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From east to west, we must witness to the truth

Bishop George Lucas
Diocese of Springfield, Il

Catholic World Report

April 19, 2009

In the third Eucharistic prayer of the Mass, poetic language is used to express the hope that the whole human family will give right worship to God through Jesus Christ: “From age to age you gather a people to yourself, so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.”

Our hope is founded in the power of the Lord’s death and resurrection. Until the Lord returns and final justice is established, it is the work of the church to worship God in the risen Christ on behalf of all humanity. In season and out, from east to west, we are called to witness to hope in the face of a culture that in important ways is not ordered to the justice of God.

During this Easter season here in Illinois, we have a couple of instances of the need for witness to God’s right ordering of things, as it happens, one to our east and the other to our west.

All are aware by now of the invitation given by the University of Notre Dame in Indiana to President Obama to speak at the commencement later this spring and to receive the honor of a ceremonial doctoral degree. Normally the graduation program of a university in another diocese and another state will not get much attention here. But many have told me how disturbed they are at the confusion caused by a Catholic university honoring a man who as an Illinois state senator and now as president has promoted an active role for government in the destruction of innocent human life and blocked reasonable qualifications on the practice of abortion.

I am disturbed, too, at this decision by Notre Dame to sow confusion where there is clarity in Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life and the evil of abortion. For some this may be one political issue among many. For Catholics it is a matter of worshiping God by the proclamation of the truth. Many students and faculty at Notre Dame know this. The university’s administration thinks it knows better. It is hard to imagine the university honoring someone, no matter his office, who had consistently spoken against the value of football. We are not being unreasonable when we expect the value of human life to be a central focus of a Catholic university.

To our west, the Supreme Court in Iowa recently nullified the age-old understanding in law of marriage as a union of one man and one woman. The court’s decision has opened the door to the legal practice in Iowa of so-called same-sex marriage. We are reminded again of the importance of the appointment of good judges at all levels of the court system. We see clearly the need for witness to the right ordering that God has inscribed in the nature of human persons and relationships. No matter what human laws say about what is permissible, our neighbors need to hear from us, as well as see in our actions, the path that offers true hope for a rightly ordered life with God, that is eternal life.

The nature and purposes of marriage have been established by God. Marriage is regulated by civil laws and church laws, but it did not originate from the church or the state, but from God. So neither the church nor the state has the jurisdiction over marriage to alter its meaning and purpose. It is proper for the church, for Catholics, to articulate and support the true nature of this union designed by God.

Only a union of male and female can express the sexual complimentarity willed by God for marriage. The permanent and exclusive commitment of marriage is the necessary context for the expression of sexual love intended by God both to serve the transmission of life and to build up the bond between husband and wife. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1639-40.) By proclaiming this truth and by the lived witness of faithful marriages, the church participates in the just ordering of the human family and helps consecrate the world in worship of God.


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