Archbishop highlights education to strengthen marriage

Baltimore, Md., Nov 15, 2013 / 12:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops’ chairman on defense of marriage issues encouraged continued efforts to strengthen the institution of marriage, which is rooted in biology and is crucial for the health of society.

“(S)trengthening a marriage culture serves the common good of our country,” said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, who heads the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

In a recent update to his fellow bishops on the U.S. Church’s efforts in defense of marriage, he emphasized the need to educate the faithful and general public on the reason behind Catholic teaching on marriage.

“We are no doubt at a critical point in this country when it comes to the promotion and defense of marriage in the law,” he warned.

Archbishop Cordileone suggested that in explaining the Church’s reasoning on marriage, it can be helpful to “begin with biology” and build out the argument from there.

“Every child comes from a man and a woman. That’s a biological fact,” he noted. “Do we need an institution that unites the child to the man and the woman that brought them into the world or not? If we do, then it’s marriage, because there’s no other institution that does that.”

The archbishop observed that it has been four months since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage for federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman.

The court also ruled that defenders of California’s Proposition 8 – an amendment to protect marriage in the state – did not have legal standing, a decision that deferred to a lower court’s judgment and effectively allowed for the redefinition of marriage in California.

These decisions “have renewed our determination to witness to the truth that marriage can only be union of a man and a woman,” Archbishop Cordileone said.

“The language of the decisions is particularly disheartening, setting a troubling precedent for increasing efforts to redefine marriage.”

He suggested that the rulings will have “significant” legal and practical effects, and that over time, the reach of the court’s ruling will likely extend to state marriage laws as well.

Currently, 15 states and the District of Columbia have redefined marriage to include same-sex couples, and the bishops the expect redefinition legislation and ballot initiatives in other states as well.

However, the archbishop said, it is important to remember that 35 states still hold to the definition of marriage as a man and a woman, and only three of the states that have redefined the institution have had voter approval to do so.

Other troubling efforts include a push in Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, he said, cautioning that while the bill appears to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation, it also presents serious problems for religious freedom and undermines the biological basis of gender.

Similar laws at the state level have contributed to the erosion and redefinition of marriage, he observed.

Redefining marriage also poses a serious threat of discrimination against those who cannot accept the new definition, the archbishop said, pointing to a Christian-owned photography studio in New Mexico that was recently told by the state Supreme Court that it must agree to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.

He voiced support for legislative efforts to protect religious freedom in the wake of such rulings.

As a push to redefine marriage continues, Archbishop Cordileone emphasized the need for education on the Church’s teaching.

The bishops’ conference runs an initiative entitled Marriage Unique for a Reason to aid in this goal, and recently prepared a telenovela film in Spanish, which will be released next month.

The archbishop explained that the film centers on a 50th wedding anniversary and explores the four themes being emphasized by the bishops’ defense of marriage subcommittee: sexual difference and complementarity, the good of children, the common good, and religious liberty.

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