INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) — The six Catholic bishops in Indiana have endorsed a proposed state constitutional amendment that would define marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman.
The proposed amendment also states that other legal unions “identical or substantially similar to that of marriage” will not be recognized by the state.
Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Indiana regarding state and national matters, spoke on behalf of the bishops Jan. 13 when the Indiana House Judiciary Committee met to hear testimony on House Joint Resolution 3, or H.J.R. 3.
“We support H.J.R. 3 as a means for defending the nature of marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” Tebbe said.
He was joined by several other witnesses representing various groups — some supporting the measure, some opposing it.
The committee meeting ended without a vote being taken on the proposal. No date has been set for a vote.
In his testimony, Tebbe affirmed the Catholic Church’s teaching on the dignity of every human person, “including persons with same-sex attraction.”
At the same time, he noted that the church upholds the “dignity and sanctity of marriage,” which, “by its very nature … is a permanent partnership between one man and one woman.”
Tebbe also explained that marriage so understood is the “foundation of the family” and provides a solid context for the raising of children. He also said that “it is not within the power of either the church or the state to redefine marriage since God is its author.”
Much of his testimony was either based on or taken directly from a pastoral statement about the dignity of all human persons and the dignity of marriage issued in December by Indiana’s Catholic bishops.
The statement, issued Dec. 4, was signed by: Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and Auxiliary Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Indianapolis, who is vicar general; Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette; Bishop Dale J. Melczek of Gary; Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend; and Bishop Charles C. Thompson of Evansville.
It quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church and affirms the dignity of all people, “including persons with same-sex attraction, who ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.'”
At the same time, the bishops said, marriage is a “natural institution established by God” that exists only between one man and one woman.
After the committee hearing, Tebbe told The Criterion, Indianapolis’ archdiocesan newspaper, the bishops’ statement did not directly address the proposed amendment because at that point the state legislators had not yet decided they would take it up for consideration.
“The pastoral statement was more to help people focus on what the big issues are, how people can form their consciences about the teachings of the church,” Tebbe said.
In early January, the legislators announced they would consider H.J.R. 3.
“Once we had this particular question posed in terms of if we support this amendment or not, we did answer that,” Tebbe said, adding that his testimony affirmed “what our position is and that, given the circumstance right now, (H.J.R. 3) is a means of defending the union in marriage of a man and a woman.”
The resolution was passed by both the Indiana Senate and Indiana House of Representatives in 2011. For it to become a ballot measure for the 2014 general election, it will need to be passed without change by a simple majority in both bodies during the upcoming session.
In Indiana, constitutional amendments are voted on in a ballot measure only after they are approved by two separately elected legislatures.
Gallagher is a reporter at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.