Traditional marriage ‘important for the social good,’ says archbishop

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco smiles during an interview at the March for Marriage rally in Washington March 26. Thousands of people who gathered in support of traditional marriage took their message to the U.S. Supreme Court as the y walked and held aloft placards objecting to same-sex marriage. (CNS photo/Matthew Barrick)
Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco smiles during an interview at the March for Marriage rally in Washington March 26. Thousands of people who gathered in support of traditional marriage took their message to the U.S. Supreme Court as the y walked and held aloft placards objecting to same-sex marriage. (CNS photo/Matthew Barrick)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Traditional marriage between one man and one woman is really about the good of children and families, and the “good of families” is about “the good of society,” said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

“That’s in the natural order, that’s the way marriage exists in nature, that’s why marriage is important for the social good,” said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco.

“Nature promotes a child having a father and a mother. There’s no way a child could come into the world other than with a father and a mother,” he added.

The Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage “because we favor preserving the definition of marriage in the law as it exists naturally,” he told Catholic News Service. “What we’re really opposed to is marriage redefinition.

“Our opponents in the debate … favor not expanding the right of marriage but redefining it to be something different from what it is to include the union of two people of the same sex,” he said. “One could ask, ‘Well why should it stop there, why can’t it include other types of unions, such as multiple partners?'”

Archbishop Cordileone spoke to CNS March 26 in Washington. That morning, he addressed the March for Marriage rally on the National Mall. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was a co-sponsor of the event.

Before gathering to listen to speakers, rally participants marched from the Mall to the steps of the Supreme Court and back. That day, the justices heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, the law banning same-sex marriage.

The next day, they heard oral arguments in a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Known as DOMA, the 1996 federal law defines marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

As of January, nine states — Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington — as well as the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. In addition, Rhode Island recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

“The church’s teaching … is correct” about marriage being between one man and one woman, Archbishop Cordileone told CNS. “We know the vast majority of people, maybe even our own people, think that we’re wrong. But the church has a lot of wisdom.

“We’ve been dealing with the human condition for 2,000 years. We’ve seen a lot and we’ve lived through a lot and the church has a deep mine of wisdom to share, and I think we need to do a better job of mining it so we can share it with our people,” he added.

A lot is at stake in the marriage debate, he said.

Marriage is either a “conjugal, comprehensive union of a man and a woman who come together to form a family and so that their children can be joined to them as a family,” he said, “or it’s about a relationship between two — or for that matter potentially more — adults that the government gives recognition and benefits to for the mutual benefit of the adults.

“These two definitions of marriage are incompatible. We can’t have both at the same time. Only one can stand,” he said.

The assault on the institution of marriage didn’t just start with the push to legalize same-sex marriage, he noted.

In “the social revolutionary movements of the ’60s and ’70s … we see the markers of the redefinition of marriage. … No-fault divorce was a huge blow to marriage,” Archbishop Cordileone said. The advent of artificial birth control and “so-called open marriages and swinging” are other factors that over past few decades, he said, have undermined what the Catholic Church and all societies through the ages have understood to be the components of marriage.

“It’s what we call the three goods of marriage: permanence, fidelity and openness to offspring,” he explained.

“Vastly different human societies … cultures, religions … living in very different types of areas, from mountaintops to deserts to jungles to cities to small towns , have basically understood that (marriage) is to bring men and women together in a public sexual union for the sake of the procreation of children and upbringing of children.”

If marriage is redefined in the law, people of faith who hold to the belief that marriage can only be between a man and a woman will be “treated as bigots,” he said.

He said the church has “a lot of insight to offer” on marriage.

“No one has had more experience in dealing with this reality of marriage than the Catholic Church. We’ve been at this for 2,000 years, reflecting on it theologically, helping people with it pastorally and legislating on it,” said Archbishop Cordileone.

However, he said, the church needs to do “a very serious job of helping to educate our people about what marriage is, about the public good of marriage,” and it must help young people develop the desire for marriage for themselves and instill in them “the virtue they need to be able to make and sustain” that commitment.

By Julie Asher Catholic News Service