Archive of June 26, 2013

Bishop urges US to respect rights of Guantanamo detainees

Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2013 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops’ international justice head told the U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel that detainees held on terrorism charges at Guantanamo Bay deserve a just trial and should not be held indefinitely.

“Detainees have the right to a just and fair trial held in a timely manner,” wrote Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, to Secretary Hagel.

“The indefinite detention of detainees is not only injurious to those individuals, it also wounds the moral reputation of our nation, compromises our commitment to the rule of law, and undermines our struggle against terrorism.”

Bishop Pates, who chairs the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, penned a June 25 letter to the Defense Secretary asking for a review of the detention camp conditions and the release of prisoners who have been cleared.

The bishop noted that “86 of the 166 detainees were cleared for release three years ago and approved for transfer, but nonetheless remain confined in Guantanamo.” Many of these prisoners are “now placed in solitary confinement, they are filled with despair.”

He added that some prisoners have spent up to 11 years in prison without a trial.

Bishop Pates referenced Catholic social teaching, noting that while a country has a right to defend itself from terrorism, “this right cannot be exercised in the absence of moral and legal norms, because the struggle against terrorists must be carried out with respect for human rights and for the principles of a State ruled by law.”

“This moral teaching appears applicable to the situation in Guantanamo,” he asserted.

Bishop Pates also commented on a hunger strike in which roughly 100 prisoners are currently participating.

“Detainees retain basic human rights,” he said, cautioning against simply forced feeding the prisoners and instead asking that the United States “first do everything it can to address the conditions of despair that have led to this protest.”

In light of the troubling reports, the bishop asked Hagel to “conduct a careful review of conditions for detainees” and to “make good on the President's commitment to close this facility that has become a symbol of indefinite detention without trial.”

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Facing risk of death, Syrian priests remain faithful

Rome, Italy, Jun 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As civil war rages in Syria, priests are choosing to stay with their people and continue pastoring them, even as a monk was killed during a raid on a monastery in the north of the country on June 23.

Father Francois Mourad died at the Franciscan monastery of Saint Anthony of Padua in a village near Jisr Ash-Shughur. The town had been under attack by Islamist rebels for a few weeks, and local Christians sought refuge in the monastery.

CNA spoke with another priest, who is from Aleppo, on June 18, who said, “I try to live this war with the people, not abandon them.”

The Syrian conflict has dragged on for 27 months, since demonstrations sprang up nationwide on March 15, 2011 protesting the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president and leader the country's Ba'ath Party.

In April of that year, the Syrian army began to deploy to put down the uprisings, firing on protesters. Since then, the violence has morphed into a civil war which has claimed the lives of more than 93,000 people.

The priest spoke with us on condition of anonymity for safety reasons. He was in Italy briefly before preparing to return to his country, saying he would return “because it is his duty.”

He will not be able to fly into Aleppo, as its airport has been closed for several months. He expects to fly to Latakia and from there take a helicopter from the Syrian regime to Aleppo, as traveling by car is too dangerous for Christians there.

In April, two Orthodox bishops were kidnapped from their car as they returned to Aleppo from the Turkish border. The kidnappers killed their driver, Deacon Fatha' Allah Kabboud.

The priest indicated that since the war began, he has evangelized differently. “First I tried to take Christ to people through music and I was very involved with it in Church.”

“But now I need to be poor with the people and suffer with them.”

“Many Muslims have asked me why I do this, because they are surprised,” the priest said. “But this interreligious dialogue between Muslims and Christians is now stronger.”

He noted that about eight months ago, a group of young priests, jointly with local Muslims, opened two schools for 425 internally displaced Muslim children.

“We give them food to eat every day, we play with the children and just live alongside both Christians and Muslims.”

At least 4.25 million Syrians have been internally displaced, and 1.5 million have become refugees in nearby countries, most of them in Jordan and Lebanon.

Fighting in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, began last July, and now “more than half” of the city is destroyed, the priest said, “including many 500 year-old buildings.”

The priest explained that most factories “have been destroyed” and that before the war, Aleppo was home to 40 percent of the Syrian economy because of its cotton and wheat production.

“But now most children can’t even go to school – only a few who live in calm areas, and they go to private schools.”

“They are growing up with weapons and with the mentality that as long as they have one in their hand, they have power and can do anything.”

He stressed that before the war “we had a beautiful life” and that now “we live a big evil because we see our youth going to the army and dying, and churches in danger.”

He affirmed that while the Assad regime “made mistakes,” Syrians had “a marvelous peace between Muslims and Christians” prior to the war.

“The president made many modern developments during the last ten years and we didn’t need anyone for food and water because we were self sufficient,” the priest said.

He stressed that he does not have a vision for the future because “we are living in chaos and confusion” and does not know “how it will all finish.”

“I am not stable, but I try to live my life with my family and with all those whom I love and whom I believe in.”

Fr. Mourad's death occurred roughly 70 miles from Aleppo, in a contested region. Jisr Ash-Shughur is located in Idlib province quite near the Turkish border, between Aleppo and Latakia.

St. Anthony of Padua Monastery gave shelter to Fr. Mourad when the village was attacked, as well as to some Franciscan friars, four religious sisters, and ten lay Christians. When Fr. Maroud tried to defend the sisters and others from the rebels, he was shot.

The village is now completely deserted. Fr. Pierbattista Pizzabella, the Franciscan custos of the Holy Land, told Vatican Radio that “Syria has now become a battleground not only between Syrian forces, but also between Arab countries and the international community. And those paying the price are the poor, the young and the Christians.”

“The international community must put a stop to all this.”

Speaking of Fr. Mourad's murder, Cardinal Leandro Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, appealed that “this latest episode of unjustified violence, arouse the conscience of the leaders of the conflicting parties and the international community, so that, as repeatedly stated by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the guns of war be silenced and a season of justice and reconciliation begun for a future of peace.”

The international community has been contributing to the violence, with Russia, Iran and Lebanon-based Hezbollah supporting the Syrian regime.

Western nations have favored the rebels, who are composed of a number of groups, including both secularists and Islamists such as al-Nusra Front.

The U.S., France, and U.K. have all been giving the rebels non-lethal support since 2012. On June 14, President Obama said he was prepared to give direct military aid to the opposition, having determined that the regime used chemical weapons on its own people. The British prime minister has made similar statements.

As Western governments consider increasing the flow of arms into Syria, the flood of refugees fleeing the country increases daily.

At current rates, the U.N. estimates that by the end of 2013, an additional 2 million will have left the country.

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Toddler's encounter with Pope 'unforgettable,' dad says

Rome, Italy, Jun 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The two year-old daughter of a Catholic News Agency bureau chief shared a brief but intimate greeting with Pope Francis on Sunday, leaving the girl and her father all smiles.

“She was right at home with the Holy Father,” Alan Holdren, the head of CNA's Rome bureau, said June 24.

Isabel accompanied Holdren who was covering a special trip for disadvantaged children organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture and Trenitalia, an Italian train service. The children were brought in on a high-speed train “for the extraordinary experience of leaving their home cities” to meet Pope Francis.

Holdren said he brought Isabel along with him on assignment knowing there would be other children there, but he never expected to behold “such an intimate encounter” with the Pope.

The pontiff came straight from the Sunday Angelus June 23 in St. Peter’s Square where thousands of pilgrims were gathered to pray with him from afar. At the train station, Holdren contrasted, “he met with just 250 children” and “another couple hundred” family members and volunteers.

“There was a real warmth and authenticity to it all and you could tell it was just what the little boys and girls needed.”

As the Pope emerged from the four-door sedan that brought him to the station, the small crowd gathered to form a “human corridor” for him to walk through as he met the children.

“He must have greeted every single one of the kids with a handshake, hug or kiss,” Holdren said. “You could tell he was in his element and being there with him and all those kids was really exciting.”

Soon, Holdren saw an opening in the line and took the opportunity to catch a closer glimpse of the Pope.

Isabel, her dad said, knows who the Holy Father is from praying for him as a family and being in St. Peter’s Square on the night of his election.

“Every time she passes St. Peter's she says 'Pope,' and points to the balcony where he first appeared,” Holdren said, adding that after his election Isabel “must have said 'Yay, Pope!' and clapped for weeks after.”

So when Pope Francis stopped right in front of Holdren and Isabel, “It was almost like seeing Grandpa.”

He reached out and touched Isabel's shoulder saying, “E' bella, eh!” or, “Ah, beautiful!” which is when Holdren said the girl broke into a smile.

“I actually didn't see the ear-to-ear smile until I saw the pictures later,” Holdren explained. “She's a pretty friendly little girl and she's used to seeing the Pope from a distance.”

Clutching her pacifier, Isabel responded with a beaming smile captured by Stefano Dal Pozzolo, a photographer for the daily Italian paper, Avvenire.

A Nebraska native, Holdren said that living in Rome for the past several years has been “a bit different” than his hometown of Friend, Neb. – a town of just 1,100 people.

However, the cultural and language barriers are trumped by the “real feeling of belonging to a single Catholic faith that comes with being here.”

“Everyone is connected through the Church and Christ and his representative here in the person of Pope Francis. And, it really does feel like you're in family.”

Over the past several months, from the resignation of Benedict XVI to the election of Pope Francis, Holdren said that sense of kinship has been felt in “a more intense way” despite the “whirlwind” of changes.

Seeing his daughter experience such an encounter the Holy Father helped him realize that she too is at home. Isabel “was right at home with the Holy Father,” he said.

In January, John Paul Uebbing, the nearly year-old son of CNA Rome Bureau head, David Uebbing, was one of the last children to be kissed by Pope Benedict XVI following his final audience as he toured St. Peter’s Square in the popemobile on Feb. 27.

His mother, Jennifer, said she saw the occurrence as a chance to say “thank you” to the then-Holy Father for his life of service to the Church.

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Pope Francis personally initiated Vatican bank commission

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2013 (CNA) - The appointment of a new Pontifical Commission to advise Pope Francis about the Institute for Religious Works, usually called the Vatican bank, was desired expressly by the Pope local sources say.

This was “Pope Francis' personal choice. It strays from the usual dynamic through which these decisions are taken,” a Vatican official speaking under the condition of anonymity told CNA on June 26.

The possibility of a reform, or even of an abolition of the Institute for Religious Works was raised during the pre-conclave meetings of cardinals in March.

Once elected Pope, Francis followed some of the suggestions that emerged during the pre-conclave meetings. One example is the so-called “advisory board” of eight cardinals he will first meet with in October.

“The appointment of the commission,” explained the official, “is in order to understand if the Institute for Religious Works fulfills the mission of the Church in its current structure, or if it needs to be reformed.”

This is why the Pope issued the chirograph, an official document of Medieval origins. Through it, he appointed a “board” of five members to report to him about “the legal position and the activities of the Institute” in order to “harmonize the Institute with the universal mission of the Apostolic See.”

The Institute, also known as the IOR, is a sort of central body of the Holy See whose profits are at the Pope’s disposal. Its purpose is to provide for the protection and administration of moveable and immovable assets transferred or entrusted to the Institute and destined for religious works or charity.

Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, said in a media briefing on June 26 that “the appointment of the pontifical commission is part of the process of thinking about a more general reform of the Curia” also “in view of the meeting of the commission of eight cardinals in October 1-3.”

The five members of the new Pontifical Referring Commission to the Institute for the Works of Religion include Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran. He is the only representative already officially part of the IOR, since he is one of the members of the commission of cardinals that oversees its actions.

It is noteworthy that the chirograph issued on June 24 also foresees the eventual conclusion of the commission and its work. It is not so to be considered a permanent body of the Institute for Religious Works.  

Appointing commissions seems to be “a typical way Pope Francis approaches problems,” the Vatican official told CNA.

In fact, the commission will not interfere with the activity of the Institute for Religious Works. Fr. Lombardi stated that “this appointment cannot be considered a sort of compulsory administration.”

Pope Francis’ chirograph clearly asserts that “the administration of the Institute will keep on working on the basis of the Chirograph through which it was constituted.” That is, John Paul II’s original reformative document of 1990.

The Vatican source also explained that “the appointment of the commission does not interfere with the work of the Authority of Financial Information,” nor with “any possible reform of the Vatican financial system.”

A reform of the Vatican anti-money laundering system could be presumed on the basis of the Vatican decision to report its progress in responding to the Key and Core areas of recommended changes that the European Council’s financial oversight committee, Moneyval, said it should make. The committee had asked only for an update on the core areas.

The recommendations were the result of a voluntary evaluation that Moneyval carried out to help the Vatican comply with international standards on preventing money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

The Holy See will present his progress report to MONEYVAL on the 43 plenary meeting of the Committee, scheduled for December 9-13.

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Supreme Court strikes down DOMA, dismisses Prop 8

Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, and the federal government must recognize “gay marriages” accepted by individual states.

The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act – known as DOMA – “violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority.

In a June 26 ruling, the Court said that section 3 of DOMA, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for federal purposes, violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantees.

“The avowed purpose and practical effect of the law here in question are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States,” the court declared.

In a lengthy dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia rejected the majority’s assumption that the law had as its purpose to “disparage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean” and “humiliate” gay individuals.

Rather, he explained, DOMA “did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence – indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history.”

“It is one thing for a society to elect change,” he said, “it is another for a court of law to impose change” by pronouncing those who oppose “enemies of the human race.”

Those who oppose “gay marriage” have voiced concern about their ability to abide by their beliefs if marriage is redefined.

Already in states that recognize “gay marriage,” Catholic adoption agencies have been forced to close for their insistence on placing children only with a married mother and father. Other non-profit agencies and private business owners have also faced pressure and mounting lawsuits to recognize same-sex unions as marriages against their religious convictions.

The majority opinion acknowledged that its ruling could have sweeping implications, as DOMA affects “over 1,000 federal statutes and the whole realm of federal regulations.”

On the same day, the nation’s high court also dismissed an appeal on California’s Proposition 8 on grounds of standing.

After a California court had ruled that “gay marriage” must be recognized in the state, marriage defenders launched a campaign to amend the state constitution to recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The amendment, Proposition 8, was approved by voters but quickly challenged in court. A lower court had ruled that the proposition was unconstitutional, and the case was appealed.

The Supreme Court’s dismissal on technical legal grounds rather than the merits of the case means that the lower court’s ruling stands, and “gay marriage” can be recognized in California.

Under the June 26 rulings, states may still choose to define marriage as they see fit. In states that choose to legalize “gay marriage,” the federal government must now recognize these unions. Currently, only 12 states and the District of Columbia recognize “gay marriage,” although marriage defenders have warned that political pressure is mounting in an attempt to force a redefinition of the institution.

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Variety gives Church its richness, Pope Francis teaches

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Church is the temple of God and its many and varied members enrich it, Pope Francis taught at his general audience this week at Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican.

“It is, moreover, the Holy Spirit with his gifts, who designs the variety. This is important: what does the Holy Spirit do in our midst? He designs the variety,” the Bishop of Rome said June 26.

“The variety which is the richness of the Church and unites everything and everyone, so as to constitute a spiritual temple, in which we offer not material sacrifices, but us ourselves, our life.”

Noting that Vatican II's Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, calls the Church a temple, Pope Francis said this word calls to mind the Temple of Solomon, which before Christ was “the locus of the encounter with God in prayer.”

The Temple was a “sign of God's presence among the people … a reminder that God has always been in the history of his people, had always been with them on their journey.”

“We, too, when we go to the temple, must remember this story – my story – the story of each one of us – of how Jesus encountered me, of how he walked with me, how Jesus loves and blesses me.”

The Temple of Solomon prefigured what is now “realized in the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit,” he said. The Church is the “place of his presence, where we can find and meet the Lord.”

“Where we can meet God? Where can we enter into communion with Him through Christ? Where can we find the light of the Holy Spirit to enlighten our lives,” asked the Roman Pontiff.

“In the people of God,” he replied: “among us, for we are the Church. Within which, we shall meet Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father.”

The Bishop of Rome contrasted the Jewish Temple, “built by the hands of men,” with the temple which is the Church: it is “God himself who 'builds his house' to come and dwell among us” through the Incarnation of God the Son.

“Christ is the living Temple of the Father, and Christ himself builds his 'spiritual home', the Church, made not of stone materials, but of ' living stones' – of us, our very selves.”

“How beautiful this is,” he reflected. “We are the living stones of God, profoundly united to Christ, who is the rock of support, and is the support among us.”

“We are not isolated,” he emphasized, suggesting that both the unity and variety brought about the Holy Spirit is part of the Church's beauty.

“The Church is not a weave of things and interests, it is rather the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Temple in which God works, the Temple in which each of us with the gift of Baptism is a living stone.”

“ This tells us that no one is useless in the Church,” he taught. “We are all needed in order to build this temple. No one is secondary … we are all brothers and sisters.”

“Nevertheless,” he added, “it also invites us to reflect on the fact that the Temple wants the brick of our Christian life, that something is wanting in the beauty of the Church.”

“How do we live our being the Church? We are living stones, or are we, so to speak, tired stones, bored, indifferent?”

“Do we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, so as to be an active part of our communities, or do we close in on ourselves,” he asked.

Pope Francis concluded his audience by praying, “may the Lord grant us his grace, his strength, so that we can be deeply united to Christ, the cornerstone, the stone of support for all of our lives and for the life of the Church.”

“Let us pray that, animated by his Spirit, we might always be living stones of the Church.”

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Brazilian bishops support only peaceful demonstrations

Brasilia, Brazil, Jun 26, 2013 (CNA) - The bishops of Brazil issued a statement expressing their solidarity and support for demonstrations aimed at justice in society only when they are non-violent.

Demonstrators in Brazil have been protesting an increase in the cost of public transportation and widespread corruption in the government, as well as the high costs of upcoming events in the country, including the Olympics, World Cup and World Youth Day. Protestors are also calling for greater investment in education and health care.

The bishops offered their “solidarity and support for the demonstrations, when they are peaceful.”

They noted that the protests “have brought to the streets people of all ages, especially young people.”

“This is a phenomenon that involves the Brazilian people and is raising new awareness,” they said. “It requires attention and understanding in order to identify its values and limits, always with the goal of building the just and unified society that we desire.”

The bishops described the protests as a just call to address unresolved problems, such as “corruption, impunity and the lack of transparency.”

However, they stressed that ultimate solutions will only be found through peaceful means and “with the participation of all.”

“No to violent demonstrations and protests and no to violence against protestors and against young people,” they said.

“Everyone, including protestors, must respect order, the common good, the property of all and peace, but the cry of the people must be heard,” the bishops explained.

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Pope Francis: all men are called to the joy of fatherhood

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Whether spiritual or physical, fatherhood is the calling of all men, Pope Francis said at his homily for daily Mass at the Saint Martha House in the Vatican.

“All of us, to exist, to become complete, in order to be mature, we need to feel the joy of fatherhood: even those of us who are celibate,” taught the Bishop of Rome June 26.

“Fatherhood is giving life to others, giving life…for us, it is pastoral paternity, spiritual fatherhood, but this is still giving life, this is still becoming fathers.”

The first reading at the Mass told of God's promise of children to Abraham, and Abraham's sacrifice in thanksgiving for the promise.

Abraham “felt that the Lord loved him deeply, that he had promised him many things, but felt in need of offspring. He felt within him that cry of nature: I want to have a son.”

The patriarch told God of his desire “to become a father,” Pope Francis said, adding that “when a man does not have this wish, something is missing in this man…something is wrong.”

This “is a grace that we priests must implore: the grace of pastoral fatherhood, of spiritual fatherhood.”

“Indeed, although we can all have sins, even many sins. But not having spiritual sons and daughters, not becoming pastors, is equivalent to an incomplete life, that stops half way.”

“And therefore we have to be fathers, but it is a grace that the Lord gives.”

The Roman Pontiff reflected on Abraham's sacrifice, in which he slaughtered and divided several animals, which birds tried to devour – but he “drove them away,” according to the reading.

“I find it really moving to see this 90 year old man, stick in hand, defending the sacrifice…it makes me think of a father defending his family, his children.”

This grace of spiritual paternity, and defending one's sons, is so needed for priests, Pope Francis said.

The Mass was concelebrated by Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, the archbishop emeritus of Palermo. He was celebrating the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination, and some 80 priests and friends of his attended the Mass.

“I don't know what our dear Salvatore did,” the Pope said, “but I am sure that he was a father.”

“And this is a sign,” he said, noting the many priests who had come to honor the cardinal's diamond anniversary. “It's up to you,” he told them, since every tree “bears its own fruit. If it is good, the fruit must be good, right?”

“So, do not let him look bad,” Pope Francis jested with Cardinal De Giorgi's priest friends.

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Family advocates say marriage ruling ignores children

Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As the Supreme Court handed down its historic rulings on “gay marriage,” an array of family advocates are warning that the decisions could have long-lasting negative impacts on families and society.

“The Supreme Court…neglected our most precious children who need a mother and a father united in marriage for healthy development,” William Owens, president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, said June 26, shortly after the decisions were handed down.

“The African-American community has already been plagued with problems related to children growing up in single parent households. This ruling will only accelerate the further erosion of our communities and society.”

Owens said it is “time for African-Americans and the Christian community to rise up and renew their efforts to protect marriage and strengthen the families in their communities.” Noting that “African-Americans pay a disproportionate price as collateral damage” when marriage is attacked,” he stressed that “it will take leaders across the country to resist the cultural shift.”

In U.S. v. Windsor, the court in a 5-4 decision struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, ruling that the federal government must recognize same-sex “marriages” if they are accepted by individual states.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority decision that by “treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment,” which ensures equal protection under federal law.

The court's other “gay marriage” decision, Hollingsworth v. Perry, dismissed an appeal regarding California's Proposition 8, finding, again by a narrow 5-4 split, that those bringing the suit did not have the legal standing to do so.

Proposition 8 was a constitutional amendment approved by California voters to solidify marriage as the union of one man and one women in the state. The Supreme Court’s dismissal of the case means that a lower court’s ruling on the amendment as unconstitutional will stand, paving the way for “gay marriage” to be recognized in the state.

Maggie Gallagher, a fellow at the American Principles Project, said that the DOMA decision “is the Roe v. Wade of this generation, not this generation’s Brown v. the Board of Education.”

“Like Roe, Kennedy stepped in to disenfranchise millions of voters’ concerns to tilt unfairly the scale of justice.”

Also like the Roe decision, she said, “the deep questions involved in marriage will not simply go away:  At the heart of the gay marriage argument is an untruth: unions of two men or women are not the same as unions of husband and wife. The law cannot make it so, it can only require us to paint pretty pictures to cover up deep truths embedded in human nature.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said that the ruling “raises as many questions as it answers.”

“For example, what is the status of such couples under federal law if they move to another state that does not recognize their 'marriage?'”

“This decision throws open the doors for whole new rounds of litigation.”

Perkins did, however, voice relief that “the court today did not impose the sweeping nationwide redefinition of natural marriage that was sought.” Rather proclaiming a “fundamental right” to same-sex “marriage,” the court the definition of marriage up to the states, saying only that if the states chose to recognize gay unions as marriages, the federal government must also follow suit.

Regarding the Prop 8 ruling, Perkins said the court’s decision “distorts the balance of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.”

Proposition 8 was defended by a group of its proponents, rather than the California government officials who would normally have done so, but who declined the task in this case. The court ruled that this group of individuals did not have the right to defend the law in court.

This ruling, Perkins said, “allows the executive branch to effectively veto any duly enacted law, simply by refusing to defend it against a constitutional challenge.”

Perkins also stressed the importance of mothers and fathers, saying it is “inevitable” that “the male and female relationship will continue to be uniquely important to the future of society. The reality is that society needs children, and children need a mom and a dad.”

“We will continue to work to restore and promote a healthy marriage culture, which will maximize the chances of a child being raised by a married mother and father,” he said.

Religious freedom concerns were also raised, as faith groups such as adoption agencies have faced growing pressure and legal repercussions for adhering to their religious beliefs on marriage.

The president of the American Family Association, Tim Wildmon, said that Christians must now “vigorously protect our religious liberty” and work to fight forces trying to normalize homosexual behavior. 

“In addition, the trend of classifying statements that have a biblical foundation as ‘hate speech’ is one that AFA will do everything in its power to prevent,” he said.

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'Gay marriage' is not inevitable, analysts say

Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on “gay marriage,” experts in law and sociology said they do not believe the national discussion on the matter is over.

“Sociologically it’s huge” said Dr. Anne Hendershott on the Supreme Court’s decision, “but it doesn’t end the debate.”

Hendershott is a leading Catholic sociologist from King’s College in New York City and a current professor of sociology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.

“People can persuade other people: it’s not inevitable,” she told CNA.

Hendershott responded to the Supreme Court’s June 26 rulings on two same-sex “marriage” cases.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that a section of the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for federal purposes is unconstitutional.

The 1996 law – also known as DOMA – violates the Constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law, the majority opinion said, adding that supporters of the law intended “to disparage and to injure” gay individuals.

In addition, the Supreme Court dismissed a case regarding California’s Proposition 8, an amendment which defined marriage within the state as being between a man and a woman. The court did not rule on the merits of the case, but simply rejected the case on the grounds that the defendants of the amendment did not have standing to defend it legally.

As a result, a ruling by a lower court holding Prop 8 to be unconstitutional will be allowed to stand, despite the fact that the people of California had approved it as a state constitutional amendment.

Kim Daniels, spokeswoman for the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the decisions fail to recognize the truth about the nature of marriage, but will likely generate more debate on the topic in public policy.

“The Supreme Court got it wrong today,” Daniels told CNA. “The government should respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so.”

She also noted that in the case regarding California’s Proposition 8, “the court missed an opportunity to uphold the voices of millions of Californians who voted to protect marriage's meaning as the union of a man and a woman for the sake of their children.”

Daniels also warned that this decision to redefine marriage will lead to “an increased erosion of religious freedom.”

“Religious institutions and individuals will face real threats to their ability to witness to their faith,” she said. “Those who continue to live by the belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman may lose access to government contracts and benefits, among many other challenges that could unfold.”

However, Daniels noted that the public debate and discussion on the institution of marriage was not ended prematurely by the court’s decisions.

Rather, she said, the rulings “will reenergize the public conversation about marriage, and Catholics will continue to be an important part of that conversation.”

“In season and out, we'll witness to the importance of marriage as the lifelong union of a man and a woman that serves the common good of our country.”

Hendershott echoed Daniels’ comments the importance of continued dialogue. She said that the court’s decision “is really mixed” because the court “refused to create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”

Under the June 26 rulings, states are not required to recognize “gay marriages,” she observed. The court simply said that the federal government must accept same-sex unions as marriages in states that choose to accept them. Currently, only 12 states and the District of Columbia have redefine marriage to include gay couples.

The momentum from the Supreme Court’s decision will likely bring additional challenges for those who wish to defend marriage, Hendershott acknowledged, but “momentum isn’t everything,” and a redefinition of marriage “isn’t inevitable.”

Because the court did not try to establish same-sex “marriage” as a right, she stressed, “we can still be part of a debate.”

The fight will be difficult, the sociologist cautioned, because the court’s majority decision “said that the supporters of marriage acted with malice to discriminate.”

“We’re already looked at as not wanting people to be in love, and not wanting to grant people their rights,” she observed, voicing concern that those who try to explain the Church’s teaching in a reasoned and compassionate manner will be increasingly accused of malice and discrimination.

The same holds true for members of other religions – such as Evangelicals and Mormons – who defend marriage, she said, explaining that “they’re not acting out of malice: they’re trying to defend marriage because that’s what they think is best for the state, what’s best for the people.”

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