WASHINGTON (CNS) — U.S. Catholic bishops said the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 rulings on same-sex marriage were a “tragic day for marriage and our nation.”
The court, in separate 5-4 rulings struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, defining marriage as between one man and one woman and also refused to rule on the merits of a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, the voter-approved initiative barring same-sex marriage.
In the rulings, the court said DOMA was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause and they sent back to lower courts a challenge to Prop 8, saying the individuals who defended the law in court lacked the legal standing to do so.
Archbishop Charles Chaput said in a statement June 26 that “in striking down Sec. 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in United States v. Windsor, the Court leaves intact – at least for now — state constitutional definitions of marriage as an institution restricted to one man and one woman. As Justice Samuel Alito points out in his dissent, no federal ‘right’ to same-sex marriage exists. The Constitution simply does not establish one.”
“As Catholics,” said the archbishop, “we believe marriage needs to be strengthened, not redefined. It is a great gift to men, women, children and society. Affirming the true definition of marriage denies no one his or her basic rights. On the contrary, protecting marriage affirms the equal dignity of women and men and safeguards the basic rights of children.
“Same-sex unions, whatever legal form they take, cannot create new life. They cannot duplicate the love of a man and woman. But they do copy marriage and family, and in the process, they compete with and diminish the uniquely important status of both. The legal battle about marriage will continue. And the Church’s commitment to promote the authentic meaning of marriage and family will be vigorously pursued,” Archbishop Chaput said.
A statement by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said the court “has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act.”
“The court got it wrong,” they continued. “The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage.”
The bishops also said it was “unfortunate that the court did not take the opportunity to uphold California’s Proposition 8 but instead decided not to rule on the matter. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth.”
They urged people to “stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life.” They also asked for prayers “as the court’s decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified.”
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said the court’s decisions were the “latest in a troubling trend of decisions by lawmakers, judges, and some voters which ignores the fundamental truth about marriage: It is the most valued, most important social unit in our society and as such is deserving of the protection and special recognition societies have afforded it throughout human history.”
He said the courts’ decisions will “also undoubtedly contribute to concerted efforts not just to redefine marriage but to dismantle it, efforts which represent a serious threat to religious liberty and conscience rights for countless people of faith.”
Archbishop Timothy M. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services said that although the Supreme Court “avoided a firm declaration about same sex-marriage, it signaled that attempts by the federal government to limit rights available under state law could be unconstitutional.”
He said the court shifted the debated to the states which “raises questions about the scope of the federal government’s authority to administer its own programs.”
In light of the court’s decisions, the archbishop said it “seems imperative to remind the faithful of the Archdiocese for the Military Services that they must never forget that all, regardless of their sexual inclination, must be treated with the respect worthy of their human dignity.”
He said that while the court’s decision “voids federal law it opens the doors to others: It allows the citizens of each state the opportunity to uphold the true definition of marriage by voting for representatives and legislation that defend the true definition of marriage.”
The bishop urged Catholics to “make their voices heard through the democratic process by upholding marriage in their home states,” saying he remains confident that Americans will “continue to promote and defend the good and the truth of marriage as the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife for life.
Marriage remains what it has always been, regardless of what any government might say,” he added.
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A real mother also knows when to challenge her child because she loves him or her. The church challenges homosexual people in the same way it challenges heterosexual people: sex is a part of the marriage of one man and one woman.
The challenge is to teach about the reality of marriage and the place of sex in it to single people and married people, whether they have a homosexual or heterosexual inclination, and to do it with gentleness and charity.
That is why a religious leader can love a person while also challenging them by presenting the reality of sex in marriage.
Also, intimacy does not equate to sexual relations. Chaste, celibate priests do have intimate relationships with men and women because priests are human, and such relationships bring joy to human life. Intimate relationships without sex are not only possible, they happen all the time. If you see a happy, fulfilled priest, religious or single person who is chaste, he or she probably has healthy intimate relationships.
The Catholic Church sometimes refers to itself metaphorically as “holy mother church.” Leaving aside the telling fact that the Church admits no women to positions of influence or authority, the hierarchy might find it enlightening to learn what real mothers with children can teach us, what real parental love can mean as far as gay women and men are concerned.
Mother and fathers react in different ways when they learn that their child is homosexual. Some are saddened or shocked by the news. Being gay is not necessarily something they would have wanted for their child or expected. Perhaps they don’t understand why or what it means. Some may wish that it were not true. Incredibly in 2013, there are even some parents who reject the child for religious, social or other reasons.
But after the initial confusion or shock, many parents respond to their gay child with love. And since love is, among other things, a way of knowing it can lead to new understanding. It can allow parents to learn from their daughters and sons, to see the world through their eyes and their experience. It prompts them to question old assumptions and values. Love has the power to transform them.
The same is true for other family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues. Knowing and caring about someone who is gay changes you. That is because you know in the deepest way possible that your sister or friend or uncle is a good, decent person because you know them through love. You know them as a human being and understand that being gay is part of who they are.
This explains the big change in attitudes towards homosexuality and gay marriage. The whole conversation shifts radially when it’s my brother, daughter or friend that you are talking about. Judgments about being “intrinsically disordered” or “evil” or a “threat to traditional marriage” are seen to be the neurotic projections or cruel distortions that they are.
The people who honor the humanity of gay people are doing so not because they are being trendy or have succumbed to relativistic morals. They do so because they themselves have become more human in the very finest sense of the word.
And so when a religious leader says in reference to gay people, “I love you, too,” it’s hard to know what he means. In the context of his Church’s teaching and actions that cause real pain and damage to gay people, that statement sounds grotesque. In this context, Holy Mother Church is a mean mother.
But it makes you wonder. Are any of the bishops close to someone who is gay? Do they love a gay woman or man as a friend? Could they look such a person in the eyes and say, “I love you. But it is sinful for you to show your love to someone with your full humanity, to express it sexually with tenderness and affection?”
And this is the essential fault in the Church’s teaching about homosexuality: It is heartless and inhuman. And now many people, including many Catholics, know and understand this.
The hierarchy and priests take a solemn vow to live a life without physical affection, romantic love or intimacy. Perhaps this void in their human experience explains whey they can only talk about gay sex but never about gay love. In seeing homosexuals as being “intrinsically disordered,” they are denying the possibility that there can be such a thing as gay love. In this respect, the Church is heartless and dehumanizes homosexuals.
The good cardinal and his fellow prelates look at gay men and women and see intrinsic disorder and talk about sinful sex. Happily, real mothers and fathers and more and more people look at this same group and see fellow human beings and talk about love and equality.
Holy Mother Church needs to love the way real mothers do.