Synod wrap: What else got discussed, how Francis concluded

What most media didn’t cover, or cover well.

In the second week of the Synod on the Family that just wrapped up at the Vatican on Saturday, bishops and cardinals participating in this major two week event broke into their language groups and held daily meetings on the topics they considered most urgent, and addressed those that emerged in the notorious document days before. The press narrowed those down to ‘the Church’s stance on gays’, and ‘divorced and remarried Catholics’ and communion,while the working groups discussed so many more problems people are struggling with globally, and issued summaries revealing the depth and breadth of  those discussions. Keeping them off the record frustrated not a few of the participants.

Cardinal George Pell gave voice to those frustrations.

According to a report by Marco Tosatti in La Stampa (and translated on Fr. Z’s Blog), Cardinal Baldisseri, General Secretary of the Synod, announced that the reports of the small working groups would not be made available to the public. Tosatti reported that this announcement was met with opposition from Cardinal Pell, and then “an avalanche from many others along the same line, underscored by thunderous applause.” Robert Royal, editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, writes that Cardinal Pell “slammed his hand on the table and said, ‘You must stop manipulating this Synod.’”

Thanks to this reaction in the General Synod, which has been reported as a “revolt,” summaries of the small working groups’ interventions were posted by the Vatican press office. The English summaries reveal broad and deep dissatisfaction with the interim draft and plans to add substantial new text affirming the constant teaching of the Church “on the truth of human life and sexuality as revealed by Christ,” along with other “major amendments” and other small ones which, “nevertheless … have significant meaning attached to them” (Circulus Anglicus “A”).

It’s all here. Much of it is really quite beautiful. Like the English language round ‘B’, moderated by South African Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier. That group included five members from Africa, seven from Asia, and one each from Oceania, the United States and Europe. They felt strongly, they said, that the ‘relatio‘ (interim document reported all over the world’s media the week before) “ended up placing too much emphasis on the problems facing the family and did not stress the need to sufficiently provide an enthusiastic message which would encourage and inspire hope for Christian families who despite many challenges and even failures, strive every day to live out faithfully and joyfully their mission and vocation with the Church and society.”

The task of the extraordinary Synod was to draw up a picture of the family and of the challenges facing the pastoral activity of the Church in today’s complex and diverse world. Inevitably this meant that it would focus on problems and on some of he principal challenges of particular concern in the Church today.

However, the report of the Synod should go beyond a mere focus on the problems and the pathology of marriage and the family…Many in the group felt that a young person reading the Relatio [interim report] would if anything become even less enthusiastic about undertaking the challenging vocation of Christian matrimony. The Synod report and the message should direct itself towards young people, to help them understand and be attracted by the Christian vision of marriage and the family, in a world in which they are exposed to many contradictory visions…

The Church needs a radical renewal of its style of ministry to families. Marriage is a lifelong task [and] accompaniment [is] not limited to preparation for the wedding…

It’s important to not that the moderator for this session was one of two late additions Pope Francis made to the group that would draw up the final document for this Synod.

The “editorial committee” charged with writing the final report of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family due today, was recently increased by two, when Pope Francis named Cardinal Wilfrid Napier (Durban, South Africa) and Archbishop Denis Hart (Melbourne, Australia) to the committee.

The choices of the two new committee members are interesting. Cardinal Napier, described as a traditionalist, had been outspoken in objecting to what he saw as African concerns being ignored by some at the Synod.

(As noted here and here.)

Archbishop Hart succeeded Cardinal Pell as the Cardinal Archbishop of Melbourne. The Cardinal has been viewed by many as leading the loyal opposition against attempts to modify or dilute settled teachings.

Confusion still exists over how the arguably most contentious section made its way into the interim report: the three paragraphs in a section still entitled “Welcoming Homosexual Persons” in the official Italian interim report. Father [Federico] Lombardi [Director of the Vatican Press Office] told reporters that the emphasis given to this topic in the Interim Report surprised him as “he recalled only one speech out of about 265 about gays during the debate” of the Synod’s first week.

This reflects the concern Pope Francis has expressed from the beginning of his pontificate for the “peripheries” of human existence, the far reaches of the world and the real life experiences of people living on the margins. It also very well may reveal his sensitivity to Cardinal Kasper’s remarks about the African contingent’s views on marriage as necessarily excluded or dismissed because of differing perceptions of relationships. The two additions were good picks.

In the English language groups, the summary labeled circular “C”, moderated by U.S. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz was another exemplary summation of teaching and pastoral concern for the intricacies, difficulties, truth and beauty of marriage.

Marriage is a gift of God to man, a blessing Given by him for the well-being of His creatures, made in His image. From the beginning God ordained that it is not good for man to live alone and so he created a helpmate for him, one equal to him, that they may live in complementarity. This gift, this mystery of attraction and love between man and woman, was from earliest times recognized as coming from God. In the New Testament, the relationship between man and woman is deepened…and explained fully as mirroring the relationship between Christ and his Body, the Church.

All the working group summaries are worth reading over, especially given how misrepresented the Synod was in global media.

Pope Francis concluded the event with what is no doubt one of his finest, most important addresses delivered to date.

I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

– The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

– The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

– The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

– The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it… that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.

One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].

It’s going to be a very interesting, busy, and for some, an uncomfortable year of taking that message to heart, and to their home dioceses, adjusting to the reality that the Holy Father – as Pope Francis as done all along – is very keen on comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. No one can claim his favor rests on them, unless they seek and strive to serve the purposes he laid out in this speech and has emphasized since he became pope. They reconvene ‘with and under Peter’ – Francis as his successor – in a year. And the final word on how best the Church can obey and conform to the will of God, will come from him.

Dr. King’s persistent message

On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, coverage is all over the media and snips from the speech are being played and printed. But only selective snips.

Americans haven’t been seeing or hearing his fuller message. There’s no question the civil rights movement the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led made historic and lasting gains in this country’s laws, politics and social fabric. He dedicated his life’s work to that, always grounding those soaring speeches and addresses in the Gospel, weaving scripture throughout his messages and referring nearly always to the Almighty, on behalf of “all God’s children.”

But some of the very people today who stand on the shoulders of the great civil rights leader and who claim his legacy gave them that opportunity, cite only portions of the Rev. Dr. King’s speeches and apply them strategically and even politically in ways he may not appreciate if he were here today.

But his niece Alveda King is here and was with me on radio with her unique insight into the fullness of Dr. Martin’s message and intentions. Which she said were all about ‘finding a more excellent way.’ Some of what she told me she had already shared here.

…Martin Luther King, Jr., my Uncle M. L. took a lot of time praying, seeking the Lord, inquiring of the Lord. So as we continue to follow his pattern for the rest of this week, for the rest of this year, for the rest of our lives – if we can only begin to realize that we’re not separate races – we are one human race in need of the love of God – and believe that truth will set us free – together we can overcome in Christ.

Therefore, I can understand why my uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “We must learn to live together as brothers [and I add sisters] or parish together as fools.”

And so, for those of us who believe the Bible, who trust God, who have been very sinful and are now repentant, we know that we need God. We know that we need to be forgiven and healed. We know that we cannot be intolerant of other. That we must seek transformation, not just tolerance, not compromise but transformation.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said the same thing, movingly, in talking about Dr. King’s legacy and the modern movement for human rights and dignity. He was the Catholic bishops’ representative at a Christian symposium in Alabama earlier this year commemorating Dr. King’s ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail.’ His remarks then applied today, so we discussed them again today.

This letter, which is rich in foundations of scripture and human philosophy, direct, and prophetic, gave a rationale for strong action as well as marching orders for the steps we must follow to lift us, as the letter states, “from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.” Rightly, he uncovered the words of St. Thomas Aquinas that the unjust law is “the human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law” and so is, as Dr. King says, “out of harmony with the moral law.”

Archbishop Kurtz talked about the consequences of losing the sense and awareness of the natural law written on the heart, and we’re certainly facing the signs of that in the culture, law, politics, everywhere.

But it’s important, he added, to recognize the gains and the good and acknowledge them.

Thus today, we must ask forgiveness for past wrongs, be grateful for words that have already borne fruit, and be resolved for more action…

Listen again to the final words of Rev. King’s fifty-year-old letter: “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

We hear and heed these words with great hope, and we pray “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where is sadness, joy … For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”

And as Dr. Michael Coulter points out, we need to hear the words of Dr. King’s famous speech later that same year, commemorated this Wednesday, lesser known words from ‘I Have A Dream’.

In the third paragraph of King’s text, he says that “when the architects of our Great Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.”…

A “promissory note” is not one of those terms we use frequently, but it’s a powerful term. It’s not a hope or a wish. In fact, there was an international agreement in 1930 which defined a promissory note as implying an unconditional promise. For King, the Declaration of Independence, which he quoted directly from, was a promissory note that the United States would ultimately guarantee for all people “the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As King then said, “It is obvious that America has defaulted on this promissory note.” King was not calling for the destruction of the American political order, but rather for us to be true to the ideals of the founding, and that’s why it is important that he quoted the Declaration.

So few commentators note this, or know this. But it’s important to know and talk about.

Finally, at the end of King’s speech is a beautiful sequence where he presents images of a truly post-racial society—and there again is one more reference to the Declaration of Independence. As he begins this “dream” section, he says: “I still have a dream. It is deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

King’s hopes were rooted in that powerful second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence that claims that no man by nature is ruler or the servant of another. It’s not just a great statement during a social struggle, it’s a great statement about what it means to be an American.

And one hoping to reveal and struggling to defend self-evident truths about the dignity of “all God’s children”, no exceptions.

Defense of Marriage

The thought suddenly occurs that whether people are defending the historically universal recognition of the dignity and sanctity of life, marriage, family or faith….they do happen to be on the defense these days.

Especially on marriage, the hottest of the hot-button cultural conflicts right now. So in that light, the same-sex marriage and civil union movement has won significantly more than the numerical uptick in states backing their agenda. Words matter, as Walter Lippman articulated so well in Public Opinion.

The president declares he no longer finds the federal Defense of Marriage Act defensible, so his Attorney General won’t be defending it in court anymore. Legislators in Illinois, New York and Rhode Island take the issue of marriage law out of the hands of voters and create new legal recognition of same-sex unions, conferring on them the same benefits of traditional marriage between a man and a woman, which the State has traditionally had a vested interest in upholding. They say it won’t infringe on rights of religious institutions, and yet it does, as the Illinois Catholic Charities adoption battle has quickly shown.

I recently had a conversation with Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Vice-President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and until this year, head of the bishops’ committee for the defense of marriage and family life. He said many of the same things as in this interview. 

Bishops, the Church, and society in general need to understand the public nature of marriage. Aspects of marriage are personal and private, but it is also public, because it affects society as a whole. 

Many people assume that marriage is a right that the state can simply create. That is a dangerous direction in which to go. The majority of voters cannot create whatever rights they want. Marriage is a gift given to us by God and defined by him. We, as Catholics, must not be afraid to say so publicly.

We need to be forthright in speaking about the importance of defending and protecting the gift of marriage within our Church and society. We need to be able to speak forthrightly to our people on the importance of marriage, and make it clear that our respect for the individual should not be at the expense of marriage itself.

Archbishop Kurtz brought up the false claim that a majority of Americans now favor same sex marriage ‘rights’, and part of the marketing of that idea is that marriage is a human right open to any two people who seek it, regardless of gender or anything else.

Columnist Maggie Gallagher examines that carefully at Public Discourse.

Elites have sounded the death knell on the marriage debate again and again, but popular support for traditional marriage refuses to die. Americans at the ballot box have repeatedly shocked elite opinion by demonstrating that even in deeply blue states a majority of Americans continues to oppose same-sex marriage.

This May, a poll commissioned by Public Opinions Strategies for the Alliance Defense Fund found that 62 percent of those surveyed agreed with this statement: “I believe marriage should be defined only as a union between one man and one woman.” Fifty-three percent strongly agreed, while just 35 percent disagreed.

Yet recent polling also reflects that Americans in the mushy middle are no longer hearing much about the opposition to same-sex marriage. Their willingness to express support for a traditional understanding of marriage is starting to shift, depending on how the question is posed to them and what other questions surround the polling question.

This shift means something: when the issue is framed as one of fairness or equality, Americans are now reluctant to disagree with gay marriage, but when it is framed as a moral or family issue, they continue to adhere strongly to traditional norms of marriage.

As Ken Blackwell recently put it, marriage is not a wedge issue but a bridge issue, creating strange bedfellow coalitions never before seen in American politics across lines of race, creed, and color.

Nonetheless, the campaign to silence opposition to gay marriage by reframing it as illegitimate hatred or bigotry is effective: those who defend marriage as the union of one man and one woman suffer consequences.

This is true.

Donate to pro-marriage organizations—or simply to a group that supports a candidate who also happens to support marriage—or ask a sitting Congressman who opposes gay marriage to address your business group—and you will meet with threats to your economic interests and your business enterprises from those who do not see same-sex marriage as an issue about which Americans of good will can and do disagree. Instead, you will be charged with failing to realize that same-sex marriage is today’s defining civil rights issue, opposition to which marks you as a bigot outside the American mainstream…

Advocates of gay marriage are not slow to use any lever of power, including government, to impose their new morality on America. The primary goal of the existing gay marriage movement is to use cultural, social, economic, and political power to create a new norm: marriage equality. The governing idea behind “marriage equality” is this: there is no difference between same-sex and opposite-sex unions. If you see a difference, there is something wrong with you…

So why is marriage, the one issue that the progressive left is energetically making too radioactive even to address, also the one issue that a candidate committed to American civilization cannot evade, avoid, or downplay?

The first reason is the nature of marriage itself.

Every human society has recognized that there is something special about the union of husband and wife. Amid the spectacular myriad of relationships that human beings create, marriage is unique for a reason: these are the only unions that can create life and connect those new young lives to the mother and father who made them.

For same-sex marriage advocates to make good on their promise of marriage equality, the very idea that children need a mom and dad must be delegitimized, rendered unspeakable in polite company. Same-sex marriage represents an intellectual and moral repudiation of the idea that marriage is grounded in any human reality outside of government, that government is obligated to respect and protect. Marriage is becoming an idea at the mercy of changing fashion, without deep roots in human nature.

Several days ago, I had a conversation with the new head of the bishops’ Committee for the Defense of  Marriage, Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone. Another prominent and clarifying voice of the church in the public debate over not just marriage law, but the nature and definition of marriage.

He engaged some of the same points he made here, because they need to be repeated often.

Our people need to understand what’s really at stake here, and that’s the very concept of marriage itself. Is it a relationship to be defined by adults for their mutual benefit and enjoyment? Or is it a relationship to bring children into the world and to provide them with the best possible context for their well-being and education?

If it’s first and foremost about children, then we’ll want children to be connected to their mothers and fathers…

The optimal situation for children is to be raised by the man and the woman who brought them into the world in a loving, committed, stable relationship.

Many studies show the role of the father figure — just the presence of the father figure in the family — is especially critical. Children need that. When they don’t have it, they long for it.

As someone wiser than I put it, when a child is born, the mother is sure to be nearby. There’s no guarantee the father will be nearby. Society needs a cultural mechanism to connect fathers to their children, and that mechanism is marriage.

Recall the emphasis British journalist Melanie Phillips put on the social consequences of missing fathers, analyzing the recent outburts of violence on the streets of London.

For most of these children come from lone-mother households. And the single most crucial factor behind all this mayhem is the willed removal of the most important thing that socialises children and turns them from feral savages into civilised citizens: a father who is a fully committed member of the family unit…

The result is fatherless boys who are consumed by an existential rage and desperate emotional need, and who take out the damage done to them by lashing out from infancy at everyone around them. Such children inhabit what is effectively a different world from the rest of society. It’s a world without any boundaries or rules. A world of emotional and physical chaos.

Bishop Cordileone told me that the person he referred to as “wiser than I” in his social insights (above) was Maggie Gallagher. Her commentary is provocative in the way that thinking needs to be provoked, and falsehoods dispelled.

Far from being a neutral or pro-liberty position, same-sex marriage amounts to a government takeover of an ancient and honorable institution. Here, there are deep similarities philosophically between the abortion and gay marriage movements. At the heart of each movement is the belief that by re-jiggering words, elites change reality itself. A human life can be redefined as a cluster of cells. Marriage can be remade to mean whatever the government decides. Reality itself can be re-mastered to accommodate sexual desires.

But in truth, government cannot create life, and did not create marriage, and government has no business redefining either…

The stubborn common sense of the American public in resisting same-sex marriage, even in the face of the mainstream media’s approval, provides a platform for presidential candidates to seize, and thereby not only resist a radical transformation of the American tradition, but also help build a culture committed to a core American idea: moral truth exists, and our rights (including our right to marriage) are not gifts of government, but are grounded in and bounded by Nature and Nature’s God.

They’re all saying the same thing, updating a biblical exhortation: Be ready to make a defense for what you believe. And if you aren’t so sure anymore what you believe, the US bishops are providing plenty of good resources to clarify.