The Supreme Court’s decision redefining the institution of civil marriage has no bearing on the Catholic Church’s sacramental system. Like baptism and Holy Eucharist, Holy Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. According to scripture, tradition and natural law, the sacrament of marriage is between one man and one woman for a lifetime for the procreation of children and the unity of the husband and wife in forming a Christian family.
What the Supreme Court’s decision unfortunately has accomplished is the further polarizing of the civil understanding of marriage from its religious meaning discovered in natural law. The Catholic Church requires that the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony be acknowledged by the state, thus we have cooperated with civil authorities to assure this through civil marriage licenses required for church weddings which the Catholic clergy sign after the ceremony.
With this very grave threat to religious liberty fomented by the Supreme Court’s recent edict and the possible interference of the judicial system into the life and sacramental practices of the Catholic Church, as acknowledged by the dissenting Supreme Court justices, it is my hope that our American bishops will propose that the clergy no longer act as an agent of the state in terms of signing the civil marriage license. A civil magistrate should sign for the purposes of assuring civil benefits to Catholics who then, after the license is signed by a civil magistrate, can have their civil marriage sacramentalized by the Catholic Church’s Nuptial Liturgy.
-- Father Allan J. McDonald
Pastor, St. Joseph Church
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