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20150610cnsto0031 webArchbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops speaks June 10 during the annual spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in St. Louis. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

ST. LOUIS (CNS) -- As the institution of marriage faces unprecedented challenges, the Catholic Church continues to promote and defend marriage as being between one man and one woman, said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco.

As chairman of the bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Archbishop Cordileone gave bishops at their spring general assembly in St. Louis an update on the U.S. Supreme Court's impending decision whether same-sex marriage should be made legal nationwide as well as related public policy and the church's catechetical efforts.

The Supreme Court is considering two issues: whether the Constitution should require a state to license a civil marriage between two people of the same sex and whether it requires a state to recognize a same-sex marriage when it was lawfully licensed and performed in another state.

The court is expected to make a decision by the end of its session in late June.

"Nothing the court says can change what marriage truly is, and we will continue to promote and defend it," said Archbishop Cordileone, who received sustained applause from his brother bishops at the end of his talk. "We may have to suffer this lie about marriage in the law, but we must not participate in it or keep silent about it.

"The importance of responding to this challenge with truth and compassion remains paramount," he later added.

Currently, 36 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territory of Guam recognize same-sex marriage. The status of same-sex marriage in a 37th state, Alabama, remains unclear because of conflicting state and federal rulings.

Those who advocate for the Catholic Church's support of traditional marriage will be increasingly marginalized under the law and within society, Archbishop Cordileone said. Depending on the rationale, they would be viewed as proponents of discrimination and targeted with discrimination themselves.

In this atmosphere, the church continues efforts to support public policy issues, including a version of the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which would prohibit the government from discriminating against those who act in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is the union between a man and woman. Protections would extend to areas including federal employment, contracts, grants and tax-exempt status.

The church also supports the federal Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, which would protect child welfare service providers against discrimination by the government in situations where workers refuse to place children in certain households against their religious beliefs.

The church is following legislation and executive action that would inject into federal law classifications of sexual orientation and gender identity.

"We see advances on what Pope Francis has referred to critically as 'gender theory or gender ideology,'" said Archbishop Cordileone. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a document on best practices in restroom access for transgender workers.

Pope Francis has said that the responsibility of the church is to "rediscover the beauty of the creative design that also inscribes the image of God in the alliance of the covenant between man and woman." The church teaches that the difference between man and woman is a positive difference that makes new life possible, Archbishop Cordileone said.

The Catholic Church also teaches that any sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful.

The U.S. bishops' Fortnight for Freedom, which will take place June 21-July 4 to promote the importance of religious liberty, the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this September and the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October will serve as moments for catechesis, and to support families who are struggling as well as uphold strong families as positive examples.

"As the institution of marriage in our society faces unprecedented challenges, we humbly acknowledge our own responsibility and service to all and our total reliance on God's grace ... seeking God's face in all we encounter," said Archbishop Cordileone.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.