June 26, 2015
Bishop Terry R. LaValley
Diocese of Ogdensburg
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a long-awaited decision, ruling that the Constitution guarantees a nationwide right to same-sex marriage. Regardless of the legal gymnastics that five of the nine jurists performed, no one can change what marriage really is. Divine law always trumps civil law. Marriage is the intimate partnership of life and love between one man and one woman, for the good of the spouses and for the procreation and education of children. Without this basic understanding of what marriage is, there is no limit to what “marriage” could mean.
Redefining marriage in the civil law teaches that one sex is interchangeable with the other, and that either a mother or a father is dispensable as a parent. It teaches that marriage is whatever consenting adults say it is. Protecting marriage matters to everyone. Mothers and fathers are irreplaceable, not interchangeable. Unjust discrimination is wrong, always wrong. However, treating differently that which is different is not unjust discrimination.
It’s no secret, the world at large is not eager to accept what the Church has to say. But our courts are not the ultimate arbiters of truth and that truth cannot be measured based on public opinion, even if it appears prevailing. Fidelity to the divine law is always, always the “loving thing to do.” Our mission is to inform and transform a world that seems, in so many ways, bent on succumbing to a philosophy of life that is at odds with God’s law.
The redefinition of legal marriage has serious consequences, especially for religious freedom. It changes every law involving marital status, requiring that other relationships be treated as if they were the same as the marital relationship of a man and a woman. No person or community, including religious organizations and individuals of faith, should be forced to accept this redefinition. For many of us, accepting a redefinition of marriage would be to act against our conscience and to deny our religious beliefs and moral convictions. Government should protect these convictions and beliefs without fear of intimidation or unwarranted charges that our values imply bigotry or hatred of others.
The majority opinion indicated that “those who adhere to religious doctrines may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.” The five justices ruled that “the First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” We intend to exercise that First Amendment right to the fullest extent possible because this Court decision will not stop public dialogue.
Surely, we are disheartened and disappointed, but not deterred. We shall increase our efforts to strengthen marriages and families and to rebuild a marriage culture for the sake of our children. Motivated by the truth and strengthened through prayer, we will continue to follow Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We are hope-filled because we are Christ-led and Christ-fed.