The legalization of “gay marriage” in America, even on a civil level, is unjust to children and poses a threat to religious liberty, warned Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland, Calif.
“Marriage is the only institution we have that connects children to their mothers and fathers,” he said. “So really, the question is, do you support that institution?”
In a June interview with CNA, Bishop Cordileone, who leads the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, explained that Church teaching against the redefinition of marriage on a civil level as well as a sacramental level is a matter of justice.
“Marriage is about fundamental justice for children,” he said. “Children do best with a mother and a father.”
He acknowledged that advocates of “same-sex marriage” point to studies that appear to indicate that children can do just as well with two parents of the same sex as with two parents of the opposite sex.
However, he called much of this research “flawed” and pointed to a recent article published in the leading peer-reviewed journal, “Social Science Research.” The article analyzed the 59 studies on the topic used by American Psychological Association and found that they were problematic because they utilized self-selecting or “small, non-representative samples” of the population.
In contrast, he said, a recent social science study conducted at the University of Texas at Austin – entitled “The New Family Structures Study” – examined a very large, nationally-representative and random sample of American young adults who were raised in different family environments, including with same-sex couples and with their married, biological parents.
The study measured various areas of wellbeing, including social and economic condition, psychological and physical health and sexual identity and behavior. It found significant differences between the individuals raised by their married biological parents and those raised in other situations, and “in no area were children better off in an alternative arrangement.”
Based on sound social science, this study complements common sense and “demonstrates what we’ve always known,” Bishop Cordileone said. “Children do best with a mother and a father.”
The bishop explained that this issue is of crucial importance because “we cannot have two different definitions of marriage simultaneously in the country.”
“Only one definition of marriage can stand,” he said. “This is not expanding the right of marriage. It’s changing the definition, or taking away something is essential to marriage – that it’s the union of a man and a woman for the purpose of the binding of the two and the procreation and education of the next generation of offspring.”
Bishop Cordileone also warned that the redefinition of marriage poses a serious threat to religious freedom. This is not merely a potential threat, he said, but one that is already being manifest in numerous ways.
For example, he observed, Catholic Charities agencies in numerous archdioceses have already been forced out of the adoption business because they believed it was best to place children only with a mother and a father.
The “rights of conscience and parental rights” are also at risk, particularly when it comes to education of children.
He pointed to an instance in Massachusetts in which a couple objected to their kindergarten-age child being taught about same-sex families at school. The parents tried to pull their child out of class but were prohibited from doing so. When the father went to the school to object, he was arrested and taken to jail.
If the definition of marriage is redefined and “to object to that is being a bigot,” Bishop Cordileone said, “well then the state is justified in not allowing a parent to pull his child out when the child is being taught what they believe are fundamental principles of justice.”
“But we know it’s contrary to fundamental principles of justice,” he continued, “because out of justice for children, we need to do the best that we can to help them grow up with their mother and their father, married to each other in a stable relationship.”
Bishop Cordileone then emphasized that “gay marriage” is not an isolated problem but is rather connected to the broader issue of misunderstanding sexuality.
“This isn’t a new threat to marriage,” he explained. “It’s a huge problem, and it’s gone on for decades.”
He noted that the advent of the birth control pill led to an “explosion of contraception” that “divorced procreation from the conjugal act.” Other erosions to marriage quickly followed, including no-fault divorce, which was “a huge blow to marriage,” and experimenting with “open marriages.”
Suddenly, the traditional marks of marriage – fidelity, permanence and openness to children – were all gone, he said. Eventually, this led to a culture of “widespread promiscuity” as sex lost its meaning, a phenomenon that was serious “facilitated” by the common use of contraception.
Now, the bishop pointed out, marriage is seen merely as being about the legal benefits offered to the individuals entering into it, rather than as “a child-centered institution.”
But if marriage is simply about intimate relationships between adults, he asked, “why should the law even get involved at all?”
He observed that there is no real governmental reason to recognize sexual relationships between adults.
What governments throughout history have had a societal interest in, he said, is the well-being of dependent children who are born into the society. These children are necessarily born from the union of a man and woman, and this is why the government has an interest in encouraging stable marriages as a type of union with the potential to bring new life into the world.
The Church likewise acknowledges the importance of marriage for the sake of children and society, Bishop Cordileone said. Its members are therefore called to work to defend marriage in civil law, recognizing that “intact, healthy families make for a healthy society.”