This weekend the United States celebrates Independence Day. It is the most important of our civic holidays, recalling our nation’s founding. It is a day to give thanks to God for the blessings we have received as a country, and the freedoms we enjoy. The Catholic Church, in particular, has thrived here because of the promise of religious liberty enshrined in the Constitution. The Church has also contributed much to our nation. The Catholic Church is one of, if not the largest private provider of heath care in the U.S. through our network of hospitals, and education by way of our schools. Catholic Charities, sometimes working with the civil government, sometimes working on its own, provides social services like work placement programs, emergency housing assistance for the homeless, and food and rent assistance for those in need, and much more. When all these service agencies and religious organizations are combined, we see that we are not only providing service to countless people, but the Church is also the largest private employer in Chicago, employing around 75,000 people. These are people who vote, pay taxes as well as rent or mortgages, shop at local businesses, contributing to the economic life of the community. I could go on, but I think you get the point. Catholics have proven to be good and faithful citizens of this Republic, while also remaining good and faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States decided that persons of the same sex could legally marry in all 50 states of the Union. While we respect all people, and their right to pursue happiness in their lives, this is a decision that simply goes against the Christian understanding of what marriage is. For a disciple of Christ marriage is about more than personal happiness or satisfaction. It is more than a private arraignment entered into for the good of the couple. It has always been seen as the foundation of the family, the best, if imperfect, setting for the raising, evangelizing and education of children. To separate marriage from family, and make its definition dependent on personal sentiments independent of its deeper responsibilities is to render marriage meaningless.
As citizens or residents of this great nation, we respect all our neighbors. As Archbishop Cupich reminded us in his statement on this matter, “It is important to note that the Catholic Church has an abiding concern for the dignity of gay persons. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: ‘They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.’ (n. 2358).” But as he also reminds us, “the Supreme Court’s redefinition of civil marriage has no bearing on the Catholic Sacrament of Matrimony, in which the marriage of man and woman is a sign of the union of Christ and the Church.”
There are many people of good will on both sides of this issue. But there are, sadly, also a few who will use the Court’s decision to question our loyalty as citizens, and even try to limit our participation in public life. It is for us to move forward in faith, “with malice toward none, charity for all,” as Abraham Lincoln once said. We should know our history, and the vital role Catholics have played in the life of the country, and that we are committed to continue as loyal citizens, but always first as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.