Redefining marriage renders it meaningless, Bishop of Portland says

Bishop Richard Malone
Bishop Richard Malone


Richard Malone, the Bishop of Portland, Maine, has written a letter to Maine Catholics in response to a Portland news conference where leaders in several other Christian faiths professed support for same-sex marriage. The bishop defended marriage, saying opposition to its redefinition derives not only from faith but also from reason and a concern for the good of society.

According to Bishop Malone’s letter, which was sent over the past weekend, the Christian ministers’ news conference had urged the people of Maine to embrace same-sex marriage “in the name of equal civil rights.”

“To claim that marriage is a civil right open to all forms of relationships is a misnomer,” he explained.

“Marriage is an institution that predates civilization, ordained by God, and exclusive to one man and one woman who are given the responsibility to procreate the human race, and to nurture, educate, and pass on shared values and mores to their offspring. To redefine marriage to include same-sex couples is to strip marriage of an essential component, namely the ability and obligation to procreate. To strip marriage of this essential component is to render marriage meaningless and open it up to endless revision and redefinition.”

For Catholics, he explained, marriage is “a Holy Sacrament, a vocation and a vehicle to salvation.” However, he added, Catholics’ opposition to same-sex marriage is also based on reason and “the good of society at-large.”

The recognition and privileges granted to marriage, the bishop commented, derives from the institution’s foundational nature to “the good of a nation and entire civilizations.”

“To support and encourage strong families is to support the building of a healthy and productive societal structure that is best equipped to raise and rear children,” he wrote.

Bishop Malone denied that those who refuse to accept same-sex marriage are being unfair and unkind.

“We have been unwavering in our support for a number of changes, to what was once known as spousal benefits, which have made hospital visitation rights available to a wider spectrum of individuals, opened up opportunities for one household member to share health insurance benefits with another, and so on. These major changes were supported in the interest of preserving basic human rights for every person.”

He said marriage does not fall into the category of basic human rights because “by its very nature, those who commit to it must be of different sexes as a fundamental prerequisite.”

“Marriage is being challenged throughout the country,” he said, citing recent California, Florida and Arizona elections resisting changes to the definition of marriage.

“Many more challenges are expected in the year ahead,” the bishop continued, predicting that a same-sex initiative will be proposed in Maine in the near future.

“We must work together to preserve marriage for the good of our society,” he added. “In the weeks and months ahead, you will hear more about our own initiatives not only to preserve marriage but to enhance it and support it in all ways possible.”

He said Catholics “naturally” will continue to speak out on human rights issues affecting all individuals.

“However, we can never do so at the cost of compromising those eternal, fundamental truths as handed on to us in our faith tradition as well as the natural law,” he concluded, referring readers to the Diocese of Portland’s web site for more information on the topic of marriage.

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