Last week, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the recent comments of President Obama in support of the redefinition of marriage “deeply saddening.” The institution of marriage is the very cornerstone of our society. We must speak out against all attempts to redefine marriage.
By its very nature, marriage is exclusively the union of a man and a woman. God is the author of marriage and He endowed marriage with certain essential attributes. Male-female complementarity is essential to marriage. Marriage has two fundamental ends or purposes: the good of the spouses and the procreation of children. It is inseparably both unitive and procreative. Same-sex unions cannot qualify as marriages.
In 2009, we Bishops of the United States issued a pastoral letter entitled Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan. Given the movement to redefine marriage in our country to include same-sex unions, I have decided to use this column to share with you the part of that pastoral letter that deals with this issue. I think we explain well the reasons why the Church opposes so-called “same-sex marriages.”
“One of the most troubling developments in contemporary culture is the proposition that persons of the same sex can ‘marry.’ This proposal attempts to redefine the nature of marriage and the family and, as a result, harms both the intrinsic dignity of every human person and the common good of society.
Marriage is a unique union, a relationship different from all others. It is the permanent bond between one man and one woman whose two-in-one-flesh communion of persons is an indispensable good at the heart of every family and every society. Same-sex unions are incapable of realizing this specific communion of persons. Therefore, attempting to redefine marriage to include such relationships empties the term of its meaning, for it excludes the essential complementarity between man and woman, treating sexual difference as if it were irrelevant to what marriage is.
Male-female complementarity is intrinsic to marriage. It is naturally ordered toward authentic union and the generation of new life. Children are meant to be the gift of the permanent and exclusive union of a husband and a wife. A child is meant to have a mother and a father. The true nature of marriage, lived in openness to life, is a witness to the precious gift of the child and to the unique roles of a mother and father. Same-sex unions are incapable of such a witness. Consequently, making them equivalent to marriage disregards the very nature of marriage.
Jesus teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman. ‘Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 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’ (Matthew 19:4-6).
By attempting to redefine marriage to include or be made analogous with homosexual partnerships, society is stating that the permanent union of husband and wife, the unique pattern of spousal and familial love, and the generation of new life are now only of relative importance rather than being fundamental to the existence and well-being of society as a whole.
Today, advocacy for the legal recognition of various same-sex relationships is often equated with non-discrimination, fairness, equality, and civil rights. However, it is not unjust to oppose legal recognition of same-sex unions, because marriage and same-sex unions are essentially different realities. ‘The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it’ (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2003). To promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman is itself a matter of justice. In fact, it would be a grave injustice if the state ignored the unique and proper place of husbands and wives, the place of mothers and fathers, and especially the rights of children, who deserve from society clear guidance as they grow to sexual maturity. Indeed, without this protection the state would, in effect, intentionally deprive children of the right to a mother and father.
The Church upholds the human dignity of homosexual persons, who are to ‘be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity’ (CCC 2358). She also encourages all persons to have chaste friendships. ‘Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all’ (CCC 2347).
At the same time, the Church teaches that homosexual acts ‘are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved’ (CCC 2357).
Basic human rights must be afforded to all people. This can and should be done without sacrificing the bedrock of society that is marriage and the family and without violating the religious liberty of persons and institutions.
The legal recognition of same-sex unions poses a multifaceted threat to the very fabric of society, striking at the source from which society and culture come and which they are meant to serve. Such recognition affects all people, married and non-married: not only at the fundamental levels of the good of the spouses, the good of children, the intrinsic dignity of every human person, and the common good, but also at the levels of education, cultural imagination and influence, and religious freedom.”
For all the above reasons, we are indeed deeply saddened by President Obama’s support of the redefinition of marriage. We must pray and work for the promotion and protection of marriage. Doing so serves the true good of persons. Doing so serves the good of the future of our nation. I thank all who are working to defend, promote, and strengthen marriages. May we all work together to create a vibrant culture of marriage according to God’s plan for the good of humanity!
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