Archbp. Nienstedt and the defense of true marriage

In this week’s number of The Catholic Spirit, the newspaper and site of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, His Excellency Most Rev. John Nienstedt has a column about the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, that is, a defense of real marriage, which can only – by God’s design evident in our human nature – be between one man and one woman.

Marriage amendment deserves our support

June 9, 2011 10:53 am
Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

Our state House and Senate have placed a constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot that will define marriage in the State of Minnesota as the union between one man and one woman.

Regrettably, the media and some secular commentators have chosen to mischaracterize this measure as anti-gay, mean-spirited and prejudicial. This is not the case or the intent behind the initiative.

Good reasons

The Minnesota Catholic Conference, made up of the seven Catholic bishops from the state, support this amendment not for prejudicial or political reasons, but rather for reasons that are theological, biological and pastoral.

Theologically, the definition of marriage predates any government or religious denomination. As we read in the Bible, it reflects God’s plan for man and woman to share in his creative power of bringing new life into the world (Genesis 1:27-28). This is ratified by Jesus himself in Matthew 19:8-9. It is a truth that is also evident in light of the natural moral law, which grounds our understanding of the dignity that belongs to each human person.

In addition, the very biological, not to mention spiritual, complementarity of the two sexes defines the reproductive nature of their relationship which, in turn, enhances the well-being and joy of that union. The enfleshed oneness of a man and a woman is indeed a communion of life and love.

Pastorally, children flourish best in the context of having both a mother and a father. Every scientific study confirms this reality. We know that many single parents strive mightily to raise children in as normal a context as possible — and many do an excellent job at this.  Nevertheless, it is a proven fact that boys and girls develop better with the influence of a mother and a father, living in the same home.

It should also be remembered that the teaching of the church is always meant to uphold and enhance the inherent dignity of the human person as a son or daughter of God.  In this regard, I publish here with his permission an article written by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York. His argumentation is hard to refute:

‘Marriage: the core of every civilization’

It was one of the more uncomfortable moments in my life.

Outside of St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Milwaukee, where I, as archbishop, was celebrating Sunday Mass on an otherwise magnificent Wisconsin autumn day, were a couple dozen very vocal protesters, representing some off-brand denomination, shouting vicious chants and hold­ing hateful signs with words I thought had gone the way of burning crosses and white hoods.

This frenzied group, taunting the people as they left Mass, were rabid in criticizing the Catholic Church, especially her bishops, for our teaching that homosexuals deserve dignity and respect.

To be more precise, this group was yelling at us because, they objected, the Catholic Church was so friendly, welcoming, and defensive of gay (they used other foul words) people.

They waved placards explicitly quoting and condemning #2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which affirms the dignity of those with same-sex attraction, and warns against any form of prejudice, hatred or unjust discrimination against them, and insists that homosexual acts, not persons, are not in conformity with God’s design.

Never have I faced such a vitriolic crowd, blasting the church for simply following the teaching of Jesus by loving and respecting people regardless of anything, including their sexual orientation.

When a reporter asked me for a comment, I replied, “They’re right: we do love and respect homosexual people. These protesters understand church teaching very well.”

I’ve been recalling that episode often of late, because now I hear Catholics — and, I am quick to add, Jews, other Christians, Muslims and men and women of no faith at all — who have thoughtfully expressed grave disapproval of the current rush to redefine marriage, branded as bigots and bullies who hate gays.

[Here’s the key.] Nonsense! We are not anti-anybody; we are pro-marriage. The definition of marriage is a given: It is a lifelong union of love and fidelity leading, please God, to children, between one man and one woman.

History, natural law, the Bible (if you’re so inclined), the religions of the world, human experience and just plain gumption tell us this is so. The definition of marriage is hardwired into our human reason.

To uphold that traditional definition, to strengthen it and to defend it is not a posture of bigotry or bullying. Nor is it a denial of the “right” of anybody. As the philosophers remind us, in a civilized, moral society, we have the right to do what we ought, not to do whatever we want. Not every desire is a right.

To tamper with that definition, or to engage in some Orwellian social engineering about the nature and purpose of marriage, is perilous to all of us. If the definition of marriage is continually being altered, could it not in the future be morphed again to include multiple spouses or even family members? [Pets?]

Nor is it “imposing” some narrow outmoded religious conviction. One might well ask just who is doing the “imposing” here: [a] those who simply defend what the human drama has accepted from the start, a belief embedded in nature and at the core of every civilization — the definition of marriage — [b] or those who all of a sudden want to scrap it because “progressive, enlightened, tolerant culture” calls for it.

Sadly, as we see in countries where such a redefinition has occurred, “tolerance” is hardly the result, as those who hold to the given definition of marriage now become harassed and penalized.

If big, intrusive government can re-define the most basic, accepted, revealed truth that marriage simply means one man + one woman + (hopefully) children, in a loving family, then, I’m afraid, Orwell’s works will no longer be on the fiction shelf. As someone commented to me the other day, “Wouldn’t it be better for our government to work on fixing schools than on redefining marriage?”

And resistance to this rush to radically redefining the ingrained meaning of marriage cannot be reduced to an act of prejudice against people with a same-sex attraction.

God love you!

WDTPRS KUDOS to Archbishop Nienstedt.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Early on in his tenure in Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley wrote about marriage in similar terms. Unfortunately his voice seems to have been stilled. I thank God for those dioceses where the shepherds are not fleeing in fear of the wolves, where bishops are speaking out and giving men and women — including those struggling with same-sex attraction and those who have given in to the gay lifestyle — the Truth. I pray their brother bishops join them. I wait for the day I will hear a sermon that sets out things so clearly and cleanly.

  2. shane says:

    I suspect gay marriage will be only be a temporary problem. The vast majority of such ‘marriages’ break up very quickly (homosexuality being contrary to the very notion of stability) and the natalism that will result from the demographic crisis (which has enormous implications for the provision of pensions and social welfare) will mean society in the future will be forced to take a very different view of homosexuality. Homosexual relationships are naturally parasitical and will be looked upon less favourably in a rapidly ageing society.

  3. Mundabor says:

    Kudos to Archbishop Niestedt and to the voters in Minnesota; though I remember the same will being expressed by the voters in California and judicial activism raging against the will of the people, so I’m afraid a victory there would only be the first move of a long chess game.


  4. BLB Oregon says:


    It was very telling that when the lobby for same-sex unions was pushing for civil unions here in Oregon, the proposal that such unions not between a man and a woman be allowed between any two adults, regardless of whether they had any sexual relationship, was absolutely rejected.

    This is not about support for a wide variety of living arrangments. It is about societal endorsement of homosexuality as the moral equivalent of heterosexuality. If you think you have as much right to make a civil contract amounting to a convent of two sisters, in order to give them the rights that gays say can’t be lived without, you were told you could just get into another line.

  5. BLB Oregon says:

    Oh, and you’ll find that advocates of same-sex marriage aren’t about to go out on a limb for the civil rights of polygamists, either. This isn’t even about tolerant permissiveness, then. It is about changing just those moral rules that one group doesn’t happen to cotton to.

  6. Mundabor says:

    True, BLB Oregon,

    here in England homosexual couples can have “familiar” arrangements (say: mutual appointment as heir in each will with the tax advantages attached to spouses; or pension arrangements for dependant “spouse”) that two siblings are not allowed to have.


  7. ray from mn says:

    They don’t want “same sex marriage.” For most of them, life is a life of promiscuity. This irrational demand is just the first of many that are intended to destroy the Catholic Church, the major institution that stands between them and untrammeled debauchery.

    Should they get same sex marriage in this country, their first step will be to prohibit the Catholic Church from have any marriages whatsoever unless the Church also provides for same sex marriages and permits open homosexuals to become priests and bishops.

  8. Charles E Flynn says:

    @ray from mn,

    As of this moment, Google has only twenty hits for the expression (searched within quotation marks) “untrammeled debauchery”.

  9. cwillia1 says:

    The battle to preserve civil marriage is lost. Every state now allows unilateral no-fault divorce. Civil marriage has been reduced to a legal arrangement that can be dissolved at the whim of either party. It is not even a contract, much less a permanent union. The culture has less and less understanding of what marriage is and it becomes more and more difficult to make the case for denying the benefits of civil “marriage” to same sex couples.

  10. JMody says:

    The enfleshed oneness of a man and a woman …
    HELP! Call Bp Trautmann AT ONCE!! I do not understand. I cannot embrace that which does not empower me. Only Bp. Trautmann understands how scana … scadni … Scandinavalized I am.

  11. Lot says:

    I think that the battle has been lost as far as we mortals can determine. I’m curious though as to how this will all look in 10 or even 20 years.

  12. RomualdMonk says:

    I love my hometown Archbishop! As a simply professed monk no longer in his Archdiocese, I continue to hope he will some day get a red hat for his courageous moves to preserve the faith and culture. Ad multos annos!

    Frater Romuald OSB

  13. The Cobbler says:

    “The battle to preserve civil marriage is lost. Every state now allows unilateral no-fault divorce. Civil marriage has been reduced to a legal arrangement that can be dissolved at the whim of either party. It is not even a contract, much less a permanent union. The culture has less and less understanding of what marriage is and it becomes more and more difficult to make the case for denying the benefits of civil “marriage” to same sex couples.”
    You forgot to mention contraception, which both A) attacks the Truth of marriage and sexuality just as surely as “gay” sex/”marriage”/whatever, and B) enables all the factors you listed. We lost this whole gorram thing so long ago it’s not even funny.

  14. irishgirl says:

    Here in New York state, our so-called ‘Catholic’ governor is pushing for homosexual ‘marriage’. And I don’t hear our Bishops saying anything in defense of traditional marriage.
    Sigh…I wish we had a strong shepherd like Archbishop Nienstedt.
    God and Mary Immaculate, help us!

  15. BLB Oregon says:

    Ray from MN — “They don’t want “same sex marriage.” For most of them, life is a life of promiscuity.”

    I don’t think this is actually true; well, at least, not any more than it is true that too many people getting into heterosexual marriages have the unspoken intention to honor their own happiness, which is another way of saying that they intend to stay just as long as it suits them, whether they admit to such a blunt assessment or not.

    The problem is that they have a deep misunderstanding of the meaning of marriage, which I am afraid they got from the prevailing romantic falsehoods that now surround heterosexual marriage in the secular sphere. They think that marriage means “being in love” ought to give you a) a day of being the center of attention b) whatever you put on your “gift registry” c) social status for being a couple, and d) a laundry list of legal rights, among other things. They don’t see the sexual relationship was meant to be part of a life of sacred duty not resting on emotion. Rather, they think even intending to be a durable “couple” out to be a ticket to a role that they covet.

    They don’t see marriage as having anything necessarily to do with two people raising their own biological children together and then being at the head of a family that, God willing, will ultimately stretch three or four generations before they die. They don’t see marriage as being the sacred center of a web of connections that are meant by God to be more than merely biological facts of trivial importance.

    Honestly, I sat with some faculty and other students at a social function once, and I was the only one who didn’t think marriage was more or less pointless in terms of providing a structure for the rearing of children. The others present had experienced so many marriages that failed before the children even graduated from high school that they cynically took this as the norm.

    Ray from MN — “Should they get same sex marriage in this country, their first step will be to prohibit the Catholic Church from have any marriages whatsoever unless the Church also provides for same sex marriages and permits open homosexuals to become priests and bishops.”

    Since heterosexual Catholics who are divorced but validly married can’t swing this, I don’t think that the gay lobby will be able to do it, either. It would require that religious ministers not be able to refuse to marry a couple they didn’t think suitable or eligible to marry. I don’t think the attacks on the 1st Amendment have gone quite that far yet.

  16. Dr. Eric says:

    We’ve already lost this one. State sanctioned sodomy will be the law of the land and enshrined in the US Constitution in 10 years.

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