Today I would like to share with you the statement that Bishop Paul Etienne (of the Roman Catholic diocese of Cheyenne) issued concerning the decision on the Defense of Marriage Act handed down by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
“Today the Supreme Court ruled on two very important cases impacting marriage. The Court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and did not reach the merits of the Proposition 8 case out of California but instead chose to remand the case back to the lower court based on a lack of standing.
“I am deeply saddened by the actions of the Supreme Court; justice demands that government at all levels has a duty to recognize and uphold marriage’s unique meaning. The truth is that marriage is the only institution that brings a man and woman together for life; the roles of a mother and a father are not interchangeable and therefore the laws of this country should reflect that truth and give children the best chance possible to be raised by both a mother and a father. The institution of marriage is the foundation of society.
“The rulings today do not change the fact that Wyoming law recognizes marriage as being only between a man and a woman. The Catholic Church in Wyoming will work to defend and protect that provision of our law should there be any efforts made to redefine marriage in Wyoming. The Church will continue to teach the truth regarding the institution of marriage and we will work to safeguard and strengthen the unique meaning of marriage and the best interests of children.
“As your bishop, I invite all of us to open our hearts to Christ, who is the supreme lawgiver. Our nation is at a critical crossroads. As Catholics, we are called to know and live our faith. We are called to obedience and fidelity to Christ and His kingdom. Let us be joyful and credible witnesses to Christ. Let us follow Him with even greater commitment with the hope of leading others into His Light and Life.
“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)”
When Bishop Etienne sent this statement to the priests of the diocese he reminded us that we have a lot of important teaching to do on this and other subjects that affect the morality of our great nation. It occurred to me when reading his statement that many people will write this off as simply one man’s (or one group’s) opinion. Many people in our modern society believe that the truth is relative, what they decide is true for them is true for them, and it is up to each individual to decide what they believe to be true, and live by that truth.
In the Church, we teach that truth is absolute. We believe that it is part of natural law.
That it is not affected by public opinion. Christian morality is based on natural law. It does not matter what the majority opinion is. If the majority of people decide on an issue in a way contrary to natural law, they are wrong and a Christian must stand up to that erroneous opinion regardless of the percentages.
Some reading this article might be thinking that we should keep our teaching to our own church and leave people who believe differently alone. But I have to tell you that bishops and priests in the Catholic Church do not have that luxury. In our code of canon law (which is the 1752 rules by which the Catholic Church is governed) canon 383 states that a bishop must be a witness of Christ for all people, and by extension a priest must help him in that endeavor. We are duty bound to stand up for the truth and bring Christ’s love to all people.
Christian morality is an ideal. It is something that must be strived for throughout one’s life. We must correct error, but we must do it with the love of Christ. Jesus calls up to love one another.
To do that we must accept each other for who and what we are, but that does not mean that we can allow others to re-define natural law and remain silent when legislation and court decisions are swayed by that redefinition.
Louis Shea is pastor at Holy Name Catholic Church.