USCCB Statement on Marriage
On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden, who is Catholic, performed a civil marriage ceremony for two men who are White House staffers. Is this a matter for his bishop to take action over? Unlike support for abortion, which some canon lawyers say is a general position and not a specific act that leads to a specific incident of an abortion, performing this ceremony would seem to be a specific act that amounts to a grave sin and brings scandal to the Church by confusing Catholics (and non-Catholics) about the nature of marriage. The ceremony took place at the Vice President’s home, he obtained special certification in order to perform it, and he then issued a photo of himself performing the ceremony on his own Twitter account.
According to the section of the Code of Canon Law that identifies people who take actions that should “incur penalties,” such people include “a person who in a public show or speech, in published writing, or in other uses of the instruments of social communication utters blasphemy, gravely injures good morals, expresses insults, or excites hatred or contempt against religion or the Church” (c. 1369). However, what Vice President Biden’s bishop does or does not do is up to his judgment and not that of the other bishops, canon lawyers, or Catholic bloggers.
The following statement was issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that all states must license and recognize “same-sex marriage.”
WASHINGTON—Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.
The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.
Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.
I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.
Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
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