Archbishop: Marriage is more than friendship

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, gives the homily during a July 4 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on the final day of the U.S. bishops' Fortnight for Freedom campaign. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, gives the homily during a July 4 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on the final day of the U.S. bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom campaign. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor

In response to the U.S. District Court’s decision last week that Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said that all people deserve deep respect, love and friendship.

“But we cannot reduce marriage to just another form of friendship,” he said during a phone interview while on vacation July 7.

“The gift of marriage within society is that unique union of a man and a woman in a committed, faithful relationship with one another that bears the fruit of children — or the possibility of bearing the fruit of children,” he said.

In his ruling released July 1, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II found that Kentucky’s law prohibiting same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. He then stayed the application of his ruling until it can be appealed before the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Kentucky’s voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution in 2004 that says only a marriage between one man and one woman may be considered valid in Kentucky. Likewise, legal statuses similar to marriage also are considered invalid, the amendment says.

In his opinion, Judge Heyburn wrote that sections of the Kentucky Constitution, in denying same-sex couples the right to marry in the state, “violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and they are void and unenforceable.”

Lamenting that opinion, Archbishop Kurtz said the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, the public policy arm of Kentucky’s bishops, “does not support the judicial decision that takes the decision away from the people.”

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said in a statement last week that Kentucky will appeal the ruling to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, as Judge Heyburn had expected.

Archbishop Kurtz reiterated the church’s position that “every human created in the image and likeness of God deserves dignity and true friendship.” But, he said, the gift of marriage “reflects the complementarity of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman.”

He noted that the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, which will take place at the Vatican this fall, and another synod on the family in 2015, will delve deeply into contemporary issues facing families and marriage, including unique gender roles in marriage.

The synods will be an opportunity for a “renewed solid anthropology in regards to the uniqueness of the man and the uniqueness of a woman in the relationship that is marriage,” he said.

“People in our society rightly go against stereotypes of what is a man and what is a woman, yet we need to rediscover the uniqueness of what is a man and what is a woman and the unique contributions they make to a family, children and all these things from which our society is built,” he said, adding that the synods “will be calling married couples to be authentic witnesses to marriage and all people to be authentic witnesses to chaste living.”

The extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family will meet Oct. 5-19 and will gather together the presidents of national bishops’ conferences, the heads of Eastern Catholic churches and Vatican officials. Archbishop Kurtz, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is one of the delegates.

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