Bishops Vow to Continue Fight for Religious Freedom, Marriage and the Family

Cardinal Sean O’Malley speaks at USCCB Assembly. Archbishop William Lori looks on. CNA photo


Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2012 / 03:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the aftermath of the Nov. 6 elections, the U.S. bishops stressed that they will push ahead with defending religious liberty from the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, which cannot be lived with as it stands.

“Currently the HHS mandate is on the books,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who leads the bishops’ ad hoc religious freedom committee. “That’s what we actually concretely have to deal with now.”

“And as it stands, certainly we would not be able to live with it,” he explained, “especially the four-part definition of what Church activity is.”

“That’s just not who we are, and we don’t find it appropriate for any government to draw lines in our mission where we don’t draw them,” Archbishop Lori said.

The archbishop explained that Church leaders are monitoring and engaged in the ongoing federal rule-making process that will determine how religious organizations are accommodated under that mandate, and as that continues, “our range of options will probably become a little clearer.”

Archbishop Lori spoke at a Nov. 12 press conference during the U.S. bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore.

He and other panelists reacted to the outcome of various ballot measures in the Nov. 6 election. The bishops explained that the Church does not identify with any one political party because Catholic social teaching transcends party agendas.

And Catholic teaching should not be seen as divided, added Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, who leads a conference subcommittee on defending marriage.

He called it unfortunate that “a lot of our people view these issues politically, rather than through the lens of the Gospel.”

If Catholics saw societal issues through the lens of the Church’s social teaching and the common good, Archbishop Cordileone said they would see “the consistency among all these issues,” including life, the economy and immigration.

The San Francisco archbishop said he was disappointed at the outcome of referenda in Maryland, Maine and Washington state that approved a redefinition of marriage, as well as the rejection of a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in Minnesota.

“But rather than being a cause for giving up, it is a call to intensify efforts to strengthen and defend marriage,” he said.

The archbishop observed that “this election is a symptom of a much larger problem,” namely, that many people do not understand what marriage is.

“Marriage is not a matter of two consenting adults simply coming together for the state to ratify their romantic relationship,” he said. “Rather, marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any children born of their union.”

“It’s child-centered, and its meaning is written in our nature,” Archbishop Cordileone told the press. “It’s either this, or it’s nothing at all.” (Read more here.)

  • bill bannon

    US legal marriage though is a package that includes divorce and in many cases…no fault divorce. As such it is not a Sign of Christ’s permanent love for the Church in the way that the sacrament is. Ergo while I am against gay acts per Romans chapter one inter alia, gay marriage advances are more a tragedy as to confusing non Christian youth. I don’t think they confuse bible literate families…Catholic or Protestant….unless those families have drifted into editing the Bible via historico-critical tools…lol…sigh.

  • kenneth

    People do not misunderstand marriage at all. Voters understand perfectly that marriage, as it is administered by civil authorities, is a civil union, not a sacrament. It is nothing more, or less, than a state administered legal recognition of a union which confers certain legal rights and responsibilities. No one has been able to articulate any rational, secular basis for why same sex couples should be denied this benefit of contract. There has not been a single argument which does not appeal to sectarian religious doctrine.

    Within the Catholic Church and others, marriage is indeed a sacrament, and one which is theirs to define according to their own doctrine. No church has the right to define for the rest of us the terms of civil union any more than we could define priestly ordination through the ballot box or legislative act.

    If the bishops want to sell people on the virtues of their own doctrine on marriage and everything else, more power to them. If they think they’re going to enlist the mechanisms of state power to enforce that doctrine as civil law, they will fail again and again, because people recognize the wisdom of church-state separation which has defined this country from day one.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      The fact is that so long as this is left in the hands of the electorate (where I believe it should be, btw) that everyone, of every viewpoint, has the opportunity to join the debate and put their ideas forward. It will be up to the people to decide which of these competing ideas will be enforced as a matter of civil law.

      What I do not want to see, because I feel it would be very bad and polarizing for the country, is for either the courts or the federal government to step into the on-going process of public debate and holding elections on this issue with some overriding federal or judicial mandate. Let the system work, and it will work.

      Your contention that things will turn out one way or the other in the whole seems premature to me at this time. Also, the idea that people who favor a legal definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman is somehow a violation of the First Amendment is also off the mark. People of both viewpoints are citizens and are entitled to advance their ideas in the public forum.

      • kenneth

        The issue is coming before the electorate and will continue to do so, as it should. At the same time, judicial mandates are not inherently illegitimate. The courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court, is the only branch of government qualified to sort out the over-arching questions of how laws properly arise from our Constitution or whether they are permissible within it. One or more judicial interventions are absolutely inevitable on this issue. While I believe most states will, sooner or later, perhaps much later, come to the same conclusion as we saw Tuesday, there will be unavoidable issues of whether one jurisdiction must recognize the marriages of another etc. Then there is the matter of federal recognition. Traditionalists already saw fit to issue an overriding federal mandate in the form of DOMA, and that will have to be sorted out as well.

        Is limiting marriage to one man and one woman a violation of the First Amendment? That can only be definitively answered by the courts. People are not evil or oppressive for holding one view or another on that. I’m simply putting forward the argument that the voters of this country are increasingly deciding that denial of same sex marriage, in the absence of any persuasive secular reasons, is alien to the core values of this country.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Everything you’re saying here is an assumption. First of all, it’s not a question of whether or not court decisions are “legitimate.” The reasoning I used is that governing by judicial fiat is inherently polarizing. There is no reason I can see for the judiciary to overstep into the statutory arena on this issue. If they do, it will harm the country in much the same way that Roe v Wade harmed the country. They should have left the issue at the state level and let the various constituencies decide. That was in the process of happening when they blundered into things.

          Your contention that there are no reasons other than religious to protect traditional marriage is not true. I can’t and won’t go into it in a combox. I’m very busy with my job this week and have no time to do it. But I will get into it in detail. For now, I’ll just say that this is an assumption on your part.

          As for the question of marriage to be a first amendment question. that would be extremely harmful to the country. I think that any court cases on this issue should be considered under the 14th Amendment. If you understand what you are saying — and you probably do — then you are advocating using this argument as a means to truncate First Amendment freedom of religion. If that is true, shame on you. I wonder how long it will take before atheists and extreme secularists learn that by attacking the First Amendment in order to vent their hatred of Christianity, they have also done away with them own freedom.

          I think it would further polarize an already dangerously polarized country for the judiciary to start lawmaking on this issue. Let the people handle it. There is no reason for this in a nation in which it is so easy and so possible to bring votes on a topic over and over again.

          • kenneth

            You’re right that it is a 14th Amendment issue first and foremost. The First got drawn into things when I refuted the idea (which I never put forward), that anti-SSM positions were a violation of that. At any rate, yes, judical fiats (aka rulings) on big questions which supersede popular will often are polarizing.

            That does not mean they should never be made. There is arguably no Supreme Court decision so polarizing as Brown v Board of Education was at the time. It literally brought parts of our country back onto Civil War footing with state and federal forces bearing hostile arms against one another for the first time in a century. It led to massive civil unrest and riots and re-invigorated the greatest domestic terrorism movement our nation has ever known. There were plenty of people who said the feds should have left well enough alone and left things to the states. That is simply not always possible. I think you and I probably agree that there are substantial Constitutional issues at play in the HHS mandate. Anything a court decides will be no less polarizing than the president’s own action on the matter. Should the courts refuse to handle it on that basis alone? Of course not.

            For all their unpopularity as bench legislators, the Supreme Court has, in most cases, studiously avoided pre-empting evolving cultural issues and has drawn decisions narrowly whenever possible. That said, there is simply no way it can be left to local and state plebiscites over the long run. No one is going to stand for a situation where they have radically different legal rights depending where they live, and different circuit and appellate courts will, sooner or later, issue different and incompatible interpretations which will need resolution. Additionally, if the courts find that gay marriage is a legitimate area of 14th protection, the matter will no longer be a legitimate area for popular vote.

            My contention that anti-SSM theory is entirely rooted in religious doctrine is not an assumption. It is an assertion, and one rooted in over a decade of reading on the matter, and of engaging people from all viewpoints on the issue. I have, in good faith, challenged people to produce substantial evidence that gay marriage, relationships, or child rearing are harmful, based on real, peer reviewed, methodologically sound secular scientific study.

            No one has ever answered that challenge in a way that any truly secular scientific person would find persuasive. People invariably cite research produced by a tiny handful of groups like NARTH and a few others that are not recognized for good science. That’s not simply my assumption. It’s the finding of courts in some very conservative states that have considered the quality of expert testimony put forward by many of these “experts”. They are also sources which, while formally secular, are always deeply connected with conservative Christian interest groups and funding sources. I’m willing to engage that debate in any forum and at any time someone wants to have it.

            • Ted Seeber

              “My contention that anti-SSM theory is entirely rooted in religious doctrine is not an assumption. It is an assertion, and one rooted in over a decade of reading on the matter, and of engaging people from all viewpoints on the issue.”

              Actually, no. For one, my anti-SSM theory isn’t rooted in religious doctrine, it is rooted in biology and psychology (real psychology, not that fake stuff made up by psychiatrists bribed by the gay agenda). For another, I think you’re dismissing the biology way too easily.

              But even forgetting that, historically SS tolerant societies just don’t thrive. The limiting of sex into recreation only just doesn’t make for a sustainable future.

    • Laura

      Kenneth – There have been several secular arguments made. The majority of the following paper makes no reference to sectarian religious doctrine, although whether or not you consider it rational is for you to determine:

    • Robert King

      No one is arguing that same-sex couple be denied the benefits of contract.

      But marriage is something other than a mere contract. It is a public, civil recogntion of a sexual relationship. This recognition exists to encourage people to enter into this relationship, and to support those who are in it. This is why the tax code is structured around marital status, and why any number of local and federal laws grant benefits or differences of application based on marital status: to encourage people to enter into marriage, that is, into stable sexual relationships.

      Now, why should the state care whether people are in stable sexual relationships at all? Why is marriage anything other than a private (from the state’s point of view) action, like joining a Rotary Club or going through a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or volunteering with Habitat for Humanity? Why does the state care what we do in our bedrooms? And why should sexual partners want to invite the state to license and regulate their relationship?

      The only reason I can think of is that heterosexual intercourse is naturally reproductive, and will usually result in the birth of children unless deliberate steps are taken to prevent pregnancy. Even these contraceptive steps are not 100% certain to preclude pregnancy.

      Why does the state care about children? Because children are the future of the state. They are new citizens added to the community. So the state can argue that it has an interest in encouraging the birth of new citizens, and in regulating the relationship which normally brings that about. Hence, a state licencing of marriage, and legal structures which privilege that relationship.

      Please note several things: first, this is not a religious argument in any way. This has only to do with why the state says anything about marriage at all.

      Nor does it condemn or denigrate homosexual relationships; in fact, it implies that the state has zero interest in what same-sex couples do in their bedrooms, and zero interest in whether they have ceremonies to solemnize their relationships. All this argument does is recognize that heterosexual intercourse is biologically reproductive, while homosexual intercourse is not; and that there are social consequences to the former that do not arise from the latter. This is a difference which can legitimately be reflected in law.

      Neither does this argument insist that the state should continue to license and regulate heterosexual marriage. If the state decides that it is not interested in giving legal privileges to a relationship which generally leads to the birth and raising of children, that’s perfectly fine. Government-licenced marriage is a relatively recent phenomenon, historically speaking, and humanity got on for millenia quite well without it. And the current state of marriage law is hardly clear and entirely consistent.

      Finally, nothing is stopping anyone from entering into private contract relationships that have public legal recognition, such as the civil unions or domestic partnerships that many states have adopted. Many of these contract relationships were specifically designed to replicate exactly kind of privileges accorded to married couples: visitation rights, power of attorney, etc. If there is any injustice in these arrangements, this can be resolved by addressing the law of civil unions.

    • Ted Seeber

      An argument that doesn’t refer to religion and is against same sex unions raising children? Here’s one:

  • Ted Seeber

    That’s my Supreme Chaplain for you!

  • Katherine

    No one is arguing that same-sex couple be denied the benefits of contract.

    That simply is not true. The right wing even argues there should be laws sending homosexuals to jail.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Katherine, I’ve seen my share of legislation that I felt was designed to enable unjust discrimination against homosexuals (although nothing as vile as what I’ve seen aimed a Hispanics; not even in the same ball park.) However I’ve never seen or heard of legislation that would send homosexuals to jail just for being homosexual. There were sodomy laws before the Supreme Court struck them down, but those always involved an action. Is that what you are referring to?

    • Ted Seeber

      Worst I’ve ever seen was defining homosexuality as a mental illness- so that would be “requiring homosexuals to get therapy” not “sending homosexuals to jail”.

      The closest second worst I’ve seen was when an anti-gay government took over city hall in Klamath Falls, OR in the early 1990s- and even then, the worst they did was simply remove funding from the District Attorney to investigate gay bashing cases (thereby defacto, but not dejure, turning a blind eye to any assault and battery case in which somebody yelled the word “fag”).

      Contrast THIS to what the Human Rights Commission (also known as a bunch of bigoted dictators) in British Columbia has accomplished- suing the Knights of Columbus for not letting somebody hold a gay marriage on Church Property.