Have faith in the family

“The family is being hit, the family is being struck and the family is being bastardized.” These words come from Pope Francis, who spoke them in an October 2014 address to the Schoenstatt movement about how secular Western culture has turned against the family. And over the last several weeks, he has reinforced this message during his Wednesday catechesis on the true meaning of the family.

When the United States Supreme Court issued its June 26 decision in the Obergefell v. Hodges case and redefined marriage, this rift between the prevailing culture and the created order was placed in the spotlight. The triumph of relativism and the removal of truth, reason, and virtue from our national debate on marriage were obvious for all to see.

Many of those who support changing marriage say, “You shouldn’t be worried. This doesn’t affect people of faith. It only changes the civil definition of marriage.” But what those who support the state changing its definition of marriage to include same-sex couples don’t realize is that people of faith are concerned about living their entire lives in conformity with how God created the world. It is neither possible nor healthy to live a life that is divided between one’s public and private existence. We cannot, no matter how hard we try, change the created order of nature. And yet, this is what those in favor of redefining marriage are promoting.

The Holy Father addressed the dangers of interacting with the world this way in his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’ (LS). He calls this a “technocratic” mentality that sees the natural world, our social institutions, our bodies and even our personalities as a kind of “raw material” that can be shaped according to our will, without any regard for their created purpose.

This self-serving way of life, the pope says, compromises the “dignity of the world.” And, he warns: “When human beings fail to find their true place in this world, they misunderstand themselves and end up acting against themselves: ‘Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given, but, man too is God’s gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed’” (LS, 115).

Certainly this applies to marriage, an institution that was created by God before states and laws ever existed. The fact is the debate about marriage is not about equality or rights; it is about whether man can redefine creation.

Over the last century we have already seen the fallout from attempting to do this with other aspects of marriage. With the widespread use of contraception, fruitfulness and fidelity became no longer recognized as necessary parts of marriage. The permanent nature of marriage has also been undermined by the acceptance of divorce. Blessed Pope Paul VI predicted that accepting contraception would result in a general lowering of morality, increased infidelity, a decrease in men’s respect for women, and governments attempting to force birth control on their citizens – all of which have happened. The damage caused by redefining marriage as something not permanent, not requiring total fidelity and as not necessarily fruitful is evident from the data being reported by the social sciences.

Although much of Western society had already moved to support redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships, the Supreme Court’s legal approval will undoubtedly have further consequences.

Sociological and statistical studies have already begun to show what happens when children are raised by same-sex couples, instead of a mother and father.

In his January 2015 study, The Unexpected Harm of Same-Sex Marriage, Dr. Donald Sullins details how children who are raised by same-sex couples do worse on nine out of twelve measures of emotional and developmental health than children being raised by opposite sex parents. Similar results were reported in recent large-sample studies carried out by Dr. Mark Regnerus and Dr. Douglas Allen.

Interestingly, one series of studies by Dr. Jennifer Wainwright found that there were no negative outcomes for children raised by same-sex couples, but these studies had significant coding errors that resulted in children with heterosexual parents being included in the homosexual sample. When this was corrected for, Wainright’s study showed similar negative results for children being raised by same-sex couples.

But the tragic fact is that the Supreme Court’s ruling does not mention children and the impact its decision will have on them, even though these same studies were presented to the court. The court obviously does not appreciate the crucial and irreplaceable role that marriage between a man and woman plays in bringing forth new life and raising virtuous citizens. Only a man and woman can bring about the gift of children and become the mother and father that every child needs.

The question that remains for Catholics and all who recognize the vital importance of living in accord with the created order is, “What should we do now?” The new era that we have embarked on – in which Christianity and the natural order no longer inform the law – brings with it the opportunity to share the joy of living according to God’s plan with those who are searching for it.

This will require us to be generous when it is difficult, to be open to those who are suffering, and willing to endure being misunderstood or rejected.

So many of you have encountered Christ, dedicated your lives to living the sacrament of marriage and raising children who are faithful men and women of character. I give thanks to God and to you for your witness. I have also been blessed to meet young families throughout the archdiocese and around the country, who are striving to raise their children to be saints, as well as young people who aspire to be married. All of you give joy to my heart and hope for the future.

He who created heaven and earth will give us the grace we need to be faithful to him and will continue to pour out the gifts of his Spirit on those who live according to his plan! May our Lord bless you and fill you with his peace!

COMING UP: Colorado Catholic Conference 2021 Legislative Recap

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On June 8, the First Regular Session of the 73rd General Assembly adjourned. Over 600 bills were introduced this session. Policy primarily focused on transportation, agriculture, healthcare, fiscal policy, and the state budget. However, the legislature also considered and passed many bills that could impact the Catholic Church in Colorado.  

Some bills that were passed will uphold Catholic social teaching and protect the poor and vulnerable of our society while others pose potentially harmful consequences to the Catholic Church, its affiliated organizations, and Colorado citizens who wish to practice their well-founded convictions. There were also many bills that were considered by the legislature that did not pass, including two bills that would have upheld the sanctity of life and two that would have expanded education opportunity for K-12 students.  

The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC), as the united voice of the four Colorado bishops, advocated for Catholic values at the Capitol and ensured that the Church’s voice was heard in the shaping of policy.  

Below is a recap of the CCC’s 19 priority bills from the 2021 legislative session. For a full list of the legislation the Conference worked on, please visit: https://www.cocatholicconference.org/2021-legislative-bills-analysis/  

For regular updates and other information, please sign-up for the CCC legislative network here.  

Six bills the CCC supported that were either passed or enacted

Note: Passed means the bill was approved by both chambers of the legislature and is pending the governor’s signature as of June 9, 2021. Enacted means the bill was signed by the governor and became law.  

HB 21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters – Passed  
If enacted, counties where either 2,000 adults or 2.5% of the adult population primarily speak a language other than English will be required to provide a ballot in that language. 

HB 21-1075 Replace The Term Illegal Alien – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1075, the term “illegal alien” was replaced with the term “worker without authorization” as it relates to public contracts for services.  

SB 21-027 Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families – Passed  
If enacted, the state government will allocate much-needed funding for nonprofit organizations to provide diapers and other childcare necessities to families in need, including Catholic Charities.  

SB 21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing – Enacted    
With the enactment of SB 77, verification of lawful presence will no longer be required for any applicant for a license, certificate, or registration, particularly in the job fields of education and childcare.  

SB 21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes – Passed  
If enacted, SB 146 will establish practices that ease the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated persons.  

SB 21-158 Increase Medical Providers for Senior Citizens – Passed  
If enacted, SB 158 will allocate more funding for senior citizen care, which is currently understaffed and underfunded.  

Eight bills the CCC opposed that were passed 

HB 21-1072 Equal Access Services For Out-of-home Placements – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1072, Colorado law now prohibits organizations that receive state funding for placing children with adoptive or foster parents from discriminating on, among other things, the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or marital status. This new law will likely to be impacted by the imminent Fulton v. City of Philadelphia U.S. Supreme Court decision. 

HB 21-1108 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1108, “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” are now recognized as protected classes in Colorado nondiscrimination code. This may have serious religious liberty implications for individuals and organizations that wish to practice their well-founded convictions on marriage and human sexuality. 

SB21-006 Human Remains Natural Reduction Soil – Enacted 
With the enactment of SB 006, human remains can now be converted to soil using a container that accelerates the process of biological decomposition, also known as “natural reduction.” 

SB 21-009 Reproductive Health Care Program – Passed 
If enacted, SB 009 will create a taxpayer funded state program to increase access to contraceptives.  

SB 21-016 Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage – Passed 
If enacted, the definition of “family planning services” and “family planning-related services” will not be clearly defined in law and could potentially include abortion. Furthermore, SB 16 removes the requirement that a provider obtain parental consent before providing family planning services to a minor.  

SB 21-025 Family Planning Services for Eligible Individuals– Passed 
If enacted, SB 025 low-income women to be given state-funded contraception, “preventing, delaying, or planning pregnancy” services, which includes cessation services and sterilization services.  

SB 21-142 Health Care Access in Cases of Rape or Incest– Enacted  
The enactment of SB 142 removes the requirement that, if public funds are being used, a physician must perform an abortion at a hospital, and instead allows for abortions to be performed by any “licensed provider.”   

SB21-193 Protection of Pregnant People in Perinatal Period– Passed 
If enacted, SB 193 will eliminate an important protection in Colorado law for a preborn and viable baby when a woman is on life support.  

Five bills the CCC supported that failed  

HB21-1017 Protect Human Life at Conception – Failed 
HB 1017 would have prohibited terminating the life of an unborn child and made it a violation a class 1 felony.  

HB 21-1080 Nonpublic Education and COVID-19 Relief Act – Failed 
HB 1080 would have established a private school and home-based education income tax credit for families who either enroll their child in private school or educate their child at home, thereby expanding education opportunities for families during and after the pandemic.  

HB 21-1183 Induced Termination of Pregnancy State Registrar – Failed 
HB 1183 would have required health-care providers that perform abortions to report specified information concerning the women who obtain the procedure to the state registrar of vital statistics, thereby increasing transparency in the abortion industry.   

HB 21-1191 Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status– Failed  
HB 1191 would have prevented individuals from being coerced to take the COVID-19 vaccine by either the state or by employers.  

HB 21-1210 Modifications to Qualified State Tuition Programs – Failed 
HB 1210 would have allowed families to use some of their private 529 savings account funds for private K-12 school tuition for their children, including at Catholic schools.   

One bill the CCC opposed that failed 

SB 21-031 Limits on Governmental Responses to Protests– Failed 
SB 031 would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to protect innocent lives when protests turn violent.  

Two bills the CCC was in an “Amend” position that passed  

SB 21-073 Civil Action Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault – Enacted  
With the enactment of SB 073, the statute of limitations on bringing a civil claim based on sexual misconduct will be removed as of January 1, 2022. Under this law, victims of sexual abuse can pursue a civil cause of action if the statute of limitations has not expired, the abuse happened in Colorado, and the abuse could be considered a felony or Class 1 misdemeanor if it was a criminal case. 

SB 21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act– Passed  
If enacted, SB 88 will allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue public and private institutions for abuse that occurred between 1960-2022. Victims would have three years to bring a historical claim, starting from January 1, 2022. Claims brought during this window would be capped at $387,000 for public institutions and at $500,000 for private institutions, with the ability of a judge to double the damages depending on how the private institution handled the situation. Despite unanswered constitutional concerns regarding SB 88, the Colorado Catholic dioceses will also continue to offer opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to receive support in a non-litigious setting.   

While the legislature has adjourned the 2021 legislative session, there is still the possibility that they will reconvene later this year. To stay up-to-date on Colorado legislative issues and their impact on the Catholic Church in Colorado, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE.