.- The New Jersey bishops asked pastors to read a statement to their parishioners last weekend which explained the Catholic Church's teaching on marriage and encouraged the faithful to pray that New Jersey will not pass a same-sex âmarriageâ measure. Same-sex âmarriageâ advocates are working to put the bill before the current governor who has promised to sign it before he leaves office in January.
His successor has promised to veto the bill.
The bishops began their letter by acknowledging a shift toward âsecular individualismâ noted in the ârecent authorization of 'marriage' between individuals of the same sex in a few states and the call for passage of a same sex 'marriage' law in New Jersey.â
âAs Catholics, we must not stand by in silence in the face of the many challenges that threaten marriage and, in turn, children and the public good,â they asserted. âWe must not shirk from our responsibility.â
âMarriage faces challenges from a society more focused on individual satisfaction than on the Gospel,â the bishops' letter stated. âWe must protect and promote marriage. We must not abandon the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage and the complementarity of the sexes â a truth that is evident to right reason and recognized as such by the major cultures of the world.â
They continued calling for support for those who struggle with same-sex attraction: âWe must pledge our support to all family members, including those who choose to remain single. We must help those entering marriage to prepare for the challenges, sacrifices and joys to come. We must reach out with the special compassion of Christ to those married couples and families experiencing difficulties, anxiety, and illness.â
The bishops then stressed that defining marriage between one man and one woman would not take away from same-sex couples' rights to have hospital visitation privileges or employee benefits.
âIn New Jersey, same sex couples have every benefit and right without exception that the State of New Jersey grants to heterosexual married couple,â the bishops noted. âSame sex civil unions may represent a new and a different type of institution, one in which government grants to same sex couples benefits and protections, but same sex unions are not marriage.â
The bishops the argued that the same-sex marriage initiative is an attempt to redefine marriage entirely and change the structure of marriage from being the union of one man and one woman.
âIn New Jersey, the debate about same sex marriage is not about benefits and rights. The Civil Union Act [N.J. Statutes 37:1-31(a)] settled that issue once and for all. In New Jersey, same sex couples have every benefit and right without exception that the State of New Jersey grants to heterosexual married couples. The same sex âmarriageâ initiative is an attempt to change the historic structure of marriage as a union only of a man and a woman. This initiative ignores human nature because throughout all of human history marriage has required the complementarity of man and woman.â
The bishop's letter comes in wake of the victory of Maine's Question 1, which repealed a same-sex âmarriageâ law enacted by the Maine legislature. Same-sex unions are also highly contested in Washington D.C. where the city council, which will be voting on a same-sex âmarriageâ proposition on Dec.1, has refused to allow a petition which would allow voters to weigh in on the issue.
In this year's election, New Jersey voters elected Chris Christie, a practicing Catholic who said he would veto the same-sex marriage bill. Christie takes office on January 19. Pro-gay lawmakers are scrambling to put the bill before the current Governor Jon Corzine, who said that he would sign the bill, before he leaves office.
However, according to the Christian Post, a Quinnipiac University poll released last Wednesday shows that 49% of New Jersey voters oppose the bill while only 46% support it.