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Catholics must proclaim, protect truth about marriage, family

By Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

Summer is usually a time for some well-earned family rest and refreshment. This summer, though, we're facing an issue that could seriously impact the nature of the family itself.

As the news media have reported for months, the definition of marriage is suddenly up for grabs in the United States and other developed nations. If citizens don't act vigorously to protect marriage now, the fallout for our nation's children in the coming decades will be huge and damaging.

The Holy Father spoke to the urgency of this issue, twice, just last week.

In comments to visiting Latin American bishops, the pope praised their work "to defend and promote the institution of family." He stressed the responsibility of Catholics "to continue to proclaim firmly the truth about marriage and family, established by God, as an authentic service to society."

He went on to say, "Not doing so would be a grave pastoral omission that would induce believers to error, as well as those who have the serious responsibility to make decisions for the common good of the nation." The truth about the nature of marriage, he said, "is valid not only for Catholics, but for all men and women without distinction, as marriage and the family constitute an irreplaceable good of society, (and society) cannot remain indifferent in face of its degradation or loss of identity."

In speaking to the bishops, the pope emphasized that "the family, the central and fundamental nucleus of all of society deserves the maximum protection and help to carry out its mission." He reminded Christians that we "cannot give in to certain voices that seem to confuse marriage with other forms of union that are completely different, when not contrary to it."

He later reiterated his concerns in remarks to Spain's new ambassador to the Holy See. The Holy Father said the rights of the family need to be paramount in society, and "among such rights is to be born and raised in a stable home where the words `father' and `mother' can be said with joy and without deceit."

In thinking about today's debate over the identity of marriage, Catholics need to keep three basic principles in mind.

First, this is not a debate over minority rights. In fact, casting it in that language is gravely misleading. The traditional legal protections around marriage are designed primarily for the bearing and raising of children. Minority groups have every right to live in the United States without intimidation. They do not have a right to redefine marriage in a way that undermines the family and attacks the environment in which children learn about the world and grow to maturity.

Second, the judicial activism that imposed abortion on demand on an unwilling country, and which has struck down every popular attempt to moderate it in the decades since, must not be allowed to do the same to Americans' understanding of marriage. Defining and protecting marriage is rightly a matter for the people to decide through legislative action, not through court edict.

Finally, no single state should be allowed to decide this vital issue for the entire country. If Americans are one nation, we need to express that unity in our basic national values and institutions, and nothing determines our shared future as a people more directly than our convic-tions about marriage and the family. This is why a Federal Marriage Amendment, confirming the identity of marriage for our whole country as part of our Constitution, is so important.

During the week of July 12, the United States Senate will take up the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) in a serious way. This is an important legislative moment. It's a good time to write Colorado Senators Wayne Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell and urge them to do everything they can to advance the FMA. It's a vital moment to educate ourselves about the current marriage debate, to get actively involved and to mobilize fellow Catholics and other people of good will to demand constitutional protection for marriage.

This is an issue that could transform American society in ways we can only begin to imagine. For the sake of generations of children to come, protecting the identity of marriage is a struggle we need to win.

Contact information for Colorado senators: Send mail to Sen. Wayne Allard, 525 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, or call 202-224-5941. Send mail to Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, 380 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, or call 202-224-5852.

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