A defense of traditional marriage

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, came to St. Raymond of Peñafort Church in Springfield Nov. 19 to speak on the importance of traditional marriage.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops annual fall general assembly in Baltimore had concluded that day, but the archbishop accepted an invitation from Father John C. De Celles, pastor, to speak to parishioners of St. Raymond and other parishes.

To accommodate an expected large audience, Father De Celles held the presentation in the church.

Before the talk began, Father De Celles removed the Blessed Sacrament and placed it in the sacristy "so that we may proceed in an informal atmosphere without risking any irreverence to Our Lord in the tabernacle."

When the archbishop came to the pulpit, he received a standing ovation from the audience.

He began his presentation saying that a father is critically important to a healthy family, and all too often the father is missing.

"(A) child needs a father and mother," he said. "It's essential for the good of society."

Archbishop Cordileone went on to detail what is needed for a valid marriage in the eyes of the church. A couple married in the church must make a statement of intentions. The couple must state that they freely choose marriage, that they are committed to a permanent relationship and that they are open to children and will raise them in the faith.

The concept of marriage has changed in society, he said. No-fault divorce, which became common in the late 1960s, was the start of the decline of marriage, according to the archbishop.

"No-fault divorce dealt a blow to marriage as a lifelong commitment," said the archbishop.

He said that couples are entering marriage now with no intention of having children.

He said that marriage is a "fruitful lifelong union between a man and a woman."

"The 'evil one' attacks the most intimate parts of us," he said. "He edges the father out of the picture."

The archbishop said that marriage slowly has changed, but that we must see through it all.

"You and I are swimming against the tide," he told the audience.

Pope Francis recognizes the assault on marriage, said the archbishop, quoting the pope's 2014 speech.

"In our day, marriage and the family are in crisis. The crisis in the family has produced a crisis of human ecology," the pope said.

Archbishop Cordileone said, "We need to proclaim the truth of the goodness of the family with a mother and father at the center."

The archbishop went on to say that we need to speak this truth respectfully to those who disagree. We need to love those who differ with us, even those who are hostile.

"Violence begets violence," he said, and that includes moral and physical violence.

"Love is the answer," he said, "but we must not compromise the truth."

Our society is hurting in many ways, and we must work to rebuild the marriage culture, he said.

There were note cards in the pews and people wrote questions for the archbishop and passed them on to Father De Celles to read aloud.

"Can we really change society on how (people) see marriage," asked one.

The archbishop said the truth will eventually win out, but he does not know how long that will take.

Someone suggested that churches give up their tax-exempt status to be able to operate more freely. The bishop answered saying refusing tax-exempt status would make it impossible to help those who need our assistance.

Another writer suggested that the church remove itself from the legal aspect of marriage. He said that is being discussed.

At the conclusion of his presentation, the archbishop received another standing ovation, and people spoke with Archbishop Cordileone in the vestibule of the church.

Charles Stuart, a parishioner of St. Raymond, said that he liked that the archbishop came out in defense of marriage in clear terms.

"I particularly liked the way he ended, 'the truth will win out,'" said Stuart.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015