Action Alert!

What I wish a bishop would say about marriage

By Leila Marie Lawler ( articles ) | Dec 03, 2014

During the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops, discussions often centered on the widening gap between the popular understanding of marriage and the Christian ideal. What could Catholic pastors do or say to restore the proper understanding of the family founded on a sacramental union? My wife Leila—who blogs regularly at Like Mother, Like Daughter turned her attention to that question, asking what we would want to hear from our bishops, and produced what follows: a hypothetical message from a zealous bishop. – PFL

I, N, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To my dear sons and daughters in Christ, to God’s elect, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance, [1 Pt 1], and to every soul in my diocese, peace.

I write to you to teach clearly what the purpose of marriage is, lest I be held guilty of failing in my duty.

God instituted the covenant of marriage at the beginning of creation. Male and female He created them. Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. [Gen 2: 24]

The bodies of the man and the woman have a nuptial meaning. They are meant for each other, for becoming one flesh, for the procreation of children, and for the goodness of creation.

Our Lord Jesus Christ restored marriage to its pure state and elevated it to a sacrament. “What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” [Mt 19: 6]

The importance of marriage for man and woman, for their children, and for the world cannot be overstated, for it also gives hope to those searching for truth that God is faithful to his people and that Our Lord Jesus Christ loves his Church with an intimate love. This mystery is a profound one. [Eph 5: 32]

As your bishop, I am bound to warn you of the grave dangers of denying the nature of man as expressed in his nuptial body and of going against God’s law. If I do not warn you, I myself will be guilty of your sin.

God clearly teaches in His commandments that the meaning of the body is for marriage. The sixth commandment, against adultery, forbids a person to use his body in any way that breaks the covenant that God made with our first parents regarding marriage and that Our Lord Jesus Christ affirmed and elevated.

In our country and in my diocese, there have been too many years of neglect of this commandment. The sin of divorce has shattered the goodness and peace of our community. The sins of contraception, abortion, and manipulation of life have ravaged our families. Hardness of heart has taken over; God’s law has been abandoned.

In particular, the sin of sodomy is one that cries out to heaven for vengeance. [Gen 17: 20-21] It is not a lifestyle, nor can it ever go from being evil to being good. If our people seem to accept sodomy, their acquiescence is a direct result of confusion due to the previous acceptance of other sins against God’s covenant of marriage.

For this reason, I, your bishop, repent and ask for forgiveness. I have been culpably lax in teaching and preaching about the good of marriage, the right use of the body in its nuptial meaning, and the mortal dangers of sins against the sixth commandment.

I have been tepid in my love for the Gospel and for the teachings of our Holy Mother Church– teachings which are not grievous or burdensome, as I have sometimes indicated by my sadness, but which give hope, light, and peace.

I have not trusted in God’s goodness or the truth of the Gospel. I have been too easily overwhelmed by the voices of those determined to drag the innocent into the paths of evil. I have not conveyed to you, my people, my joy in the grace of Christ and in His law.

I call on my brother bishops to join me in acknowledging our failings in these matters, matters of paramount importance for the spiritual health of our people– for their very survival, both on earth and in the hereafter. Innocent lives and souls have been put in jeopardy because of our dereliction of duty.

I call upon the priests in my care to be forthright and honest in doing everything in their power to help the faithful on their journey. Pastors, do not be afraid to preach the Gospel and to teach morality to the people, young and old, in your care: the precepts of which the Psalmist sings, “Let your mercy come to me, that I may live, for your law is my delight.” [Ps 119: 77]

Solidarity demands that we fulfill this duty to our people.

The ordinary man and woman in our diocese face almost insurmountable obstacles if they would live according to the Gospel call, particularly in marriage and family life. Without grace, they can hardly win through.

Some of these obstacles come from outside, from our culture which has abandoned even natural law, the knowledge of good and evil placed in our hearts, and the prickings of conscience.

Some obstacles, I regret to say, and for which I humbly ask forgiveness, come from within. The lack of support and loving guidance from us, their clergy, has caused many to stumble, and we must rectify immediately any action that is not wholeheartedly encouraging of this most foundational state of life, the married one.

Having thrown myself on the mercy of Christ, I humbly call upon all to repent and believe in the Gospel. In the Gospel alone are life and forgiveness, truth and light, goodness and happiness. Through our reliance on the Gospel and on the Word of God, Jesus Christ, we, His people, will be able to overcome the darkness that threatens us.

I encourage my dear sons and daughters to undertake with courage and prudence the steps required to overcome the destructive ideas of those who would try to remove the stability and the goodness of marriage as it has been universally and traditionally understood by everyone, everywhere. I trust that, armed with the truth and formed by the teaching that I have been commissioned by the Holy Spirit to pass on, you will be strengthened and will receive the wisdom to do what is right. I trust that the Spirit will provide you with good will and understanding, once you have received from me and from your priests the necessary formation, which will not be lacking to you from now on.

I promise to warn you if you seem to go astray, to advise you to the best of my ability, and above all to conform to my commission from the Holy Spirit to preach and to teach, in season and out.

We, your bishop and your priests, will not abandon you; we will not retreat into ritual purity in the face of opposition, washing our hands or whitening our sepulchers [Mt 23:27]. On the contrary, we will remain united with you as you fulfill your task to fill the earth with goodness.

Grace be with you all,


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  • Posted by: bernie4871 - Dec. 05, 2014 8:02 PM ET USA

    How could a Bishop not shout this from the rooftops. Bishop James Conley of Lincoln NE has written a Pastoral that fits perfectly with this. He's the only one I know of. Keep blogging Leila !

  • Posted by: the.dymeks9646 - Dec. 03, 2014 6:18 PM ET USA

    If they would say and sign something like this and make it their priority, there would be a sonic boom and unprecedented growth of the Church. Why do they not hear God's people crying in the wilderness? Why do they not see this as the number one social justice issue?

  • Posted by: shrink - Dec. 03, 2014 3:27 PM ET USA

    Very nicely put. Thank you.

  • Posted by: abc - Dec. 03, 2014 2:25 PM ET USA

    Wonderful! Now make some 5000 copies and make them sign! :-)