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6/28/2013 10:22:00 AM
U.S. bishops view Supreme Court's rulings as 'tragic day for marriage'
Catholic News Service
Jeff Zarrillo, center, and Paul Katami, right, plaintiffs in the case against California's same-sex ban known as Proposition 8, wipe away tears and greet supporters at Supreme Court.
Catholic News Service
Jeff Zarrillo, center, and Paul Katami, right, plaintiffs in the case against California's same-sex ban known as Proposition 8, wipe away tears and greet supporters at Supreme Court.

Supreme Court rulings set up 'worrisome' future, says U.S. archbishop
ROME — The "future of our democracy" is "very, very worrisome," U.S. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's June 26 rulings striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and refusing to rule on the merits of a ban on same-sex marriage in California.

The court high court remanded the California case to lower courts on the grounds that the individuals who defended the law in court lacked legal standing to do so.

Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, spoke to Catholic News Service in Rome the day the court handed down its two decisions.

He was there to receive his pallium from Pope Francis in a ceremony June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. The pope will present palliums to archbishops named in the past year. The woolen stole signifies an archbishop's authority over the Christian community.

In addressing the court's refusal to rule on the merits of a challenge to California's Proposition 8, the voter-approved initiative barring same-sex marriage, Archbishop Cordileone noted that 7 million voters in California voted for the proposition and "many of them invested a lot of hard work and a lot of time and lots and lots of money against seemingly insurmountable odds."

When the state "refused to defend the law," he said, its proponents hired legal counsel, raised money and invested hard work to defend it. "Now they're being told that those elected officials charged with the duty of defending the laws of the state can refuse to do their duty simply because they disagree with the law and disenfranchise 7 million voters," he said.

In response to the court's ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause, Archbishop Cordileone said the court "overturned a law that respects and enforces the principle that it's in the best interests of the child to be raised by their mother and their father."

He said the effect of the court's decision is to "undermine in the law the principle that children have a right to a mother and father."

He also noted that to have a "healthy vibrant society we need to reclaim a marriage culture."

The archbishop pointed out that he has said all along that no matter how the court ruled "our work remains unchanged. We need to catechize our people about marriage."

"Even if the court issued a ruling that we liked, we would still have a lot of work to do in helping our people understand what marriage really is, why marriage is important for the public good and why it's essentially an institution to support social justice, justice for the sake of children," he added.

Archbishop Cordileone said marriage has the status that it does in law because it has always been a child-centered institution. Redefining marriage, he said, turns it into an "adult-centered institution" where the government "doesn't have an interest in people's love lives" or in "how people work out their intimate relationships."

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — U.S. Catholic bishops said the U.S. Supreme Court's June 26 rulings on same-sex marriage were a "tragic day for marriage and our nation."

The court, in separate 5-4 rulings struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, defining marriage as between one man and one woman and also refused to rule on the merits of a challenge to California's Proposition 8, the voter-approved initiative barring same-sex marriage.

In the rulings, the court said DOMA was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause and they sent back to lower courts a challenge to Prop 8, saying the individuals who defended the law in court lacked the legal standing to do so.

A statement by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chair of the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said the court "has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act."

"The court got it wrong," they continued. "The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage."

The bishops also said it was "unfortunate that the court did not take the opportunity to uphold California's Proposition 8 but instead decided not to rule on the matter. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth."

They urged people to "stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life." They also asked for prayers "as the court's decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified."

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said the court's decisions were the "latest in a troubling trend of decisions by lawmakers, judges, and some voters which ignores the fundamental truth about marriage: It is the most valued, most important social unit in our society and as such is deserving of the protection and special recognition societies have afforded it throughout human history."

The archbishop, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said the courts' decisions will "also undoubtedly contribute to concerted efforts not just to redefine marriage but to dismantle it, efforts which represent a serious threat to religious liberty and conscience rights for countless people of faith."

Archbishop Timothy M. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services said that although the Supreme Court "avoided a firm declaration about same sex-marriage, it signaled that attempts by the federal government to limit rights available under state law could be unconstitutional."

He said the court shifted the debate to the states, which "raises questions about the scope of the federal government's authority to administer its own programs."

In light of the court's decisions, the archbishop said it "seems imperative to remind the faithful of the Archdiocese for the Military Services that they must never forget that all, regardless of their sexual inclination, must be treated with the respect worthy of their human dignity."

He said that while the court's decision "voids federal law it opens the doors to others: It allows the citizens of each state the opportunity to uphold the true definition of marriage by voting for representatives and legislation that defend the true definition of marriage."

The bishop urged Catholics to "make their voices heard through the democratic process by upholding marriage in their home states," saying he remains confident that Americans will "continue to promote and defend the good and the truth of marriage as the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife for life."

"Marriage remains what it has always been, regardless of what any government might say," he added.

In tweets issued soon after the court's decision was released, Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas said: "Sexual difference matters. ... It is essential for marriage. Only through this difference can man & woman speak the language of married love."

He also tweeted: "In the sheep's clothing of 'equality,' the sacrament of marriage is being reduced to an 'exalted conception' of an institution."

Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City called the court's DOMA decision "disappointing."

He said the blessings of marriage between one man and one woman "cannot be legislated, litigated, or changed by civil authorities."

Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., noted that the court's rulings were no surprise and that they had been anticipated by the U.S. bishops. He also said the court's action will likely "be debated for a long time."

"The Catholic Church has a great interest in the definition of marriage since it is one of its seven sacraments," he added. "We firmly believe that marriage is and can only be the union of one man and one woman. I pray that no civil legislation will ever require of us or any religion the freedom to define marriage for our own ecclesial purpose."

President Barack Obama applauded the court's ruling against DOMA as "a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law," but also stressed the importance of "maintaining our nation's commitment to religious freedom."

"How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. Nothing about this decision -- which applies only to civil marriages -- changes that," he said in a June 26 statement.

According to a study issued May 30 by the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute, 62 percent of U.S. Catholics support same-sex marriage; overall, 52 percent of Americans support such marriages and 43 percent oppose them.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said it was clear from the court's rulings that "the ball has been moved down the field to a point where the pro-gay marriage side is in the red zone. Whether they can be stopped from crossing the goal line depends solely on the prospects of having a constitutional amendment affirming marriage as a union between a man and a woman."

Donohue said the 38 states needed to pass such an amendment is not a problem, since there are already "38 states that have their own laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman."

"The problem is getting two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate to agree" to a federal-marriage amendment, he said.

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