US Bishops Get Ready to Elect New President

Cardinal Dolan is stepping down as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I imagine that he has mixed feelings about this.

On the on the one hand, an enormous amount of responsibility, as well as the stress of being the public face of the Catholic Church in America, will be lifted off him. On the other hand, he’s so good at it, that he’s bound to enjoy it. I’m sure that after he steps down, he will both miss it and be glad it’s gone.

In the meantime, here is a run down on the list of candidates. Given the tumultuous times the Church is facing, I pray the bishops chose Cardinal Dolan’s successor wisely.

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Christians’ Dual Citizenship and Engaging the Culture for Christ


In the video below, Cardinal Wuerl discusses what he calls the “subtle” loss of religious liberty in America.

From my viewpoint, the loss of religious liberty is only subtle to those who do not want to see what is happening. In truth, it has been snowballing for quite a while.

The sign of hope is that for the first time, there is real pushback. I’m not talking about angry speechifying and partisan political demagoguery, but actual pushback in the form of court cases, marches and a public engagement in favor of religious liberty by whole groups of people who heretofore opted out of the battle.

The HHS Mandate was a watershed moment in American history in this regard. By attempting to force the Church itself to violate its own teachings in a federalized, all-fifty-states manner, the Mandate forced the war upon religious leaders who had been committed to a policy of negotiation and compromise. The Mandate pushed things past compromise and into choosing this day whom you would serve.

The administration has since backed off parts of the mandate, but the essential core of its position on religious liberty: That the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion pertains only to churches and direct church institutions, has not budged. The question that this forces on thinking people is whether or not they will support our Constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion without government interference or not.

Far too often, people allow their partisan political loyalties to make their decision in this matter for them. This is such a strong trend that I am fairly certain that if the party who was being criticized for attacking religious liberty changed from, as it is in this case, the Ds, to the (as it has been and will be again in other cases, the Rs) many people would switch their positions on the issues to follow their party.


I do not know how to get people to stop looking at the world through partisan-tinted glasses. But I know that this is essential — essential — if you want to be effective for Christ in our country’s political discussions.

One way that America is unique is that every citizen is a de facto politician. No American citizen is exempt from responsibility for the directions our government takes. Because of the great freedoms and the many powerful options to seek redress against our government that every American citizen possesses, we are all called to have opinions and engage the political world for change, at least on some level.

Our government and both political parties have become corrupted by the control of special interests and overweening government bureaucracies. I don’t know how else to say it. We, as American citizens, have a responsibility to stand back from that corruption and think for ourselves. As Christians we have an eternal responsibility to put the Gospels first in our considerations.


American Christians are citizens of two kingdoms simultaneously. We are American citizens and we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God. One of the great things about America is that is has not, up until very recently, required its citizens to chose between these two kingdoms.

America has always honored the demands of conscience of its individual citizens. Those whose faith demands it are not required to fight in our wars and no one challenges their patriotism. We have never forced anyone to undergo a religious test to hold public office in this nation.

But now, there are groups which seek to push their ideas on other people to the point of abrogating their right of personal conscience. Rather than follow the time-honored American tradition of allowing those whose faith compels them to forego certain activities to do so, they are using the law and courts to force religious people to participate in everything from abortions to gay marriages. They base this on nebulous claims to their “right” to these activities which, they say, trumps the rights of other citizens not to participate in them.


The HHS Mandate is a sinister, tyrannical abuse of government power that attempts to shear the First Amendment loose from its time-honored moorings in the rights of individual American citizens to act and live according to their faith without government penalties, intervention or discrimination. It thrusts the United States government into areas where it has never gone before and into which it should not go now.

Other laws, such as those Cardinal Wuerl mentions in this video, have been bubbling up all over the country, which, at least in their local applications, set aside First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty almost entirely in favor of other new goals of government meddling in American’s private lives and religious institutions in order to force private citizens to participate in culture war objectives such as abortion and gay marriage against their will.

I am aware that a good number of the readers of this blog comfort themselves with the fiction that all they have to do to support religious liberty is to vote Republican. I am also aware of the fact that most people don’t have my experience dealing with these issues from inside government and seeing first hand what a shallow and ultimately bogus hope that is.

I can only tell you that I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears, not once but many times, how completely craven both political parties truly are in these matters. I am not saying that many of the people in the Republican party are not wonderful, committed Christians. I am saying that when push comes to shove, they allow their party to tell them to back off, back down and shut up about everything from pro life to religious liberty. I have seen it happen.

In this respect, they aren’t all that different from the Democrats. There are devout Christians in the Democratic Party, as well. But they can’t withstand the pressure from their party.

The big difference is that Democratic party structure itself has become overtly hostile to traditional Christian morality as it applies to human sexuality, while the Republican party gives a lot of lip service to supporting it. The Rs do not attack Christian morality concerning human sexuality with legislation designed to undermine it. The Ds will and do.

But the Rs (again, I refer to the party structure, not individual Republicans) only take stands with words, or when they see a political advantage. In fact, in many instances, (I’m specifically thinking about the HHS Mandate here) the Rs take stands only with words and do not use their clout in Congress to effect change.

The point I am making, is that if you are a Republican, you should not stand for this. You need to stop buying the manipulative nonsense your party is pushing and demand they go at the HHS Mandate by making it a sticking point in their negotiations on budget issues or wherever else they can gain traction. People get what they want. If the Republicans wanted to stop this mandate rather than just use it for campaigning purposes, they could make a big difference.

On the other hand, Democrats like me are so isolated and besieged within our parties that only the most determined of us can stay the course at all. It is impossible to describe to someone on the outside the kind of pressures that Democratic lawmakers are under to compromise matters of faith concerning issues such as abortion, marriage and religious freedom.

If you are a Democrat, you need to step up to the plate and demand that your party stop attacking the pro-life, pro-religious freedom lawmakers in their midst. You also need to consider running for party offices, beginning at the precinct level, to replace some of these nuts who are running our party and get the thing back on track.

Americans do not have the luxury of sitting around and saying “what can you do?”

The truth is, any American, all Americans, can do a lot.

My father was a mechanic with an 8th grade education. I went to the worst schools in the poor part of town. I am a woman, from an era when women didn’t have the options we have today. And I have spent 18 years in elective office.

Why? Because I am an American citizen and I have Constitutionally guaranteed right to engage the larger culture about the things I believe.

The rest of you should try it. Politics can be both honorable and holy work. All you have to do is put Jesus first and let the chips fall.

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Conscience Rights and the Obama Administration

Standing Against Christian Persecution

The USCCB released a new video today discussing the war on the right of conscience in America.

I think it’s a powerful video that expresses the issues far better than anything I could say. All Americans should be upset about what the Obama administration is doing to our First Amendment liberties.

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USCCB: Tomorrow is a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Marriage and Religious Liberty

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Bride and groom, praying before their wedding.

I think we’ve exhausted the emotional discussion about Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision.

Now is a good time to turn to prayer. Propitiously, it is still the Fortnight for Freedom and tomorrow is Friday. The American bishops have called us all to a day of prayer and fasting tomorrow for the intention of marriage and religious liberty. For you Protestants out there, “intention,” when it’s used in this context simply means that what you are fasting and praying for is marriage and religious liberty.

Fasting does not mean that you go without food and water. It means that you abstain from eating meat. You can eat fish. You can eat cheese, eggs and other sources of protein. The whole purpose is to exercise a bodily discipline as a form of prayer and penitence.

That word “penitence” brings me to something I think we should all consider, and that is how we have failed personally in our fidelity to Christ. I am going to concentrate to my failings in terms of marriage and religious freedom. I haven’t divorced anyone, and since my religious conversion I have moved ever steadily toward a Jesus orientation on these things. The Catholic Church and its teachings have been both a guide and a source of strength in this regard.

However, I did a lot of things back in my anti-religion period that contributed to the mess we are in now. I’ve repented, gone to confession, been forgiven. But the knowledge that I did them has given me a slightly more generous take on those who are making the same mistakes now that I did then. I know that if God can convert me, he can convert anyone. I also understand that you can’t know what motivates another person to do the things they do.

All you can do is pray for them. That, based on the reaction to a post I wrote earlier this week, is something I think we should all try to do more of. We cannot change the world for Christ by destroying those who do things we see as sinful. We have to convert them. The only way to do that is to remember, always, that they are people in need of God’s love and that the only Jesus some of them may ever see is one of us.

I am asking each of you to join the bishops tomorrow in a day of prayer and fasting for marriage and religious freedom. You might also consider asking God to use you in the battle that lies ahead. But remember: He can not and will not do that unless you yield it all to Him, including your pride and anger. This kind of yielding is not a once for all thing. You have to go back and do it again over and over almost every day you live.

We’ve got work ahead of us, people. It’s not a matter of changing laws so much as it is winning hearts. The best way to do that is to begin by letting God change our own hearts.

Friday Fast for Life, Marriage
& Religious Liberty 
June 28, 2013
St. Irenaeus
Greetings!

Thank you for participating in the Bishops’ Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty! 

 

This week was a big one for marriage. Today’s reflection is on St. John the Baptist, a witness to marriage – to the death.

We’re still in the Fortnight for Freedom, coming into the second week. Remember to visitwww.fortnight4freedom.org for latest news!

  Gray

Intention

For the courage to keep witnessing to the truth and beauty of marriage, the lifelong, fruitful union of one man and one woman.

Reflection

  

St. John the Baptist, whose birth we celebrated on Monday June 24, was a martyr for truth and justice, particularly the truth about marriage. He was put in jail, and ultimately executed, because he rebuked Herod for marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias (see Mt 14:3-12 and Mk 6:17-29). St. John the Baptist’s defense of marriage cost him his head.

In his Angelus address on Sunday, June 23, Pope Francis said of the saint, “He died for the sake of the truth, when he denounced the adultery of King Herod and Herodias. How many people pay dearly for their commitment to truth!”

Today, standing up for the counter-cultural truth of marriage as the lifelong, fruitful union of a man and a woman can be difficult and lonely. But Christ is always with us and asks us to be witnesses of His loving truth, which is worth defending, no matter what the cost. As our Holy Father exhorted the crowd, “Forward, be brave and go against the tide! And be proud of doing so.”

St. John the Baptist, pray for us.

Did you know?

On Wednesday of this week, the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and refused to rule on the merits of a challenge to California’s Proposition 8. In a statement, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone called Wednesday “a tragic day for marriage and our nation.” They said, “Now is the time to redouble our efforts” in witnessing to the truth of marriage.

Learn more about Proposition 8 and DOMA from this backgrounder.

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Fortnight for Freedom 2013

Fortnight for Freedom 2013  is around the corner!

The Fortnight, which begins June 21 and ends July 4 is a call for both prayer and activity on behalf of our first American Freedom — Freedom of Religion.

From the USCCB website:

The Fortnight for Freedom, which we celebrated for the first time last year, takes place from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day.  Last year, we saw a great diversity of events promoting religious freedom across the country.  In 2013, we face many challenges to religious liberty, including the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate; potential Supreme Court rulings that could redefine marriage in June, causing serious religious liberty issues for Catholic adoption agencies and many others; and religious liberty concerns in other areas, such as immigration and humanitarian services.

During the Fortnight, our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome, St. John Fisher, and St. Thomas More.Through prayerstudy, and peaceful public action during the Fortnight for Freedom, we hope to remind ourselves and others all throughout the United States about the importance of preserving the fundamental right of religious freedom.

Please join our Facebook Page so you can stay up to date on the latest Fortnight for Freedom 2013 news!

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Last Call! Make Your Catholic Voice Heard!

I stand with the bishops and the Catholic Church on the HHS Mandate. 

If you stand with the bishops as well, look at the alert below and take action! 

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USCCB
 ACTION ALERT
Take Action!


Write to HHS
by Monday
April 8th!

Quick Links

Religious Liberty

Conscience Protection

Life & Liberty Postcard Campaign

 

USCCB

Urgent: Last call to contact the Administration regarding the contraceptive / abortifacient / sterilization mandate!
Dear Friend:If you haven’t done so yet, please email a short comment to the Obama Administration opposing the latest version of the contraceptive/abortifacient/sterilization mandate.  Comments are due this Monday, April 8!

It only takes two minutes to explain to the Administration why its latest “proposed rule” still violates religious freedom and rights of conscience.  Yet it is very important that you make your voice heard!

To learn more about the Administration’s latest proposal, please check out our one-page fact sheet and pass it along to others.  If you’d like to read more, please see the USCCB’snews release and full set of comments on the latest (but largely unchanged) proposal from the Administration.

Please file your comments with the Administration today!  The deadline is Monday, April 8.  Encourage others who support religious freedom and conscience rights to do the same!
According to news reports, over 140,000 comments have been filed with HHS so far – the majority from people concerned about religious freedom!  Thank you to those of you who have already filed comments.  We are grateful for all that you do in support of life and liberty.

P.S. Please forward this action alert to friends and family who share your concern about conscience rights and religious liberty.

 

Text the word FREEDOM (or LIBERTAD) to 377377 for mobile updates on religious liberty.

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Bishops: Make HHS Mandate a Bargaining Point in Fiscal Cliff Debates

The suggestion is late to the party, but it is about time it finally came.

The Roman Catholic Bishops here in America have finally asked Congressional supporters of religious freedom to do what they should have done in the first place: Make the HHS Mandate a bargaining chip in political “cliff” negotiations.

I’ve maintained all along that if the House Republicans had made the HHS Mandate the bargaining chip in the 2012 cliff fight over extending the debt limit, the HHS Mandate would never have gone into effect. It was one of those rare opportunities when political brinksmanship might have been about something besides the egos of the players and the wishes of the moneyed interests who control them.

What they did instead was engage in their usual fight to get more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

The bishops have finally decided to call for such action directly. They sent a letter to members of Congress, asking them to make the HHS Mandate a bargaining point in the next found of fiscal cliff stand-offs.

All I can say is, it’s about time.

In fact, it’s past time.

It’s not easy for political outsiders to see through the smoke and mirrors of political maneuvering. But it appears that the bishops are beginning to figure it out.

As usual, I support the bishops in this 100%.

A Reuters article describing the bishops’ letter says in part:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Roman Catholic bishops stepped up their battle against President Obama’s contraceptives policy on Friday by urging Congress to use its fiscal debate to free religious employers from a mandate requiring insurance coverage for birth control.

In a letter to all 535 members of Congress, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore suggested two provisions to extend existing federal conscience protections to the contraceptives mandate and strengthen the ability of opponents to seek vindication in federal court.

“The federal government’s respect for believers and people of conscience no longer measures up to the treatment Americans have a right to expect from their elected representatives,” wrote Lori, who chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“I urge you in the strongest terms possible to incorporate the provisions … in the upcoming legislative proposals to fund the federal government,” Lori added.

The conference also plans to send out an action alert via email and text message calling on supporters across the country to visit local congressional offices next week when lawmakers are home on break.

Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide health insurance coverage through group coverage plans for all contraceptives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including the so-called “morning after” pill.

The archbishop’s letter underscored a growing sense of urgency among church leaders over the birth control coverage rules that are due to take effect on August 1 for religiously affiliated employers including universities, hospitals and charities.

The bishops have tried several times to get Congress to act over the past year, amid numerous protests and more than 40 lawsuits by religious groups and employers. But Lori’s letter marks their first attempt to use the debates over deficit reduction, the debt limit and government funding.

“To many people, this looks like the main must-pass vehicle going through Congress this year,” said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the conference’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. (Read more here.)

Obama Didn’t Blink. We Can’t Either.

I’ve found that evil usually triumphs…unless good is very, very careful.

–DR. MCCOY, Star Trek: The Original Series, “The Omega Glory”

I’m going to take my time commenting about President Obama’s recent “compromises” on the HHS Mandate. I want to let the fur fly for a while.

In the meantime, here are a few facts and a couple of opinions that I want you to think about as we winnow through the political/media chaff.

1. President Obama did not offer this “compromise” because he was being a statesman. He was responding to the fact that his administration was under a court order to live up to its promises concerning the mandate. I wrote about this when it happened. You can find that post here.

A Hobby Lobby store. Photo courtesy of the Becket Fund.

2. Hobby Lobby’s attorney made a statement to ProLife News affirming what many people had already surmised: The President’s “compromise” will not help companies like Hobby Lobby. I will put an excerpt of this statement and another link to it below.

Cardinal Dolan addresses the Democratic National Convention, 2012

3. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is taking much the same approach to this “compromise” that I am. They want to read through it and think. Their statement says:

In response to today’s release of revised regulations for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, provided the following statement on behalf of the USCCB.

“Today, the Administration issued proposed regulations regarding the HHS mandate. We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later.”

4. I gave my initial reaction to the “compromise” yesterday when I wrote HHS Mandate: Did Obama Blink? My feeling then as now is that no, he did not blink. And we shouldn’t, either.

5. My opinion is that President Obama did the least he could do and still give an appearance of cooperating with the federal court order that his administration was under. I also think that his slave dogs in the media will tout this as the “great compromise” that it is not and that members of the public who either (a) worship President Obama, or, (b) hate Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular will follow right along with this obvious lie.

The article published by ProLifeNews about the statement from Hobby Lobby’s attorney says in part:

“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious liberty of millions of Americans. The rights of family businesses like Hobby Lobby are still being violated,” Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for The Becket Fund For Religious Liberty, said.

He said, “The Becket Fund continues to study what effect, if any, the Administration’s proposed rule has on the many lawsuits on behalf of non-profit religious organizations like Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, EWTN, Houston Baptist University, and Wheaton College.” (Read more here.)

If Church Teaching on Marriage Interests You, Here It Is

I try as much as possible to give you the chance to read original sources. This summary of Church teachings on marriage is not an original source.

However, it is from the USCCB web site. That means it is authoritative teaching, coming as it does from our bishops.

I am going to put the whole article here rather than try to excerpt it or interpret it. Have a read and think it through for yourselves. To see the original article or to find more resources, go to the USCCB website here.

Between Man And Woman:

Questions And Answers About

Marriage And Same-Sex Unions

Introduction

A growing movement today favors making those relationships commonly called same-sex unions the legal equivalent of marriage. This situation challenges Catholics—and all who seek the truth—to think deeply about the meaning of marriage, its purposes, and its value to individuals, families, and society. This kind of reflection, using reason and faith, is an appropriate starting point and framework for the current debate.

We, the Catholic bishops of the United States, offer here some basic truths to assist people in understanding Catholic teaching about marriage and to enable them to promote marriage and its sacredness.

1. What is marriage?

Marriage, as instituted by God, is a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of a man and a woman joined in an intimate community of life and love. They commit themselves completely to each other and to the wondrous responsibility of bringing children into the world and caring for them. The call to marriage is woven deeply into the human spirit. Man and woman are equal. However, as created, they are different from but made for each other. This complementarity, including sexual difference, draws them together in a mutually loving union that should be always open to the procreation of children (seeCatechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], nos. 1602-1605). These truths about marriageare present in the order ofnature and can be perceived by the light of human reason. They have been confirmed by divine Revelation in Sacred Scripture.

2. What does our faith tell us about marriage?

Marriage comes from the loving hand of God, who fashioned both male and female in the divine image (see Gn 1:27).  A man “leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Gn 2:24). The man recognizes the woman as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gn 2:23). God blesses the man and woman and commands them to “be fertile and multiply” (Gn 1:28). Jesus reiterates these teachings from Genesis, saying, “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God 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’” (Mk 10:6-8).

These biblical passages help us to appreciate God’s plan for marriage. It is an intimate union in which the spouses give themselves, as equal persons, completely and lovingly to one another. By their mutual gift of self, they cooperate with God in bringing children to life and in caring for them.

Marriage is both a natural institution and a sacred union because it is rooted in the divine plan for creation. In addition, the Church teaches that the valid marriage of baptized Christians is a sacrament—a saving reality. Jesus Christ made marriage a symbol of his love for his Church (see Eph 5:25-33). This means that a sacramental marriage lets the world see, in human terms, something of the faithful, creative, abundant, and self-emptying love of Christ. A true marriage in the Lord with his grace will bring the spouses to holiness. Their love, manifested in fidelity, passion, fertility, generosity, sacrifice, forgiveness, and healing, makes known God’s love in their family, communities, and society. This Christian meaning confirms and strengthens the human value of a marital union (see CCC, nos. 1612-1617; 1641-1642).

3. Why can marriage exist only between a man and a woman?

The natural structure of human sexuality makes man and woman complementary partners for the transmission of human life. Only a union of male and female can express the sexual complementarity willed by God for marriage. The permanent and exclusive commitment of marriage is the necessary context for the expression of sexual love intended by God both to serve the transmission of human life and to build up the bond between husband and wife (see CCC, nos. 1639-1640).

In marriage, husband and wife give themselves totally to each other in their masculinity and femininity (see CCC, no. 1643). They are equal as human beings but different as man and woman, fulfilling each other through this natural difference. This unique complementarity makes possible the conjugal bond that is the core of marriage.

4. Why is a same-sex union not equivalent to a marriage?

For several reasons a same-sex union contradicts the nature of marriage: It is notbased on the natural complementarity of male and female;it cannot cooperate with Godto create new life; and the natural purpose of sexual union cannot be achieved by asame-sex union. Persons in same-sex unions cannot enter into a true conjugal union. Therefore, it is wrong to equate their relationship to a marriage.

5. Why is it so important to society that marriage be preserved as the exclusive union of a man and a woman?

Across times, cultures, and very different religious beliefs, marriage is the foundation of the family. The family, in turn, is the basic unit of society. Thus, marriage is a personal relationship with public significance. Marriage is the fundamental pattern for male-female relationships. It contributes to society because it models the way in which women and men live interdependently and commit, for the whole of life, to seek the good of each other.

The marital union also provides the best conditions for raising children: namely, the stable, loving relationship of a mother and father present only in marriage. The state rightly recognizes this relationship as a public institution in its laws because the relationship makes a unique and essential contribution to the common good.

Laws play an educational role insofar as they shape patterns of thought and behavior, particularly about what is socially permissible and acceptable. In effect, giving same-sex unions the legal status of marriage would grant official public approval to homosexual activity and would treat it as if it were morally neutral.

When marriage is redefined so as to make other relationships equivalent to it, the institution ofmarriage is devalued and further weakened. The weakening of this basic institution at all levels and by various forces has already exacted too high a social cost.

6. Does denying marriage to homosexual persons demonstrate unjust discrimination and a lack of respect for them as persons?

It is not unjust to deny legal status to same-sex unions because marriage and same-sex unions are essentially different realities. In fact, justice requires society to do so. To uphold God’s intent for marriage, in which sexual relations have their proper and exclusive place, is not to offend the dignity of homosexual persons. Christians must give witness to the whole moral truth and oppose as immoral both homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. The Catechism of the Catholic Church urges that homosexual persons “be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” (no. 2358). It also encourages 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” (no. 2347).

7. Should persons who live in same-sex relationships be entitled to some of the same social and economic benefits given to married couples?

The state has an obligation to promote the family, which is rooted in marriage. Therefore, it can justly give married couples rights and benefits it does not extend to others. Ultimately, the stability and flourishing of society is dependent on the stability and flourishing of healthy family life. The legal recognition of marriage, including the benefits associated with it, is not only about personal commitment, but also about the social commitment that husband and wife make to the well-being of society. It would be wrong to redefine marriage for the sake of providing benefits to those who cannot rightfully enter into marriage. Some benefits currently sought by persons in homosexual unions can already be obtained without regard to marital status. For example, individuals can agree to own property jointly with another, and they can generally designate anyone they choose to be a beneficiary of their will or to make health care decisions in case they become incompetent.

8. In light of the Church’s teaching about the truth and beauty of marriage, what should Catholics do?

There is to be no separation between one’s faith and life in either public or private realms. All Catholics should act on their beliefs with a well-formed conscience based on Sacred Scripture and Tradition. They should be a community of conscience within society. By their voice and their vote, they should contribute to society’s welfare and test its public life by the standards of right reason and Gospel truth. Responsible citizenship is a virtue. Participation in the political process is a moral obligation. This is particularly urgent in light of the need to defend marriage and to oppose the legalization of same-sex unions as marriages. Married couples themselves, by the witness of their faithful, life-giving love, are the best advocates for marriage. By their example, they are the first teachers of the next generation about the dignity of marriage and the need to uphold it. As leaders of their family—which the Second Vatican Council called a “domestic church” (

Lumen Gentium, no. 11)—couples should bring their gifts as well as their needs to the larger Church. There, with the help of other couples and their pastors and collaborators, they can strengthen their commitment and sustain their sacrament over a lifetime.

Conclusion

Marriage is a basic human and social institution. Though it is regulated by civil laws and church laws, it did not originate from either the church or state, but from God. Therefore, neither church nor state can alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage. Marriage, whose nature and purposes are established by God, can only be the union of a man and a woman and must remain such in law. In a manner unlike any other relationship, marriage makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society, especially through the procreation and education of children. The union of husband and wife becomes, over a lifetime

, a great good for themselves, their family, communities, and society. Marriage is a gift to be cherished and protected.For Further Reading

Second Vatican Council. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World(Gaudium et Spes), nos. 47-52. December 1965. Available online at www.vatican.va.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 369-373, nos. 1601-1666, and nos. 2331-2400. Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops–Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000.

Pope John Paul II. On the Family (Familiaris Consortio). Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1982.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons. July 2003. Available online at www.vatican.va.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Follow the Way of Love: A Pastoral Message of the U.S. Catholic Bishops to Families. Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1993.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility. Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2003.


Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-Sex Unions was developed by the Committee on Marriage and Family Life of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). It was approved for publication by the full body of bishops at their November 2003 General Meeting and has been authorized for publication by the undersigned.

Msgr. William P. Fay
General Secretary, USCCB

Scripture texts used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, copyright © 1991, 1986, and 1970 by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. 20017, and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All rights reserved.

Excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition, copyright © 2000, Libreria Editrice Vaticana-United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc., Washington, D.C., are used with permission. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2003, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc., Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

I am Proud of the Bishops

I am proud of the way that the United States Catholic Bishops have handled the HHS Mandate.

If the various blogs, Facebook comments and internet rants I’ve read are any indication, I would guess that the bishops have been and are subjected to a continuous dose of what amounts to verbal abuse. I wouldn’t be surprised if the USCCB and each of the various bishops has their own Crazy People File. If they do, I’m sure it bulges with emails and letters that would, as my grandmother used to say, “curl your hair.”

I don’t know how this behavior got started, but it seems that a large number of Catholics are everlastingly irate with the bishops because they won’t sufficiently hate whoever it is the Catholic in question feels deserves hating. Personally, I respect the bishops for sticking with the entire gospel of Christ.

What I love best about the Catholic Church’s approach to politics is that it has steadfastly refused to be the moral apologist for either right or left wing nutso politics, but has instead insisted that the whole of the faith be adhered to and followed. In today’s political world, that takes guts. It can and does get you attacked and slandered. However, it is the only way to be part of the political debate and follow Christ.

One of the most important facets of leadership is that you have to lead. You cannot just parade around under the halo of your own self-importance and take positions of pragmatic cowardice. What this means to people who are in positions of Christian leadership is that they are required, REQUIRED, to follow Christ, even when it puts them at odds with the powers that be. That often means that they have to do things that, in the world’s way of thinking, are just plain stupid.

In my own position as an elected official I’ve had to cast votes, make speeches and take stands that were moronic by smart politician standards. I’ve been forced to call the lightning down on my own head over and again by putting myself out there in the face of angry advocates with blood in their eyes. I’ve had to go against my own political party one day, and then turn around and oppose the other political party the next.

I’m not the brightest bulb in the firmament, but I am smart enough to know that, from a political standpoint, what I am doing is stupid. I sometimes joke with my friends that I’ve been called to be a fool for Christ. After years of getting kicked around, I’ve come to accept it. Jesus didn’t call us to follow the world. He called us to follow Him.

We have a saying in Oklahoma politics: “jump out in front of that lynch mob and turn it into a parade.” That’s a colorful way of describing the fine art of getting in front of popular opinion and pretending to “lead” the mob where it wants to go. The most sophisticated application of this principle in today’s politics is the egregious practice of using polls and focus groups to determine what party positions should be and what the puppet people political parties run for office should say they believe.

This kind of flim-flam political campaigning has become the way the smart folks do it. The reason is that it nearly always works. The flim-flammers get elected. This  is not leadership. It’s craven callous manipulation of the electorate to gain power by any means.

It is also something that a Christian leader may never do. Christian leadership, like all leadership, requires you to lead. But Christian leadership has the added requirement that before you lead, you must first follow. In this way, Christian leadership is not so much a matter of being a good leader, as it is being a good follower. Christian leadership must first and always be predicated on following Jesus. It doesn’t matter if your leadership is as a bishop, or a politician, a corporate head, a shop foreman, parents raising a family, or as a young person among your friends. If you are a Christian, your leadership must be lived within the confines of the gospels of Christ.

This means following both the Ten Commandments, AND the Sermon on the Mount, not some truncated half-Christianity that has been trimmed to fit your political party or life situation. It means following Jesus first, then adding whatever particular wisdom or skills you might bring to the situation on top of that.

Which is why I am so proud of the American bishops. The politically smart thing, the easy, cheap thing to do would have been to kiss Caesar’s ring and accept this mandate. Other bishops in other countries have done this with similar mandates just recently. They acceded to the government, took the money, and refused to lead their flocks for Christ. To their everlasting honor, the American bishops dug in and decided to fight.

They are fighting in a Christian way. Not by slandering individuals, but by standing up for the right of the Church to live its teachings. They aren’t trying to destroy people, including the people who are trying so hard to batten down the Church. The United States bishops are leading in a positive way. Their fight is a fight for religious freedom and that is what they are talking about.

I am proud of the way that the United States Catholic Bishops have handled the HHS Mandate. Proud to follow their leadership.


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