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In Defense of Marriage

Bishop Tartaglia's Homily at Red Mass

EDINBURGH, Scotland, OCT. 22, 2006 (Zenit) - Legislative measures in Scotland and elsewhere have jeopardized family life, according to Bishop Philip Tartaglia.

The 55-year-old bishop of Paisley defended marriage and family in this homily to members of the legal profession during the annual Red Mass on Oct. 8 in St. Mary's Cathedral.

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In today's Gospel, Jesus talks of man, woman and children. In fact he talks of husband, wife and children, which we have come to call the family.

The family constituted by parents, a man and woman married to each other, and their offspring, has been the basic cell of society in pre-Christian, Christian and non-Christian cultures for millennia. Until now.

Now a raft of legislative measures here in Scotland as elsewhere has jeopardized, recklessly I think, family life as intended by God's purpose for human beings created in his image and likeness.

As men and women of the legal profession, these legislative measures will be well known to you. Some of them are these: The Family Law Act which makes divorce even quicker and gives quasi-marital status to de facto heterosexual unions. Civil Partnership legislation allows homosexual couples to register their relationships and enjoy a civil status analogous to marriage. The Gender Recognition Act allows people to choose to be male or female irrespective of their sex.

The Catholic Church's view of these kinds of developments here and elsewhere is well known. We have protested all of these measures. Our reaction to civil partnership legislation is typical of our stance. The social teaching of the Church could not be clearer: "By putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage and family life, the State acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties" [Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 228].

This may seem hard on legislators. Yet I have some sympathy for them! They are making provisions for a very diverse, pluralist, secular society, which is being encouraged to become intolerant of and even hostile to the Christian patrimony of this country. They have to respond to pressure groups and focus groups and all kinds of well-organized, well-financed and very determined alliances. And, while the Catholic Church speaks clearly enough on these matters, the Christian voice is sadly muffled, so legislators can more easily set our opinions aside.

As I say, I have some sympathy for legislators, but not a lot. They should know better what is good for society, and in some cases they do know better but ignore it in the interests of power. For instance, all reputable research shows that children do better with two parents who are husband and wife. But political correctness, very often the enemy of right thinking and freedom of speech, practically forbids this to be said because it will offend some group's sensitivities.

But the main reason I do not have sympathy for the legislators who have enacted these laws is because the truth of marriage and of the family is not just a mystery of faith but belongs to the natural law and is accessible by reason. Even many non-Christian societies have recognized this. Unfortunately, in our times, the minds of many have been so darkened by hubris and by the selfish pursuit of their own gratification that they have lost sight of the natural law which God has written into his creation so that even those who do not believe in him may reach out for the truth and so be disposed, however inchoately, to God's presence in the world. Even if they cannot be blamed for not having faith, I suspect that God will call them to account for ignoring the promptings of their own right reason. They are fortunate that he is more merciful than they are!

So in this context it is more than ever necessary for us to be strengthened, enlightened, consoled and inspired by the Word of God. In today's Gospel, Jesus makes it clear that divorce and remarriage is not the way he wants his disciples to live. Divorce may have been possible to some extent in his time under the Mosaic law, just as it is possible, very much more possible, almost to the point of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, in our society. But it is decidedly not what God wants.

Jesus appeals to the mystery of creation. God made them male and female, man and woman, as the first form of communion between persons. "This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has joined together, man must not divide." This is the wonderful vision of marriage which the Catholic Church offers to her children and to all men and women.

It is the vision of marriage which still basically unites Christians, Jews, Muslims and adherents of other respected ...

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