Minnesota: Bp. Sirba testifies for defense of marriage amendment

The Catholic Spirit, Archdiocesan newspaper of my native place, has a piece about the testimony in defense of marriage given to the House Civil Law Committee of the Minnesota Legislature by His Excellency Most. Rev. Paul Sirba, Bishop of Duluth.  For this statement he spoke for all the bishops of Minnesota.

From my personal experience, Bp. Sirba was one of the best priests I have ever known. I have known him for 30 years.

Duluth bishop testifies in favor of marriage amendment bill
May 3, 2011

Bishop Paul Sirba of Duluth testified May 2 before the House Civil Law Committee in support of a bill (HF 1613) that would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2012 to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. [Make it so!]

“Based on God’s Word given in divine revelation, we believe that marriage creates a sacred bond between spouses,” said Bishop Sirba, speaking for the Catholic bishops of Minnesota. “We hold this to be true not only for ourselves, but for all humanity.” [And marriage can be defended also from the point of view of reason, without the reference to divine revelation.]

The church’s convictions about marriage “find ample support in principles which can be discovered by human reason and which have been reflected throughout human history,” he said.

The House bill, introduced by Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud), was approved by the Civil Law Committee by a 10-7 vote. A companion bill in the Senate (SF 1308), authored by Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), was passed April 29 in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Bishop John Quinn of Winona testified in support of the measure.

If both houses pass the measure, a question would be placed on the ballot in November 2012 asking voters: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”

Bishop Sirba was the third of seven people to testify on behalf of the House bill. Hundreds of people were directed to a lower-level room to watch the proceedings via live broadcast, as only ticketed participants were allowed into the packed hearing room.

Testimony in support of the bill was also given by representatives from four other faith groups, University of St. Thomas School of Law professor Teresa Collett and Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute, [Participates at Acton Institute’s summer university.  Great speaker.] a project of the National Organization for Marriage. Amendment opponents also testified.

Bishop Sirba said “the committed relationship between one man and one woman calls forth the best of the spouses, not only for their own sake, but also for the well-being of their children and for the advancement of the common good.”

In defending the institution of marriage, he emphasized that “persons with same-sex attractions are our sisters and brothers, and should not be deprived of their authentic human rights, including the most fundamental rights of all — the right to life and the right to love.” [It is impossible for them to claim a right to marriage, which can only be between one man and one women.]

The Catholic Church opposes discrimination against any person based on a same-sex attraction, he said. “At the same time,” he added, “meeting authentic human needs does not require changing society’s definition of marriage.”

Bishop Sirba said the bishops believe the amendment is needed because several legislative proposals in the past few years have sought to “transform marriage from an institution focused on the needs of children into a totally new legal entity centered on the happiness of adults.”  [Can we conclude from this that passage of legislation allowing same-sex couples to “marry” and then in some way adopt children, is a form of child abuse?]

To view the Minnesota Catholic Conference’s “Marriage Amendment Resource Page,” visit HERE.

WDTPRS kudos to Bp. Sirba.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Andrew says:

    “Marriage” has always meant the union of one man and one woman. It is a novelty to suggest that a marriage might also be defined as a union of two individuals of the same gender. Whatever such a union might be, it is not a “marriage”. Legislators who try to redefine marriages are redefining the existing status of married couples (the very backbone of the nation). This is not about equal rights. This is about trying to usurp and appropriate something by legislative constrain. Legislators should not be redefining the existing status of married couples (the very backbone of the nation).

  2. veritas76 says:

    We love Bishop Quinn! From an article on the testimonies…

    Groups on both sides of the issue appear to be gearing up for a broader campaign aimed at voters. The Minnesota Family Council and the Catholic Church have both lobbied heavily in favor of the amendment. John Quinn, the bishop of the Winona Archdiocese, spoke on behalf of all of the Catholic bishops in Minnesota.

    “There is no doubt about the teaching of the Catholic Church on this issue,” said Quinn. “Marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and law must reflect what we know from reason, experience, tradition as well as revelation.”

    And a wonderful photo of our bishop! http://www.daylife.com/photo/053I9FH3974jr?__site=daylife&q=John+Quinn+%28politician%29

  3. acp39 says:

    The good bishop states that the argument is over the efforts of some “to transform marriage from an institution focused on the needs of children into a totally new legal entity centered on the happiness of adults”

    I think this quote deftly sums up the whole debate. The same-sex marriage advocates’s are indeed creating a new legal entity and their argument relies on question-begging. They assume their conclusion, without proving it, that marriage has nothing to do with procreation or procreative capabilities. Judge Walker in California, with the hubris of Icarus, stated that marriage has nothing to do with the sex of the parties but is rather about a lifelong relationship of love and care. Of course, if that is what marriage is about, then it is completely useless as an institution and the government has no need to recognize it.

    Unfortunately I often despair that the definition of marriage has already changed for the average person thus making same sex marriage almost inevitable. Perhaps because of the rise of contraception, divorce, etc. the average person thinks marriage is more about romantic love and companionship rather than the family-oriented conjugal purpose it has always held throughout history.

  4. pfreddys says:

    Can someone tell me the source of the following argument against homosexual ‘marriage’ because I cannot believe that my tiny brain came up with it on it’s own.
    The only reason the state has anything to do whatsoever with the regulation of marriage is that is where the state’s future citizens come from. Since a homosexual union is by it’s nature not fecund the state has nothing to say about such a union; except perhaps to make it’s outward expression illegal if it found to be acting in a way detrimental to proper marriage.

  5. Margaret says:

    @acp39– exactly. If marriage doesn’t mean what we claim it means, then how does it differ from “friends with benefits?” Or just plain old roommates, for that matter? What is civil society’s interest in promoting these things? Absolutely none…

  6. Fr Matthew says:

    Part of the problem is that marriage has, in the practice, already been redefined as “friends with benefits” by heterosexual couples. This was aptly pointed out by a gay activist in an interview on NPR recently. He said,

    You know, people who are against gay marriage talk about gay people wanting to redefine marriage. The irony is that straight people have redefined marriage to a point where you can’t logically make a case for excluding same-sex couples from it. It’s no longer a gendered institution. It’s the, you know, union of two legally autonomous individuals and there isn’t a male role and a female role. There’s just – and it’s whatever they say it is. It can be monogamous or not, for life or not. There could be children or not. It can be a religious ceremony or not. It’s entirely up to them.
    [starting at minute 36 of the interview – full transcript here]

    I commented on this quote on my own blog a few weeks ago, stating that we need to bring marriage back to its proper meaning (a man and a woman joined in an indisoluble union for the procreation of children and the good of the spouses), and I got some strong comments on and off-site from people who think I’m trying to impose my religious beliefs on other people, and want to go back to having women treated like chattel.
    That’s a big part of the problem: our culture has lost the understanding that the heterosexual nature of marriage (like the evil nature of abortion) is not a matter of faith, but of natural law. Yes, our faith also teaches us that abortion and homosexual activity are wrong, but we don’t need faith to know that this is true.
    Of course, our culture tends to be empiricist, so it doesn’t recognize the validity of arguments based on natural law…

  7. Kerry says:

    The previous Saturday at a Starbucks on Grand, here in St. Paul, I saw a homosexual man wearing a button, “Can I vote on your marriage?”. “What is that” I asked. “It’s about the marriage”…whatever he said. (Sorry, I forget these exact words.) “Well, what is the purpose of marriage?” I asked. “It’s about love”, he answered. “So, can a father marry his own daughter?” I asked. “NO!”, he said, almost horrified. I’m a bit unclear on the rest of the dialogue, I seem to remembering saying more about thinking about the purpose of marriage. I hope he thinks about the strength of his no. I wish I’d asked if he meant eros, agape, phila or patria. Oh well. Later my wife said she would have said, “Sure, you can vote on ours”. Heh.

  8. Way to go Bishop Sirba!

  9. contrarian says:

    Fr. Matthew-exactly, exactly, exactly.
    I applaud the good bishop from Minnesota, but I wish he would have used the word ‘procreation’ instead of the ‘needs’ of children.

    There is no ecumenical battle of the trenches possible here. Protestants by and large have no problem with contraception. The gay activist you quote has it exactly right.

    I frankly don’t see how the passing of a marriage ammendment isn’t discrimination at this point, precisely because the marriage that is ‘defended’ is a sham. There is no other de jure recognition of the real properties of marriage, making the defense of man + woman ‘marriage’ without context, and therefore arbitrary.
    What a mess.

  10. jules1 says:

    This aired last night on Australian TV. It is worth watching. The arguments on both sides were good. The most concerning comment was made about heterosexual couples not able to uphold all the ideals of Christian marriage….


  11. Andrew says:

    Fr. Matthew:
    There could be children or not.
    There could be NO children.
    Humanity exists because of heterosexual relationships. The element of convenience has crept into many marriages: but it hasn’t destroyed a fundamental reality whereby humanity exists because of heterosexual relationships: something that same-gender relationships cannot provide. Moreover, there is room for improvement for individuals in heterosexual relationships, but there is no similar aspiration that same-gender relationships might pursue. So the argument, while highlighting some valid weaknesses, amounts to a smokescreen. It takes attention away from the key principle.

  12. pappy says:

    Bishop Paul Sirba was a (very young) associate at our parish many years ago.
    It was clear even then, he was a cut above the rest. God bless you Bishop Sirba.

  13. Scott W. says:

    Just FYI, I and some of my backnumber Cathoic buddies are starting up a season of Fantasy Bishball (See the blog: http://fantasybishball.blogspot.com/)

    I’ve been trying to come up with a great lineup of bishops for my team. Thanks for this entry! Bp. is going on my A list!

  14. irishgirl says:

    Kudos to the Bishop of Duluth, indeed!
    Now if only the Bishops of New York State have such a spine! I just heard on a local radio station yesterday that the homosexual ‘marriage’ affair [can’t think of any other name offhand] is coming up again in the NYS legislature, and the ‘no’ votes in the State Assembly are not as many as in the last session, when it was voted down.
    Our Lady of Martyrs, pray for New York!

  15. Martial Artist says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf,

    In reply to your parenthetical (or should that be bracketical*?) question

    [Can we conclude from this that passage of legislation allowing same-sex couples to “marry” and then in some way adopt children, is a form of child abuse?]

    I do not see how anyone could come to any other logical conclusion than an answer in the affirmative. If the state has any right to decide who may, and who may not, adopt and raise children, then it is, in my opinion, wholly unsupportable that the state should be allowed to deprive such adopted children of either of the two complementary parental role models, whether father or mother, the deprivation of which would almost assuredly leave them bereft of the experiences necessary to grow into healthily well adjusted adolescents and thence adults of their own sex. Note that I did not say that having both father and mother guarantees a child of having the proper role models, only that being deprived of either, tends strongly to deprive them of the missing role model.

    IMHO, the problems arise, as do so many socio-political problems, from the inappropriate legislative conflation of fundamentally unrelated propositions—in the instance of redefining marriage it is the inappropriate conflation of numerous state benefits the eligibility for which is defined by one’s matrimonial state. For which cause I have long believed that when we see legislation with perverse results it is very often the case that the legislature has engaged in such inampropriate conflation.

    I rathe strongly tend to agree with Professor Robert P. George that households might well be a better substitute as the eligibility criteria for most of those state-defined public benefits which now are determined by marriage. He has publicly suggested, for example, that the ability to file a joint income tax return ought to be extended to those who share a residence, irrespective of whether or not they share a bedroom. Why ought an elderly aunt living with her niece for the entirety of a year, thereby forming a household, not be allowed to file their income tax jointly? He proposed this idea in an article in First Things several years ago.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer
    *—Yes, I am aware that, at least at times, I can be a genuine σμαρτασσ!

  16. Seumas says:

    Well, there could be children, or not.

    What I mean is that marriage isn’t solely about procreation, but as Fr. Matthew said, about procreation and the good of the spouses. The procreative element cannot be removed, but marriage is also a union of a man and woman who give themselves to each other entirely in love, seeking and working for the highest good of the other (which is what true love is).

    I say this because there are good people who get married and then find they are incapable of having children, and they need to know that this doesn’t render their marriage useless, invalid or without meaning. This has caused much concern for infertile Catholic couples, and they sometimes agonize over such things.

    Marriage is ordered to the good of the spouses and the procreation of children. But if, through no fault of their own, a couple cannot have children, their marriage is still valid and meaningful. It is still ordered to the good of the spouses, and their marriage can be fruitful in other ways.

    For example, such a couple can pray together and offer up their marriage for the salvation of souls, for an end to abortion, for abused children, for orphans, for vocations, for infertile couples,
    and any number of things.

    And naturally, such a couple should consider whether they are called to adopt. In fact, God may have willed that they be infertile precisely for that reason. The more we are able to insure that every child put up for adoption is actually adopted, the more it will become a real alternative to abortion.

    However, we must not forget the older orphans, either. These are the ones who most often end up spending their whole lives childhood in orphanages, tossed about from foster home to foster home, because adoptive couples want to adopt infants. That is understandable; it is more like having a child naturally. One can almost pretend that they actually gave birth. With older children there will be no baby pictures, no first milestones, etc. And infants are easier to handle, easier to teach and nurture. An older child already has its own will and personality, and most older orphans understandably have mental and emotional issues, etc.

    But the lack of couples willing to adopt older children is downright tragic for those children who need a home and a family as much or more than the infants. How sad to spend your whole childhood in foster homes, without any permanent home and family. What happens to such kids when they reach adulthood? They don’t generally do well. They often end up in poverty and crime, in jails and mental institutions, dead and forgotten. That’s what most often happens to people who grew up without stability or permanence, without anyone who loves them more than anything else on this earth and are always there for them, as parents love their children, but instead are tossed around like so much furniture.

    If a child doesn’t receive love, it is hard for them to learn how to love. If a child is treated like a thing instead of the precious human being they are, it is hard for them to learn to treat others with dignity and care. If a child is abused, it is hard for them to trust, and at the same time they learn that abuse is the correct way to treat others.

    So I would suggest to couples wanting to adopt that they put aside their own desires and think about the will of God and the needs of the children first. It may indeed be that God is calling you to adopt an infant that would otherwise have been aborted. Adopting older children is not for everyone. It is a serious challenge.

    But it might be that He is calling you to be even more generous and take on a more difficult task, and to adopt one of the unwanted ones and make him wanted, give him the love he never knew, give him someone to trust, and teach him that he and all human beings are precious creatures, created by God in His image, loved by Him with infinite love, destined by Him for eternal joy and union with Himself, and as such possesses inherent dignity and worth.

  17. Andy Milam says:

    Then-Fr. Sirba was my floor dean in seminary. I can remember having this very conversation with him and roughly 7 other seminarians one Sunday evening. His language has not changed one iota.

    KUDOS indeed….

  18. RichardT says:

    I’ve been wondering recently if the government’s idea of marriage is now so warped that it would be better if it got out of marriage altogether.

    There could be some other government institution, if it felt the need for it (call it Registered Civil Partnership, or something like that), and the government could set whatever rules it wanted for that, but leave proper marriage to the Church.

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