WASHINGTON – A dialogue group made up of Catholics and Orthodox Jews has issued a statement defending the “special standing” of marriage between a man and a woman against efforts to classify same-sex unions as marriages.
“We recognize that all persons share equally in the dignity of human nature and are entitled to have that human dignity protected, but this does not justify the creation of a new definition for a term whose traditional meaning is of critical importance to the furtherance of a fundamental societal interest,” said the joint statement.
“Created in the Divine Image” was released Sept. 3. It was signed by the Catholic co-chairman, Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., and the Jewish co-chairman, Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld of Young Israel Synagogue in New York, as well as other members of the Consultation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America.
“God’s design for the continuance of human life, as seen in the natural order, as well as in the Bible, clearly revolves around the union of male and female, first as husband and wife, and then as parents,” the statement said. “A unique goal of marriage, which is reproduction and the raising of families, exists apart from that of same-sex unions, which cannot equally participate in this essential function.
“Since the future of every society depends upon its ability to reproduce itself according to this natural order and to have its young people reared in a stable environment, it is the duty of the state to protect the traditional place of marriage and the family for the good of society,” the statement said.
The statement asked Catholics and Jews to “consider carefully the long-held traditions” of their respective faiths on the nature of marriage.
“While others have the freedom to disagree with us, we hope that even those outside our common religious traditions will recognize that we speak from the truth of human nature itself, which is consistent with both reason and the moral life,” the Catholic and Jewish leaders said.
“I think it’s a sign of the relationship between Orthodox Jewish leadership and Catholic leadership maturing to the point where we can speak together on an important issue before the country, something that bears on the common good,” said Father James Massa, executive director of the USCCB Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, in a Sept. 3 telephone interview with Catholic News Service.
Father Massa said the statement on marriage came about after the consultation had issued a similar message in 2006 on school choice in New York state. “That had some modest success,” Father Massa said of the 2006 statement.