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Monday, March 14, 2016

Concerning the decision of Notre Dame to honor Vice-President Biden and former Speaker Boehner with the Laetare Medal


In response to many inquiries, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the diocese where the University of Notre Dame is located, offers the following statement about the granting of the Laetare Medal by the University of Notre Dame to Vice-President Joseph Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner:

The Laetare Medal is given by the University of Notre Dame ‘in recognition of outstanding service to the Church and society.’ Several months ago, Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., the president of the university, discussed with me his consideration of conferring the Laetare Medal upon Vice-President Joseph Biden and former House Speaker John Boehner, two Catholics who have served in public office for many years, elected officials of different political parties. Father Jenkins made it clear to me that in recognizing Vice-President Biden and Speaker Boehner, Notre Dame would not be endorsing the policy positions of either, but rather, would be honoring them for their public service in politics. I know that this honor is also an attempt to recognize two Catholics from different political parties at a time when our national politics is often mired in acrimonious partisanship. I appreciate Notre Dame’s efforts to encourage civility, dialogue, mutual respect and cooperation in political life.

While I understand Notre Dame’s intentions in conferring the Laetare Medal upon Vice-President Biden and Speaker Boehner, I disagree with the decision. In dialogue with Father Jenkins about this matter some months ago, I shared with him my concerns with honoring the Vice-President. I believe it is wrong for Notre Dame to honor any “pro-choice” public official with the Laetare Medal, even if he/she has other positive accomplishments in public service, since direct abortion is gravely contrary to the natural law and violates a very fundamental principle of Catholic moral and social teaching: the inalienable right to life of every innocent human being from the moment of conception. I also question the propriety of honoring a public official who was a major spokesman for the redefinition of marriage. The Church has continually urged public officials, especially Catholics, of the grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that supports or facilitates abortion or that undermines the authentic meaning of marriage. I disagree with awarding someone for ‘outstanding service to the Church and society’ who has not been faithful to this obligation.

I realize that Notre Dame is trying to separate or distinguish the conferral of the Laetare Medal upon the recipients from their positions on public policies. I do not think this is realistically possible or intellectually coherent. To accomplish the goal of promoting cooperation, civility, and dialogue in American politics, I think it would have been better if Notre Dame had invited Vice-President Biden and Speaker Boehner to speak at Notre Dame on this topic rather than bestow an honor that can provoke scandal. My principal concern about this whole matter is scandal. In honoring a “pro-choice” Catholic who also has supported the redefinition of marriage, which the Church considers harmful to the common good of society, it can give the impression to people, including Catholics in political office, that one can be “a good Catholic” while also supporting or advocating for positions that contradict our fundamental moral and social principles and teachings.

Notre Dame serves the Church and my diocese in many exemplary ways and I strive to serve the community of Notre Dame through my active presence and involvement on campus. For the sake of the unity of the Church and the Church’s witness in society, I wish we could overcome disagreements which, at least in the public eye, can overshadow the good collaboration that goes on in other areas of Catholic life and mission.

We need to reflect more deeply on the meaning and significance of the bestowal of honors in relation to the Catholic identity and mission of our institutions. I would encourage Notre Dame and other Catholic colleges and universities to “raise the bar” in considering the granting of honors. I believe a higher standard is needed. There are many important values which we seek to teach, uphold, and live in our Catholic colleges and universities. These are the values we should look for in the lives of those we wish to honor. We should seek to honor those who act to protect human life and dignity from conception to natural death, who respect true marriage and the family, who promote peace, justice, religious freedom, solidarity, the integral development of the poor, the just treatment of immigrants, and care for creation. We should not honor those who may be exemplary in one area but gravely irresponsible in another.

If we honor Catholic politicians or public officials, we should make sure there is a basic consistency between their political decisions and sound Catholic moral and social teaching. We should not honor those who claim to personally accept Church teaching, but act contrary to that teaching in their political choices. We should choose for honors those whose lives and work are exemplary in witnessing to the Gospel and disqualify those who dissent from the truths and values we profess and hold dear. When we do so, when we “raise the bar,” so to speak, we not only avoid scandal, but we also have an opportunity to recognize and thank authentic witnesses to the Catholic faith for their fidelity. We also lift them up in a way that may inspire others to imitate their example.

Pope Francis is calling all of us to embrace the challenge of a missionary spirituality. He refers to “a sort of inferiority complex which leads to relativizing or concealing our Christian identity and convictions.” He also warns against a “spiritual worldliness that consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory.” I think this counsel is also relevant in decisions about conferring honors.

I recommend to all the document of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. Though it does not directly address the issue of awards to public officials, I believe it gives important principles relevant to this matter and can be a helpful guide in discerning criteria for bestowing honors.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Catholic Identity, Planned Parenthood and the Gospel of Life

This past week, I was contacted by numerous people who expressed serious concern about a recent public display by some students and faculty at Saint Mary’s College that positively portrayed the services of Planned Parenthood. I was very saddened to learn that this show of support for an organization that is the largest abortion provider in our country occurred at a Catholic college in our diocese. At the same time, I have been heartened by those students, faculty and alumnae of St. Mary’s College who are committed to the cause of life and the authentic good of women and have expressed their opposition to Planned Parenthood and any positive portrayal of this organization.
The actions taken by the students and faculty in support of Planned Parenthood illustrate that even at a Catholic college, there are those who cling to the conviction that Planned Parenthood is an organization dedicated to the well-being of women. While I do not doubt the sincerity of those who hold this view, I do challenge them to seriously re-examine for what this organization stands in light of our common humanity and our Catholic faith. 
From its very beginning, Planned Parenthood came into existence as a means to promote the eugenicist vision of its founder, Margaret Sanger. Consider the astonishing words with which she expounded this worldview in her book, The Pivot of Civilization, published in 1922:
“The lack of balance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit,’ admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. The example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken, should not be held up for emulation to the mentally and physically fit, and therefore less fertile, parents of the educated and well-to-do classes. On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective. Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon American society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupid, cruel sentimentalism.” 
The fact that Planned Parenthood continues to operate clinics primarily in poor, minority neighborhoods raises the question whether this original vision still largely informs its strategy and its mission today. Planned Parenthood’s own website states that 80 percent of its clients receive “services” to prevent unintended pregnancy, and that the provision of contraception constitutes over a third of all the organization’s activity. From a Catholic point of view, contraception does not constitute true health care because it neither preserves nor restores the proper functioning of the body, but rather, damages one of its natural functions. In fact, there is increasing evidence that when a woman’s fertility is suppressed through the use of synthetic hormones, she is exposed to serious health risks. Especially in light of Pope Francis’ call in Laudato Si for a greater respect for human nature and an integral ecology, can’t this be seen as a lack of stewardship and care for the ecology of our human bodies? Even more problematic is the fact that the most effective contraceptives available today can also function as abortifacients. Is it any wonder that the first feminists condemned both abortion and contraception as offensive and injurious to women? Instead, they called both men and women to mutual respect and self-restraint in marriage as a way to live responsible parenthood. To the extent that Planned Parenthood does provide any legitimate health services for women — such as cancer screenings or testing for sexually transmitted diseases — those services are already widely provided by others. Community health centers, for example, provide free or low-cost services to 22 million patients in urban and rural areas and outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics 13 to 1. 
Many people have come to believe that contraception is part of the solution to the problem of abortion. What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is just how closely abortion and contraception are connected. Contraception is not part of the solution to the culture of death — it is part of the problem. This is because contraception attempts to sever the link between sex and procreation, which, if unsuccessful, can be definitively accomplished through an abortion. In his 1995 encyclical, The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II emphasized this connection:
“Despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree. It is true that in many cases contraception and even abortion are practiced under the pressure of real-life difficulties, which nonetheless can never exonerate from striving to observe God’s law fully. Still, in very many other instances such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfillment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.” 
One in three abortions in our nation is currently performed at a facility operated by Planned Parenthood, up from one in five abortions in 2005. In a strategy designed to increase their market share, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) in 2010 stipulated that, by 2013, every affiliate must have one or more clinics that perform abortions on site. A few affiliates left PPFA rather than comply with this requirement, but most did not. That this strategy was successful is evidenced by the fact that as in 2013 alone — the last year for which complete data is available — Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 327,653 abortions. In fact, 94% of the “services” that Planned Parenthood provides for pregnant women are abortions, either surgical or medical, (by means of the abortion drug RU-486), outnumbering other options 16 to 1. In fact, since 1970, Planned Parenthood facilities have aborted over 5 million unborn children, and abortions currently account for over one-third of the organization’s income. 
Pope Francis has called abortion the product of a “widespread mentality of profit, the throwaway culture, which has today enslaved the hearts and minds of so many.” When he addressed the bishops of the United States during his historic visit to our country in September, Pope Francis urged us not to look the other way or remain silent in the face of such evils: 
“The innocent victims of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature — at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters. It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent.”
The Gospel of Life is a seamless garment covering many issues involving human life and dignity. Respect for human life from the moment of conception is an integral part of the message of salvation and the mission of the Church, and the first principle of its social teaching upon which every other human right is founded. Catholic institutions, including Catholic colleges and universities, must not look the other way or remain silent in the face of attacks against the most vulnerable human beings among us, those as yet unborn. According to the apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, “Catholic ideals, attitudes and principles penetrate and inform university activities” in all aspects of campus life at a Catholic college or university. 
Catholic identity is not only about what we stand for; it is also about what we will not stand for. Just as we would be rightly scandalized to see a public display portraying a racist organization like the Ku Klux Klan in a positive light, so too, we expect Catholic colleges to refuse to lend any kind of respectability to organizations like Planned Parenthood that play such a significant role in the culture of death. Authentic freedom, academic or otherwise, is always linked to the service of truth and love. It is also ordered to the formation of the human person in truth and love, formation in which Catholic colleges and universities play a critical role.
Saint John Paul II summoned us to do better by the young adults with whose formation we have been entrusted in this beautiful but difficult area of life: “It is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not help the young to accept and experience sexuality and love and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection. … Only a true love is able to protect life.” 
— Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades

Friday, June 26, 2015

Concerning the Supreme Court Decision Ruling Same-Sex Marriage Legal Nationwide.

Statement from Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend

I am saddened, yet unsurprised, by the Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage in our country. In our society in recent years, we have seen a cultural shift in which the truth about the meaning and purpose of marriage has been obscured by excluding the essential complementarity of man and woman, treating sexual difference as if it were irrelevant to what marriage is. Making same-sex unions equivalent to marriage disregards the very nature of marriage as naturally ordered toward authentic union and the generation of new life.

I believe that today’s decision is unjust in that it ignores the unique and proper place of husbands and wives and especially the rights of children to a mother and father. It essentially makes equal what are essentially different realities: same-sex unions and marriage.

While we must uphold the human dignity of homosexual persons and their basic human rights, no one has the right to alter the truth about marriage as established by God. The Supreme Court’s mandating of a new definition of marriage that is contrary to the divine and natural law is, as our U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops states, “a tragic error.”

I worry about the consequences of this decision for our religious liberty in teaching, upholding, and acting in accord with the truth about marriage as known by right reason and divine revelation. I call upon our Catholic faithful to continue to proclaim by word and example the true meaning of marriage even in the face of unjust and false accusations of bigotry and discrimination. We must continue to follow our Lord and to act in conformity with our faith, whether popular or unpopular. We must love all our brothers and sisters, including persons with same-sex attraction, while also upholding the true meaning of marriage.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Regarding the Midterm Report from the Synod of Bishops

October 14, 2014

I appreciate this opportunity to share my thoughts about the midterm report from the Synod of Bishops, a report that has been the subject of many news reports and commentaries.

I must begin with the declaration issued by the Vatican today in light of the reactions in the media to yesterday's report. The Holy See Press Office reiterated that yesterday's report is "a working document which summarises the interventions and debate of the first week and is now being offered for discussion by the members of the Synod gathered in the small groups." The Vatican explained that "often a value has been attributed to the document that does not correspond to its nature." I think this is very important to keep in mind.

I do not think it is accurate to say that there is a "seismic shift'' taking place in the Church on issues that are being discussed. I agree with Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, one of the Synod delegates, who said that the document is a draft and did not represent any kind of "earthquake" in Church teaching.

I think it is important to look at the whole report and not just a few excerpts. It is important to see the affirmation of Church teaching on marriage and the family and the importance of pastoral care of the family. At the same time, clearly there is a lot of debate, not on doctrine, but on how the Church welcomes, reaches out, and assists those who live in what we consider to be "irregular situations," such as cohabitating couples, divorced and remarried couples, and same-sex couples. How do we reach out with God's love and mercy to those living in situations that fall short of the ideals of the Gospel? There is a lot of debate going on regarding this issue. There seem to be disagreements among the bishops at the Synod regarding solutions to the pastoral challenges facing the Church, especially in the West, because of the increased numbers of people not living according to the Church's teaching on marriage and the family.

In my opinion, it is good to study and debate how the Church might do a better job in making people in the above-mentioned irregular situations feel welcomed as brothers and sisters in the Church. Here in our diocese, we have been working hard in this area. We have ministries for the separated, divorced, and the divorced and remarried and for persons with homosexual inclinations. I don't want anyone to feel excluded from the warmth of the Church's love which should mirror the love of Christ. I think many of the bishops at the Synod are also concerned with the language the Church uses in regards to persons living in irregular situations, language that may alienate, rather than attract, people.

# # #

Declaration of the Director of the Holy See Press Office on behalf of the General Secretariat of the Synod:

The General Secretariat of the Synod, in response to reactions and discussions following the publication of the Relatio post disceptationem, and the fact that often a value has been attributed to the document that does not correspond to its nature, reiterates that it is a working document, which summarises the interventions and debate of the first week, and is now being offered for discussion by the members of the Synod gathered in the Small Groups, in accordance with the Regulations of the Synod.

The work of the Small Groups will be presented to the Assembly in the General Congregation next Thursday morning.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Statement of Catholic Bishops of Indiana Same-Sex Marriage Decision

Re:  Same-Sex Marriage Decision, Baskin v. Bogan, 1:14-CV-00355-RLY, 2014 WL 1568884 (S.D. Ind. Apr. 18, 2014)

The dignity of the human person, rooted in his or her creation in the image and likeness of God, is a fundamental principle of Catholic social teaching. The Church upholds the dignity of every human person, including persons with same-sex attraction, whom we accept and love as our brothers and sisters.

At the same time, the Church upholds the dignity and sanctity of marriage as a natural union established by God between one man and one woman, intended towards the establishment of a family in which children are born, raised, and nurtured.  This is not simply a matter of belief. It is at the very heart of the nature of marriage. Thus, it is not within the power of any institution, religious or secular, to redefine marriage since it is God who is its author.

Today's decision by Richard L. Young, Chief Judge United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana,  to redefine the institution of marriage as an emotional partnership between two consenting adults regardless of gender ignores this fundamental and natural truth of marriage and opens its definition to the whims of public opinion.

With deep respect for all our brothers and sisters, we nevertheless see no basis in law or in nature for any definition of marriage that seeks to expand it beyond that of a covenant between one man and one woman.  Our position on this matter seeks only the common good of all men and women as well as the health and well being of families.

As pastors, we will continue to preach and teach the truth of marriage as it is ordered by God, encouraging all people to embrace the fullness of that truth, while upholding the dignity of all persons.  We will continue to work through the Indiana Catholic Conference to encourage our legislators and judges to uphold this truth as well.  We urge all involved in this issue to conduct themselves with mutual respect and civility in public discourse.

Most Reverend Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., D.D.
Archdiocese of Indianapolis 

Most Reverend Christopher J. Coyne, S.L.D.                              
Archdiocese of Indianapolis

Most Reverend Charles C. Thompson, D.D., J. C.L.
Diocese of Evansville            
Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades, D. D.  
Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend  

Most Reverend Dale J. Melczek, D.D.
Diocese  of Gary

Most Reverend Timothy L. Doherty, D.D., Ph.D.
Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana

1400 N. Meridian Street · Indianapolis, IN 46202
(p) 317-236-1455                                                 (f) 317-236-1456                                              

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Marriage as covenant between one man and one woman


The dignity of the human person, rooted in his or her creation in the image and likeness of God, is a fundamental principle of Catholic social teaching. The Church upholds the dignity of every human person, including persons with same-sex attraction, who "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity." (CCC 2358) 

At the same time, the Church upholds the dignity and sanctity of marriage, a natural institution established by God. By its very nature, marriage is a permanent partnership between one man and one woman ordered to the good of the couple and the procreation and education of children. It is the foundation of the family, where children are raised and nurtured, and learn values and virtues that help them to grow in maturity. 

It is not within the power of either the Church or the State to redefine marriage since God is its author. Male-female complementarity is essential to marriage. Marriage is a "unique" communion of persons with the potential to bring forth human life. 

With deep respect for all our brothers and sisters, we affirm the institution of marriage as the intimate communion of life and love between one man and one woman. Marriage is an intimate sharing of conjugal life and love. It involves the total gift of self in a partnership for the whole of life. Only by means of the complementarity between a man and a woman can this total gift of self be fully given and received. 

We respect the equal dignity of all persons while upholding the uniqueness of the covenant of marriage as established by our Creator. The wellbeing of children, of the family, and of society is closely bound to the healthy state of marriage and respect for its true nature and purposes. 

We urge the people of Indiana to respect and defend the dignity and equality of all persons as well as the truth about marriage, according to God's plan and laws, with charity towards all. 

Given at the Catholic Center in Indianapolis on this, the 4th day of December, 2013.

Most Reverend Joseph W. Tobin
Archbishop of Indianapolis

Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades 

Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend 

Most Reverend Charles C. Thompson 

Bishop of Evansville

Most Reverend Dale J. Melczek

Bishop of Gary

Most Reverend Timothy L. Doherty

Bishop of Lafayette-in-Indiana 

Most Reverend Christopher J. Coyne  

Auxiliary Bishop of Indianapolis 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Speech of Bishop Rhoades on same-sex marriage and relationships

I have been asked to speak tonight about so-called same-sex marriage as well as Charity in our response to same-sex relationships. In a way, this approach fits well with my own episcopal motto: “Veritatem in caritate,” “truth in charity.” This is what the Lord expects of the Church and all of us: that we adhere to the truth of the Gospel with charity. Fidelity to the truth is essential. So is the virtue of charity. One without the other is a failure. To dismiss the truth revealed by God is not to love God. To lack charity towards others makes it a lie to say we love God. So in the controversial topic we reflect on this evening, it is important that we not water down the truth about human sexuality or marriage, nor that we proclaim this truth without love for those who struggle with same-sex attraction. Proclaiming the truth is part of our duty in charity. Professing the truth without charity is actually not totally professing the truth since charity is a commandment that itself is part of the truth of our faith. Saint Edith Stein wrote: Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth. Blessed John Paul II added: One without the other becomes a destructive lie.
Think about these words of our Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI from his encyclical Charity in truth: Truth needs to be sought, found, and expressed within the “economy” of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practiced in the light of truth….  Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived. Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity. That light is both the light of reason and the light of faith, through which the intellect attains to the natural and supernatural truth of charity: it grasps its meaning as gift, acceptance, and communion. Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love. (Caritas in veritate # 2-3).
With this introduction, I think it is best to begin this talk with the recent Supreme Court decision that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act. What was most profoundly disturbing to me was that the Supreme Court found the exclusion of same-sex couples legally married under state law from federal benefits (in DOMA Section 3) impermissible largely because it read DOMA as manifesting “animus” against gay people and targeting them for special disfavor. This argumentation suggests that those who defend the immemorial understanding of marriage as the union of people of different sexes, ordered toward procreation, are anti-homosexual bigots. The Supreme Court says that Americans who affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman are imposing “a disadvantage” and a “stigma” on others, motivated by an improper animus. Our principal intent is to “demean.” We seek “to injure” and are motivated by a “bare… desire to harm.” Even the “humiliation” of “tens of thousands of children” fails to move us.
Notice that this language of the Supreme Court majority is not language designed to clarify a difficult legal concept. It is not meant to persuade others regarding a complex public issue. It won’t further thoughtful discussion of fast-moving changes to an essential social institution. It’s an attempt to shut down discussion by impugning the motives of those who disagree.
This argumentation of the Supreme Court and others suggests that people and institutions like the Catholic Church are prejudiced against people with same-sex attraction. The charge of bigotry hurts. When Cardinal Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, and the other bishops of Argentina were accused like us of bigotry and discrimination, they responded that “the recognition of a real difference is not discrimination.” They wrote: “Nature does not discriminate when it makes us a man or a woman. Our Civil Code does not discriminate when it demands the requirement of being a man and a woman to contract marriage; it only recognizes a natural reality.”
Despite the efforts of the future Pope and the Church in Argentina, the marriage redefinition bill passed in the Senate there, making Argentina the first country in Latin America to redefine marriage to include two persons of the same sex.
In Argentina, Pope Francis had to engage with a hostile culture in confronting this issue and others, just as we are doing here in the United States. Pope Francis never made derogatory comments about people with same-sex attraction. Neither do we. To do so would be to reject Catholic teaching that affirms the dignity of all human persons and explicitly affirms that homosexual persons “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” (CCC 2358). The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has said: “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”
To proclaim the truth in charity, let us look at the truth of Church teaching about sexuality and homosexuality.  What is the place of sexuality within God’s plan for humanity? In its document, Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops presented the following summary of Catholic teaching on this topic:
“In the beginning, God created human beings in his own image, meaning that the complementary sexuality of man and woman is a gift from God and ought to be respected as such. Human sexuality is thus a good, part of that created gift which God saw as being ‘very good,’ when he created the human person in his image and likeness, and ‘male and female he created them’ (Genesis 1:27). The complementarity of man and woman as male and female is inherent within God’s creative design. Precisely because man and woman are different, yet complementary, they can come together in a union that is open to the possibility of new life. Jesus taught that ‘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’ (Mark 10:6-8). The purpose of sexual desire is to draw man and woman together in the bond of marriage, a bond that is directed toward two inseparable ends: the expression of marital love and the procreation and education of children. ‘The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage; the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life.’ This is the order of nature, an order whose source is ultimately the wisdom of God….”.
“By its very nature, then, the sexual act finds its proper fulfillment in the marital bond between a man and a woman. Any sexual act that takes place outside the bond of marriage does not fulfill the proper ends of human sexuality. Such an act is not directed toward the expression of marital love with an openness to new life. It is disordered in that it is not in accord with this twofold end and is thus morally wrong. ‘Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes’ (CCC 2351)…..
“There are a variety of acts, such as adultery, fornication, masturbation, and contraception, that violate the proper ends of human sexuality. Homosexual acts also violate the true purpose of sexuality. They are sexual acts that cannot be open to life. Nor do they reflect the complementarity of man and woman that is an integral part of God’s design for human sexuality. Consequently, the Catholic Church has consistently taught that homosexual acts ‘are contrary to the natural law… Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
This teaching of the Church is part of the natural law, pertaining to the intrinsic order of creation, but also part of what God has revealed in Sacred Scripture. Saint Paul taught that “homosexual acts are not in keeping with our being created in God’s image and so degrade and undermine our authentic dignity as human beings. He listed homosexual practices among those things that are incompatible with the Christian life.”
“While the Church teaches that homosexual acts are immoral, she does distinguish between engaging in homosexual acts and having a homosexual inclination. While the former is always objectively sinful, the latter is not. To the extent that a homosexual tendency or inclination is not subject to one’s free will, one is not morally culpable for that tendency. Although one would be morally culpable if one were voluntarily to entertain homosexual temptations or to choose to act on them, simply having the tendency is not a sin. Consequently, the Church does not teach that the experience of homosexual attraction it is in itself sinful.”
“The homosexual inclination is objectively disordered, that is, it is an inclination that predisposes one toward what is truly not good for the human person. … It is crucially important to understand that saying a person has a particular inclination that is disordered is not to say that the person as a whole is disordered. Nor does it mean that one has been rejected by God or the Church. Sometimes the Church is misinterpreted or misrepresented as teaching that persons with homosexual inclinations are objectively disordered. No, the person is not disordered or morally defective. The disorder is in that particular inclination, which is not ordered toward the fulfillment of the natural ends of human sexuality. Because of this, acting in accord with such an inclination simply cannot contribute to the true good of the human person. Nevertheless, while the particular inclination to homosexual acts is disordered, the person retains his or her intrinsic human dignity and value.”
Those who promote the redefinition of marriage to include same sex unions obviously do not accept the Church’s teaching on human sexuality and marriage. They do not accept that “sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman” which finds its embodiment in marriage. Yet, this has been the understanding of different cultures, religions, and societies through the centuries, evidence that marriage is part of the natural order of creation. As Catholics, we believe that “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. Its author is God Himself (CCC 1603).
In the Pastoral Letter Marriage – Love and Life in the Divine Plan, the U.S. Bishops teach the following: “Marriage is a unique union, a relationship different from all others. It is the permanent bond between one man and one woman whose two-in-one-flesh communion of persons is an indispensable good at the heart of every family and every society. Same-sex unions are incapable of realizing this specific communion of persons. Therefore, attempting to redefine marriage to include such relationships empties the term of its meaning, for it excludes the essential complementarity between man and woman, treating sexual difference as if it were irrelevant to what marriage is.
Male-female complementarity is intrinsic to marriage. It is naturally ordered toward authentic union and the generation of new life. Children are meant to be the gift of the permanent and exclusive union of a husband and a wife. A child is meant to have a mother and a father. The true nature of marriage, lived in openness to life, is a witness to the precious gift of the child and to the unique roles of a mother and father. Same-sex unions are incapable of such a witness. Consequently, making them equivalent to marriage disregards the very nature of marriage….
By attempting to redefine marriage to include or be made analogous with homosexual partnerships, society is stating that the permanent union of husband and wife, the unique pattern of spousal and familial love, and the generation of new life are now only of relative importance rather than being fundamental to marriage and also to society.”
I recommend an excellent book entitled What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. In this book, the authors, using arguments from reason and social science, not religious faith, show that marriage, by its very nature, is conjugal, that is, it has a bodily as well as an emotional spiritual bond. The revisionist view that seeks to redefine marriage to include couples of the same sex identifies marriage as simply a bond between two persons who wish to share their lives together, as essentially an emotional union. They want this sharing of life and love to be recognized as marriage with all its attendant legal benefits. True marriage, however, is more than a consensual relationship between two adults who wish to share their lives together. The book explains how “marriage is, of its essence, a comprehensive union: a union of will (by consent) and body (by sexual union); inherently ordered to procreation and thus the broad sharing of family life; and calling for permanent and exclusive commitment.” It is “a human good with an objective structure.” Marriage is more than emotional union and cohabitation. It is inherently connected to bodily union and family life. Male-female complementarity is intrinsic to marriage. It is naturally ordered toward authentic union and the generation of new life. These are essential attributes of marriage, not incidental or relative. It should come as no surprise in a culture of increasing relativism that marriage is being relativized.
The Argentinian bishops, under the leadership of Cardinal Bergoglio, issued a statement teaching that “the union of people of the same sex lacks the biological and anthropological elements that are proper to marriage and family.” During the national debate in Argentina, Cardinal Bergoglio defended marriage, the natural family and the right of children to have a father and a mother. He wrote: “At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.” In a very interesting book of conversations between Cardinal Bergoglio and Rabbi Abraham Skorka entitled On Heaven and Earth, they discussed same-sex marriage. Cardinal Bergoglio said that he considered it an “anti-value and an anthropological regression.” He said that this is an issue that transcends religion. He sees same sex marriage as “a weakening of the institution that is thousands of years old and that was forged according to nature and anthropology.”
Today, advocacy for the legal recognition of same-sex marriage is often equated with non-discrimination, fairness, equality and civil rights. But I would counter by saying, along with my brother bishops, that “to promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman is itself a matter of justice. In fact, it is a grave injustice for the state to ignore the unique and proper place of husbands and wives, the place of mothers and fathers, and especially the rights of children to a mother and father.” (USCCB, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan).
Regarding equality, we maintain that basic human rights must be afforded to all people. This can and should be done without sacrificing the bedrock of society that is marriage and the family. We don’t believe that anyone should be denied basic rights nor should anyone be subjected to harassment or unjust discrimination because of their sexual inclinations.
Some advocates of same-sex marriage like to point out that there are many problems with heterosexual marriages today: high divorce rates, children being raised by single parents, abuse in families, etc. They are right – there are many forces in society that have weakened marriage. But these are not reasons to redefine marriage and further weaken it. The problems of divorce, etc. point to the need to strengthen and promote marriage.
There is also the argument that same-sex couples can be good parents. Well, we are not judging anyone’s parenting skills in defending marriage between a man and a woman. We respect the hard work done by anyone who parents a child, including single parents. But we hold, and social science shows, that children do best when parented by a mother and a father. Defending the truth about marriage is a duty of charity, especially toward children.
Given the Church’s strong teaching in this area, where does all this leave persons with same-sex attractions? They may feel rejected, alienated, excluded by the Church.
First of all, unlike most of society, the Catholic Church refuses to define people in terms of their sexual inclination. We see people primarily according to their identity as beloved children of God, created in his image and likeness. Our fundamental orientation is toward God, and is not reducible to sexual inclinations, however powerful they may seem. We must also see our brothers and sisters with same-sex attractions as true brothers and sisters. If they are Catholic, we should see them and they should see themselves as beloved members of the Body of Christ, the Church. It is a terrible sin, a sin against charity, for us to look down upon or reject persons with same-sex attraction. As the Catechism teaches, “homosexual persons must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” In my opinion, it is just as sinful to lack charity towards homosexual persons as it is to condone the sin of homosexual activity, maybe even more so.
Contrary to claims by the US Supreme Court, our opposition to the redefinition of marriage is not meant to demean, injure, or desire harm towards same-sex couples. In fact, our support of authentic marriage is not at all aimed at denying equality or justice to same-sex couples. But there is not a right to something that, by its very nature, is constituted uniquely, naturally, and essentially as a conjugal union. Contrary to the Supreme Court’s ruling, our teaching actually serves the true good of persons with same-sex attraction, their authentic happiness in this life and the next, their spiritual good.
Mother Teresa was once asked in an interview for her views on homosexuality. She announced that she did not like the word “homosexual.” She stopped the interview and told the reporters that if they had any more questions about homosexuals, they would refer to them from now on as “friends of Jesus.” This is how we should see our brothers and sisters who carry the cross of same-sex attraction.
Here’s what the Catechism says: Person with homosexual tendencies “are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times, by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection” (CCC 2358-2359).
We must not forget that “love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being” (Familiaris Consortio 11). This includes persons with same-sex attraction. Their fundamental and innate vocation is love. But love should not be expressed through homosexual acts, acts which are contrary to the natural law, chastity, and the purpose of human sexuality. Love is much more than sex. Friendship is a great good and can bring great joy and peace to one’s life. It is our friendship with Christ and with others that makes life happy and fulfilling. Groups like Courage help our brothers and sisters with same-sex attraction to grow in chastity, to progress in self-mastery, to cultivate good friendships, and to grow in an intimate relationship with Jesus. But this should not be just the mission of Courage. It is part of the mission of the Church and should be part of our lives and the lives of our parishes and other institutions: welcoming and encouraging our brothers and sisters who struggle with same-sex attraction.
How do Catholics with same-sex attraction respond to all this? To be honest, some simply reject the Church and its teaching. Many have left the Church, feeling alienated; some have become public critics of the Church and its teaching. Some are filled with anger towards the Church. I recently received a hurtful e-mail from someone who accused me of bigotry and hatred because of our teaching. I felt there was hatred in the heart of the one who wrote to me, and I have prayed for him.
Then there are many Catholics with same-sex attraction who believe in the Church’s teaching and actively practice the faith. Sometimes they fall in their efforts to live a chaste life. So do many people with heterosexual inclinations. So with faith, they repent and receive the Lord’s forgiveness in the sacrament of Reconciliation. They resolve to live a chaste life, with the help of God’s grace. For some, their same-sex attraction and temptations can be a very heavy cross.
For young people, this can be a very difficult trial. The knowledge of their same-sex attractions can lead to self-loathing, self-hatred, even harm to self. If rejected by family or peers, they can experience loneliness, isolation, deep hurt, and depression. They deserve our love and strong support. Some pursue a gay lifestyle and the values of a gay subculture that may result in further alienation, exploitation by adults, illness, or a certain way of life that may bring some pleasure, but not true and lasting happiness. It does not serve their true spiritual good.
Finally, as we continue to defend the truth about marriage, we must also continue to reach out with love, respect, compassion, and sensitivity to persons with a homosexual inclination. We are all called to live chaste and holy lives and to help one another to grow in holiness. The bonds of love uniting all of us as one Body in Christ are stronger and more important than anyone’s sexual inclinations. We journey together on this earth as fellow disciples and pilgrims, all sinners striving to be holy. Let’s help each other on the journey!