WASHINGTON – The May 15 California Supreme Court decision that struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage continued to draw condemnation from Catholic leaders across the country as an act that destroys God’s plan for humanity.
Bishops in particular on both coasts were joined by the Maryland Catholic Conference in expressing grave concerns that the 4-3 decision undermines the legal status of marriage and threatens to destroy the moral framework of American culture.
The court held that domestic partnerships currently recognized by the state are an inadequate substitute for marriage. The ruling makes California the second state after Massachusetts to allow same-sex couples to wed.
The California decision was to go into effect 30 days after it was handed down, but its opponents vowed to fight it.
Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., accused the court of giving itself the right to redefine marriage.
“The will of the majority has fallen to the tyranny of the court,” he wrote in a column in the May 22 issue of The Beacon, newspaper of the Paterson Diocese.
“When our courts pass decisions contrary to the truth of the human person, we also suffer the loss of logic and reason gone wild,” he said.
Bishop Serratelli also wrote that marriage has become a battlefield between a secularist morality and a morality based on human reason.
“Marriage is not a private relationship between two individuals. It is a public act. Marriage is not just a way of expressing human affection between two individuals. Marriage has a primary purpose. It is oriented to the common good, not just the good of the individuals. For this reason, marriage has always been something more than a private arrangement,” he said.
He called upon Catholics to defend marriage as “a union between a man and woman that is open to life.”
Bishop Allen H. Vigneron of Oakland, Calif., issued a statement May 16 to parishes across the diocese that described marriage as “a reality authored by God in his very act of creating the human race.” Therefore, he wrote, “marriage is only possible between one man and one woman.”
“The experience of history – both ancient and in our own time – has taught us that no government has the power to change the order which God has inscribed in our nature,” Bishop Vigneron’s statement said.
He said efforts to “enshrine this wisdom about marriage in the laws of our community are not an imposition of an ideology but a service of the truth which we make for the common good. This wisdom about the nature of marriage is not a form of discrimination, but undergirds our freedom to live according to God’s plan for us.”
The bishop called on parishioners to continue exercising their baptismal vocation of “making this world a gift pleasing to the Father” by living out the traditional marriage call.
“If our efforts fail, our way of life will become countercultural, always a difficult position for Christians,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Maryland Catholic Conference, which includes the Washington and Baltimore archdioceses and the Diocese of Wilmington, Del., expressed dismay over the California decision and outlined a concern that Maryland may soon follow down the same path after two domestic partnership bills were signed May 22 by Gov. Martin O’Malley.
Richard J. Dowling, the conference’s executive director, said in a statement that the bills signed by O’Malley – covering areas of taxation and health care – put Maryland “on the road to becoming California East.”
The conference’s “opposition to the bills focuses not so much on the privileges they grant as on the firm conviction that the legal definition of marriage should not be diluted in order to do so,” the statement said.
In January, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of Baltimore, Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington and Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli of Wilmington, Del., issued a statement on the importance of marriage to family life and society.
“Neither our courts nor our state Legislature should impose a different definition of marriage on our social order by assigning the legal status of marriage to any relationship other than the union of a man and a woman as husband and wife,” the bishops wrote.
The Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington both include areas of Maryland.