By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Grace and peace from God our Father and Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Many have raised their voices from across the spectrum of ideologies, religious convictions and all levels of society in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to legally sanction same sex marriage throughout our country. I too want to weigh in on such a critical court decision that has radically altered the definition of marriage. In doing so I am mindful of the inspired words of Saint Peter in his first letter. “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1Peter 3,15)
The church, as stewards of the mysteries of God, and servants of Jesus Christ (1Cor. 4,1) has been entrusted with a way of life in marriage that is solidly set in Scripture, in tradition, in Christian Anthropology, and in our Sacramental life. The union of man and woman in marriage emerges out of God’s creative work as the primary relationship for all of human life. It has been the cornerstone, not only for the church, but also for civil society for millennia. Its demise in the modern world has led to enormous problems for individuals, families, and society.
The Catholic Church has cherished and celebrated the sacrament of marriage among its seven sacred gifts (sacraments) bequeathed to us by the Lord Jesus. The roots of marriage are foundational in the Word of God beginning with the second chapter of Genesis where a “man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and the two become one flesh.” (Genesis 2, 24).
Jesus clearly confirmed God’s creative action regarding marriage in Mark’s Gospel when he reminded his hearers about his Father’s intention from the beginning. (Mark 10, 6-10). Later in the New Testament the basis for the sacrament of marriage is established when the author of Ephesians eloquently wrote “that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5, 25). Therefore, the love of husband and wife in marriage is a sacred sign of the Lord’s faithful and permanent love for us.
Therefore, we are stewards and servants of the sacred institution of marriage that we are not free to change in our tradition of faith. In the light of faith and reason, it is regrettable that what God intended from the beginning has been trampled so often in our modern world, and now redefined.
Yet, our unshakeable commitment to the dignity of every human person created in the image and likeness of God, and in need of salvation, motivates all of our ministries and parish life. Our personal experience of the merciful love of God, the key to eternal life, must direct our encounters, actions and conversations with all people, including our brothers and sisters of same sex attraction, and lifestyles. Although the Church cannot accept the redefinition of marriage, we are compelled by the command of Jesus Christ to love one another as he has loved us. This is the love that moves heaven and earth, and seeks to reconcile all people with God and one another.
By Bishop Joseph Kopacz