Issues for Catholic Voters (2012 edition) – Marriage and Family
Marriage and Family
“A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family. This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it. It should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of family relationship are to be evaluated” (CCC 2202).
The Catholic Church teaches that the institution of marriage comes prior to the State and, therefore, must be accepted as normative. Indeed, all the nations in the world over the past 20 centuries have never questioned this standard, until recently.Marriage became a key political issue for Catholics on February 3, 2004 when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the state laws restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman were based upon a religious prejudice. This decision unleashed a national debate on the meaning of marriage and spurred many to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifying the legal meaning of marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.
Since the Massachusetts decision, four more states, plus the District of Columbia, decided to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Three additional states now recognize same-sex marriage but do not issue marriage licenses.
The pope and bishops around the world have directly rejected the idea of “same-sex marriage”: “It is not based on the natural complementarity of male and female; it cannot cooperate with God to create new life; and the natural purpose of sexual union cannot be achieved by a same-sex union” (USCCB, Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-Sex Unions).
Catholics must defend traditional marriage without compromise because it was instituted by God to serve as the foundation of all society: “The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society” (CCC 2207).
The Catholic view of marriage should inform public policy in several ways. As the U.S. bishops have said, “Policies related to the definition of marriage, taxes, the workplace, divorce, and welfare must be designed to help families stay together and to reward responsibility and sacrifice for children” (USCCB, Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility).
When President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, Catholics responded favorably. President Obama, however, has instructed the Justice Department to no longer spend any time or resources defending legal challenges to DOMA. As a co-equal branch of our government Congress, led by Speaker John Boehner (R, OH-08), then intervened to protect marriage in the U.S. District Court of Southern New York.
The bishops have been strongly supportive of the constitutional amendment to defend marriage recently introduced in the Congress. The Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) was last introduced in Congress in 2006, but a majority of Catholic senators, unfortunately, voted against it, in spite of the bishops’ lobbying effort.
Politicians will disagree prudentially on how best to protect marriage through law and public policy. The option being considered by some states, that of recognizing “civil unions” between homosexuals and affording to them some or all of the benefits of married persons, should be judged by its impact on the common good and especially on marriage and children.
The Pontifical Council for the Family has criticized the prospect of civil unions: “This would be an arbitrary use of power which does not contribute to the common good because the original nature of marriage and the family proceeds and exceeds, in an absolute and radical way, the sovereign power of the State” (Family, Marriage and “De Facto” Unions, 9).
- Marriage was instituted prior to the State and should be recognized by the State as something inviolate and necessary to the common good.
- Prudential judgments about law and public policy should always seek to strengthen marriage and families.
- So-called same-sex marriages cannot be recognized by the Catholic Church, and civil unions are likely to undermine marriage and damage its foundational role in society.
By Deal Hudson, President of Catholic Advocate