Saturday, June 27, 2015

Questions for Archbishop Kurtz re. the U.S. Bishops' Response to the Supreme Court's Marriage Equality Ruling

The Editorial Board

Following is the response of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops to yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. As Catholics and U.S. citizens we, the members of the editorial board of The Progressive Catholic Voice, object to the clerical leadership of our church declaring adamant disrespect for the law without giving reasons in response to arguments. Our commitment to faith and reason compel us to demand that leadership respond reasonably and with evidence rather than with mere assertions of fact. We ask Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the conference, to encourage Catholics to respect this law for the civil society as well as encouraging them to live according to their own moral convictions. There need be no conflict unless one is created by the U.S. Bishops.

We have interspersed our questions to Archbishop Kurtz in red.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision, June 26, interpreting the U.S. Constitution to require all states to license and recognize same-sex “marriage” “is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The full statement follows:

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. How do you address the changes in people’s conceptions and practices and marriage laws over the centuries cited in the Supreme Court’s decision? You assert unchangeableness but you do not back the assertion with evidence or reason. The philosophical turns to the subject and language have disclosed that our knowledge of the nature of the human person and marriage is embedded in cultures and is continually evolving. How do you respond to that point?

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. If you are a citizen of the U.S. with respect for law, the issue of civil marriage is settled. Why would you encourage Catholics to disrespect the law? It does not affect them except that they now have to live in a society that recognizes same-sex marriage. Is that an intolerable burden? A tragedy?

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. What is gratuitously asserted may be gratuitously denied.

The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. What does this mean? What is the necessity for civil marriage to be regulated by physical gender? 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. Are you speaking of the children who will not exist because gay men and women cannot procreate with a same-sex partner? What children are you referring to? What other vulnerable people besides children are you referring to? 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. Are you suggesting that states enact laws that each child be raised by his/her biological parents in a stable home? In what way would this be possible or good policy? The proponents of banning same-sex marriage had every opportunity to bring evidentiary facts to bear in federal district courts and they have failed to do so. These arguments have failed in federal courts for lack of evidence. Can you substantiate your claims of harm to the common good?

Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. Where did he teach this? 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, As U.S. citizens we are fortunate enough to be able to do this freely. even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions. Why would you suggest that there are people hating you or trying to punish you for your moral convictions? We are Catholics living among Catholics in the U.S. and we have never experienced hatred and punishment for living according to our moral convictions. Would you please give examples of hatred and punishment you have experienced for your moral convictions? You are now being asked as the public voice of the U.S. Catholic bishops to justify your reasoning. I certainly hope you are not mistaking that for hatred and punishment.

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. Can we also respect people who have different understandings of marriage and bear witness to truth in different ways from us?

Related Off-site Links:
Supreme Court Declares Same-Sex Marriage Legal In All 50 States – Bill Chappell (National Public Radio News, June 26, 2015).
Read the 7 Most Memorable Passages in the Gay Marriage Decision – Ryan Teague Beckwith (Time, June 26, 2015).
Catholic Responses to the Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage: Everything from "a Win for Love" to "a Tragic Error" – Vinnie Rotondaro (National Catholic Reporter, June 26, 2015).
New Ways Ministry and U.S. Catholics Rejoice at Supreme Court Marriage Equality Decision – Francis D. DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, June 26, 2015).
What Should the U.S. Bishops Do Now That All 50 States Will Have Marriage Equality? – Francis DeBernardo (Crux, June 26, 2015).

See also the previous PCV post:
Fortnight of Freedom: Hypocrisy of U.S. Bishops


  1. Two U.S. bishops seem to understand the role of a reasoning leader for Catholics who are also U.S. citizens:

    Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego:
    After a statement expressing a desire for government to preserve a unique status for heterosexual married couples, Bishop McElroy stated:
    "The Catholic community of San Diego and Imperial counties will continue to honor and embody the uniqueness of marriage between one man and one woman as a gift from God- -in our teaching, our sacramental life and our witness to the world. We will do so in a manner which profoundly respects at every moment the loving and familial relationships which enrich the lives of so many gay men and women who are our sons and daughters, our sisters and brothers, and ultimately our fellow pilgrims on this earthly journey of life. And commanded by the Gospel of Jesus Christ we will continue to reach out to families of every kind who are encountering poverty, addictions, violence, emotional stress or the threat of deportation, and to attempt to bring them faith and care, service and solidarity."

    Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta:
    After reiterating official Church teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman, Archbishop Gregory stated:
    "This judgment, however, does not absolve either those who may approve or disapprove of this decision from the obligations of civility toward one another. Neither is it a license for more venomous language or vile behavior against those whose opinions continue to differ from our own. It is a decision that confers a civil entitlement to some people who could not claim it before. It does not resolve the moral debate that preceded it and will most certainly continue in its wake.
    "The moral debate must also include the way that we treat one another--especially those with whom we may disagree. In many respects, the moral question is at least as consequential and weighty as the granting of this civil entitlement. The decision has offered all of us an opportunity to continue the vitally important dialogue of human encounter, especially between those of diametrically differing opinions regarding its outcome."

    Quoted from Bondings 2.0, the blog of New Ways Ministries
    Posted by Paula Ruddy