WASHINGTON — In the wake of the Supreme Court’s rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8, the bishops of the U.S. are calling on the faithful to work to strengthen marriage and witness to its true meaning.
“While the culture has failed in many ways to be marriage-strengthening, this is no reason to give up. Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco.
Cardinal Dolan is the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Cordileone chairs the conference’s Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
In a joint statement, they called the rulings “a profound injustice to the American people” and urged a renewed effort to proclaim the truth about marriage as the only institution that unites a man and a woman for the sake of any children that may come from their union.
On June 26, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act in a 5-4 decision, claiming that it violated the Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law.
The law had defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman for federal purposes. The court said that it is up to the states to define marriage individually, and the federal government must accept the definition given by each state.
The court also dismissed an appeal seeking to defend California’s Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment solidifying the meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman in the state.
Saying that the group of citizens trying to defend the law did not have the legal standing to do so, the Supreme Court rejected the suit. As a result, a lower court’s ruling that the amendment is unconstitutional will stand, paving the way for same-sex “marriage” to be recognized in California.
Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Cordileone charged that the court was “wrong” in its decisions and said that it was a “tragic day for marriage and our nation.”
“The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so,” they said. “The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage.”
“Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth,” they continued. “These decisions are part of a public debate of great consequence. The future of marriage and the well-being of our society hang in the balance.”
Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Cordileone called on the people of the U.S. to unite in their bold witness to the truth of marriage with both “confidence and charity.”
Other bishops across the country also expressed their disappointment in the court’s ruling, emphasizing that a judicial decision cannot change the nature of marriage and calling for efforts to strengthen the institution in the U.S.
The Archdiocese of Washington said in a statement that it found the court’s decisions “very troubling,” but noted that, while the “government might choose to use the word 'marriage' to apply to a whole range of unions of people, it cannot change what marriage is in its very essence.”
“Marriage is not a creation of the state,” stressed the archdiocese, adding that, while governments may create legal definitions, they “do not have the ability or authority to change created human nature.”
Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City echoed the Archdiocese of Washington’s statements, saying that “we as Catholics reaffirm that no court decision can re-create reality or change the truth about marriage.”
He asserted that the difference between men and women “matters, in general, but it especially matters for marriage and parenthood.”
The archbishop lamented that the court rulings will likely result in many people losing “the conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman and the freedom that comes from living in that conviction.”
“Genderless marriage and parenthood is a costly illusion that deliberately deprives children of the knowledge of that truth,” he said.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia observed that “(a)ffirming the true definition of marriage denies no one his or her basic rights. On the contrary, protecting marriage affirms the equal dignity of women and men and safeguards the basic rights of children.”
“Same-sex unions, whatever legal form they take, cannot create new life. They cannot duplicate the love of a man and woman,” the archbishop stated, noting that the Supreme Court did not go so far as to require a redefinition of marriage or proclaim same-sex “marriage” as a “right.”
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who heads the U.S. bishops’ religious liberty committee, warned that the rulings pose “a serious threat to religious liberty and conscience rights for countless people of faith” who cannot in good faith recognize “gay marriage.”
“This threat to religious freedom is one of many, locally and nationally, that has prompted our current 'Fortnight for Freedom,' which we hope will inspire people throughout the country to prayer, education and action to preserve religious liberty.”