by Bishop Blase J. Cupich
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
On Nov. 6, Washington voters will decide the fate of the law passed by our state legislature and signed by the governor, which redefined marriage to include same sex unions. If a majority of voters “approve” Referendum 74, the same-sex marriage law will go into effect on Dec. 6, 2012. If a majority votes “reject,” the law will fall, but, “registered domestic partners” will not be deprived of any of the rights granted to them in laws passed in 2008 and 2009, namely all the rights of traditional marriage. “Registered domestic partnerships” just will not be called “marriages.”
Admittedly, the conflicting positions of this issue are deeply held and passionately argued. Proponents of the redefinition of marriage are often motivated by compassion for those who have shown courage in refusing to live in the fear of being rejected for their sexual orientation. It is a compassion that is very personal, for those who have suffered and continue to suffer are close and beloved friends and family members. It is also a compassion forged in reaction to tragic national stories of violence against homosexuals, of verbal attacks that demean their human dignity, and of suicides by teens who have struggled with their sexual identity or have been bullied because of it. As a result, supporters of the referendum often speak passionately of the need to rebalance the scales of justice. This tends to frame the issue as a matter of equality in the minds of many people, a value that is deeply etched in our nation’s psyche.
Likewise, many opponents of the law redefining marriage have close friends and family members who are gay or lesbian. They too recognize the importance of creating a supporting environment in society for everyone to live a full, happy and secure life. Yet, they also have sincere concerns about what a redefinition of marriage will mean for the good of society and the family, both of which face new strains in our modern world. They are asking the public to take a serious and dispassionate look at what a radical break with centuries of marriage law and practice will mean.
My genuine hope is that we all can value the coming vote on Referendum 74 as an opportunity to have a substantial public debate regarding this critical issue, carried on with respect, honesty and conviction. When addressing issues of depth and passion – indeed, most importantly at such times – we should be committed to the proposition that our public dialogue must be marked by civility and clarity, and that it should generate light rather than heat. As a means of contributing to that effort, I ask your careful consideration of the attached reflections which outline some of the reasons for the Catholic Church’s position recommending that citizens vote “reject” on Referendum 74, and thus overturn the law that redefines marriage. I offer these thoughts with respect, but also out of a sense of duty to contribute to the debate for the good of our state.
But, I also want to be very clear that in stating our position the Catholic Church has no tolerance for the misuse of this moment to incite hostility towards homosexual persons or promote an agenda that is hateful and disrespectful of their human dignity. As the 2006 statement, Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination, of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops unequivocally states:
All people are created in the image and likeness of God and thus possess an innate human dignity that must be acknowledged and respected. In keeping with this conviction, the Church teaches that persons with a homosexual inclination “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2358). We recognize that these persons have been, and often continue to be, objects of scorn, hatred, and even violence in some sectors of our society. Sometimes this hatred is manifested clearly; other times, it is masked and gives rise to more disguised forms of hatred. “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, Oct. 1, 1986, no. 10.)
In the peace of Christ,
Most Reverend Blase J. Cupich
Bishop of Spokane