Following on from yesterday’s post about marriage, I thought it would be useful to post something about the Church’s role in the public square. Lo and behold! Catholic Lane has published an article by Bishop Loverde on this very topic. He says, in part:
…the Church does have a place in the public square, but Her place is unique. Her role is to inform public debate about the universal truths and principles of a just society rather than to make specific policies or to promote candidates for office. The Church serves as a conscience for civil society. The principles that the Church defends in public life are not strictly religious principles knowable only through supernatural revelation, but are derived from the natural law, which can be known by right reason. These natural law principles can be discussed by all people of good will who are open to rational discourse and truth. Thus, the Church reminds voters and those in public life of the law written in their hearts and of that law’s necessary role in maintaining an equitable and harmonious society.
Often, the way that the Church contributes to political debates is by drawing upon basic principles about human dignity and the common good. For example, in the debate over undocumented immigration in the United States, the Church reminds all involved to balance the rights of national sovereignty and legal borders with respect for the dignity of each person and family. She does not propose specific political solutions to the problem, but calls for those deliberating these policies to be guided by humane principles as they strive to do what is best.
While most issues debated in the public square are matters of prudential judgment, there are others that touch on intrinsic evil and thus require the Church in Her prophetic mission to take an absolute stand against them. In our age, these issues especially concern the respect for human life and the definition of marriage and family. It is always, and at all times, evil to willfully take an innocent human life, or to willfully assist someone in those acts. Therefore, witnessing to the truth, the Church must call for an end to all forms of abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research.
Another clear-cut truth is that marriage between a man and a woman is not a societal construct, but a reality that exists because of the nature inherent in each human person. Human beings did not invent or define marriage; therefore we should accept and live out the reality that truly exists. Life and marriage do not attain their meaning and dignity from government or even from a democratic vote, because they are more elemental than these institutions. Life, marriage and family exist first and then governments of various kinds gain their being from them. Governments are instituted to aid and protect life and the family — not to decide what they are. The Church resists all attempts to redefine these fundamental human realities and invites all to enter into a rational dialogue about the full meaning of these God-given realities.
In my view, my proposal that the Church steps out of being a State-sanctioned marriage celebrant strengthens our power to be part of the public debate on the nature of marriage.
We have three very clear separate categories: marriages that are sacramental; marriages that comply with the natural law even though they are not sacramental; and marriages that breach natural law in one way or another (such as open marriages where fidelity is not promised, or sequential marriages where those involved promise to be married as long as their love lasts). Let’s make our position much clearer by celebrating only the first, blessing the second, and explaining why we reject the third.