In recent months, two American bishops have spoken out and made statements in relation to the passage of legislation approving same-sex civil unions in the area of their respective dioceses. When quoting from statements such as these it is often difficult to present the entire message in a condensed form. I shall, therefore, give below a small number of extracts from each of the statements.
In a Decree issued by Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, he states:
‘[…] For millennia, civil authority recognized the true nature of marriage. The marital union between one man and one woman was universally accepted by civil law as a constitutive element of human society, which is vital to the human family and to the continuation of human race. In a reversal of this tradition, the New York State Legislature recently enacted a law that recognizes same-sex unions as marriages in the State of New York. This law is irreconcilable with the nature and the definition of marriage as established by Divine law.‘Recognizing my responsibility as Diocesan Bishop to guide the Faithful by clearly teaching the truths of the Faith with charity and without compromise, I hereby decree the following diocesan policy regarding same-sex civil marriages. This policy is to be followed by all persons whose activities are subject to my moral authority as Archbishop of New York. It is intended to provide instruction for the activities of these persons and for the use of the property and facilities of the Church and Catholic-affiliated entities within the canonical boundaries of this Archdiocese.’
The Decree continues with a detailed list of instructions as indicated by the Archbishop, ending with the admonition that ‘Failure to adhere to this policy may result in the imposition of canonical sanctions.’
Bishop Thomas Tobin, Bishop of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, in his statement, says:
‘I am deeply disappointed that Rhode Island will establish civil unions in our state. The concept of civil unions is a social experiment that promotes an immoral lifestyle, is a mockery of the institution of marriage as designed by God, undermines the well-being of our families, and poses a threat to religious liberty.‘In this context it is my obligation to remind Catholics of the teachings of the Church on this matter. First, the Church continues to have respect and love for persons with same-sex attraction; they are indeed children of God and our brothers and sisters in the human family. We pray for their well-being and offer them spiritual guidance and pastoral care. We also extend our love and support to families of homosexual persons who sometimes struggle with this difficult emotional issue.‘[…] Because civil unions promote an unacceptable lifestyle, undermine the faith of the Church on holy matrimony, and cause scandal and confusion, Catholics may not participate in civil unions. To do so is a very grave violation of the moral law and, thus, seriously sinful. A civil union can never be accepted as a legitimate alternative to matrimony. […]’