Papal Visit 2015 — Speeches & Homilies

Wednesday, September 23 (Washington D.C.)

White House Welcoming CeremonyPhotos
Midday Prayer with US Bishop'sPhotos
Holy Mass of Canonization homilyPhotos

Thursday, September 24 (Washington D.C. and New York, NY)

Joint Session of U.S. CongressPhotos
Visit to Charitable Center and Meeting with the Homeless (Washington D.C.)Photos
Vespers (New York, NY)Photos

Friday, September 25 (New York, NY)

Meeting with United Nations Staff
United Nations General AssemblyPhotos
Interreligious Meeting, Ground Zero MemorialPhotos
Meeting with Immigrant Families and Children,
Harlem School
Holy Mass, Madison Square GardenPhotos

Saturday, September 26 (Philadelphia, PA)

Holy Mass, Cathedral of St. Peter & PaulPhotos
Religious Liberty MeetingPhotos
Festival of Families Prayer VigilPhotos
Festival of Families, Off-the-Cuff Remarks

Sunday, September 27 (Philadelphia, PA)

Meeting with Victims of Sexual Abuse
Meeting with World Meeting of Families BishopsPhotos
Meeting with Prisoners, Curran-Formhold PenitentiaryPhotos
World Meeting of Families Closing MassPhotos
Greeting of World Meeting of Families OrganizersPhotos


God calls each person to love and serve in a particular way

The focus of this month’s West River Catholic is vocations. So often, when a person thinks of vocations, their minds generally lead them to the vocation of priesthood and religious life. Perhaps this is because of the priest shortage or a decline in vocations to religious life. The vocation of marriage oftentimes seems to be left on the back burner so to speak.

With the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia just around the corner and the Synod in Rome on marriage and the family beginning in October, I thought we might reflect this month on the vocation of marriage because the sacrament of marriage is the very foundation of the Christian family, and the family is the very foundation of civil society.

With the continuing social acceptance of same-sex unions, the recent decision from the United States Supreme Court redefining marriage and no knowing the ramifications and its impact on people of faith, all people of faith need to present the unique and beautiful meaning of the vocation of marriage and what God has intended from the beginning of time.

The word “vocation” is a very good definition of the relationship that God has with every human being in the freedom of love, because “every life is a vocation” (Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 15). In that relationship, God calls each person to love and serve him and his church in a particular state or way of life. Each person’s vocation flows from the grace of baptism.

The church teaches that marriage is an authentic vocation, a call from God, and is just as necessary and valuable to the church and society as other vocations. Like all vocations, marriage must be understood within the primary vocation to love, because every human person is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love.

The vocation of marriage is not merely a private or personal affair. While being a personal union between a man and a woman, it is also for the good of the church and the entire community. The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of marriage and the family.

“As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, marriage is not a purely human institution ― the intimate partnership of life and the love which constitutes the married state has been established by the creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws.” (U.S. Catholic Bishops, 2009 Pastoral Letter: Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan)

God established marriage as a way for man and woman to participate in his love, selflessly giving themselves to each other in love. As a sacrament, marriage signifies and makes present in the couple Christ’s total self-gift of love. Their mutual gift of self, conferred in their promises of fidelity and love, becomes a participation in the covenant between Christ and the church.

In the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa” (Address to John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, May 2006).

It is the nature of married love to overflow, to be life-giving, thus creating a family. Therefore marriage is ordained not only to growing in love but to transmitting life, and therefore is ordered to the procreation and education of those children. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. (#62)

This communion of persons is also spoken of as the “original cell of social life.” St. John Paul II, in his encyclical On the Family (Familiaris Consortio, no. 75) wrote, “The future of the world and of the church passes through the family.” He often spoke of families as domestic churches, places where parents help children discover that God loves them and has a plan for each child’s life. But they are also places where authority, stability, and a life of relationships constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society.

In our culture today, even within Catholic families, the idea of marriage as a vocation — the living out this call as “a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit” — appears to have gotten lost in the malaise of secular ideals. As we have seen, when marriages and families begin to disintegrate into something less than what God has designed for them from the beginning, the impact on society is immense.

Marriage as a true vocation must be rediscovered so that families and society may be strengthened and truly become a civilization of love. To rediscover marriage as a vocation in Christ is to experience a sign of the Kingdom of God. The entire Catholic community must become involved in helping those called to the vocation of married life to live it faithfully, fruitfully, and joyfully.

“A marriage that is truly in Christ is a sign of the Kingdom that is coming. It is a blessing to the couple, to their children, and to everyone who knows them. It offers a sign of hope and a loving witness to human dignity in a world where hope often seems absent and human dignity is often degraded. It is a sign of the kingdom because the love of Christ moves the married couple to ever greater heights of love.” (Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan, pg. 56)

Let us all pray for married couples and those preparing for marriage that they see their lives together as a vocation and that their marriage will be renewed in Christ’s divine love.

West River Catholic: September 2015

Enjoy the September edition of the West River Catholic

Download the PDF

Welcoming gestures can lead someone to Christ

One of the great gifts of Pope Francis, as witnessed during his recent visit to the United States, is his ability to touch the hearts of believers and nonbelievers alike by his willingness to engage in conversations that bring and lead to a fuller share and life in Christ.

In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis said that “the church will have to initiate everyone — priests, religious and laity — into this ‘art of accompaniment’” which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life.

Although it sounds obvious, spiritual accompaniment must lead others ever closer to God, in whom we attain true freedom. Some people think they are free if they can avoid God; they fail to see that they remain existentially orphaned, helpless, and homeless. They cease being pilgrims and become drifters, flitting around themselves and never getting anywhere. To accompany them would be counterproductive if it became a sort of therapy supporting their self-absorption and ceased to be a pilgrimage with Christ to the Father.

Pope Francis’ words speak of a generous hospitality we are to extend to another. It is this type of generous hospitality to which our diocesan stewardship initiative has been calling us. It is this generous hospitality that has the power to reignite a lively faith in the heart of another person.

This past summer I heard an amazing story that illustrates the art of spiritual accompaniment, which truly does transform and changes hearts. Here is the story of Kamren Horton:

“I came back to the church this year, at 26, after a very long (and tough) decade away. Thankfully though, God never gave up on me and patiently waited for even the slightest opening in my heart to give the faith another look. My story of coming back is a total testament to the profound power of simple love and hospitality and how God can use even small, seemingly insignificant encounters to do incredible things.

“Last January, God started laying the groundwork for my homecoming by sending me Judy as a regular in my line at a coffee shop. She was a familiar face from going to church growing up and she was such an incredible light in my life at a time I was harried and stressed and stuck. She quickly became one of my favorite customers and was always so radiant and joyful. And best of all, she was radically in love with God, and would share these amazing stories about these unbelievable ways God was working in her life.

“Though I had no intentions of returning to the church, her confidence and bold, authentic faith sparked enough of something in me that I ended up participating in (my own version of) Lent that year. I had been wanting to do some kind of spiritual practice for 40 days, and with Lent beginning, I decided to jump in on the pre-configured timeline of the season, and on a last minute whim ended up at Ash Wednesday Mass.

“I felt totally out of place at the standing-room-only Mass, yet the beauty of the Mass and the church is that even with new Mass translations and an unknown priest, there was still a thread of something all too familiar. As much as I felt like a total stranger, it was so awesome to get to share the sign of the peace and settling into the rhythm of the Mass.

“God took a tiny step forward inviting me to come and meet him. He gave me an incredibly powerful experience. There was this huge spark within me and my heart leapt at the encounter, much like the baby John leapt with joy at the presence of Jesus at the Visitation.

“It was an amazing moment and the Lent was unbelievably powerful. I ended up making some massive changes over those 40 days and quit both my jobs. (Kamren decided to move to Seattle for school at the suggestions of her aunt.)

“I pulled into town feeling completely crazy and shocked at the insane and totally irrational move I’d just made. I had found a woman on the school’s online housing board I might live with, but had never met her and didn’t even have a guarantee I could move in, just that I could come see the place once I got to town.

“She thankfully took me and I moved right in and planned to get settled in for a new year of school. God had way bigger plans for me though than just a simple school year.

“Two days after being in town, He got right to work. I came back to the house after orientation and my landlord had a friend visiting. I walked upstairs for coffee and this incredibly cute older woman, Patricia, hopped right up and came toward me to say hello.

“She introduced herself and immediately asked if I was a Christian. I quickly told her, “No, I grew up Catholic, but I don’t go anymore.” It didn’t seem to bother her though, and she told me that when I went, I had to come to her church across town instead of the one right near the house. She grabbed my name and number and hugged me and welcomed me to my new home.

“I wasn’t so sure about going to a Mass, but it was such an awesome thing that this woman had reached out and followed up to check in and invite me to join her on Sunday. I fought getting out of the car, but touched by her hospitality and warmth, decided not to leave her waiting, and figured ‘just one Mass’ sure wouldn’t hurt.

“After the Mass, she invited me across the courtyard, for “just one cup of coffee” at their cafe. Little did I know I was walking into much more than the usual coffee and donut hour; it was set up as a restaurant style buffet with a full staff of volunteers and more than 200 visitors per Mass.

“It was such an incredible atmosphere and Patricia made a point to introduce me around to all these people who were so warm and inviting and joyful and full of life and love and fire. It was so comforting and absolutely contagious, I ended up coming back. Within two weeks of that first Mass, I was signed up to volunteer at the cafe welcome desk, had been invited to a regular rosary prayer group, and was meeting with the pastoral assistant to be signed up for RCIA so I could get confirmed in the spring.

“I wish I could fully explain how amazing and life changing this year has been and how incredibly grateful I am that Pat ‘found me’ at my house and brought me back. Her simple invitation absolutely changed the course of my life.

“God has really healed my heart and wooed me in the sacraments — so much so that I’m visiting orders and now discerning a call to the religious life! The blessing of this amazing extended family that we get as members of God’s church is more than I could have ever hoped for.”

This month, let us all work on the art of spiritual accompaniment by inviting others to join us for the Eucharist, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ who leads us to the love of the Father.

Not sure it will work? Consider how Kamren Horton’s life was radically transformed by one simple invitation to Mass.

Each piece of the puzzle is unique

It is hard to believe we are approaching the end of summer. These past few months rapidly elapsed for the Offices of Stewardship and Vocations. Although busy, this time has borne much fruit. Allow me to elaborate…

At the end of May to kick off our summer, we commissioned two Duc in Altum teams comprised of eight young adults to go out. The travels of these young missionaries crisscrossed western South Dakota, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the young people of seventeen parishes. I am confident their witness of service, sacrifice, and zeal inspired many, including me.

In June, we hosted our first Stewardship Summit. More than 285 participants from 48 parishes in our diocese attended. A number of people even joined us from the Diocese of Sioux Falls and the Diocese of Cheyenne. Together the participants ascended the mountain of stewardship, cultivating a life of generous hospitality, lively faith and dedicated discipleship, as a way to live out our Catholic faith.

I encourage you to go to our diocesan stewardship page http://www.rapid, where you can download the audio files of the keynote addresses and the impact sessions. The speakers will inspire and challenge you to live more deeply the call of stewardship in your life.

On July 2, Bishop Robert Gruss ordained two young men to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, Fr. Mark Horn from Burke, and Fr. John Paul Trask from Elm Springs. It was an incredible evening of great joy as we witnessed these young men generously give their lives to Christ and to the Catholic Church of the Diocese of Rapid City.

Throughout the entire summer we have had the great opportunity to be with almost 300 young people. Some attended the Steubenville of the Rockies conference in Denver, Colorado, others stayed for a week at our Girls and Boys Totus Tuus vocational camps. Several more gathered to hike in preparation for World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland to be held in the summer of 2016.

Finally, a few more literally ascended with us as we spent the Feast of the Transfiguration in the Big Horn Mountain range backpacking. All of these activities were beautiful periods of fellowship as we encountered the Lord in his beauty, in relationship with one another, and through his sacraments of Eucharist and reconciliation.

As I reflect back on this summer and the programs, conferences and celebrations that were attended by our children, youth, and families, this line from the Prayer for Vocations resounded in my heart, “Lord Jesus, Son of the eternal Father and Mary Immaculate, grant to our young people the generosity necessary to follow Your call and the courage required to overcome all obstacles to their vocation.”

Stewardship and vocations truly go hand-in-hand. The U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter on stewardship, “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response,” describes stewardship as the grateful response of the Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares them in love of God and neighbor. This is what we’ve done all summer long with our children, young people and families — we’ve attempted to instill in them this reality that each person has been blessed and gifted in many unique ways by God our Father and thus is called to share the good news of his son Jesus joyfully with others!

The call of Stewardship and Vocations is not complicated, it is quite simple; however, we need to recognize first how generous God is to us through the many gifts he has bestowed in a particular way. God is so generous, sending his son Jesus to be our Lord, Savior and friend. In turn, Jesus generously invites us into and reveals the Father’s plan for each of us.

Bishop Gruss, at the closing Mass for Boys Totus Tuus, preached on the call to know one’s particular vocation to priesthood, consecrated life or matrimony by using a piece from a jigsaw puzzle. Bishop Gruss said, “When I was a vocation director, I would carry around a jigsaw puzzle and when I spoke about vocations, I would give each young person a piece and tell them that they were as unique as this puzzle piece in the eyes of God and his kingdom.

“Each puzzle piece is unique, in that there is no other piece like it. It has a unique shape, colors only appropriated to that piece, and most important of all, that unique piece fits in only one place in the puzzle to make the beautiful picture complete and what it is supposed to be, how it was created to be. We are like that puzzle piece in the sense that God has created each of us uniquely and each of us fits uniquely in only one place in the kingdom with our own unique mission in that kingdom. We have to seek, discern and discover that unique place for ourselves.”

The ministry and work of stewardship and vocations do go hand-in-hand. I encourage you this month to pick up a jigsaw puzzle piece and carry it around in your pocket or put it on your prayer table at home as a visible reminder to pray fervently that you might know the unique mission God has called you to in his kingdom. Pray that all of us in the Diocese of Rapid City will have the generosity necessary to follow the plan that God the Father has called us to. And may we have the courage to overcome all the obstacles to the particular vocation that God desires for each one of us, whether that is to priesthood, consecrated life, or holy matrimony.

‘Isn’t it time to defund Planned Parenthood?’

The videos are shocking, sickening, appalling and deeply disturbing. The videos to which I am referring are those released by the Center for Medical Progress revealing how Planned Parenthood employees admit that they harvest and sell fetal tissue and body organs from aborted babies for profit. It is a fact that a 17-week-old baby has all its body parts and can be seen sucking its thumb in an ultrasound. Therefore, one of the most disturbing parts of one video entails Dr. Deborah Nucatola speaking about the retraction of a 17- week-old baby in a certain way so that her heart, liver, lungs and brain can be useful to the buyer. How can this type of an abortion at 17-weeks not be called murder, the destruction of human life? Every decent minded American should be outraged by these activities of Planned Parenthood. This activity is evil as is all destruction of human life, a gross manifestation of sin, and entirely against the will of God.

As a gift from God, every human life is sacred from conception to natural death. The life and dignity of every person must be respected and protected at every stage and in every condition. Sacred Scripture affirms this moral truth. In Psalm 139 we read: “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. My bones are not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be. How precious to me are your designs, O God; how vast the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:13-17)

Or as we read in Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si, The Creator can say to each one of us: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you’ (Jer 1:5). We were conceived in the heart of God, and for this reason “each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary” (LS #65).

Therefore the right to life is the first and most fundamental principle of human rights that leads Catholics to actively work for a world of greater respect for human life and greater commitment to justice and peace. People can pretend that babies in the womb are just blobs of protoplasm. But it is God who reveals the truth. As science advances in this field, it is becoming much harder for any American to ignore what their conscience already tells them, life begins at conception.

The Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade is perhaps the worst, most tragic and evil decision ever made in the history of the United States. Statistics show that 55 million babies have been aborted since that Supreme Court decision. Abortion is a violation of human rights incomparable in magnitude and an atrocity for the whole human family. We must find a way to end these atrocities.

In the aftermath of these videos going public, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards tried to downplay these videos by blaming the “militant wing” of the anti-abortion movement. Perhaps it is always easier to blame others when getting caught in a scandal as horrendous as this. In the end, this organization has absolutely no respect the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human person.

Following the revelation of these practices of Planned Parenthood, the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice announced plans to investigate the group that produced the videos instead of investigating the alleged criminal activity in harvesting and selling baby parts.

Planned Parenthood claims to be a non-profit organization. Yet they take in enormous revenues. Here are a few facts: During fiscal year 2013-2014, Planned Parenthood reported receiving a record $528.4 million in taxpayer funding in the form of government grants, contracts, and Medicaid reimbursements. It is important to note that taxpayer funding consists of almost half of Planned Parenthood’s annual revenue.

In 2013, Planned Parenthood performed a record high 327,653 abortions. During the years 2009-2011, Planned Parenthood performed nearly one million abortions (995,687). In 2014, abortions made up 94 percent of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services, while prenatal care and adoption referrals dropped 14 percent and 4 percent, respectively. For every adoption referral made, Planned Parenthood performed 174 abortions. Planned Parenthood reported $127 million in excess revenue, and more than $1.2 billion in net assets. These are statistics from 2013-2014. Year after year, government subsidy (your tax dollars) and abortions are the lifeblood of Planned Parenthood. Are they really a non-profit organization? Isn’t it time to defund Planned Parenthood?

Despite this massive taxpayer support, Planned Parenthood is a highly political organization as well. During the 2012 election, Planned Parenthood spent $15 million on advertising and get-out-the-vote activities, according to the Washington Post on November 14, 2012. Planned Parenthood and its affiliates lobby at both the state and federal level to block any legislative proposals regulating abortion. They spent $33.6 million lobbying elected officials in 2013-2014, opposing legislation to put in place simple commonsense safeguards, including laws that would inform parents before their minor daughters obtain abortions as well as safety standards in abortion clinics to protect the women receiving services there. Is this organization really good for society and America? Should taxpayers continue to fund such an organization?

Perhaps Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) said it best, “You can’t say in one moment that’s not a human and then sell it in the next moment as a human organ and say now suddenly it is. It was a human all the way through. There was never a time that wasn’t a child, never a time that wasn’t a human, and it seems the ultimate irony to me that we spend time talking about humane treatment of animals being put down and a lion being shot illegally … and we completely miss children being ripped apart in the womb and their body parts being sold.”

On their website, Planned Parenthood claims to be an altruistic health care provider for women and girls. It says, “Care. No matter what.” But when one looks at their annual report, when one views these disgusting videos, it seems that their bottom line is not about women’s health but about the destruction of human life and selling body parts for profit. Those who participate in such activities have completely lost any moral compass. The real Planned Parenthood has revealed who they really are.

Do we, as taxpayers, really want to support such an organization that commits such heinous crimes against humanity? Please contact your congressmen and legislators, demanding an end to Planned Parenthood funding. They should not receive our money for their immoral activity, but our prayers for their conversion. This is what God desires!

West River Catholic: August 2015

Enjoy the August edition of the West River Catholic

Download the PDF

We can become instruments of God’s grace


How did you do last month with my challenge? If you remember, I encouraged you to invite your neighbor over for dinner and dessert, to strike up a conversation with someone you do not know and to introduce yourself to a stranger or a visitor in your parish. Hospitality is all about invitation, and a simple invitation has the potential to have far reaching ramifications.

At our diocesan hospitality meeting, “The Summit,” in June, Bishop Robert Gruss shared about an invitation he received to participate in a Bible study. His response was: “I’m not sure this is for me, I don’t even own a Bible.” The Holy Spirit moved Bishop Gruss’ heart that day as he said, “yes” to a simple invitation to participate in a Bible study. His participation transformed his life forever.

This past I year I have heard from a number of parishioners throughout the diocese how the Holy Spirit and hospitality are truly moving and changing the hearts of the individuals and parishes of our diocese — one invitation at a time. I wanted to share one such story with all of you from a parishioner at Our Lady of the Black Hills Church in Piedmont:

“During a recent Saturday afternoon while I was preparing to serve at Our Lady of the Black Hills, I learned firsthand the workings of the Holy Spirit in the area of hospitality.

“As I parked my car, I noticed someone sitting in their vehicle by the side of the church, and I thought, ‘This woman must be waiting for someone.’ While I organized, the lady eventually came into the building.

“I stepped out to greet her, and she inquired ‘Is this a Catholic Church?’ I answered that it was and asked her if she would like to be shown around. She replied that she would, and we began a conversation. I introduced myself, and I could see she was starting to experience the restful atmosphere of our church. She said she had a relative that shared my name. I told her that I was the church librarian, and she again replied that her sister was also a librarian.

“She told me her own name, and we started to walk around. During our tour, I stopped to tell her about the baptismal font and the beautiful stained-glass windows above it. She said she was Catholic, but hadn’t been to church in a long while. We stopped to talk at the main altar and then at the side area where the tabernacle is located. Another parishioner was in the church and greeted her with a smile and a hug.

“The visitor was impressed with our church and seemed to enjoy walking through the building. Later we stopped at the side alcove with the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and then walked over to the confessional, and stepped inside. I explained that people could sit and pray with the priest now, face-to-face. Then I told her about the Returning Catholics program, which would be starting soon, but she replied that she still considered herself to be a Catholic who never left the church. Then I asked her if she had time to tour the rest of the building.

“Upon walking back up the stairs, I noticed that Father Steve Biegler was in his office, so I asked her if she would like to meet him. I was praying he wouldn’t be involved in a conference call and could greet her. When we entered his office, I introduced her and told Father Steve she might be interested in visiting our parish. He smiled and stood to greet her. The Holy Spirit may have whispered in her ear because she asked him if she could visit with him right then. He replied that she could, so I closed the door and left. They spent time together conversing.

“Later, she walked past the library where I was working, and she was smiling. I gave her a hug and a copy of the parish bulletin that included the Mass times for the upcoming weekend. I had the great pleasure of seeing her at Mass that next Sunday, as well as several more that followed.

“Looking back over the last year, I’ve realized that my awareness of ‘hospitality’ has increased greatly because of the emphasis the diocese and our parish has placed upon its importance. Notes in the bulletin on the topic and Father Steve’s sermons have made me realize that hospitality isn’t meant only for one designated committee in the parish, nor is it only the responsibility of the priest. When we are open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we can become instruments of his grace. I was blessed to participate in the work of the Holy Spirit at OLBH with this new parishioner. The incident has encouraged me to continue offering hospitality to the stranger.”

What a beautiful story of the power of an invitation! When one offers hospitality to another, in and through the promptings of the Holy Spirit, so much good can be done. The summer months offer us many opportunities to reach out to the many visitors and guests coming through our parish doors. Do not be afraid to extend an invitation and to make room for the visitor, the guest and the stranger in your midst. Your invitation could change the direction of a life.


Court decision troubling for traditional values

As we all know, on June 26 a deeply divided United States Supreme Court issued a morally tragic ruling for our country and its future by redefining marriage. This ruling will force all states to license and recognize marriages between two persons of the same sex.

As I have had time to reflect upon this ruling redefining marriage in our country, and the media coverage of many who are still rejoicing, I was not too surprised in the action of the Court nor in the accepting reactions portrayed in the press, given the current trend of our culture. It is very troubling for those of us who hold to the traditional view of marriage. This includes not only the faithful of the Catholic Church but also the many faithful of other religious groups — Protestant communities, the Orthodox Church, Mormon community, Orthodox Judaism and Islam.

Redefining marriage in the law is gravely unjust. It affects everyone. I am frightened to anticipate how this short-sighted decision will determine the future course of our nation. The first effect of the Court’s decision is to invalidate marriage laws in the State of South Dakota and other states, thereby ordering the transformation of the social institution that is now the building block of every society and culture and has been since the beginning of time. The court has brought this social experiment into the forefront of modern American society. Time will reveal the extent of the destruction that this decision will have on society, but it is unavoidable that it will negatively impact the stability of family life and most especially the moral formation and psychological development of our children.

Marriage is the one institution that connects children to their mothers and fathers. Mothers and fathers are irreplaceable; this ruling does not respect the rights of children to be raised, where possible, by their own married mother and father in a stable home. While circumstances do not always permit every child the benefit of a traditional family, this ruling threatens to unseat the ideal of a family headed by a father and mother, which creates balance and stability in our society.

This decision will not stop public dialogue; the debate will and must continue. This ruling does not and cannot change the true definition of marriage as defined by God from the beginning of time. No one and no court can make what is false true. Marriage by its nature remains the union of one man and one woman. This is a matter of reason, not just faith. Man and woman were designed by God for each other, and only a man and a woman can form a union that brings forth children.

While the sweeping ramifications of the Court’s decision and its impact on people of faith are still unclear, as the church we will continue to strive to ensure that all of our pastoral practices are consistent with the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church.

In his opinion Justice Kennedy wrote: “It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.” He said both sides should engage in “an open and searching debate.”

I would hope and pray that an open and honest debate could happen, but I am not confident that those who oppose the Christian viewpoint really want to enter into such a debate. I would tend to agree more with Justice Alito’s viewpoint in his dissent, “It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” We have seen this so often already prior to this decision.

Moving forward, this decision raises many serious questions about religious liberty and personal conscience for millions of Americans and their faith communities. How will this decision impact our own Catholic Social Services if they fail to place an adopted child with a same-sex couple? We have already seen Catholic adoption agencies in other states forced to close their doors because they would not violate their Catholic conscience.

It is presently ensured in Justice Kennedy’s opinion that we are given proper protection to continue to teach the principles that are foundational and central to our lives and faith. However, the ultimate effects of this decision on the non-profit status of Catholic institutions is yet undetermined. By redefining the very nature of marriage, this decision has implications for hundreds, if not thousands of laws at all levels and will impact society in ways the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly not given sufficient forethought. But we can be assured that the path moving forward will be treacherous for people of faith and religious institutions.

In our continued defense of religious freedoms, I also ask that we pray for family life and for all people to strengthen marriage. As time goes on, the media will portray this false narrative about marriage in many different venues as something “normal.” With renewed purpose, therefore, I call upon all people of good will to promote and defend the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life.

Civil law teaches, and this ruling will make it more difficult for future generations to know the truth about marriage and for children to understand their origins. It is more important than ever that parents take the time to speak with their children about the true meaning of marriage as God has intended and why same-sex marriage is immoral and in violation of the natural law.

It is important that we increase our efforts to strengthen marriages and families and rebuild a marriage culture that is beautiful, holy and pleasing to God. Let us pray for all the future victims of this ruling, particularly the children who will be affected.

We must also seek to uphold the dignity of every human person, reaching out with love and support to all people, including those who experience same-sex attraction. All people are loved by God and are called to love him.

Finally, I ask that we diligently pray for all in positions of power and authority to respect our God-given freedoms so that we may live by and bear witness to the truth.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us.

West River Catholic: July 2015

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