Bishop responds to same sex marriage ruling

By Most Rev. Stephen J.Berg
The Supreme Court’s decision last month to rule that two persons of the same sex have a constitutional right to marry, essentially re-defines civil marriage across the United States. I am unsettled and saddened by this decision, not least because it reflects a dramatic shift within our country away from our closely held Christian beliefs.

As to rights and concurrent obligations, the Catholic Church is on record as promoting the rights of all peoples, including respect, compassion, and sensitivity accompanying their rights as part of our human family.

We now share confusion that the laws of our country stand in contradiction to our deeply held beliefs about the rights and obligations of the institution of marriage. We believe that marriage is intrinsically the fundamental building block of our society according to the natural law. Men and women were created by God in complementarity with each other, in order to form a lifelong conjugal union, a marriage, that brings forth children.

As Catholics we must continue to teach the goodness of marriage, that the great gift of a man and a woman to form a family and bring forth children is uniquely given by God. It is a vocation, a gift, beyond an individual civil contract. At the wedding feast of Cana, which is the signal beginning of his public ministry in the Gospel of John, Jesus in effect announces to the bridal couple, through his mother Mary and to the world, that his ministry of love begins here, with a family, in a marriage. Let’s reflect on the truth and beauty of marriage which has been given by God himself. This is to see and know Christ who abides in and strengthens our world through sacramental marriage, and to follow his lead. To proclaim the goodness and fruitfulness of our teachings!

We will continue to affirm that Jesus Christ, with great love, taught clearly that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. According to our teachings Catholic clergy will not be allowed to witness these same sex marriages. There may be other concerns that you have heard about as to how this will affect the Church in the future, which are under discussion by the Bishops. Certainly the issue of religious freedom is a serious concern as society continues to move into the secular arena. Do not be afraid, let us be renewed in our faith in Christ. And let us stand together as he teaches us constantly, in outreach, compassion and love to all, including and especially to those who do not share our beliefs.

I continue to thank God for you and pray for you daily. I have managed to visit a few more parishes and am working hard with my staff to learn and serve our needs as a diocese. On a personal note, I was able to witness a Catholic family marriage of my niece, Mary and her new husband, Matt, in Helena, Montana last month. I plan to be with my siblings in Billings to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday in the last of August.

I pray that our Lord continue to bless all of you, and keep you, and thank you for your prayers!