A few weeks ago, I joined a group of ecumenical leaders at Morgan State University in support of the Dream Act. A reporter covering the event asked me how the Church could support the Dream Act but be against legalizing same sex marriage. Weren’t we being inconsistent, he wanted to know. I told the reporter that the two positions were perfectly consistent because both are about the next generation; both are about the well-being of children and young people emerging into adulthood. I added that the Church’s position on these questions is not against anyone or anyone’s rights and dignity but rather for the next generation and those that will follow. “How so?” the reporter pressed and that might be your question as well.
Let’s begin with the Dream Act. This aims to help young people who came here illegally at a very early age. They did not choose to break the law, but were brought here. For the most part, it is the only country they know. Their parents are employed and pay taxes and these young people have studied their young lives to prepare for college and a better life. The Dream Act would not give them a free ride nor would it give them preference over resident Maryland students. All it would do is to enable these deserving young people to pay in-state tuition rates at community colleges which, in any case, maintain a policy of open enrollment. It is in the interest of these young people but also in the interest of our nation that we help them develop their God-given potential so as to become productive members of our society.
Reasonable people can differ about a provision such as the Dream Act yet as Catholics we should see opening doors of opportunity as one way to affirm the Church’s teaching on the God-given dignity of each person and on serving the common good by helping those in our midst to grow and develop. In addition, the Catholic Church in the United States has been made up of immigrants. Most all of our families have come from elsewhere and settled in this land because of the opportunities it offers. One test of our Church’s fidelity to the Gospel we seek to proclaim is how readily we welcome the stranger. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” Jesus will hopefully say to each of us on Judgment Day. We need to bring these young people close to the heart of the Church and not allow them to feel unwelcomed.
How does support for the Dream Act relate to opposition to legalizing same sex “marriage?” Again, our focus should be on children and young people not merely on an adult perspective. An article in this issue of The Catholic Review reports on studies which demonstrate how a loving and stable marriage between one man and one woman benefits children and young people. Children and young people are better off when they have a relationship of love and respect to their biological parents. They need to learn from their earliest years how to relate to a male and female role model even as they grow and develop in the context of the love in which they were begotten. In particular the absence of fathers should be of great concern to us all. Marriage is unique for a reason. It is the relationship in which children can be conceived and welcomed into the world in an environment of committed love where the values and virtues on which our democracy depends can be more readily taught.
The recent Synod on the New Evangelization highlighted the role of the family in transmitting the faith of the Church to the next generation. Parents are the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith. They are to model for the children all that the Church believes and teaches, including those teachings which are now sadly considered counter-cultural, such as respect for life and the right use of the gift of human sexuality. “The future of humanity,” Pope John Paul II wrote, “passes through the family” and I might add, so does the future of the Church’s mission of evangelization and catechesis.
It is my sincere hope and prayer that you will consider voting “yes” on Q. 4 and “no” on Q. 6 come November 6th. Thank you for your kind consideration.