Archbishop John Myers: Marriage in the United States Is Threatened and Undermined
Head of Newark Archdiocese Releases Pastoral Letter on Marriage
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By Junno Arocho
ROME, SEPT. 25, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The subject of marriage has been an area of constant debate in recent years. As election season approaches in the United States, advocates of same-sex "marriage" have increasingly gained more and more influence in politics and the entertainment industry. Those on the other side of the debate have faced criticism, even so far as being accused of bigotry for voicing support for traditional marriage.
The Catholic Church in the United States has not remained silent despite many attempts by supporters of same-sex "marriage" to quiet and discredit them. In spite of many attacks from different fronts, the U.S. bishops have remained steadfast in support of the traditional union between man and woman.
Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, New Jersey has released today a pastoral letter on the definition, purpose and sanctity of marriage. As head of one of the nation's largest diocese with well over 1 million Catholics, Archbishop Myers set out to help the faithful "form their consciences" on the sacrament of marriage. Using the writings of philosophers, both religious and secular, the American prelate makes the case for traditional marriage according to the natural law, thus giving a balanced view of the sacrament of marriage through the eyes of both faith and reason.
Archbishop Myers spoke with ZENIT on his pastoral letter and on the state of marriage in the United States.
ZENIT: What prompted you to write the pastoral letter on marriage?
Archbishop Myers: Well, I worked for some time on it because marriage is one of the foundations of any society and, of course, important in the Church. In our society, it's being undermined in many ways, both by some government actions, also by cultural pressures and the preferences of people. So, my concern is that people live the mystery of the sacrament of marriage; and also that we have the stability which is required for stability in society and for rearing children properly. So, I was concerned about all those things when I set out several months ago to write the pastoral [letter].
ZENIT: How do you see the state of marriage right now in the United States? It’s a big issue right now that a lot of people are bringing up.
Archbishop Myers: I don't think you have to have extra-sensory perception to realize that marriage in the United States is threatened and undermined in many ways. Even though, there are many good and happy marriages, there are others where people don't bother to marry in the first place, and also many divorces and other views of marriage which really reduce it to simply the emotional relationship between husband and wife or between partners. That really is not the Church's full understanding of marriage. Marriage is, as the Church understands, from the Word of God and from the reflection of the Church, and the experience of people across the centuries, not just believers, marriage is a union of a man and woman, a stable committed relationship which is open to children and within which children can be properly reared and have the emotional backing and support and the help that a good solid marriage can offer to anyone who has the good fortune of being reared in such a marriage. I know that would be true of myself, but I'm sure it's true of many other people who would acknowledge good family life as one of the most important things that ever happened in their lives.
ZENIT: In your pastoral letter, you say that "most of the truth about marriage can be grasped by reason alone" and that "philosophers, both secular and religious, have from antiquity recognized the existence of the “natural law". What then, in your opinion, prompts supporters of same-sex "marriage" to deny the natural law, especially when many claim that homosexual tendencies are genetic?
Archbishop Myers: Well first of all, I don't pretend to know all the complex causes that may be involved in someone having homosexual inclinations. But I do know that, in marriage, if you reject God and you reject the role of creator and realize that God has created ourselves and our world and the universe for a specific purpose, then it becomes our responsibility to use the gifts God has given us and the invitation he has given us to live within the dynamics of human nature which God has given us. So many people who hold the positions which you have mentioned, do not admit to even the transcendent, they don't admit God, rather they think that they are the center of their particular moral universe and they can define marriage or anything else anyway they want. And that is a profound mistake, and philosophers from Plato to Aristotle, to Cicero in Rome, to St. Thomas Aquinas and even Martin Luther King [Jr.], in more recent times, have pointed out that the laws of society must be in conformity with the natural law which is the order which God has established in human nature, in human society and in the universe.
ZENIT: You were mentioning earlier a good point in regards to marriage being undermined by several factors: government, cultural figures, especially the media and the entertainment industry. There's a lot of things that have been released that try to put same-sex "marriage" in a positive light. Those types of things are very influential in society. How do you, as Archbishop of Newark, and the Archdiocese of Newark announce the gospel in this very difficult climate where people are heavily influenced by society?
Archbishop Myers: First of all, we know (myself, the priests, and those who teach in the Archdiocese) that we are to proclaim the truth in season and out of season. So, we're preaching during sacred liturgy, or helping people prepare their children for baptism or for marriage, or in our schools or in our catechetical programs, in numerous apostolates, almost everything we do, we intend to and try to be, and I think largely are, true to the gospel of Jesus Christ as entrusted to the Church. And so, we're kind of across the board, we're doing that. This archdiocese has joined with the other dioceses in New Jersey to try to oppose any actions which in the long run will undermine marriage and we intend to stay that course. And of course, this pastoral letter of mine is based on concern about that, and our desire to have people understand, both from revelation by the word of God and also from just understanding human nature and knowing ourselves better, even without the gift of revelation that this is the way God made us and directs us and what he proposes to us, and expects from us for our own happiness and stability and that of society.
ZENIT: Following along this influence that society has, there are many proponents who say that same-sex "marriage" is equal or comparable to the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s. How do you respond to that? What are your thoughts on that particular notion?
Archbishop Myers: I think it's preposterous. It simply is not true because no one has an absolute right to demand that the state or anyone else violate the law of God and of our nature. And so, I would be very upset about that, I disagree deeply with those who would propose that. You mentioned people in public life, media people, those who are stars or celebrities, and I suspect, without wanting to be too harsh in my judgment, that they're given so much attention, and they are the object of so much reporting, and their lives are so public, that they come to think of themselves as kind of the center of their universe, and they can define it the way they want to. Without any reference to the transcendent or to God, and I think that is a profound mistake for any human person, but certainly in these matters, it is a serious mistake. It's preposterous to think that a homosexual union can be called marriage in any sense of the word. Because marriage is a union of man and woman always for centuries, across cultures has been understood as that, which is a permanent commitment which is open to life. Homosexual unions, whatever legal status they might be given, can never appropriately be called marriage or treated identically with marriage.
ZENIT: Marriage has become one of the many hot button issues in the upcoming US presidential elections. What is your take on the current political climate in the United States with regard to marriage?
Archbishop Myers: Well, I've already given that essentially. People of one political persuasion are pursuing this in an effort to garner more votes. I think, not that they aren't convinced, they are just incorrectly convinced that this is the proper way to go and people of another political persuasion recognize that we must all recognize and accept the nature of marriage as it is God-given, and that is the basis of a solid society and a society that has stability, a society in which families can thrive and which children can thrive. And so, to the degree that people are making errors on these fundamental issues, I think they are wrong. And of course, those who are proclaiming what I believe is rooted in the truth are the ones that are best serving society.
ZENIT: We have a lot of readers of ZENIT who are following this issue of marriage closely. Do you have a message for any of our readers, especially for the faithful, not only for the Archdiocese of Newark, but as well as for the United States in regard to this issue?
Archbishop Myers: My message is to stay the course, pay attention to St. Paul who says that we must always proclaim the truth in season and out of season. It is by doing that, even when it is difficult, even if it should come to our being called "bigots" incorrectly and unfairly because we will not recognize positions that are erroneous, we should forge ahead. We need to stay faithful to the word of God and faithful really to human nature, which I've tried to say in the pastoral [letter]. We can understand just by the use of human reason, unassisted by revelation although we know because God is so good to us, that he reinforces what we know by our own intellects, by his gift of divine revelation.
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On the NET
For the full text of Archbishop Myers' Pastoral Letter on Marriage, go to http://www.rcan.org/archbish/jjm_letters/wtbo.pdf
On ZENIT's page
For an executive summary of Archbishop Myers' Pastoral Letter on Marriage, go to http://www.zenit.org/article-35594?l=english