A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH
Promoting and Defending Marriage in the USA

Part 1

Learning From the Supreme Court's June [2013] Ruling

WASHINGTON, D.C., 02 September 2013 (ZENIT)
Note: This series is based on a talk given by staff of the US bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage at a conference for Catholic marriage and family life ministers in July 2013. It is divided into five sections.

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The June 2013 Supreme Court decisions on marriage, and the need to reframe the debate

Two major Supreme Court decisions on marriage were handed down at the end of June 2013: one on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA (United States v. Windsor), and the other on California’s Proposition 8 (Hollingsworth v. Perry). While the decisions were not the “Roe v. Wade moment” for marriage as they could have been – marriage was not redefined throughout the entire country – they were very damaging, to say the least.

Proposition 8

The decision regarding Proposition 8 was that the defenders of Prop 8 had no standing in Court, meaning that the Court could not rule on the merits of the case – whether or not Prop 8 was unconstitutional – because the party defending Prop 8 didn’t have the legal ability (or right) to do so.

On the one hand, this was a relief. The Court could have said that Proposition 8 – which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman in the California state constitution – was unconstitutional, which would have called into question the over 30 state constitutional amendments and statutes saying the same thing.

But the Court in effect gave that question a “pass,” and legal experts are currently parsing out what exactly the ruling means for California.

DOMA

The ruling in the DOMA case was more substantial and thus more problematic. The Court ruled that section 3 of DOMA, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman for purposes of federal law, is unconstitutional. In effect, this means that any marriage recognized by a state – including a “marriage” between two persons of the same sex – will also be recognized by the federal government, such that the 1,000 or so federal laws which use the word marriage – affecting things like estate taxes, immigration, military benefits, and so on – will now define marriage not as the union of one man and one woman but as a state-recognized relationship of any two persons.

For our purposes here, we won’t get into the potential legal ramifications of the Prop 8 or DOMA decision – we’ll leave that to the lawyers and policy experts. Instead, we’re going to use some key themes from the Court’s DOMA decision as a window of sorts into what we’re up against in terms of the current marriage debate. After all, only when we accurately diagnose our culture’s malaise and distortions can we offer an appropriate antidote. For each of the challenges, we’ll offer a tip or tool as a suggestion of how to best promote and defend marriage in your sphere of influence.

(As an explanatory note, when we say “the Court,” we mean the majority opinion of the DOMA decision, delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined by four other Justices. We’ll also share some counterpoints from Justice Alito and Justice Scalia, both of whom dissented to the Court’s majority opinion.)

Learning from the Court

There are many lessons we can learn from the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor (DOMA). This series will look at four of them plus related tips for defending marriage.

Lesson #1: In the marriage debate, there are many, many unspoken assumptions. It’s often the case that the most important questions go unasked and thus unanswered, chief among them the most important question of all – What is marriage?

For example: the opening line of the majority opinion says, “Two women then resident in New York were married in a lawful ceremony in Ontario, Canada in 2007” (p. 1). It goes on to argue that it was wrong of the U.S. federal government not to recognize this marriage and grant the attendant federal benefits.

The assumption hidden here is huge: the Court has taken it as a given that if these two women were “lawfully wed” in Canada, then they’re married. End of discussion. A marriage is a marriage is a marriage because the government (or a governing body) says it is. But for those of us who believe that marriage’s meaning is rooted in the meaning of the human person, created male and female (see Catechism, nos. 1602 - 1605), the question is: “Is it even possible for two women to be married? Is marriage the kind of thing that can actually exist between two persons of the same sex?” But the Court elides those questions, taking for granted that these two women – Edith and Thea – were lawfully, actually married, no question.

We can dig down deeper and uncover other hidden assumptions: assumptions about the body, assumptions about children and procreation, assumptions about freedom and the meaning of rights, and so forth.

So here’s tip number one: We must bring to light what is hidden in the dark by uncovering hidden assumptions and offering alternative readings that do justice to the human person. In other words, we must reframe the arguments to get at the deeper questions, questions that go all the way to the root: Who is the human person?

As another example, the Court argues that the real issue at stake in the marriage debate is equality. The Court doesn’t mince words here. It says, “DOMA writes inequality into the entire United States code” and the “principal purpose” of DOMA is to “impose inequality” (p. 22). In contrast, allowing two persons of the same sex to marry gives them a “status of equality” (p. 14).

The looming, unasked question here is: are these two situations really identical, such that equality demands identical treatment? The Court assumes that the marriage of a husband and wife and the “marriage” of two persons of the same sex are exactly the same thing. (And “assumes” is the right word – the Court does not make an argument that this is the case but just presents it as such).

But we can only address the question of equality after first addressing the question of marriage, a question that is going both unasked and unanswered. In our conversations and communications, we must insist on bringing the debate back to the fundamental question: What is marriage? (see FAQ #3) A phrase we use in our work is: “Treating different things differently is not discrimination.” We can make a case for the uniqueness of marriage between a man and a woman by pointing out that only a man and a woman can form a one-flesh communion and can give themselves fully to each other, including on a bodily level (see FAQ #8). Only a man and a woman are capable of welcoming new life into the world, even though there are times, sadly, when this doesn’t happen for reasons beyond their control. And so forth.

Reframing means not accepting the terms of the debate as given, but digging deeper to get at the real issues, the real questions. So if someone asks you, “Are you for marriage equality?” an answer could be: “Well, what do you think marriage is?” or, less Socratically, “I’m for equality, sure – but I think marriage is unique and needs both a man and a woman; it’s not wrong to treat different things differently,” etc. 


Part 2

Learning From the Supreme Court's June Ruling

WASHINGTON, D.C., 03 September 2013 (ZENIT)
Note: This series is based on a talk given by staff of the US bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage at a conference for Catholic marriage and family life ministers in July 2013. It is divided into five sections.

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What do you say that marriage is? The need for a comprehensive vision

The Supreme Court’s DOMA decision made clear that the marriage debate consists of two competing, mutually exclusive visions of marriage. Justice Alito made this point in his dissent. He wrote, “By asking the Court to strike down DOMA…[the plaintiff is] really seeking to have the Court resolve a debate between two competing views of marriage” (p. 13, Alito dissent).

Often we hear that the marriage debate is not about redefining marriage; it’s about expanding marriage. But consider the way in which the Court describes marriage (although it doesn’t come right out with a clear, comprehensive definition; that is not its focus). Marriage is the “legal acknowledgement of the intimate relationship between two people” (p. 20). Marriage happens when two people “affirm their commitment to one another” (p. 14). It grants persons “a status of equality” (p. 14) and “a dignity and status of immense import” (p. 18), allowing them to “live with pride in themselves and their union” (p. 14).

Reading through the majority opinion, one could be excused for thinking that marriage’s purpose is to validate adults’ feelings for one another, and to make sure they feel that their relationship is “worthy” and not “second-class” (terms also used by the Court: pp. 25, 22). Indeed, the word “dignity” is used eight times in the majority opinion. Gender, of course, has no rational connection with this.

In contrast, the definition of marriage held by Catholics and many others has everything to do with gender and sexual difference because at its heart is the one-flesh bond of husband and wife, a union open to the gift of life (see FAQ #3).
These two views of marriage – which have been called by various names, such as “revisionist” or “genderless” versus “natural” or “conjugal” – are not compatible. Either marriage has at its heart a one-flesh communion made possible by the presence of a husband and a wife, or it doesn’t. To “expand” marriage is really to flatten it – to reduce it to the state’s recognition of adults’ romantic relationships.

Tip number two: present as comprehensive vision of marriage as possible. It’s no secret that the push to redefine marriage to include two persons of the same sex is just the latest assault on marriage. Contraception, divorce, and cohabitation have each contributed to erode marriage’s meaning. We need to reclaim not just the truth that marriage takes a man and a woman – we need to reclaim all of the truths about marriage, that it is open to life, faithful, indissoluble, and at its heart a complete gift of one’s self, time, body, possessions, and so on, to one’s spouse.

Presenting the fullness of marriage provides a counter to the alternative view of marriage that has gained such traction. And it also provides a way for everyone, in whatever ministry or situation they are in, to help rebuild marriage. For example, NFP teachers can help people see the fruitfulness of marriage; those who help to heal struggling marriages can help people see marriage’s indissolubility; married persons can witness to marriage by living it faithfully, and so forth.

We must be clear that neutrality is not an option. We have been given by our Church such a beautiful, comprehensive vision of marriage, and we should look for every opportunity to proclaim it.


Part 3

Learning From the Supreme Court's June Ruling

WASHINGTON, D.C., 04 September 2013 (ZENIT)
Note: this series is based on a talk given by staff of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage at a conference for Catholic marriage and family life ministers in July 2013. It is divided into five sections.

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Who is the human person? The need for a renewed emphasis on anthropology and chastity
In its decision on DOMA, the Court continued the trend of treating sexual orientation as a “class” marker.  In other words, people who define themselves as having a homosexual orientation are de facto part of a “class” that deserves special protections from the government. The term “continued the trend” was used because it is common now to see, for example, in anti-discrimination legislation the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” used as two discrete categories of persons that may not be discriminated against.

The Catechism states that “every sign of unjust discrimination must be avoided” in regards to persons with same-sex attraction (no. 2358).

But the problem with treating “sexual orientation” as a description of a class of people is that it proposes a deeply flawed understanding of anthropology, or understanding of the human person. Christian anthropology teaches that each person is called to accept his or her sexual identity as a man or as a woman (Catechism, no. 2333). This is consistent with the understanding that man – male and female – is a unity of body and soul (Catechism, no. 362-368). Our identity as human persons is intimately connected with our identity as a man or as a woman. In short, the body matters.

What the language of “sexual orientation” does, anthropologically, is separate one’s identity from one’s bodily nature as a man or woman, placing a premium on one’s desires and inclinations. The body then becomes a “bottom layer” – essentially meaningless matter – over which one’s “real” identity – comprised of desires and inclinations – is super-imposed.[1]
Practically speaking, treating “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as classes of persons is problematic because courts and laws tend to treat these categories not only in terms of inclinations but also behaviors. This in turn leads to religious liberty conflicts, such questions for Catholic institutions about non-discrimination in hiring those involved in same-sex “marriages”, since they could be (and have been) sued under non-discrimination laws for firing an employee who publicly entered a same-sex “marriage.”

Tip number three: Keep talking about Christian anthropology and chastity. Even more than the question “what is marriage?” perhaps, the question “who is the human person?” goes unasked and thus unanswered (see FAQ #1). As Catholics, we have an immense treasury of insight into who the human person is – a study called anthropology, a treasury of truth about the human condition that applies to everyone, not only Catholics. As faulty anthropologies work themselves more deeply into our nation’s laws and policies, we must be tireless in present what Bl. John Paul II called an “adequate anthropology,” that is, an understanding of the human person that fits who man is as a unity of body and soul, created male and female and called to love (see Bl. John Paul II’s audiences of Jan. 16, 1980 and April 2, 1980).

Bringing it back to the human person also helps defend against the charge that the Church is being selective and only cares about married people. Not true. Christian anthropology, rightly understood, is a message of freedom for every person. In particular, Church teaching on the universal vocation to chastity is an avenue through which to approach questions of sexuality, gender, love, and marriage. Everyone – married and single, those who struggle with same-sex attraction and those who don’t – is called to chastity, because everyone is called to integrate their sexuality within themselves and to love authentically (see Catechism, nos. 2337-2347).

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[1] Important here is the distinction between person, inclination, and act employed in the Church’s moral teaching. Every person, male and female, is created in the image of God with full human dignity. Every person is a gift, created to be a child of God. This identity of the person goes deeper than any inclination. Further, the Church teaches that, while homosexual acts are always sinful and contrary to the true good of the person, the experience of same-sex attraction is not sinful in itself.  Because of free will, men and women can choose which inclinations or desires to act on. Actions – and the inclinations toward them – can be either objectively ordered toward the good, meaning toward the flourishing of the person, or not. But the person, regardless of the inclinations they experience, can never be described as fundamentally flawed or disordered. In other words, pointing out anthropological problems with the concept of “sexual orientation” does not mean that persons who describe themselves as having a particular orientation are problematic or flawed. Instead, it is questioning the underlying presuppositions about who the human person is (the philosophical field of study called anthropology) embedded within the concept of “sexual orientation” as it is generally used in law and culture. 


Part 4

Learning From the Supreme Court's June Ruling

WASHINGTON, D.C., 05 September 2013 (ZENIT)
Note: this series is based on a talk given by staff of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage at a conference for Catholic marriage and family life ministers in July 2013. It is divided into five sections.

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Is defending marriage just about injuring others? The need to show that marriage benefits everyone.

In its DOMA decision, the Supreme Court said that laws that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman are inherently suspect because their only justification is a desire to “injure” a class of persons. Indeed, the Court does not mince words when it talks about the purpose of DOMA: “The principle purpose and the necessary effect of this law are to demean those persons who are in a lawful same-sex marriage” (p. 25, emphasis added). DOMA gave a “stigma” to such persons (p. 21) and it instructed them that their marriage is “less worthy” than other marriages (p. 25).

Worse, the Court said that DOMA – and presumably any law that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman – lacks a “legitimate purpose” (p. 25). In other words, no rational reason exists that would justify a law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. No reason, for example, such as the fact that only male-female relationships are capable of conceiving children, who have a vested interest in being raised by their married father and mother.

In his dissent, Justice Scalia rails against the Court’s dismissal of marriage proponents’ arguments as merely cloaks for irrational prejudice against those who desire to marry someone of the same sex. Scalia says that the Court thus made those who still argue for man-woman marriage “enemies of the human race” (p. 21, Scalia dissent). He writes, “In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement” (p. 21). In other words, the book is closed. There is no room for disagreement. Scalia also said, “In the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or come along with us” (p. 25).

Clearly that attitude is a daunting obstacle for those of us who seek to promote marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Tip number four: Emphasize that promoting and defending marriage is good for everyone. As stated already, one challenge we face is criticism that the Church is “obsessed” with marriage because she really only cares about married people; she is pro-married couples, but anti-everyone else. Of course we know this is false.

Catholic Social Teaching is a great help here, because it is very clear that marriage and the family matter to society. (And there is no question at all that “marriage” means what it always had for the Church: the union of one man and one woman). For example, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church [CSDC] describes the family (founded on marriage) as “the primary place of humanization” (no. 209), the “cradle of life and love” (no. 209), the “first and vital cell of society” (no. 2), the place where “one learns social responsibility and solidarity” (no. 213) and so on.

Marriage benefits society, first, by being what it is. The Compendium speaks beautifully of the “dynamism of love” that radiates out from the irrevocable vow that husband and wife give to each other (CSDC, no. 221). Their “yes” to each other lays the foundation for them to say “yes” to any children God gives them, and to say “yes” to all persons, seeing them as valuable for their own sake and not for what they can do and contribute.

And marriage of course benefits society by giving children the best possible chance to be born into a situation where their mother and father have already committed to each other and to any children born from their union. Not every married couple is blessed with children, but every child has a mom and a dad. As the quip goes, “When a child is born, chances are there’s a mother close by. The problem is: Who’s the father?” Marriage solves this cultural dilemma by bringing men and women together before children are conceived, to lay a solid foundation where they can be welcomed into a “sanctuary of life” (CSDC, no. 231ff).

Another way to show that marriage matters for everyone, and is not a mean-spirited jab at those who can’t or won’t get married, is to point out that all of us are sons or daughters. All of us have a father and a mother, and whether those two persons were and still are married to each other makes a great impact on our lives. This is a universal truth, and one that the Church argues should matter for public policy.

Finally, the fact that marriage matters for everyone gives us a way to connect promoting and defending marriage with the New Evangelization. Yes, the New Evangelization means reaching and re-catechizing those who have been baptized but not formed. Those who serve in various ministries can probably think of ways that they are doing this kind of evangelization. Our Catholic people certainly need instruction in the full meaning of marriage; one poll in March 2013 found that over half of Catholics support redefining marriage (although critics pointed out that only 36% of regular mass-goers said they were for redefining marriage).  And they need to be given encouragement to stand firm in these teachings, a difficult task in the face of the Supreme Court’s judgment that defending marriage means harming and demeaning others. We of course need to dig deep into the rich, life-giving teaching of the Church on marriage and give it generously to those within the Church.

But there is another connection between the New Evangelization and marriage. In the face of such severe challenges to marriage, it can be tempting to throw up our hands and retreat from the public square, shutting the Church doors tight and vowing to “protect the Sacrament” come what may, but effectively giving up on marriage outside the Church walls. This might seem like a fix – you have your marriage, we have ours – but it would mean giving up on our responsibility to evangelize and it would mean giving up on the fact that marriage matters for everyone.

Contrary to what the Supreme Court said, the bishops are very clear that “to promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman is itself a matter of justice.” (USCCB, Pastoral letter, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan [2009]: p. 23)

More challenges ahead

In sum, the challenge of marriage redefinition isn’t going away. On the legal front, we can expect more court battles over marriage’s meaning, more ballot initiatives to defend or redefine marriage, and more challenges to other aspects of marriage. For example, one polygamy activist group celebrated the Court’s ruling, saying, “I think [the court] has taken a step in correcting some inequality, and that’s certainly something that’s going to trickle down and impact us.”

Even more soberly, it seems reasonable to expect continuing clashes between the Church and the government over what marriage is and how much freedom the Church has to hold to the authentic meaning of marriage. Today these challenges are being felt by wedding businesses and government officials, among others. Tomorrow, could they be felt by marriage ministries such as marriage preparation and healing ministries? We say that not to speculate or be fear-mongers, but only to point out that the trend seems to be the government strong-arming people of faith to treat people in same-sex relationships as if they were married husbands and wives.

And on the pastoral front, we can expect more confusion about marriage’s meaning and purpose, evidenced by the quotes we’ve shared from the highest Court in the land. Unfortunately, that’s the situation we find ourselves in. As Justice Scalia stated in his dissent: “…we will have to live with the chaos created by this [decision]” (p. 8, Scalia dissent). But are we just going to live with this chaos? Not us. How about you?


Part 5

Learning From the Supreme Court's June Ruling

WASHINGTON, D.C., 06 September 2013 (ZENIT)
Note: this series is based on a talk given by staff of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage at a conference for Catholic marriage and family life ministers in July 2013. It is divided into five sections.

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Practical tools to promote and defend marriage: Marriage: Unique for a Reason

Doing your ministry well

The current challenges we face in regards to marriage, as evidenced by the June 2013 Supreme Court decisions on two marriage cases (regarding DOMA and Proposition 8), does not mean that you have to fundamentally shift gears in your ministry or – worse – start several new programs to address these issues! That’s not what we’re suggesting, although we are going to tell you about what resources the USCCB has to offer that you may find helpful.

Instead, we encourage you to think about how the ministry you are doing right now can more effectively combat the growing sense that gender is irrelevant to marriage, and all the faulty anthropology that goes with that.

For example, perhaps a marriage preparation program could more intentionally teach the engaged couples about the distinct gifts of men and women, mothers and fathers. It could help them see the uniqueness of their roles as husbands and wives. Or perhaps in programs for young adults or even high school students, you could integrate more teaching on chastity and Christian anthropology, especially the theology of the body.  We know many of you have been doing this yet so much more needs to be done.

We know you are abundantly aware that the people you serve are not coming to you as a “blank slate,” as it were, and have already been heavily influenced by the ideas we spoke about earlier, that the Supreme Court put so clearly for us. Being “neutral” toward marriage redefinition is no longer an option; being proactive is. Defending and promoting marriage go hand in hand, and while not everyone is called to engage in public policy advocacy work, all of us can intentionally promote and defend the uniqueness of marriage and help people see and articulate alternative responses to the dominant cultural messages on marriage.

Marriage: Unique for a Reason

One specific resource that may be of help to you in your ministry is the bishops’ initiative Marriage: Unique for a Reason. I imagine that many of you are somewhat familiar with this resource already, and may have already used it in your ministries.
Marriage: Unique for a Reason has four themes: sexual difference and complementarity, the gift of children and the need for fathers and mothers, marriage and the common good, and marriage and religious liberty. The order is important. The series starts with sexual difference because that is the most fundamental component – and the one most often overlooked – of marriage’s meaning. Starting with sexual difference helps to get at the roots of the issue and address the often unspoken assumptions. It also provides a solid anthropological grounding for the other three themes.

The video about sexual difference is called “Made for Each Other.” Like all of the videos, it comes with a Viewer’s Guide and a Resource Booklet for priests, deacons, catechists, and leaders.

The second theme is about children and the need for fathers and mothers. This theme includes examining what fruitfulness is and why it’s at the heart of marriage. It considers the often overlooked justice issue in the marriage debate: justice for children, to have the best chance at having a mom and a dad. It also addresses the issues of infertility and single parents (see FAQs #3 and #5). The video for this theme is called “Made for Life.” It also comes with a Viewer’s Guide and Resource Booklet.

The third theme, marriage and the common good, relies heavily on Catholic Social Teaching about marriage and the family and their contribution to society (see FAQ #5). It also aims to reframe the debate about equality, rights, and so on, by reinforcing the inherent goodness of marriage for everyone in society (see FAQ #13). The video in this theme is forthcoming, but there are already FAQs available at Marriage Unique for a Reason.org.

The fourth and final theme, marriage and religious liberty, addresses the fact that redefining marriage in the law directly affects religious liberty (see FAQ #3). This video is also forthcoming, but FAQs are available.

And lastly, there is one video in Spanish – to be released later in 2013 – that incorporates all four themes in a longer, dramatic style. It’s called “El Matrimonio: Hecho para el amor y la vida” (Marriage: Made for Love and Life) The final version will be subtitled in English, and the accompanying Study Guide will be bilingual, so these resources will be suitable for mixed-language audiences.

I already mentioned the website: Marriage: Unique for a Reason.org. On that site are many FAQs about marriage, a regularly updated blog, a library of Church teaching, and more. We are in the process of updating the website to be more user-friendly and easy to navigate.

How to use Marriage: Unique for a Reason

The audience that the bishops have in mind for the Marriage: Unique for a Reason project is Catholic young adults. The bishops reasoned that young adults are most bombarded and most susceptible to faulty messages about marriage, but the materials could certainly be used for older audiences too. The materials do not assume much in the way of prior catechesis, but they are written for a Catholic audience, not a generic or secular one.

The end-goal of the resources is inculcating a renewed understanding and appreciation of what the Church teaches in regards to marriage, and a sense of its reasonableness. The hope is that learning the Church’s timeless teaching can build confidence to promote and defend it.

The videos themselves are meant as a kind of “artistic introduction” to the topic that can spark questions and comments from the viewers. The written guides that accompany the videos can help “train the trainers” to get the right content to be confident in facilitating and answering questions. For example, the comment in Made for Each Other – “It’s not just about biology…” could open the discussion to talking about sexual difference as greater than just anatomy, about the spousal meaning of the body, about the role of science, etc. Or the line in Made for Life – “My husband plays in a way I don’t” – could lead into talking about the unique gifts of fathers and mothers and how sexual difference is more than different “roles.”
There are many settings in which to implement the Marriage: Unique for a Reason resources. Here are a few:

Host a small-group event where you show one or more of the videos and lead a discussion.The videos also work well in a classroom setting, and are something that high school teachers or college professors could use with the same aim in mind. They can be used in RCIA as well.In the marriage preparation or enrichment setting, the videos could be used to help the participants gain a better understanding of their own marriage and how sexual difference matters to them. The leader might guide the discussion in that direction.The videos could also be helpful when you are training volunteers, for marriage prep or NFP, etc., to help them become more confident in what the Church teaches so that they can best help others.

Fundamentally, the videos and their companion resources are meant to “break open” the questions that need to be asked in the marriage debate: what is marriage? Why does sexual difference matter? What does marriage bring to society? And they aim to do that in a non-confrontational, invitational way.

Other ways you could use the Marriage: Unique for a Reason materials is to include one FAQ from the website in your newsletters or other communications. Or compile several for a simple bulletin insert or handout, and direct people to the website for more information.

Collaborate…and pray!

The final “tip” we’d like to offer is something that we’ve learned over the past year in our work at the USCCB, and that is the importance of collaboration and the key importance of prayer. Specifically, we’ve helped to develop and promote the Bishops’ Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty, which began in December 2012 and is ongoing. The bishops urge Catholics to pray and fast for the causes of building a culture of life and marriage, and gaining religious protections. In particular, they encourage praying a daily rosary, attending adoration monthly, fasting and abstaining from meat on Fridays, and there are special petitions that can be read at mass, in English and in Spanish. The second annual Fortnight for Freedom (June 21 – July 4, 2013) was the 5th component of the Call to Prayer.

We’ve collaborated with several offices in furthering the Call to Prayer, particularly the pro-life office and religious liberty office. This was important not just because it shared the workload, but because these issues are tied together. Marriage is the “sanctuary of life,” and a pro-life society is a strong marriage society and vice versa. And as we’ve already talked about, marriage and religious liberty are strongly linked together.

We encourage you to reach out to others in your diocese or region who are doing pro-life or religious liberty work and find ways to collaborate together. There is strength in numbers, and it’s so important, for example, to encourage pro-life folks to promote and defend marriage, and vice versa. (This would include your State Catholic Conference, particularly with regard to policy issues and aiding in communicating it to the faithful.)  One idea is to host a seminar with the relevant offices – marriage and family life, pro-life, State Catholic Conference, etc. – on how catechesis and policy/advocacy work together.

The Call to Prayer also witnesses to the fact that prayer is key. Fundamentally, the battle is spiritual, and it’s a battle for souls. Prayer and fasting are essential, not optional. That is the vision behind the Call to Prayer – that we do what we can, but it is God who changes hearts and minds. We encourage you to check out the Call to Prayer website:

www.usccb.org/life-marriage-liberty. There you can read about the five ways to participate and can sign up to receive weekly reminders to fast on Fridays, along with a different intention and reflection each week. There are also web banners to put up on your own website.

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Please visit www.marriageuniqueforareason.org for more resources on promoting and defending marriage, including videos, study guides, FAQs, and more. This site is a project of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. For more information, please email defenseofmarriage@usccb.org 

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