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Bishops comment on 'redefinition' of marriage in Florida

Say judicial ruling 'will have implications not yet fully understood'

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Jan. 5, 2015) – The Catholic Bishops of Florida have issued a statement addressing the redefinition of marriage in Florida to accommodate couples of the same sex. The full statement follows:

Tomorrow, with the expiration of a stay on a U.S. District Court ruling, marriage licenses for same sex couples are being issued for the first time in our state. The Catholic bishops of Florida are deeply disappointed by Judge Hinkle’s ruling, as well as refusals by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States to stay the decision while appeals pend.  

The conjugal nature of a marriage between a man and a woman has provided for millennia the basis for norms of marital exclusivity and permanence that made possible stable families necessary for human flourishing. In redefining marriage to include same sex couples, the judge has in effect overturned a state constitutional amendment approved by nearly 62 percent of the electorate in a 2008 ballot initiative.  

How society understands marriage has great public significance. Because of this, redefining civil “marriage” to include two persons of the same sex will have far-reaching consequences in society. Such a change advances the notion that marriage is only about the affective gratification of consenting adults. Such a redefinition of marriage does nothing to safeguard a child’s right to a mother and father and to be raised in a stable family where his or her development and well-being is served to the greatest extent possible.     

Redefinition of marriage will have implications not yet fully understood. The term “marriage” can be found in family law, employment law, trusts and estates, healthcare law, tax law, property law, and many others. These laws also affect and pervasively regulate public and private institutions including religious institutions, such as churches, schools, and hospitals. Besides the predictably disruptive effects, imposing this redefinition of marriage threatens both religious liberty and the freedom of individuals to conscientiously object as already seen in those states that have redefined marriage to accommodate same sex couples. 

Marriage based on the complementarity of the sexes is the lifeblood of family, and family is the foundation of our society. The crisis that sadly the family is experiencing today will only be aggravated by imposing this redefinition of marriage. Society must rediscover the irreplaceable roles of both mother and father who bring unique gifts to the education and rearing of children.  

For the benefit of society and the common good, the conjugal understanding of marriage between a husband and a wife and complementarity of a father and mother must be preserved so that the family can be a school of love, justice, compassion, forgiveness, mutual respect, patience and humility in the midst of a world darkened by selfishness and conflict. 

Our parishes, family life offices and other ministries are available to assist those seeking to understand the truth and beauty of marriage and to assist husbands and wives to strengthen their bonds. Additional resources can be found at www.marriageuniqueforareason.org and www.foryourmarriage.org / www.portumatrimonio.org.  

We look forward to the first visit of Pope Francis to the United States, where he will lead the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, from September 22-27, 2015. For each of us, our true glory is in our capacity to love as God loves; and no better means exists to teach the meaning of love than the family. May we speak the truth in love, and may family life led by father and mother flourish again in our state, nation and throughout the world.  

Comments from readers

Cris - 01/07/2015 10:41 PM
As a Church we can no longer pretend that marriage is some unchangeable absolute. In Biblical times and even after, marriage made women subservient to their husbands and even allowed men to have multiple wives. Today we have made the sacrament more beautiful by making it between to people who can love each other as equals. It is again time for us, as a community, to reevaluate our beliefs. As the bishops said, the family must be preserved as a "school of love, justice, compassion, forgiveness, mutual respect, patience and humility." But homosexual union can foster all these virtues. Not only has it been proven by empirical study, but we can plainly see it when we compassionately see gay people as our brothers and sisters under God. Additionally, we must cease to pretend that marriage is only about children. Marriage is not about children; marriage is about two loving adults committing themselves to each other spiritually and physically. By maintaining both that sex is always sinful outside of marriage and that homosexuals cannot marry we are refusing our homosexual brothers and sisters the ability to engage in a holy and complete exchange of love. I believe it is time for us to pray and reconsider the way that we practice love.
Christian - 01/06/2015 07:52 PM
Jean, I don't know if you are aware that the Catholic Church does not condemn homosexuals, only homosexual behavior. If a person with same-sex attraction wants to be a Catholic, he or she must be celibate. There is a ministry in the Catholic Church which has a chapter here in Miami called Courage with supports gay and lesbian Catholics and encourages them to practice celibacy. God bless you!
Mark - 01/06/2015 06:27 PM
As the Bishop’s comments admirably affirm, the institution of marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman that has served as the foundation for society across all cultures and throughout history, and is undeniably the environment that is best for raising children. To legalize marriage between two people of the same sex serves to enshrine in the law the principle that mothers and fathers are interchangeable or irrelevant and that marriage is essentially an institution about adults, not children. Treating same sex couples—which are deliberately motherless or fatherless—in a way identical to couples that provide both a mother and father sends the message to society that there is nothing uniquely valuable about a child being raised by his or her own mother and father. No, not all marriages create children, but typically they do, and the institution exists for the typical case. We should treat people of same sex attraction with the same respect and dignity we ourselves would expect. Yet when it comes to marriage we must be clear that it is not discrimination to treat differently things that are different. The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal. The vast majority of Americans who have been given a chance to vote on marriage at the ballot box have chosen to uphold our marriage tradition. Some of the staunchest supporters of traditional marriage come from the homosexual community. So-called same sex marriage legislation is defended solely on grounds of moral relativism and emotions. Traditional marriage is defended on grounds of reason, sexual complementarity, natural law, historical precedent, and children’s rights. Oh, and the small detail that God instituted it.
Jean - 01/05/2015 09:26 PM
I read this and it saddens me. What is it about two humans wanting to love one another and commit to each other that scares some people so much? How does this diminish the family in anyway? In a world where 50+% of heterosexual marriages end up in divorce I would think the bishops would spend more time trying to figure out ways to promote fidelity and commitment in heterosexual couples. Heterosexual marriage is the lifeblood of the family...I agree with that. It is needed for procreation [and ironically the only way in which God continues to create a world of diversity which includes gays and lesbians...as well as "straight" persons]. I am always amazed that as church we "worship" so much one type of "family" when the founder [JESUS] was born in a irregular family, made up a a single mother, and a celibate husband. This founder grows up and does not marry but lives the Kingdom of God as a single man...and calls his closest followers to be celibates [including some which were married] all for the Kingdom. This same Person...more than once reminded his followers that family was not based on the genitals of those involved but on being his followers and living with a new set of eyes.

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