In just a few days, Pope Benedict XVI will be arriving in Washington for his pastoral visit to the United States. One of the interesting facets about this papal trip is that it is not viewed as news exclusive to Catholics.
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A recent poll indicates that a vast majority of Americans -- 70 percent -- are looking forward to the Holy Father's visit in the United States as a spiritual leader. He is really recognized as a universal pastor of the entire world, perhaps because of his willingness to speak for truth, no matter if it is popular or unpopular.
I am coming to you today, much as Pope Benedict XVI will come to our country next week, as a pastor. That is what I do and who I am -- a pastor. I don't come to you today as a lawyer, a legislator, an activist or a lobbyist. I come to you today as a pastor, a pastor with a desire to testify on behalf of one of the oldest institutions of humanity -- marriage itself.
Many men and women are called to married life. Implicit in this call is the practical ramification of how married life is to be lived. Married men and women are called to live for others to form the very backbone of society. This call to a marriage is a tremendous blessing, as well as a tremendous responsibility.
That marriage has extraordinary cultural impact is as old as humanity. That marriage must be considered truly sacred seems to elude us. We have reached the point of a laissez faire view of marriage, a concerted effort to expand its definition so vaguely that marriage essentially becomes meaningless. At a time when we should be engaged in doing all we can to strengthen marriage, and especially strengthen the family, we are facing cultural forces that want to so water down the definition of marriage that it could apply to any human relationship, or to no relationship at all.
We Catholics are not unique in our view of marriage. People of other faiths and those who profess no religion have long held the same view. The laws of many nations favor or grant special status to unions between one man and one woman. This reflects a widely shared understanding grounded in the natural law that marriage and family life are fundamental to the moral and social well being of the community.
Support for a Marriage Protection Amendment does not imply or justify animosity toward any individual or group. Church teaching regarding the dignity of homosexual persons is clear: "They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity" (Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 2358). Even as we ask support for this amendment we also urge repudiation of words and deeds that demean individuals with a homosexual orientation. Our support of this amendment has as its only motive the strengthening and defense of marriage.
We know that in other states where the definition of marriage is not constitutionally protected, the fundamental understanding of marriage has been forcefully redefined. Legislative statutes such as Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act that define marriage as a fundamental covenant between husband and wife, between one man and one woman -- though admirable in their intent -- can be thrown out if not clearly and precisely protected in state constitutions. When the definition of marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman is tossed aside, legislatures adopt equivalencies to marriage which make little legal, social and ethical sense.
Very clearly, we need to have a Marriage Protection Amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution that recognizes marriage for what it is: a sacred covenant between husband and wife, between one man and one woman as an indispensible institution for society and as the indispensible foundation of family. Without a constitutional protection of marriage, Pennsylvania will find itself in the terrible position of struggling to defend marriage after it has been rendered legally and fundamentally meaningless.
We have seen the results of the devaluation of marriage, of using marriage as a testing lab for various agendas. We need now what is best for children, families, and society.
Today in Pennsylvania, we need the Marriage Protection Amendment.