WASHINGTON (April 3, 2006)—Bishop William S. Skylstad, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has written to all Catholic Bishops asking that the bishops and the people in their dioceses become involved in the effort to support a federal constitutional marriage amendment.
In the letter, Bishop Skylstad also informed the Bishops that the Knights of Columbus have initiated a national postcard campaign with respect to public advocacy for the Protection of Marriage Amendment.
"Today there is a growing sense shared by many people, including a wide range of religious leaders, that a Marriage Protection Amendment is the only federal-level action that ultimately will protect and preserve the institution of marriage," Bishop Skylstad said. "In particular, timely and focused efforts are needed to help the Catholic faithful form their consciences on such an important matter."
Noting he was writing at the request of the USCCB Administrative Committee, Bishop Skylstad said: "In a matter of months we will have the opportunity once again to stand publicly in support of marriage as the God-given union of a man and a woman."
He was referring to the likelihood that the Protection of Marriage Amendment (S. J. Res. 1) will be introduced in the Senate in June. The proposed text of the amendment reads as follows:
Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.
"I am aware that the time is short for taking action so I urge you to do whatever you can, given the situation and the resources available to you," Bishop Skylstad wrote. "I am also aware that in some states there are upcoming votes for either legislation or constitutional amendments defining marriage. We are challenged, therefore, to give attention to the interplay of state and federal level policy as well as to focus our efforts where they are most needed and can do the most good."
"Married love is a gift of God to humankind and to his Church," Bishop Skylstad said. "It needs to be promoted, preserved, and protected now and for the future. Indeed, in his first encyclical letter, Deus caritas est, Pope Benedict XVI places the highest value on love between a man and a woman 'where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness.'"
"Sharing this conviction, I reiterate the importance of leadership by the bishops individually and as a Conference for the support of marriage and for its protection in society," Bishop Skylstad said.
In the letter, the Bishop recalled that an attempt was made to pass a Federal Marriage Amendment two years ago. The USCCB expressed support for an amendment in a policy statement of the Administrative Committee (September 2003) entitled Promote, Preserve, Protect Marriage, and in subsequent letters from the Conference president to members of Congress. The Conference also submitted testimony to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. In November 2003 the full body of bishops approved and published an educational statement entitled Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers about Marriage and Same-Sex Unions. In addition to emphasizing the value of marriage, the two statements also call attention to church teaching about respecting the dignity and rights of homosexual persons.
Bishop Skylstad told the bishops that the Knights of Columbus have offered to extend their campaign to every diocese and parish in the country, thus increasing its impact and effectiveness. The Knights will distribute the postcards through their system of state, district, and local councils in April and May.
On March 14, 2006, the USCCB Administrative Committee formally and unanimously reaffirmed its position of support for the amendment as expressed in Promote, Preserve, Protect Marriage; endorsed again a two-fold strategy of education and advocacy concerning the amendment; and requested that Bishop Skylstad communicate with all the bishops concerning the reaffirmation, the strategy, and its implementation.
Note: Conference statements on the amendment are available on the USCCB Publishing Website at: http://www.usccbpublishing.org/client/client_pages/bulletininserts.cfm.