WASHINGTON - Analyzing the ramifications of the Supreme
Court's June 26 same-sex marriage ruling for the Catholic
Church at the national, state and local levels will take
time, said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore.
It has implications for "hundreds, if not thousands" of laws
at all levels, and there is "a difficult road ahead for
people of faith," he said.
The church teaches marriage is between a man and a woman and
that sex outside marriage is a sin. At the same time the
church upholds the human dignity of all people, Archbishop
Lori said, adding, "We preach the truth with love in season
and out of season."
Archbishop Lori, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc
Committee for Religious Liberty, made the comments in a
teleconference for news media held about three hours after
the Supreme Court issued its 5-4 decision that states must
license same-sex marriage.
Joining him in the media briefing were two members of the
bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of
Marriage, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S.
Archdiocese for the Military, and Bishop Daniel E. Flores of
Brownsville, Texas; and Anthony Picarello, associate general
secretary and general counsel at the U.S. Conference of
"Tragically, the court was wrong," said Archbishop Broglio,
adding that this is "not the first time" a "false
understanding of marriage" has been forced on the country, as
by lower court rulings.
"Clearly the decision was not required by the Constitution
(and) the narrowness of the decision reveals it is not
settled," he continued. "Marriage is unchangeable."
Echoing an earlier statement by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of
Louisville, Kentucky, USCCB president, Archbishop Broglio
said the church will continue to follow Christ, "in
solidarity with the pope," in adhering to the church's
teaching on marriage being between one man and one woman.
Archbishop Lori acknowledged that the court's decision in
Obergefell v. Hodges "makes a nod in the direction of
religious liberty." But that, he said, is too narrow.
The ruling "recognizes free speech, the right of religion to
teach or advocate with regard to the true definition of
marriage, but it does not acknowledge (that) the First
Amendment also protects freedom of religion and the right to
follow our teaching," he said.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, recognized
in several places the role of religious beliefs in the
questions surrounding same-sex marriage, saying that "it must
be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to
religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost,
sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex
marriage should not be condoned."
Kennedy also said in part that "those who believe allowing
same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a
matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage
those who disagree with their view in an open and searching
But Archbishop Lori said free speech is not at issue. Under
the ruling, "we retain the right to think what we want at
home and within the confines of the church" but it does not
address the First Amendment's guarantee to free exercise of
religion. The church should be able to operate "our
ministries ... without fear of being silenced, penalized," he
Through social services, "we serve millions of people every
day. We do it well and we do it lovingly," he added.
He foresees many legal challenges and controversies as the
church seeks to protect itself from the fallout of the
marriage ruling by advocating at the federal, state and local
levels for protections for its faith-based practices.
Some areas where there will be legal disputes, Picarello
said, were outlined by Chief Justice John Roberts, including
tax exemptions, campus housing, academic accreditation,
employment and employee benefits.
The U.S. Catholic Church will have to look at internal ways
to protect itself against legal challenges, Picarello said,
and "advocate externally for legislation, regulation and, if
Picarello said free speech protections for opponents of
same-sex marriage were already under attack. Within a couple
of hours of the decision being issued, he said, a newspaper
in Pennsylvania announced it will no longer accept op-eds
criticizing same-sex marriage.
"Some things will happen immediately," as seen by that
newspaper's announcement, he said, and some will take time to
unfold," like challenges to churches receiving tax
Another area that will require study, Archbishop Broglio
said, is the military chaplaincy, because the Catholic
priest-chaplains whom his archdiocese oversees also come
under civil authorities.
While polls show a majority of Catholics say they approve of
same-sex marriage, Catholic teaching is "never determined by
numbers but by the truth," Archbishop Broglio said. "We have
to be faithful to the teaching of the Gospel.
"In a pastoral context we respond to the individual in his or
her need, and that's quite different than what we teach
concretely," he added. The church must make its "teaching on
marriage very, very clear," while at the time be pastoral to
"It is evident we are living in an age of dramatic cultural
shift," said Bishop Flores, and the church has to think about
how to share its teaching and "announce the good news ... as
creatively as possible in current cultural context."
But he added that the church's teaching on marriage "also has
something to do with bringing children into the world" and
about stable families. "We ought to have our eye not on
ourselves or our own emotional needs ... but the needs of the
Bishop Flores said rhetoric such as calling opponents of
same-sex marriage bigots is used at times "to avoid
understanding the rationale" of what the church teaches.
"For our part we have to be prepared for that kind of
rhetoric and simply respond with charitable but persuasive"
explanations of the church's rationale and what word
"marriage" means and the way it has been understood for
millennia, he added.
Archbishop Broglio added that the Catholic Church survived
the anti-Catholicism of the Know-Nothing period, "so we will