By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde
I wanted to take a moment to write to you about the continuing challenges to the nation’s traditional understanding and legal recognition of marriage. Indeed, due to activist lawsuits here in Virginia, the issue is more pressing than ever, and the Commonwealth may stand on the brink of a forced, dramatic and far-reaching break with history and Church teaching with regard to the definition of this basic building block of families and communities.
Eight years ago, the will of the people of Virginia was expressed clearly and decisively as citizens cast their ballots to safeguard in the state constitution the age-old definition of marriage as between one woman and one man. At that time, along with Richmond Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo, I wrote to you about “the unique and vital role the institution of marriage has in society” and how the result of the referendum would have “profound significance for the future of the family, the most fundamental social structure of our society.” We noted that marriage “had a design and purpose long before any nation, religion, or law was established,” and that “the proper role of both church and state is one of stewardship, to preserve our Creator’s great gift of marriage from one generation to the next.” Now, these words are all the more true as the challenge seems ever greater.
St. John Paul II spoke of the transcendent role of marriage this way:
“In a marriage, a man and a woman pledge themselves to one another in an unbreakable alliance of total mutual self-giving. A total union of love.
Love that is not a passing emotion or temporary infatuation, but a responsible and free decision to bind oneself completely, ‘in good times and in bad,’ to one’s partner. It is the gift of oneself to the other.
The love of husband and wife in God’s plan leads beyond itself, and new life is generated, a family is born. The family is a community of love and life, a home in which children are guided to maturity.”
And Pope Francis affirms this basic teaching:
“Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensable contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple,” (“Evangelii Gaudium,” n. 66).
These words truly convey the Lord’s plan for those called to marriage. It is the ideal, yes, and one we pray that all who enter into this union may achieve. Of course, there are failings sadly visible all around us — adultery and high rates of divorce, broken and suffering families — but that does not change the intrinsic worth of marriage and family willed by the Lord and proclaimed by the Church. Further, we know that traditional marriage bolsters society and is best for children. The social science is clear that children do best when raised by a mother and father in a stable marriage.
I know that some of you have resigned yourselves to the redefinition of marriage, or perhaps are not convinced that defending the true definition of marriage is essential to the well-being of society, but I urge you, by example and prudent and thoughtful words, to stand for marriage at this critical time in our history. This is a fight worth having, and the time is now! As I wrote to you when we voted on marriage here in Virginia, “Preserving and promoting marriage is an integral component of our shared civic responsibility.”
Finally, I would encourage you to participate in the March for Marriage 2014 in Washington, D.C., being held this year on June 19th. The unchanging reality of marriage is being tested right now, perhaps to the point of no return, and our diocesan participation is very necessary. To learn more, go to http://www.marriagemarch.org.
Paul S. Loverde is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A new edition of his pastoral letter on pornography, Bought with a Price, and his recent letter on the new evangelization, Go Forth with Hearts on Fire, are available at Amazon for Kindle and at www.arlingtondiocese.org/purity.