The bishops of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, led by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, issued a letter to homosexual Catholics on Friday seeking to ensure them that the Church’s support for Proposition 8 was not meant to diminish their dignity or their membership in the Church. The true aim of the Church’s support, the bishops write, was to “preserve the ordered relationship between man and woman created by God.”
The pastoral letter, which was printed in the archdiocesan paper The Tidings, is written to all homosexual members of the Church as well as the rest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. According to the bishops, its purpose is to offer reassurance to gays amidst the fallout surrounding Prop. 8’s success that they are “cherished members of the Catholic Church, and that we value you as equal and active members of the Body of Christ.”
The letter then states the reason that the Church supported Prop. 8 was to “resist a legal redefinition of marriage.” “Our support for Proposition 8,” the bishops say, “was in defense of the longstanding institution of marriage understood as the life-long relationship of a man and a woman ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of their children.”
But the bishops also state that they are “disappointed that the ballot information about Proposition 8 stated that the purpose of the initiative was ‘to ban gay marriage’" and that “from the very beginning, this was not our purpose.”
Citing the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the sacred writings of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the Los Angeles bishops then make their case for marriage as being universally understood to be between one man and one woman.
“Thus, our faith communities and their sacred writings are in agreement about the application of the term ‘marriage.’ And there are other faith communities which, in their own sacred writings, concur with this understanding. Our faith communities have never understood this term to be applied to other types of relationships between people,” the bishops say.
“These sacred writings and traditions, spanning thousands of years, support the fundamental truth that God created the human family as male and female, sending them forth to be fruitful and multiply. This is the understanding of marriage which has prevailed throughout human history, and has been enacted in the laws of peoples, nations, races and religions everywhere. It is this truth that is at the heart of Proposition 8.”
Addressing the purpose of Prop. 8, the Catholic bishops write that it “was not crafted as a concern for civil rights but as an effort to resist a redefinition of marriage.
“‘Marriage’ is not a merely religious concept, but is so fundamental to human experience that it cannot be redefined legally,” the bishops stress.
The bishops of Los Angeles then address homosexual Catholics’ concerns that the Church’s support for Prop. 8 contained a message about their place within the Church. “Your intrinsic value as human beings and as brothers and sisters continues without change. If we had ever thought that the intent of this proposition was to harm you or anyone in the State of California, we would not have supported it. We are personally grateful for the witness and service of so many dedicated and generous homosexual Catholics. We pledge our commitment to safeguard your dignity.”
Perhaps as a way of offering evidence of this concern, the bishops go on to point out that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles began spiritual and pastoral outreach to homosexuals over 20 years ago.
As the letter nears its conclusion the bishops also express their sadness that “some people who opposed Proposition 8 have employed hurtful and accusatory language, and even threatening actions, against those who voted for Proposition 8.” According to the bishops, these strategies “obscure the basic matter at issue: the preservation of the ordered relationship between man and woman created by God.”
The Catholic leaders of Los Angeles close their pastoral letter by stating their commitment to “find ways to eliminate discrimination against homosexual persons, and to help guarantee the basic rights which belong to each of us.”The full letter can be read at: http://www.the-tidings.com/2008/120508/homosexuals.htm