A Bishop’s Open Letter for the Defense of Marriage

Dear Member of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee:

As Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, I urge you to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by opposing the Respect for Marriage Act (S. 598) and any other measure seeking DOMA’s repeal.

Most Reverend Salvatore J. Cordileone

Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone

DOMA recognizes for federal purposes that marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman. It also prevents the redefinition of marriage in any one state from forcing other states to follow suit. DOMA’s codified definition of marriage reflects a deeply rooted and enduring consensus, based on truths about the human person discernible by reason and accessible to people of all faiths or none at all. Millions of citizens have gone to the ballot in thirty states to ratify similar DOMA proposals by substantial majorities. Forty one states in all have enacted their own DOMAs. Popularity alone does not determine what is right. But in the face of such broad support in the present day, not to mention a legacy of lived experience and reasoned reflection measured in millennia in every society and civilization throughout all of human history, repealing a measure that merely recognizes the truth of marriage is all the more improvident.

I raise for your consideration two points: DOMA is rational, and its repeal would be unjust.

A. DOMA is grounded in reason and experience. It takes into account the/distinguishing properties of unity and procreation that mark the relationship of
husband and wife.

Marriage is a comprehensive union of man and woman, a total, permanent, faithful, and fruitful sharing of lives between husband and wife. This union is a great and unique good in itself, and is critical for the common good. There are fundamental reasons why sexual difference and the complementarity between man and woman have always been considered essential to the meaning of marriage.

The connection between sexual difference and procreation is obvious and unique. The public status of marriage owes its origin and existence to the natural capacity of man and woman to bring children into the world. Research substantiates that children thrive best when reared by both a mom and a dad married to each other. Marriage has been and should remain a child-centered institution.

Even when a marriage is not blessed with children, all husbands and wives can model for society the possibilities and potential for mutual collaboration between the sexes. They can teach children generally by their witness and exemplify for other men and women what it means to be husband and wife. They also can provide an essential service to society through adopting children, who need the care of a mother and a father.

The unitive and procreative realities at stake cannot be ignored. They are not mere cultural constructs that can be discarded at will, with little or no social cost. Instead, they flow directly from the immutable nature of the human person, and so our society ignores them at great peril. By contrast, where these human realities are respected, the benefits to society are unparalleled. This explains why Congress, nearly all of the states, and millions of voters affirm marriage as an institution founded on sexual difference. DOMA furthers the common good by preserving in federal law the essential connection between marriage, sexual difference, the good of children, and public policy.

B. Redefining marriage to mean simply an arrangement of consenting adults violates justice because it interferes with basic human rights. First, changing the institution of marriage by making it indifferent to the absence of one sex or the other denies that children have the fundamental human right to be cared by both their mother and father. Such revision transforms marriage from a child-centered to an adult-centered status to the detriment of children. DOMA maintains marriage’s proper focus on reinforcing the interests of children.

Second, redefining marriage also threatens the fundamental human right of religious freedom. Those who refuse on moral and religious grounds to accept or accommodate the redefinition of legal marriage are already being wrongly accused of bigotry and hatred, bias and prejudice. They are being stigmatized and marginalized precisely because they are exercising their religious freedom to teach and practice their values.

In places where marriage’s core meaning has been altered through legal action, officials are beginning to target for punishment those believers and churches that refuse to adapt. Any non-conforming conduct and even expressions of disagreement, based simply on support for marriage as understood since time immemorial, are wrongly being treated as if they harmed society, and somehow constituted a form of evil equal to racism. DOMA represents an essential protection against such threats to faith and conscience.

All persons have a rightful claim to our utmost respect. There is no corresponding duty, however, for society to disregard the meaning of sexual difference and its practical consequences for the common good; to override fundamental rights, such as religious liberty; and to re-define our most basic social institution. DOMA advances the common good in a manner consistent with the human dignity of all persons.

For all of the above-stated reasons, I strongly urge you to uphold DOMA and to reject any bill, including S. 598, that would repeal it.

Sincerely,
Most Reverend Salvatore J. Cordileone
Roman Catholic Bishop of Oakland
Chairman, USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage

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11 comments to A Bishop’s Open Letter for the Defense of Marriage

  • Di

    I went to talk from a “Courageous Priest”. He too gave the same stance,as Bishop Crodileone did, at the Athenaeum of Ohio. At the end of this talk, however, he had a question and answer session. The last question was: As a Catholic, can I attend a homosexual wedding of one of my family members. You are probably thinking the same as I was “NO” but, that was not this “Courageous Priest’s” answer. His answer was “That would depend” and “he would not damage a family relationship by not attending”. I was in shock. I even said out loud “What”. He then said: “You could make up some excuse,why you couldn’t attend, saying you have to wash your car or something” he also said that you could attend the reception. Why? You shouldn’t be happy that they have just excommunicated themselves from GOD so how could you, with a good conscience attend the reception? My problem with these statements are:
    1.Offending GOD first and foremost by attending.
    2.Severing the relationship? It seems to me the persons asking you to attend this service are the ones severing the relationship, not you for not attending.
    3.Saying you were not available because you were washing your car, would be a lie, so on top of saying, to attend knowing that it would be a sin but to top it off, condoning a lie.
    4.Finally Jesus told us that He didn’t come to bring peace to the earth, He came to bring the sword. Douay-Rheims Matthew 10:34.

    This confuses the faithful. How does this help us, when our bishops are divided in teaching us the Truth? What I have learned is, we Catholics aren’t even supposed to attend a wedding of a Catholic and a non-Catholic if it is not in a Catholic Church, unless there has been a dispensation from the Bishop.

    I go back to Jesus, when He was talking in in the synagogue at Capharnaum to the Jews
    (John 10:54-60) Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. 55 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. 56 For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. 57 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. 58 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. 59 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever. 60 These things he said, teaching in the synagogue, in Capharnaum.
    Jesus didn’t say to the Jews who left “Wait, come back, or hey wait lets compromise” no, He let them go. We have to have “Faith” and stand in the “Truth” given to us by Jesus in the Bible,to know what we are to do and not do. We should look to the Church Doctors and consistent teaching. It seems apparent to me that many of our bishops need a refresher course in what we are supposed to believe and follow as Catholics, who are trying to get to Heaven. Lying and cheating and doing things we know that God would not look fondly on, is not the way to get there. We are all called to be saints, when we sin we separate ourselves from God and the Beatific Vision.

    It seems easier to “Talk the Talk” than it is to “Walk the Walk”.

    Pray for our Bishops, priests more than ever, I do.

  • Marygrace

    To EVE, you do spread the word of God already!
    remember always,

    “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”

  • Gloria

    Marriage every time equals a man and a woman. case close.

  • […] A Bishop’s Open Letter for the Defense of Marriage […]

  • Amber

    I am so proud of our priests and bishops for speaking the truth

  • Tim

    It will go in the circular file. You would do better to convince the USCCB to withdraw the horrible document, Faithful Citizenship, that gave Obama the election in 2008 (54% of Catholics voted for him). The document equalizes all moral arguments so that Catholics who oppose war and abortion can pick war over abortion.

    Meanwhile, the Church needs to look at how NFP is being taught. Rarely is the “serious reason” seriously discussed in any of the popular literature or programs. It is only the “serious reason” that allows NFP to be a moral choice. Otherwise it is just Catholic birth control as our critics claim. When NFP is employed to make children an option, the unitive and the procreative are separated and it becomes only about the mutual good of the spouses and hand the argument to the proponents of same-sex marriage.

    Sadly, the 1983 code of Canon Law led the way in this by erasing the hierarchy of the twin purposes of marriage and making the good of the spouses the first reason. Despite claims that the twin purposes are co-equal, the placement of the creation of a new purpose, the good of the spouses, and its placement in the first place, has inarguably led to much smaller Catholic families, evidence that children are viewed as an option or an accessory to the marriage and not its primary purpose. Once that’s gone, there is no reason why two people of the same sex can’t marry.

  • Jeremy Garton

    Praise Be Jesus Christ, Praise Be His Holy Name! Thanks for sticking your neck out for the Sacrement of Marriage.
    Jeremy

  • Michele Cook

    Wonderfully stated, pointing out the benefit of family to our children! We give them all these weird examples, the public schools tell them it’s all another “lifestyle choice” then we wonder why divorce is so high and psychiatric medicine use is as well!! It is high time adults act like adults and stop thinking of themselves and their own pleasure and convenience and think about families. Thank you so much for standing up for truth, values and our families!!!!! God Bless You!!
    Michele Cook
    Pittsburgh, PA

  • Eve

    I am a woman raising my children catholic. However, I almost feel like this statement is hypocritical. If a marriage should be a man and a woman (as mine is and we have 4 kids), to me it sounds like women are just as important as men (of course we are). But women can’t be priests. So, it almost seems like we are useful for this argument, but not good enough to spread the word of God. Really?

  • Dear Bishop Cordileone,

    You have taken a courageous stand in defense of Catholic values. We lay people need your leadership. Thank you for providing it. It gives me encouragement and courage to stand with you.

    God bless you! I pray for you and all of our bishops, priests, and religious.
    Sincerely,
    James

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