WASHINGTON (September 29, 2004) Saying the institution of marriage "has been weakened and eroded by many forces," Belleville Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has urged the House of Representatives to support the Marriage Protection Amendment.
The proposed legislation, H.J. Res. 106, which would amend the United States Constitution to define marriage as consisting only of the union of a man and a woman, is expected to be taken up in the House later this week.
"Our concern for preserving marriage as the union of a man and a woman is not simply a Catholic concern," Bishop Gregory wrote in a September 28 letter to the House. "We share it with believers and non-believers, Christians and non-Christians alike, simply because this understanding is part of the common moral heritage of humanity."
"It is precisely this moral heritage that must be protected today from a small but vocal minority that would alter the definition of marriage by making same-sex unions the legal equivalent of marriage," Bishop Gregory said. "A same-sex union is not equivalent to marriage. It is not based on the natural complementarity of male and female; it cannot cooperate with God to create new life; it cannot be a true conjugal union."
Asserting that recent actions in various state courts and courthouses have placed the institution of marriage under serious attack and in grave danger, he declared: "The Catholic Bishops of the United States strongly believe that marriage is a basic human institution and that, though it is regulated by civil laws and church laws, it did not originate from either the church or state, but from God. Accordingly, the Bishops believe that neither church nor the state can alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage."
"Marriage, as properly understood, is more than a lifestyle choice," Bishop Gregory continued. "It is an interpersonal relationship with public significance. It makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society when it fulfills its natural, God-given purposes, namely, to bring children into the world and care for them and to provide a way for a man and a woman to seek each other's good in a committed, lifetime relationship."
"The institution of marriage has been weakened and eroded by many forces," Bishop Gregory stated. "The social cost is already too high. The Catholic Bishops of the United States urge your support for amending the United States Constitution to preserve and protect this vital institution that under girds the well-being of spouses, children, families, communities, and society itself."
The USCCB has long worked on the marriage issue, supporting efforts at the state level to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman. A year ago its Administrative Committee called for efforts at all levels of government, including support for a federal constitutional amendment. This past July Bishop Gregory wrote to the Senate in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment.