Dear Marriage Supporter,
This week I was in Rome attending an amazing conference on the truth about marriage: the International Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman, hosted by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and several other Vatican dicasteries.
The greatest part about this event is the diverse coalition it brought together of scholars and religious leaders from every world religion: it really was an impressive and historical moment, the entire world coming together and speaking in unity the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
I would urge everyone to take some time to watch the beautiful series of videos produced for the colloquium called Humanum, which are available on YouTube:
It is also well worth the time to watch the many conference talks that were recorded.
The opening address, by Pope Francis himself, is certainly not to be missed. But I would also heartily commend the talks given by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Dr. Jacqueline Rivers, President Henry B. Eyring, and Rev. Dr. Richard Warren.
All who attended were stirred from the very beginning by Pope Francis's strong and insightful assessment of the challenges facing marriage, and also the essential gifts and qualities that marriage gives to society. Let me quote from his address at length, with my own added emphasis:
It is fitting that you have gathered here in this international colloquium to explore the complementarity of man and woman. This complementarity is at the root of marriage and family...
In our day, marriage and the family are in crisis. We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. Evidence is mounting that the decline of the marriage culture is associated with increased poverty and a host of other social ills, disproportionately affecting women, children and the elderly. It is always they who suffer the most in this crisis...
It is necessary first to promote the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods. The family is the foundation of co-existence and a guarantee against social fragmentation. Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity. That is why I stressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium that the contribution of marriage to society is "indispensable"; that it "transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple"... And that is why I am grateful to you for your Colloquium's emphasis on the benefits that marriage can provide to children, the spouses themselves, and to society.
Let us not fall into the trap of being qualified by ideological concepts. Family is an anthropological fact — a socially and culturally related fact. We cannot qualify it with concepts of an ideological nature, that are relevant only in a single moment of history, and then pass by. We can't speak today of a conservative notion of family or a progressive notion of family: Family is family! It can't be qualified by ideological notions.
Of course, some have already tried to apply spin to the Holy Father's remarks to try to claim him for their own ideology—ironic, considering his strongest words here are against such ideological attempts. Notably, Human Rights Campaign has tried to assert that Pope Francis's remarks reflect the family can be an "evolving" institution. But I'm sure you'd agree that this is a grossly far-fetched reading of the words above!
Another great talk was given by Pastor Rick Warren, who had some truly inspiring lines which stand alone wonderfully as bits of wisdom that invite reflection:
Continually point out the benefits of marriage. [...] When a culture claims, and in Western culture we claim this, to care about children, we must point out that children who grow up with both a mother and a father grow up healthier, happier, and stronger. [...] Do you really care about kids? Then promote marriage.
The only way to always be relevant is to be eternal. Anything that is "in style" is going out of style, by its very nature. Styles go out of style. So you should never try to be stylis. No revolution lasts — including the sexual revolution... and every lie eventually crumbles under its own deception.
The dustbins of history are stuffed with the conventional wisdom of cultures that proved false, and truth is not decided by a popularity contest.
The debate over the definition of life, sex, and marriage is in reality a question of leadership: and the question is, "Who's going to lead? Will the church follow the crowd, or will the church lead the crowd?
Marriage can only be between a man and a woman. [...] We cannot cave on this issue. [...] I want to encourage you to never give up, and to never give in... It is a total myth that we must compromise and give up on Biblical truth and marriage in order to evangelize.
I hope you'll watch Pastor Warren's whole speech, and that you find it as uplifting as I did.
I'll leave you with one last recommendation for further reading: an interview with NOM co-founder and Chairman emeritus Professor Robert P. George. In the interview, Prof. George talks about his own remarks at the Colloquium, and I think one statement in particular sums up how we all left the event feeling:
We have to resolve that we will stand for marriage and fight for however long it takes—it might be 20 years, it might be 50 years, it might be 100 years—to rebuild the marriage culture and to restore in law, where it has been displaced, a sound understanding of marriage.
As a result of this, we will draw ridicule. We will bring scorn upon ourselves, because powerful people in institutions reject our understanding of marriage. They reject what everyone understood marriage to be until yesterday. And they claim that anyone who disagrees with them is a bigot, or a hater, or is motivated by irrational animus, or archaic religious beliefs. Yet we must suffer that, be willing to suffer that opprobrium, perhaps discrimination, perhaps the loss of friends, perhaps even conflict within the family, for the sake of rebuilding marriage, because so much for people depends on it, and especially for the poor.
As Pastor Warren said, "We can never cave on this issue!" With a renewed sense of why we fight, I'd like to say God bless you and thank you for your continued support of NOM and for your steadfast witness to the good and beautiful truth of marriage!
Brian S. Brown
National Organization for Marriage