conscience protections
Unlike the civil unions bill proposed – and defeated by one vote – in 2012, the current bill does not include any protections for one group poised to incur serious consequences from its passage: adoption agencies. Language included in the 2012 bill – that the bill “shall not be interpreted to require a child-placement agency to place a child for adoption” with a couple in a civil union – is entirely absent from the 2013 version. Mark Rohlena, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, said that the bill’s passage could threaten the religious liberty of agencies like his that decline to place children with two persons of the same sex.
Indeed, that prediction is far from unfounded. In several states where civil union or marriage redefinition legislation has been passed – DC, Massachusetts, Illinois – religious adoption agencies that wouldn’t place children with two persons of the same sex have closed down. (See this video for an up-close look at the impact on families and children of foster and adoption agencies’ closing in Illinois.)
The Colorado Catholic Conference opposes the civil unions bill and asks all Colorado citizens to make their opposition known.
- Archbishop Samuel Aquila, “Make no mistake: civil unions a major step in radically redefining marriage” (Jan. 23, 2013)
- Catholic Bishops of Colorado, Statement on Civil Unions (2012)
- Catholic Conference of Illinois, “Promoting Civil Unions to Undermine Marriage” (2009)
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:
- What essentially makes a marriage is romantic-emotional union
- Children don’t need both a mother and father.
- 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.”
- Illinois residents can find their elected officials’ contact information at the Illinois Catholic Conference website.
- Defense of Marriage Toolkit from the Illinois Catholic Conference
- Redefinition of Marriage website from the Illinois Catholic Conference
Post-election round-up: Statements from (Arch)bishops and Catholic Conferences: Disappointment, gratitude, resolve
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)
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.
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 74, Some 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:
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.
The Washington State Catholic Conference, which represents the Catholic bishops of Washington State, recently released the following pastoral statement about marriage:
Marriage and the Good of Society
A Pastoral statement regarding Referendum 74
On November 6 the people of Washington State will vote on Referendum 74, a ballot measure with far-reaching significance. Voters will be asked to “approve” or “reject” a new law that legalizes marriage between couples of the same sex. This public policy debate is due in part to historic patterns of injustice toward persons with same-sex attraction. Thus, for many, the desire to redefine marriage has its origins in compassion for friends and family members who have experienced bias, unjust discrimination and personal rejection for their sexual orientation. As pastors and the bishops of Washington State, we are sensitive to this suffering and reaffirm our commitment to protect and defend the dignity of every human person. We also affirm the Church’s consistent teaching that marriage can only be the union of one man and one woman.
The Purpose of Marriage
In light of its divine origins and the teaching of Jesus, the Church has always understood that marriage — in addition to its sacramental nature — is a social contract. Marriage is the foundational unit of human society, because it exists for the good of husband and wife and the strengthening of their unique, permanent, and faithful bond of love. In addition, because human sexuality orders the transmission of human life through man and woman, children “are part of the glory of marriage,” as St. Augustine wrote many centuries ago. Marriage is founded on sexual difference and ordered toward the fulfillment of husband and wife and the procreation and rearing of children. This basic understanding of marriage and family is “built in” to the very nature of man and woman. No matter how well-intentioned, the effort to redefine marriage in civil law to include people of the same sex will not serve the good of society because it would detach marriage from its essential character and purpose. Furthermore, the redefinition of marriage does not bestow any new legal rights on couples of the same-sex in Washington State. In 2009 a law was passed that granted to registered domestic partners every legal benefit enjoyed by couples in traditional marriages.
Marriage and Children
Civil marriage law exists to promote the best environment for the health, welfare and education of children. Approval of Referendum 74 would subordinate the union of children with their mother and father to a legal entitlement for adults. By separating marriage from procreation and the responsibility of men and women to raise children that result from their sexual union, the new marriage law would abandon the state’s principal interest in this time-honored institution. If the state successfully disconnects marriage from the potential inherent to sexual union between a man and woman, the civil meaning of marriage will be lost, and the institution that results will be a genderless contract without reference to children. The foundational nature of marriage for the good and the strength of human society will be harmed beyond repair. Faithful, monogamous marriages between one man and one woman will cease to be the legally-established social standard for uniting children with their parents, even though social science has established that children do best when raised in homes with married mothers and fathers.
Marriage Law and Religious Liberty
In addition, the legal separation of marriage from procreation would have a chilling effect on religious liberty and the right of conscience. Once marriage is redefined as a genderless contract, it will become legally discriminatory for public and private institutions such as schools to promote the unique value of children being raised by their biological mothers and fathers. No institution or individual could propose that married mothers and fathers provide a singular benefit to children without being accused of discrimination. Recent attacks on churches, businesses and nonprofit organizations that express their conscientious objection to the redefinition of marriage underscore the danger. Those who uphold families based on the permanent, faithful relationship between a married man and woman as the best environment for raising children already have been accused of hate speech, and the right of religious institutions to freely practice their faith has been abridged.
As teachers and Church leaders, we reaffirm the need to recognize and defend the rights of all people. However, redefining marriage as a means of dealing with important issues of equality and respect for persons with same-sex attraction will not achieve this goal and would overturn centuries of common law. We are deeply concerned about equality, justice and the good of society and the family. Our support for traditional marriage is not born of bias or intolerance toward anyone. Instead, our purpose is to support the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman in order to promote the common good. We therefore urge Catholic people to uphold our consistent teaching on marriage for the good of the Church, society, spouses and their children. Finally, we reject the redefinition of marriage as a “civil contract between two persons.”
We are hopeful the vote on Referendum 74 will be an opportunity to debate this important social issue in an atmosphere of respect, honesty and conviction. As Americans, we have the freedom to debate public policy matters freely and publicly, and we pray that our dialogue will be marked by civility and clarity. We submit these reflections in hopes that they will contribute to such a dialogue and assist Catholic people in forming their consciences on Referendum 74.
On Thursday, February 23, the Maryland State Senate unfortunately voted 25 to 22 in favor of a bill that would redefine marriage in Maryland. The bill had previously passed through the House by a narrow 72 to 67 margin and now makes its way to Governor O’Malley’s desk. The Governor, who had proposed the bill, is expected to sign it, which would make Maryland the eighth state to redefine marriage to the exclusion of sexual difference.
The Maryland Catholic Conference (MCC) released a statement yesterday lamenting the bill’s passage. They point out that the bill passed by “the narrowest of margins” and “was forced through the House with extraordinary political pressures and legislative maneuvers,” a point highlighted in a February 22 MCC statement following the House vote.
MCC writes in the February 23 statement, “Stripping marriage of its unique connection to parenthood erases from civil law the right of a child to a mother and father, and ignores an essential question of why government favors marriage between one man and one woman over all other relationships” (emphasis added).
The political battle over marriage in Maryland is far from over. Supporters of marriage’s perennial definition have the opportunity to bring the measure to voters with a referendum this November, provided that they can raise at least 55,000 signatures. The Maryland Catholic Conference sees this opportunity in a very positive light: “When this issue reaches the November ballot, we are confident that the citizens of Maryland will join voters in 31 other states in upholding marriage between one man and one woman.”
- Maryland Catholic Conference website on Marriage
- MCC Q&A Handout: “Marriage and Society: Marriage Cannot Be Redefined“
- The Bishops of Maryland 2008 Statement: “Marriage in Maryland: Securing the Foundation of Family and Society“
Today, Wednesday February 1st, the Washington state Senate is voting on a proposed bill that would redefine marriage to exclude sexual difference. The Senate Rules Committee had advanced the bill on Tuesday, approving it for a vote by the full chamber.
The bishops of Washington state have spoken out strongly against the bill. As previously reported here, all four Catholic bishops signed an open letter to the people of Washington: “Marriage and the Common Good: A statement on legislation to redefine marriage.”
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain also provided testimony against the bill in both the Senate (Committee on Government Operations, Tribal Relations & Elections) and the House (Judiciary Committee). Well-known marriage advocates Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse (Ruth Institute), Austin R. Nimocks (Alliance Defense Fund) and Christopher Plante (National Organization for Marriage) testified as well.
Find out more at the Washington State Catholic Conference’s website on marriage and the common good
The Catholic Bishops of Washington State recently released a public letter calling for citizens to maintain the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In their letter, Archbishop Sartain and Auxiliary Bishop Elizondo of Seattle, together with Bishop Cupich of Spokane and Bishop Tyson of Yakima noted that
“Marriage in faith and societal traditions is acknowledged as the foundation of civilization. It has long been recognized that the stability of society depends on the stability of family life in which a man and a woman conceive and nurture new life. In this way, civil recognition of marriage has sought to bestow on countless generations of children the incomparable benefit of a loving mother and father committed to one another in a lifelong union. (emphasis added)”
The bishops reiterated that marriage is not only a teaching of faith, but is also a truth accessible to right reason: “Washington State’s present law defining marriage as ‘a civil contract between a male and a female’ is grounded not in faith, but in reason and the experience of society.” In other words, we can and should have recourse to right reason in defending the truth of the Church’s moral teaching regarding marriage.
Finally, the bishops of Washington State “urge [citizens] to contact your own state senator and your two state representatives to request that they defend the current legal definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.”
The Washington Catholic Bishops’ appeal is for the good will of all and they ask “all to join in praying with us for married couples and families and to do everything possible to support them.”
Read the Bishop’s full letter here: http://www.seattlearchdiocese.org/Assets/ARCH/BishopsMarriageStatement.pdf
Website for the Washington State Catholic Conference: http://thewscc.org/
The Marriage: Unique for a Reason website has now been live since mid-November, when it was announced by Bishop Cordileone at the bishops’ General Assembly. For the next few days, we’d like to take you on a “virtual tour” of the website so you are aware of the many resources available here.
Fourth Stop: Links
The Links page needs little explanation: it includes a series of links that we hope will be helpful to website visitors. These include many links to USCCB-run websites, such as For Your Marriage and the well-known Respect Life program.
An important feature of the Links page is that it provides links to a number of statements from State Catholic Conferences. These organizations function as the “policy arm” of the bishops in a state or region, and as such advocate for Christian principles in the public square. In recent years, many State Catholic Conferences have issued statements about marriage and marriage redefinition (for example, Illinois and Maryland). These statements are a witness to the commitment and effort of Catholics throughout the country to promote and protect marriage, and they are particularly valuable to Catholics in that state or region.
We invite you to explore the various links provided, especially those to State Catholic Conference statements.
Next Stop: Media Toolkit