The church on same-sex marriage

Q. Bill O'Reilly (a lifelong Catholic) posed the following question on national television: "Since the Catholic Church condemns same-sex marriage, why haven't Catholic clergy publicly addressed the matter?" How would you answer? (A reader in Baltimore)

A. The position of the Catholic Church on same-sex marriage is clear and straightforward. In January 2015, while in the Philippines, Pope Francis warned against threats posed "by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage."

This echoed a statement he had made the previous November at an interreligious conference; there, he spoke in support of preserving marriage as a male-female union, since "children have the right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity."

In April 2015, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed an amicus brief in four cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that it is "reasonable and just" for states to treat heterosexual marriages as having more value than other kinds of relationships, since homes with a mother and a father are the optimal environment for children.

These are just a few examples. Church leaders quite often discuss this topic, reiterating the church's position.

Your question, though, seems not to be directed at the formal and official statements of the Catholic Church but at what might seem a reluctance on the part of parish priests to address the topic from the pulpit.

Part of that reluctance may stem from an unwillingness to offend those in the congregation with a homosexual orientation. (It is homosexual activity, not the orientation, that the church views as morally wrong.)

But that discomfort should not excuse the priest, who is the chief point of contact between the official church and the person in the pew. For that reason, the USCCB publishes on its website some helpful "lead messages" that can be used to challenge efforts at redefining marriage.

Those messages note that despite cultural variations, "every human society in the entire history of the human race has understood that marriage is a sexual union of man and woman with the purpose of procreating and educating the next generation, and so marriage has with reason been given a unique status in the law."

The text goes on to explain that both men and women "bring irreplaceable gifts to the shared task of child-rearing" and that, although single parents often deserve great respect for their heroic work in raising children, the law should not deliberately and intentionally deprive children of both a mother and a father by sanctioning same-sex marriage.

Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015