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Religious Tolerance logo

HOMOSEXUAL (SAME-SEX) MARRIAGES

STATEMENT BY US CATHOLIC BISHOPS

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The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (United States) issued a statement on 1996-JUL-24. The NCCB's Committee on Marriage and Family Chairman, Most Reverend Joseph L. Charron, CPPS, and its Committee on Domestic Policy Chairman, Most Reverend William S. Skylstad, USCC issued a statement on Same-Sex Marriage.

They state that the "Roman Catholic Church believes that marriage is a faithful, exclusive, and lifelong union between one man and one woman...we believe the natural institution of marriage has been blessed and elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament. " It is certainly their right to define marriage in their own specific terms. Unfortunately, they are not acknowledging their own church history. Yale History professor John Boswell (3) has shown how the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches had same-sex marriage ceremonies up to modern times.

The question of same-sex marriages has both legal and religious aspects. In 1996, some faith groups within Judaism and Christianity accept and promote same-sex marriages; most do not. But the question being debated is whether the state, a secular body, should extend the benefits and responsibilities of marriage to persons of all sexual orientations. Because of the concept of separation between church and state, the definition of marriage by one specific denomination should not be of concern here. The Roman Catholic church will be able to ignore the validity of future same-sex marriages, just as they currently refuse to recognize second marriages which have been entered into without a church annulment. The church will also be able to refuse to marry gays and lesbians, just as they once refused to marry persons of different faiths.

They state that "...marriage exists for the mutual love and support of the spouses and for the procreation and education of children. These two purposes, the unitive and the procreative, are equal and inseparable." It is not clear, but they might be implying that gay and lesbian marriages will remain childless. There are a number of errors here:

bulletsome adults are infertile, and thus some heterosexual couples cannot procreate
bulletsome heterosexual couples enter marriage with the intention of not having children
bulletessentially all married couples in North America use birth control to separate the unitive from the procreative aspect of marriage
bulletmany lesbian couples in committed relationships have children through artificial insemination and raise them together
bulleta lower percentage of gay couples in committed relationships adopt children and raise them together

They refer to heterosexual married couples as "Living a Christian sacramental marriage [which] becomes their fundamental way of attaining salvation." By denying gays and lesbians the right to marry, it would seem that the Church is making it very difficult for them to obtain salvation and thus avoid the eternal fires of Hell. It would appear that the Church is assigning a sub-human classification to homosexuals; this seems fundamentally immoral, unchristian and unbiblical.

They conclude: "No same-sex union can realize the unique and full potential which the marital relationship expresses." This is an interesting conclusion, but appears to be unrelated to the rest of their statement. It would seem that a gay or lesbian married couple could experience at least as fulfilling a marriage as an infertile couple, or as two spouses in a step-family.

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