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Rush to guidelines? U.S. bishops should have discussed pope’s marriage document first, new cardinal says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Cardinal-designate Kevin J. Farrell believes the U.S. bishops as a whole should have discussed pastoral guidelines for implementing Pope Francis’ exhortation on the family before individual bishops began issuing guidelines for their own dioceses. Read more »

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The ‘Joy of Love’ is an affirmation worth the read

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Catholic News Service

It probably shouldn’t be necessary to have pastoral letters or papal encyclicals or apostolic exhortations (or any other official church document) to tell us what we should already know: that marriage and the family life it creates are holy and sacred. Read more »

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Bishops call Obama directive on transgender access to bathrooms ‘deeply disturbing’

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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s May 13 directive on transgender access to bathrooms “that treats ‘a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex’ is deeply disturbing,” said the chairmen of two U.S. Catholic bishops’ committees.

The Obama administration’s May 13 directive on transgender access to bathrooms “that treats ‘a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex’ is deeply disturbing,” said the chairmen of two U.S. Catholic bishops’ committees.

The Obama administration’s May 13 directive on transgender access to bathrooms “that treats ‘a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex’ is deeply disturbing,” said the chairmen of two U.S. Catholic bishops’ committees.

“The guidance fails to address a number of important concerns and contradicts a basic understanding of human formation so well expressed by Pope Francis: that ‘the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created,’” the two bishops said in a statement May 16.

The statement was issued by Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska, who chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Catholic Education.

The directive, or guidance, was issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education. The departments said it applies to all public schools and colleges and universities that received federal funding. It “summarizes a school’s Title IX obligations regarding transgender students,” they said, and also explains how the Education and Justice departments will “evaluate a school’s compliance with these obligations.”

The federal Title IX statute prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities, like sports. AP reported that the Obama administration earlier had warned schools that denying transgender students access to the facilities and activities of their choice was illegal under its interpretation of federal sex discrimination laws.

In their statement Bishop Malone and Archbishop Lucas noted that the Catholic Church “consistently affirms the inherent dignity of each and every human person and advocates for the well being of all people, particularly the most vulnerable.”

“Especially at a young age and in schools, it is important that our children understand the depth of God’s love for them and their intrinsic worth and beauty. Children should always be and feel safe and secure and know they are loved,” they said.

They said that children, youth and parents in “difficult situations,” such as the focus of the federal guidance, “deserve compassion, sensitivity and respect.”

“All of these can be expressed without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security on the part of the other young students and parents,” the two prelates said, but pointed out that the guidance issued May 13 “does not even attempt to achieve this balance.”

“It unfortunately does not respect the ongoing political discussion at the state and local levels and in Congress, or the broader cultural discussion, about how best to address these sensitive issues,” they said. “Rather, the guidance short-circuits those discussions entirely.”

They quoted Pope Francis, who said recently that “biological sex and the sociocultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated.

“We pray that the government make room for more just and compassionate approaches and policies in this sensitive area, in order to serve the good of all students and parents, as well as the common good,” Bishop Malone and Archbishop Lucas said. “We will be studying the guidance further to understand the full extent of its implications.”

 

 

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Holy & sacred: Marriage and family

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It probably shouldn’t be necessary to have pastoral letters or papal encyclicals or apostolic exhortations to tell us what we should already know: that marriage and the family life it creates are holy and sacred.

And yet, as someone celebrating 40 years of marriage and 36 years of parenthood this year, I readily admit that there are times when the sacredness of marriage and family life gets lost amid the day-to-day challenges and struggles of surviving in the world. Read more »

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U.S. bishops developing pastoral plan for family life, marriage

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — As a way to move forward in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage this year, U.S. bishops are planning to develop a pastoral plan for marriage and family life.

The pastoral plan, according to Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, will seek the input of the nation’s Catholic bishops.

Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, N.Y., speaks during a news conference Nov. 16 during the 2015 fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, N.Y., speaks during a news conference Nov. 16 during the 2015 fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

He spoke about the plan Nov. 16 in Baltimore during an afternoon session at the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said the Supreme Court’s decision was a “great disappointment,” but it was not unexpected.

In comments from the floor about the court’s decision and how the church should proceed, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said Catholic leaders need to approach the court’s decision much like they did the Roe v. Wade court decision legalizing abortion.

Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, similarly said the court’s decision opened up opportunities for catechesis.

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, said the church also needs to look at economic reasons for why people aren’t marrying and reach out to these couples.

In a report on this year’s observance of the Fortnight for Freedom, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, told the assembled bishops that the theme for 2016 will be “Witnesses to Freedom.”

“The fortnight gives us an opportunity to remember those witnesses past and present through the church, witnesses who testify to the meaning of freedom of conscience and the obedience of the truth,” he said.

The two-week event will include a nationwide tour of first-class relics of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, both of whom were martyred for their faith. Archbishop Lori said details of the tour have yet to be arranged, but that a schedule will be distributed when it is finalized.

The committee is producing a video on religious liberty that can be used by small parish groups and family gatherings to learn about the importance of religious liberty, the archbishop added.

The video’s release will coincide with 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom, “Dignitatis Humanae.”

Companion study guides and discussion questions are being developed to coincide with the release, the archbishop said.

The effort is being worked on in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus.

 

Contributing to this story was Dennis Sadowski. Follow Zimmermann and Sadowski on Twitter: @carolmaczim and @DennisSadowski.

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Marriage portrays the beauty of keeping promises made freely, says pope

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Bring honor back to keeping one’s promises, which must be made in full freedom and kept by making sacrifices, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets newly married couples during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 30. (CNS file/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis greets newly married couples during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 30. (CNS file/L’Osservatore Romano)

The beauty of love and promises is that they are carried out in freedom, he said during his weekly general audience Oct. 21 in St. Peter’s Square. “Without freedom there can be no friendship, without freedom there is no love, without freedom there is no marriage.”

The pope also prayed for the intercession of “the pope of the family,” St. John Paul II, whose optional memorial is Oct. 22. He asked that the Synod of Bishops on the family “renew in the whole church the meaning of the indisputable value of the indissoluble marriage and healthy families, based on the mutual love between a man and woman and divine grace.”

The pope dedicated his catechesis to the promise of love and fidelity made between a husband and wife.

“The identity of the family is founded on promise,” he said, which can be seen in the loving care families provide one another in sickness and in health, and by accepting each other’s limitations and helping each other realize their full potential.

It is a promise of love that must not stay holed up in the home, but must expand to embrace one’s extended family, the community and the whole human family, the pope said.

Unfortunately, he said, honoring one’s promises has lost its standing. That is because, on the one hand, “a misunderstood right to pursue one’s own pleasure at all costs and in any relationship is exalted as a non-negotiable principle of freedom,” he said.

On the other hand, people “exclusively entrust the bonds of life’s relationships and the commitment to the common good to the requirements of law,” he said.

But in reality, he said, nobody wants to be loved because of selfish reasons or out of compulsion.

“Love, just like friendship, owe their strength and beauty to this fact: that they generate a bond without removing freedom.”

“Freedom and fidelity are not opposed to each other, rather, they support each other” as people grow in the “free obedience to one’s word,” he said.

There is no better place than marriage and the family to teach the beauty and strength of keeping promises. “If we look at its audacious beauty, we are intimidated, but if we scorn its courageous tenacity, we are lost,” the pope said.

But this “masterpiece” and “miracle” of being true to one’s word must be an honest desire rooted in one’s very heart and soul — because promises “cannot be bought and sold, they cannot be coerced with force but nor can they be safeguarded without sacrifice,” he said.

“It’s necessary to bring social honor back to the fidelity of love,” he said, as well as bring to light the hidden miracles of millions of men and women who are building and rebuilding their families and promises every day.

St. Paul says the love which grounds the family points to the bond of love between Christ and the church, the pope said. That means, he said, that the church itself can find in the family “a blessing to safeguard” and always something to learn, even before it tries to teach or apply church discipline to it.

“Love for the human family, for better or for worse, is a point of honor for the church,” he said.

The pope asked that God bless the work of the Synod of Bishops that has gathered to discuss, “with creative fidelity,” the vocation and mission of the family.

He asked for prayers that the church would “uphold and strengthen the promise of the family” with an “unfailing trust in that faithful love by which the Lord fulfills his every promise.”

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Viewpoint: Supreme Court does not decide what is or is not a sacrament

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Catholic News Service

An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2010 added acts of violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to the list of federal hate crimes.

President Barack Obama signed it into law on Oct. 28, 2009. It was the first major piece of federal legislation in support of the rights of homosexuals and, when passed, was compared with the passage of 1960s civil rights legislation that empowered countless African-Americans.

In the Catholic understanding, bride (female) and groom (male) confer that sacrament of matrimony on one another; the priest or deacon is simply the official witness. (CNS)

In the Catholic understanding, bride (female) and groom (male) confer that sacrament of matrimony on one another; the priest or deacon is simply the official witness. (CNS)

This law acknowledged the dignity of people regardless of their sexual orientation and, as such, was a development to be welcomed by anyone committed to the principles of justice and human dignity.

News of the passage of that legislation in 2009 triggered expressions of hope from gay-rights activists that same-sex marriage would, sooner rather than later, be legally permissible anywhere in the United States. That day arrived with a decision of the Supreme Court on June 26, 2015.

Legal recognition of same-sex unions, and calling those unions “marriage,” was promoted as an anti-discrimination issue, but it consistently drew opposition from the Catholic community that sees not discrimination but defense of marriage — a sacramental union between a man and a woman — as the issue.

In the Catholic understanding, bride (female) and groom (male) confer that sacrament on one another; the priest or deacon is simply the official witness. There is no room for a same-sex union in the Catholic understanding of marriage. Defending this position is now, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, an enormous challenge for the church.

Catholic opposition to same-sex marriage will be more persuasive to the extent that it is explained by spokespeople who are unambiguous in their support of protection by the state of the rights of homosexuals in the matter of hate crimes, workplace discrimination, military service and similar situations.

The Catholic commitment to justice should also support partners in a same-sex union having, as a spouse would have and as the Supreme Court has now mandated, inheritance rights and access to a partner’s hospital bedside in times of illness.

Permitting partners in a same-sex union to have adoption rights is another matter. Here, Catholic opposition should be grounded in sound theory and solid data, evidence that the arrangement would not be good for children. It should rest on discretionary, not discriminatory, grounds and in no way impugn the dignity of any homosexual person.

The church has the ongoing challenge of defending its distinction between homosexual orientation (morally neutral) and homosexual behavior (morally impermissible). Pastoral explanation of this distinction remains a challenge for the church, which is not to say that it cannot be met.

Marriage, in the eyes of the church, is a sacrament. If the separation of church and state means anything, it certainly means that the state is not free to decide what is and what is not a sacrament, even though the state and other civic jurisdictions do, without objection from the church, issue what are called marriage licenses.

Now that the state has decided to approve and protect same-sex unions, the church can insist that the state has no right to call these unions “marriage,” but it is more difficult now than ever to make that case.

The long-standing acceptance of marriage licenses issued by the state poses a difficulty for the church in making that argument.

Without yielding any moral ground, however, the church could, if necessary, accept a two-tier system, common in other countries, of having Catholics appear before a civil authority in a civil ceremony to be followed by a church ceremony where the sacrament is conferred.

Other religions may, if they wish, welcome partners in a civilly recognized same-sex union to a subsequent religious ceremony of commitment.

Some denominations will surely do that. The Catholic Church will not. Its refusal to do so must be respected as an expression of commitment to sacramental marriage, not a condemnation of those with other views.

Jesuit Father Byron is university professor of business and society at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Email: wbyron@sju.edu.

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How do I love thee? Gospel teaches how to count the ways, pope says

May 7th, 2015 Posted in Featured, Marriage and Family, Vatican News Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Real love is constant, concrete and communicates — it is action over words and it obeys the Beatitudes, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass.

True love is not “soap-opera love,” or “a whim” or something that “makes our heart beat a little faster,” and then nothing more, the pope said May 7 during the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Read more »

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Marriage is a brave promise to love like Jesus, not a showy ceremony, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A Christian marriage isn’t just a big ceremony held in a church with nice flowers and everyone wearing fancy clothes and taking lots of pictures, Pope Francis said.

Marriage is an act of faith between a man and woman who are both fragile and limited, but courageous enough to follow Christ and seek to love each other as he loves them, the pope said May 6 during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Members of the Harlem Globetrotters watch as Pope Francis arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Members of the Harlem Globetrotters watch  Pope Francis arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 6. The Globetrotters announced they named Pope Francis the ninth honorary team member. Previously named honorary Globetrotters include St. John Paul II, Bob Hope and Nelson Mandela. CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Men and women, courageous enough to carry this treasure in the earthen vessels of our humanity, are an essential resource for the church and for the whole world,” he said. “May God bless them a thousand times for this.”

The pope continued a series of talks about the family by focusing on the beauty of Christian marriage as a sacrament that builds up the church and the world.

A Christian marriage “is not simply a ceremony that you have in church with flowers, the dress, photos. Christian marriage is a sacrament that takes place in the church and is also something the church does, ushering in a new domestic community,” he said.

All Christians “are called to love each other like Christ loves them,” and to be at the service of each other, he said. But the love between husband and wife is given greater, even “unthinkable,” dignity when St. Paul says the love between a husband and wife reflects the love between Christ and his church, the pope said.

Just as Christ loves his church, every husband, too, must love his wife and give himself completely for her, he said.

Looking up from his text, the pope asked all of the married men in the crowd if they fully grasped what was being asked of them. Such responsibility and a commitment to offer so much love and dignity to a woman “is no joke, you know; it’s serious,” he said to applause.

While the analogy between husband-wife and Christ-church may be imperfect, he said, its spiritual significance is “revolutionary, and simple at the same time, and within the means of every man and woman who trust in God’s grace.”

This love has been inscribed by God in the human creature, “and with Christ’s grace, countless Christian couples, even with their limits, their sins, have achieved” it, the pope said.

The selfless, reciprocal, fruitful and indissoluble union between a man and a woman is part of God’s original plan and “the sacrament of marriage is a great act of faith and of love,” he said.

Marriage “gives witness to the courage to believe in the beauty of the creative act of God and to live that love that drives one to always go beyond, beyond oneself and beyond one’s own family,” he said.

“The Christian vocation to love without reserve and without measure is what, with Christ’s grace, is at the foundation of the free consent that constitutes marriage,” the pope said.

The pope said the church is intimately bound up in every Christian marriage and it is edified with each union’s “successes” and suffers with every failure.

“But we must ask ourselves in all seriousness: Do we fully accept, we as faithful and pastors, too, this indissoluble connection between the relationship of Christ and the church with the relationship of marriage and the human family? Are we willing to seriously take on this responsibility? That is, that every marriage takes the path of the love Christ has for the church? This is something huge.”

Such a path takes courage, and that is why whenever “I greet newlyweds, I say, ‘Look, the courageous ones!’ Because you need courage to love each other as Christ loves the church,” he said to applause.

At the end of the audience, the pope noted May 8 marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

He said he hoped humanity would “learn from past mistakes.”

Given the “current conflicts that are tearing apart” certain parts of the world, the pope asked all leaders to commit themselves to “seeking the common good and promoting a culture of peace.”

Among the tens of thousands of faithful present in St. Peter’s Square was a large group of Chinese Catholics from the Diocese of Wenzhou.

The pope met with them before the start of the audience after he gave indications to Vatican security to deviate the popemobile’s usual route through the square and head to where the group was standing, sending a few undercover Swiss Guards scurrying when the vehicle did not take its expected turn.

The pope descended from the popemobile to greet members of the large and enthusiastic group of pilgrims who waved Chinese and Vatican flags. They vigorously shook the pope’s hands or grabbed at him while he smiled and blessed a few babies.

Also in the audience was a uniformed delegation from the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.

The Globetrotters performed for Pope Pius XII in 1951, St. John XXIII in 1959 and Pope Paul VI in 1968. They met St. John Paul II a number of times and even awarded him “honorary player” in 2000.

The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20150506_udienza-generale_en.html.

 

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‘Beloved’ video series aims to build stronger marriages, families

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SAN FRANCISCO — A new 12-part video series on marriage from Ignatius Press will provide ongoing formation that many couples need “to help us to live the art of marriage well,” said a theology professor who is content director of the series.

“Everybody knows that there’s a great crisis in marriage in the culture today,” said Edward Sri, who teaches at Augustine Institute in suburban Denver. Read more »

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