Chicago bishops: 'gay marriage' will have consequences for Illinois

Cardinal Francis George Centennial Symposium Speech Credit Our Sunday Visitor CNA US Catholic News 10 9 12 Cardinal Francis George at the Oct. 2012 Centennial Symposium. | Our Sunday Visitor.

Cardinal Francis George and the six auxiliary bishops of Chicago have warned that a proposal to recognize "gay marriage" in Illinois is against the common good and will force Illinoisans to "pretend to accept something that is contrary to the common sense of the human race."

"Civil laws that establish 'same-sex marriage' create a legal fiction. The state has no power to create something that nature itself tells us is impossible," the bishops said in a Jan. 1 letter.

Cardinal George has sent the letter to every priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago, asking that the letter be distributed in parish bulletins this weekend.

Illinois State Sen. Heather Steans and State Rep. Greg Harris, both Chicago Democrats, have said they will introduce the legislation before the Jan. 9 end of the legislative session.

The bill, called "The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act," would change the definition of marriage under Illinois law from "between a man and a woman" to "between two persons."

Cardinal George, in a Jan. 6 column for the Catholic New World, said the mention of religious freedom in the proposed bill is "ironic if not disingenuous."

"Those who know that marriage is a union between a man and a woman for the sake of family will carry a social opprobrium that will make them unwelcome on most university faculties and on the editorial boards of major newspapers," the cardinal said. "They will be excluded from the entertainment industry. 

Their children and grandchildren will be taught in the government schools that their parents are unenlightened, the equivalent of misguided racists."

"Laws teach; they express accepted social values and most people go along with societal trends, even when majority opinion espouses immoral causes," Cardinal George noted.

The Chicago bishops' letter denied that "gay marriage" is truly marriage. They said it is "physically impossible" for two men or two women to consummate a marriage "even when they share a deep friendship or love."

Cardinal George pointed out that the lack of consummation is grounds for annulment under civil law.

The bishops explained in their letter that this lack of consummation does not mean that nature is unfair or that God is cruel. Rather, it means that marriage is "what nature tells us" and that the state "cannot change natural marriage."

The Chicago bishops also underscored the complementary nature of the sexes and the way marriage creates "not only a place of love for two adults but also a home for loving and raising their children."

Countering claims that the Catholic Church is "anti-gay," the bishops said that the Church "welcomes everyone" and gives them "the spiritual means necessary to convert to God's ways and maintain friendship with Christ." They pointed to the Chicago archdiocese's work through Courage groups and its ministry AGLO.

"People live out their sexual identity in different ways, but the Church offers the means to live chastely in all circumstances, as the love of God both obliges and makes possible," the cardinal said.

The bishops also made a point of saying the Church condemns all violence and hatred towards those with a homosexual orientation.

Looking at the "long term consequences" of redefining marriage, the bishops said that the law will regard those who distinguish between a "genuine marital union" and same-sex unions as "discriminatory" and "the equivalent of bigots."

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"When the ways of nature and nature's God conflict with civil law, society is in danger. It is to that danger that we direct your attention," they stated.

Illinois' recognition of non-marital unions has already had consequences for Catholics and others in the state.

In 2010 the Illinois legislature passed a law recognizing same-sex and opposite-sex civil unions, which was sponsored by Rep. Harris. Although the legislation claimed to protect religious freedom, state officials used the law to end foster care and adoption placement service contracts with Catholic Charities throughout the state because the agencies would not place children with unmarried or homosexual couples.

The Catholic agencies had helped serve children for decades. The state contracts totaled over $30 million annually and helped care for about 2,000 foster children.

State officials said the agencies' policy of placing children only with married couples was discriminatory.

The Chicago bishops' letter encouraged Illinois residents to visit the Illinois Catholic Conference website at to learn more about the effort to redefine marriage.

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