On marriage: Our nation has suffered a loss of virtue and honor…
(CUSA) – The hardest thing for a Christian is upholding the teachings entrusted to us while loving those who reject them.
This is the tightrope walk we must make on marriage and is why we need God’s grace to do it. —Ed.
BISHOP THOMAS PAPROCKI—
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In his classic book, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 18th century historian Edward Gibbon wrote about the waning days of the empire during the fifth century in these words: “The Roman government appeared less and less formidable to its enemies, more odious and oppressive to its subjects.
“They abjured and abhorred the name of Roman citizens, which had formerly excited the ambition of mankind. If all the barbarian conquerors had been annihilated at the same hour, their total destruction would not have restored the empire of the West; and if Rome still survived, she survived the loss of freedom, of virtue and of honor.”
Our nation has suffered a loss of virtue and honor that threatens our freedom with the decision of the United States Supreme Court last month attempting to redefine marriage to include same-sex relationships. It was an “attempt” because the State has no moral authority to change what God has created.
The government certainly has the legal power in civil law to coerce its definition, but that does not make it morally valid in the higher realm of supernatural realities. The tragic decision of the Supreme Court mocks the true meaning of marriage and thereby makes a mockery of itself.
Last month on June 3, the church observed the feast day of St. Charles Lwanga and companions, who were Christian page boys in the royal court put to death by the King of Uganda for refusing his sexual demands.
At the end of June our liturgical calendar celebrated a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power — St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, Ss. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were beheaded by order of King Henry VIII because they refused to recognize his Act of Supremacy naming himself head of the Church of England so he could overrule the pope and divorce his queen.
Saints such as John the Baptist, Thomas More, John Fisher and Charles Lwanga died as martyrs because of their belief in the true meaning of marriage and human sexuality. We should draw strength from their example. We also draw strength from Pope St. Leo the Great, whose image can be seen in the third stained-glass window on the north wall of our Cathedral in Springfield.
Pope Leo was the Roman Pontiff during the fifth century when the Roman Empire was in its decline. He is depicted in our window persuading Attila the Hun not to attack Rome. For his strong leadership in the face of barbarian attacks, he was the first pope to be called “the Great.”
We might ask: Why has God allowed these attacks on our faith and our church to happen? Why did he not answer our prayers for the protection of the true meaning of marriage in our country? The answer, I believe, is that we are being called to put God above all else, even above our nation and our country’s laws. Jesus Christ is our Sovereign King to whom we owe all of our love, fidelity and allegiance.
We are called to love others, not by condoning their sins, but by helping them to lead virtuous lives and remain faithful to the commandments, for Jesus promises that it is the pure in heart who will see God (Matthew 5:8). We are called to let the bright light of truth shine forth to overcome the darkness of error. In short, God gives us these challenges as a test of our faith, our hope and our love.
In this regard, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement about how we should respond to the Supreme Court’s decision, saying,
I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.
Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.
May God give us this grace. Amen.
From the Catholic Times