Bishop Loverde leads dialogues on pornography, marriage and stem-cell research in pastoral letters

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Over the years, Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde has promoted the message of the Gospel through inspirational homilies, biweekly newspaper columns and most significantly, seven pastoral letters that have become landmark documents helping the faithful learn about the church's stance on important issues.

Between 2006 and 2013, the bishop penned five letters individually and two with Richmond Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo regarding topics such as appropriate responses to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the gift of U.S. Catholic schools and the importance of lifelong devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Soren Johnson, special assistant to the bishop for evangelization and media, said that the bishop acts as a "shepherd" who uses his gifts as a writer to "call us to holiness."

"Bishop Loverde lives out his episcopal motto 'Encourage and Teach with Patience' in many ways, including through his gifts as a communicator," said Johnson. "He writes warm, personal and practical letters that inspire many to both a deeper faith and a more courageous witness."

Johnson said that the bishop's 2006 letter "Bought with a Price: Every Man's Duty to Protect Himself and His Family from a Pornographic Culture," was reprinted in 2014 and translated into both Spanish and French because it has "played a decisive role in many individuals' decision to break free … from the grave evil of pornography."

Although the letter is directed at porn users, it also encourages all people to recognize the widespread social and cultural effects of porn.

"Culture is formed by the choices of free people," writes Bishop Loverde. "It is important that we choose morally uplifting and life-affirming pursuits that contribute to the common good and flourishing of all persons. … In the fields of art, literature and music, we must never compromise our own Christian dignity to suit the expectations of a decadent culture."

The bishop echoes many of these sentiments in "Growing in Wisdom, Age and Grace: A Pastoral Letter on Catholic Schools" released the same year.

"We live in an age of overwhelming secular materialism, and our children need to be presented with values that really count," the bishop writes. "They need to be converted so that a real relationship with Jesus can become a lived experience and provide them with a renewed sense of energy and hope. Our Catholic schools nurture our youth by providing daily opportunities to learn about the faith, to grow as the young Jesus did in wisdom, age and grace, and to develop the values and virtues that will enable them to live an authentically Christian life."

In 2006, Bishop Loverde emphasized the importance of forgiveness and love on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in his pastoral letter, "To Remember Well." He promoted the sanctity of human life in his letter with Bishop DiLorenzo, "Science at the Service of Faith: A Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops Serving Virginia," but his sentiments regarding the preservation of marriage from that year ring especially true today.

"Though regulated by civil laws and church laws, marriage did not originate from either church or state, but from God," Bishops Loverde and DiLorenzo write in "The Institution of Marriage and the Common Good: A Pastoral Letter of the Virginia Catholic Bishops."

"No religion, government or individual has the right or the legitimate authority to alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage that has existed ever since the first man and woman were created. Because God designed the marital union as part of our instrinsic nature and established it as the foundation of our civilization, the proper role of both church and state is one of stewardship, to preserve our Creator's great gift of marriage from one generation to the next."

After highlighting the divine love that flows out of the Heart of Christ in his 2011 pastoral letter, "Fountain of Life, Fire of Love: A Pastoral Letter on the Heart of Christ," Bishop Loverde encouraged readers to share that love with the world. He demonstrated his ongoing support for local Catholics in his famed 2013 "Go Forth with Hearts on Fire."

"My foremost prayer is for the dawning of a New Evangelization here in the Diocese of Arlington," the bishop writes. "I pray that we might meet this hunger and thirst with an outpouring of love, mercy and an evangelization 'new in its ardor, new in its methods and new in its means of expression.' Simply put, it is a prayer that we might fall more deeply in love with Jesus Christ and share that love with another."

Willis can be reached at jwillis@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015