Defend marriage, oppose same-sex unions, Pope urges US bishops
Attacks on the institution of marriage—and in particular the drive for legal recognition of same-sex marriage—call for “a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution,” Pope Benedict XVI told a group of visiting American bishops on March 9.
The Holy Father told the America bishops, who were concluding their ad limina visits, that the US is deeply affected by “the contemporary crisis of marriage and the family, and, more generally, of the Christian vision of human sexuality.” He continued:
It is in fact increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, and the widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic grounded in the practice of chastity, have led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.
Noting the “powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage,” the Pope said that the Church must explain that true marriage consists “of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation.” “Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage,” the Pontiff said. “Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice.”
The Pope said that in his conversations with the visiting American bishops, he had frequently heard expressions of concern about the decline in the number of young people entering marriage. He suggested that the problem is due in part to “deficiencies in the catechesis of recent decades,” and encouraged the bishops to review the marriage-preparation programs in their dioceses to ensure that they present an adequate explanation of Church teaching.
Pope Benedict also mentioned the widespread cohabitation prior to marriage, and asked the bishops to “develop clear pastoral and liturgical norms” to combat the practice. He said that early education on the virtue of chastity is important to provide young people with a vision “more sound and appealing than the permissive ideologies exalted in some quarters.”