Traditional Marriage: Rousing Hearts, Educating Minds

In this season of politics, political posturing and political pundits, one thing needs to be made clear to all Maryland Catholics and Catholics everywhere.

The issue of traditional marriage, at its very essence, is not political.

Call it providential if you like. You can also label it as divine, historical, natural and societal, but it is not political. Traditional marriage is not an issue that can call a particular political party home, because there are people on both sides of the aisle who support and oppose traditional marriage. Traditional marriage predates any government or church, because it was willed by God from the beginning of creation.

What, then, is our obligation as Catholics? What should our position be? What actions should we take?

In his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in 1963, Martin Luther King wrote: “I would agree with Saint Augustine that ‘An unjust law is no law at all’…A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”

As a Catholic in Maryland, you’d have to have been living under a rock somewhere for the last year to not know that traditional marriage is teetering on the verge of extinction in Maryland. The legislature passed a law redefining the traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman to include members of the same sex, but hundreds of thousands of citizens have responded by signing a petition to put the issue of traditional marriage protection to a vote Nov. 6.

The question will specifically be Question 6 on the ballot and will be the so-called the “Civil Marriage Protection Act.” A vote in favor will be a vote supporting an unjust law as outlined by Dr. King in his famous letter. A vote against will uphold traditional marriage in Maryland and more importantly, uphold the divine intentions of God.

Archbishop Lori recently wrote a letter encouraging Catholics and all citizens to support traditional marriage in Maryland by voting against Question 6 on Nov. 6. In this letter, Archbishop Lori wrote: “Redefining marriage is not only unnecessary. Indeed, beyond all legal structures, marriage is inherently a union between one man and one woman. Nature itself – not the Church or any society – manifests that only from the union of one man and one woman can new life arise. The reality is beyond reach of what is possible to be changed by any legal system. Furthermore, the Church is unequivocally opposed to a legal redefinition of marriage because doing so would erase from law the special recognition we have given for all time to the relationship God created when he made each of us, man and woman, unique for a reason.”

Last weekend’s readings from Genesis and the Gospel of Mark spoke of God’s creation of man and woman and that the two shall be joined and become one flesh. From their separateness comes a unique unity that can only come from a man and a woman being joined by the divine will of God.

In his letter, Archbishop Lori also recognized that the Catholic Church’s teaching against redefining marriage may seem to be incongruent with the Church’s teaching to be loving and accepting of all of God’s children. But while this is true, we also have to be courageous and loving (yes, loving) to “speak the truth in love” as I preached about last Sunday. All of God’s children are precious and we are called to treat everyone with respect and dignity. But true love – true caring – means sharing truth with those who have not heard it or have not yet understood or embraced it.

It is our obligation as Catholics.

Sadly, many of our Catholic brothers and sisters feel that the Church is being “political” when it espouses support for God’s divine will for marriage between a man and a woman.  Many feel it is “none of our business” and that we should not care whether marriage is redefined.

After my homily last Sunday, I was somewhat apprehensive about the response I would receive, but I was overwhelmed by the number of people who came up to me, shook my hand, looked me in the eye and offered their sincere thanks. To say I was humbled and touched would be an understatement.

I did, however, receive one email from a parishioner who found my homily somewhat troubling. It read in part:

Hi Deacon Brent,

“I feel the need to provide some feedback about your homily at the 11 a.m. Mass on October 7, which felt unfortunately political. I am not sure of the need to mention “question 6” in a homily. How does that fit anything other than a political agenda? When you start trying to impact the rights of others to satisfy your own belief, you start to sound a bit like the Pharisees. I don’t think Jesus would have approached the issue in any way that the administrators of the church have. There has been so much outcry from certain Catholic leaders (there appears to be some on the other side of the argument) about “religious freedom” being threatened by question 6. I sort of think, after reading the question due to your homily, that it actually protects churches from having to engage in activity that goes against that particular religion’s beliefs. That just leaves the argument about civil same-sex marriage as being something that we don’t think is proper. Who are we to dictate? You based part of your argument on Genesis, which my children in Catholic schools have been taught is primarily allegorical. The “truth” that we’re supposed to tell our friends and family members in same-sex relationship is what? Do we want to be politicians? Thanks for accepting my uninvited criticism!

And my response:

Thanks for taking the time for sharing your feedback. I do truly appreciate it; it tells me you were listening and engaged and for that, I am thankful.

I obviously share a different view. You are correct that I or any member of the clergy or church hierarchy should not play political favorites when it comes to parties or candidates. I cannot and should not stand up in front of any congregation and espouse personal support for a political party or candidate.

My homily Sunday was to support an issue that is being given singular attention and importance in the upcoming election. There are folks on both sides of the political aisle that support traditional marriage, as I am sure you are well aware. More importantly, the Church has long supported God’s providential design for traditional marriage — that God created man and woman and that only from this union can the gift of children be realized. It’s also not only the law of any Church or society, but the law of nature that allows for this blessed miracle.

I’m sure you noted that I included excerpts from Archbishop Lori’s public letter last week on the issue of supporting traditional marriage in Maryland. This happens to be an issue that will be put to vote for Maryland’s voters and it is not tied to any political party or candidate. It’s critically important.

As Catholics, we should support traditional marriage. But as I hopefully made clear during my homily, we should love those who do not and we should share truth with our homosexual brothers and sisters when the opportunity arises, for out of love comes sharing the wonderful truth of our faith.

If you haven’t already, you can go to the USCCB’s Web site or to www.foryourmarriage.com to read more about the bishops’ position on marriage.

Thanks again for your feedback. May God continue to bless you and your family.

While the writer is not correct about the so-called “protections for the Church,” (see Archbishop Lori’s column, “Charity in Truth” in Oct. 4 issue of The Catholic Review) the greater question he posed hits the nail on the head: “So, who are we to dictate?”

EXACTLY. We should not dictate what God willed into being when he created man and woman and their unique roles in human existence and in the human family. When we as humans start to think we are big enough to redefine divine and moral law, we head down a dangerous path.

Our hearts need to be tender and loving and our minds and consciences have to be educated and informed. We cannot hide from truth. 

As Catholics, that is our responsibility.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.