Tuesday, July 31, 2012
It was a quiet day here in the Eternal City, as Pope Benedict continues to vacation, Roman Curia staff is on holiday as well, and stores, pharmacies and restaurants shutter down for several weeks for a summer break.

Civil war in Syria continues to dominate the news everywhere, even in the halls of the Vatican, as Pope Benedict reminded us Sunday when he called for an end to violence and bloodshed in that country. A Syrian Catholic bishop (see below) responds to the Popes call for reconciliation.

And Cardinal George, archbishop of Chicago, reflects on Chicago values by way of answering Mayor Rahm Emanuel who several days ago said, Chick-fil-As values are not Chicago values. His remarks were a swipe at Chick-fil-As president, Dan Cathy, who says he believes in the biblical definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Cardinal Francis Georges response is a must read. Thank you, Your Eminence!

If you also want to thank Cardinal George for this teaching, write and tell him you read it at Joans Rome:

Now, Ill post this blog and then go make some chicken for dinner!


The Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Syria, Boutros Marayati, in reaction to Pope Benedicts call Sunday at the Angelus for an end to violence and bloodshed in Syria, said, "The Holy Father's closeness and his comfort of the Syrian people, instills hope in our hearts. His words remind all Syrian Catholics to pray for peace and reconciliation between Sunnis and Alawites."

In fact, the Popes remarks Sunday have been translated into Arabic and in the coming days will be published throughout the various parishes and dioceses in the country.

AsiaNews reports the archbishop as saying that in these days of war, the population is afraid and feels helpless in the face of ongoing violence between rebels of the Free Syrian Army and the military. For Christians, the only gesture that still inspires hope is prayer. "We asked our faithful to fast - he says - and to offer their sufferings for peace and dialogue."

AsiaNews sources say that Aleppo has become a ghost town since the beginning of the offensive. The silence is only broken by mortar fire and the aerial bombardment. The population is exhausted and lives barricaded in their homes, even in neighborhoods untouched by the fighting. The sources say, "There is nothing left in the city we are running out of everything: there is no water, food is scarce and there are no medicines. There is a real risk of a humanitarian catastrophe."

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing and seeking refuge in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. Over 130,000 people, mostly women and children, have found refuge in Jordan, which has a new refugee camp several miles from the Syrian border. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent estimate the displaced at 200,000 with the numbers still rising.


Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the 'values' that must be held by citizens of Chicago, starts Cardinal George. I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval.

Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city? Is the City Council going to set up a Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities and call those of us who are suspect to appear before it? I would have argued a few days ago that I believe such a move is, if I can borrow a phrase, un-Chicagoan.

The value in question is espousal of gender-free marriage. Approval of state-sponsored homosexual unions has very quickly become a litmus test for bigotry; and espousing the understanding of marriage that has prevailed among all peoples throughout human history is now, supposedly, outside the American consensus. Are Americans so exceptional that we are free to define marriage(or other institutions we did not invent) at will? What are we re-defining?

It might be good to put aside any religious teaching and any state laws and start from scratch, from nature itself, when talking about marriage. Marriage existed before Christ called together his first disciples two thousand years ago and well before the United States of America was formed two hundred and thirty six years ago. Neither Church nor state invented marriage, and neither can change its nature.

Marriage exists because human nature comes in two complementary sexes: male and female. The sexual union of a man and woman is called the marital act because the two become physically one in a way that is impossible between two men or two women. Whatever a homosexual union might be or represent, it is not physically marital. Gender is inextricably bound up with physical sexual identity; and gender-free marriage is a contradiction in terms, like a square circle.

Both Church and state do, however, have an interest in regulating marriage. It is not that religious marriage is private and civil marriage public; rather, marriage is a public institution in both Church and state. The state regulates marriage to assure stability in society and for the proper protection and raising of the next generation of citizens. The state has a vested interest in knowing who is married and who is not and in fostering good marriages and strong families for the sake of society.

The Church, because Jesus raised the marital union to the level of symbolizing his own union with his Body the Church, has an interest in determining which marital unions are sacramental and which are not. The Church sees married life as a path to sanctity and as the means for raising children in the faith, as citizens of the universal kingdom of God. These are all legitimate interests of both Church and state, but they assume and do not create the nature of marriage.

People who are not Christian or religious at all take for granted that marriage is the union of a man and a woman for the sake of family and, of its nature, for life. The laws of civilizations much older than ours assume this understanding of marriage. This is also what religious leaders of almost all faiths have taught throughout the ages. Jesus affirmed this understanding of marriage when he spoke of two becoming one flesh (Mt. 19: 4-6). Was Jesus a bigot? Could Jesus be accepted as a Chicagoan? Would Jesus be more enlightened if he had the privilege of living in our society? One is welcome to believe that, of course; but it should not become the official state religion, at least not in a land that still fancies itself free.

Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage. Surely we can find a way not to play off newly invented individual rights to 'marriage against constitutionally protected freedom of religious belief and religious practice. The State's attempting to redefine marriage has become a defining moment not for marriage, which is what it is, but for our increasingly fragile civil union as citizens.

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