Calif. bishop says defense of marriage encounters challenges, hope

Bishop Salvatore J Cordileone CNA US Catholic News 6 14 12 Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone.

Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland, Calif., emphasized that the U.S. bishops' ongoing efforts to defend marriage are critical in the face of continuing cultural and legal threats.

"Unfortunately, we have come to a point in Western society where the meaning of marriage is being largely eclipsed by a counterfeit version," he said at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' spring general assembly, which was held in Atlanta, Ga. on June 13-15.

Bishop Cordileone reported on the work of the conference's Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, which he leads. 

He said that the subcommittee is continuing its catechetical work by advancing its "Marriage: Unique for a Reason" initiative.

It is currently working on a 15-minute Spanish video will present a story based on a 50th wedding anniversary and will highlight the themes of sexual difference, the good of children, the common good and religious liberty, he explained.

Efforts have been made to ensure that the video, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year, is a "culturally effective presentation" of the Church's teaching on marriage.

Two additional English videos are also planned, the bishop said. One will focus on the common good, stressing the social context and meaning of marriage, while responding to arguments of equality and non-discrimination. The other will emphasize the critical connection between marriage and religious liberty.

In addition, he noted, the subcommittee's staff is continuing "to monitor and develop" its website,, which was launched last November.

Turning to the legal landscape, Bishop Cordileone observed that "the urgency around the protection of marriage has not abated."

He said that the past year has been a "significant" one at the state level, with an encouraging victory in May, when North Carolina became the most recent state to approve an amendment defending marriage by an overwhelming margin.

Furthermore, both Maryland and Washington state have broken records with the number of signatures they have garnered on petitions to place referenda rejecting "gay marriage" laws on the ballot in November.

At the federal level, the bishop observed, recent court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 "now open the door" for both laws to go before the Supreme Court.

He also noted that President Barack Obama recently came out in favor of "gay marriage," posing a new obstacle to the defense of marriage.

A redefinition of marriage in law "is not and never will be inevitable," he said, but these threats require constant vigilance and effort.

Bishop Cordileone also pointed to a new social science study conducted at the University of Texas at Austin.

Entitled "The New Family Structures Study," the survey examined "a very large, nationally-representative and random sample of American young adults – ages 18 to 39 – who were raised in different family or home environments," including with same-sex couples, single parents, step families, adopted families and married biological parents.

The study measured various areas of wellbeing, including social and economic condition, psychological and physical health and sexual identity and behavior.

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In 25 of 40 areas measured, there were "significant statistical differences" between young adults raised with their married biological parents and those raised in other situations. And "in no area were children better off in an alternative arrangement."

"As this new study indicates, social science continues to affirm that children thrive and do best with their mother and father in an intact home," said Bishop Cordileone.

The new study is being recognized in the scientific community for its "comprehensive and scientifically respectable approach," he added. The researchers themselves disagreed about family structures, but agreed to work together on an objective study.

The bishop said that the study can be "a benchmark for further studies and findings." It also calls into question previous studies that were smaller and more restrictive, often based on 
self-selecting samples that were not random, he observed.

In working to defend marriage, he noted, the conference should keep in mind young people, particularly those who have seen or experienced the effects of being raised in a broken family and are yearning for a better way.

"The protection of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a work of justice and is foundational to the good of all," he said, "especially for those most vulnerable among us, our children."

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