District of Columbia City Council Imposes Recognition of Same Sex Marriages

Legalization of Same Sex Marriage in the Nation’s Capital

Archdiocese Remains Committed to Serving Poor

Satement of the Archdiocese of Washington:

Today the District of Columbia joined a handful of states where legislatures or courts have redefined marriage to include persons of the same sex. Since this legislation was first introduced in October, the Archdiocese of Washington opposed the redefinition of marriage based on the core teaching of the Catholic Church that the complementarity of man and woman is intrinsic to the definition of marriage. However, understanding the City Council was committed to legalizing same sex marriages, the archdiocese advocated for a bill that would balance the Council’s interest in redefining marriage with the need to protect religious freedom. Regrettably, the bill did not strike that balance.

 The Archdiocese of Washington and Catholic Charities are deeply committed to serving those in need, regardless of race, creed, gender, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. This commitment is integral to our Catholic faith and will remain unchanged into the future.

Religious organizations have long been eligible to provide social services in our nation’s capital and have not been excluded simply because of their religious character. This is because the choice of provider has focused on the ability to deliver services effectively and efficiently. We are committed to serving the needs of the poor and look forward to working in partnership with the District of Columbia consistent with the mission of the Catholic Church.

 For more information on marriage, visit www.MarriageMattersDC.org.

 The Archdiocese of Washington includes over 580,000 Catholics in the District of Columbia and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s. In the District of Columbia, there are 40 parishes, 21 Catholic schools and 25 corporations established to serve the community.

Archbishop Wuerl’s Op-Ed in today’s Washington Post

D.C.’s same-sex marriage bill: Finding the right balance

By [Archbishop] Donald W. Wuerl


One year ago, I stood with city leaders on a hill in Northeast as we broke ground for affordable housing in the District. When the St. Martin’s Apartments are completed, nearly 200 low-income families and individuals will get a fresh start on life in a wonderful example of the type of effective public-private partnerships the residents of our nation’s capital need.

 St. Martin’s is being developed by Catholic Charities, on land owned by the Catholic Church and with funding sources that include the District of Columbia.

 Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Washington are committed to continuing to serve the people of the District as we have for many decades. That includes partnerships such as St. Martin’s. Unfortunately, the D.C. Council is considering legislation that could end these kinds of partnerships.

It doesn’t need to be that way. While we do not agree with the council on redefining marriage, we recognize that it is firmly committed to opening marriage to homosexual couples. We are asking that new language be developed that more fairly balances different interests — those of the city to redefine marriage and those of faith groups so that they can continue to provide services without compromising their deeply held religious teachings and beliefs. The Archdiocese is not alone in this request. Other groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and nationally recognized legal scholars all called for stronger protections for religious freedom in their testimony on the bill.

 For the Archdiocese and Catholic Charities, two core tenets of our faith are at the heart of our concerns: our understanding of the nature of marriage and our commitment to expressing Christ’s love through service to others. Under the legislative language before the D.C. Council, the Archdiocese would be forced to choose between these two principles. The archdiocese has long made clear that all people have equal dignity, regardless of sexual orientation. But marriage is reserved for husband and wife because of its essential connection with the creation of children.

 The proposed legislation offers little protection for religious beliefs, including no protections for individuals, as is required under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Under the bill, religious organizations would be exempt from participating in ceremonies or from teaching about same-sex marriage in religion classes and retreats in accord with their faith beliefs, but they would be required to recognize and promote same-sex marriage everywhere else, including in employment policies, and adoption and foster-care policies, against their  beliefs.

 So what does this mean?

 The Archdiocese and Catholic Charities are committed to continuing to provide services in the District. Despite the headlines, there has been no threat or ultimatum to end services, just a simple recognition that the new requirements by the city for religious organizations to recognize same-sex marriages in their policies could restrict our ability to provide the same level of services as we do now. This is so because the District requires Catholic Charities to certify its compliance with city laws when applying for contracts and grants. This includes contracts for homeless services, mental health services, foster care and more. Since Catholic Charities cannot comply with city mandates to recognize and promote same-sex marriages, the city would withhold contracts and licenses.

 Each year, 68,000 people in the District rely on Catholic Charities for shelter, nutrition, medical and legal care, job training, immigration assistance, and more. This assistance is offered to whoever needs it, regardless of race, religion, gender, nationality or sexual orientation. Many of the programs are offered in partnership with the city, which turns to Catholic Charities and other ministries when it cannot provide social services on its own. Catholic Charities has a proven track record of high-quality service, supported through caring, qualified staff, thousands of dedicated volunteers and millions of dollars in financial support from parishioners all over the region. This legislation won’t end Catholic Charities’ services, but it would reduce unnecessarily the resources available for outreach.

 We recognize that the council is likely to legalize same-sex marriage. It is the hope of the Archdiocese and Catholic Charities that council members will work with us to find a way to better balance interests so religious organizations that have served this city well for many decades may continue to provide services without compromising the tenets of their faith.

 The writer is Archbishop of Washington.  

A Letter from the Archbishop

0508-db07e6a126cf Today, in conjunction with the response of the Archdiocese in opposition to Same-Sex Marriage Archbishop Wuerl also issued a Pastoral Message for Homosexual Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington. You can read the whole message by clicking on the title highlighted in color in the previous sentence. Here are a few excerpts:

Of the many teachings of the Catholic Church, perhaps some of the most challenging for Catholics in today’s culture involve human sexuality, including homosexuality. Modern cultural pressures and assumptions are often at odds with the teachings of Christ handed down through the centuries. For some parishioners the issues are deeply personal. Living out the Church’s teaching can be a difficult challenge. Yet, no one needs to do this separated from the grace and love of the Church.

It is important to affirm that the Catholic Church is and always will be welcoming of any person who seeks who seeks a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ….The Catechism of the Catholic Church  upholds the human dignity of every person and condemns any form of unjust discrimination (2358).

After setting forth the Scriptural foundations of Catholic teaching and our opposition to same-sex marriage the Archbishop goes on to express his pastoral concern and prayers.

DC Council Bill on Same-Sex”Marriage”

As you may be aware DC Council Member David Catania has introduced Legislation requiring the District to recognize so-called “Same-Sex Marriages.” Here is a statement from the Archdiocese of Washington. My own comments follow in RED below:

Statement of the Archdiocese of Washington on DC Council Bill to Redefine Marriage in the Nation’s Capital:

Marriage is a personal relationship with public significance. Marriage between a man and a woman transcends cultures, religions and all time. Marriage is about more than two people who love and are committed to each other.

 It also is about creating and nurturing the next generation. As natural law and biology dictate, this requires both a man and a woman. Men and women complement each other physically, psychologically and emotionally and each has distinctive gifts for a child’s upbringing. They are not interchangeable.

 Nature intends for children to have a mother and a father. Research tells us a healthy marriage with a father and mother provides the most stable and nurturing environment for a child. This is the reason that civil governments have given marriage special recognition throughout time.

 The bill introduced today by some members of the District of Columbia City Council to redefine marriage is at odds with marriage’s fundamental purpose. You cannot redefine biology.

 The “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009” is not about religious freedom. In fact, there are legitimate concerns that this legislation will result in a loss of religious liberty of the people of the District of Columbia. If passed, the bill could require Catholics to make choices between a “law” and the fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church.

 This is the second time in six months that the DC City Council has sought to redefine marriage. In the spring, the Council pushed through a bill recognizing same sex marriages from other jurisdictions, without an opportunity for residents to give input.

 Today’s action by the DC City Council would put the District of Columbia in the minority nationwide. Forty states have constitutional or legislative protection of marriage, while only five states have redefined marriage. We urge our elected officials to respect the purpose of marriage as the union of one man and one woman for their mutual benefit and for the rights of children.

 A request for a ballot initiative to define marriage as between a man and a woman was filed by a coalition of groups in September. The Archdiocese of Washington submitted a letter supporting thatrequest before the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

Learn more about marriage and the Catholic Church at www.MarriageMattersDC.org.

You will note that the Archdiocese in setting forth its objections has done so on the basis of Natural Law. Scripture is not quoted in the document. This is done in speaking to a secular world to make it clear that our objections are not on religious grounds only. They are also based on psychological, sociological and biological grounds. It is clear that nature itself intends that nurturing and raising a child is to be done under the influence of both a father and mother. Men and women are not interchangeable and both provide aspects of development that the other cannot simply supply. Men (fathers) have important things to teach their children. So do women (mothers). It is true that even in the world of nature, sometimes due to death, both parents cannot be present to raise the child but this is an exceptional situation and law should not be based on exceptional situations.

I am also pleased to see that the statement indicates the conception and raising of children to be “marriage’s fundamental purpose.” Many do not think of marriage in these terms today. They speak of it merely as existing for the happiness of the couple and the expression of their love. These purposes are not unimportant but marriage has its fundamental design from nature and God for the sake of children. Marriages should be heterosexual and stable (no divorce) for the better sake of children. Children are best served by a stable marriage where they are conceived and then nurtured by both a father and mother, receiving from their parents the complimentary witness of masculinity and femininity. This is what marriage is essentially and fundamentally about: the good of children. This is why the Church must oppose redefining marriage in this way. It also explains why the Church has opposed no-fault (easy and quick) divorce laws.

While it is true that the Archdiocese has spoken today on the grounds of Natural Law,  as seems necessary since not all share or agree to religious premises, many of you who read this blog do accept religious grounds as a basis for discussion. For that reason I might encourage you to read a previous post at this blog which discusses the biblical basis for opposing same-sex “marriage.” You can read it here: Same Sex Marraige is Contrary to Biblical Teaching I also preached a sermon on this topic that you can listen to or download to iPod here: Sermon on Same Sex “Marriage

Please note that the Church’s position is both principled and respectful. There are bigots in our world today who may reject Gay Marriage from less than noble motives. But the Church is the servant of God’s Word and the Natural Law. We cannot be otherwise and we cannot thus remain silent on this matter. But we speak with respect and from a principled poosition that reverences what God has taught us an told us to proclaim.

Church Teaching on”Same-Sex Marriage”

marriage_logoI found this video out on YouTube. It is rather well done in articulating the Church Teaching against “Same-Sex Marriage.” It is sensitively done as well, making clear that the Church does not reject or “hate” individuals with homosexual orientation. Yet to speak the truth in love means that we must insist on abstinence from sex for all unmarried individuals. Further, we cannot depart from Biblical teaching on the nature and purpose of marriage. We must remain consistent with Biblical truth and the constant teaching of the Church. It is a rather brief video and I recommend you view it and share the link with others.

Bottom line is, God has established marriage as a stable, lasting union of a man and a women and oriented it to the pro-creation and rearing of children. I have often quoted Genesis 2 and 3 in this regard but, here is another quote from the book of Malachi 2:15-17:

15 Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.  So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. 16 “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself  with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty.   So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

Here then is the video

Sweeping the Nation?

mm-logo_rgb3003In conversation and in the media you get the sense that redefining marriage is something that is sweeping the nation, that the majority of Americans are in favor of rewriting the definition of marriage and making a new definition law. This is simply not true. As California demonstrated when people are asked to vote on whether the state should define marriage as the union of one and one woman, people usually vote “yes”. Californians are not alone in this opinion. Do you know that 30 states have defined marriage through a constitutional amendment as the union of one man and one woman ? An additional eleven states prohibit same-sex marriage by statute. Only six states have legalized same sex marriage and three states do not prohibit same- sex marriage. Interestingly, in the six states that legalized same-sex marriage, it was through legal activism and through the courts that the legislation was created, not as a result of a ballot initiative or other voting opportunity.

The issue of marriage, specifically same-sex marriage has been featured prominently in the news as the D.C. Council seeks to recognize the marriage of same-sex couples who have been married in other states. Indeed, this will become law on July 7.

As the issue moves to the front page in the local papers it is all the more important to have the correct facts and to realize that the fight is far from over.

The Archdiocese of Washington has launched an initiative called MarriageMatters® with a WebPage that features articles and information about the Church’s teaching on marriage and the importance of marriage to family and society. The webpage also has links to helpful information from other Catholic sources. Please take advantage of its resources so that you can participate in one of the most important questions of this generation.

DC Board of Elections Refuses Vote on”Same-Sex Marriage”Issue

The DC Catholic Conference issued a statement today on the rejection by the Board of Elections on a Marriage Referendum. Such a vote would put the issue before the voters of the District of Columbia so that their voice could be heard in this matter. Here follows the Statement followed by a comment by yours truly in red.

DC Catholic Conference Statement on DC Marriage Referendum Rejection

The residents of the District of Columbia deserve to be heard, particularly on an issue as important as redefining marriage. Last month, the District of Columbia City Council voted to recognize same-sex marriages in the nation’s capital in an amendment process that prevented constituents from having a voice.

Today’s announcement by the DC Board of Elections and Ethics to deny a referendum on this issue has once again disenfranchised the residents of our city. The DC Catholic Conference is deeply disappointed by the decision to deny voters a voice.

Civil governments have recognized marriage throughout time as between a man and woman because of its unique purpose: to form a stable unit where children are created and raised with the complementary gifts of father and mother. This stability for children in turn forms a stable foundation for society.

As part of an organization that serves thousands of children and families throughout this city, it would be our hope that residents be given an opportunity to be heard on an issue with widespread implications for children and families.  The DC Catholic Conference will continue to strongly advocate for the long-standing and proper definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

The DC Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the Archdiocese of Washington on issues affecting the District of Columbia.

This is a second blow to the the ability of citizens to express their views in this matter. As the Statement above notes, last month the DC Council railroaded this measure through and refused to allow citizens to testify in a significant matter before the City Council. Now the DC Board of elections has once again refused the general populace a chance to be heard. Some will argue that we cannot simply run everything by plebiscite. This is true but this issue impacts on the most basic elements of any nation or civilzation: marriage and the family.  This is not simply a referendum on which contractor to choose to pave the raods. This is about marriage and the family.

Advocates of the “new morality” will likely cheer this decision but they should examine their cheerfulness. They have long marched under the banners of tolerance and freedom. Now many of them wish merely to impose their views by judicial fiat and will not tolerate dissent or even discussion. Whatever the motives of the members of the Board elections were I do not know. But no one should cheer a silencing of the voice of the people in this matter whether it is by refusing to hold hearings or refusing a referendum.

Bipartisan Congressional Response to DC”Same-Sex Marriage”Bill

The DC Catholic Conference issued a statement today in support of recent Congressional efforts to address the recent actions of the DC City Council recognizing same-sex marriages contracted in other states. The statement follows. Then after that if you will indulge me, my own remarks follow in red.

The D.C. Catholic Conference applauds efforts by members of Congress to support marriage in the District of Columbia.

The District of Columbia Defense of Marriage Act (H.R. 2608) was introduced by Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and more than thirty co-sponsors that recognizes in the District of Columbia, that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.

Marriage is a natural institution established by God and written in the very nature of man and woman and is therefore endowed with its own proper laws. The equality of men and women and the dignity of their coming together as husband and wife is not merely a fact of religious faith or a creation by civil authorities, but a fundamental reality rooted in human nature and experience. Marriage is not simply a union of two people who love each other and are committed to each other, but is reserved to man and woman because of their unique ability to bring children into the world. Civil recognition of marriage protects the rights of children to have both a father and mother, creating a stable and secure foundation for our society.

Earlier this month, the District of Columbia City Council voted to recognize same sex “marriages” from other states, and did so through an amendment process that prevented residents of the city from having a voice. The vote indicated a lack of understanding of the true meaning of marriage.

I think the most important wording in this statement is this: Marriage is not simply a union of two people who love each other and are committed to each other, but is reserved to man and woman because of their unique ability to bring children into the world. There has already been commentary on this blog that the procreation and rearing of children is an essential (not incidental) end of marriage (e.g.  HERE) As long as we continue to think of marriage as only about the happiness of adults involved and only incidentally about children we will continue to see high divorce rates, and confusions like “same-sex marriage” proliferate. We will also fail to see why marriage deserves special protection or privileges if children are only thought of as incidental and secondary aspects of marriage. This statement goes a long way to recover that fundamental insight. Marriage is fundamentally about children. The happiness and wishes of adults are secondary (though not unimportant). The fundamental and traditional structure of marriage is oriented to the good of children. Get this point right and a lot of other things fall in place. Of course marriages need to be stable and divorce frowned upon, children need stability. Of course marriage deserves a place of honor and should be accorded special privilege. Not for the adults, but for the children. Of course marriage should be heterosexual, this is how children are concieved. Finally, as the statement also makes clear: Civil recognition of marriage protects the rights of children to have both a father and mother, creating a stable and secure foundation for our society. The best environment for a child to grow up in is a stable home with proper influence and example from a resident mother and father, both a male and female influence. even if this best environemnt is not possible in every case it remains best for children and should be enshrined and protected in law.

Pertinent to this discussion is teaching from the Church document The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons cf. in this video seven minutes and beyond: