Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco has called the Supreme Court’s decision to review the constitutionality of marriage laws “the most significant Court decision since the Court’s tragic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision making abortion a constitutional right.”
On January 16, the Supreme Court resolved to review the November 2014 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that upheld the constitutionality of marriage laws in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
In a public statement, Archbishop Cordileone, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, questioned the logic of the Court determining “whether a state may define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
“It’s hard to imagine how the essential meaning of marriage as between the two sexes,” the Archbishop said, “understood in our nation for over two hundred years, and consistent with every society throughout all of human history, could be declared illegal.”
“To those arguing for a constitutional redefinition of marriage, one must ask: when did the Constitution suddenly mandate a novel and unfounded definition of marriage?” Cordileone said.
The Archbishop was quick to emphasize that the definition of marriage is not a personal issue, but “a matter of justice and truth.”
“To ask such a question,” he said, “is not a judgment on anyone.”
“The central issue at stake is: what is marriage? The answer is: a bond which unites a man and a woman to each other and to any children who come from their union,” he said.
“Only a man and a woman can unite their bodies in a way that creates a new human being,” Cordileone continued. “Marriage is thus a unique and beautiful reality which a society respects to its benefit or ignores to its peril.”
Coincidentally, on Friday Pope Francis also addressed the question of attacks on the family, among which he placed attempts at altering its definition.
The family is “threatened by the increasing attempts by some to redefine the very institution of marriage,” he said in a meeting with families in Manila.
When as archbishop of Buenos Aires Francis was faced with proposed legislation that would have legalized same-sex marriage, he wrote that the proposed law would “gravely wound the family.” He went on to say that “what is at stake here is the identity and the survival of the family: father, mother and children.”
The US Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the coming months.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome