A Pastoral Statement of the Arizona Catholic Conference Bishops
We must ask important questions: What is marriage, its purposes, and its value to individuals, families and society? As the circumstances surrounding same-sex unions take on increasing prominence here in Arizona, we feel such reflection, using both reason and faith, is a proper starting point and framework for the current debate.
Pope John Paul II described the modern situation well when he declared
“At a moment in history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it, or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and strong way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family, insuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus, involving in the renewal of society and the people of God.” (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio #3)
We, the Catholic Bishops of Arizona, are immensely concerned for our Catholic believers and the well being of society here in Arizona relating the meaning of marriage. We offer this document to assist in comprehending Catholic teaching about marriage and to make clear why we pro- mote marriage as a sacred reality between man and woman.
What is Marriage?
Marriage, as designed by God, is a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of a man and a woman joined in an intimate community of life and love. They commit themselves totally to each other and to the wondrous responsibility of bringing children into the world and caring for them. Man and woman are equal; they are also different. It is this difference that points marvelously toward their complementarity. Man and woman, in their sexual difference, are made for each other. This complementarity draws them together in a mutually loving union that should always be open to the procreation of children. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1602-1605)
Far from being a “merely” religious matter, these truths about marriage are found in the order of nature and can be perceived by human reason. The culture a person lives in can powerfully affect perception. Unfortunately, our own culture is more and more confused on matters of sexuality, and the truth of marriage suffers from the same blurry thinking.
Marriage and Catholic Faith
Sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Church affirm these truths about marriage and deepen them. Genesis 1:27 shows us that the human person’s complementarity as male and female displays the image of God. A man “leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh” (Gn 2:23). The man joyfully discovers the woman as “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Gn 2:23). God blesses the man and woman and commands them to “be fertile and multiply” (Gn 1:28). Jesus echoes these teachings from Genesis when he stated: “…from the start the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘[f ]or this reason a man shall leave … and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19: 4,5).
These Biblical passages assists us to comprehend God’s plan for marriage. Man and woman enter a lifelong bond of love and life, giving themselves as equal persons absolutely to one another. By this self-gift, they cooperate with God in bringing children to life and in caring for them.
However, the Church, following the Apostle Paul, declares a valid marriage between baptized believers to be a sacrament — a saving reality and path to holiness. In Ephesians 5: 25-33, Paul instructs that Christ made marriage a sign of His love for the Church. This means that a sacramental marriage lets the world see, in human terms, something of the faithful, creative, self-emptying, abundantly life-giving love of our Lord. This Christian meaning affirms and strengthens the human value of a marital union.
Why Can Marriage Exist Only Between a Man and a Woman?
In marriage, husband and wife give themselves completely to each other in their masculinity and femininity, and only such a sexual union can cooperate with God in the procreation of new human life. Only such a union fulfills God’s plan both for sexuality and for marriage itself. The permanent and exclusive commitment of marriage is the essential context for the expression of sexual love intended by God both to serve the transmission of human life and to build the bond between husband and wife. So- called “same-sex unions” lack both natural complementarity and the ability to generate new human life naturally. They have a different meaning absolutely.
Marriage contributes to society because it models the way women and men live interdependently and commit, for life, to seek the best for each other. Also, the marital union provides the best conditions for raising children: namely, the stable, loving relationship of a mother and father present only in marriage. The state rightly recognizes this relationship as a public institution in its laws because the relationship makes a unique and important contribution to the common good.
Regarding the Proposed Protect Marriage Arizona Amendment
Protect Marriage Arizona is an initiative to amend the Arizona Constitution that we feel seeks to preserve the unique and irreplaceable status that marriage always has held in our society.
It is in the context of Catholic teaching on marriage that we decide at this time to state our contribution for the amendment.
Obviously, among the difficulties that have surrounded the legal actions relating marriage in other states has been the legal recognition of same-sex unions. The Church opposes legal recognition of such unions in order to stop the redefinition and de-evaluation of the institution of marriage. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons #11)