|(CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)|
By Bishop Joseph N. Perry
Leaders of diverse religious communities released an open letter on April 23 to reaffirm their common belief in marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and their common commitment to religious freedom in this country. These two issues—marriage and religious freedom—have become inextricably linked, as civil authorities and powerful lobby groups have demanded, ever more frequently and stridently, that people of faith deny or act against their convictions about the truth of marriage.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) submitted an amicus curiae brief with the Court in support of natural marriage, making the case for the constitutionality of states’ defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. As the brief made clear, this definition is rooted in right reason, serves the common good, including the good of children, and in no manner reflects “animus” or hatred. Many other religious groups let their beliefs be known to the Court as well, including some of the faith communities represented in the open letter. The implications and effects of the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage, whatever it may be, will be extensive.
In the open letter, entitled The Defense of Marriage and the Right of Religious Freedom: Reaffirming a Shared Witness, the signers reaffirm that marriage, as it has been understood for centuries, is a matter of justice for children, who deserve to know and be loved by those who gave them life, whenever possible. Only a man and a woman can become one in a way that may bring about a child related to them both. This is an undeniable biological and social reality. This is what makes the marital relationship uniquely valuable to society, and so uniquely worthy special legal support.
In this light, it should be apparent that not lifting up other relationships, those which do not have this capacity, is not in any way denigrating to those relationships. To specially support one and not the other simply recognizes the unique reality of marriage. The work of marriage is building a life as husband and wife together, bringing children into this world together, and raising those children together. These are activities that warrant a special place and protection in our law and culture.
The religious leaders who signed the letter also expressed concern for our people who are being targeted as bigots for a conviction that until recently was universally held. People with or without faith should not be forced into affirming same-sex relationships as being the same as marital relationships when they believe otherwise. We all should be concerned with the bullying and intimidation tactics being used against religious believers—against everyday people trying to live out their faith in daily life—by well-funded and well-connected lobby groups and their corporate allies.
Unfortunately, such groups seem to care only about advancing their own agenda: erasing in law the rightful distinctions between men and women, and between marital and non-marital sexual conduct. For example, we all agree that every person is a gift and deserves respect. But civil protections that purport to protect persons, should not be stretched to protect conduct or behavior that many people of good will, religious and nonreligious alike, may object to on moral grounds. In this way, religious and moral convictions are being mislabeled and disrespected as “discrimination,” further corroding civil discourse in this debate.
Please read the open letter and consider it a pledge to the people of this country that no matter what happens in the next few months and years to come, religious leaders will continue to uphold the truth of marriage—the union of one man and one woman—just as it is found both in God’s plan and in our very nature.
Bishop Perry is an Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago and a member of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.