(CNSNews.com) – Because marriage between one man and one woman was established by nature itself, neither the government, the courts, nor the Democratic attorney general of Virginia have the “right or legitimate authority to alter the original design of marriage,” said the two Catholic bishops for Virginia, who added that the Catholic Church cannot violate its own teachings and “will continue to defend marriage as a union between a man and a woman.”
Bishop Paul S. Loverde, head of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, for northern Virginia, and Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo, head of the Diocese of Richmond, made their statement on the issue in a commentary published in the Virginian Pilot on Feb. 2 and distributed to Catholic parishes throughout the Commonwealth.
“Though long-recognized in church and civil law, marriage did not originate in church or state but in nature,” said Bishops Loverde and DiLorenzo. “Long before nations or organized religions, the institution of marriage existed as the union of one man and one woman.”
“Marriage has been shown throughout history to be civilization's irreplaceable building block, benefitting children and society at large,” said the bishops. “No religion, government or individual has the right or legitimate authority to alter the original design of marriage. Likewise, neither the attorney general nor the courts have the authority to impose a new definition of marriage on society.”
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat and a Presbyterian, was sworn into office on Jan 11. On Jan. 23, he announced that he would not defend the Virginia Marriage Amendment, which the citizens of Virginia approved by vote in 2006 and which amends the state constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. Herring, as a state senator in 2006, voted in favor of the amendment. (See Section 15-A.)
In January, Herring said, "I believe the freedom to marry is a fundamental right and I intend to ensure that Virginia is on the right side of history and the right side of the law."
Bishops Loverde and DiLorenzo said that Herring “turned his back on the expressed wishes of our commonwealth's citizens when he announced he would not defend the constitutional amendment but would instead join the plaintiffs and actively oppose it in pending litigation.”
“While declining to defend the state constitution without even appointing outside counsel is unusual enough for the state's top attorney, his decision to actively challenge the state's definition of marriage -- a definition he voted for when serving as a state senator -- is shocking and reckless,” said the bishops.
“We call upon the attorney general to honor the oath he took, as we call upon all Virginians to defend marriage,” they said.
Last week, the U.S. district judge for Norfolk, Arenda L. Wright Allen, issued a ruling in an ongoing challenge to the Virginia Marriage Amendment stating that the ban on homosexual marriage is unconstitutional. The judge’s decision is still headed for appeal to the 4th Circuit in Richmond and Attorney General Herring has said the state will continue to prohibit gay “marriages” until the legal process concludes. But Herring is not defending the state constitution in federal court.
In addition to explaining how marriage between one man and one woman was established by nature, and subsequently endorsed by the state and the church, Bishops Loverde and DiLorenzo discussed how a child has a natural right to a mother and a father.
“Government recognizes marriage not because it has an interest in affording legal protection to the emotional commitment made between two people,” said the bishops. “Rather, it recognizes marriage because it has an interest in the union of one man and one woman, whose sexual complementarity is ordered toward the procreation of children.”
“Decades of research demonstrate that children do best when raised by a mother and a father, affirming that mothers and fathers are not interchangeable or irrelevant to children's well-being,” said the Catholic leaders. “Redefining marriage beyond the union between a man and a woman renders it a meaningless institution focused on the emotional satisfaction of adults, rather than children's needs and rights.”
Bishops Loverde and DiLorenzo also quoted Pope Francis who, as the cardinal-archbishop for Argentina in 2010 opposed a same-sex “marriage” proposal in that country. The future pope said, “At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”
In their statement, the Virginia bishops said, “We echo Pope Francis' message and the timeless teaching of our faith that the institution of marriage is based in the objective, biological reality that men and women are different, yet complementary.”
“[W]hat is at stake here far surpasses the issue of the attorney general's role and integrity,” said Bishops Loverde and DiLorenzo. “Most fundamentally, what is at stake is the preservation of the family, the fundamental and foundational unit of society.”
In the diocese of Arlington, headed by Bishop Loverde, there are an estimated 454,000 Catholics and 68 parishes. In the diocese of Richmond, headed by Bishop DiLorenzo, there are about 233,000 Catholics and 151 parishes.