+ Letter from Bishop Jugis and Bishop Burbidge

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2015/05/01 at 12:00 AM

While this date has passed, the reasoning is solid.

Bishop Jugis and Bishop Burbidge of the Diocese of Raleigh have asked that the following letter be read at all Masses in our state today. Please listen carefully.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This coming Tuesday, May 8th, North Carolinians will have the opportunity to adopt the proposed Marriage Amendment to our State Constitution. This amendment defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman and as the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. We, the Bishops of North Carolina, have repeatedly voiced our strong support FOR the Marriage Amendment and we are asking Catholics in both Dioceses to vote FOR the amendment.

We are FOR this definition of marriage, because we believe it is a vocation in which God calls couples to faithfully and permanently embrace a fruitful union that is open to the gift of children, a gift that comes from the sexual expression between a man and a woman. The children born of this union have the right to the indispensable place of a father and a mother in their lives. Children grow, are loved, nurtured and formed by those whose unique vocation is to be a father and a mother to their child.

Some have insisted that the Amendment will codify discrimination against homosexual persons. As Catholics, we believe in the immeasurable dignity and equal worth of all persons. We believe that our human dignity comes from God, and so, we reject hatred or the unjust treatment of any person. The fact that we do not embrace same sex marriage though can never be seen as discriminatory, as we believe that the source of our human dignity and the respect we owe to all people, flows not from the expression of our sexual orientation nor any of our actions, but rather from the dignity given to each of us by God. Therefore, the marriage of one man and one woman, which forms a unique, complementary and fruitful bond, does not negate the respect and equal worth of all people, but is rather a union which strengthens all of our relationships with others.

While our State already has a law that prohibits same-sex marriage, as we are well aware by what has taken place in several other states, such laws can be overturned by judicial or legislative action. This is why it is so important for us to vote to protect traditional marriage and pass the amendment to make this definition of marriage part of our State Constitution. The vote this week places this decision in the hands of the people of North Carolina.

We ask you to join us in our support FOR the sacred vocation of marriage and what its definition means to us and to the future of our great State. Vote FOR the referendum and Vote FOR marriage on Tuesday, May 8th.

Sincerely in Christ, Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte, and Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh.

I know we’ve heard a lot about this marriage amendment over the past several months, and perhaps some of you are tiring of it, but this amendment is so important because marriage is the fundamental building block of our society, and it touches the core of what it means to be human.
Thus, this is a very complex and emotionally charged issue too, and many Catholics are confused about the necessity of this amendment. So bear with me as we head into this breach once again!
Marriage was designed by God to be the means for the procreation and rearing of children. As the bishops’ letter states, the vocations of mothers and fathers are indispensable for the proper rearing of kids. Certainly study after study shows that kids who come from homes with a mother and father married to one another are the most likely to be happy, healthy, and successful.
If we support the idea of gay marriage, not only are we encouraging people to live a sinful lifestyle, we are also stripping the children brought into these unions of the fundamental human right to be raised by both a mother and a father.
As the bishops’ letter explains, protecting the traditional definition of marriage is not an act of discrimination against homosexual persons. Supporting this amendment is simply a recognition that marriage is something sacred, designed by God for a particular purpose, and is therefore not to subject to the relativistic whims of sinful humanity.
Obviously, our bishops have timed this letter for the election this coming Tuesday. But there are some important elements in our readings that make this letter all the more appropriate today.
In our Gospel today Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches, and He urges us toremain in Him, for “a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine.”
And Jesus begs us to remain in Him, for “anyone who does not remain in [Him] will be thrownout like a branch and wither…and they will be burned.”
In the epistle we are told that we remain in our Lord by keeping His commandments. The bottomline is that we cannot expect to be saved and go to Heaven apart from our Lord, and we cannot be
united to our Lord unless we follow His teachings. It’s that simple.

Thus, obedience is the key! If we are always obedient to our Lord’s commands, which come tous through the teachings of His Church, then we will have nothing to fear on judgment day!
But if we willfully choose to disobey Him by disobeying the teachings of the Church, wejeopardize our souls. This is the whole point of today’s Gospel. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus
was not a rebel, but rather an obedient Son to the Father. We are called to be the same!

What I want you to understand about the teachings of the Church is that they are not arbitraryrules imposed by old, celibate men in the Vatican. Our teachings flow from the revelation of Christ; they come from our Lord! Therefore, in matters of faith and morals, the Church cannot err – for God can never be wrong. That’s the promise our Lord made to the Church in sending us the Holy Spirit!
Thus, when we run across a Church teaching with which we disagree, our first question should not be: what’s wrong with the Church? In all humility, we must recognize that when we disagree with a Church teaching on a matter of faith and morals, the problem is with us.
Our Lord’s commandments that come to us through the teachings of Holy Mother Church are not meant to deny us certain freedoms or to make us unhappy. The Lord’s commandments are ordered toward helping us use our God-given freedom in a way that will make us holy. They are ordered toward helping live according to God’s will.
The problem is that our broken humanity often tends towards misusing God’s gifts, especially those that are pleasurable. As we develop bad habits arising from the misuse of God’s gifts, our intellects become warped too, such that seeing the truth of a situation becomes more difficult.
One comment I’ve heard a number of times from opponents of the marriage amendment is that Jesus would never support it. Arguing from emotion, they hypothesize that since God is love, He would never deny two people who love each other the right to be married.
But instead of emotionally hypothesizing what we feel Jesus might say or do in a given situation, I think it’s always a far better exercise look at what Jesus actually did and said!
Jesus was always kind and merciful to repentant sinners, but let us not forget that He encouraged them to sin no more, as was the case of the woman caught in adultery.
But to those who perverted the truth and who were obstinate in their sins, like the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus was harsh in condemning them, calling them a brood of vipers.
So while it is true that Jesus loves us all despite our faults and imperfections, Jesus does not love our faults and imperfections. To the contrary, Jesus desires that we do our best to find healing for our faults and imperfections and avoid sin, and He gives us His grace to make this possible.
There can be no doubt as to the Church’s teaching on homosexual activity. The Catechism states: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” (cf. CCC #2357).
This means that in every situation, no matter what, homosexual acts are always evil. Therefore, out of a genuine charity for our brothers and sisters, we must not do anything that will encourage them to fall into this sin.
Supporting the notion that homosexual persons have a right to get married is an encouragement toward grave sin because it supports the idea that there’s nothing wrong with homosexual acts, and it support the idea that homosexual unions are analogous to the complementary and procreative union of a man and woman.
This is a terrible lie, a lie that if believed, is destructive to individuals and toxic to our society.
Thus, in point of fact, Jesus would not have voted “No” on the marriage amendment, but ratherwould have supported it whole-heartedly – and that’s precisely why our bishops are telling us that we should too.
Jesus tells us today that He is the vine and we are the branches. Let us always remain in Him bykeeping His commandments. And let us joyfully and courageously stand up for His teachings!
6 May 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

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