Bishops and Catholics must work to better deliver the Church's teaching on marriage in light of the recent U.S. elections, said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York.
“Our role, our sacred responsibility is to defend marriage from anything – anything – that would dilute it from what nature intends and what the God of nature intends namely, a life-long, life-giving, faithful union between one man and one woman,” Cardinal Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the press Nov. 13.
Catholic bishops have adamantly stressed that the Church’s definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not the result of any “prejudice to people with same-sex attraction,” Cardinal Dolan said during the U.S. bishop's Nov. 12-15 fall general assembly in Baltimore.
Rather, he explained, the Church opposes anything that “eats away” or “militates against” the sanctity of marriage, including “frivolous divorce” and “trial marriage.”
However, opponents of traditional marriage continue to “caricature us as these mean-spirited, bigoted people who are trying to impose their medieval views upon the rest of society.”
Instead of allowing such attacks to continue, the Church and those who support her teaching on marriage must strive to effectively communicate her position in a way that society can better understand.
“We’re constantly trying to think how to re-craft our message,” he said, adding that “there might be an analogy here in the pro-life movement.”
He pointed out that while abortion advocates some 20 years ago largely held public support by reducing abortion “to a matter of choice,” pro-life advocates used the opportunity to clarify their message by questioning what “choice” was being made in the procedure.
Since then, the pro-life movement has been able to “get much more pointed and effective” in the delivery of their message.
As a result, Cardinal Dolan said, “more and more Americans gradually describe themselves as questioning the unfettered abortion license.”
Those who support traditional marriage must take a similar approach in promoting the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of marriage, he said.
“It’s not that we're against gays. It’s not that we're against divorced people,” Cardinal Dolan said. “It’s that we’re pro-marriage.”
Last week, voters in both Maryland and Washington state passed referenda to approve laws legalizing “same-sex marriage,” while citizens of Minnesota narrowly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, reflecting the state’s current laws.
Maine activists seeking to redefine marriage were able to put forward a referendum to reverse the people’s 2009 vote to protect marriage. That effort succeeded, and the state will soon begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
Cardinal Dolan admitted that while this issue presents “a challenge,” he said it is nonetheless one “that we cannot run away from.”