There are a lot of questions these days when it comes to the subject of marriage. Marriage laws are being challenged in the nation’s highest courts and it’s reported in the news what seems like on a daily basis.
Bishop Kagan has recently issued a pastoral letter titled “And the Two Shall Become One” on the Catholic belief and practice concerning marriage. In it, he writes that the letter is offered as an encouragement to all to thank Almighty God for the precious and singular gift of the holy union of one man and one woman for the salvation of their immortal souls and those of their children.
In short, when it concerns the sanctity of marriage, it is the Church’s duty to defend the truth. Bishop wrote that the Roman Catholic Church, founded by Jesus Christ, has received from Him the mission and authority to teach this truth, to sanctify all who believe in it, and to guide all in the truth so as to transform and elevate every person after the pattern of His life.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re pretty sure you know where the Catholic Church stands on marriage. Your answer to anyone who asks is that the Church does not believe in same-sex marriage. But, can you take that conversation a step further and answer the “why?”
Bishop issues these letters for the faithful to use as a resource. First, it helps us “brush up” on the Church doctrine we are bound to adhere to and profess to follow. Secondly, it reawakens the truth which we know exists within the Church but we aren’t knowledgeable enough to explain or defend when questioned.
For the Catholic Church, marriage between a man and a woman is non-negotiable. It’s not simply the coming together of two people who really love each other. It’s a complete, unbreakable, sacramental covenant among a man, a woman and God. The Church holds marriage to a high standard, and it should.
Certainly, the Church’s view on marriage is neither the popular nor “politically correct” one. The Church is vilified for defending it’s position on marriage based on scripture and doctrine simply because it is counter-cultural. In a corrupt world where it’s difficult to be any kind of faithful Christian, it’s even harder to be a faithful Catholic in a society that has decided we are against women’s rights, homophobic and intolerant.
In his letter, Bishop also discusses some related subjects that are often hard for the faithful to understand such as divorce, contraception, cohabitating before marriage, and chastity. The reason these are difficult subjects is that they involve sacrifice.
Oftentimes, the Catholic Church is deemed by society as outdated, discriminatory or unaccepting that all people deserve love. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The Catholic Church wants it’s faithful to know, serve, love and be loved by God. But it’s in God’s plan, not ours. The rules are His, not ours. And sometimes following those rules requires sacrifice and standing against popular culture. Jesus gave us rules so we could stay on the right path to know Him and His Father. No one ever said that path to heaven would be without challenges.
Sometimes, as a faithful Catholic, the storm of public opinion is difficult to weather. It’s not okay to waiver in the face of popular opinion, but it is okay to question, wonder and learn. Documents such as Bishop’s recent pastoral letter might help and assist you in understanding the basis of the Church’s stance on certain topics related to marriage.
If nothing else, think of the letter as a tool to get to know Jesus better. We might think we’re pretty clear on where the Church stands on the subject of marriage, but Bishop’s letter will make it even clearer. Plus, the next time you get the raised eyebrows because you tell someone you don’t believe in same-sex marriage or that strange look you get when you say you use natural family planning, you can have a sound defense backed up with scripture to share.
If you’d like to read Bishop’s letter, it is available on our website at
. We also have printed copies available or ask your parish priest.