The bishops of Illinois are calling on Catholics throughout the state to take action in an effort to persuade legislators to protect and preserve marriage.
In their joint statement, dated Nov. 11, the bishops said they support efforts to modify Illinois law and eliminate the ambiguity of the term “marriage” in the constitution.
They have endorsed a petition, organized by the Citizens Initiative on Marriage, in favor of adding a constitutional amendment regarding marriage in the form of a referendum to the November 2006 ballot. The initiative, sponsored by the Catholic Conference of Illinois, is aimed at gathering 285,000 signatures.
Catholic Conference of Illinois spokesperson Zachary Wichman told the Catholic Explorer that petitions are available at parishes. They must be notarized and submitted to the State Board of Elections by May 8.
Illinois law allows for referendums to be only advisory. However, amendments that have defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman have already been added to constitutions in about 20 states so far, including Louisiana, Ohio and Oregon.
In their text, the bishops affirmed that marriage is “the union between a man and a woman.” Faith and reason point to “the fact that the institution of marriage is based on human nature,” said the bishops. “In other words, neither the state nor the Church invented marriage, and neither has the right to change its nature.”
The bishops reminded the faithful of the sacramental nature of marriage and of the fact that marriage was not created by Church or man. It is regulated by civil laws and Church laws, but it was created by God, they said.
The bishops instructed that marriage is the foundation of the family and the basic unit of society, and it provides the best environment in which to raise children. “Unlike any other relationship, marriage makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society, especially through the procreation and education of children,” said the bishops.
Marriage expresses “the sexual complementarity willed by God,” they said. The bishops explained that same-sex unions contradict the nature of marriage because they are not based on the natural union of male and female; they cannot cooperate with God to create new life; and the natural purpose of sexual union cannot be achieved by a same-sex union.
“Persons in same-sex relationships cannot enter into a true conjugal union. Therefore, it is wrong to equate their relationship to a marriage,” they stated.
The bishops also addressed the educational aspect of laws, “insofar as they shape patterns of thought and behavior. If marriage is redefined in the law, so as to make same-sex relationships equivalent to it, the institution of marriage will be “devalued and weakened.”
“The weakening of this basic institution has already exacted too high a social cost,” the bishops stated in reference to the degeneration of marriage in Western society in the last five decades.