Archbp. Nienstedt (Archd. St. Paul & Minneapolis) defends marriage

Archbishop John NienstedtA few days ago the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, H.e. Most Rev. John Nienstedt, had an op-ed piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in support of a defense of marriage amendment to the Minnesota Constitution.

You can find this also on the website of the Archdiocese.

Send a note of support to Archbishop Nienstedt through a link I will post below.

My emphases.

[Archbishop] John Nienstedt: Let’s protect the meaning of marriage

The case for a constitutional amendment in Minnesota.


April 27, 2010

Why should Minnesotans care about passing a marriage amendment?

Marriage matters to every Minnesotan, whether or not we choose to marry personally, because it is the natural way we bring together men and women to conceive and raise the next generation. The intended reality of marriage as a lifelong, committed, life-giving union between one man and one woman, a reality long accepted as established fact, is severely challenged today. High rates of fatherlessness and family fragmentation impoverish children and leave women with the unfair burden of solo parenting. Children suffer, but so does the whole society, when marriage fails in its irreplaceable task of bringing together mothers and fathers with their children.

Into this confusing mix, so-called same-sex "marriage" throws a whole new level of challenge and uncertainty. Defining marriage as simply a union of consenting parties will change the core meaning of marriage in the public square for every Minnesotan.

We might learn caution from experience. Back in the early 1970s, the experts told us that no-fault divorce would liberate women from bad marriages without affecting anyone else. We now know that as many as one-third of women fall into poverty with their children as a result of divorce. Social science caught up late with the common-sense wisdom that children need a mom and a dad working together to protect them.

In other words, changing the law of marriage to enshrine no-fault divorce had unintended consequences that few predicted. Same-sex marriage represents an even greater challenge.

Throughout history, human beings in virtually every society have recognized that, to make a marriage, one needs a man and a woman. What is more, it has long been acknowledged that marriage is not just about the happiness of adults but concerns the well-being of society — that is, the common good. Marriage exists in civil law primarily in order to provide communal support for bringing mothers and fathers together to care for their children. Same-sex unions cannot serve this public purpose.

What will happen to children growing up in a world where the law teaches them that moms and dads are interchangeable and therefore unnecessary, and that marriage has nothing intrinsically to do with the bearing and raising of children? Do we really want first-graders to be taught that gay marriage is OK, or that the influence of a mother and a father on the development of a child somehow doesn’t matter?

We all know that not all children live in the ideal situation. Many parents are doing a magnificent job working hard to raise children in less than ideal circumstances. Every son or daughter is a child of God who deserves our concern. But gay marriage would certainly be a declaration by the government that we have officially abandoned the ideal that children need both a mom and dad.

The only way to secure the definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman is to follow the lead of other states and put a simple definition of marriage in our state Constitution, beyond the reach of activist courts.
In years past, our elected officials told us that we did not need a marriage amendment, because there was no realistic threat from the courts. But the Iowa court decision, on the heels of rulings in Connecticut, California and Massachusetts, clearly demonstrates that an amendment is needed.

Thirty-one states have passed marriage amendments, from Oregon to Wisconsin, from Michigan to California. There is nothing radical about the ideal of making sure marriage is defined as a union of one man and one woman.
Marriage is the way a man and woman bind their love into a lifelong commitment that is mutual, exclusive, and open to new life — where they promise not only to love each other, but to love any children whom they create together. With that vow, the die is cast and the adventure of receiving and raising the next generation has begun.

A question as important as the future of this great, social institution called marriage should not be decided by a few, narrow elites, but by the people of Minnesota themselves. A marriage amendment is the only just and respectful resolution.

Undermining the meaning of marriage, tearing apart the necessary institution of marriage, will tear apart the bonds of society.

Drop His Excellency a note of support.  Tell him you read the op-ed. Thank him for standing up and raising his voice in the public square!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Our Catholic Identity, The future and our choices and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    Fr. Z, thank you for urging readers to consistently send notes of thanks to our Bishops. They need our support and prayers, and they need to know(!) that we are supporting them!

  2. wanda says:

    Emailed. Another Bishop uses his crosier to run-off the wolves.

  3. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    Excellent article!

    I’m glad he started with other problems with marriage (divorced, single parents, fathers who don’t stick around) and linked gay marriage to widening that problem.

    People need to realize that gay marriage is not the only threat to, as His Excellency pointed out, society as a whole, and children in particular.

    Marriage is broken, and the fix is not to allow everything.

  4. God bless and keep His Excellency, Bishop Nienstedt.
    A courageous bishop, man of God, man of the Church. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, protect and keep him!

  5. Huxtaby says:

    Fr Z please keep up this good work? I live in the UK and this was the third note of thanks that I’ve sent to an American prelate in the last 7 days. It’s quite sad in a way – as I’ve never felt compelled to write any thanks to any (Arch)bishop in the UK – as I don’t think any of them do anything!

  6. PostCatholic says:

    Just one of many problems of logic in this letter:

    Do we really want first-graders to be taught … that the influence of a mother and a father on the development of a child somehow doesn’t matter?

    Straw man argument. Who’s said the involvement of a child’s mother and/or father is not influential? Is Nienstedt trying to say that the influence of a mother and father in a heterosexual marriage is uniquely beneficial to exclusion of other family structures?

  7. PostCatholic: How would you answer the Archbishop’s question?

    Do you want first-graders taught that?

    Do you want same-sex relationships defined as “marriage”?

  8. joan ellen says:

    Note of thanks sent to His Excellency. Thanks Fr. Z.

  9. ajwagner54 says:

    “Is Nienstedt trying to say that the influence of a mother and father in a heterosexual marriage is uniquely beneficial to exclusion of other family structures?”

    Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s what he’s trying to say. As well he should, since it’s true.

  10. Jack007 says:

    God bless Fr. Z for trying to save souls, but PostCatholic is probably just trolling.
    I wouldn’t waste much time there.

    Email to the good bishop on its way!

    Jack in KC

  11. Kerry says:

    About two weeks ago after Maggie Gallagher and Most Reverend Salvatore Cordileone, Bishop of Oakland spoke at the Reclaiming the Culture of Marriage and Life Spring Forum, Archbishop Nienstadt spoke briefly. He related having spoken to (now) DFL gov. candidate Margaret Anderson Kelleher about marriage and same sex (pretend, my words) marriage. He said at the vary least the people of the State of Minnesota should be allowed to vote on this, and was told “No, the legislature will decided”. (98% accurate quote, I was there.) When she said that marriage was about “Love…” he asked, “So then a father can marry his daughter…?” Archbishop Nienstadt did not say whether her teeth caught fire on not…

  12. Kerry says:

    Catholic Beam, uh Post, I don’t know who said that. Was it maybe Lawrence of Flint…or perhaps ‘Little Boots’…? One of the valorous and virtuous ‘who’s sane’ boys, Uday or Qusay? Vlad the Impaler? Tell us.

  13. Kerry says:

    Wait! I remember!! It was Lou Costello!!! “Who picks up the ball and throws it to What. What to I Don’t Know…Triple play!” Bud, “Now you’ve got it.” Lou, “I don’t even know what I’m talkin’ about!!”

  14. PostCatholic says:

    The archbishop’s question is “Do we really want first-graders to be taught … that the influence of a mother and a father on the development of a child somehow doesn’t matter?” You ask, “Do you want first-graders taught that?”

    Of course I don’t. Neither, I suspect, would any of the archbishop’s opponents, for the simple reason that it’s patently false. Any influence on the development of a child matters; parents who exert a larger influence matter much more. This type of question is known in logic as a fallacy called the straw man argument.

    You ask, “Do you want same-sex relationships defined as ‘marriage’?” Since you ask, I’ll answer. As uncle to two beautiful, happy children being raised by loving married partners in Massachusetts, yes, my opinion is that I want there to be a civil option for devoted spouses to be married. This is cheifly because marriage conveys with it extensive legal rights and protections and I think these should be conferred upon my sister’s family. That is my opinion.

    But that wasn’t my point. Out of respect, I didn’t make a case here for same-sex marriage and won’t do so. My point was that this letter is rife with logical fallacy (you’re a Latinist with excellent command of philosophy; I’m sure you can spot the other examples) and the archbishop fails not only to make a case for his point of view, but even to state it clearly. His point of view seems to be, as I summarized, “the influence of a mother and father in a heterosexual marriage is uniquely beneficial [to children] to exclusion of other family structures?”

    I’d like to hear more about that. I’m not sure I disagree, to be very honest. The problem this view poses, though, is that that children are raised and thrive in all sorts of family structures when their needs for physical, emotional, social and spiritual growth are met. So if a heterosexual marriage is unique or ideal in some way, let’s explore why–it has implications for children being raised of necessity or choice in other types of family units.

    A troll, is someone who “someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.” I try to stay on topic and be respectful of the opinions of those I disagree with. I try to provoke thought, not emotions. I may not always succeed but if I don’t, call me on it and you’ll have an apology in short order. If you consider any sort opposition to your viewpoint is trolling, I would suggest you are not being intellectually honest. The economy of ideas winnows the best.

  15. Jack007 says:

    Unfortunately PostCatholic just doesn’t get it.

    So called “same sex marriage” is not open to discussion amongst sane people.
    It is a perversion.
    Period. End of discussion.

    In saner times, those who would choose it would be locked up. Those who might champion it, would be executed.

    I can’t stop someone from choosing it. That is their cross to bear.
    If you try and directly influence my children into accepting it as normal, I will STOP you.

    Pretty simple, really.
    No discussion is necessary.

    Calling you out as a possible troll is being charitable and letting you off easy.
    Trust me on that.

    Jack in KC

  16. PostCatholic: Sorry. But children deserve a Mum and a Dad.
    That’s natural law.
    That’s the teaching of the Church.
    There are extenuating circumstances, no doubt.
    But the plan of God (ouch!)..or rather, the natural law (ouch!) deems that children are best provided for in a nuclear family of a Mom and a Dad.

  17. Jordanes says:

    PostCatholic said: As uncle to two beautiful, happy children being raised by loving married partners in Massachusetts

    1) They’re not “happy.” To be raised by homosexuals is a state of unhappiness.

    2) The “partners” are not “loving.” Sodomy is a perversion that cries out to God for punishment. It is Orwellian to call such relationships, tendencies, and conduct “loving.” What love they may have for the children unhappily in their care is seriously mitigated by their gross perversion.

    3) The “partners” are not “married.” Regardless of what some piece of paper or some magistrate may declare, it is a falsehood to say that two persons of the same sex can be married, any more than it is possible for a man to become pregnant and give birth to a child. A rotten onion by any other name will still put off a horrid stench.

    If you want to make any headway in life, you’ll have to stop abusing language and let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.”

  18. PostCatholic says:


    I answered a direct question–one that did not address the topic I was pointing to–from the author of the blog when asked for my opinion. I might have chosen not to do so and instead refocused the discussion to the point, but I felt that since Rev. Zuhlsdorf has been patient with me he deserved the courtesy of an answer to his question. I have already said I will not engage in a polemic to defend same-sex marriage here, and I will not.

    And I will absolutely not dignify the comments about my family. But I can’t resist pointing to the wisdom of a man who once said “Nolite iudicare ut non iudicemini. In quo enim iudicio iudicaveritis iudicabimini, et in qua mensura mensi fueritis metietur vobis.

    Let’s return instead in patience and charity towards each other, in a peaceful spirit of inquiry, to the point–about which I’ve already indicated my open mind–that the archbishop wished to make but didn’t. He would like us to believe that children raised in a heterosexual marriage represents a unique ideal. I am willing to consider that a possibility; I myself was raised by a loving intact traditional Catholic family and my parents are approaching their 45th anniversary.

    If the archbishop is right, then there are implications for child rearing under other circumstances whether of necessity or choice. Such a position, though, means reconciling the fact that children are raised happily and successfully the world over in families that differ from this ideal, and it means confronting the fact that this ideal frequently is unsuccessful–not all heterosexual marriages with issue are good marriages or safe havens for children. So let’s talk about it. What makes a heterosexual marriage so unique? What qualities does it have which when absent are empirically detrimental to children and for which some compensation must be made?

  19. Jordanes says:

    Pardon my blunt and tactless approach, but why should we talk about that with you? You identify yourself as someone who has departed from the Faith. That’s a far more serious problem than merely holding to dreadfully erroneous opinions about marriage. Have you chosen to frequent this blog because you are reconsidering your severing yourself from truth, or because on some level you’re responding to the pleadings of God’s grace for you to return? If so, Father Zuhlsdorf and other priests here can help. If that’s not the case, if you’re only intellectually curious, needing to scratch an intellectual itch, there’s not much point I can see in anybody playing that game with you. Your soul is in peril, PostCatholic — you should attend to that matter first, and deal with this other question later.

  20. PostCatholic: A Mom and a Dad.
    Everything else is not the norm.
    Children in orphanages; children raised in “single-parent” households; children raised by “two Moms/Dads”…That’s not the ‘norm’; that’s exceptional. And they do need a Mom and a Dad, even if they are not biological.
    I’m sorry, but that is the ‘norm’.
    A child deserves a Mom and a Dad. Period.
    That’s the natural law; that’s Catholic teaching.
    Everything else is “outside of the norm”…kids can be raised in all kinds of different situations, but usually, in order for their proper formation, they need a “Mom” and a “Dad.”

  21. And one more thought: Catholic psychologists (read: trustworthy) all say that a Mom and a Dad who love one another and are committed to one another are the basis for psychological balance and proper formation for their children.
    A Mom and a Dad.
    Not “two mommies” nor “two daddies”.
    Catholic religious of both men and women have reared orphans and so-called unwanted children for many centuries. But they, for the most part, included the need for a Mom and a Dad in the proper formation of these children.
    Gay parents are not the answer here.
    No, not at all.

  22. PostCatholic says:

    Really, who’s trolling who? I won’t be baited into a discussion that is off-topic and personal by someone determined to be rude. I won’t pardon the tactlessness without an apology. I have not been insulting to you, Jordanes.

    Nazarethpriest, you say “Everything else is “outside of the norm”…kids can be raised in all kinds of different situations, but usually, in order for their proper formation, they need a “Mom” and a “Dad.”” My question is, why is that so? I’m aware that it’s catholic teaching and I agree that nature is ordered in such a way that human children have a mother and father known to them and involved in their upbringing. My sincere question is, what is it about that arrangement that is uniquely beneficial? And when children are inevitably raised in different situations such as some of the ones you enumerate (to which I’ll add another common alternative: by their grandparents) what is missing, and can what is missing in some way be compensated?

  23. PostCatholic: I have to tell you; I was raised by grandparents until I was five or so years old. But I had a Mom and a Dad; not necessarily my biological parents, but a Mother and a Father, just the same. And for good or for worse, I lived in an imperfect situation with teenaged uncles who teased the snot out of me…okay…so what? I had people who loved me; grandparents, aunts and uncles, my own parents.
    Children, from my understanding as a educator, a priest, a theologian and one who was raised in an intact family need a Mom and a Dad.
    Circumstances may vary; situations may demand certain adjustments; but young girls and young boys need some kind of Mother and Father.
    It is part of our formation as humans that we need to be influenced by a maternal figure and a paternal figure; it’s just the way it is.
    Those who have little experience with the opposite sex (in a maternal/paternal role or with brothers/sisters) have a more difficult time adjusting to normal social/sexual relationships (and I don’t mean genital here; I mean man-women/man-man/woman-man).
    The nuclear family (mom-dad-children) is the norm.
    The norm.
    There are other varieties of this for all kinds of different reasons; but it is the norm.

  24. PostCatholic says:

    Nazarethpriest: I’d really like to read those psychologist’s conclusions. Can you cite them for me? I missed that second comment; I think you were writing it while I was responding to your first.

  25. PostCatholic says:

    Oops and once again. I agree that circumstances vary; what I’m asking about are the adjustments, because the norm doesn’t always hold. It’s interesting you substitute “maternal figure” and “paternal figure” for mother and father; perhaps that’s the adjustment you mean? I don’t want to put words in your mouth so correct me if I err.

    My guess–and it’s only a guess and unsupported, and I’m sincerely interested in what support there may be–is that strong and involved male and female role models are necessary to a child of either gender for forming a healthy personality. I also think a child needs love, affection and a sense of security from custodial adults or indeed they may have difficulties later in life. I’m just not sure why a heterosexual marriage is unique in being able to provide those things.

  26. Jordanes says:

    PostCatholic said, “I won’t be baited into a discussion that is off-topic and personal by someone determined to be rude.”

    As I said, I’m not interested in a discussion with you, so I couldn’t be trying to bait you into one.

    “I won’t pardon the tactlessness without an apology. I have not been insulting to you, Jordanes.”

    Nor have I insulted you, so no apology is called for. I have only told you the truth and confronted you about your coming here to engage in discussion about matters of far less importance than your turning from your Lord. I see nothing to discuss with you until you’ve addressed that –something that doesn’t happen in a blog comment box.

  27. lux_perpetua says:

    tried to send a note but the “security word” feature renders the form inaccessible to me. any other way to contact him other than that form? after all, according to the site I could be a robot.

  28. AnAmericanMother says:


    I’m going to attempt to answer your question.

    A mother and a father in a marriage are necessary to demonstrate for the children in action the proper complementary roles of a mother and a father. The love between the parents that, by its flowering, produces and loves the child of the union, is the way that children learn by observing and participating in the family, what parental love means.

    “Custodian” or “role model” is newspeak for imperfect attempts to imitate the perfect model of the traditional, natural family. Imitation is not reality. Certainly there are disasters – death, divorce, separation – that deprive children of the proper model. And those have happened in our family. But this is an imperfect world and such things will happen.

    The problem is with believing that disaster is normal and that father and mother don’t matter. Setting out to place a child in a toxic situation is wrong.

    As long as we’re talking anecdotal evidence, two lesbians of my acquaintance have a male child, conceived by artificial insemination by one of the women. This poor kid was messed up from the beginning, but now that he is reaching puberty things are really disastrous. Particularly because the women seem unable to suspend their hatred of men now that he is obviously male.

    Kids can overcome some pretty rough starts in life, but he has had a particularly rough one.

  29. irishgirl says:

    Father Z, I sent an email to the Archbishop-thanks for posting this op-ed piece.

    I said to His Excellency that we need our shepherds to put teeth into their pronouncements and to use their crosiers to ‘whack the sheep on the behind now and then’!

    And I like your description of the bishop’s crosier too, wanda!

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