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California Bishops' Statement: For the Protection of Marriage

Statement of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops

The California Conference of Catholic Bishops joins numerous other churches, organizations and individuals in support of the Protection of Marriage Initiative, which reaffirms the profound importance of marriage and the family in our society.

Catholic tradition maintains that marriage is a faithful, exclusive and lifelong union between one man and one woman joined in an intimate partnership of life and love. This union was instituted by God and by its very nature exists for the mutual fulfillment of the husband and wife as well as for the procreation and education of children.

Scripture tells us that Jesus raised the natural contract of marriage to the dignity of a sacrament.[1] In fulfilling the loving and life-giving purposes of marriage, therefore, a husband and wife effect a relationship to one another and to society that is at once a living expression and a cause of their growth in the life of God. This special marital union thus becomes for the married couple their fundamental way of attaining holiness of life. This is the vision as affirmed by Jesus, when he said "...the creator from the beginning made them male and female... this is why a man must leave father and mother and cling to his wife... So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder." [2]

In caring for and educating their children, a mother and a father serve not only their family but also expend personal resources and energy for the common good of society. Marriage and family life lived generously anticipates and prevents many of the social problems which plague society today.

Federal and state laws acknowledge the unmistakable uniqueness of marriage and the family.

Society accords parents critical public trust to raise their children as good citizens. Parents are supported in this endeavor by benefits to married couples, not as privileges bestowed on them as individuals, but in recognition of and assistance to them in their distinctive responsibility of raising and educating their children.

We invite our Catholic people as well as all the people of California to recommit ourselves to uphold the dignity of every person, to acknowledge individual rights and responsibilities, and to support forthrightly the unique and irreplaceable role of marriage as an institution which is fundamental to society.

We affirm with Pope John Paul II that marriage which "...undergirds the institution of the family, is constituted by the covenant whereby 'a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of their whole life,' and which 'of its very nature is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children.' Only such a union can be recognized and ratified as a 'marriage' in society. Other interpersonal unions which do not fulfill the above conditions cannot be recognized, despite certain growing trends which represent a serious threat to the future of the family and of society itself." [3]

Consequently, we urge our Catholic people as well as the people of California to work for the passage of the Protection of Marriage Initiative

Issued - June 18, 1999

1 See Catechism, no. 1613 and Mark 10: 2-12.
2 Mt. 19: 5-6.
3 Letter to Families, 2 February 1994, n.17. See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1601-60 and Vatican II's The Church the Modern World, no 48.

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