BALTIMORE — Bishops and Catholics must work to better deliver the Church’s teaching on marriage in light of the recent U.S. elections, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.
“Our role, our sacred responsibility is to defend marriage from anything — anything — that would dilute it from what nature intends and what the God of nature intends, namely, a lifelong, life-giving, faithful union between one man and one woman,” Cardinal Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the press Nov. 13.
Catholic bishops have adamantly stressed that the Church’s definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not the result of any “prejudice to people with same-sex attraction,” Cardinal Dolan said during the U.S. bishops’ Nov. 12-15 fall general assembly in Baltimore.
Rather, he explained, the Church opposes anything that “eats away” or “militates against” the sanctity of marriage, including “frivolous divorce” and “trial marriage.”
However, opponents of traditional marriage continue to “caricature us as these mean-spirited, bigoted people who are trying to impose their medieval views upon the rest of society.”
Instead of allowing such attacks to continue, the Church and those who support her teaching on marriage must strive to effectively communicate her position in a way that society can better understand.
“We’re constantly trying to think how to recraft our message,” he said, adding that “there might be an analogy here in the pro-life movement.”
He pointed out that, while abortion advocates some 20 years ago largely held public support by reducing abortion “to a matter of choice,” pro-life advocates used the opportunity to clarify their message by questioning what “choice” was being made in the procedure.
Since then, the pro-life movement has been able to “get much more pointed and effective” in the delivery of their message.
As a result, Cardinal Dolan said, “more and more Americans gradually describe themselves as questioning the unfettered abortion license.”
Those who support marriage of one man and one woman must take a similar approach in promoting the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of marriage, he said.
“It’s not that we’re against gays. It’s not that we’re against divorced people,” Cardinal Dolan said. “It’s that we’re pro-marriage.”
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of the offspring” (1601).
The Catechism goes on to state, “The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution, despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures and spiritual attitudes” (1603).
Pope Benedict XVI has said, “The different present forms of the dissolution of marriage, as well as free unions and ‘trial marriage,’ including the pseudo-marriage between persons of the same sex, are … contrary expressions of an anarchic freedom that appears erroneously as man’s authentic liberation.”
The Pope said this pseudo-freedom is based on “a trivialization of the body, which inevitably includes the trivialization of man. Its assumption is that man can make of himself what he likes. Thus, his body becomes something secondary, which can be manipulated from the human point of view, which can be used as one pleases.
“Libertinism, which appears as discovery of the body and its value, is, in reality, a dualism that makes the body contemptible, leaving it, so to speak, outside the authentic being and dignity of the person.”
Last week, voters in both Maryland and Washington state passed referenda to approve laws legalizing same-sex “marriage,” while citizens of Minnesota narrowly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, reflecting the state’s current laws.
Maine activists seeking to redefine marriage were able to put forward a referendum to reverse the people’s 2009 vote to protect marriage. That effort succeeded, and the state will soon begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Cardinal Dolan admitted that while this issue presents “a challenge,” he said it is nonetheless one “that we cannot run away from.”