Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
November 23, 2009
Marriage is not a private matter
U.S. bishops underline the reasons and rules for Christian marriage
NANCY FRAZIER O'BRIEN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
BALTIMORE - The U.S. bishops have approved a major pastoral letter on marriage hoping to reverse what they call "a disturbing trend" toward viewing marriage as "a mostly private matter" with personal satisfaction as its only goal.
The letter, called Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan and approved Nov. 17, said a privatized view of marriage has negative implications for children.
"Children begin to seem less and less as gifts received in a personal communion of self-giving, and increasingly as a lifestyle choice, a commodity to which all consumers are entitled."
Children can be similarly harmed by cohabitation and divorce, the bishops say.
They cited "the findings of the social sciences . . . that the best environment for raising children is a stable home provided by the marriage of their parents."
"Marriage is not merely a private institution," the letter adds. "It is the foundation for the family, where children learn the values and virtues that will make good Christians as well as good citizens."
The bishops cite four "fundamental challenges to the nature and purpose of marriage" - contraception, same-sex unions, easy divorce and cohabitation.
The letter calls contraceptive practices "objectively wrong" and "essentially opposed to God's plan for marriage and proper human development."
It encourages the use of natural family planning, which the bishops say promotes "an attitude of respect and wonder . . . and fosters the true intimacy that only such respect can bring."
As for couples living together outside marriage, the document quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church in saying, "Cohabitation 'involves the serious sin of fornication. It does not conform to God's plan for marriage and is always wrong and objectively sinful.'"
The pastoral letter also names divorce and same-sex unions as two other "fundamental challenges to the nature and purpose of marriage."
The bishops say divorce conflicts with "God's plan for marriage," but the bishops added that in some cases, "divorce may be the only solution to a morally unacceptable situation," such as when the safety of a spouse or children is at risk."
They also encourage those who have divorced and remarried civilly to "participate in parish life and attend the Sunday Eucharist, even though they cannot ordinarily receive holy Communion."
To couples facing "modern stresses upon marriage," such as "the conflict between work and home, economic hardships and social expectations," the bishops urge them to "turn to the Lord for help."
They encourage couples to use Church programs and ministries "that can help save marriages, even those in serious difficulty."
THREAT TO SOCIETY
The moves to legally recognize same-sex unions pose "a multifaceted threat to the very fabric of society, striking at the source from which society and culture come and which they are meant to serve," the bishops say.
To oppose the legal recognition of same-sex unions is not discriminatory nor a matter of fairness, the bishops say.
"To promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman is itself a matter of justice," the document says.
"In fact, it would be a grave injustice if the state ignored the unique and proper place of husbands and wives, the place of mothers and fathers and the rights of children, who deserve from society clear guidance as they grow to sexual maturity."
The bishops said they addressed the letter "first and foremost to the Catholic faithful in the United States" but also offered it to others "in the hope of inspiring them to embrace this teaching."
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