Teaching on marriage a matter of Gospel witness, archbishop says

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco addresses the USCCB's Fall General Assembly in Baltimore on Nov. 11, 2013. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.

Thanking his brother bishops for their work in supporting marriage around the United States, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone stressed the key role of marriage in spreading the Gospel.

The San Francisco archbishop, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, explained that marriage “is not peripheral to the message of the Gospel of love for the poor, the sick, and the stranger, but rather integral to it.”

“The Lord God calls us to witness to this truth with love and confidence,” he continued, explaining that teaching the truth about marriage is part of the larger truth about love revealed in the Gospels.

“Pope Francis’ call for a new chapter of evangelization inspired by missionary dynamism offers important touchstones for our road ahead,” he added.

The archbishop spoke during a June 11 address before the U.S. Bishops’ General Assembly, meeting in New Orleans, La.

“We are at a critical point in this country when it comes to the promotion and defense of marriage in the law,” he stressed.

Archbishop Cordileone praised the success of some of the bishops’ marriage initiatives, such as the Spanish-language film, “Marriage: Made for Love and Life” and the “Marriage: Unique for a Reason” website, both of which received positive public feedback and increased use in the past year.

He also noted his excitement for several upcoming events to affirm marriage, including the national March for Marriage, to be held on June 19 in Washington, D.C., and the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in 2015. The archbishop will be speaking at the Washington march, which will call the nation to prayer about the truths of life, marriage and the family.

However, he explained, marriage is also facing several challenges in the legal and policy sphere, especially since a June 2013 Supreme Court ruling declared that the federal definition of marriage as existing between a man and a woman is unconstitutional. That ruling left the definition of marriage up to each state and said that the federal government would acknowledge whatever unions each state chose to acknowledge.

Since the decision, Archbishop Cordileone explained, there have been numerous lower federal court rulings that have declared state definitions of marriage unconstitutional, leading to the complete redefinition in some states.

To help defend marriage on the state level, the U.S. bishops’ conference as joined with a variety of other religious organizations to write briefs to the court supporting the true definition of marriage. In addition, the bishops are preparing for these questions of the states’ ability to define marriage as being between a man and a woman to eventually reach the Supreme Court again.

In the legislative realm, the bishops are supporting legislative endeavors such as the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which “protects religious liberty by barring the federal government from discriminating against individuals and organizations that act upon their religiously motivated belief that marriage is the union between one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage” as well as the Marriage Defense Act, Archbishop Cordileone said.

Defenders of marriage are also investigating the introduction of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, he added, emphasizing that this “is the only remedy in law against judicial activism that may ultimately end with the federal judges declaring that the Constitution requires states to redefine marriage.”

Despite these challenges, the proclamation of the Gospel – including the truth that the “family founded on marriage is the fundamental cell of society” – is the responsibility of the Church, Archbishop Cordileone said, referencing Pope Francis’s words in his recent letter to the Church, “Evangelii Gaudium.”

The truth of marriage is “beautiful,” the archbishop said, in that “man and woman are made to be given to one another in a love that brings new life,” emphasizing the need to “share this beauty which we have all seen and encountered.”

He also stressed the need to “seek new ways to foster openness to the message about marriage and the family” as part of this call to share the truth about the institution.

“We keep in mind that our culture has been wounded by the erosion of an authentic vision of love, sexuality, and marriage over several decades,” the archbishop said, adding that this challenge requires responsiveness “to the challenges people face.”

In building up the institution of marriage and proclaiming the reality of its purpose in society, Archbishop Cordileone said that Catholics should “invite openness to the message of the Gospel” and be approachable and welcoming.
 
“As Pope Francis has noted, the Church seeks not to impose the truth, but to appeal to freedom and our witness should be marked by joy, encouragement, and liveliness,” he added.

Most of all, the archbishop said, people should remember the connection between prayer and the good of society, calling to mind Pope Francis’ words on “the missionary power of intercessory prayer.”


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