A few weeks ago I celebrated a Mass at the Cathedral for couples who were celebrating major anniversaries of marriage. This included couples who had been married for 25 years, 50 years or more, all the way up to 68 years of marriage. These couples are a great sign of what God has intended for married life. The relationship between these husbands and their wives truly reveal the love, commitment and dedication which Christ the Bridegroom has for the church, his bride.
The beautiful sign revealed through these couples is far different than the sign displayed by the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. As most of you have read or heard, the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision not to consider the current cases that strike down laws upholding marriage as between one man and one woman. Obviously, those who value marriage as God has intended it to be are greatly disappointed.
In a statement from the USCCB “The Supreme Court’s action fails to resolve immediately the injustice of marriage redefinition, and therefore should be of grave concern to our entire nation.”
The nation is very confused about what marriage truly is. Our Catholic teaching clearly defines marriage as a unique relationship that is and can only be between a man and a woman. It is the only institution, an institution that goes back to the history of mankind, which unites a wife and a husband together for life and unites them to any children created from their union. This truth not only presumes, but also supports the equal dignity of all people, especially of children whose right to a mother and a father deserves the utmost legal protection.
While greatly disappointed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, I am very encouraged by State Attorney General Marty Jackley’s statement that South Dakota will continue to defend its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage despite a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear the issue, believing that marriage should be defined by South Dakota voters and not by the federal courts. But this “longstanding tradition” will now be tested in federal district court and likely the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals because of the challenge in federal court by six same-sex couples.
We do not have to look far to see that more and more of our culture is becoming accepting of the homosexual lifestyle and same-sex unions. This is not too surprising as individualism and autonomous living continue to become the norm in our society.
This is one of the important reasons why the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops which took place in Rome treated the topic, “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of the New Evangelization,” as important for the life of the church and the world. The growing divergence around the world between the values of marriage and the family as proposed by the church and the globally diversified social and cultural situations has caused much confusion and perhaps even dissent.
There is a need for greater integration of a “spirituality of the family” and moral teaching which would lead to a better understanding, even of the church’s magisterium, regarding the moral issues related to the family.
During the general discussions in the Second General Session of the Synod, it was stated, “Based on the premise that the family is the basic unit of human society, the cradle of gratuitous love, and that talking about the family and marriage implies education in fidelity, it was reiterated that the family constitutes the future of humanity and must be protected.”
The family should be a living expression of the Gospel. It was noted, “The Gospel must not be explained, but rather shown, and above all, the lay faithful must be involved in the proclamation of the Good News, demonstrating the missionary charism. Evangelization must not be a depersonalized theory, but must instead ensure that families themselves give concrete witness to the beauty and truth of the Gospel.”
It seems to me that our society is at a crossroads in understanding the truth about marriage and the importance of the family in society. Marriage today is looked at more as a way to self fulfillment. When something is valued only within the context of self fulfillment, it is bound to be detrimental to society as a whole and to the common good. It is contrary to God’s purpose for our lives.
One Synod Father stated, “It is necessary to transmit a vision of marriage that does not regard it as a destination, but rather as a path to a higher end, a road towards the growth of the person and of the couple, a source of strength and energy.”
If the true meaning of marriage and the family is going to endure, much education and conversion must happen. Faithful Catholics must lend their voices to the discussion. If we believe in the sacredness of the sacrament of marriage, then we have to fight for it in our society today, not giving up hope, but finding ways to proclaim the truth about marriage and the family.
Perhaps it begins in helping our young people see the gift and responsibility of marriage as it truly is — a permanent, faithful, and fruitful gift of self between a man and a woman. Proclaiming this truth with love through open and honest discussion can bear great fruit. But we all have to continue to work to strengthen and protect marriage and stand for justice for all, especially children, who are most affected by these non-traditional experimental relationships.
The work of this Extraordinary Synod of Bishops comes at a very important time in the church and the world. Let us all pray for its success, that it will bear great fruit for marriage and the future of humanity.