This Valentine’s Day the Illinois State Senate is scheduled to vote on redefining marriage. As the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, I strenuously object to this legislation and hope our elected officials will see the value marriage contributes to the common good of our society.Whether the bill will be brought to vote tomorrow, I do not know. The politicians have been rather quiet about it since the Bishop's spoke out together so clearly.
We would do well to remember the color red is associated with St. Valentine’s Day because Valentine died as a martyr on February 14, about the year 270. Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Emperor Claudius II. This Valentine’s Day we would also do well to focus on a more authentic understanding of the word “love.” Love never encourages sin or leads a person further into sin, but seeks instead to help others live a holy life. As St. Valentine demonstrated, love seeks to lead us further away from sin and closer to the truth.
In this spirit, the Church defends true marriage because she knows that such marriage is a fundamental human good that has God—not the state, not human convention—as its author. The Church has always, does now, and will forever proclaim and defend true marriage as a fundamental human good that unites one man and one woman in a unique sharing of the whole of their lives. True marriage has been recognized from time immemorial as worthy of recognition and support from civil society, but such support in no way makes the definition of marriage dependent upon politics or civil law.
The Church hopes all civil servants will serve the common good and avoid acting contrary to that common good, especially in regard to basic institutions that, like marriage, are fundamental to the well-being of the whole society and her members. In a special way, the Church expects this of Catholics who have been called to the dignity and responsibility of public service. Catholics who propose or promote the legal establishment of marriage as something other than the union of one man and one woman harm the common good of society, as known by reason, and set themselves against the settled teaching of the Church.
The Catholic Church has great love and compassion for those who experience same-sex attraction and offers pastoral help for people dealing with this condition to help them live a life of chastity. This is a separate issue, however, from the definition of marriage as a natural institution between a man and a woman committed to an exclusive and life-long relationship open to the potential to bring new life into the world.
Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, pray for us!