Faced with the Supreme Court's decision to make same-sex marriage the law of the land, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, predictably expressed his displeasure:
Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.... Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children.
Other bishops, however, took another tone. Calling the majority decision in Obergefell "particularly painful," Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston urged Catholics to "both protect our own deeply held values and participate with civility and charity in the continuing national discussion about this decision."
In a longer reflection on the decision, Cardinal Donald Wuerl reminded his people that "Christians have the responsibility to learn and to grow in their faith in order to share it with others"--without barring the church door to those who struggle with the church's definition of marriage. They too must be welcomed.
This welcome is extended to everyone: married couples with children, unwed mothers and fathers, the single unmarried, couples who struggle with infertility, men and women with same-sex attraction, individuals facing gender issues, those whose marriages have broken down and suffered the trauma of divorce, people with special needs, immigrants, children born and unborn, the young, seniors, and the terminally ill, sinners and saints alike. If the Church were to welcome only those without sin, it would be empty.
Frankly acknowledging that Obergefell will make his ministry "more complex," Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta also asked everyone to remain charitable. Proclaiming Catholic teaching on marriage is not a "license for more venomous language or vile behavior against those whose opinions continue to differ from our own." The decision, Gregory continued, "confers a civil entitlement to to some people who could not claim it before." It does not and will not resolve the moral debate.
Sounding a lot like his fellow Georgian, Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer of Savannah called the decision "primarily a declaration of civil rights and not a redefinition of marriage as the Church teaches." What's more, "this judgment does not dispense either those who may approve or disapprove of this decision from the obligations of civility toward one another.... We are all God’s children and are commanded to love one another."
Commenting from Rome, where he received his pallium over the weekend, Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago discussed both the Obamacare and the gay-marriage rulings. On the former: "We have issues with provisions of that legislation and will continue to advocate to preserve our religious freedom. However, we understand that for millions of individuals and families, most of them the working poor, this decision preserves access to health care and the promise it offers of a healthier, longer life." And on the latter:
It is important to note that the Catholic Church has an abiding concern for the dignity of gay persons. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (n. 2358). This respect must be real, not rhetorical, and ever reflective of the Church’s commitment to accompanying all people. For this reason, the Church must extend support to all families, no matter their circumstances, recognizing that we are all relatives, journeying through life under the careful watch of a loving God.
Today Archbishop Kurtz took another crack at commenting on Obergefell, this time at Our Sunday Visitor. It begins: "The recent decision by the Supreme Court to change the definition of marriage requires a response. I see the decision as a ttragic error' not because I want to demean any person but rather because of my concern for the common good and the good of all." Kurtz continues: "The church, seeking to witness to Christ in every age, welcomes all and treats every person with equal dignity. We agree with those who seek change in the definition of marriage in one thing: that every person has equal dignity. We disagree about the nature of marriage." Maybe the archbishop had seen the statements of his brother bishops and wanted to make sure his words couldn't be put to uncharitable purposes. Or perhaps he was one of the 30 million people (and counting) who read Fr. James Martin's similarly themed comments on the ruling: "Love first. Everything else later."