Skip Navigation Links
Year of Mercy
Catholic News
Special Reports
Google Plus
RSS Feeds
top catholic news View Comments
Bishop praises court for affirming voters' right to define marriage
Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Click here to email! Email | Click here to print! Print | Size: A A |  
WASHINGTON (CNS)—Speaking on behalf of his fellow Catholic bishops in California, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton praised the California Supreme Court for upholding the voters' affirmation of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, but expressed disappointment that the court permitted an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples to remain legally married.
The May 26 ruling of the high court upheld the constitutionality of the state's Proposition 8 declaring that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California," but said the voters' decision could not be applied retroactively to those who married before the initiative was passed.
Bishop Blaire said he and his fellow bishops "are strongly committed to protecting the dignity and worth of every human person" and supported "the intent of law to provide equal protection for all."
"However, such purpose does not have to trump the natural and traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman," he added in a May 26 statement. "The law has found other ways to regulate civil unions without destroying the traditional understanding of marriage.
"We believe—as do the majority of Californians—that marriage between a man and a woman is foundational to our culture and crucial for human perpetuity," Bishop Blaire said.
In a Nov. 4, 2008, vote, 52 percent of the state's electorate approved Proposition 8.
In its 136-page majority decision, the court said its role was not to determine whether Proposition 8 "is wise or sound as a matter of policy or whether we, as individuals, believe it should be part of the California Constitution" but to determine "the scope of the right of the people, under the provisions of the California Constitution, to change or alter the state constitution itself through the initiative process."
On that question, the opinion written by Chief Justice Ronald M. George concluded that "Proposition 8 constitutes a permissible constitutional amendment" rather than "an impermissible constitutional revision" and "does not violate the separation of powers doctrine."
The majority decision drew immediate praise from the Campaign to Protect Marriage, a coalition that had included the state's Catholic bishops and other Catholic groups.
"We are extremely pleased that the Supreme Court has acknowledged the right of voters to define marriage in the California Constitution," said Andrew Pugno, the coalition's general counsel. "The voters have decided this issue and their views should be respected."
But organizations that had opposed Proposition 8 said they would work to repeal the measure through a ballot initiative in 2010.
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity USA, an unofficial support organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics, said it was "tragic for everyone in California that discriminatory language has been allowed to stand in the state's constitution."
"We call for the elimination of language that limits civil marriage to opposite-sex couples," she added. "Dignity USA pledges to continue its work to educate people about the importance of marriage equality, and will continue to offer spiritual and emotional support to gays and lesbians and our families in the face of this temporary loss."
All but one of the court's seven justices concurred in the majority decision, and all seven agreed that the ban on same-sex marriages could not be applied retroactively.
The only dissenter, Associate Justice Carlos R. Moreno, said the majority opinion "places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities" and "weakens the status of our state constitution as a bulwark of fundamental rights for minorities protected from the will of the majority."
The California Supreme Court had ruled May 15, 2008, that the domestic partnerships recognized by the state were an inadequate substitute for marriage and that civil marriage could not be denied to same-sex couples.
When the decision took effect a month later, thousands of couples from within and outside California took out marriage licenses and were married. Then came the November ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
Same-sex marriage is currently legal in Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine; New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch has said he will sign legislation passed by the Legislature there if additional protections for religious organizations are approved.
Bishop: Health reform urgent but abortion must be off the table
Nancy Frazier O'Brien
WASHINGTON (CNS)—Although there is an urgent need for "comprehensive health care reform leading to accessible and affordable health care for all," Congress must not include abortion as part of a national health care benefits package, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' domestic policy committee said.
Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., who chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, outlined the bishops' criteria for health care reform in a brief statement to the Senate Finance Committee May 20. The next day, the USCCB sent letters with the same message to the House, Senate and White House.
Calling health care a "critical component" of the ministry of the Catholic Church, Bishop Murphy said the church brings "strong convictions and everyday experience" to the issue.
"The Church provides health care, purchases health care and picks up the pieces of a failing health care system," he said. "The Catholic community encounters and serves the sick and uninsured in our emergency rooms, shelters and on the doorsteps of our parishes. One out of six patients is cared for in Catholic hospitals."
But he said the current federal policy of not compelling Americans to pay for abortions with their tax dollars must remain in place under any health reform plan. He also expressed the bishops' opposition to "the inclusion of other procedures or technologies that attack or undermine the sanctity and dignity of life."
"No health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for or participate in the destruction of human life," Bishop Murphy said. "To preserve this principle is morally right and politically wise as well. No health care legislation that compels Americans to pay for or participate in abortion will find sufficient votes to pass."
He called health care "a basic human right and a requirement to protect the life and dignity of every person."
"All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and this should not depend on their stage of life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, or where they live or where they come from," he said.
Bishop Murphy offered four "basic assumptions" and eight key criteria for judging any health reform plan.
"The basic assumptions we offer are these: 1) a truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity; 2) access for all with a special concern for the poor; 3) pursuing the common good and preserving pluralism, including freedom of conscience and variety of options; and 4) restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of payers," he said.
The criteria he named were: respect for life, priority concern for the poor, access for all, comprehensive benefits, pluralism, quality, cost controls and equitable financing.
He said pluralism would be judged on "whether (the reform plan) allows and encourages the involvement of the public and private sectors, including the voluntary, religious and nonprofit sectors, in the delivery of care and services" and "whether it ensures respect for religious and ethical values in the delivery of health care, for patients and for individual and institutional providers."
"The moral measure of any health care reform proposal is whether it offers affordable and accessible health care to all, beginning with those most in need," Bishop Murphy said. "This can be a matter of life or death, or dignity or deprivation."
The House and Senate are drawing up separate plans for health care reform; key leaders have said they hope to complete work on health-reform legislation by the summer recess in August.

More on Homosexuality, Gay Marriage and the Catholic Church >>
More Top Catholic News >>

blog comments powered by Disqus

Come find us at: Facebook | St. Anthony Messenger magazine Twitter | American Catholic YouTube | American Catholic

An Site from the Franciscans and Franciscan Media Copyright © 1996 - 2016