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.